Archive | Bits and Pieces RSS feed for this section

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. 

slide01slide02slide03slide04slide05slide06slide07slide08slide09slide10slide11slide12slide13slide14slide15slide16

 

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

If Pat Summitt had been a Librarian

28 Jun
Summitt

Photo by Ben Ozburn/TNJN, Creative Commons

I wonder what kind of librarian – what kind of person – I’d be, if Pat Summitt had coached me. I wonder what kind of librarian Pat Summitt would have been. How might she have changed libraries, changed our profession, in the same way she changed women’s basketball and women’s sports forever? How would she challenge us? How would she push us? How would she make us see that we are never the best that we can be? That there’s always room to get better – to be better. To not simply settle for being pushed to the sidelines, but to stand up for the importance of our work. To constantly fight and change and fight and change, as is necessary, in order to push ahead. 

 I admit that this is a strange set of questions to be thinking about (Pat Summitt a librarian?!), but I’m a librarian and I so loved and admired Pat Summitt, and I grew up a tomboy and a gym rat and in the decades of great change in girl’s and women’s sports. And so these pieces come together for me this morning.

Pat Summitt, the legendary basketball coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols and honest-to-goodness trailblazer in girl’s and women’s sports, died this morning. She was 64 years old. I live in Massachusetts where women’s basketball is rightly dominated by the dominating University of Connecticut, but I grew up in Virginia and much closer to Tennessee. I played basketball in junior high and high school and I went to college when women’s basketball was just coming under the umbrella of the NCAA (it was still the AIAW during my freshman year). I am also closer in age to Pat Summitt than to the amazing players of today and so when I read the stories of her and see the video reels, I’m in tune with the trailblazer – the van driving, laundry washing, sandwich making Pat Summitt – and I note how far women’s sports have come from those days. And I’m grateful.

I had the great fortune to have a front row seat for a small part of those early days. I was a manager for the women’s team at James Madison University, coached at that time by another giant figure in the game, Betty Jaynes. JMU never played Tennessee during my years, but we did play Old Dominion and I got to see the likes of future Hall of Fame players, Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan, and their own great coach, Marianne Stanley. They wiped the floor with the Lady Dukes, but what an experience to be at those games.

I used to imagine playing for Pat Summitt. I was nowhere near a good enough basketball player to ever do so (I wasn’t even a starter on my high school team) and by the time I was imagining this, I was way too old for such a dream, but I imagined it all the same. I often wondered what it would be like to come under the tutelage – under the stare – of Coach Summitt. Mostly, I wanted to play for her because I am one of the most undisciplined people on the planet and I believe that if ever there was someone who could whip me into shape, it was Pat Summitt. I might be beaten down and die in the process, but still I wanted to give it a try. 

It will never happen now. I mean, it wasn’t going to ever happen before today, either, but now it really won’t ever happen. So I’ll just have to keep on imagining it.

I think of Pat Summitt, Betty Jaynes, and Kay Yow. I think of Joan Benoit Samuelson,  Roberta Gibb, and Kathrine Switzer. I think of Linda Cohn and Robin Roberts and Doris Burke. I think of Billie Jean King. Today, I think of these women who blazed trails for so many in a world still dominated by men. They have been role models to many, many young women and young men. And I’m grateful.

In a changing profession in a changing world, I’m remembering Pat Summitt and all of her fellow trailblazers today. I’m remembering that they changed the world for the better and that they can inspire me to do the same.

What Happened to May?

31 May

It’s not a good sign for my summer that I lost an entire month of the spring. Ah well… it was a different sort of month, filled with some work events and an unexpected life event that kept me away from my computer for more than a week. But before the entire month passes, let me share some things from my “To Share” folder and keep my streak of active blogging months alive. I’ve been blogging here for going on 4 years and have never had a month without a single post. It’s not happening now!

A couple of interesting projects that I tackled for the month involved (1) creating a social network map using Tableau and (2) designing a lengthy evaluation survey in REDCap. For those interested in details regarding either or both of those tasks, I’ll write up some notes and share them in a future post. For now, let’s empty the folder:

Science

If you work in the biomedical research world – or heck, if you simply follow any news about biomedical research – you’ve surely heard the acronym, CRISPR in the past year or two. The discovery and use of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, CRISPR, for editing genes has been an enormous breakthrough in science. It’s also, per this article in Nature, a new and important key for understanding how genomes work. Curious about how it can be applied? Here’s a fun quiz from the folks at Wired magazine, Can You Tell These Real CRISPR Projects from the Fake Ones?

Wonder what it might be like to enjoy the rat race? Researchers do an awful lot of things to our rodent friends for the sake of science, but did you know that they actually enjoy some of them? The rodents, that is, not the scientists. Here’s a fun piece from the blogger, GrrlScientist,  Wild Mice Actually Enjoy Running on Exercise Wheels.

