Thursday, December 18, 2008

News and notes

Time flies when you are home with a child. Well, not really. It has been a wonderful experience to be home with Wyatt. Tomorrow will be my last "solo" day home with him - Lisa is out of school and he will head to daycare on January 5th.

He is such a "good baby," meaning that he eats, sleeps and fills diapers with frightening precision. Usually waking only once a night, Wyatt goes back to sleep very quickly -- I'm rarely up with him more than thirty minutes. No major health issues, other than the cradle cap and eczema that seem to afflict our poor babies. Wyatt's skin issues are no where near Owen's issues -- but the bad stuff didn't happen until Owen was older (and the weather got much colder and drier). We're off to see the Allergist on Monday to launch a preemptive stike -- with medications, steroids, and so on.

My original intention was to do a fair bit of yardwork and exercise. I was really good about the exercise the first few weeks, taking hour long walks with the Zune. I tried listening to the Eric Clapton autobiography but it was really dreadful. Maybe a better read, but I doubt it. Not enough time spent on my favorite parts of his career -- Cream and Derek and the Dominoes. Oh well, I digress. I intended to do the yardwork with Wyatt in his stroller, but he doesn't like being in the stroller/carseat combo unless he is in motion. So after about five minutes, he would start to fuss.

Perhaps I'll be able to do some work this weekend and next week with Lisa home. Not likely with Owen home, but maybe we'll let him run amok in the backyard.

I've watched a lot of CNN and CNN Headline news while feeding the boy and the headlines are very dreary and depressing. While watching the ever-lovely Robin Meade this morning, the headline "crawl" had a procession of the most depressing headlines I've ever seen: Morgan Stanley lost billions last quarter, the USPS thinks that they will have the slowest holiday shipping season in decades, bad weather with many flight delays, Ponzi scheme bilks thousands out of billions, that creep govenor of Illinois, and so on. The only good news -- for most consumers -- is that oil prices continue to drop. I really don't want to watch any more news until the Inauguration.

I've also read three Alan Furst novels: Night Soliders, the Polish Officer, and Kingdom of Shadows. I'm not done with KoS, but the other two novels are excellent. Not really off-the-beaten path of what I normally read, but strangely refreshing. Furst looks at (for me) different angles of war in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, from Eastern European countries. They are spy thrillers set in the darkest parts of the 20th century. Great stuff and I can't wait to read the rest of his works. It's been nice to have the time to read without falling asleep after thirty minutes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mr. Mom -- again

I'm officially on leave now until the end of the year. We decided to keep Wyatt out of daycare until the new year for a couple of reasons.

First, we both really hate the idea of dropping off a six week old to daycare. It always made me sad to see other parents do this at Owen's old daycare. Immune system, overall development, and sleep/eat routine are easier to create from home with his parents/relatives.

Secondly, the money issue. We're obviously saving several hundred dollars keeping him home for as long as possible. We have a daycare lined up which will cost $2 an hour. Say we drop him off at 8 am and pick him up at 4 pm (which would almost never happen) five days a week and you have another $80 departing our checking account. Most likely, it will be 8-5 making the daycare bill closer to $90. Ugh, it makes me irritable just thinking about it.

But things have been running pretty smoothly so far. He's sleeping well, which is always a good thing. He is much like Owen at this age, pretty agreeable and very portable. He must of had a growth spurt last week because he was irritable and didn't sleep much during the day. I wasn't on duty last week; that fell to my mother-in-law.

It has been bitterly cold (at least for SC) here so far this week -- barely getting out of the lower 40s for highs. My plan was to work in the yard and take him outside as much as possible (walks), but the wind a temperatures have made that a little difficult. Hopefully, it will warm up or the winds will drop so we can get out this afternoon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Graduate School Forum

Melinda, another librarian here at Coker, decided that the library should host a graduate school forum for our students. Talking about life after Coker is one of those areas that falls between the cracks of faculty advising, counseling, student life and probably a few more campus departments. In a small school like Coker, this means that no one takes ownership of a certain project.

Melinda has been doing ad hoc graduate school counseling for years. She's not sure how or when it began, but faculty members started sending their advisees to her several years ago. She enjoys meeting with students and discussing the whole process but admits that it would be easier for her (and the other library staff) if we held a workshop to cover as many of the general questions as possible.

I wasn't sure what to expect. From the various library literature and listservs, I knew that drop-in workshops are generally poorly attended. I was extremely pleased to see 20+ students and several faculty and staff attend the workshop.

