Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Productivity Tools (Thing 29)

Thoughts and ruminations on Thing 29, Google Productivity Tools...

Tried Google News & Google Alerts: I missed the Oscars this year. I mean totally missed them. Didn't see a single movie nominated for the big awards, didn't watch any red carpet hoopla & missed the opening number ( it was Hugh Jackman!?!?! What was I thinking?). I think it was the first time that I can remember that happening. That said, I decided that I needed to get caught up on my Oscar viewing, so I checked out Google News and found that I really like their news aggregator. I enjoyed having articles from all over the web (E! News, various newspapers online etc.) in order to see a variety of articles and content about the awards. I also set up a Google Alert so more news articles about the Oscars. (Hoping for a scandal to break or something like that, perhaps.) So far today I have had one email pop into my inbox with a list of links for more articles about the awards and winning actors. This could be a useful tool if or when I want to track something. The More Things team noted on the wiki that Proquest Newstand Complete overs more newspapers and more full text coverage than Google News. Too bad Proquest is a database that one needs to pay for (of course, it's free in MN via ELM) but Google has something going for it---name recognition! Interesting, too, that Proquest and Google have teamed to work together on the archives. Read about that here.

Tried Google Calendar: I have used Google Calendar before. I went back to check out the features again and to see what's changed and been updated--Not much has changed since last go 'round. While I find this tool nice and the invite feature works well, I don't do well with electronic calendars. At some point or another, I start using them and then I end up needing a print calendar in front of me and it just doesn't work. Anyone else? Just curious. (That's why I stopped using my Palm, too.)

Scoped out: Google sites, PB Wiki and Wetpaint.
These three all offer the user the ability to create a webpage or pages that are free, easy to create and allow multiple editors/users. Users can post discussions, documents, photos etc. Each site can be made public or kept private for users. The biggest difference between these sites appears to be the layouts.

Scoped out: Google Groups--create a user group, add participant's emails and create pages to go with your group. I am in two Yahoo Groups and am starting to wonder:

Would one of the other sites (G sites or PB Wiki or G groups) work better for my bookclub? Right now we use a Yahoo Group, however I think the Google Group would offer a little more content for us. We could post links to buy the books, reviews and have discussions online, too. Group members could also have profile pages. It's a possibility, but right now there is not enough time in the day to set it up and see if they'd be interested in it. Sigh. Let's create a 48 hour day. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

iGoogle again...(Thing 28)

Thing 28 encourages us to explore various tools for customized home pages from iGoogle, Netvibes, or Pageflakes. Here's my beef--what's with all of these More 23 Things being repeats? This was a thing during the first 23 Things go around and I tried Google's service, iGoogle. For this Thing, I went back to iGoogle and played around with my pages again. Since the last go around, I have visited and used iGoogle here and there. I find the convenience of having some sources in one place very useful and only wish that some of the widgets didn't take so long to load. I added a few widgets, including my Yahoo email, a Facebook application, & a To-Do List generator (which I could not get to work). I also tried to change the themes for the background. I was a bit frustrated because to change a theme, you have to change the theme on each page you have in iGoogle. While this is great if you want a different theme on each page, it's annoying if you like continuity. I liked that I found an email app & a Facebook app since they are two of the web tools I use the most. The Google Reader tool is nice, but I don't like the layout of the widget, so to me it is not the most useful. I'd rather just go to the Google Reader page and check my feeds there.

I also checked out the Netvibes site and did their demo page with widgets, which you can do without creating a login. It is very similar to iGoogle in layout and starts a user off with content by asking what topics you are interested in, as well as asking for your city and state location for local content. Without creating a login, it is difficult to tell what other features Netvibes might offer and right now, I don't want to try another tool I'll never use again. (Anyone sense a theme with me lately?)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Favicon Jane (Thing 25 again)

After much gnashing of teeth and grumbling, I changed the favicon on my blog from the standard Blogger "B" to a picture of Jane Austen. The catch, it works on some browsers, but not all. So, if you can see Jane as the favicon (that's the small or icon image next to the URL), lucky you. If not, tough nuggets. I think it's a bug, and if I told you how much time I spent just getting that to work, you'd understand why I don't care if it works on all browsers or not. :) It shouldn't have been that hard and in reality it wasn't. Some mistakes were made by said user, moi, and some were the darn website's fault. Sigh....I 'love' a good challenge.

Pay Attention!

A friend forward me this video from TeacherTube.com and I thought spoke right to me. It's what we do as media specialists. It's what teachers should be doing....And it fits right in with the 23 Things & More. :) It's a bit long, so make sure you have the time.

Not Really Twitterpated (Thing 27)

Well, it took some time, but I dug out my Twitter login and password and checked out Twitter.com again. Having just read Frenzied Media's blog post about Ning, I have to add that I am just so not into Twitter. (I agree about Ning, btw!) Is it because I can (and would rather) just update my status on Facebook and not use Twitter? Do I really need another site to go to? Besides, the fail whale appeared twice while I played with my page. Do I really need to play with a page/service that is down frequently?