One day, cephalopods will rule the world? Do you doubt me? Here’s proof.

Data and Data Visualization

I may have shared this in a previous post, but even if so, it’s worth sharing again – Flowing Data’s 10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015. You can be both wowed and inspired by reviewing them.

It goes without saying that librarians are hardly the only professional group retooling to adapt to a data-driven, data-overflowing world. Journalism has also become a profession that looks very different from what it did just a few short years ago. Journalist Geoff McGhee’s video report, Journalism in the Age of Data, is a great piece that chronicles and explores how news rooms are changing and adapting to be able to effectively use data to tell stories.

Making data available to users in every conceivable (and even inconceivable) means is key, argues Mac Bryla in his piece for Tableau’s blog, Data Diaries: Culture of Innovation Starts with Self-Reliant People. Here’s a snippet:

What True Self-Reliance Looks Like

Self-reliance is built in part on people’s ability to answer their own questions, which is closely related to the concept of self-service analytic, especially in today’s data-driven age.

For many, the idea of self-service business intelligence, where IT opens up a small menu of capabilities for employees, has not yet produced its promised benefits despite having been around for a few years. It is clearly an improvement on the traditional, IT-run report factory, but it is still too limiting to satisfy people’s ever-growing appetite for information.

So far, self-service BI is more like IKEA’s approach to DIY furniture-making. While it allows us to build our own furniture, it’s limited by factory-manufactured building blocks. As a result, we all end up with the same results despite the process being self-service.

This is not enough when it comes to fostering self-reliance, autonomy, and innovation.

An alternative approach is to give curiosity-driven users a new generation of tools, which will enable them to explore their data and answer their own questions on their own schedules.

I loved the Do-It-Yourself IKEA-approach metaphor.

I’ve been reading Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book, Storytelling with Data: A data visualization guide for business professionals. It’s succinct and straightforward style is terrific. It’s also filled with many excellent examples and step-by-step exercises, all using Excel. Her blog of the same name is also worth checking out. You might note that she’s on a bit of a hiatus after welcoming a new baby to her family, but there’s plenty of archived info worth perusing.

Along the same lines, you may also want to read Scott Berinato’s article in the June edition of Harvard Business Review entitled, Visualizations that Really Work.

For a fantastic, easy-reading article that uses a bunch of data to explain really well how and why complex problems like affordable housing are so complex, read Michael Anderson’s, A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices. It’s well-worth remembering in this time of inflated promises by political campaigns of all stripes. (My biased, editorial comment there.)

Track the pulse of the US presidential race via Twitter. Just for fun.

Good Reads

One of the best articles I read this month was an inaugural essay for the brand new Journal of Design and Science (JoDS) out of MIT. I admit that I had to read it a few times through and consult a few outside resources to fully understand it, but once I got it,  I got it! Age of Entanglement, by Neri Oxman, proposes a very interesting theory to explain how the dissolution of clear boundaries between disciplines and specialties breeds (and thus, needs) new means of understanding how people work, think, and create both individually and together. And the Krebs Cycle of Creativity is brilliant!

03.25.16-Oxman-Krebs

Source: Oxman, N. (2016) Krebs Cycle of Creativity (KCC). In: Ito, J. Design and Science.

If you’re ever looking for good, online writing related to science, ScienceBlogs is a nice, one-stop site for finding blogs pertaining to all types of disciplines, including Information Science

A future read will be the Journal of New Librarianship a brand new, open source journal to promote innovative practices in librarianship. They’re seeking submissions, editors, and reviewers. I know I’m planning on contributing in the future. How about you?

Cool Tools

Benchmarking with SciVal in Scholarly Communication and Research Services is a great article by my friend and colleague, Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School. Bibliographic metrics have long been used to measure academic reach and impact, and many tools are coming online to improve and expand this method. SciVal, from Elsevier, is but one of them. Whether you have access to it or not, Rebecca’s piece gives a nice overview of how offering research impact, i.e. the measurement of it, as a scholarly communications and/or research service is right in line with the mission of any academic research library.

Do you wonder how people make those short animated GIFs that appear all over social media today? GifSoup is one way. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Here’s a quick and easy way to clear up some memory in your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. And learn from my mistake – choose a single movie, NOT a bundle. I did the latter and am now stuck with the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Ugh! I’ll never watch them.

I missed attending MLA in Toronto this month, but followed along with all of the tweeters using the #mlanet2016 hashtag. Thank you so much to those who kept us stray folk in the know. One of the best sessions I followed was an early morning one devoted to new text mining tools. So far, I’ve had the chance to play with Voyant Tools. It’s simple to use, easy to understand, and is a wonderful addition to the toolkit.

