29 July, 2006

Arbor Day

I never thought I'd be one of 'those' people, who bemoan the death of the English Language. Or who complain about declining standards of literacy or dumbing down of society, after all I live in Australia. But it turns out I am.
What the hell happened to Arbor Day, and why the hell do we have Tree Day.
As a kiddie I had lots of fun on Arbor Day planting trees. There are a couple of nice big Gum Trees on Ham Common which I can still identify as ones I planted. Now however (and for the last few years) Australia has tree day. Why?
Now I know it isn't dumbing down the English language, because Tree is English but Arbor isn't. Still it is (at the very least) aiming for the lowest common denominator. And I hate that!

20 July, 2006

Research part the second: The hard cases

Most of what I get asked in my day to day working life is simple stuff that you can answer of the top of your head.
The earth has five moons
Our solar system has eight planets (or ten depending on your definition of planet)
But other questions are more troubling and the ADHD research method described earlier can look like it is coming unstuck. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is where the ADHD librarian launches into his own. Now if you are using my methodology, ensure that you are not tempted at this stage by fancy subscription databases or the mouldy old reference collection. After all if you were to go to your library's reference collection you'd probably find the books saying outdated things like "Earth has one moon" or "there are nine planets in the solar system" and subscription databases aren't worth the paper they aren't printed on in most public library situations.
No the question to ask now is who does what you're asking about?
So if you are looking up details on heavy machinery model numbers used in open cut mines so someone can write in there resume that they know how to drive them, you need to search for a company who runs an open cut mine. What are you looking for? Surprisingly enough, you're not looking for the answer to your question. What you are looking for is a bit of the jargon of open cut mining folk. You're not going to have much luck in your search until you know a few brand names of heavy machinery and what they are called.
Caterpillar, Komatsu, Dynapac, Ingersol Rand, Hitachi do any of these sound like devices you want to claim to drive?
(like someone who could really drive one would be asking a librarian to help them find information for their resume)
Search for very very big truck? No, search for: Dump Truck Tracked, Skid Steer Loaders, Excavator to 12ton, Articulated Trucks, Off Highway Trucks.

Forget blindly ploughing on with the web if you (or your patrons) don't have enough information because you can open an infinite number of tabs to no avail.
The fancy pants folk who write books on retailing will insist on telling you the customer is always right.
Well in the library the customer is always a moron should be your maxim. They come in and tell you all sorts of things about what it is they think they want to know and when you hand it to them they say "no that's not it".
It's what you bloodywell said you wanted you stupid oxygen thief.
But that is the art of the reference interview, which is the mystical craft of trying to work out that someone wants a biography of Peter Lalor when they come in and ask for a book about gold.

How I cured my ADHD

or meet my electronic brain
Six months ago I launched myself into the world of portable computing. Not that I'm the most tech savvy guy you're going to meet. But I had a purpose, I was planning on relacing my frontal lobe with an new electronic version. I got myself a Dell Axim X51v running windows mobile. It's quite nice and it fits in my pocket. (as I mentioned once before on this blog).
So how do I use it to cure my ADHD? Well, it is a fantastic little device for keeping track of my appointments and tasks I need to do. Sure, before this I had a vert nice leather diary/filofax/planner which was a gift from a previous workplace. The diary however didn't fit in my pocket and didn't go 'bing bong' when I had to do something.
That is the fantastic thing about this little computer, but it isn't everything. I plug it into my work PC when I get in in the morning and the two calendars sync their different information. Then when I get home of an evening I do the same with the home PC. So now instead of having a work PC with some of my appointments, a home PC with a few others and a diary I completely forgot to write anything in, I have three places all telling me the same thing.
Sure I still need to put the information in, but only once. And as work uses the calendar function to organise meetings a lot of them arrive automatically and all I have to do is click YES. Plus my (long suffering) wife can put things onto the home PC and they're going to 'bing bong' me without her having to remind me too often (although she will, because doing my remembering for me is a habit entrenched by years of frustration).
It is more than that however, because I can still forget things (like when I turn the alarm off because I'm doing a radio interview and then I don't turn it back on for a week). So when I had a clash and had to go to a Scout camp with one of my kiddies but I had some uni work due, I put the PDA in my pocket and while the kiddies slept tucked up in their swags, I was writing 500 words on management styles while leaning on a gum tree next to an open fire.
But there is a third function that the ADHD prone will love. Games, yes, no longer do I have to wiggle my fingers or tap my feet when I'm watching TV. I can now watch TV and play solitaire, without having to remember where I put the cards. Or I can watch TV and surf the net at the same time, compose email and generally do all those things that I'd be doing if it wasn't for the fact that I often forget to move when the TV is on.

12 July, 2006

Ref desk Trolls

OK, it is from ask Dr Eldritch which isn't always about librarians. I have always pictured people phoning up to ask crossword questions as trolls.

10 July, 2006

two and two is wibble, wibble and wibble is...

wibblydy wibble?
1. I have no concept of maths.
2. I last attempted to do any in 1988.
These two facts do not mesh up with the fact that I am currently the ADHD accounting student.
Yes, my attempt to get management qualifications (in order to prevent some bloody accountant from being my boss) has resulted in my reaching the semester where the only option available to me was accounting. It had to happen (compulsory subject) but I still feel the need to say "Damn Bugger Poo Knickers".
The first thing about the ADHD accounting student is that I made it up to page 7 (of 1125) before I stopped and asked myself where it was that I stopped understanding.
But I did however have a lot of fun laughing at accountants. The text starts by selling the concept of how cool accountants are and gives the example of an accountant who works for a motor racing team. Then (one page later) it discusses decision making "We make many decisions every day. For example we decide when to get out of bed each morning (sometimes prompted by our parents!)..." (Hoggett, Edwards, Medlin. Accounting 6th ed. Wiley. p.5).
Yes, it only took one page to change from 'We're so cool' to admitting that all accountants still live at home with their mum.
So it is good to know that even if I can't understand accountancy, I still have the power to ridicule those who do.

06 July, 2006

Silent library

Just watch it and you'll see what I liked about this video.

03 July, 2006

You never forget your first.

I feel the need to say this now because I just ran across a website for the ORIC 1 (my first PC) and it took me back to the 80s in a haze of pure nostalgia. I was however struck by the difference between my old ORIC and the DELL sitting in my pocket!
My ORIC had a 1 MHz processor, 48KB of RAM (it was the top of the line model) and 16 KB of ROM. Plus you could add a tape drive.
My new AXIM has 416 MHz processor, 64 MB RAM and 128 MB of flash ROM. But it has no tape drive, sure it has wi-fi and blue tooth and SD card slot, but where is the tape drive?
While Dell try to sell their machine based on the fact that it would fit in your pocket, my old ORIC could do that, if I was wearing very big cargo pants. Sure the lack of monitor on the ORIC was a problem (unless I put a TV in my other pocket), but I could plug it into any TV (and any tape player) when I got to my destination.
The computer that came after the ORIC (for me) was an apple IIe Hong Kong knockoff and there was no way that would have fit in my pocket. It failed in one big area over the ORIC, colour. The ORIC had 8 colours the apple had black and amber, but then it had two (count them, two) floppy drives. And the disks were floppy!
But, as they say you never forget your first and no matter how fancy computers get I'll still be sitting in my (futuristic, laser guided) rocking char trying to explain to the great grandkids what it was like to use a 1 MHz processor and how fantastic life was when we had 8 colours and how we would write circular programs that looped with goto commands.
Ahh how we laughed.