Category Archives: The World We Live In

Experiment like a mad scientist

I am…annoying…unattractive…anxious…sad…lonely…
( _____ fill in your adjective here!)

See Dr. Todd Kasdan’s exercise in this TEDx video to disassociate the thinker from the not-too-productive thought!

Dr. Todd Kashdan’s very excellent TEDx talk Becoming a Mad Scientist With Your Life reminds me to distance the thinker from the thought (easy exercise above!)

Dr.  Kashdan – happiness researcher and author of  Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life posits that we should not be an expert in anything, because as soon as we become an expert we stop paying attention!

Focus on the beauty of complexity.

Pay attention to the moments – they are like Lego’s – the building blocks of life.

 [This post was edited after original post 3.23.2014]


Assembling Your Childhood or Lego’s Don’t Explode

Wolverine Lego character

Wolverine on my desk!

I am blessed, with joy and fun, to have two sons. This allowed me to buy Lego’s for every Christmas and birthday for years (and still does!) I looked forward to the Lego Movie, but found angst amidst my glee.

Oh, sons o’ mine, what kind of world am I leaving you? Everybody is so mad.

Twitter snarks about pink eye and scraggly beards; are we really so mean?

Can we recognize goodness anymore? What is real? Lego’s don’t explode!

I am channeling Liam Neeson’s Good – Cop Bad Cop from the Lego Movie. I am the good parent – bad parent. No wonder we are all confused. Growing up we told you do the right thing, take the hard classes, be a team player, finish those projects, follow the instructions.

Now, we we want you to be creative, follow your dream, be your own man, be your own Master Builder.

As reviewer Abbie Bernstein says, Holy Confusion, or Holy, Mixed Metaphors, Batman!

“THE LEGO MOVIE philosophically breaks apart due to unbalanced construction.”

Many reviewers wrote of the movie as a metaphor for life. The Lego Movie is:

“weirdly philosophical” John Serba

an educational metaphor Sam LeDeaux

Binding “The Lego Movie” together is a “Matrix”-like conceit that turns the whole thing into an allegory about the nature of creativity and the meaning of amusement. A.O. Scott

“the deeper message of thinking outside the instructions handed to you by life” Robert Ham

Which leads me to try to understand just what it is about the metaphors  we use to make sense of our lives.  Baseball metaphors speak to me.  I use library and librarian metaphors as often as I can.   Metaphor dictionaries are very fun to peruse.

Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations

If Lego building is a metaphor for life, I will have to pick up the new book by Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of  Modern Parenthood and see in the index where she talks about Lego’s. I reject her premise.

Maybe Full of sly humor, The LEGO Movie is a must-watch for all LEGO fans – especially adults [Review] by The Brothers Brick -we should just be fans.

Fundamentally, The LEGO Movie is a movie for LEGO fans and about LEGO fans.

‘The LEGO Movie’ Is An Amazing Critique Of American Mass Culture Alyssa Rosenberg

In The LEGO Movie, when creativity is available to everyone, the things they create turn pleasure and joy into a kind of infinitely renewable resource.

Children – humans – are an infinitely renewable resource. I am a fan of Lego’s and of  my sons,  who continually add joy and fun to my life. We are all Liam Neeson, beware the abyss of no return and remember that sometimes the piece of resistance is really all about putting a cap on it!

Writer’s block?

It’s been too long since I have written a blog post. I can blame the cold, cold winter (yeast won’t rise and Polar Vortex, you know?) I can blame getting a new computer (and what is up with Windows 8? Do they not realize that families share a computer workstation? It is oh, too personal!) I can blame disenchantment with my daily job – enough said! I have been thinking and reading about writing , all the while wishing I was a better writer.

Ice picture

An article that has stayed with me poses that we should move from  “writer based-prose”  to “reader based prose.” Who Are You Writing For? by Ann Bauer (January 17, 2004). Obviously, I’m not there yet. But this advice I am practicing:

My goal was to help my students build a framework for what their readers needed to understand. I taught them to think like strangers to their own lives and relate back story or evidence in a compelling, relevant way. I asked each of them to consider why the reader should care about their writing—what the average person could take, and use, from their work. Why, I challenged them, was their story worth telling?

Then I turned that question around and asked myself.

“Think like strangers to their own lives”;  it gives perspective, if not yet wisdom.

