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Like that Dam in California… Overflow!

14 Feb

oroville_dam_spillover_2017-02-11Not to make light of the scary news out of California this week regarding the eroding of Oroville Dam, but some of the images did make me think of my overflowing bookmark list of things to share with with my readers. So many! So here goes:

There’s much about Fake News in the real news lately, including the role that librarians can play (see the PBS NewsHour story, Why These Librarians are Protesting Trump’s Executive Orders, by Elizabeth Flock) and can’t play (see Information Literacy Won’t Save Us; or, Fight Fascism, Don’t Create a LibGuide, by IJClark) when it comes to media literacy. I find there to be interesting and credible arguments on both sides, but more than anything, I’m heartened by the rekindled notion of the importance of our profession in the discussion.

Somewhat related is Mattie Quinn’s story for the website, Governing; For the Poorest and Sickest, Librarians Often Play Doctor. As a medical librarian, I found this story of particular interest.

A few useful resources:

  • Think Outside The Slide has a nice list of free resources to make PowerPoint presentations more effective. 
  • MapBox provides a platform for adding maps to your mobile apps. While it’s a paid service, there is a level available for free that you can try.
  • Back in October, I attended a terrific workshop on bibliometrics and research assessment, co-hosted by the NIH Library and the Maryland Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The materials are now available online. You’ll find a couple of really good keynote talks, plus a whole bunch of interesting posters by colleagues in the field. Great stuff!
  • ProPublica the independent, nonprofit, investigative journalism outfit has created a number of applets using IFTTT, that work with different media tools (Evernote, Pocket, mail, calendars, etc.) to keep you up-to-date on different aspects of U.S. politics, including when the President signs a new law, when Congress schedules a vote, and a weekly/daily Congressional digest. These are great for staying informed and, if one is so inclined, for activism.
  •  The International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) is a non-profit organization devoted to bettering health care systems worldwide by “measuring and reporting patient outcomes in a standardized way.” On their website, you can find a lengthy, growing list of Standard Sets for a variety of medical conditions, along with literature on how to read, interpret and use the findings.
  • Finally, WordCounter.net needs no explanation. It’s a handy online tool. 

I really enjoy following the website, StatNews. I find it to be a thoughtful, credible source for current news on health and medicine. If you’ve yet to discover Stat, here are a couple of stories that I recently read to introduce you to their work:

Another interesting health care-related story is Martha Bebinger’s story (WBUR), What if We Really Knew Where to Get the Best Cancer Care: The Prostate as Case Study. It gets one to thinking about what we know, what we don’t know, what we can know, and what we might not want to know when it comes to health data and medical treatments. 

If you’re fascinated with space and all things astronaut related, as I am, you likely know about the really cool “Twin Study” that’s been ongoing at NASA using the identical twins, Mark and Scott Kelly, as subjects to study the longterm effects of space travel – findings that also inform down-to-earth subjects like aging, muscle growth, and other aspects related to gene expression. The first findings were published on the NASA website in late January and they contained both some expected and unexpected results.

And finally, if you missed the best story of 2017 so far, I share it with you here now:

Four-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana’s being “Librarian for the Day” for the Library of Congress.

As I said, best story of the year so far. 

New Year, New You (Me)

11 Jan

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the holiday season and that 2017 will be good to you. I always enjoy a new year. It’s like a clean slate, an open field, the first day of school. And I don’t so much make resolutions as I make lists. I make lists in my new planner. (This year, I’m trying out a nice model from Baron Fig.) I list things that I might want to do, songs that I want to learn, books that I want to read, concerts that I want to attend, movies that I want to see, etc. I add to the lists throughout the year, but it’s not quite the same as starting them up on a blank page in a new calendar at the beginning of a new year. It screams, “Possibilities!”

My list-making this year also reminds me of how unsettled I feel right now. The political climate is unsettling, for sure, and there seems so much uncertainty and fear throughout the world. These things don’t particularly help me address my own anxiety, but they’re also not the only thing contributing to it. This I know. I just feel I’m ready for something new, something different, some kind of change. I think I’m ready for a new me. 

For a good while, I was finding myself frustrated with me because I kept thinking/believing that I’m not the person that I once was and I liked the person that I once was. I kept thinking/believing that if I could just go back to be my “old self,” I’d feel great – happy, fulfilled, energized. But then I started reading this book:

miller

It was recommended to me by a young woman who used to tend bar at a neighborhood pub that I frequent. It’s a young person’s bar and I’m not a young person, but I like to pop in on my way home from work once a week or so, often on Thursdays when my wife goes to yoga, and I have a pint and I read. Young people don’t go to bars until later at night, so it’s generally quiet when I’m there, conducive to reading and/or watching whatever sports show is on. 

