The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This movie, with its hints of Metamorphosis and Maya Deren, probably will stand as one of the best of the last ten years.  Of course it has a deeply economic theme: how much of the value of life stems from our ability to trade, and how much from our ability to play games of pure coordination?  Plus the French health care system is so good that all the nurses are beautiful and pay infinite attention to a single patient, or maybe that is just how French movies are made.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Atomic Radiation

Design by Bruce Robertson

Finding it a little hard to get to the bookstore lately, so I turn once again to the incredible Seven Hundred Penguins. Predictably, it didn’t take long to find an example of what has made Penguin such a great publisher over the years.


Published in 1964, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Atomic Radiation is a fantastic example of how two colors and geometry can jump out and kick your photo-illustrated cover’s butt.

(And if anyone knows more about…
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Atomic Radiation

Tribes of Burma

“There is in this particular region a collection of races
diverse in feature, language and customs such as cannot,
perhaps, be paralleled in any other part of the world”.
[Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Sir George Scott, 1899]

“We shall never be able to trace all the people who
now inhabit Burma back fully to their original seats,
or say precisely where they had their beginnings”.
[‘The Tribes of Burma’, C.C. Lowis, 1919]


Tribes of Burma - Kaw (Ahkra) 1900

Kaw (Ahkra)



Tribes of Burma - Kaw (Si-Saw) 1900

Kaw…

Tribes of Burma

Milk and Cheese Vinyl Set Given Props @ Plastic And Plush

The Plastic and Plush toy review site has started posting their “Best of 2007” lists and the Milk and Cheese vinyl set nabbed a slot on the list for “Best Packaging”.





Plastic and Plush gave the figures a nice write-up back when they were released and the virtual ink they’ve given the project has certainly been appreciated. Especially since most of the toy world virtually ignored us. Oh, cruel toy world! 
Milk and Cheese Vinyl Set Given Props @ Plastic And Plush

American Crescent

Designer name to come

When I first saw American Crescent, I immediately thought of an Economist cover I saw a year or so ago. Turns out the magazine has an archive of their covers, and I was able to find it.


In less talented hands, American Crescent would feature a shot of the Statue of Liberty facing us, with the crescent somehow affixed to the statue. And that would betray the nature of the book, which is about an acceptance of Islam that’s (perhaps) yet to come. The photo…
American Crescent

this is not your father’s library

Library bookshelvesWe’ve heard it so often, it seems like a truism: in this era of instant electronic information access, libraries are like dinosaurs that don’t know they’re already extinct.

Well, maybe not.

A new survey has found that Generation Wired uses libraries far more often than you might think. In fact, Internet-savvy youth between 18-30 are the largest user group for library research services and resources. Furthermore, the survey found that library usage actually declines with…


this is not your father’s library

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 15

Repost from the Illustration Art blog

I can’t think of a better way to end 2007 than with this lovely drawing by our old friend Rembrandt.



This little drawing makes me wonder why Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell thought it was necessary to invent abstract expressionism.  

What an astonishing drawing and what a wonderful world we live in!

Happy new year to all of you!

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 15

End o' the semester cleanup

After the Spring 2007 semester, I asked Marilyn what she did with all of her notes, drafts of papers and presentations, and so on. She said that she used to keep everything, but now she kept only the final copies and threw the rest away.That struck me as a sensible way to go. When I was a reporter, one piece of advice I got was to destroy my reporter notebooks when I was done with them. If the story had been printed, it was part of the public record and that's where people should go for the information. So here's what I'm planning to do as I wrap up the end of a very busy Fall 2007:

  • Online: Delete all the Google Docs stuff that supported my papers.
  • PC: I keep separate subfolders for each class by its number. Go through each one, delete the drafts and supporting research material; keep the final version of papers I handed in. The papers have the citation references if I need to pull up the original articles again. Move this folder to my INLS folder, which sits in my Archives folder.
  • Zotero: I used this to capture pages for a paper and spit out the citations. Delete everything. Update: Well, maybe that was too hasty. I've read of heavy-duty Zotero users who use it to keep lots of stuff; some heavy RefWorks users do the same thing to track their citations and readings. Up to now, I really haven't needed that kind of tracking power, so I'll wait to deploy that weaponry at a later time.
  • Hard copy: I think I'll start a binder for papers that have my professors' handwritten comments. There actually haven't been that many papers in my school career so far; this was my writing semester, with about 12 one-page critiques, two 15-page papers, and lots of writing on a grant proposal. I like the idea of keeping them all in a binder, tab-separated. Update: What I actually did was label two manila envelopes with the class number, put my hardcopy papers in them, and file them under "I" for INLS. I fell back to asking myself, "What's the simplest thing that could possibly work?" Binders require just those few extra steps that I didn't want to go through; much easier to put everything in an envelope (including the syllabus and reading lists) and be done with it.
  • Printed articles: I really can't read journal articles on-screen--I need hard-copy. I've kept them all through the semester in separate pouches for each class. I'll look at each one and probably just recycle. Any articles that have to do with my work project I'll put aside and keep in a binder at work.

Now, keeping track of all this mess during the semester is another challenge I haven't conquered yet. I like the intellectual tidiness of keeping everything online, but it's not always practical. For one class, I kept my graded critiques in a binder; for the other, I stuffed the graded paper into a pouch that held all my readings for the semester.

Done, done, and done

For the last month, just as I thought I was nearing the finish line or reaching a milestone where I could catch my breath, another deadline or commitment loomed, both at work and at school. I spent last weekend binge-grading grant projects submitted by other teams in my Digital Preservation and Archiving class, reading an article, drafting a critique of said article, and drafting a research proposal. The grant info was due Monday, the critique due Wednesday, the proposal due Friday. Ho ho, thought I, can I turn in the proposal on Wednesday and avoid a commute to campus on Friday?