How do we teach engagement and inspiration and ah-ha moments? In our writing, our teaching, our daily living?  John Warner’s post (January 28, 2014)  It’s Impossible to Teach What I Want My students to Learn reminds us that  if we are lucky, we can remember moments when we were struck, by beauty, words, ideas …even theorems, proofs and beautiful physics diagrams.

You have to trust that you are in a place where you can make that possible for the students, colleagues, and loved ones in your life.

Note: to John Warner, I use Twitter as a memory aid to keep all the articles I want to think about and re-read (and maybe someday write about!)

Life’s punches


Roll with the punches, my Dad always said. We would laugh.  Dad’s always say funny stuff over and over and over again. Now I begin to understand my Dad was saying it to himself, as much as to us. Remember that life punches you down, and punches you again and continues to punch away. You can be knocked down and never get up …or you can remind yourself to roll with the punches. What else is there?

I think it is easier to get up again and again if you have a support system and good balance in your life. In today’s world of far flung family and hectic lifestyles; far too many hours of networked work life and not enough real face time;  I find myself with not much daily support and little to balance work going badly.

Since 2008, I have tried very hard to sustain myself with the written word in many forms. Books, books and more books offer comfort and hope and inspiration. I am not alone when I am with books. Poetry speaks in the absence of loved ones – to bolster, to commiserate, to decode in the face of life’s punches. But, it is when I put pen to paper literally and write a letter or card to a friend that I am most comforted.

Books and words are life’s necessity, I learned this from my Mom; acts of kindness and generosity, my father taught me, this will sustain my soul. Watch out, you may be getting something in the mail from me soon!

This week’s book: Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

This week’s column: Joel Stein,I Will Now Answer All Your E-Mail

This week’s poem:  A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

“The above poem was first published in the Knickerbocker Magazine in October 1838. It also appeared in Longfellow’s first published collection Voices in the Night. It can be found, for example, in: Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1893.”

Change and serendipity


I realized this week that I want no part of this change that I have been managing for more than a year. I have been preaching to my staff that closing a library is bad and sad, but maybe also a time for opportunity and growth. “You will be OK!” , that is what I have told my staff. It dawned on me that I am not OK – or anywhere near OK -  with this change.

Then, as often happens, I calm down. Or, better yet, I read something that speaks to me as I did this morning.

Haystacks vs. Algorithms: Is Scanning the Stacks for [Pretty] Books Really the Best Research Strategy? by Brian Mathews (June 25, 2013)

Libraries everywhere are in a constant state of change these days. I am caught up in this chaos. We are closing/moving a branch library. Decisions on collections, services and staff are just the tip of this event that seems never ending – but, I know it will end (maybe late this summer) and we will all have to settle into new roles and places. I can’t picture a place for myself in this maelstrom, but maybe it is yet for me to discover. I should trust in…serendipity.

During this time, I have come to know some new library users – adult learners who have come back to school. These are learners that have found our branch library a good place for group study and technology resources and assistance.  They work pretty independently and have told me that they appreciate my staff and this library space. I am sad to tell them we are closing, but it has forced them to seek other resources on campus. While these users currently use us for group and quiet study – they have found the 24 hour technology labs and a study room at our main library.

I am watching their learning journey – they have “adventured” past their comfort zones in just a few short months and I can learn from them.

Thanks to Brian Mathews for reminding me …”Serendipity is a state of mind.”







Year-end review OR twice in two days…

As we wrap up this academic year, I am evaluating this academic year by ideas, not by closing a library. My choice! It’s been a tough year…but the ideas survive and nourish a tired brain.

One of the biggest trends this year has been “big data.” If you haven’t had time to think about this yet – what it is, what this means for science librarians or why libraries should pay attention – this is a good beginning article.

Data Science, Machine Learning, and Statistics: what is in a name?

The University of Virginia has an interesting site all about data and researchers and their university. A model for universities? Maybe. If nothing else, use this a good model for citing data practices.

University of Virginia data management consulting group – citing data

Data visualization is another big topic in libraries and research. Good visualization is not new. Twice in two days I ran across reference to my favorite visualization – Charles Joseph Minard’s famous graph showing the decreasing size of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as it marches to Moscow; a classic in data visualization.

Charles Joseph Minard

Charles Joseph Minard (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Good visualization tells a story, clearly, forever!

