Sunday, May 24, 2009


Getting started with LibraryThing is very easy--within 5 minutes I'd created an account and was adding books to my library. There's far more that can be done with LibraryThing than what I'd accomplish in my brief first visit. This is a great site to catalog, review, and share information about books. For the bibliophile it would be worth paying the fee for the expanded service, as a free account limits you to a maximum of 200 books.

It did take 4 tries to produce a display of the 8 titles I added. The cover images are small, so click on each cover image for additional details.

I was interested in seeing how it would handle an older, out-of-print title, so I started with my set of the Time Master fantasy trilogy by Louise Cooper--an excellent fantasy series, but regrettably out of print for over 20 years. LT handled the details well, though it missed on the Library of Congress classification on at least one of the titles in the series.

Would LT replace standard library cataloging? No. In fact it relies upon LC to provide much of its data, just as thousands of libraries in the US and around the world rely upon LC's cataloging data and standards. LT can't supply consistent subject and genre headings or provide details as to publication history, previous editions under differing titles, tables of contents, etc., which can be found in SPL's catalog. Still, LT is an excellent resource for organizing one's own home library.

A brief LibraryThing bookshelf

Friday, May 22, 2009

Arizona Wordle

A Wordle image of various places in Arizona our family has visited over the years.

As far as creating the image, Wordle was fairly easy--enter some text and the program will create the layout for you. However, while you can tinker with the colors and font (which will change the layout) you can't edit the words once the image has been created. You have to go back to the start and enter the text again.

Copying the image to the blog was also tricky and as you can see I ended up with the entire window, not just the image. Any suggestions on how to copy the picture so that the window frame doesn't appear?

Not sure what I'd use Wordle for, but it's a fun little free application. Anyone more interested in graphic or web design might find this more useful.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not necessarily the latest gadget

After poking around on Flickr and breezing through mashups, I've paused for a few days on the 27 Things trail (lest anyone think old wolfie has wandered off into the woods somewhere). So for the next couple of posts I thought I'd offer a few observations on online stuff and technology in general.

My dad is one of the so-called "Greatest Generation"--grew up in the Depression, served in World War II, and started a family in the middle years of the Baby Boom. That's also the generation for which the digital world has come late into their lives, if at all. For my dad, who's a widower in his 80's, high tech is a CD player or the remote for the cable TV. He probably has a general idea of what the Internet is, but very little concept of what can be found online. When we were planning to fly to Pennsylvania to attend my neice's graduation from Kutztown University, I offered to buy airline tickets online--and he seemed surprised that it was possible to do that.

I've tried to introduce him to a few modern conveniences, such as a cordless phone with an answering machine and a simple cell phone for emergency use in the car, but he's never gotten the hang of how to use either one. I swear he still has an old 1960's black dial phone somewhere in the house. On the other hand, does he need computers and a lot of high-tech gadgets? No. He's perfectly content to do without, and that's just fine.

So I thought about technology in our family's life and quickly realized that we might be considered a bit behind the times ourselves.

We have home computers, of course (3, in fact), but only upgraded from a dialup connection to a basic broadband service a year ago. One of our computers is an IBM PC with Windows 3.1, a first-generation Intel 486 chip, and a hard drive that has only 1/3 of the capacity of our 12-year-old son's 512Mb MP3 player. But when we bought the IBM in the early 90's it was state-of-the-art.

We don't own a Blackberry or an iPhone and don't send text messages on our cell phones (we get charged for every message). Our son is angling for an iPhone...but that ain't gonna happen, kiddo.

I still check out audiobooks on cassette because my car--a trusty 17-year-old Corolla--only has a cassette player. On the other hand, our van has a multi-disk CD changer and a plug for an MP3.

I've never bought music online for my MP3.

We've never e-mailed digital pictures (hey, at least give us credit for at least downloading them to the computer!!). In fact, we often use a 35mm camera that takes great photos. Flickr, however, offered some really interesting possibilities for uploading and sharing photos. And (see the post below) our pictures are a whole lot more interesting than someone in the grocery store with the package of beef tongue!!

For a long time I've kind of felt that I didn't always need to have the latest-and-greatest electronic gadget, like skipping the 60Gb iPod in favor of a 4Gb Sansa SanDisk. However, in my somewhat short journey down the 27 Things trail, I've already discovered that there are a wealth of online possibilities out there, and that perhaps it's time to expand my horizons.

