Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bloglines - George and Joan Thinking Out Loud about Library Education

Bloglines user has sent this item to you.

Some Rights Reserved   Infoblog: George and Joan
infopeople - moving libraries forward one blog entry at a time

George and Joan Thinking Out Loud about Library Education

By Infopeople on Podcasts

In this edition of Thinking Out Loud, George and Joan take a look at the state of library education. Is it worth all of the time and effort people put into it? George advocates a serious rethinking of MLS programs and what they teach.

It's food for thought!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bloglines - Facebook for old people

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

this is silly

Seth's Blog
Seth Godin's riffs on marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread.

Facebook for old people

By Seth Godin

Daan points us to this very funny image. (this link is the original source).


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bloglines - Organize Your Life With Jott

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

I've used Jott, and it's one of the web 2.0 apps that I find most helpful--not just cool-sounding. You can call Jott, record a 30-second voice message, and Jott will transcribe and send to an e-mail account or cell phone. Now there are add-ons so that you can even send a message to post directly to your blog or Google calendar! I tried it and it works--not always perfectly, especially with proper nouns, but good enough so that I get the jist of it and remember and don't have to scrounge around my purse for scraps of paper.

Web Worker Daily
Rebooting the workforce

Organize Your Life With Jott

By Chris Poteet on voice

With this entry, Chris Poteet joins the WWD team as a contributing writer. Look for his posts every week. Welcome, Chris! -Ed

Every once-in-a-while I find an application like Jott that truly revolutionizes the way I organize my life.

We all write notes on pieces of paper, napkins, etc.; but they often get lost in the shuffle. Jott comes along and helps you consolidate your tasks, notes, and events into one spot. All you do it call the Jott number, and you hear a voice that says: "What do you want to Jott?" You then give the folder name you've created, contact, or application and simply speak your message. Jott translates voice into text and then, based on your preferences, either e-mails you or adds the event. It also stores the message for historical purposes on the Jott website.

The premise is simple, the sign-up is easy. After signing up you can then call the Jott number to record messages instantly.

Jott has tapped into some of the most popular APIs including Google Calendar, Twitter, Tumblr, and even amongst others. You can do things like create a folder, associate it with a co-worker/team member, and when you post to that folder it sends them an e-mail with the tasking. You essentially have an on-the-go project management utility.

Jott can extend beyond its predefined Jott links. For example, to use Jott with Outlook, simply use the Plaxo application as a synchronization tool between Outlook and Google Calendar. Now, when you post to Google Calendar from your Jott account it will automatically be synced with your Outlook calendar.


  • An add-on for managing Jotts directly inside Microsoft Outlook. It would be nice to create tasks, notes, events, etc. without using an extra application such as Plaxo.
  • The ability to send text messages to my Jott number and have them be translated into Jotts.

Have you tried Jott? Are you finding it useful?


Monday, December 17, 2007

Smell Old Book!

Here's a perfume called "In the Library."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bloglines - What do you wish you’d learned in Library School?

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

This link takes you to an article that discusses skills that the authors suggest would be useful for library school students to gain. Do you agree with this list? What would you add or delete? Which do you think should really be taught in school? Which have you learned (or not learned) at the iSchool?

Career Q&A with the Library Career People

What do you wish you'd learned in Library School?

By tiffany on getting started

A couple of friends of mine just published an article as guest columnists in the Informed Librarian titled, What Do You Wish You'd Learned in Library School? (

A couple of questions for you:

  • For all the students still in school-Do you think this information will help you select courses or shape your academic experience to better prepare for the job market?
  • And for all those new (or not-so-new) professionals-As you reflect back on your days getting started in the profession, is there something you would add to Murray and Shontz's list?

Just curious to know what you're thinking…


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

No LIS569 for you?

If you really wanted to take Nancy Pearl's Book Lust class, but couldn't get in this super popular class, may you be comforted by listening to and learning from Ms. Pearl in this webcast interview from the University of Missouri-Columbia (November 2007).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

DAWN Christmas Gift Drive

We know that you've already seen the e-mail and the posters, but there's nothing like information redundancy, right?

Silverfish is collecting gifts for the Domestic Abuse Women's Network (DAWN). This holiday season, DAWN's House will provide emergency shelter, support, and advocacy to many women and children forced to leave their homes because of domestic abuse. You can help the women and children who call DAWN's House home to know that the community cares about their safety during the holidays and all year long.

We are looking for the following specific items, though any gifts you would like to donate will be greatly appreciated.


(Mother and three children)

  • Mom: kitchen utensils & dish towels, coffee pot, small crock pot, gift card to F.Meyer, WalMart, etc., bathrobe (size L or XL), AMC movie passes for self & kids
  • Girl - age 14 - mp3 player, games (handheld electronic, DVD games, board games), watch, bathrobe (size women's M), Old Navy gift card, make-up kit
  • Boy - age 9 - pajamas (size 12), RC car or truck, slot cars/race track, building set (Lego, Bionicles, etc.), Operation Rescue game, Rubik's cube
  • Girl - age 3 - pajamas (size 4/4T), Little People set (ark, airplane, circus, etc.), MagnaDoodle, coloring books, pretend play (kitchen, dress-up...), stamp set & paper
Donations can be brought to MGH Room 306. For more information, e-mail Crystal Yost at

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of December 3, 2007

For some reason, Google
Images brings up this
picture for the search
"National socialism and
soccer ." Don't read into
it too much. I'm not going
to tell you what came up
for "Erotic stories, Costa
Rican." Here are this
week's tags:
  • Human trafficking victims
  • Erotic stories, Costa Rican
  • African American baseball umpires
  • Mothers of artists
  • National socialism and soccer
  • Orangeries--Italy
  • Anti-estrogenic diet
  • Deviant behavior in rabbinical literature
  • Milk ducts
  • Espionage, Czechoslovak
Stay sane this week as classes wrap up.  I'm about to have a mental
breakdown. Luckily, Silverfish has several editors to take my place.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

What do you think about this Veropedia? Do you think it's the "answer"?

OPL Plus (not just for OPLs anymore)
A blog for librarians in all smaller libraries, not just for one-person or solo librarians--all kinds of libraries, anywhere in the world. Management information, links, and marketing tips that you can use right now.


