I did a talk at a convention in Detroit a few weeks ago in which I encouraged people to become librarians. I started out with this quiz. Now it’s your turn.

Am I Geeky enough to be a Librarian?

Yes No
1. I enjoy acronyms.
2. I own a cat.
3. When confronted with a pile of books I think “Hmm…first I would sort by author, then by title?
4. I am obsessive enough to appreciate the difference between 345.065 and 345.605.
5. I possess a useless undergraduate degree.
6. Being surrounded by books makes me lather with delight.
7. The idea of someone preventing me from reading Orwell because they don’t like it strikes me as Orwellian.
8. I am comfortable with the Internets.
9. If my house caught on fire, one of the things I would grab is my favorite book.
10. I possess a useless graduate degree.
11. I can daisy-chain a herd of Ubuntu boxes faster than you can say FreeBSD.
12. These kids today. I swear. If they would just read a damn book once in awhile, they wouldn’t be blowing each other up so much.
13. I could find out the middle name of your high school boyfriend with just ten minutes on the Internet.
14. I could find out the first line of A Tale of Two Cities with just ten seconds on the Internet.
15. I know the first line of A Tale of Two Cities.
16. I am a disenfranchised intellectual.
17. The idea of arming the public with knowledge appeals to me more than, say, arming them with pitchforks and torches.
18. I would rather do something cool than get rich.
19. I possess a useless doctoral degree.
20. I can say “Colon classification” without laughing.
Under 5 = I think the “We hate libraries” meeting is down the hall.5-10 = You are geeky, but can you HANDLE the acronyms?10-15 = I’ve got some library school applications under my desk you big dork

15-20 = Quit your job immediately! Grab the nearest child and teach him to read! Oh, and start stocking up on acid-free paper.

I will shoot you with my Barbie Gun

Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m coming out. As a gamer.

I game. I play video games. I enjoy shooting digital things. I have the ability to navigate three-dimensional space. There, I said it.
I don’t know what I was afraid of. I’m not going to be stereotyped. As far as I can tell there are no stereotypes of female gamers. It’s not like admitting “Hey you guys I love to shop” or “Gosh I love me some Jesus.” There are no social assumptions about being a female gamer because up to a few years ago, female gamers didn’t statistically exist.

These days however, I’m in good company. New generations of tech-savvy women are reshaping the game industry. According to the charmingly titled 2004 ELSPA report Chicks and Joysticks, female gamers make up 39% of US gamers. We’re only at 25.1% across Western Europe, but in Japan we rule a whopping 65.9%. Plus, in the US, women buy 53% of all PC games. We love The Sims. We love World of Warcraft. We can whoop you at Dance Dance Revolution. Female gamers exist, and we’re starting to eat up market share.

So what’s the problem? Nothing we haven’t handled before. The success of first-person shooters has left the market flooded with Uber-violent 3D games that don’t appeal to women (Well – women who aren’t me. Battlefront, anyone?) And, of course, decades of male-dominated gaming have left a legacy of seriously sexist game characters. Big-boobed wasp-waisted mistresses of the martial arts still grace the covers of RPG manuals and fighting games. I’ve included a few here for your amusement.

In a great article titled Why is my girl repellent chasing off all the hot chicks? Mythago describes the lament of the clueless male gamer: “Why aren’t there more female gamers, especially when we go to such lengths to make it clear they aren’t welcome?” He claims that the abundance of porn ladies gracing video and RPGs sends a simple message to potential girl gamers: “You don’t exist. We only think of females as sex toys.”

This whole rant got started because I just attended a nifty lecture here on campus by Michigan State Communications prof John Sherry called “Sex Differences in Video Game Play: What the Industry Doesn’t Know About Why Girls Don’t Play First-Person Shooters”. MSU is doing some cool cognitive psychology-type research on the relationship between game preference and cognitive abilities. It made me nostalgic for East Lansing, Midwestern accents, and Social Science research with its delightful openness to interpretation. It’s pretty damn difficult to say why most women seem to prefer one type of game over another, but I had a good time listening to the theories.