I also tried to read some of the articles about how libraries are using Twitter and I just can't get excited about it other than to write mini-book reviews. I find that use the most plausible and easiest to accomplish. David Lee King writes in his blog about 10 uses for Twitter in libraries. I'm sorry, I just can't buy it. One of the ways to use it is to check out possible applicants (possible colleagues) and see if they seem interesting. Really? I'm supposed to tell that by their tweet? Really? Hmm...Another reason was to stay on top of emerging technologies and the lastest and greatest trends. Ok, that seems plausible. BUT. I already get a bunch of emails from various sources and follow a bunch of sources that tell me this information in my Google Reader account. I don't need more RSS feeds to read!

To complete this thing, I decide to try to follow School Library Journal on Twitter and I am thinking I really don't need this! They publish at least 10 tweets a day. Seriously, folks! I don't have that kind of time. At least they are in my GR account so I don't have to make a special trip to Twitter. I'll peak at them when I can, but I just don't anticipate reading them frequently enough to make it matter. (Ok, and I already get the weekly email from SLJ, like I said above, do I need more?)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ning Again (Thing 26)

Ning is a social networking site where users can create their own social network (IE: I saw example of people who liked heavy metal rock and roll. ) Ours is a network of those working on the 23 Thigns & More Things project. As per our instructions, I went back to the 23 Things on a Stick Ning site and played around a bit more this time. I was a bit worried about trying to find my password for it, but my browser remembered it for me. I got lucky for this site. I am sure that won't happen again. I added my avatar image to my login and read some of the discussions that have been posted. I was disappointed, they weren't that active.

I guess I'm just not a fan of this site. Do I have too many other sites I like to frequent? Yes. Do I really need another LMS networking tool? If I'm on several email list servs, do I need to be on an internet group, too? I struggle with the answer to that one. I am sure some of my colleagues would answer yes, but I argue no. There is only so much time in the day and I don't need another site to go to. I get connected through the list servs on MEMO & LM_Net and that's good enough for me.

Which Widget? (Thing 25)

Thing 25 encourages users to add widgets (or gadgets) to our blogs. Thing 25 tells us that widgets are, "little bits of code that you embed in your blog or Web site that let you display content from other sources, such as embedding a YouTube video or you may have added a gadget to your blog to enable the display of recent posts or your blogroll." There were so many tools listed for us to try that I got overwhelmed pretty fast. It was too much to try in one thing. I spent (wasted?) a lot of time looking and playing around with the various tools and I finally had to tell myself to stop because I simply didn't have a much time to spend on this thing as I'd like to. So, here's what I looked at, played with, tried, erased, used and posted...

  • I tried to use Outbrain. Outbrain allows a user have star ratings on a blog or for blog postings. I thought it looked fun and tried to get it to upload, but no matter what I did I couldn't get it to work. I could get the code to load into a sidebar, but not into each invididual blog posting. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out. I might go back and play with this one.
  • I looked at gVisit.com in order to take a look at a mapping tool. It maps where visitors to your blog are from and shows them on a map. I like the way this map tracking widget looks better than the Clustrmap option; I think I just like the pin dots better than the circles the Cluster map offers. However, the downside to this tracking tool is that you cannot post the map to your website, whereas with Cluster map you can post it right to your blog and see it right there. gVisit makes you go to a website to see the map. I'm sure I could figure out a how to get the page to show on my blog (another widget), but isn't that the point to not have to do that?
  • FlickrCC search Flickr for Creative Commons licensed photos that can be used on the web for free. Just for kicks I looked to see what Jane Austen photos there were. What do you know? There were many and I've posted one. I chose this one because somewhere in my photo collection from college I have this exact same photo from when I was in England. It is of Jane Austen's grave stone in Winchester Cathedral:) Someone also had a bunch of photos of their Jane Austen action figure posted. Too bad my figure is act work...
  • FreeFoto was another site that I am going to add to my toolbox for places to go for pictures. It is a great site!
  • I added a Subscribe button from Addthis.com. This site was easy to use and simple.
  • Typealyzer was a just for fun site that supposedly tells you what your personality type is just be analyzing the posts on your blog. I didn't think it matched me and my blog very well at all. :)
  • I also added Snap Shots to my blog. It allows readers to mouse over a link and a popup window then shows what that link looks like. It's like a visual preview button. I like this feature a lot and initially got confused by my old blog at WordPress did this automatically and I couldn't remember that it was WordPress and I kept thinking that my blog already did this. But alas, it did not automatically, so I installed this one.
Overall, I had fun playing with this thing. I also added a Gadget found on blogger at the bottom of my blog. Now I have changing Jane Austen quotes! YAY! While this Thing was fun, I think it was a bit heavy on the sites and widgets to checkout. There could have been half of them! I spent way too much time puttering with this stuff--simply looking at all of them and then to try some of them out added even more time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

To Revamp or not, that is the question (Thing 24)

Since the first installment of 23 Things, I have kept blogging but mostly about dear JA. I've found that if I only focus on the library world, I'll go nuts! It's like working all of the time, and well, frankly I'm not a fan of that. So, I'll keep reading and posting on Jane whenever I can!