By Ms. OPL

Veropedia "is a collaborative effort by a group of Wikipedians to collect the best of Wikipedia's content, clean it up, vet it, and save it for all time. These articles are stable and cannot be edited." It is not competing with Wikipedia—they "prefer to think of [themselves] as a meta-layer, highlighting the best that Wikipedia has to offer." There are two types of links, green (already verified)

Bloglines - can you spot the library?

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

This is neat! Much more visual interest than a lot of library exteriors I've seen...
putting the rarin back in librarian since 1999

can you spot the library?

By jessamyn on library

A few nifty book-oriented and awesome library facades. And for a few more links to fill this out, here's a great old photo of Fred Bullock, a librarian at the Cardiff Public Library, c. 1900 and a link to the award-winning Kansas City design (from 2005) with some detail about how the project was actually conceived and managed. My favorite part is the jury comment for the competition

This project celebrates books, reading, and the city in a joyfully direct and legible manner. The lovingly rendered level of detail at a massive scale brings the books to life, transforming these modest, familiar objects into monuments infused with hope and possibility. The result may be the world's most humane and enjoyable parking structure.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bloglines - Article Reach

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

I'd love to see a service like this at the UW Libraries. If WSU libraries don't have an article, either in electronic or print form, they will send the article electronically to students (provided another participating library has access to it). Very nice!

Library Stuff
The library weblog dedicated to resources for keeping current and professional development

Article Reach

By Steven on Interlibrary Loan

Another really cool customer service, from Washington State University Libraries.


Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of November 26, 2007

Hello all,
Hope Thanksgiving was fun-filled and full of pie. I took a little break from searching for Ridiculous LCSH to spend time with my family. Thought I would mention a tag that I don't really think is silly to catalog - it's just silly by itself: Terrorist threat warning systems--Color codes. Also a tongue twister: Wheat root rot. Trying saying that five times fast. In regards to the first entry on the list, I think you should know that an award is handed out each year to the best clown of the year. It's called the "Coors Man in the Can."
  • Rodeo clowns
  • Kangaroo deterrents and repellents
  • Pregnant women in advertising
  • Railroad tracks--Weed control
  • Holy wells--England
  • Pine cone craft
  • Bardin the Superrealist (Fictitious character)
  • Bananas in art
  • Fantasy cricket (Game)
  • Scenic byways--Iowa
By the way, in terms of terrorism alert, I'm feeling sort of tangerine. More heightened than regular orange.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bloglines - the most unusual books of the world

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

This wiki is just what it says: it lists some interesting books, both in shape and content. My favorite is the book with the lighted lamp inside! :)
putting the rarin back in librarian since 1999

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bloglines - Social Networking in Plain English

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

I LOVE the Common Craft Show's easy-to-understand tutorial videos that have covered so far how RSS and wikis work. Also light bulbs and zombies...kinda random. Anyhoo, here's one on Social Networking:

The  Common Craft Show   The Common Craft Show
The Common Craft Show

Social Networking in Plain English

In explanation

This video is for people who wonder why social networking web sites are so popular. One reason is because they solve a real-world problem: they make the invisible visible. We'll let the video explain how it works.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stop Bugging Me!

No, we're not talking wiretapping here--just pure pestering from websites that require you register before using certain features, such as e-mailing a story (e.g. the New York Times online edition). But privacy lovers--and lazy people who hate the hassle of registering--can rejoice, because now there's This site shares logins and passwords that you can use to bypass giving your contact info to everyone.

For example, I just read an article from the NYTimes* and wanted to e-mail it to a co-worker, but didn't feel like registering w/ them, so I looked up the most successfully used login/password combo of siemens2/siemens and got in just fine.

*If you're curious, the article was "Meet the Life Hackers."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bloglines - Defining Reading

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

Attention all readers' advisors! The YALSA blog highlighted a new NEA report on reading habits of teens and adults. They point out that the researchers may have narrower view of reading that makes it seem like teens are not reading, even though they probably really are.


Defining Reading

In Teen Reading

Today the National Endowment for the Arts published a report titled To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence. (Link is to a .pdf file.) The report discusses the reading habits of teens and adults and considers the frequency with which different age groups read for pleasure, read a book, and read at all.

Reading the study one has to ask, how did those gathering the data define reading? For example, there is a finding that states "Teens and young adults spend less time reading than people of other age groups." How can that be true? Don't teens read when surfing YouTube, looking for something on Google, figuring out how to improve their gaming scores, checking out photos on Flickr?

Maybe it's because the authors of the report don't consider using the web, playing video games, or even emailing to encompass valid reading opportunities. For example another finding states "Even when reading does occur, it competes with other media." One of the sub-bullets in that finding is that "20% of their reading time is shared by TV watching, video/computer game-playing, instant messaging, e-mailing, or Web surfing." Isn't it pretty obvious that IMing, emailing, and web surfing require reading?

There are some valid concerns about multitasking and reading comprehension outlined in this report. However, if we as a society don't seriously investigate how we define reading, and recognize that reading formats other than books is reading, we are going to alienate many teens and younger generations.

When you read about the report (or read the actual document) think about what the research really looked at, how the researchers defined reading, and how the data does or doesn't reflect what you are seeing in your community and setting. Be careful not to make teens feel that just because they are reading something online, and not reading a traditional format such as a paperback book, that that reading doesn't count. Let teens know that reading in a variety of formats is something you respect and value.


Digital "Telephone"

Remember that game of Telephone where the original message gets wildly distorted? Blogs (like any means of communication) can also get things wrong, even after three degrees of separation. Here's where library and information professionals can step in, and remind folks to verify their sources!

From the Young Go-getter blog:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bloglines - Need Help with an Avatar?

Bloglines user has sent this item to you.


Need Help with an Avatar?

In YALSA Info.

Here's a short video on an introduction to making an avatar. Feel free to watch it to get ideas for your own for the Create Your Own Avatar contest during YALSA's Gaming Extravaganza during Midwinter. Another great resource for creating avatars can be found here created by librarian Jami Schwarzwalder.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki


Friday, November 16, 2007

Bloglines - New Book on Google

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

interesting article on do you feel about this company?

Stephen's Lighthouse
Stuff of interest to me that may be of interest to library folk.

New Book on Google

By stephen

Are you or your institution one of Google's partners? It's a tad pricey but Steve's bookks are always good.

