Saturday, January 28, 2006

Playing with Words

Words, words words--what do they all mean?

A long time ago--in another life of mine--I used to work at the public library. I was a "page," that is to say that I spent long hours taking books that had been returned and checked back in and re shelving them. Mom always took us to the library during the summers, and sometimes after school. It was a magical place. As a kid I quickly outgrew most of the kid's/juvenile section of the library and was soon stalking the adult shelves looking for meatier fare. It only made sense that my first "real" job as a teen would be working there. So just shy of 15, I got hired. In less than a year, although I didn't have the Dewey Decimal system memorized past the primary numbers, I knew where to find just about any kind of book one wanted. Besides shelving the books, we would also have to "audit" shelves periodically and re order the books patrons had pulled and put back in the wrong place. You can find lots of neat books (especially the very old titles) that way. The library became a magic place. It even smelled neat with all the leather bindings, the paper, etc. And the real librarians....

Watching the librarians work--I think they were the forerunners of todays search-engines. You could ask them any question, any fact and they could either find a book off the shelf or work the phone and give you an answer. I seriously believed that the answer to any question could be found there. Heck. The library is where I met my first long-time, serious girlfriend. She introduced me to her best-friend, Lavie--who eventually became my dear wife! (Long story, but not as scandalous as it sounds.)

Today, the rise of the Internet and algorithm-driven search engines seem to have taken the place of the librarian as a primary source of facts. However, the library--and their keepers--remains an integral part of our communities. Despite the rise of Amazon dot com and Barns and Nobles box stores, the library remains a keeper of our real archive of knowledge. Newspaper and local history are stored there. Novels and how-to manuals are maintained. When I go to the local "big-bookstores," I see adults and kids sitting in chairs and the floor reading books to be purchased like they were in a library. There is just something about "hard-copy" that demands you touch it, introduce yourself and the book to each other, and spend some time getting to know each other. It is like seeing a face you just can't help but stop and strike up a conversation with, even if they are a complete stranger--you just are compelled to make a personal contact.

I'm waxing philosophical because I've been pondering what the meaning of a blog is. I think it really can't be defined. It is so many things to so many people. Is it an on line journal? Personal and reflective? Is it a mini-newsdesk? Providing the latest facts and news to a refined audience? Maybe it is a publicity stunt. Maybe it is like the town-crier of yore. Maybe it is a way to continue a long tradition started by proto homo-sapiens on cave walls; only ours are digital....

I would like to consider myself a kind of neo-librarian. Searching the web and providing you with tidbits of information gleaned from the "stacks." Some will be useful, some may not. Regardless, I hope you leave here having been touched in a warm and sincere way, better for your visit.


The best blogs you shouldn't read: On my daily commute into work, I listen to our public radio station KUHF-FM Houston. They have two audio casts that I can't live without. University of Houston's College of Engineering Professor John H. Lienhard's daily diary called "The Engines of our Ingenuity." Showcasing the inventiveness shaping the world around us. He has all his short broadcasts archived (with transcripts) for your listening pleasure. The other is Baxter Black, cowboy poet and large-animal veterinarian and periodic guest on NPR radio. Baxter Black's NPR page. His logic and colorfulness epitomizes my image of a modern cowboy looking on the world around us.

The word mix used as the image above was generated on line using a neat tool called Interesting Words. Put in your blog's (or any other's) atom or RSS feed URL and it will generate a list based on the content. It is really fun. If you really are impressed with your wordage, you can head over to SnapShirts website and order up a t-shirt with your blog name and keywords! This is really fun to do. I think I'll get one and wear it under my shirt at work so it can be a secret-identity thing--kinda like Clark Kent.

I've never really been devoted to playing on line games, but I have been wasting hours playing with Scout. It shows a random sample of images from Flikr's Explore. However, since we are talking about words, there is a new web-game called Fastr that uses Flickr images and you have to guess the "tag" or common word to all of them. It is fun and addictive.

While Google battles on to scan on line copies of books, quietly sails on with a large collection of out of print titles dealing with literature, reference and verses. Really fun for literature lovers.

Homage to Sexy Librarians

You can't spend years as a teenager working with librarians and not expect them to rub off on you in a subconscious way!

Librarians are Sexy (via Rutger's College)

Read or Die (R.O.D.) with Yomiko Readman, a.k.a "The Paper." of the Royal British Library's Division of Special Operations. (You just knew I had to get some anime in there right?)

It's raining today. Hope to see you in a book!

P.S.--Don't worry! I've got a 2nd post coming later today that has your tech fix covered! Just browse the shelves for a while--I need to get a haircut first!

No comments: