Saturday, November 28, 2009

Web Books Publishing

I ran across an interesting site today, Web Books Publishing. According to the website, they specialize in EPUB and WEB books. EPUB books is a format of book can be read on desktops, laptops, the Sony Reader, Stanza (for iPhones) and FBReaders (Google's Android). In other words, the books you want to read from this site can be read on any of the above platforms.

From their site, "Our 'WEB books' are enhanced online books which let you highlight text and add notes. It is a great way for readers to share comments and for authors to get reader's feedback."

If you are dying to be a published author, the site will allow you to convert your book in Microsoft Word into an EPUB book. If you want to try to sell your book, they will publish it for you. Apparently it is free to publish, they take 25% of any sales.

The thing that I find particularly interesting on this site though is the number of classics that it has available. Even if you don't care about ever publishing, it does have over 1200 classic books you can read for free.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I was just re-reading my post about the demise of Grokker. I failed to mention that there is another search engine that clusters its results. It is called It doesn't have the visual maps that Grokker had, but it still can be helpful to have the search results grouped together.

Also, as an update, I think I have at least 2 students signed up to take my research strategies class at Rivendell College Spring semester. I'm so glad there will be at least 2 students who will learn to evaluate sources, develop good research topics/questions and how to find sources in many different formats. I'm looking forward to teaching and I hope my students learn some lifetime skills.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goodbye Grokker

'Tis a sad day. I just found out is no more. I was hoping that the fact I couldn't get to it was just a server problem, but I found out today it is gone. Ironically, I had to use Google to find out about it. Anyway, sounds like they ran out of money. Too bad. It was a great resource. Hopefully it will come back again someday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Praise to the Google!

I will be teaching a research strategies class next semester. I plan on teaching my students all kinds of cool ways to search for sources of information other than using Google. I'm hoping students actually sign up for my class, because the following strip encapsulates student thought on research:

Pearls Before Swine

Yes. This is what I'm up against.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Z" for Zotero

It's that time of year. The leaves are changing color and falling gently to the ground. There is a nip in our Colorado air. We are about half-way through the semester, which means it is time to start that research paper! Its not easy keeping track of all those books, articles and website you find for your papers. Yellow stickie notes flutter around you like those falling leaves. And you don't have access to RefWorks or EndNotes. What do you do?

Thanks to William B. Badke and his book, Research Strategies: Finding your Way Through the Information Fog, I learned about a FREE bibliographic organizer and citation generator called Zotero. It is an extension of Firefox. It allows you to keep track of your sources as you perform your research. If you find a web page that you want remember, it will allow you to link it, and it gives you all of the bibliographic information you need to cite it.

For instance, I have been reading a wonderful book called, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. I wanted to put this book in my Zotero library, so I went to Google books and found it. An icon of a book appeared in the box that shows the URL. I simply clicked on that icon, and all of the bibliographic information downloaded into my library. Since I am reading the paper edition of the book, I added to the record the library I borrowed the book from and its call number. It also has the ability for you to add notes, tags and relate documents to each other. If you can't find the book information online, you can always enter it by filling in the fields available for the different kinds of materials: books, journal articles, websites, etc.

You can always access your Zotero library by clicking on the "Zotero" icon that is always present in the lower right hand corner of your Firefox window.

The great thing about that is that I can then choose which citation style I need to use (I use Turabian) and print out a bibliography. It also has add-ons for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice so you can use Zotero to footnote or endnote your paper. And again, it can generate a bibliography for you.

Of course you should always double check the citations that Zotero prints out to make sure they are correct. But it is a great way to get started.

You will need to download the software. I did and I haven't had any problems. There are two versions, 1.0.10 and 2.0b7.4 beta. I decided to download the 1.0.10 since I didn't know if I really needed some of the collaborative things the beta version has. The more I use Zotero, however, I might decide to try the beta version.

The only downside to Zotero is that you have to be online to use it. If you are regularly someplace where you do not have internet access, this won't work. But if you needs something to help you keep track of all those sources, give Zotero a try.

UPDATE: I have been made aware that you can use Zotero offline. You can manage your sources, print bibliographies and add sources to your library manually. You just can't add via the internet. The good thing about that is you can use it to add citations, footnotes, etc. while you are offline. Cool!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bing, Fast Flip and Espresso

I am amazed at the constantly changing landscape of information retrieval and access. In one article today there were 2 different new tools available from search engines. As I was checking them out, I found out about something that affects public domain books. Its hard to keep up.

The two new things I tried out were Bing's visual search and Google's Fast Flip.

Putting aside the "ick factor" of visual searching (do we even need to read anymore?) I thought I would give the visual search a try. It clearly is not to be used for academic research (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you just want fluffy pop culture, there you go. Again, pushing aside my bias, I clicked on "dog breeds." A lovely box came up saying I need to install some Microsoft software to run this program. At this point, I had it and clicked "cancel." I really don't want to download more software I will never use. So, if you want, go ahead and try it and let me know what you think.

Next I tried Google's Fast Flip. At least I didn't have to download any new software. It is in beta, so I don't know if it will be around forever. I kind of like it. It allows you to scan the articles they post from 39 publications. You can browse by publication, topic, most viewed, magazine section (e.g., Health, Travel, World News), etc.