Well, no. The grant stuff and critique got done, but the proposal was a disaster. I just finished it tonight, printed it out, and after tomorrow morning, Christmas shopping can finally begin.

But here are lessons learned on the proposal:

  • Start early. Crucial to me, since I had to junk my entire first draft and start over from scratch.
  • Get a fellow student to read your paper and critique it for you. I’d read about this idea in other blogs, but this was the first time I’d done it. She was supportive but put her finger on a key weakness that I couldn’t write or think around. She also knew what he liked to see in papers and student work and provided good advice. Hence, my need to scrap it and start over.
  • Go back and read the professor’s directions. The weakness she pointed out was clearly delineated in his instructions for the proposal, had I but re-read them. Be a lawyer and read the fine print.
  • Don’t research forever–timebox it. The danger here is that I had left myself so little time that I barely skimmed the articles I found. No time for fancy research techniques; scan, skim, ingest. But the earlier you can do this, the more facts you can feed your brain so it can go to work in the background.
  • I started to feel panic a second time as I started over on the writing. Classic fear response. I relaxed and fell back on my ol’ NaNoWriMo skills and tips: Write a vomit draft. Don’t edit. Lower my standards. Think quantity, not quality. The more you write, the more you can write. Just keep your fingers flying. If you just don’t know what to write, the trick here is to write about your inability to write. Describe the frustration. Describe what you want to be able to say. Lo and behold, this always seems to unjam the blockage for me. (It’s all going to be deleted anyway, no one’s going to see it, so go crazy.)
  • I used InstantBoss (freeware), set for the standard 10 + 2 * 5 routine. By focusing for just that 10 minutes on writing and not diverting myself with editing, I got a good two pages done my first night. Tonight, I worked about 45 minutes total to finish it.
  • The key is not to finish the paper; the key is to keep starting. Eventually, you’ll reach the end.
  • I also decided that it’s OK to relax and do B-level work on this proposal. My class participation and other work have been more than up to the mark. No need to torque myself into a perfectionist knot.
  • It’s OK to feel like the slow kid in class. Three of my fellow students had finished their proposals early and I was disappointed that I couldn’t be a member of their club. Oh well–next time.

Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it - just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.

Mike Shea:

Audiobooks are my e-books. ... Audiobooks take the content from a novel and turn it into something else - something I can use when I can't read a novel. That’s what these e-book readers seem to miss. I want to search text, transform it, cut and paste it, and listen to it. If I want to sit and read it, I’ll go with the actual book. They’re about fifty times cheaper, more durable (do you think you can read a Kindle if you bury it in the mud for 1000 years?), and far more lovable than some plastic box with a bunch of buttons on it.

Ethiopian Manuscripts

From Bibliodyssey:

Saint with 2 swords


Saint on horseback stabbing dragon


Mary with baby Jesus


Alwan Codex 2 - Psalter - early 20th century



2 versions of man playing harp


Left: Alwan Codex 2; Right: Alwan Codex 28



Christ on the cross


Saint on horse stabbing dragon


Alwan Codex 28 - Commentary on the Praises of
Mary and Gate of Light, Amharic - 20th century.




man on horseback stabbing dragon


Alwan Codex 27 - Psalter - 19th/20th centuries




seated man with 2 children and page of ge'ez text


Eliza Codex 17 - Gospel of John; Horologium of Abba Giyorgis
for the night hours, incomplete - 16th and 18th centuries (composite)



Jesus flanked by 2 men and page of ge'ez text



Ethiopian Manuscripts

Generalisstimo

Rebecca at ProtoScholar has been on a tear of great posts lately. Her musings on being a generalist or specialist struck a special chord with me.

One of the disadvantages I felt coming back to school is that I’m ignorant of a whole body of knowledge (library science, library processes, library history) that I think many of the younger grads around me have already ingested. The more I hear about catalogers, indexers, and archivers, the more I feel I’m missing out on a deeper conversation. Because I’m not a specialist, I have to survive as a generalist.

But. An advantage to being a forty-odder is that I can bring a wider range of associations to bear on certain topics, or at least a perspective that wouldn’t occur to many of my peers, and that can give me an advantage. Many of my oddball interests of the last 20 years are for whatever reason surfacing now and then in my studies, and I’m able to use them in class discussions or papers.

Rebecca says the best scholars are specialists in one area but generalists in others. Certainly, if we’re going to make our careers matter in the few decades left to us, it’s up to us to see the associations our work can have in other areas of life: the community, the family, social institutions, and so on. That may mean specializing in what we study and research, but finding ways we can apply it generally to the world.

I see myself as a jack-of-some-trades and have always withheld part of myself from becoming too specialist, but I think now is a good time for me to explore how deeply I can go into a topic and really own it intellectually.

This reminds me two oddball thoughts, just to show where these ramblings can lead:

  • The writer Arnold Bennett once observed, on the issue of free will, that life worked out best for him if he assumed that he alone possessed free will, while everyone around him was predetermined to act as if they couldn’t help themselves. He said it took a lot of stress out of life. So: how would I act differently if I saw everyone around me as specialists but myself as a generalist?
  • The psychologist/philosopher William James, in discussing memory, used the analogy of a bowl full of fishing hooks. You could not pick up only one hook, he said, because they were attached to each other such that lifting up one lifted up a cluster. In the same way, memory is associative: the more things you know, the more connections you can make to new knowledge, and so the more you can remember. In a way, that’s how I see generalists and specialists; generalists can call up a cluster of associations, some useful, some not, and it’s this trait that I’m able to call on as a student. We’re highly distractable, us generalists, but it keeps life interesting.

(originally posted in 2007-11-10, updated for micro.blog)