Friday, October 29, 2004

Okay, it's Friday, and I'm easily amused. And so I must needs share.

From Crooked Timber: One of the ten-best acknowledgements in a scholarly work, ever.

From a commenter at CT: The best acknowledgements page ever.

From Hallowe'en masks. Be Trump, Elvis, or Paris Hilton. Or a particularly wrathful Dick Cheney.

And I just got two questions on restoration of railroad stations in a two-hour shift. Unrelated. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Now, thanks to Corey, a blog with comments! Tell me every little thing.

Today's crop of reference questions has included:
  • Where can I find books on the history of the electron microscope?
  • Where can I find books on yoga?
  • Where can I find articles discussing why people want to be in romantic relationships?
  • Where can I find anything about the Bristol Bay (AK) salmon fishing industry?
  • Who on campus is doing research on welfare reform?
  • How can I find out whether the racial makeup of PAC-1o teams is proportionate to the racial makeup of the institution or the region the team is from?
  • Reported by a colleague: How many copies of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code have been printed in the United States?

My favorite reference question of yesterday was: How is "fish" spelled in Yiddish? Answer: "fish."

An interesting observation about politics and the media here; it's a thought I'd sort of had before, but which I hadn't been able to articulate very well.

Apparently the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which was advertised at a pre-pub price of $9,900, is full of mistakes.

Bush and Kerry talk intellectual property, copyright, and open access. Well, maybe "talk" isn't the right word. "Opine," maybe.

Sue Protheroe, about whom I have never before heard a thing in my life, is a great teacher. If you Google her, you also find out she's a runner who does a 6:52 pace on a 10K. Go, Sue! I used to live in Iowa, and I can tell you honestly, they need more like you there.

This blog continues to take shape as I write it, although now that it accepts comments I think it may start to feel more relevant to my work and life. Writing without comments enabled is writing into the void. Chatter adds value.

That said, I'm going to be busy for the next few weeks, preparing to teach next term, so we'll see how often I get in here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

We've made it through the busiest part of our term now--the first few weeks of October. I've been teaching some fun research classes (graduate film courses! freshman studying anthropology and folklore!), helping students on some fun research topics (apes in literature, circa 1700-1900!), training our own student employees, working the reference desk (I just had a student who needed to print something open up his wallet, pluck out his last couple of bills, and say to me hopefully, "I've got two bucks...?"), meeting, writing, planning for a course in winter term, indexing for the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature, proposing presentations for regional conferences, and worrying about the upcoming election. Life is full.

But in the continuing quest for relevant content--and I still feel like I haven't figured out what, exactly, should go into this blog--I offer a couple of links from my Kinja. AKA, my real-time lifeline to the literary world.

Apparently, back-of-the-book indexes are on the way out. I hate to be peevish and all hair-in-a-bun about it, but this strikes me as bad news. We're already living in an anti-intellectual society, where humanists and scholars are forced constantly to defend their work. Now we want to take indexes away? How's anyone supposed to skim a book without an index? There's also the whole ugly outsourcing issue, where the work of indexing is shipped out to workers in developing countries, who are paid inhuman wages for their labor. Online indexes aren't innocent here either--I'm not sure about this, so don't sue me, but I hear rumours that Early English Books Online, which is priced at around $80,000 for an institution of our size, is using offshore labor to key in its texts. Delightful.

I just ran across a reference to this book: Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued A Million Yiddish Books. It restores my faith in the grassroots. Gey gezunterheyt, Aaron Lansky!

There's a site that relates the key plot twists and the ends of popular books, as sent in by readers: I'm amused until I notice that they cover Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I'm currently reading. Which is 700+ pages long. Which I'm about 200 pages into. Which I'm enjoying immensely. Which I don't want to spoil for myself. Oh, crud.

And finally, Neal Stephenson talks to Slashdot about how open access models and the Creative Commons might affect novelists. Interesting stuff.

Namaste, and back to ABELL indexing.