To finish off, and perhaps cleanse your eyeballs from all those huge electronic breasts, why not have a go at the fully girl-created online game Sissyfight 2000 which lets you become a bitchy schoolgirl fighting on the playground. Scratch, tease, and gang up on other girls, then try and look innocent. Then shoot them with your huge My Little Pony gun.

70’s Librarians Know How To Party

I grabbed this photo from my Information School’s 75th anniversary website. Which I designed. A long time ago. Before I discovered that flexible CSS-layouts make everyone’s lives better.

Anyway, I love these librarians. The photo was from the “campus life” section, and I’ve just got to say: If you are in this photo or know someone who is, please let me buy you a Schlitz. Because that’s what they’re drinking. I know this through the magic of Photoshop.

So is it just me or was library school more fun back then? My classmates drank, don’t get me wrong, but we did it in a more serious, social-reform sort of way. You know, Mojitos and Cosmopolitans. These guys look like they just grabbed a case of beer after Intro to Cataloging and went to town.


It’s sweeps week here at librarian enterprises, so here’s some links about anthropodermic bindings.

For those of you who were asleep during The History of Books and Printing, that’s books bound in human skin. Because if you intellectualize it, it’s not icky. (from boing boing)

Speaking of books bound in human skin, have you seen Peter Greenway’s film The Pillow Book? It’s one of my favorites. It’s about a woman’s obsession with writing on the human body, and understandably also, her obsession with Ewan McGregor’s schlong. Don’t watch during dinner, in spite of or perhaps because of Ewan McGregor’s schlong. Special collections librarians: Play this movie at your next SLA meeting!

Have you decorated your home for the holidays? A patriarchal plot to make me hang ornaments instead of conquering the galaxy

Recently several people have asked me something that strikes fear into my cold and icy heart. The question is innocuous. The question is well-intended. The question makes me want to pull out my big librarian rubber stamp and do some smiting.

The question:
“Have you decorated your home for the holidays?”

No, this isn’t a war-on-Christmas screed, nor is it a rant against bland conversation.* This is about feminism. Specifically, this is about a brand of feminism I subscribe to, the kind of feminism that thinks being a woman really doesn’t require me to do extra crap around the house.

I’ve got nothing against decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against talking about decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against the holidays.** What I don’t like is that the lads seem to be exempt.

I have the good fortune to work in I.T., which means my co-workers are mostly male.*** I took an informal survey of these guys to see how they responded to this particular social pressure. Donning my best “we’re all girls together” face (you know the one) I sidled up and asked innocently “Have you decorated your home for the holidays”

The result? Derisive snorts, awkward this-chick-has-gone-nuts pauses, glassy stares, and one guy actually did a spit-take. Finally one gentleman described his holiday decorations. His wife, it seemed, had done a great job this year.

Fine, maybe it’s the nesting hormones. Maybe women really do love to decorate. Maybe we’re all a bunch of scented-candle-chugging tinsel-hangers. But still, I get all gitchy when somebody just assumes I subscribe to this apparently gender-specific hobby. I mean, hell. I’ve got some garlands and shit, but I don’t enjoy feeling like it’s my venereal duty to start shooting holiday cookies out my oven just because every other woman on the earth seems to be.

I would love to sum it all up for you and present a nice, clear solution to all this damned gender inequity, but I can’t think of one. Just, maybe, the next time you ask someone about their hobbies, try to stay away from the race, gender, and sexual orientation-related ones. Don’t ask the gay man if he enjoys flower arrangement Just Because He’s Gay. He might love flowers but that still doesn’t make it cool. Don’t ask the black woman if she likes collard greens Just Because She’s Black. She may love them (how could you not?), but that doesn’t make you less of an asshole. And dangit, don’t ask me about my dang holiday decorations. Ask me about my Star Wars Battlefront score. I conquered the galaxy yesterday.

