Podcasts of the Week Ending November 11

Mortified :: Kids Who Teach

Stories of kids becoming teachers, including a stunning musical defense of feminism.

Have You Heard? :: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda

An explanation of why major corporations have become big players in education policy and what it means for the rest of us.

Planet Money :: Your Cell Phone’s A Snitch

What personal information is gathered by your cell phones, how it’s being used by law enforcement and others, and what rights do we have under the Constitution to privacy.

99% Invisible :: Dollhouses of St. Louis

The sad story of  St. Louis’ historic black neighborhood, The Ville, where old houses are being robbed of their bricks for resale to salvage operations.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: G is for Games #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge through all of April 2017. Every day (except Sundays), I will be posting a new, original photograph (or photographs) related to the letter of the alphabet.

Today’s letter is “G” which stands for “Games!”


Board games for sale in the window of a tobacco shop, but they’re faded by the sun so I don’t think they’re top sellers.

Do you like these photographs?  How do they make you feel?  Do they tell a story?  If you know a thing or two about photography, what technical suggestions would you make?  Let me know in the comments!!!

Movie Review: Wordplay

The opening scene of Wordplay (2006) shows the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, CT.  The same Stamford that was my hometown for 15 developmental years of my life.  The same Marriott where my family had a pool membership one summer.  And all throughout this documentary, people speak of Stamford in reverent tones as the Valhalla of the nation’s greatest crossword puzzle solvers.  Founded by New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has met in Stamford every year since 1978.  In Stamford, wow!  My only disappointment is that they don’t show anything in Stamford other than the drab interiors of the Marriott.

I enjoy a crossword puzzle now and again, but I’m not big into them, however I do really enjoy documentaries about geeky people with obsessions.  Wordplay did not disappoint.  The first half of the film profiles Shortz, some of the crossword constructors who submit puzzles to the Times, and several of the country’s top puzzle solvers.  They all appear to be affable people, all with talents in other areas (one’s a pianist, another twirls baton), but with an underlying current of arrogance.  A number of celebrity crossword fans are featured as well including comic Jon Stewart, filmmaker Ken Burns, and former Orioles pitching ace Mike Mussina.  The Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray compares puzzle-solving to songwriting and has great line about writer’s block.  Bill Clinton and Bob Dole both appear to talk about the 1996 election crossword in the Times that worked with either one of their names.

The second part of the film follows the action at the 2005 tournament in Stamford.  It turns out to be surprisingly compelling drama to watch the contestants solving puzzles with the clock ticking.  SPOILER ALERT: An affable Coloradan named Al Sanders is a perpetual runner-up who’s never won the tournament.  He manages a great come-from-behind effort to get himself into the finals only to muck it up big time.  Worse, a snot-nosed frat boy named Tyler Hinman ends up winning the whole thing. END SPOILER ALERT.

The DVD includes some fun extras including short features on some of the Times most memorable puzzles (which one can download from the DVD-ROM).

What Facebook is Good For

Prompted by invites from friends and discussions of it’s usefulness in the library blogosphere I joined Facebook at the beginning of August (See previously: On Facebook Now). Due to my age, ignorance, or perhaps even my anti-social tendencies, I wasn’t sure of what exactly I use Facebook for, but I plowed ahead anyway.

Recently, Susan asked me “Have you figured out what Facebook is good for yet?” At the time I didn’t have a good answer. Visions of connecting with librarians around the world and thus using social networking to become the best librarian I can possibly be have not yet materialized. According to some Facebook is a waste of time that costs businesses millions, while others believe that Facebook may help change the world for the better. Pondering the question, I’ve come up with three things I’ve discovered that Facebook is good for.

