Tag Archives: Amy Dickinson

Summertime … and lazing about

21 Jul

The summer months at work are often filled with projects; nothing that needs to be done yesterday (too often, the pace of the rest of the year), but things that allow one to plan and process and maybe implement a newly-learned thing along the way. It’s the last part that often leads me to stumble across lots of interesting – even if unrelated – things. Looking for one thing, I find another and another and another. Serendipity. The best. So here are a few of late. Maybe you’ll enjoy them, too.

Showing off at the SLA NE booth in Phoenix.

A couple weeks back, I wrote a piece for SLA New England’s blog on different perspectives gained from stretching one’s self in different situations. You can read it here

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Being on a journey, stretching, growing – be it in one’s career or one’s life – anyone who reads my blog and/or knows me knows that this is the subject that intrigues me the most. I’m fascinated by the idea that life is a journey. I’m inspired by anyone who lives his/her life in such a way. I love the ideas of life-long learning, of following new interests, of seeking new paths. Ann Telnaes, the Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post is a favorite of mine. In an interview with CTNexpo she says, “Have a plan, but be open because sometimes that’s not your destiny. Sometimes it’s something else.”  Yup! That’s it in a nutshell.

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As an evaluator and a sports fan, I absolutely loved the article “Analyze This” by Sue Bird, a future Hall of Famer for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. It’s just a perfect piece on the importance of data collection, data storytelling, and … the never-ending gender gap in everything sports-related.

Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.

There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league. Think about baseball, for example, or men’s basketball. Fans, players, executives and media value stats and information because it helps to tell a story that many are already invested in. And if they’re not already invested, then it gives them a reason to be. It helps GMs make decisions. It informs contract negotiations. It enables player development.

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Just for fun, here’s the Definitive Guide to Typography and Fonts – in one, handy infographic! Who doesn’t need this?

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LFL

My Little Free Library

Finally, let’s do a quick summer reading list. We’ll call it, Sally’s Summer Reading List, since that’s what it is. Here are the books I’ve read and/or am reading of late:

Hope-in-the-Dark-solnit-300-400
Early in the summer, I read both Hope in the Dark and Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. I came across her via an article she penned for The Guardian and am now a devoted fan. Both are examples of brilliant, thought-provoking, and sometimes humorous writing. 

Hornaday-Talking Pictures

Last month, Washington Post film critic, Ann Hornaday, published a wonderful guide to watching movies entitled, Talking Pictures. Not only does Ann provide a rich understanding of the different aspects of movie-making, but she teaches the reader how to enjoy movies with a critical eye. What makes a scene work? Why do you remember some movies forever and others are forgotten before you’ve left the theater parking lot? How do all of the pieces fit together – or not? It’s a terrific guide complete with suggestions, at the end of each chapter, of films to watch to accompany the lessons learned. It’s perfect preparation for the chilly months that will be here soon enough, those that find us in front of the fireplace, seeking a good movie for a Saturday evening.

 small-great-things-hc-400wIf you’re looking for a page-turner with a point, you might want to read Jodi Picoult’s latest, Small Great Things. An unexpected death and the story that follows examine the issues of race relations, prejudice, and justice from the differing perspectives of the characters involved. I picked it as the book for an Action Book Club that I’m trying to get started in my community. It’s a good choice for that, as well as an excellent read.

 strangeresFinally, I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of my regular readers that I pre-ordered Amy Dickinson’s latest memoir, Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things, about a year before it came out. It arrived in my mailbox on publishing day and I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. True enough, that was in the spring and thus not a summer read, BUT I did purchase the Audible version this summer, just so that Amy could read it to me again. It’s Amy as good as ever (true, despite any bias I may have). Read it and enjoy.

 

Sally and Amy

We need a new photo.