Stephen E. Arnold

Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator

"This is the first time someone has made a detailed study of the major patents held by Google and has extrapolated the company's possible business strategies. Traditionally, it has been difficult to get to grips with what Google is. The company is not specifically secretive; rather, it is unforthcoming about its aims, plans, strategies and ambitions. "Provide access to the world's knowledge" is about as focused an articulation of mission as one can get from the Google people. No big PR puffs; no in-depth briefings. And, from a quick outside perusal, the company seems to dabble in all sorts of technology areas and buy up all sorts of high-tech companies, which makes measuring progress or evaluating strategic orientation somewhat difficult.

Stephen Arnold, in this successor to "The Google Legacy", concentrates on analysing Google's potential via a study of the company's intellectual property (patents). Google is a company of engineers and mathematicians, not a company of sales, promotion and legal wizards. Mathematics is the foundation of Google's wizardry and, as analysed by Arnold in this new study, the Googleplex is a wondrous construct that gives Google a major competitive advantage in a wide variety of possible fields: enterprise services and computing, web and enterprise search, publishing, banking, advertising, telecommunications. The Googleplex can crunch, analyse and extrapolate rapidly, intelligently and economically from extremely large quantities of data. The owners of such a machine can test and probe a variety of markets, and their existing base income from advertising gives them billions of dollars to use in their probes and explorations. "Innovation at Google is the fuel needed to power the Googleplex and to satisfy Google's hunger for ever more powerful, capable systems and software," explains Arnold. "Google, unlike Amazon or Yahoo, is built on mathematics, not engineering".

This major new study of Google concentrates on deriving information about the company from an analysis of its key patents. These patents are often difficult to discover, since Google rarely files under the Google name; an exhaustive hunt of some of the key Google technical staff is required in order to unearth many of the patents held by Google. "I have a keen awareness of Google's transformation from a search company to a digital Exxon or Wal*Mart," writes Stephen Arnold in the current study. "These are companies that operate at a scale that their competitors cannot easily match. If Google can continue its upward trajectory, it will emerge as a genetic variant of the multi-national corporation or what I call a supra-national enterprise."'

Lots more after the link.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

OPL Plus (not just for OPLs anymore) : GREAT FIREFOX EXTENSION

michelle has sent you a link to a blog:

Here's a handy Firefox extension called Read Me Later. I plan to use it so I don't have to clutter my account with one-time only reads on the web.

Blog: OPL Plus (not just for OPLs anymore)

Powered by Blogger

Library Journal - What's Still Wrong with Reference

How would YOU like to improve reference services?

What's Still Wrong with Reference
Read the full article at:

Bloglines - Connect-the-Dots Tattoo

Just for fun!

The Neat Side of the Web

Connect-the-Dots Tattoo

By Alex on Tattoo, Etc.

Colleen Venable is obsessed with giraffes (it all started when she lost a giraffe toy as a child, which sets off a 3 year hunt for that particular stuffed animal. Long story short 1,712 giraffes later, she found it!).

As part of her art project The Stalking and Murdering of a Childhood Giraffe Project, Colleen decided to get an "extremely visible invisible tattoo": a connect-the-dot tattoo of the giraffe toy. (She traced the giraffe with a pen for us all to see)

Links: Colleen's Flickr Photoset | LiveJournal account of the whole shebang


Monday, November 12, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of November 12, 2007

Hey, this is a short post on ridiculous LCSH because I'm starting to feel the pressure of classes, and I really should be working on assignments. Here are this week's findings, including one for French speakers:
  • Primate remains
  • Walk-up windows
  • Total war
  • Runescape
  • Library Web sites
  • Mad scientist films
  • National parks and reserves - United States - Humor
  • Late blight of potato
  • Quinze joies de mariage
Match the picture with the subject heading!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Become a Power User

Probably many of you are already hip to the organizational usefulness of I jumped on the band-wagon myself last Spring while working on a project for LIS 521, discovering that it would let my partner and I easily share web resources. However, since that time I have largely forgotten about it, and only manage to think about it when I come across something that is desperately important for me to look at later, even though I know damn well I'll never actually make it back.

Well, no more! Check out this blog entry from Web Worker Daily, and take in some tips that will help you become a social tagging dynamo!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Library Comics

Of course, there's Unshelved by Gene Ambaum (who's also a 2007 Library Journal Mover and Shaker) and Bill Barnes. But now there's also Shelf Check (by Emily Lloyd) and Turn the Page (by Jayson).

And if you're inspired to create your own online comics, there's Stripgenerator.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of November 5, 2007

Every once in a while, I come across something that should be a subject heading in the Library of Congress. Two cities in the United States (Angels Camp, California and Jefferson, Oregon) claim to be "Frog-Jumping Capital of the World," while Valley City claims to be the "Frog-Jumping Capital of Ohio." Old Mill Village, Pennsylvania holds an annual frog-jumping competition as well. In terms of monographs, there is a short story called the "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain and a children's book called "Jump, Frog, Jump" by Robert Kalan (that has received 5-star reviews on Amazon!) Yet the Library of Congress fails to recognize the activity as worthy of classification. Seems to me we should be cataloging and preserving this important piece of our American heritage.

An important distinction: Frog-jumping competitions generally measure jumping distances of amphibians. However, a frog-jump is also a human endeavor recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records - where a person holds his or her big toes while jumping. The current record for human frog-jumping is 10 meters in 9.5 seconds.
  • Swimming - Kick
  • Nursing - Pictorial Works
  • Sport Utility Vehicles - Crashworthiness
  • Peat bogs - Statistical methods
  • Hunting dogs in art
  • Strap-on sex
  • Buddy films
  • Male pregnancy

Other things to be concerned about this week: November initiatives and robot frogs. Rock the vote and put a stop to frog-bots.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween?

A little belated, but perhaps a head start for next year's costume?

Your very own Christopher Walken mask:

(Found via Unshelved's blog)

Monday, October 29, 2007

iSchool Launches New Podcast Series

A new podcast series lets you get your iSchool news on the go. With stories that capture the impact of iSchool work, each issue brings to life the voices of faculty, students and staff—information leaders who are moving the field forward.