  1. Connecting with old friends, colleagues and even a couple of strangers. I gave up on letter writing for the most part a few years ago because no one ever writes me back. Even email, which I find pretty easy, seems to be too time consuming for others. So it’s nice to have a place to check in with my buddies that I don’t see every day to just josh around and keep in touch. Otherwise I’d be stuck just seeing them at weddings and baby showers.
  2. Scrabulous. This is one of the many fun applications you can add to your Facebook profile. Most of them are fun once, but playing Scrabble with friends and strangers is addictive. On the most recent Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast, Greg Schwartz admitted that Scrabulous is the only reason he still checks in on Facebook. That kind of makes me feel better about not networking with librarians in Peru and Botswana to save the world.
  3. Posted Items. This is my absolute favorite feature of Facebook. One of the things I like best about blogging is being able to refer back to interesting articles and blog posts I read, but not every interesting article is worth blogging about so I ended up with a surplus of draft posts in WordPress. I also would save articles from my feeds in Bloglines but that would get too cluttered. With Posted Items I can save articles, blog posts, web pages, photo albums, whatever and share them (albeit with the limited audience of my friends) automatically. There’s even a button you can add to the browser.

Here’s a selection of my favorite Posted Items on Facebook since early August:

  • August 1, 2007. New York Times. In Praise of Tap Water
    • The one thing about bottled water these days is that it is easier to come by since (clean, functional) drinking fountains seem to be less common.  Plus I’m always misplacing bottles so I have to buy bottled water and then refill it.  But honestly I’ve never bought into the bottled water being healthier concept.
  • August 2, 2007. Boston Globe. Sawed off and ugly, by Donovan Slack.
    • Seeing half a telephone pole hanging off another pole has mystified me for some time.  Now I know why.
  • August 15, 2007. WireTap Magazine. Future Civil Rights: Next Move is Ours, by Biko Baker.
    • I don’t like all of this article, but I like this: “We don’t need to believe in the leadership of one superhero; we need to believe in ourselves. No one else is going to step up and lead us but us. We are all Malcolm. We are all Martin. And until we really begin believing that, we will never be able to conquer the insurmountable odds that are up against us. I believe we can and we will. We are all makers of history; it’s time for us to start acting like it.”
  • August 30, 2007. Shaenon LiveJournal blog. The Trouble With Tribbles as Adapted by Edward Gorey.
    • Two of my favorite popular culture artifacts joined together.  And it’s hillarious.
  • September 8, 2007. Gift of Green. Top Ten Things About Massachusetts That Get a “Huh?” in Virginia.
    • This is interesting since I came to Massachusetts from Virginia albeit preceded by Connecticut.  Because of my New England childhood I’m well aware of regular coffee, radiators, the Blizzard of 78, and the adjectival use of wicked.  I never thought of raspberry lime rickeys or fluffernutters as particularly Massachusetts (the latter seems gooey and gross enough to be loved in the South).  I thought bubbler was used in the midwest and I first heard of jimmies in  Pennsylvania.  So really the three-deckers is the only thing in this list that was new to me when I came to MA.
  • September 18, 2007. Scientific American. 5 Essential Things To Do In Space, by George Musser.
    • I love space exploration.  It’s good to have a plant for its future.
  • September 18, 2007. Britannica Blog. Land, Ho! The Northwest Passage is Open For Business, by Gregory McNamee.
    • This is essentially a satirical article about global warming, but as a history major I love the concept that the Northwest Passage is now here, 400 years late.  There’s a Talk Like a Pirate Day reference as well.

Hyperactive Hyperlinks

Here’s another post that’s nothing more than a collection of links, many of them silly, the majority introduced to me by Metafilter.

Abandoned But Not Forgotten is a collection of photos of abandoned, historical, and unusual locations from around the world. Beware of the slow loading vintage web design (somewhat apropos to the topic actually) but it’s worth slogging through to see the cool photos.

PCWorld collects The Strangest Sights in Google Earth, which of course is the same as our own planet earth but frozen in time and shared with everyone who lives here. Again, be wary of some crummy web design.

A clever video in which two young men celebrate the city that rocks: Colonial Williamsburg. Funny in that they don’t openly mock CW but let the incongruities of music and images speak for themselves.