As I scanned the "Recent" section, I ran across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about a partnership between Google and On Demand Books to instantly publish public domain books using the Espresso Book Machine. I've read about these book machines being used in large universities to print out textbooks, but now these books are beginning to find their way into the mainstream.

I find a strange juxtaposition in this. You can access these books for free online through Google Books. You can get most of these books from a bunch of different web sources. We've been told that ebooks are catching on, Kindle is becoming huge and print books will some day be no more. And yet, Google makes a relationship with a company that prints books. I don't know how it will all end up, but I don't think the print book will go down without a fight.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Library Humor

I'm currently in the process of writing some lesson plans to teach a class at Rivendell College next semester on research strategies and information literacy. No yawning, its important stuff. But because a topic like that can make people get a little soporific, I wanted to find some amusing YouTube videos in connection with libraries and research that might entertain the students and lighten the mood. I ran across this gem from 1946:

"I don't know who wrote it, or what the title was, but I know it was a blue book."

"Well, you are in luck, young man. We have all of the blue books over here!" (What I wish the librarian had said.)

I also love the microfilm machine. Looks like it was the first one invented. I'm sure Edison wanted it back.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

School starts again

School is off to a busy start. Rivendell College started classes on Monday morning and the library has been used right away. It makes me happy to have a place where all the books can be in one room! With chairs, desks, a copy machine and even a sofa.

I'm excited that I've been able to help the students get to know some of our free online library resources. Two of our classes have assignments having them come in the library and speak with me about good websites for different subjects (thanks Bill!). The students are always amazed at the amount of quality material that is out there on the web. You just have to filter through a lot of junk sometimes to get to it. That's way I put it all in one place.

I am so looking forward to this school year and all the learning that will be going on.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Queen and Commonwealth

During our time in London, we did LOTS of stuff. In addition to the wonderful exhibitions at the British Library, we had the great pleasure of going to through the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. The Palace is open for just a few weeks each year in the summer when the Queen goes on holiday. We were there the second day it was open! Truthfully, I planned our trip so that we would be able to go to the Palace. It was amazing. I was overwhelmed at its beauty, the stuff on the walls, the history and importance of it all.

One of the neat things we got to see was a special exhibition of some of the Queen's dresses she wore on her Commonwealth trips throughout her reign. It is called "Queen and Commonwealth Exhibition." My daughter LOVED this exhibition, as did I. We marveled at the stunning dresses and saw how small in stature the Queen is when looking at her dresses close up. There are also many gifts given to Her Majesty on her different trips on display. Those were cool to see, too.

Of course photography is strictly forbidden in the Palace, so I don't have any pictures of the exhibit. I did find a short YouTube video from The Royal Channel that shows the Queen going through the exhibition before it opened. You can see the dresses behind her. Check it out.

If you live in London, or are going to be there before September 30, go through the Palace. It is worth it.

I really should work for the London Tourist Board.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The British Library Rocks!

Hello again!

Sorry it's been awhile since I've posted. It has been a busy summer.

We have just returned from our trip to London and it was brilliant. We did so many things! We are still recovering.

People have asked me what were some of my favorite things we did on our trip. There are many, but the one that works best for this blog was our visit to the British Library. I know, I'm such a dork. The actual library was cool, but there were two collections we looked at that were outstanding. The first collection was in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. It houses so many treasures, it is truly amazing. I has a special room for the Magna Carta. But in true British fashion, it is simply under glass in a small room along with some other associated documents. I saw a Gutenberg Bible, hand written lyrics of the Beatles, the Codex Sinaiticus, Jane Austen's writing desk, Da Vinci drawings, hand written scores by Mozart, Handel and Mendelson and so many other treasures. My poor husband and daughter left the gallery long before I did. All of this was free of charge! Check out the treasures online here.

The other exhibition we saw was Henry VIII: Man and Monarch. It has many, many original documents connected with the life of Henry VIII. It has not only books, but letters, decrees, diaries, paintings, illuminated manuscripts and all kinds of materials which walk you through his extraordinary life and the people who intersected his life (Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Cramner, Cromwell, his six wives to name a few). Many of these materials in the exhibit are only on loan to the British Library for this special exhibit, so it was a great honor to see these things all in one place. There was so much to see in this exhibit that we had to go back the next day so we could finish looking at it all. This exhibit is wonderful and if you get a chance to get to London before September 6 (the last day of the exhibit) you should make an effort to see it. It really is phenomenal. Click here to look at the online exhibit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Europeana is a new virtual library of images, text, recordings and videos from all over Europe. The digital artifacts come from museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It is currently in beta, so it's not as slick as I hope it will be. But it will eventually have millions of digital items available to access.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dumping Dewey

A co-worker of mine came into the Rivendell library yesterday and asked me if I had seen the article in the paper about libraries getting rid of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. I found it on the web today from both the Denver Post and Library Journal. There is a library district here in Colorado that is in the process of dumping the DDC for something they apparently came up with called WordThink. It is based on BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communication). Basically, they are going to make the districts libraries set up more like bookstores in grouping their books. They say that this is better for browsing and that people complain that they don't understand how the DDC works.

Good luck. I see so many problems with this. How will someone be able to find an exact title if it isn't shelved in an exact place? They may have figured out a way to do this, but it will involve some kind of system that will still be a mystery to some people.