Maybe it's time to forget about books on cassette and download them to my MP3. Wonder if I can find a portable audio player that can be connected to an MP3 so I can take it in the car...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I've spent some time in the past couple of days exploring Flickr. There are all kinds of possibilities for searching, posting, tagging, and commenting photos that others have posted or which one can upload to the site. I really feel that I only scratched the surface of what Flickr offers.

In the fairly brief time I spent with Flickr, including finding the kayaking picture (below) and posting it here, I observed a few things:

1. It's better to search by tags than by full text. When I entered the terms "lake", "tahoe", and "kayaking", I retrieved over 1600 hits in a full-text search; when I used those terms as tags, Flickr retrieved a fraction of that number, which was a lot more manageable.

2. Sometimes I pulled up images that at first completely baffled me as to how they matched my search parameters. "Lake Tahoe kayaking" actually retrieved several photos of young women in a grocery store, including one shot of a woman at the meat counter holding up a package of beef tongue (I'm not kidding!!!) "Lake Tahoe kayaking"?? Huh?? How about "Weird stuff I found at the grocery store"? In exploring further, I discovered that these photos were part of a larger collection, all submitted by the same person, of a vacation to Lake Tahoe, which at one point included some time spent in a kayak. The entire set of pictures included "kayaking" as a tag, so consequently the beef tongue photo ended up as a search result.

3. There are a whole lot of mediocre vacation photos on Flickr.

4. Sometimes tags are misspelled. I found a couple dozen photos tagged as "Laketahoe".

5. The ability to search by a geographic location is a very useful feature. I looked up the tag "Kings Beach", a town on Tahoe's north shore where we've owned a timeshare for many years and spend a week there nearly every summer. This led to a whole assortment of photos taken a different times of the year, and some of them were remarkably beautiful.

I've never used or searched Flickr before, so this phase of 27 Things was a real discovery. I'll definitely come back to the site.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cool--it really worked!

I think that for most of us there comes a moment when we suddenly realize that something new we've attempted really achieves the hoped-for result: the "Cool--it really worked!" moment. We strike out in a new direction, often with only vague and sketchy instructions, going strictly on one's instincts, and hoping (though not necessarily expecting) that we'd accomplish what we set out to do, especially on the first try. And when things do pan out, we stare at the result as if trying to convince ourselves that it really did work.

That's what happened here.


Kind of like my navigating the winding back roads of eastern Berks County, Pennsylvania, last week, hoping to get from Hunsecker's Grove County Park to the Premise Made ice cream store on Highway 222, in the rain, without a GPS or a local map...sometimes you've just got to guess at where the road goes.

Kayaking on Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
Originally uploaded by Sean Munson
My first attempt at copying a photo from Flickr to my blog....

I picked this because it combines a favorite sport (kayaking) with a favorite vacation place (Lake Tahoe).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Bloglines...

Setting up a Bloglines account was remarkably easy. Once the account was established, Bloglines offered a selection of popular feeds from which I could choose. And the first one I picked was one at the top of the popularity list: Daily Dilbert.

Not wanting to overload myself with a lot of online news and information to sort through on a daily basis, I decided to limit my subscriptions to just a handful of message feeds. I quickly discovered that it was easiest to go through my Bloglines account and enter the URL of a site I wanted to subscribe to. When I went to a news site first (like and clicked on the RSS link, I'd get a response that I was subscribed to the RSS feed...but I'd always wonder how if I hadn't entered any e-mail or Bloglines account information.

As I was creating my Bloglines account, I started thinking about my existing electronic subscriptions that are already delivered to my SPL e-mail account. I'm a subscriber and occasional contributor to the Autocat online discussion list (a worldwide discussion list focusing on cataloging and technical services matters); I receive a daily newsletter from Shelf Awareness (books, publishing, marketing, and libraries); the library comic strip Unshelved; and monthly updates from a couple publishers of fantasy and science fiction. So the question arose: how is what I'm already receiving in my daily e-mail all that different from Bloglines?

The places I've been...

I saw this on several other SPL staffers' blogs, and thought it kind of cool. Rather like those sticker maps of the US and Canada that you sometimes see on the backs of RVs that tell what states you've been in.

Some of the states I haven't been in for many years. That strip of states from Wyoming to Ohio, for example, was from a couple of cross-country trips to visit relatives taken before I was 9 years old. I decided to include Texas, even though the only places I've been in that state have been the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston airports. With family members in Pennsylvania and Virginia whom we visit every year or two, we're back and forth between the East and West Coasts rather frequently with plane changes somewhere in between (but anywhere except Chicago O'Hare!!)