PinchHitter 2 is a frustrating and addictive baseball game that will take you from the sandlot to the majors.

If you like ugly, but tasty, fruit and vegetables, you’ll enjoy the stark images of the mutatocollection. The oddity here is that many of these are actually naturally grown vegetables as opposed to the genetic mutations that pass as “perfect.”

Is the world of Gil Thorp in the Matrix? Could explain the oddities of that comic strip. I particularly like Clambake as Morpheus.

From world travelers, a collection of 20 funny signs from around the world. Reminds me of a sign I saw in Ireland near a cliff’s edge showing a car flying over a cliff. The Irish are not subtle.

Finally, a demographic study of Pluggers and They’ll Do It Every Time, a scientific analysis of the two head scratching, anachronistic comics drawn on suggestions mailed in by readers.

While I’m posting links, I may as well introduce some recent additions to the blogroll:

  • Bringing Home the Word: Exploring the Bible Through the Catholic Lectionary – Fairly self-explanatory title, good reading for lectors like myself.
  • Digital Campus – A biweekly discussion of how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums. This is actually a podcast, but they post links relating to the topics discussed on the show.
  • Francesco Explains It All – Blog by the creator of Sally Forth.
  • History Conversations – An occasional dialogue with historians and history lovers about their interests, their ideas, and their lives in history. A podcast from the creator of Found History.
  • lower east side librarian – A personal/professional library blog by a librarian who is interested in/expect to write about zines and alternative press publications in libraries, library activism, open source technology applications and culture, and lolcats.
  • Ms. Magazine – More than a magazine, a movement. More of a feed than a blog.
  • Nobody Loves Rusty – A tribute/mockery blog for Mark Trail.
  • Paste Magazine – Updates on signs of life in music, film, and culture.
  • pazonada – A spiff local photo blog.
  • Pitchfork Media – New music reviews to help me feel old.
  • separated by a common language – Observations on British and American English by an American linguist in the UK.
  • Stat of the Day – This and that about baseball stats. From the people who brought you Baseball Reference.
  • Uncontrolled Vocabulary – A live discussion of news, trends and topics in librarianship. Another cool podcast that’s like The McLaughlin Group, but with Librarians. Useful links posted on the blog after the show.

You may also notice on the sidebar that I’ve added links to my new Library Thing profile and catalog.  I should be adding books over time.

Playground Game Revival

Today’s Boston Globe talks about the revival of two children’s playground games now played recreationally by adults: dodgeball and kickball. Without getting snarky about the Globe being behind the times in tracking trends, I’d like to say that I’m totally behind this movement. Susan & I had a lot of fun playing on a Boston Ski & Sports Club kickball team a while back at some point I’d like to find the time to get involved with WAKA (we own a WAKA-approved kickball after all). I’d also like to note that kickball is a wonderful game to play at a wedding reception.

As for dodgeball, I have a question for my readership. The game commonly known as dodgeball, as described in this article, was known as Bombardment when we played it at my schools as a child growing up in Stamford, CT. Now I will not deny that Fairfield County Nutmeggers can come up with unusual alternate terminology. For example, the sandwich often referred to as a sub or a hero is known exclusively as a “wedge” in this part of Connecticut.

We had a game called dodgeball as well. Our PE teacher would make all the kids stand in the circle, and one kid would go to the center of the circle while all the other kids tried to bean him/her with a playground ball. My guess is that the PE teacher would say this version of dodgeball improved childrens’ agility as s/he tried to avoid being hit by ball. In practice it was just another way for children to be cruel to the slow, fat kids. I hated dodgeball.

When I tell people of this game, they say they’ve never heard of it. Furthermore, many people think I’m making it up. So tell me readers from around the world, have you ever been forced to participate in this rather sadistic version of dodgeball or at least heard of it being played?

Links to organizations mentioned in the articles:Big Kids Dodgeball

World Adult Kickball Association