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Summer Reading Time

1 Jul

My favorite advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, recently posted the question on her Facebook page, “Do you have a favorite summer read? Want to recommend one?” But of course I do! This librarian by any other name can always offer up advice on a good book or two. Here are a few on my summer reading list:

Sue_Grafton_-_W_Is_For_Wasted

I actually just finished “W” yesterday. I have read Sue Grafton’s, Kinsey Millhone’s alphabet series from A to W, and will surely make it to Z (and then have a good, long cry once I finish it and think about the series ending). I love these books – the characters, the settings, the mysteries. Perhaps what I like most about them, though, is that Kinsey came to life in “A is for Alibi,” all the way back in 1982. While we’ve aged to 2015, Grafton chose to let Kinsey age at the speed of the stories. In other words, Kinsey is still in the 80s, still doing private detective work using index cards, a typewriter, and pay phones – AND the occasional microfilm/microfiche and reference librarian. I love it! “X” is coming out in August. My summer reading will be bookended by Kinsey, thanks to Sue Grafton!

penguinAlong with a good murder mystery, I’ve also been reading Yochai Benkler’s, The Penguin and the Leviathan. This title was referenced in an article that I was reading about team science and Clinical Translational Science Centers. It’s thesis, that cooperation between competing parties leads to better results than self-interest, intrigued me and just a few chapters into it, my interest has been met. I’m enjoying it.

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I also recently came across a reference to Maryanne Wolf’s, Proust and the Squid. Anyone who’s read my blog and the books that I mention on it knows of my fascination with neuroscience, the effects of today’s technology and media on our brains, and the habit of reading. How could I not read this? It’s up next, after I finish the penguin tale.

rebanksI began James Rebanks’ memoir, The Shepherd’s Life, just last night. I’ll be finished with it before the weekend. It is beautiful! Beautiful writing, beautiful landscape, beautiful living. A bonus, if you enjoy his tales of life with the sheep, you can follow Rebanks on Twitter, @herdyshepherd1.

creativity-challenge

I just came across Tanner Christensen’s, The Creativity Challenge, this morning. I can’t resist books like this, i.e. ones that offer up new information about creativity along with a daily activity to spur on my personal quest to be more creative. No doubt, this book will be in my possession within days.

Jacket Board - Analytics Press

Finally, the 2nd edition of Stephen Few’s, Show Me the Numbers has lived on my work desk since June. It’s a summer companion. Few is the founder of Perceptual Edge, a consulting firm dedicated to information design, knowledge management, and visual communication. He has authored seminal papers and books on the subjects, this particular book being among them. It’s a terrific reference for me and the work that I do, and I imagine of interest and help to more than a few of my readers, too.

That’s it for my reading this summer. What are you picking up? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Interesting People Want to Know

15 May

Sally and AmyA couple of weeks ago, the phone rang in my cubicle. It was an outside call and I didn’t recognize the number, but when I picked up the receiver to “Hey, Sally!”, the voice was quite familiar. I hear it most often on the radio, usually telling funny stories or making wise cracks at the weekly news stories on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” It was the syndicated advice columnist, author, and humorist, Amy Dickinson on the other end of the line. She had sent me a note a day or so earlier, asking if she could call me and ask me some questions about librarians. Yes. That’s right. The advice columnist asked me if she could ask me for advice. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it was a darned thrilling moment. I love Amy’s columns, her bits on the “Wait Wait” panel, and her social media presence on Twitter and Facebook. I loved her memoir about a small town and strong women. And when I had the chance to meet her in person last summer, I found that she was as lovely in person as in the media. Funny. Engaging. Downright nice. The kind of person that you like to say that you know. At least I do. And now, here was Amy asking me questions while I sat at my desk in the library. “Don’t blow it,” I thought to myself, “This is the closest you’re ever gonna get to being Kee Malesky.”

It turned out that Amy had been invited to speak at a conference of librarians in Detroit and upon hearing that many in the audience would be academic librarians, not the public librarians a popular author might be more comfortable with, she called me for some background info, some of my thoughts and opinions on how technology was changing libraries, changing reading habits, changing everything related to information. While we were chatting, Amy told me a story about how she was once sitting on an airplane next to a librarian and found it kind of odd that the librarian didn’t seem much interested in the fact that Amy was a writer. How could a librarian not be interested in someone who wrote a book? Don’t we all love books? Isn’t that why librarians become librarians?