Most interestingly, and no shock to me, is that there were eighteen women and only three men attending. Our female students tend to be more conscientious as a group, although there are a few exceptional male students. We men think we have all of the answers, where women aren't afraid to admit that they need to ask questions and find out more information to help them succeed. A vast generalization, but it might just work here. Also, from our retention studies here at Coker, our male GPAs are lower than female GPAs. I think that is a national trend, but if I recall the numbers correctly, the disparity is well below the national average.

At any rate, we had a very attentive group with potential MBA, JD, PhD and MA students all with excellent questions. All in all, it was a great experience and hopefully beneficial to those in attendance.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ENG 101 Instruction

One thing I've noticed over my three plus semesters of being an academic librarian is that we tend to teach the same course in clumps. For instance, I'm teaching five sections of ENG 101 for three different instructors this week. Earlier in the semester, I taught three PSYCH 101 courses in a two day stretch (with a few other PSYCH classes mixed in that week).

It makes preparing for these similar classes a little bit like an assembly line, even if the assignments are vastly different.

The actual assignments are fairly interesting and should be interesting to both the students and instructors.

Two sections are looking at recent environment news and developing a five page research paper on a topic of interest to them. I demonstrated our OPAC, E-Books, Academic OneFile and its Environmental Studies and Policy subset, as well as Lexis-Nexis.

Another section of ENG 101 examines the various paradoxes that are pervasive in our popular culture. One example is Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl (Do I have to put Big Game on here?) Essentially, Jackson was hired to perform at the Halftime show because of her talent, popularity, and to a certain degree her sexuality. If this factored into her being hired, why the outrage (and fines, etc.) when she expressed her sexuality via her "wardrobe malfunction?" Another topic (actually developed by a student) examines the Disney teen stars that are marketed as role models, yet they dress in revealing clothing etc. Good stuff, but definitely could cause problems for some students. I demonstrated our OPAC, PASCAL Delivers, E-books, Academic OneFile and Biography Resource Center.

The last two ENG 101 sections I will teach tomorrow. The instructor gives the class a list of terms -- all of which are international cultural terms -- and the students must research one of these items. From last semester's class, there were some great ideas in there. I'll stick to my boilerplate lesson of OPAC, E-books, Academic OneFile, and I'll probably add in another database.

We've also been using the iClickers to capture a quick reaction survey at the end of each session. Instead of compiling a huge pile of paper surveys, the students actually have fun taking the eight question survey. Interestingly enough, we have been getting a slightly different dataset than the old paper surveys. The students tend to be a little more honest with their evaluation of our sessions. I guess they feel more anonymous with the iClicker than when filling out our old paper forms. I'll have more on the iClickers in a later blog.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reference Desk LiveBlog 6 November 2008

Here we go again. Thursday nights tend to be a little more active around here.

5:02: I was summoned from my office to help an evening student. I really like helping most evening students because they really are grateful for any help that they receive. I've had this particular student several times and she always asks for help during and after class. She always apologizes because she feels she is monopolizing my time. She also mentioned how other traditional students sigh and whisper when she raises a question. I told her that most of them should be asking questions, but are too shy or afraid. Tonight she needed to find a book for a CRIM class. We used PASCAL Delivers to order the book from Winthrop University.

5:25: Donnie informs me that the print tracking software is not working. Free printing in the library, hooray!

5:40: Helped an education professor set up an overhead projector in the board room. It's funny plugging in a 40 year old overhead projector to work with $15,000 worth of state of the art A/V presentation equipment.

5:55: Proofread a co-worker's personal statement for application for library school.

6:27: Quiet. Too quiet.

6:44: Cool. A question about Sophocles and Antigone

7:01: The "kids" are having a ball with the free printing. So much for our environmental initiative this semester.

7:05: Talked with a student about taking LIB 101 in the Spring. He is already enrolled in it, but was unsure if the class would be canceled or not. We have it scheduled for evening students, but enrollment isn't where it should be right now. It's still early in registration, but it is a little low for my liking. The evening students really need the info lit class -- most have never done any serious research and most are scared of computers.

7:18: Alexa wants to redo a map of the stacks. Sounds like a good idea to me.

7:33: I really wish that our chat reference was more popular. Since starting it up a year ago, we've had probably 3-4 legitimate reference questions. We get lots of directional questionsI talk it up in every one-shot, and make the students actually send a message in class. I thought that it might solve some of the shyness problem -- students too shy to ask for help -- but so far, that hasn't been the case. I wonder what else we can do? I wonder how the other schools in state are doing with chat reference.