Lots of books could go in two or more different subjects. Does a book on the History of Christianity go under history, Christianity or more generally, religion? It's not a bookstore where you can put a few copies in one place and some in the other.

I also think they are doing a huge disservice to their patrons by not teaching them how to use the DDC or any classification system. It really isn't that hard understand once it is explained. You can then use this knowledge in any other library that uses the DDC. You wouldn't say to someone that can't read, "Oh, that's okay. You don't need to learn to read. We'll have you listen to audiobooks instead." No, you teach them.

The DDC and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) systems both group books by subject. That's the whole point of classification systems in the first place. I run two libraries, one with DDC and one with LCC and I see people browsing all the time. They sometimes need some help finding right area to look in, but that is what we librarians are for.

Good luck to them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Sigh. When will it end? Yet another search engine has been launched, this time by none other than Microsoft. Which means there is a large number of people who won't use it for just that reason. Be that as it may, Microsoft now brings us....Bing. Yes, like the cherry. Or the last name of Chandler from Friends (which was the first thing I thought of when I heard the name of this thing--or Miss Chanadaler Bong for those who remember this episode one of the best episodes ever). But I digress.

Bing was developed to give Google a run for its money. Good luck with that. Anyway, I did my normal Henry VIII search and it looks pretty much like the way Google returns its results. There aren't as many advertisements along the right side like Google has, so that is a bonus. One thing I do like is when you put your mouse over the line that comes up on the right side of any of the results, it will pop up a window that shows the first few lines of the webpage. It also has available on that thumbnail links to other websites referenced on that page. This thumbnail gives you the ability to preview the site without having to go to it. That's pretty handy.

It also has your search history on the left side of the screen. This is cool because it will help you remember what you may have already tried when searching for something, or what worked and you want to go back. On the left side it also gives you related searches that might be helpful.

Across the top are images, videos, shopping, and maps (like Google maps). One thing that Bing does that Google doesn't in connection with the videos is that when you put your cursor over a thumbnail video, it will start playing the video. The images are more interactive with the cursor as well.

In the end, it does pretty much the same thing as Google, only with a few more interactive bells and whistles.

One interesting thing: When I searched Henry VIII on Google, I got 5,770,000 results. When I searched the same thing on Google, I got 10,200,000 results. Five million more hits? Why? And to what end? I'm not going to look through 5 million, let alone 10 million.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft and Bing can make a dent in Google's stronghold.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chesterton quotation

Have you ever heard someone say, "In the words of (fill in the blank) who said (fill in the blank again)," and you think to yourself, "I wonder if that person really did say that." Well, you are not alone.

Recently, a question was posted on the Association of Christian Librarian's (ACL) listserv where a fellow librarian was wondering about the quotation, "Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions," attributed to G.K. Chesterton. She wanted to know exactly where it could be found in his works. She said she looked on different quotation websites, but they just indicated that Chesterton said it, but not where if was found. I looked on under quotations and didn't find anything. I found this website from the American Chesterton Society that has a list of quotations and citations, but the quotation about tolerance is not included. No one on the listserv was able to find the citation to the quotation either.

As one of the librarians on the ACL listerserv said, "Reference librarians remind me of a herd or gaggle or pack of angry English bulldogs. They just never let go," the question was then sent to the reference desks at the Library of Congress and the British Library. The librarian from the Library of Congress sent a wonderful response outlining what she did to find try to find the answer and her outcome. She wasn't able to find the citation either! If anyone finds it, she wants to know too! The librarian at the British Library couldn't find anything either.

So now what? We librarians are a tenacious people and will remember this in the back of our minds. We will always be looking out for it. If it was by Chesterton, someone will find it. The problem is, do you ever know when you have looked everywhere and exhausted every resource? What if he never said it? Do you know when to stop? What a dilemma.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I had read a lot about the ballyhooed launch of Wolfram|Alpha. It was designed by a scientist. I read about how it was going to give Google a run for its money. Well, I've looked at it and I think Wolfram|Alpha and Google are two totally different animals. Wolfram|Alpha should be used for finding answers to questions, particularly scientific questions like formulas, technical information and stuff like that. There outcomes are in the forms of graphs, charts or diagrams. Very scientific. Don't use this site trying to find a wide range of information on social sciences subjects or the humanities. This site will give you "vital statistics" on people, places dates, etc. Use Google, hakia or Grokker for social sciences and humanities information. It's a interesting site in terms of giving you "almanac" knowledge.

When I typed in my fav search, Henry VIII, I got this. You can tell Wolfram|Alpha was designed by a scientist and not a historian.

Check out this site. It is interesting. You really need to use it to really see what it is built to do. It gives you some sample topics to see what it will do. Know that this site is out there, but know when to use it and what it is for.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Have you ever wanted to paste a URL into a e-mail and the URL is so long that the e-mail software can't handle it? The automatic link doesn't work because there are too many characters. Ah, there are a couple of sites that can help.

One is called TinyURL. Just take the gigantic URL and paste it into the box. Then click on the make TinyURL and now you have a shorter link. It will still take your e-mail friend to the site, but it is easier to handle. They also have some tools you can put on your toolbar to make it easier to use.

There is another site I just heard of called It basically does the same thing as Tiny URL. It also has tools to make the site quicker to use.