Virtual Knick Knacks

Finally, a few things just for fun:

  • Good Night, Sweet Prince – Another musical and artistic genius left us recently. This isn’t necessarily a “fun” piece, but it’s a beautiful article by Dave Ziren for The Nation. For those of us my age, Prince was our David Bowie. His music lives on, though his fans will miss him forever.
  • Last month, the Smithsonian online magazine published some hidden gems by the reclusive, Harper Lee. Great stuff!
  • Mother Goose Seeks Out Police to Rescue Baby. Who doesn’t love these stories in spring? And do note how it was the female police officer who took direct action. The male officer was too scared. Maternal instincts taking over? I think so.
  • Hilda Bastian is a scientist and editor at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Institutes of Health. She also draws cartoons about science. The National Library of Medicine produced a nice interview with her here.
  • If you happen to be a person who recalls with fondness those Saturday evenings watching slide shows and home movies, you might really enjoy the Home Movie Registry. Yes. It exists. Thank you interwebs.

That’s all for today and, sadly, all I shared for the month of May. I’m sorry I didn’t write more. I’ll try and do better in June.

 

And Then This…

20 Apr

ER_QuoteAfter writing my last post, Iterations on a Profession, a couple of weeks ago, I was prompted to pick up my copy of Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, You Learn by Living, and re-read the first chapter entitled, “Learning to Learn.” It’s a favorite, filled with great words of wisdom and reminders that life isn’t much of anything, once we stop learning. There are many quotable passages, but I chose the above to share here. As you read it, remember this … it was written in 1960. Fifty years ago, “our world was startlingly new.” And surely 50 years before that and 50 years before that and on and on for as long as humans have been riding on the planet. I get hung up too often on how different everything is today, how much change I’ve experienced in my lifetime and in my profession – all in the same timeframe since Mrs. Roosevelt wrote these words. Adapting to change is nothing new. 

The other line from that chapter that lifted my spirits, “if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you.” Yes. Thank you for reminding me that it’s a gift to be interested, Mrs. Roosevelt.

Now then, while I was brooding over things, my bookmark folder got filled again. Time to share some with you.

Conference time is upon us and that means many are busy making posters to show off their projects, work, ideas, etc. Better Posters is a great resource to help you make a not-so-awful-and-all-too-common academic poster. Blog posts are added frequently and humor is never in short supply.

Remember Bridget Jones, the character portrayed wonderfully by Renee Zellweger in the movies of the same name?  Well, you may or may not know that her character came to be from a regular column authored by Helen Fielding for the British newspaper, the Independent, in the 1990s. The Independent recently ceased publication of its print paper, becoming a digital-only media outlet. Fielding was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition late last month. She speaks of many things, but one of particular interest to my readers might be her thoughts on what’s lost in the shift from print to digital. Anything? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Several items related to data (because, you know, it’s a lot of what I do):

  • A real-life demonstration of the use of big data can have dramatic effects on the child welfare system – Can Big Data Save These Children, from PBS NewsHour.
  • The National Center for Health Statistics has a nice collection of data visualizations that I’d never come across before. Bookmarked. 
  • Gravy Anecdote is the blog/website of Andy Cotgreave, a Technical Evangelist for Tableau. I watched a very informative webinar that he did entitled, How Data Storytelling Can Enhance the Way You Communicate, one in the series produced by BrightTALK. I’ve watched several of their webinars and found many to be quite good. Note, there’s an audio glitch a few minutes in to Andy’s talk. Just wait through it. It doesn’t last long. (Live and learn.) From this talk, I discovered Periscopic, a data visualization studio on the West Coast (USA) doing some amazing work. You can browse through some of their portfolio. I also found Ben Jones’ blog, DataRemixed. Ben also works for Tableau. It’s going to take me awhile to get through all of the things here.
  • Why all of the Tableau focus? One reason is because last week I was trying to teach myself how to use it to create a social network visualization. I found some help from the blog post, In Chaos, Clarity: Social Network Diagrams in Tableau. I remain irked that NodeXL is a Windows-only add-on for Excel (Mac user that I am), but there are workarounds. Believe me.

Just a few more and these are mostly for fun.

Kurt Vonnegut diagrams The Shape of Stories in this YouTube video. I love one viewer’s comment, “It’s like a cross between a college lecture and a stand-up comedy routine!” It’s pretty funny AND informative. 

If you need a story about how to turn a bad situation into something good, read My Wife Left Me with Nothing but a Dog, So I Started this Fun Photo Series. Amazing! I love that dog!

Photos of the archives of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum made the social media rounds a few weeks back. In case you missed it, you can catch up here. I would love a tour some day.

And finally, the one thing that has preoccupied me for more hours than I dare say over the past month… the DC Eagle Cam. Mr. President and the First Lady had a pair of eaglets in March and I have been FASCINATED watching them grow. And I’m not alone. They’ve gotten press on both National Public Radio and the Washington Post. They reside in the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Watch online. You can’t get close to them in person.

And with that … Happy Spring!!