*Sure, the world needs conversational crutches. But lately, the holiday decoration thing seems to be as important to office social lubrication as “what are your vacation plans?” and “can you believe how cold it is?” Hopefully, it will never be as important as “here, have another drink.”
**I’ve even got nothing against Martha Stewart. Hell, I dumpster-dive Living from the Borders’ recycling bin regularly.***The inequities of this are so obvious they don’t need to be stated right? Right?

Overwhelm them with sheer numeric superiority

Me and Dewey at ALAI just checked the frappr map, and dang you Librarian Avengers are so cute! And geographically disparate! All 81 of you. Gulp.

Once I realized there are so many people out there willing to read about my battles with bad librarianship, scary interfaces, and look at photos of my grandma, I had to sit in the closet and rock back and forth for awhile. But I’m back! And do I have news for you.

According to Siva and the ALA, there are more libraries in the U.S. than there are McDonalds. Let’s consider this news. Let’s consider the possibilities it opens up. Let’s consider what, say, 16,220 librarians (that’s one librarian from every U.S. branch) could DO if we all decided to work together. Are you thinking? Let’s make a list. I’ll start.

  • We could swarm the U.S. Senate carrying burning copies of the Patriot Act on pitchforks.
  • We could donate one book each and create a brand new library
  • We could build a search taxonomy for the ALA BY HAND
  • We could build an entire neighborhood for Habitat for Humanity and call it Librarian Land.
  • We could dig up enough dirt on our local censors and anti-library-funding jerks to put them all out of commission.
  • We could start selling yummy hamburgers and make the whole country fat.
  • We could start making people do pushups for books and make the whole country fit.
  • We could have the world’s biggest librarian party! Every year! Twice!

Your turn.

Spain! Ham!

Thanks to the noble efforts of our catsitter friends, the famous librarian-and-animal scientist couple Clay and Mike, our tickets to Spain arrived safely, and we spent six public transportation-filled hours in Madrid while we waited for our train to the north.

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but Madrid? Not a town for vegetarians. Within two blocks, we passed El Museo de Jamon, and Palacio de Jamon. Yes, that’s the Museum of Ham, and Ham Castle. Madrid was beautiful and huge and weird. We did a quick tour through la Plaza del Sol while searching for food. As the default sometimes meat-eater, I ended up consuming all things mysterious that arrived at our table. Which pretty much ended up being everything. We kept ordering things that seemed vegetarian, and they kept arriving covered in ham. Chris ended up eating a bocadillo and some cheese we brought from the UK.

The best library-related thing about Madrid was the Amazingly Clever and Fabulous Biblioteca Metro – sort of a bookmobile kiosk in one of the subway stations. It was charming, modern, well-designed, and the librarian helped us figure out the difference between commuter trains and metro trains. Sadly, we didn’t get a photo of it (or one of Ham Castle) because travel rule number one is: Sleepy people shouldn’t bring expensive digital cameras that they don’t own into downtown Madrid on a Friday night. So you’ll just have to imagine it. Mmm.

We couldn’t get a sleeping car to our conference in Gijon because they were all going to Bilbao, so we ended up sleeping in the brightly-lit second class compartment with our feet on our bags and cricks in our necks. Our guidebook, which shall heretofore be referred to as The Big Book of Paranoia, convinced us that every third person was a pickpocket, so that didn’t help with the sleeping. This morning was a blur, spent trying to speak enough Spanish on .2 hours sleep to convince the kind hotel lady to give us una cama de no fumando. We have now learned that the process of preparing a no smoking room in Spain involves removing the ashtray and spraying Drakkar everywhere.

Still, this may be the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I want the hotel decorator to come and visit my house immediately. Everything is modern and minimalist and ergonomic and just so not British. It’s Hotel AC Gijon. It’s a chain. I unhesitatingly recommend it, and not just because they gave us our rooms at 7am on a Saturday, when every sensible Spaniard is home with a hangover.

We to took a long hike around the city center this afternoon and walked along the sea, then returned to the hotel exhausted. Chris took gobs of photos of la Biblioteca Gijon for your viewing enjoyment. They have a cute and comfy reading room filled with middle aged men reading the newspaper.