It may seem like an extra step, and depending on the length of the site, it might be. But isn't it nice to be able to have the option to use it if you want to?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I keep hearing about new internet search engines. Here is another I just heard about yesterday. It is It searches for websites like Google, but it displays the results differently. It groups the results into different subjects. When I searched hakia for Henry VIII (my favorite evaluative search), the returns were sorted by Biography and Timeline, Image Search, Headline News, etc. In the middle of the page there is a helpful index of the different subjects under which the results are grouped. Click on the subject and it will jump to those results.

Across the top of the page are tabs, one of which is called "Credible Sites." Credible Sites are "recommended by librarians their quality and free of commercial bias." Popular websites are not necessarily credible and credible websites are not always popular. There is a list of the criteria used to decide whether or not a site is included as a Credible Site. You can read that page here. Right now hakia only has Credible Sites for Health and Environment. In the end, however, it is up to the searcher to review the site and decide if it they think the site is credible. But it is nice to have someone sift through a lot of the junk out there on the web.

Another tab is called "Galleries." This is a list of different subjects you can click on to get to an alphabetical list of topics, people, products, movies and so on depending on the subject. One word of caution: names of people are alphabetized by first name. So, under the "Famous People" list, Abraham Lincoln is under "A" not "L" as it would be indexed in most other places. Of course who you think should be on the "Famous Person" list and who the developers of hakia think should be on the list might be two very different things!

I think hakia and Grokker (see my previous post on Grokker) are great supplements to Google. I don't think Google will be replaced by these sites, but it is nice to have alternatives. Depending on what I am searching for, I might use Grokker and hakia first. If I don't find what I am looking for, or just want to make sure I don't miss anything, I would use Google as well.

Happy searching!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's for dinner?

Those three dreaded words. What's for dinner? It's 5:30 and you haven't figured out what to make for dinner. All you have is some chicken, and your family has already told you that if you cook it the same way again, there will be a mutiny. What to do?

I've heard about and tried out some of those recipe finding sites. Frankly, they didn't seem to be very helpful and the recipes didn't look very appetizing. So I went back to my stand-by, the Food Network website. They have tons of recipes for entrees, appetizers, desserts, etc. The nice thing is that the recipes are rated by people like you and me who have tried a particular recipe. Read the comments and learn what people like and didn't like about the recipe. Sometimes, they will make suggestions to make it differently.

Check out the "Recipes & Cooking." There are quick recipes, cookies, appetizers, pastas, etc. all categorized together. They also have suggestions for holidays, parties, foods in season and things like that.

Of course, because this site is connected with the Food Network, there will be lots of stuff about the shows and chefs. If you just use the recipe searches though, it's helpful. The only thing I find disconcerting is that some of the recipes will call for what I think are weird ingredients--at least ingredients I never have in my kitchen. I can safely say I have never had melon salsa nor pickled jalapenos in my house. But if you do, there are recipes for you! So go ahead and use that plum chutney.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hebrew for Christians

Not too long ago, a woman came into the church library I run and said she was interested in trying to learn some Hebrew on her own. She had been reading a book of fiction that had some Hebrew in it and was intrigued. We didn't have anything at the church library, so I checked at the Rivendell College Library. We had some textbooks, but none would allow her to work on her own. So I went to the internet.

I found a site called Hebrew for Christians. This site is run by a Messianic Jew who hopes to help Christians understand and embrace the Jewishness of their heritage. This site helps to teach the Hebrew alphabet, has audio to help with pronunciation, and lots of pages that introduce Christians to Jewish culture. This isn't a seminary level, but it might remind you of the importance of the Jewish culture in the Christian faith.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I heard about a new (for me) search engine today. It is called Grokker. The word "grok" is from Robert A. Heinlein's book "Stranger in a Strange Land" and is Martian for "to understand profoundly or intuitively." (

Grokker is search engine which retrieves, federates and clusters the your search returns. You can choose which sites you want to search: Yahoo, Wikipedia and/or Amazon. You can search all three at the same time if you want or any combination of them. After Grokker retrieves the information, it "federates" it, meaning it meshes it all together. Finally, it clusters the returns into categories.

What I really like about Grokker is the way they organize the information returned from the search. The information is actually organzied rather than a getting back a daunting list of 1.2 million hits. There is the Outline View (results from "grokking" Henry VIII), which breaks down the returns into categories. Click on the plus next to one of the categories and it will expand to show you all of the different subcategories. Map View is a visual representation of the return of hits. You can click on one of the circles and see the subcategories again. Click on Search Options and change the number of hits you will return. The default is 250, but you can request 500, 750 or 1,000. Have you ever looked at 1,000 Google returns? You can probably get most of the relevant information you need with just 250 returns. Finally, you can limit your results by using the tools on the left side of the screen.