The first issue, to be released tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30, features an interview with Dean Harry Bruce. He talks about his roots in rural Australia and some of the inspiration that launched his career in information. The first and subsequent issues will be released every three weeks at

Like every newborn, the podcast needs a name. Submit a suggestion. If we use your suggestion, you’ll win a $25 gift certificate to the University Bookstore. Listen to the first issue for the email address you’ll use to send your name suggestions, comments and story ideas.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tips for Winter Registration

As we approach the halfway mark for autumn quarter, we’ll need to take a break from our coursework and think about what to take next quarter. Period I registration starts bright and early on Friday, November 2nd at 6 am. Here are some quick tips to help you plan out your schedule:
  1. Start by looking at the winter course offerings for your respective program. Pick out a mix of potential classes according to what you need for your core requirements and where your interests fall.
  2. Look at the 2007-2008 Projected Course Calendar. Are there classes offered in the spring that you could hold off on taking during the winter quarter? Would you rather take LIS 560 distance in the winter, or wait until spring for the day course?
  3. Find out what other students thought of a class by looking at the Course Evaluations or better yet, talk to a fellow student who’s already taken the class.
  4. Talk to your faculty advisor or academic advisor. If you have trouble deciding between classes or choosing between professors, your advisor can be a great resource for helping you with your decision.
  5. Take a look at classes offered outside of your program. These don’t have to be limited to iSchool classes but could include electives in Technical Communications, Public Affairs, Computer Science, etc. Just be sure to find out any extra steps you need to take to get into the class, such as submitting an Out-of-School Approval Form, or getting permission from the instructor.
  6. If there’s a class that you absolutely need to get into, definitely wake up before 6AM. Winter and spring classes seem to fill up remarkably quickly. Waking up at 9 am and logging in to register only to find that your classes are full is a bad, bad feeling.
With that, good luck and don’t forget to celebrate Day of the Dead. Anyone have a good Pan de Muerto recipe?

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of October 29, 2007

I can't get over the fact that laser guns in movies and television shows consistently emit red pulses. What is it about the color red that makes it such a dangerous or threatening color? Is it because red is the same hue as blood? Perhaps it's because the first constructed laser was a ruby laser. In 1960, T.H. Maiman developed a pulsed laser with a flash tube that surrounded a ruby rod, a mineral that absorbs green and blue light (producing a pink or red color). This type of laser was used to determine the exact distance from the Earth to the Moon in an Apollo mission (with an accuracy of about 15 cm). Of course, lasers still haven't replaced bullets, but they have an interesting fictional history.

Besides "Laser weapons," here are some other weird LC subjects:
  • Breastfeeding - Cote Divoire - Economic Aspects
  • Infant salvation
  • False alarms - United States - Prevention
  • Utility rooms - Japan
  • Lunchbox cookery - Safety measures
  • Verbal self-defense
  • Milking machines
  • Compulsive hair pulling

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

OCLC Report on Social Networking

OCLC just released a report called Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World, which addresses social networking and what role libraries may play in this area. Based on their earlier reports, I'm sure it will present fascinating research.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of October 22, 2007

I often associate Ewan McGregor with polar bears. This is because I don't have cable and I end up watching PBS specials late at night. One such special was titled "The Polar Bears of Churchill," where Ewan ventures to a small Canadian town on the Hudson Bay. In Churchill, polar bears often encroach on the town's borders while looking for food and they have to be tranquilized from time to time. Ewan comments on these events with his traditional Scottish charm and he even plays guitar. I was smitten, I tell you. What else do Ewan and polar bears have in common? They both have unique LC subject headings: "Ewan McGregor, 1971-" and "Polar bear watching industry." Here are the rest of this week's unusual tags:
  • Saw filing - History
  • Love-hate relationships
  • Oz (Imaginary Place)
  • Businessmen - language
  • Megalomania
  • Cookery - Dogfish
  • Leopard men
  • Headlight glare - Cost effectiveness

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thoughts on Library School

Here's what Nicole Engard learned (and didn't learn) from library school @ Drexel. How does this mesh with your experience at the iSchool?

Can't Get Enough Harry?

Then read this transcript of JK Rowling's Q & A session with Harry P fans at Carnegie Hall. You'll learn about Dumbledore's romantic past, Hagrid's 22 or no children, an alternative Weasley family without Arthur, and much more.

(From The Leaky Cauldron)

Interview with a Vampire (and by "vampire" I mean "librarians")

From the Chronicle of Higher Education--an article called "Young Librarians, Talkin' Bout Their Generation" that features interviews with eight youngish librarians re: the future of libraries.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sequel to "Machine is Us/ing Us"

Here's a 5-minute YouTube video that addresses information stored digitally: "Information R/evolution" by Michael Wesch (Kansas State University?).

Wesch also did a great video called "Machine is Us/ing Us" which I first saw in a webpage design class with Terry Brooks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blog of the Moment

Hello iSchoolers and friends,

Here's what I hope will be a fairly regular "column" on this blog this year (or at least this quarter)--"blog of the moment." (I thought about doing a blog of the day or blog of the week segment, but prefer more spontaneity.)

Over the past year, I've been tracking many blogs (413 as of tonight!), most of which are library-related. So I figure I'll highlight which ones seem the most useful or interesting or just plain fun.

First up is one of my favorites, Information Wants to Be Free, by self-proclaimed "librarian, writer and tech geek" Meredith Farkas. She writes thoughtfully about issues of technology use in libraries, and is one of the main bloggers in the so-called Library 2.0 movement. This year, Information Today published her first book, Social Software in Libraries, which is well worth checking out if you would like to explore using blogs, wikis, and other web technologies to enhance existing library services.

Three words that describe her blog posts: reasonable, balanced, and diplomatic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of October 15, 2007

I found this photo when looking for pictures of old people playing softball (one of this week's entries). However, I think this photo better represents the subject heading: "Beer Therapeutic Use Early Works to 1800." How do you explain a bare-chested man wearing a "Gimli" mask on a scooter with a plastic ax? Those five cans of Busch stacked on the fence of the backstop. Thanks to light beer, this man is transformed into a dwarf with great strength and sense of justice. But I don't think that scooter will make it through the Mines of Moria.