We watched Pedro Almodovar’s Carne Tremula tonight on one of our laptops and now appreciate Madrid even more. I think this is one of Almodovar’s most accessible and least creepy films. If you want to check out a great piece of Spanish cinema but don’t want to yell “Oh God please don’t do what I think you are going to do” every five minutes, then this is the film for you.

Hi to everyone. I just read my London comments today and am Really grumpy to have missed the Women’s Library. But we also missed Westminster and The tower, thanks to some bad info about closing times. I also planned to become a reader at the British library, but we didn’t have time to return. So, feh. We’ll be back. And next time I’m bringing my 12 postgraduate degrees so I can stay.

Burning down the pub

Today was rough. We both caught colds from running around in the chilly weather. Rick Steves lied about Westminster’s winter hours, so Chaucer’s grave remains unheralded by me. We did spend way too much time in the British Museum, which as far as museums go, could do more with the interpretation and less with the pile-everything-in-one-huge-room-and-let-’em-at-it.burningcheese.jpg Now, I love me some world history, but after the 2300th cuneiform engraved tablet, I was ready for something new.

Which we found in a fabulous pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, located in the financial district in old London. It’s been standing since the 1600s and has character oozing out of the walls. Also oozing out of the walls were several dozen young lawyers. We kept our distance and had great beer.

At one point, we saved the pub from burning down. The lights had these tiny paper shades, and after a pint or two, we noticed that the light-shade nearest us was smoking. It had fallen down and was touching the bare lightbulb. Small circles of burn were starting to accumulate on the ceiling. Chris removed it and I mentioned it to the bartender. So if the place catches fire, It’s NOT OUR FAULT.

Cornell Catering is trying to kill me Part II

deadlycateringI was leaving work, tired and hungry, when suddenly a uniform-clad minion appeared at my elbow and offered me a snack. This happens occasionally. The Lab rents out its atrium to various groups on campus who bring in the caterers and the cashbar. We’re usually not invited, but this day I had decided to exit the building next to the caterer’s kitchen.

Big Mistake.

“Have some chicken”, she said “It’s encrusted with almonds!”

Note to self: when the devil tries to get you, he uses words like “encrusted”.

“Are you sure those are just almonds?” I asked, thinking back to dozens of near-death moments brought on by my stupid peanut allergy.

“Oh yes”, she said “Toasted almonds!”

At which point my stupid Lizard-brain caused me to reach out and grab one. I took a bite as I walked to my car, thinking “How nice to be offered appetizers at work”.

By the time I got to my car I was trying to subtly vomit as well-dressed elderly women passed me on the way to their party. My lips swelled, my throat became a piece of granite. The usual.

I’ll spare you the really graphic details (trust me, it gets worse), but suffice it to say the Epipen came through again, along with some medical attention from my handsome EMT boyfriend. Hi guys! Thanks for the life-saving! Again!

All of which leaves me with the growing suspicion that a) I am really stupid for once again eating food of unknown provenance, and b) Cornell Catering really is trying to kill me.

Why, Cornell Catering? Why?

Speaking of sloth…

Here’s some baby sloths. (thanks Kafkaesque)

These sloths remind me of the time I went to a residence hall library program with my friend RyanGalaxor Nebulon” Hughes. (Hi Ryan! Where the hell are ya?)

They had brought in a bunch of rainforest animals to the residence hall to, I dunno, promote reading or something. There were a bunch of snakes and fuzzy things, a scorpion, and a two-toed sloth. At the end of the program, the audience was invited to come up and pet the animals. Ryan decided that he should pet the sloth. Ryan HAD to pet the sloth.

I kind of lost track of Ryan after he went up to the sloth, and when I found him again he was bleeding. Ryan had been bitten by the sloth.

As you know, the sloth is the Slowest Mammal in the World. It is known for moving only 5 or 6 feet a minute. Yet here was Ryan, bleeding. “It looked so cute”, Ryan said. “When I saw it open it’s mouth, I thought, oh! it’s going to do something even cuter! I didn’t know it was going to BITE me!”

I believe to this day Ryan has a scar. From sloth.

Let this be a lesson to you.