Grokker is great in that it helps you easily redefine your search and understand your results. You can "grok" a fairly broad topic and Grokker helps you narrow your search. It saves you going through those 1.2 million hits.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I just had to perform one of the most feared things to do as a libriarian (at least for me); catalog a foreign language book. Yikes. This particular book was in French. The title is "Secouée mais secourue" by Paula Ort. The word "secourue" was in the title which sound kind of like "succor" which means to "assistance in times of difficulty" ( so I had a bit of idea as to what it might be about. I was on the right track, but didn't know what the book was truly about until I used Babelfish to translate a portion of it. A word of caution, however. Don't just type in You will get a site that tries to get you to use professional translation companies. This site doesn't actually translate anything. The site to use was purchased by Yahoo awhile back, so go to

I typed in the first 3 paragraphs in French into Babelfish and had it translated into English. I found out that the author of the book woke up in the middle of the night when she heard some young people talking outside of her window. Then she felt something under her armpit and knew she had a tumor. Okay, I wasn't expecting that! Once I figured that much out, and by scanning through more of the book, I was able to get enough information to catalog it. I think Rivendell College Library is the only library in the world with this book! I couldn't find it anywhere else.

Back to Babelfish. If you have whole parts of a language you need to have translated, this is a great site. It is different than a dictionary since it will take a whole paragraph or sentence or whatever and translate it. There is also a link to where you can have a whole webpage translated. Just copy and paste the URL into the appropriate box on Babelfish and it will translate the whole original page! The syntax into English might not be perfect, but you can certainly get the idea of it.

Babelfish is a really powerful tool. So don't be afraid of foreign language websites. You might be able to get it translated as long as the site is in Chinese (simp.), Chinese (trad.), Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saving the planet one search at a time

I know I'm a little slow on the whole Earth Day thing, since it was last week. But just in case you want to save energy more than that one day a year, you can use Blackle as your search engine. It is from Heap Media using Google custom searching. It kind of looks like Google, only the screen is black. Apparently, it will save hundreds of mega-watt hours of energy every year since it takes more energy to display white than black on a screen. The Blackle people admit that there is a lot of skepticism as to how significant the energy savings will be. Personally, I don't think it will make a whole lot of difference, but if people think it is a good thing, more power to them (no pun intended).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World Digital Library

On April 21, 2009, the United Nations launched the World Digital Library, which is digital collection of historic maps, recordings and other artifacts from all over the world. The collection can be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item and the institution which owns it. Many of the artifacts are held by national libraries from around the world, including the Library of Congress, which has digitized over 500 artifacts for this collection. Click on one of the artifacts and it will open a window giving your more information about it. Click on the "Open" button below the thumbnail and it will open another window in which you can zoom in to look at the artifact more closely. Check out the first printed copy of the the Declaration of Independence.

Spend some time in this site. The old motion pictures are really interesting, as are the photographs and maps. The pages on the books can be "turned," much like the gallery of artifacts done by the British Library (see my previous post).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Queen

I admit it. I'm an Anglophile. I read books on British history just for fun. The Royal family and the pagentry of it all fascinates me. We are going to London this summer to see all of the cool, touristy stuff. So, today is a big day. Today, April 21st is Queen Elizabeth II's 83rd birthday. The official celebration of the Queen's birthday takes place on a Saturday in June in a ceremony called Trooping the Colour. They have the ceremony in June so as to have a better chance of good weather. The Queen used to ride her horse in the ceremony, but she now rides in a carriage. We will be able to see the carriages and all of the tack they use when we will visit the Royal Mews.

Also today, April, 21, 1509, Henry VIII ascended to the throne. As I mentioned in a previous post, there will be all kinds of cool exhibits of Henry VIII stuff when we go to London this summer.

The official website of the British Monarchy is here. There is also an official Royal YouTube channel here. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

His Brain, Her Brain

I just came inside from having a great conversation with my wonderful next door neighbor, Brooke. We sometimes chat out in front of her house when we are both out front bringing in the trash cans or picking up the mail. We have great conversations about all kinds of things. Today, as our conversation progressed, I was able to tell her a funny story about what I had heard on the radio a number of years ago regarding the development of male fetuses.

I was driving to work one day when I was living in LA. Being stuck on the 405 for 45 minutes on the way to work gave me a lot of time to listen to the radio. I was listening to Dr. Dobson on Focus on the Family and he had a guest on who talked about the "testosterone wash" that happens during the development of a male fetus. The testosterone wash causes the corpus callosum (the pipeline that allows the two hemispheres of the brain to talk to each other) to be "damaged." Therefore, women think different then men. Men tend to be more logical and sequential. Women usually see the world in a more "holistic" way, seeing the interconnections between things than perhaps men don't. As we are fond of saying around here, "Women think with both sides of their brains at the same time."

Back to LA. I thought this was really interesting and was telling what I had heard to a group of people at lunch that day, several women and one man. At the end of my telling the story, all of the women nodded their heads and said, "Yeah, that makes sense." The one man at the table said, "Wait. Start and the beginning and tell me all of this again." We all laughed as I said, "Thank you for making my point!"

Brooke was really interested in this. I thought it would be interesting to see what the literature is out there on this. I found this great .pdf article by Walter L. Larimore, M.D. called His Brain, Her Brain (this .pdf is actually excerpted from his and Barb Larimore's book by the same name). Right off the bat it talks about the testosterone wash. It also talks about an estrogen wash (which I didn't know about) and how these washes affect the way men and women interact, think and see the world. Although this article is written for health care providers and how to better understand and relate to their male and female patients, I think reading this whole article is a great resource for understanding your mate and why he or she acts the way they do. It just might give you some tools to have effective communication.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I was helping my daughter, Sarah, with her homework today for her World Geography class. This made me think of this really interesting site I had run across in the past called Worldmapper.