Anyway, Taylor, the bartender, evidently noticed my habit and found it interesting. She was there last Thursday with some friends and came over to me to say “hi” and ask what I was reading. (I was reading another great book, The Lonely City.) We talked about the holidays and the new year, and somewhere along the way I must have hinted about my unsettledness. In response, she recommended Donald Miller’s book. She said she just knew that I’d like it. She said that she was re-reading it herself right now. I told her I’d get it, read it, and we could have a book club-type chat the next time we saw each other. She liked that. The bartender working last Thursday, Nate, liked the idea, too. Maybe we’ll get a book club going – early in the evening, of course, before the young people (besides these two) show up.

I’m about half-way through at the moment and so I’ll not offer up a review of “Thousand Years” just yet, but I will tell you this much – and I’ll tell you why I know Taylor told me that I’d like it. It’s a memoir – kind of, sort of – that tells the story of how the author learned to write a screenplay and in doing so, discovered it was the perfect metaphor for writing one’s life. If you want to live a good story, you have to write it. Said another way, if you’re not living the story that you want to be living, you need to write yourself a better one. The book follows along in such a way that as the author learns about how a story is structured (character construction, story arc, inciting incident, etc.), he starts writing not only the screenplay, but a whole new life story for himself. And then the reader is inspired to do the same. And I am. It’s inspiring! 

It makes sense that Taylor recommended the book, because what I was saying to her about liking the person that I once was, but maybe not so much the one that I am now, and wanting to go back to that “old me” – well I’m reminded in reading this book that we don’t ever go backwards. We only go forwards. It’s the only direction that we can go. And I also realized that the person back there in my past that I like, that person was always going forward. That me was always moving, changing, growing. That’s what I like about that me. I’ve been in a rut too long. That’s what I don’t like. That’s what’s unsettling. Change isn’t unsettling. Stagnation is.

It’s time to write some change back into my life.

Earlier during this lunch break, I read (in the chapter about inciting incident), “Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they (humans) won’t enter into a story.  … The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.” (p. 104-105)

I think of how often people are afraid to write in a new journal or notebook, for fear of messing it up. And I always think, “How silly! What else is a journal for?” Donald Miller’s book has me thinking, “What else is life for, if not for writing a good story to live.” 

So I’ve added to my New Year’s lists the line, “Write yourself a better story.” We’ll see what happens!

What’s on your list for 2017? How will your story go? I hope you’ll share along the way.

Soundtrack for writing your story, courtesy of Catie Curtis. It’s been playing steadily during my morning commutes:

 

 

 

Here’s to a Happier New Year!

29 Dec

This will be my last post of 2016, friends. Thanks again for following along for another year – or thanks for finding me this year, if you’re new to my blog. I appreciate having a venue to share thoughts and ideas and observations and such, and appreciate even more everyone who finds something worth reading here.

My wish for 2017 is a more peaceful world for us all to inhabit. For any number of reasons, 2016 seems like it’s been an extraordinarily rough time. People are fractured and societies around the globe fractioned. One of the very things that makes us our best, diversity, is frightening to so many. I only hope that in 2017, we can begin to mend the deep, deep wounds that have festered for too long.

I woke early this morning – too early to get up – and couldn’t get back to sleep. Instead of lying there letting my mind run on and on, I decided to practice a body scan meditation that I learned at the Center for Mindfulness here at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has reached countless many, helping bring the science of mindfulness practice to the healing art of medicine. If you’re fortunate enough to live in Central Massachusetts, you can take advantage of the many programs offered by the Center, but even if you live on the other side of the country or the globe, there are lots of resources available to help you learn how to incorporate mindfulness into your life. I dare say, if ever there was a time for everyone to be more mindful of ourselves and others, it’s now. 

So this morning, I put my earbuds in and followed along through the guided meditation and sure enough, I felt my heart rate lower, my mind quiet, and my soul get a little break from all of its worries. It was great. And I hope I remember it later today and tonight and tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon and … well, you get it. 

But should I forget – or should you not be into meditation – I share this gift from the people at the social media management tool, Hootsuite, with you. Truly, I think watching it for 45 minutes is akin to meditating. Enjoy!

Happy New Year to everyone! May peace find us all.

 

Gadgets for Giving, the 2016 Version

22 Nov

For the past several years (I’ve lost track), I’ve given an annual talk at the Medical School in which I share a bunch of fun, cool, new gadgets and gizmos that folks might like to give and/or receive for the holidays. It’s always a lot of fun to put together and I invariably end up buying a few of the finds for family and friends and yes … me, too. Here’s this year’s version for your own enjoyment. You can find the handout that accompanied the presentation here – 2016-gadget-talk-handout. It offers information on sources for the items and pricing. 