Without further ado, this week's scholarly findings:
  • Elbow growth
  • Period (Punctuation)
  • Footbinding in literature
  • Chemical carriers (Tankers) - Fiction
  • Garbage as feed
  • Menu design - Russia (Federation) - Saint Petersburg
  • Softball for older people
  • Idealism, Polish

I was going to include "Balloons Accidents United States," but apparently child asphyxiation with balloons is a serious problem. According to a 1997 New York Times report, nearly a third of choking-related fatalities from 1972 to 1992 were caused by latex balloons. Only food products like hot dogs, peanuts and grapes are more dangerous than balloons. Sorry to be a downer. I was thinking more about dirigibles. Or those silly people who decided to attach balloons to their lawnchairs. Yes, this has happened more than once.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"We Read Banned Books!" Wrap-up

This last week was Banned Books Week, and the most notable happening in the iSchool (and of course I'm not just saying this because I helped put it on!) was the "We Read Banned Books!" event, sponsored by SALA on Oct. 4th in Odegaard. About 25 people from the iSchool community and beyond showed up to listen to local writers, artists, and librarians come and share some of their favorite banned literature.

After opening remarks from SALA veep Sonja Sutherland (which you can read here) the event kicked off with a rollicking start. Rock journalist Charles R. Cross shared some beautiful and steamy passages from D.H. Lawrence's 1928 novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. Cross recalled first reading the book as a teenager and noted that it was easy for him to find the sex scenes to share at the night's reading in his copy of the book because, as a youth, he had dog-eared those particular passages. Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in England for 32 years after its initial private publication.

Cross was followed Cody Walker (UW English Instructor) and Wendy Call (editor of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer's Guide), both Writers in Residence at the Richard Hugo House. Walker shared passages from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, and reminded us that Whitman once said "The dirtiest book is the expurgated book." Call presented an autobiographical essay about her relationship to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and the serendipity that entered her life the times that she has read it. The Handmaid's Tale is #37 on the ALA's list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.

Local children's book author Laura McGee Kvanosky read from Susan Patton's The Higher Power of Lucky, a book for young readers that caused a stir earlier this year for its use of the word "scrotum," which prompted some school libraries to censor the book. The ALA responded to this controversy with a statement asserting the book's value, which Kvanosky charmingly echoed during her portion of the event. She read us the offending, scrotum-filled section and I think everyone in attendance agreed: sometimes you just have to call a scrotum a scrotum. Kvanosky also noted the tainting effect that censorship can send throughout the literary community, noting serious discussions she has had with publishers over whether she could depict two little fox girls playing card and changing their clothes (not at the same time, mind you).

David Wright, a fiction librarian at SPL, then took us to the dark side of intellectual freedom, reading a chilling passage from The Turner Diaries, a work of speculative fiction that is also chock-full of white supremacist propaganda. This book details a revolutionary struggle for "racial purity" in the United States, and has inspired a number of white supremacist groups and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. In the passage Wright shared, the narrator of the book details the execution and public display of thousands of "race traitors" in Los Angeles as a means of pacifying the population.

Wright was obviously (and understandably) nervous as he read this passage and apologized several times over, but his point was a powerful one. It is perhaps too easy during Banned Books Week to think of all the Huck Finns, Harry Potters, and Cather in the Ryes of the world: "Important Works of Literature" that liberal humanists have to defend against those who are scared by challenges to their worldview. I'm not saying that this isn't important, even while I admit that there is an element of elitism and self-righteousness worked into this equation. We also have to remember that there are books like The Turner Diaries, filled with ideas that we (and most people) will find repugnant, racist, even dangerous, and we have to defend them just as much (and maybe more) than I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Why? Because it is our job to protest ideas, and to make sure they are available for those who want them, pure and simple. It's a hard message, and I applaud Wright's courage in making us remember it.

The evening finished on a more upbeat note, with local comic artist Ellen Forney's hilarious reading from Judy Blume's Forever, oft attacked for its honest depictions of teenage sex. Forney invited Cody Walker back up to the stage to read a particularly juicy scene. She then went on to talk about challenges to her own book I Love Led Zeppelin, a collection of comics which has been pulled from several libraries for its frank sexual content, including a section titled "How To Fuck a Woman With Your Hands." She shared some of the e-mail exchanges that she has had with librarians across the country, and offered insight onto how content decisions are sometimes made from within the library before they even have a chance to be made by the community they serve.

All in all, it was a wonderful event: inspiring, thought-provoking, hilarious, frank, and even a bit disturbing. And really, that's just how Banned Books Week should be. Major thanks to all of the readers, and to Bo Kinney and Sonja Sutherland for their work putting it on.

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of October 8, 2007

Hey iSchoolers,

Here's another dose of silly Library of Congress subject headings. The Silverfish LCSH vault is running low, so we would appreciate any contributions. Whenever you acquaint yourself with fantastic subjects like "Rock Music Yugoslavia" or "Chain Saws Accidents," please share it with the rest of the Information School community. Comment or submit your own posting!
          • Martians in mass media
          • Long Suffering - See Meekness
          • Crossword puzzle makers - Drama
          • Hurricane modification
          • Intelligent buildings
          • Trading with the enemy
          • Bouncers - Great Britain
          • Incubi
In reference to one of the above selections...I just want to point out that the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration investigated the following methods in attempting to control hurricanes: cooling the ocean with cryogenic material or icebergs, blowing the hurricane apart with hydrogen bombs, injecting air into the center with a huge maneuverable tube to raise the central pressure, and blowing the storm away from land with windmills.

Monday, October 8, 2007

keyboard shortcuts for mozilla firefox

These just might make my online life easier!  :)  Hope they help you too.  mw

backspace=previous page

alt+home=home page

ctrl+(+)=increase text size

ctrl+(-)=decrease text size

ctrl+f=find text on page

ctrl+d=bookmark page

Virtual Library

Here is a piece of digital art by Yann Serandour called "Ma bibliotheque virtuelle" (sorry I'm missing all the accent marks). Why am I posting it? It just looks cool.

Anyone have links to sites that mix art with libraries?

Usability Issues

From Smashing Magazine's blog, here are "30 usability issues to be aware of." Not so compelling post title, but compelling principles to remember (such as the 3-click rule: "users stop using the site if they aren’t able to find the information or access the site feature within 3 mouse clicks").

Library Potties

Have you visited any magnificent bathrooms lately? Did said bathroom(s) reside in a library? If so, the bloggers at Checking Out and Checking In are calling for your photos as part of the Bathroom Blogfest.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Orientation 2007

I had been on vacation for a couple of months, so it was difficult to get out of bed for the 8:30 start time of the MLIS orientation. I made it to campus driven by large quantities of caffeine and my percolating excitement for the upcoming two years. Upon arrival, I knew my new colleagues were already acclimating to Seattle life as they hovered around with coffee in hand, discussing their advisor appointments, while awaiting their turn to be photographed for our directory.