7:48: Java City has been busy tonight for a change. I wish they had real food in there.

7:55: I think I'm going to wrap it up a little early this evening. Not much activity in here right now. Good night!

Another year older...

I turned 35 yesterday and it really has affected me much more than any recent birthday. I don't feel any different, but the mere thought that I am five years away from being 40 years old is a little disconcerting. I am beginning to remember my parents being this age (well, my mother).

Also, most depressing is that I am no longer in the coveted marketing demographic group of 18-34 year olds.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Voting where my vote doesn't "count"

I've lived in South Carolina since 1990. The first election I participated in was in 1992, which began my long history of voting for Democratic presidential candidates. This won't change on November 4th when I will proudly vote for Barack Obama.

I've voted for Republican candidates on the state level, often because there isn't much choice. I voted for Mark Sanford a couple of times for Congress, as well as for Governor. I always admired his true fiscal conservatism -- sleeping in his office during his three terms in Congress, instead of renting an expensive home in Washington or one of its pricey suburbs. He routinely voted against his party's wishes, especially then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Perhaps this is why I continued to vote for him. As a governor, he has done some odd things that have irritated many Republican lawmakers and alienated him from members of both parties.

I voted for Strom Thurmond in 1996, probably because I was flush with good feelings about my fellow Clemson alum.

But I am acutely aware that on a national electoral level, my votes for Clinton (2x), Gore, Kerry and now Obama really don't count here in South Carolina. It's a strange feeling lining up to vote with people who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum than I am. Not that I want to get rid of the electoral college system, it just is odd living where you don't feel adequately represented.

That said, I will be there with bells on November 4th.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reference Desk LiveBlog

We're going to try something a little different tonight. I'm going to liveblog my reference desk session this evening. Should be interesting.

5:10 - I'm on the desk and Alexa is telling about issues finding Italian textbooks in the catalog. We figure out that she was looking in the wrong place in the OPAC. Disaster averted.

5:15 - From one of the small conference rooms here in the LITC, emerges a group of suits -- the president, VP of Business Affairs, and VP of Student Services. Interesting. I wonder what was going on in there? They were a Provost and one VP short of the full leadership of the college.

5:19 - Computer usage count: 9

5:25 - I swear I'm not going to write in here every five minutes, but apparently I will have a surprise drop-in from an entire English class. Excellent!

6:04 - A reference question: A student needed an article on multiple-murders for a Forensic Psychology class. She is doing a speech in a few weeks on this topic. We found some decent results in Academic Search Premier, and some older articles in Science Direct.

On an unrelated note, Donnie was shocked that I actually have a blog.

6:21 - Computer usage count: 13
It's fairly quiet in here today, but we are coming off of Fall Break and a new evening school session begins tonight.

6:41- The English class hasn't shown up yet. It's been quiet.

6:52 - Just got an e-mail from a student advertising for a campus book club. Anything to get the "kids" to read is important, but I never had time to read for pleasure as an undergrad. Maybe that was because of my major -- Political Science and English, which featured plenty of reading. I just wonder if these kids are being pushed enough.

7:47 - Very lengthy reference question for another Psychology speech. We found a couple of decent articles supporting her argument that one can "think" without the ability to speak. The English class shows up at the same time as the student, which almost always happens. I didn't have anyone at the desk for the hour before (and the time the class was supposed to show up,) but when it rains it pours. The good news is that it's almost time to go home!

8:01 - Back in the office, wrapping up for the evening.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New baby, new bottles?

Lisa is on her way to the big city to trade in some of our two-year old Avent baby bottles -- which have the toxic plastic BPA in them -- for newer, safer bottles.

I was absolutely shocked that the Babies 'R Us here would be taking them without a receipt in exchange for credit towards the new bottles. It just makes way too much sense for me to comprehend.

A corporation concerned with the well being of its customers? Impossible.

This BPA is a nasty toxin that leaches into water, formula, juice or whatever liquid is in the bottle. I guess this leaching is exacerbated if washed in a dishwasher (which we never did, for this very reason). My sister-in-law mentioned this to us over two years ago when Owen started using a bottle, well before the outcry in the morning news shows over this past summer.

Well, Wyatt is waking up and will be hungry. He likes to eat a lot and often, much like his older brother.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fun FireFox add-on

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