It has world maps, but they are not static. The size of the countries change in relation to each other based on the subject. Click on "Map Categories" on the top bar and it will show you the maps you can look in each category. It is a great way to graphically and intuitively understand our world.

Sarah and I spent some time today looking at some of the different categories. Some were funny: The number of Chinese Universists in the world are, not surprisingly, primarily in China. Some made our hearts break, like the number of cases of malaria.

Each map gives a link to a .pdf file which makes it possible to print out that map and its corresponding information.

So go ahead and look around at this site. Find out which countries import the most fish. You know you want to know.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Yesterday, our Golden Retriever, Bella, was watching out one of our windows as a couple of neighbor kids were playing on their jungle gym. You could tell she had spotted them since she stood really still and her ears were perked forward. Also, her tail was still and just turned toward her left side, just a little. When my daughter, Sarah, called Bella's name, her tail then swung to the right. (No, there are no political jokes here!) That reminded me of something I had seen on TV some time ago. I don't remember exactly where I saw it, but I think it was on the National Geographic channel and it was a special about dogs. The program was talking about how the direction a dog's tail wags tells you a lot about how the dog is feeling.

I decided to try to find out more about this phenomenon. It took awhile. There is a lot of information about a dog's tail wagging in general and how they carry it. I tried Googling various keywords like "Dog Tail Carriage Recognition" because part of the story was that the dog would put it's tail to the right if it recognized it's owner. I finally found it when I Googled "Study Dog Tail Recognition".

One of the articles I found is from the New York Times. The study is called, "Asymmetric Tail-wagging Responses by Dogs to Different Emotive Stimuli." Some researchers in Italy put volunteer dogs in crates with cameras above their hind-quarters to record what would happen when the dogs saw different things: their owner, an unfamiliar human, a cat, and a unfamiliar dominant dog.

This was the results from the New York Times:
When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. Looking at the cat, a four-year-old male whose owners volunteered him for the experiment, the dogs’ tails again wagged more to the right but in a lower amplitude.

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.

Thus when dogs were attracted to something, including a benign, approachable cat, their tails wagged right, and when they were fearful, their tails went left, Dr. Vallortigara said. It suggests that the muscles in the right side of the tail reflect positive emotions while the muscles in the left side express negative ones.
Click on the multimedia clip on the Times Page as well. It gives you a real feel for what the study shows.

Our other dog is Smokey, the Australian Shepherd. He has a little stubby tail, so watching it won't tell us much. But he does wiggle his whole rear-end when he gets excited, so we are going to watch and see if his rear-end goes one way or the other.

Dogs are so entertaining!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stand to Reason

One of the things Christians need to be prepared to do is to reasonably and rationally explain and defend the reasons for their faith. It is not enough to say, "The Bible says it and I believe it" to someone who rejects the Bible as nothing more than an interesting piece of literature, not the inerrant Word of God. What if you are speaking to an atheist, openly hostile to everything you believe? Will you be able to make reasoned arguments for your faith? What if you are accused of being "close minded" because you believe the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ?

There are many apologetics resources available on the web. One of the ones I think is really helpful is Stand to Reason, a site which equips Christians to go into the world ready to defend their faith. Greg Koukl is the primary voice of Stand to Reason. The site has podcasts, blogs and different resources, free or for purchase. The resource I read always read is Solid Ground, a bimonthly newsletter which discusses current topics and gives tips on argument tactics. Greg Koukl has also written a book called Tactics which discusses how to control a discussion, like using the "Columbo tactic" or finding the flaws in other people's arguments like "Suicide" statements-a statement which contradicts itself. "There are no absolutes!" is a suicide statement. One cannot absolutely state there are no absolutes without violating that same statement.

Stand to Reason has great resources to expand your critical thinking skills. I hope you take advantage of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Japanese Anime

First off, I know nothing about Japanese anime other than it is a film genre. Why would I even bring it up? Well...

I received a research request from my daughter today. She has been listening to "Sad Piano" music on YouTube. There are a number of pieces that are posted by a person who puts the music to mood pictures. Anyway, she wanted me to find the sheet music to some of these pieces so she could play them. Sure, I'm up for a challenge.

I had no idea these pieces were from Japanese anime movies or games until I started my search. There is a whole world of anime fans out there! To find these pieces, I went to the YouTube pieces she was wanting to get a little more information. Fortunately the person posting the pieces gave the name of the piece and the movie or game from which it came. The difficulty for the first piece I looked for was that the title was in Japanese (written with English characters, thankfully). Truthfully, the way I found the first piece was by just reading the comments posted by other people who like the piece and wanted the sheet music as well. Sometimes someone will post where you can download the sheet music.

I found three really good websites that either have anime sheet music or links to external sites that also have it. They are Ichigo's Sheet Music, Josh's Anime Sheet Music and The Midi Shrine. I know there are many other sites if you just Google "Japanese anime sheet music". Some of the sites I linked above have linked to other anime music sites as well.

Enjoy this piece that Sarah will learn. It is called "Kiseki" from Gundam SEED Destiny.