The truth is that I have plenty of colleagues who cringe at the very suggestion of connecting our work with books. The stereotype is killing the profession, or so they believe. Maybe. And it’s also true that my work has very little to do with books. Most of my colleagues don’t do a lot of work involving books. But still, I don’t particularly mind the connection. I love books. I love writers. I love people who write for a living in any form. I wish I was one of them. If Amy Dickinson sat down next to me on a plane, she’d probably soon wish that she’d never opened her mouth. I’d talk her ear off, I’m sure.

But the librarian > book > author disconnect that Amy experienced wasn’t what bothered me so much about the story. What bothered me more was that it was a story of a librarian not finding another person interesting. Granted, lots of people (myself included) don’t like to talk to strangers on a plane. We like to travel in peace and quiet. We’re generally absorbed in work or a puzzle or… heavens! … a book. I understand this completely. Still, there was something about not being interested that stuck with me.

Last night, I went to an author reading at the Medical School. I wasn’t planning on it, but I walked right through the pre-talk cocktail party as I was leaving work and noticed it was a small crowd. I decided to stick around and support the event and my co-workers who’d worked hard to put it on. I don’t attend these events often and I wonder why, because every one that I’ve been to has been really interesting. They are hosted by the Humanities in Medicine Committee, so they always have a humanitarian theme, or put another way, they focus often on the human side of either being a doctor or being a patient. And they’re always, as I said, interesting. Last night was no different.

I looked around at the many empty chairs and I also took in the demographics of the audience – older and almost entirely male. There were no medical students. There were no younger docs. And it was a shame, because it was a story about the importance of doctors being interested in the people that they care for, in the importance of knowing their patients. Sadly, it didn’t seem a topic of much interest.

When I got home, I told my spouse about the evening and I told her the story that Amy had shared with me about her encounter with the librarian and I asked, “Do you think we’re just not interested in one another anymore? Do you think we’re too overwhelmed with our own lives to care much for what others do? Do you think we’re all too tired? Do you think we’re self-absorbed?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.” That was Lynn’s reply.

When I think about the skills that make an informationist successful, one of the most important is curiosity. I didn’t necessarily become a librarian because I love books, but I became a librarian because I LOVE looking stuff up. I find lots of things fascinating. I find what people do to be interesting. Watching the screen saver images of brain scans on a PIs computer, I can’t help but ask, “What’s that?” It’s my nature. And one thing that I’ve learned as I’ve worked with researchers over the years is that, by and large, they really do enjoy telling you about what they do. They like explaining the science. Maybe they don’t have time to give you a primary introduction, but most of them can tell you a pretty good story or two that explains the experiments they’re doing and the questions they’re asking and the problems that they’re trying to solve. 

As I was leaving a meeting with the PI for the new study that I’m working on, I told him that I was really enjoying learning about all of the issues around data citation, DOIs, and things particular to neuroimaging. “It’s a lot of new stuff for me,” I told him. His reply was, “Good. I was afraid it would be boring; just the same old thing that you do all of the time.” He’s an interesting person and it seemed obvious that he knew how awful not doing something interesting can be.

I’m heading to Chicago in the morning for the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association. I’ll be blogging (probably sketchnotes) about the plenary speakers and link those posts to here, so that you can follow along, if you wish. In the meantime, I hope you meet someone interesting today. And that someone meets an interesting you. 

What does success look like?

15 Mar

In her memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, author, columnist, and occasional panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” Amy Dickinson, writes, “I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.” It’s perhaps my favorite line in a book that I really liked. The self-deprecating humor of famous folks. It’s funny. As I was walking from the parking lot to the library this morning, I couldn’t help but think that it’s been a bit of a surreal week for me as I’ve had encounters with some incredibly successful people. To paraphrase Ms. Dickinson, “I am surrounded by impressive people… and I remain impressed by them.”