The Residential-MLIS orientation began with Karen Fisher and Marie Potter’s introduction to the program before Dr. Harry Bruce took to the podium. During Bruce’s welcome we learned that this cohort was the most competitive in the iSchool’s history with only a 42% acceptance rate. This was mostly an informational session, however my peers and I had fun getting to know each other during the introductory ice-breaker. From my casual conversations with other first year students, I feel confidant in saying that the highlight of the morning session occurred near the end when we broke into groups lead by second-year students who gave us the inside scoop on the “unofficial” information of the iSchool.

During the afternoon, all of the new iSchool students convened in Kane Hall for our official welcome to the school. The faculty introduced themselves and their research and we were ushered upstairs for a social event. Here my colleagues and I learned and put into practice our first professional lesson during our tenure at the iSchool – the importance of building relationships because of the interdisciplinary nature of our work.

19th Century Mustaches

This is too good not to share: the Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century blog is...just that.

Here is a photo from said blog which is described as "Pazyryk Horsemen, some 300 years before the birth of Christ."

Found via BoingBoing.

College students' perceptions of the library

OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center) published a report in 2005 on college students' perceptions of the library. It talks about their library usage and their awareness of library resources. Also discusses internet search engines vs. libraries and librarians and the "library brand." Useful for academic librarian wannabes and others...

Here are a couple of other reports published by OCLC, along with descriptions from the website:

2003 Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition
The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition report was produced for OCLC’s worldwide membership to examine the significant issues and trends impacting OCLC, libraries, museums, archives and other allied organizations, both now and in the future. The scan provides a high-level view of the information landscape, intended both to inform and stimulate discussion about future strategic directions.

Libraries: How They Stack Up
Libraries: How They Stack Up, released in 2003, provides a snapshot of the economic impact of libraries worldwide. The report contains some interesting comparisons of library economics and activies to other sectors, professions and destinations in the global economy.

A Dispatch From SLA 2007

By Amy Donahue ‘07, MLIS

The first time I went to Denver, I tried local brews. I heard Al Gore speak. I took pictures of the Colorado Capitol Building. I stayed in a hotel where lemonheads instead of mints were left on the pillow. But I wasn’t an ordinary tourist taking my fill of the Mile High City – I was an attendee of the Special Library Association’s annual conference. And I have to admit; I had an amazing time and learned far more than I could have learned just visiting.

I first became involved with SLA because of an internship I had in a biotechnology company’s library. For the same reasons that I applied for the internship in the first place (in a nutshell, an interest in science and health), my focus within SLA has, and continues to be, within the Pharmaceutical and Health Technology Division. And I found myself with a fabulous opportunity in the form of the conference to both further explore this aspect of librarianship and to expand my horizons to areas ranging from global librarianship to non-profit and government. And that doesn’t take into account the vendors and social events!

As a matter of fact, two of my three favorite sessions weren’t related to science at all (well, I suppose they are related to library science…forgive my poor joke). The Synergy General Session, held at the beginning of the conference, featured a round-table including the well known Stephen Abram, Clifford Lynch and Eugenie Prime. Tom Hogan asked difficult questions and received some intriguing answers that motivated me for the rest of the conference: check out for a short clip.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Marcia Ellen Bates’ program on “How to Convince Your Clients They Desperately Need You”. Bates is a highly capable speaker who had me hooked the whole time (I believe I actually laughed several times—some librarians can make jokes). As a bonus, everything she said was applicable to any library situation you may find yourself in, from consulting to public. One suggestion: give your clients a survey asking which provided services are useful. Give them the option to choose none of the above. If they actually choose that option, provide new (not just improved) services! It may seem obvious, but frankly, I don’t think it’s said often enough.

Finally, the second to last session I attended was amazing, and did actually have something to do with science. Next-Gen scientists, to be precise. The session was a unique format; we were arranged in small groups and had open discussions that we shared with the whole large group at the end. While the sound system and the logistics of the set-up weren’t quite perfect, I still found myself overwhelmed by the intelligence and openness with which we talked about controversial issues like getting rid of scientific books (costs of new editions every year; younger scientists more used to everything online anyway) and the loss of the reference desk. My then-future colleagues were not afraid and met these issues head on. Needless to say, I walked away with several new business cards.

These sessions barely touch the surface of my overall experience at SLA ’07. I spoke with vendors, met amazing people at division lunches and socials (both my own and others), and heard Al Gore and Scott Adams speak (SLA really does get amazing speakers). I met a friend whom I had only known through e-mail and phone conversations (we worked at the same biotech, but on opposite ends of the country). The list goes on and on, but I’m sure you have homework you should be doing.

Before ending this brief synopsis, I would like to thank Nancy Gershenfeld and the committee of the Frost-Gershenfeld award for making my trip possible. And I would like to extend to all readers an invitation to e-mail me with any questions about my experience at SLA ’07 (a note to future attendees: wear comfortable shoes and pick sessions before you head out)! Also feel free to check out the 2007 Conference website at (there’s even a blog).

See you in Seattle for SLA ’08!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of October 1, 2007

On Saturday morning, I purchased a book called "Hanimals" at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale in Magnuson Park. When I opened the book, I was disappointed to find that there were no subject headings such as "Body parts as animals," "Shadow puppets, postmodernist" or "Painted digits." This art book had escaped the all-knowing eyes of catalogers and reminds me of how much work we have to do in this world. That's why I get up every morning...the anticipation of adding value to information.

This week's submissions come from first-year students who attended the ALISS/Silverfish brownbag event on Friday. Each student had about five minutes to flip through the big red subject heading books (located near the student mailboxes) to come up with the wackiest terms. Here is what they uncovered:
  • Forest fires, citizen participation
  • Botany, experimental
  • Umbrella repairers
  • Quitch - grass
  • Beanosaurs (Trademark)
  • Proctoscopy
  • Manned maneuvering units
  • Miniature horses
  • Prune industry
  • Cockroaches in Literature
  • Quails as pets
And the first prize winning entry was...
  • Metabolism in Architecture (found by Zach Hale)
Finding a quality picture of a pet quail was a lot harder than you'd imagine...but it wasn't so hard to find quail poetry.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings: Week of Sept 24, 2007

The Silverfish Team has been hard at work all summer searching for the most ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings to share with our fellow students. Here are some choice selections from our database...