This is one of the reasons why I love being a librarian. You can be researching philosophy or theology one day and Japanese anime music the next!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Resurrection alternative theories

With the coming of Easter, I have been thinking about some of the alternative theories that are out there in the world that try to explain Jesus' bodily resurrection in any other way than the Biblical account. This really goes hand-in-hand with my previous post about postmodernism. The postmodernist skeptics have to question everything and try to come up with naturalistic explanations for the miraculous. Instead of realizing that the Biblical narrative of Jesus' resurrection has more evidence than their alternative theories, they refuse to believe.

Dr. Norman Geisler has addressed these differing alternate theories in his work Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999). His discussion of some of these hypotheses are available on the web in two parts: part one is here and part two is here. Some of the alternate hypotheses include "The Authorities Moved the Body," "The Tomb Was Never Visited," "The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb," and "The Disciples Stole the Body." Geisler goes through each theory and exposes the fallacies in each argument.

William Lane Craig also discusses, among other evidences for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, my favorite alternate theory: Jesus had a previoulsy unknown twin brother who came and stole Jesus' body and presented himself to Jesus' disciples as Jesus Himself. Really. Read his article here (this will download a Microsoft Word document). If you don't want to download it, Google "Professor Blume William Lane Craig" and click on the "View as HTML" at that link reference.

Other theories that are out there include the swoon hypothesis and group hallucination hypothesis. Christian Classics Ethereal Library has a great outline which gives the evidences for the resurrection and the arguments against the alternatives here "That You May Believe."

So celebrate this Easter knowing that all human explanations fall short and that He is Risen Indeed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slaying Postmodernism

Today at lunch I was asked to slay the supervillian "Postmodernism". Ah, an evil foe. One prevalent in today's society. The wizards of smart's evil ally. But one that is easily vanquished with just a little thought.

First, a definition. This from PBS of all places:
"A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one's own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

"Postmodernism is 'post' because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characterisitic of the so-called 'modern' mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philospher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism 'cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.'" (emphases mine)

A postmodernist believes there are no absolute truths and that everything is relative. But that is a self-refuting statement. A postmodernist absolutely states that there are no absolutes. Can a postmodernist be skeptical of his belief in being skeptical? He can't have a belief and be skeptical at the same time. Postmodernism as a philosophy can't work.

J.P. Moreland, a well know Christian thinker discussed postmodernism in the webzine Boundless. Read his article Postmodernism and the Christian Life.

Postmodernism vanquished by the Secret Agent Librarian.

Monday, April 6, 2009

No Fear Shakespeare

I studied Shakespeare in high school, just like everyone else. I didn't always get it then. Truthfully, I don't always get it now. And I know I'm not the only one. I remember my dad telling me about when he studied Shakespeare in school. He was reading the beginning of one of Shakespeare's plays and it said something about the "hart" and hunting. And how a hart is a male deer, but in the play it also could mean a heart. I always remembered it because I knew I wouldn't have gotten it either. Shakespeare can be intimidating!

Well, now there is No Fear Shakespeare. It has the original and a modern language version parallel to each other. This way you can enjoy the beauty of Shakespeare's original language and all of its symbolism and actually understand what's going on!

Now I am not advocating that you only read the modern language version. Reading Shakespeare's original language shows his genius. I think using No Fear Shakespeare is a great way to enhance your understanding of Shakespeare and thus enjoy it more. It should be used as a supplement, not a substitute.

So go read Twelfth Night when Curio asks Duke Orsino if he wants to go hunting for a hart. (Thanks Dad.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Speaking of the British Museum....

At the end of my last post, I had a throw away sentence about the Virtual books part of the library website. I have just spent the last 2 hours using it and it has to be one of the most spectacular web interfaces I have ever seen. Hopefully you can get the right plugins to make it work because it is simply amazing.

It uses "Turning the Page (TM)" software. It allows you to look at the book and turn the pages almost as if you have it in your hands. It has the text in boxes so you can read what is written. They have audio of someone reading the text. The Mozart catalog has audio clips of the music written on the pages in Mozart's own hand. You can zoom in and out on the text, magnify it and rotate it. It really is amazing. The only downside is that currently they only have 20 texts to look at. I hope they continue to add more because it is truly a treasure. Don't forget to click on the listen icon before you open the book as it gives you some great background on the work at which you are about to look.

Henry VIII and the British Library

In preparation and anticipation of my and my family's upcoming trip to London this summer, I have just started reading the book Henry VIII: The King and his Court by Alison Weir. She is the author of numerous books about British history. I recently finished her book Eleanor of Aquitaine and thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it because I didn't know anything about her other than what I had seen in the movie The Lion in Winter starring Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor. Eleanor was a particularly fascinating woman. She was extremely powerful in a time when women usually had no power at all. She was the wife of first the King of France and then the King of England. Great stuff.

Back to Henry. Our trip to London coincides with the 500th anniversary of Henry's ascension to the throne. Throughout the spring and summer, many of the places we will be visiting are having special Henry VIII exhibits. So, I decided it was time for me to get up to speed on Henry. We all know about the six wives and their ultimate dispositions (just remember, "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived"). But I want to know more Henry than the "eating the giant turkey leg and throwing it over his shoulder onto the floor" Henry (which probably never happened).