Stephen Hawking’s advice for twenty-first century grads: Embrace complexity

Service Design (Slideshare) – Slide 119

I have been trend-doing all this academic year. Read more about it in this informal report.

How does your academic year measure up?



No Comfort Zone

Where did I ever come up with the idea that there might just be a day at my job where I was comfortable? It is never going to happen.

Almost four years ago, we moved to the DC area. A new environment, a new commute, a new job will add stress. But, I assumed the stress  would lessen as time went on. Not so!

I made mistakes. I hope I learned from them. I continue to make mistakes – new ones I hope. I was reminded of this reading a Maria Shine Stewart blog post  If You’re Perfect, Don’t Read This.

“I suspect that if one is not making a few mistakes on campus or off, a learning curve may not be steep enough or one is staying within a comfort zone, avoiding risk.”

Universities and Libraries are also in NO COMFORT zones these days. Changes in library collections, services, and the increasingly accelerating rate-of-change … of data, of technology, and of information make for most uncomfortable working situations.

“It is only by ongoing practice, with all the trial and error that entails, that a wider field of vision on campus might be attained.”

I couldn’t find my comfort zone these days if it reached out and bopped me on the head!

I cope by reading!

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”
W. Somerset Maugham, Books and You



Back to RSS

This very busy Fall semester, I barely keep up reading my daily email alerts from ASEE First Bell, Inside Higher Ed, Wired Campus  and Scholarly Kitchen.  I become increasingly anxious every day as I scan the headlines – the death of higher ed; eBooks are the end of the book; MOOCs;  keeping up with gadgets; teaching digital millennials – and then skim the articles that I think have some resonance in my daily life as a multi-branch science librarian. My brain is truly a giant cloud of tags and nebulous half-formed ideas.

Luckily, I was rescued this morning by my RSS feeds. I had concentrated time to read and am a better person for reading from the important (to me) RSS feeds:

John Dupuis blogging at  Confesssions of a Science Librarian

From more than 10 years of reading Library blogs, I always check in with two school librarians that transcend their day jobs and continue to speak to information trends and educational management issues:

  • Doug Johnson at the Blue Skunk blog and yes, I do bring my own devices to work, it makes me more efficient as I travel between building to have my own technology – laptop and tablet – with me. (No, work did not pay for these, it took me three years to get efficient!) BYOD – to work
  • Joyce Valenza from the School Library Journal and NeverEnding Search blog reminded me to get back to this great online conference that I paid for and just haven’t had time to watch all the session – yet! Library 2.012 archive posted

YES! Someone has written about my nebulous ideas that have been niggling at me just beneath the surface of my consciousness:

For a little inspiration: Quoteflections…what is truth?…The search for truth is more precious than its possession.  ~ Albert Einstein

And, how about J.R.R. Tolkien on George R.R. Martin:

Friday Fun: J.R.R. Tolkien on George R.R. Martin, Posted by John Dupuis on August 24, 2012


44 hour road trip

A friend dies unexpectedly, and so this road trip is undertaken; harder than expected in many ways, but doable – necessary, messy and complicated – like life. I love my husband and my sons and through them I am deeply in love with some Boy Scout Troops. Life is complicated.

I have seen up close the lives changed by caring BSA leaders. Boys grown to men demonstrating personal growth and responsibility; and life-long friendships this organization fosters. Living with three men in my household, I also appreciate those life-long friendships.

The BSA troop we traveled to support this weekend – after the untimely death of our friend, an assistant scoutmaster who died at Scout Camp – is one such troop. Scout leaders are not perfect. It is in their humanness – quirks, humor, love of camping – that they model the Scout oath for their young men they mentor.

 On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

 “I will do my best.”  On his last day of life, our friend looked across camp at another troop and saw a young man not having a good scout camp experience. So, he invited the young man to come fishing with his own troop. Our friend taught the young man how to fish, and congratulated him on his catch.  Our friend heard taps and scout vespers on the last night of his life.

 Softly falls the light of day,
As our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask,
“Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared,
Everything to Be Prepared?”

 We heard taps played Saturday afternoon for our friend, as the American flag was folded by a joint USN and BSA Honor Guard. He did his best. In the experiences of his life he thought his daily tasks included service to his country, service to his BSA troop, service to children and young men.

Life is complicated. Good men who model doing their best for others – helping other people at all times – we support this.