  • Nomads-Sedentarizationcat with sock
  • Dream Interpretation - Political Aspects
  • Sock fetishism
  • Sit-down dancing
  • Unemployed, Writings of the
  • Pinstriping of motor vehicles
  • Animal carcasses in art
  • Chocolate Congresses

Found any lately? Add 'em here.

Also, don't miss out on the wacky LCSH competition at the ALISS/Silverfish New Student Brown Bag on Friday, 9/29 from 11:30 to 12:30 in MGH420.

Friday, September 21, 2007

M.I.A.’s Newest Album "Kala" WILL Be the Soundtrack for the Next Dozen iSchool Dance Parties

The Sri Lankan-by-way-of-London rapper M.I.A. (or Maya Arulpragasum, if you prefer) is no stranger to ass-shaking. Her 2005 debut Arular was easily one of the funkiest albums of that year, with its grimy electro beats and much-reviled rhymes about the Palestine Liberation Organization. I was depressed and living in Olympia, WA at the time of its release, and I always used to say that it was an album that made me wish that I had friends so that I could invite them over for a dance party.

With Kala, M.I.A. has indeed come back, in her words, “with power, power.” Mostly recorded during an extended Third World-tour, the songs here are even more globally-minded than on her debut and infused with a hungry, occasionally bloodthirsty, energy. Opener “Bamboo Banga” starts on a fairly inauspicious note, with scratchy Detroit techno drums and M.I.A. intoning the lyrics to Jonathan Richman’s 1976 proto-punk classic “Roadrunner” with her customary sing-songy delivery and thick British accent. It builds slowly, with African hand-drums growing in the mix until, suddenly, Bollywood strings swoop in from nowhere and you’ve got a full-on rocker on your hands. It’s a brilliant opening, taking the audience from the minimalist sound of her debut to the more complex palate of the follow-up in this one song. It’s equal parts mission statement and bangin’ opener.

This raucous pace keeps up through the first half of Kala, as does the free-associative sampling (or blatant stealing). Lead single “Bird Flu” rides on frantic tribal drums and chicken squawks. Stand-out “Jimmy” is actually a cover of an 80’s Bollywood number that Maya remembers dancing to as a kid, complete with swirling strings and canned disco rhythms (check out the psychedelic video at the end of this review). “Mango Pickle Down River” is built around a didgeridoo loop, a human beat-box, and the rhymes of The Wilcannia Mob, a pre-adolescent group of Aboriginal rappers. If it sounds weird it is, but it also achieves M.I.A.’s goal of putting “people on the map that never seen a map” in an exciting way.

Halfway through things finally slow down a bit, and it’s here that M.I.A.’s violently revolutionary lyrics and problematic politics come strikingly to the fore. The cut “$20,” is a delirious bit of psychedelia, biting the bass-line from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and the immortal chorus of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” while discussing the price of AK-47 assault rifles in Africa. In the next track “World Town” a call-and-response style chorus exhorts the audience “Hands up/guns out/represent/the World Town.” The woozy penultimate track “Paper Planes” uses the sound of gunshots as Maya (channeling Wreckx-N-Effect) pronounces “All I wanna do is a [blam! blam! blam! blam]/and a [ka-ching!]/ and take your money!”

What are listeners to make of this kind of posturing? It is in many respects very violent music, and the pacifist in me cringes at the idea of excusing this violence simply because it is so charmingly packaged. This album has far more sampled gunshots on it than any other album I own, and hearing them the first time was a bit jarring and unsettling. Maya's own father has ties to the Sri Lankan revolutionary group the Tamil Tigers, so her affinity for political violence makes a certain amount of sense, and it's brave of her to be so vocal about it in the age of the NSA. It's small wonder she had to cancel her performance at last May's Sasquatch Music Festival due to visa issues (which created no small amount of sadness in the heart of this reviewer).

However, closer examination reveals that M.I.A.’s polemic is both universal and hollow, advocating a kind of global liberation and freedom as an ideal, but not connecting itself to any movement or plan. There's an obvious and admirable concern for the plight of people the world over, but her revolutionary pronouncements become muddled and contradictory. She wants to fight “The Man,” but she doesn’t want to stop and figure out who or what “The Man” is.

Ultimately, M.I.A. shows herself to be more interested in shaking asses than equalizing classes. “Come Down,” the album’s closing duet with uber-producer Timbaland is all about the booty and also more relaxed than anything else here. It’s a stark reminder that this is all just pop music, but M.I.A.’s global perspective and sense of justice are both refreshing and invigorating.

This is a terrific and, I would argue, essential album. There’s not a weak song on here, and it’s guaranteed to keep your blood pumping over the course of the coming winter months. Buy this and start your own dance party immediately. Just be sure to invite me.

Jimmy Music Video

In Honor of National Banned Books Week, SALA Presents "We Read Banned Books! A Celebration of Banned and Challenged Literature"

National Banned Books Week is right around the corner, September 29th to October 6th. To recognize this event, the UW Student Chapter of the American Library Association (SALA) is presenting a special event. Titled "We Read Banned Books! A Celebration of Banned and Challenged Literature," this free event will take place on October 4th, 2007 at 6:30 pm in Room 220 of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, right off of Red Square on the UW Campus. Head to the SALA homepage for more details.

The following remarks about this important week are from Sonja Sutherland, MLIS student, SALA vice-president, and MC of "We Read Banned Books!":

"At the end of September, libraries across the country celebrate Banned Books Week, as they have done every year since 1982. The American Library Association (ALA) compiles and publishes a list books that were challenged or banned in the previous year. Among the most challenged books over the past decade have been Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Madelaine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, J.K. Rowling’ Harry Potter series, Lois Lowry’s The Giver and, oddly enough, a picture-book by Martin Hanford called Where’s Waldo. Along with these are classics that are continually challenged: The Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, to name just a few.

"Although the ALA spearheads Banned Books Week, a variety of other organizations commemorate it in their own way. For instance, Amnesty International draws attention to the fate of those who are persecuted for works that they write, circulate or read. This year, their list includes writers such as Anna Politskovskaya, a Russian journalist who had been harassed by authorities for writing about the human rights situation in Chechnya, and was murdered in her apartment building last year; it also includes Karim Amer and Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, two prominent bloggers in Egypt who were imprisoned for their writing.