The moment I started to read this first Thing of the More Things on a Stick project, I had to laugh. What did I spend several hours doing the week prior? Trying to decide on a new template for my blog, updating my avatar and just plain old playing around with it. I admit, I think I've previewed just about every template Blogger has to offer. And, well, I like the one I picked in the first place. I didn't change it. I spent a lot of time deciding on what layout to use and to get the look I have. I like simple, clean blogs without a log of widgets. I think I'm going to have a problem with Thing 25....

I did update my avatar, though. :) See the new and improved me on the left.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Things

I'm in trouble. There's another 23 Things to try (so aptly named, "More Things on a Stick") and I just registered to participate. What am I thinking? I have a two and half month old, I'm about to go back to work and I'm trying to get a handle on and find my work brain. When am I going to find the time to blog about another 23 Things? The Things end in mid May, so math tells me I have to complete about two Things a week for this to work. Here's to hoping. If you're curious as to what the Things this time around are, here's the link to the new set. It sounds like it will be some new Web 2.0 tools, along with exploring the intricacies of ones tried previously. Maybe starting this before I go back to work will get my brain back to work mode.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Media Alert!

I just read on AustenBlog that Emma will be a BBC mini-series (4 hours) with filming starting sometime this year and will air Autumn 2009! The big question here is: when will it air in the US?

Also, The Time Traveler's Wife is has been made into a movie and will be released sometime this year. Specific date unknown right now as it appears to have been put on hold for a bit from what I can gather from online sources. Either way, should be an interesting movie.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy

Finished this one this morning, bright and early....The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street. This novel is essentially P&P told from Darcy's perspective. It begins with the Meryton assembly, where Darcy sees Elizabeth for the first time and Darcy notes, "I know not how Miss Elizabeth Bennett contrived to bring herself so much to my notice throughout the course of that evening." From there Darcy tries not to fall in love with Elizabeth, but it can't be helped. This was an enjoyable novel. I felt it fit JA's characters well and gave good insight into Darcy's actions. If anything I would have asked for more detail from Darcy's POV. His tone and manner of address, however, were in sync with JA's writing, strengthened the story and fit his character. Any more details to his telling of the story would have given it a less JA feel, which was part of the fun to this novel.
4 Bonnets.

The Darcys Give A Ball

I'm on a roll, even though my reading time at 3am has stopped. (I'm kind of disappointed, I liked that peaceful quiet time where I could get reading done while nursing. It just doesn't happen during the day.) The librarian who purchased materials for my local library is doing his or her job very well, because I just keep discovering new pieces of JA fan fiction that have been added to the collection. It's great bc it means I don't have to purchase them! :)

Last week I read The Darcys Give A Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style by Elizabeth Newark. This book focuses on the children of the Darcy, Bingley, & Collins families. Elizabeth & Darcy decide to hold a ball in honor of their daughter Juliet and to allow their son, Henry, another chance to meet Eliza Collins (Charlotte & Mr. Collins daughter) in order to see if his attachment to her is true. They invite as many young people as they can and love abounds. The book was an entertaining read, although it had one minor distraction, a timeline. In the beginning of the book, it is noted that Mr. Collins inherits Longbourn twelve years after Lizzy & Darcy marry. Then it mentions that Mr. & Mrs. Collins have been married fifteen years. Maybe my P&P math is off, but the Collins were not married three years prior to when Lizzy & Darcy married, were they? While not one of the most important details of the novel, it was a distraction indeed.

The major characters in this novel were entertaining--Miss Bingley's continual meddling in the affairs of Lucy (Georgiana's daughter) was hilarious and fit the perception of Miss B to a tee. My only question was: Why was she wearing black in this novel? She'd never married, and would she really be wearing black for the loss of Mr. Hurst? Doubtful. Eliza Collins was a charmer, and it seemed justifiable that the Collins family would have at least one reasonable son and daughter. Disappointing was Juliet, Darcy & Eliazabeth's daughter. She was a snob, full of pride which both D & E recognized. Her personality ranged somewhere between Lydia Bennet & Miss Bingley. Maybe she was disappointing bc with all of my heart I didn't want D & E to have such a daughter. Maybe she was disappointing bc someone had to be a snob out of all of the characters. Maybe she was disappointing bc she tried to run away and elope with Walter Elliot.

Yes, an Elliot. That was the other distracting detail to the novel--the other young people invited to the wedding were the sons & daughters of the major characters in JA's other novels. There were Elliots, Wentworths, Knightleys, Brandons, Ferrars, Bertrams etc. It was cute, but trite if you ask me. Overall, though, the book was entertaining with the portrayal of Miss B, and quick but short dive into Charolotte's life.

3 Bonnets bc it had potential, but just didn't live up to what it could have.