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Rules of Travel

7 Nov
sally-and-janene_their-finest-hour

With my favorite Aussie, Janene Batten, medical librarian extraordinaire at Yale Medical School and Yale School of Nursing.

(This was originally posted on NAHSL Blog, the official blog of the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries, Inc. It’s reposted here with my own permission. Heh!)

One of my favorite singer-songwriters, Rosanne Cash, has a song titled, “Rules of Travel.” It’s completely unrelated to the content of this blog post, but it’s a great lead-in and/or title for it. I also realize that I’m not completely following the rules of NAHSL Professional Development Award blog posts, but please stick with me. It’ll make sense…

I have the great fortune to be on some short list for speakers for library conferences. I receive several invitations each year to travel to state or regional meetings, or library school classes, to talk about what I do for a living. I like to think that it’s because I do interesting things, that I’ve knitted together an interesting career path (not that I knit, but enough librarians do to get the metaphor). Enough folks have told me that they’ve read my blog for years and I know that this gets me invites. And I also like to think that I’m somewhat entertaining. At least to some people.

Anyhoooo… when I receive such invitations, I have some rules of travel that I try my best to apply. One of these is that if the content of the conference is of the slightest interest and/or relevance to my work – good odds, since these are library/information professional conferences – I ask that I receive free registration to attend the whole meeting. I don’t ask for much, if anything, to speak, so I figure it’s a good deal for both me and the group doing the inviting. I always learn things and I get to meet so many wonderful colleagues from all over the place.

The week before NAHSL’s annual meeting this year, I traveled to Detroit to give a keynote at the Michigan Health Sciences Library Association. The opening speaker for the meeting was Thomas Buchmueller, PhD, a health economist and professor at the University of Michigan. He teaches and does research within the School of Public Health there, focusing on “the economics of health insurance and related public policy issues.” (MHSLA program bio) In his talk, “Insured by Obamacare: Early Evidence of the Coverage Effects of the Affordable Care Act,” Dr. Buchmueller described the private coverage provisions of the ACA as a 3-legged stool. One leg represents underwriting reforms, an aspect the overwhelming majority of Americans support. The second is the individual mandate, the leg that has caused no end of trouble for the law, particularly given that the third leg, premium tax credits, haven’t kept up. The second and third legs are dependent upon one another for success.

For me, Dr. Buchmueller’s talk was a terrific lead-up to the first plenary speaker at NAHSL 2016, Jack Hughes, MD, from the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Hughes also took on the topic of health care / health insurance / the ACA in his talk. His description of the problem as “the iron triangle” fit so well with the 3-legged stool metaphor. The 3 sides of the Triangle – Cost, Access, and Quality – are all connected and addressing one aspect cannot and does not occur without effecting the others. The statistics presented in both of these talks are, in my opinion, both hopeful and shameful. Early evidence shows that the ACA has positively affected the numbers of Americans who are insured and who seek preventive health care both earlier and more often, thus reducing many expensive illnesses / procedures down the line. But at the same time, the issue of unbridled cost remains one that must be addressed before we will ever see and/or experience effective change in our health care system. Quality suffers, people suffer, and the American health system thus lags woefully behind those found in countries comparable to us in wealth and development.

I so appreciated hearing these two talks within a short period of time. I learned a great deal. I also really enjoyed following the back-channel, Twitter discussion on #NAHSL2016 that took place during Dr. Hughes’ talk. The questions of what defines American society, the beliefs the country was founded upon, the underlying sense of independence, our holding this up as the ideal of who we are as a nation/people… all of these came up in a GREAT discussion on how this ideal will or even can be reconciled with the ideas related to “health care for all.” I loved it! I love the passionate thoughts and knowledge-based opinions of my colleagues. It’s such a great characteristic of our profession. (As an aside, I also loved how Dr. Hughes’ tapped into this very thing with his polling exercises throughout his talk!)

I want to thank the NAHSL Professional Development Committee for awarding me a scholarship to help offset my expenses to travel to the conference this year. I also want to thank former NAHSL Chair, good friend, and tutor of all things Australian, Janene Batten, for letting me stay at her home during the meeting. Like so many of us, travel funds have been frozen at my institution, and the assistance of scholarships and the kindness of friends makes attending these wonderful events possible. This and a few rules of travel.