"I’ll close with a tiny excerpt from one of my favorite speeches regarding freedom of expression, delivered by Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. in 1951 to the Authors Guild Council. I find that his words are just as relevant now as they were then. In fact, if one simply substitutes the word "Communist" with "terrorist," the result is startlingly applicable to today’s political scenario:

"'We know that the Communist threat is the basis of the fears that sweep our communities. We know that that threat has substance to it. ... But we also know that the safety of our civilization lies in making freedom of thought and freedom of speech vital, vivid features of our life.'”

We hope to see you all there.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Library Student’s First Law Library Experience by Kate Stockert

As the Metro bus expeditiously transported me downtown for the first day of my directed fieldwork at King County Law Library (KCLL), I found myself both giddy and nervous, wondering whether my skills and education would be sufficient for the role. Fortunately, from the first moment I stepped into the library, the KCLL staff welcomed me, sharing their breadth of knowledge, support, and patience. Each staff member took time to explain to me the intricacies of the library and his or her respective role within it. Looking back I realize how invaluable my time at KCLL will prove when I next step out into the job market.

Early Spring Quarter, resume in hand, I met with my advisor Penny Hazelton to discuss the process for setting up a directed fieldwork. Since Penny is a prominent member of the law library community, she was able to put me in contact with libraries interested in hosting me for the summer. Once we found a host library and I had registered for the course, Lorraine Bruce provided the necessary paperwork and instructions.

The first step of the directed fieldwork program required KCLL and me to agree upon five learning objectives as a means of anchoring my experience to achievable goals. The KCLL staff tailored the five objectives to my future career aspirations of working as an instructional and reference librarian, providing me with opportunities to co-teach legal research classes, and a chance to jump on board the technological superhighway by engaging in new Web 2.0 technologies. Each objective offered a good balance of autonomy and guidance, allowing me to spend time on my own to complete projects, and ask for help when needed.

Though learning reference requires several months of intense training and endless practice, KCLL found a way to help me get my feet wet by allowing me to respond to questions generated by members of the public via the library’s electronic QuestionPoint system. After I formulated responses, the KCLL staff reviewed my work and offered suggestions for improvement. These asynchronous email correspondences allowed me room to learn legal reference, since the responses were not needed immediately.

KCLL also provided me with the opportunity to contribute to the Library’s high-tech projects such as podcasting (KCLL’s SideBar) and composing a “Tech Tip” for the quarterly e-News. I particularly enjoyed writing the Tech Tip since it increases the information literacy levels of patrons, and is a great marketing tool for the library. Both the podcast and e-News helped me appreciate the law library’s need to market services and resources to patrons, and explore the multiple avenues available to libraries to “get the word out.” KCLL’s ingenuity with modern technologies helped me see the future of law libraries and the need for creativity and global thinking.

Overall, I found this experience inspiring and motivating, and it equipped me with new tools to use in class this coming school year. Thanks KCLL for a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dwindling Sun an Apt Metaphor for Boyle's "Sunshine"

Director Danny Boyle has made a career out of surprising his audience. From the brilliant twist-ending in his 1994 debut “Shallow Grave” (before twist-endings were hip!), through his darkly comic and heartwarming view of heroin addicts in 1996’s “Trainspotting,” to the last-minute villain switch in 2002’s brilliant zombie flick “28 Days Later,” an audience always has to stay on their toes when Boyle is behind the camera. Heck, every scene of 1997’s Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz raucous rom-com (spoof?) “A Life Less Ordinary” seems to exist solely to undermine our expectations, and to terrific effect. Boyle’s films excel when they are at their least predictable, but with “Sunshine,” Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland prove there may be a limit to such gamesmanship. It pains me to say that, as “Sunshine” could have been Boyle’s second masterpiece (this is being written by a guy who saw Trainspotting seven times in the theater). Instead we’re left with two-thirds of a great movie that abruptly descends into slasher-flick fluff.

“Sunshine” wants to tell the story of a mission in space to save the Sun. It seems the Sun is fizzling out, threatening all life on Earth. An 8-person crew aboard the spaceship Icarus II is sent to drop an enormous nuclear weapon into the middle of the Sun in the hopes of sparking a re-ignition. Boyle and Gardner are plainly walking in the footsteps of Kubrick’s “2001” and Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” in this part of the film, as serene shots of the exterior of the spaceship are mixed with light character development and plot exhibition: the mission is explained to the audience, changed by the crew, and then severely fouled-up by a couple simple mistakes.

This whole part of the film works beautifully, moving at a thoughtful pace while slowly increasing the tension and the stakes, and adding layer-upon-layer of moral complexity and ambiguity. As with the best sci-fi, the actions and choices of individual characters become a representation of the whole scientific endeavor, with brave people reduced to insignificance by the immensity of an untamable nature but struggling valiantly on for the benefit of mankind. Though some of the plot elements (noble sacrifices, team dissention) feel recycled, they are always worked into the story effectively so as to avoid feeling trite or, even worse, like parody.

Then the crew reaches the Icarus I, the ship sent on the same mission 7 years ago which disappeared close to its completion, and all hell breaks loose, both for the characters and in the screenplay. Suddenly the efforts of these noble figures in the face of an already impossible mission are not enough, and an unexpected third-act villain is introduced. The film quickly shifts from its previously serenely eerie pace to a frenetic mish-mash of quick cuts, muddled camera tricks, pointless gross-outs, and slasher flick clichés. We may have been watching “2001” a second ago but all of a sudden we’re watching “Cube,” and the film falls apart because of it.

It’s difficult to know why Boyle and Garland felt it necessary to veer so suddenly into this new direction. Were they trying (and failing) to offer the already rich moral complexities a human foil? Was the prospect of eight people flying into the Sun to save humanity just not dramatic enough? Did they write themselves into a corner and this was the only way they found to escape? Or, most terrifying at all, did somebody remember three drafts of the script into that, while thoughtful philosophical sci-fi doesn’t sell, slasher movies do?

Whatever the reasons, the film remains a spectacular failure. Boyle has always had an impressive and daring visual sense and he pulls no punches here, using creative in-camera and editing tricks and stunning special effects to create an engrossing world and allow us access into the characters’ mental states. The design of the space shuttle is unique and believable, and as the Sun looms ever closer you can feel the heat radiating off the screen. It’s worth a rental for the images alone, though I would advise the reader to skip the end once things get stabby.