It’s a testament to the world we live in, the social media aspect of it in particular, that I had the week that I had…

Friday, March 8 - Brattleboro, VT

Friday, March 8 – Brattleboro, VT

Rosanne Cash

Last Friday, my spouse and I traveled to Vermont to see Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal in concert. This was not the first time I got to meet Rosanne. We became acquainted via Twitter about a year and a half ago. I followed her. We tweeted back and forth to one another a few times. She started following me. In November of 2011, I got tickets to see her perform in Fall River, MA and asked if she’d be so kind as to let me say hi to her after the show. Ever gracious, she did. The same happened last Friday. Kind and funny and smart and one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time, she gave me a hug, joked about our mutual love of ironing (remembering this from our previous meeting), talked about librarians… it’s one of those moments I’ll cherish. And then, perhaps even more unreal, the next morning as Lynn and I were walking down Main Street, we heard from behind us, “Hello, ladies!” Turned around and there was Rosanne. We chatted for a minute on the sidewalk in Brattleboro, VT like some kind of old friends. Pinch me.

Sherry Pagoto

Bright research star here on our campus, #Plankaday Nation co-founder, author of the #1 health blog of 2011 (FUdiet), and one of my biggest advocates for the new work I’m doing on campus, Sherry Pagoto and I hung out in her office on Tuesday to work on the details of a proposal that will allow me to work on her President’s Award grant. She took me on a few years ago as an exercise physiologist for one of her studies and today is a fantastic champion of me as an informationist. We  have a Nobel Laureate on campus, a few Howard Hughes investigators, and some really outstanding leaders in biomedical and health sciences research. How I got lucky enough to have one of them in my corner… well, pretty lucky!

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Amy Dickinson

As mentioned earlier, I’m also a fan of Amy Dickinson, the Amy of the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy.” We also “met” through Twitter and I take part in the discussions she tosses out on her Facebook page. She’s promised to take part in my “Jam 51” birthday party, if she can. Maybe the folks in Freeville are unimpressed, but not me. I’m counting on the face-to-face meeting in the future. In the meantime, I’m working up some turmoil in my life so that I can call into her Thursday noontime webcast from the Chicago Tribune. And look! She’s hoping for the same. 🙂

Suzy Becker

I had lunch yesterday with my uber talented and brilliant friend, Suzy Becker. Suzy is an author and a cartoonist and a teacher and one of those people you’d hate if she weren’t so darned nice. We talk over chicken shawarma sandwiches about girl’s high school basketball, her next book, her latest class at the Worcester Art Museum, her innate aptitude for Twitter, Lynn’s and my trip to Brattleboro, the PBS documentary “Makers,” why no women have sports talk shows, and the fact that she’s been on the Diane Rehm Show three times (3 times?!). She gives me a lucky horse shoe as a belated birthday present. I’m going to hang it in my new studio. She leaves to get her kid to the dentist on time and I walk home, still thinking about talking to Diane Rehm and helping someone with a Ford Foundation grant and knowing someone who’s putting together a new radio show and… lunch with me?

So “Lean In” on This

As I think about my week and how it intersected in different ways with 4 unbelievably successful women, I notice how not a single one of them fits the mold of “success” that Sheryl Sandberg espouses in her book, “Lean In,” that coincidentally also had a big week. Sandberg has been all over the air waves, sharing her thoughts on why women have not achieved success equal to men, despite now years of “equality.” We need to lean in, be more aggressive, change our priorities. Maybe. If you want to be the CEO of a gazillion dollar enterprise. Me, I’m glad for the successful people that I know (or at least have had the chance to briefly meet) in my life. And incidentally, not a one of them fits Sandberg’s definition of success.

Tip #1 in Daniel Coyle’s, “The Little Book of Talent” is “Stare at Who You Want to Become.” These are some of the people that I stare at. Despite their respective success – and a few of them are darned successful! – I’m not star struck. (Well, maybe a little.) No, just grateful to see and know and have people in my life to stare at, so that I can model the things that they do that bring them success.

How about you? How was your week? Did you find inspiration from anyone? Do you look to certain people to be your models of success?

(As an aside, just as I was finishing this post, my friend and colleague, Lisa Palmer, showed me pictures of her trip to Italy – when Pope John Paul II blessed her in 1983. I think it may have been some divine message for me to stay humble. I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.)