And lastly, thanks to the Program Committee for an outstanding meeting. Kudos on a job so very well done.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah…

16 Aug

… here I am at, Camp …  well … at Townshend State Park in Townshend, Vermont. Last week’s vacation spot. It was a wonderful week of camping, hiking, reading, drawing, cooking, and more. Just what a summer vacation is supposed to be. The only downside is that it was all of one week. Too short. Ah, well…

I read three good books while camping:

The latter two are books that appeared in my Little Free Library this summer and I decided after reading them last week that I’d add a “review” feature to my library. We’ll see how – or if – it takes off.

Three work-related books that were recommended and/or loaned to me lately include:

Not quite the page-turners as my vacation books, but worthwhile reading all the same. The first two give very practical advice, examples, and exercises to help one hone his/her data science and math skills, and Few’s book is like all of his others, i.e. chocked full of information and advice for effective data visualization.

And finally, a few interesting websites to peruse and enjoy:

A Snapshot of a 21st-Century Librarian (Adrienne Green, The Atlantic) is a terrific profile piece on Theresa Quill, a research librarian at the Herman B. Wells Library at Indiana University, Bloomington. If you, like me, struggle to explain your not-so-stereotypical librarian job to friends and family, point them to this article as a good example of how we’re pushing the boundaries and redefining our role(s).

Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine is a hilarious – and informative – podcast that I recently stumbled upon. Dr. Sydnee McElroy provides the medical expertise and her husband, Justin, the banter. Actually, they both banter quite a bit, making it an enjoyable program. I see that last week’s topic was cupping. If you noticed those round bruises on Michael Phelps body during the Olympics, you might want to listen to learn about how they got there (and if the science behind the practice is real).

Speaking of the Olympics, Dynamic Dialects is just a downright awesome site to explore how people around the world pronounce the same set of words. It’s great fun!

If you bookmark sites for free-to-use images, you’ll want to add the USDA’s Pomological Watercolor Collection to your list. One “Fast Fact” from the site – it contains 7, 584 watercolor paintings, lithographs, and line drawings of fruits and nuts, and almost 4,000 of those are apples. Imagine! It’s a beautiful resource.

The Open Notebook gives visitors a wealth of insight and knowledge about science writing, and also provides tools to help one become a better science writer. Interviews, Elements of the Craft, Profiles, and Science Blogging are some of its features. 

 Finally, someone once asked how I discover all of these sharable finds. Better put, I think she asked, “How do you find the time to discover them?” The answer is that I read a lot (stories from Twitter; magazines like The Atlantic, The Economist, and The New Yorker; a number of interesting blogs), I listen to the news via public radio and podcasts of interest, and I subscribe to several email newsletters including The Scout Report from Internet Scout at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Austin Kleon’s weekly post, Banana Data News, and Wait But Why. I like that with the exception of the last one (which arrives maybe once a month), these appear in my email on Friday mornings. They’re not overwhelming in length and never cease to offer up something that I find interesting and useful – kind of like how I hope you find my blog. 

Summer Sightseeing

20 Jul

I subscribe to #dataviz guru, Stephanie Evergreen’s blog and found this morning’s post about timelines really great.  I love timelines, both aesthetically and functionally. I particularly liked Stephanie’s idea to use a visual timeline to outline a day’s agenda:

Timeline

The next time I put together a presentation and am tempted to do that requisite “Here’s What We’re Going to Cover in this Talk” slide, I’m going to use this technique rather than some boring list of bullet points. For sure.

My friend and authorstrator, Suzy Becker, shared a wonderful article with me from the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine. The Surprising History of the Infographic will be required reading for the data visualization course that I’m putting together for next spring. And as I told Suzy, I’m changing my job title to “polymath.” I love it.

If you’re interested in joining me in this new old vocation, writer Nir Eyal’s post, Three Steps to Get Up to Speed on Any Subject Quickly may be of help. “Google once, take notes, then stop Googling and start sketching” was perhaps my favorite bit of advice.

And a few other good things I’ve come across and/or have been shared with me over the last couple of weeks:

15 Data Visualization Tools to Help You Present Ideas Effectively has a few listed that I’ve yet to try. I’m always up for trying new tools.

The Analog is a brilliant site for reviews of all things analog – you know, pens, paper, pencils and such. If you’re like me and read James Ward’s, The Perfection of the Paper Clip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession in one sitting, you’ll love this blog.

Design Observer is also a beautiful and enlightening blog that I came across through a tweet to its posts, 50 Books and 50 Covers. Books can be art, in more ways than one.

Finally, July is always a month of celebrations and anniversaries. This very day marks the 47th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon (Do you remember where you were?) and July 5th was the 20th birthday of perhaps the most famous sheep since Lamb Chop, Dolly. Yes, Dolly, “the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996.” Scientific American’s story behind the story of Dolly is a fascinating summer read. Enjoy! 

‘Til next time…Sheep