As I was reading the other day, I read about how Henry was very interested in maps. The book referenced several specific maps that hung on the walls of Hampton Court. They might still be there. I'll find out this summer! Anyway, I wanted to try to find them online. I was never able to find those specific maps, but I did find some really cool images and maps on the British Library website. They also have a virtual books section that lets you look at original manuscripts. Just make sure you have the right plugins to view them.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The World Factbook

True to my name as the Secret Agent Librarian, here is a cool site for secret agents. It really is published by the CIA. Fortunately, you don't have to be a secret agent to use the CIA publications page. They have two cool reference tools: The World Fact Book and World Leaders.

The World Factbook
give updated vital statistics information on every nation in the world, i.e. type of government, population, GDP, etc.

The World Leaders allows you to find out the chief of state and its cabinet ministers.

So next time you go on a secret mission you will know all about Burkina Faso, Tokelau (a territory of New Zealand) or Svalbard (a territory of Norway).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day

Why in the world is there even an April Fool's Day? I asked myself this question, and of course I had to find out.

There are various different references and theories, but the one I came across the most indicated that it most likely came to be at the time when parts of Europe changed from using the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar. Using the Julian calendar, the new year was celebrated around April 1. The Gregorian calendar put the new year at January 1. So the people who weren't completely up to speed still wanted to celebrate the new year on April 1st. So they were called fools, mocked and ridiculed for either not knowing or because they didn't want to change to the new calendar.

To humiliate people on April Fool's, the French would stick fish to the backs of people who still celebrated on April 1st. Gotta love the French!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Martindale's The Reference Desk

Martindale's The Reference Desk has has to be one of the most extensive informational web pages I have ever seen. It says it has "over 23,075 calculators and spreadsheets, over 3,535 courses, lectures, manuals and handbooks and 1,000's of movies, videos, simulations and animations."

Well, that sounds like a lot of stuff. And it is. Almost overwhelmingly so. It is a great resource if you want to find out how fast a dinosaur can run, learn to play the didjeridu, review the dental anatomy of a llama or check on a traffic cam on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (among a million other things).

I found all of the above links through the Martindale site. Have some fun exploring it. You might find something that is really interesting. You might find something that you can file away in your brain to use another time. You never know when you might need recipes for cooking up an emu or to calculate your dog's age.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Inklings & Chesterton

Yesterday at church, my friend Bobby (and little Padraig) came into the library and we had a very nice chat about the UK, my family's upcoming trip to London this summer and his family's move to Northern Ireland. As we talked about all things London, Bobby said one of the places he would love to go is the pub the Inklings hung out at in Oxford. (I don't know if it is proper for me to use the words "hung out" and "Inklings" together, but I digress). Bobby is a fan of G.K. Chesterton, one of the Inklings. The college I work at is called Rivendell College, after a place in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Some of our students live at the C.S. Lewis House.

Because of these ties to the Inklings, I built an Inklings Page on the Library Resources section of Rivendell College's web page. On it I have links to websites that have more information on all of the Inklings as well as a picture of the Eagle and Child (aka the Bird and Baby).

Back to Chesterton. Bobby mentioned that he was significantly impacted by Chesterton's book Orthodoxy. I found it free here. It is also available for free at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (see my post on 3/26/09 re CCEL).

I also mentioned to Bobby that I have been listening to The Innocence of Father Brown, one of Chesterton's book of short story mysteries on my iPod. I downloaded it for free from Project Gutenberg, which has free, full-text books, human-read and computer-generated audiobooks, among other stuff.

All these links should keep any fan of any of the Inklings busy for quite awhile.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Visuwords (TM)

I think this is one of the coolest websites on the Web. It is called Visuwords (TM). they call it an "online graphical dictionary." Type in a word and it will give you a definition when you put the cursor over the word. It will also display all kinds of related words that expand and kind of look like a neural net. Double click on one of the related words and watch it "sproing" again. Yes, I said sproing. Really, it's the only word that works. You'll understand.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Music Anyone?

In 1984, I took a music appreciation class at UCLA. I don't remember the composer I studied for that class. I'd have to look it up. But the important part of this story is that I could get extra credit if I went to see a little movie called "Amadeus" and turned in my movie stub to the professor. Seeing a movie was not hard to do, living in Westwood. So, I went to see it. It was one of the most profound musical experiences of my life. I immediately bought the soundtrack. It is now on my iPod. Twenty-five years later, I never tire of it.

The most memorable scene in the movie for me is when Salieri, who is in an insane asylum, describes a particular piece of Mozart's music. He describes it so beautifully and in such vivid language. I figured it wouldn't be hard to find that part of the movie on YouTube, and I was right.

I eventually found the score for this part of the work, having worked at the UCLA Music Library. But over the years, the copy of those pages of the score have disappeared. Could I find the score again? Online, for free?

First, I had to get the title and number. Specifically, it is Serenade for Winds in B-flat, K. 361 3rd movement (Adagio). I found the name of the piece on Amazon by searching for the soundtrack. I got the specific movement from Classical

I wanted to find the score for free. I looked at the free sheet music sites I know, but no luck. I finally Googled it and found I found the piece and downloaded it for free. The movement I was looking for starts on page 21.

Well, now, I have the score, but only a portion of the music. YouTube to the rescue. Follow along on the sheet music if you like.

All this for free. And a little Secret Agent knowledge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Welcome to my blog

No, I am not a secret agent and I don't work for any governmental agencies. I am the librarian of two small libraries. One is the library at Rivendell College in Boulder, Colorado. The other is a church in Boulder.

I didn't come up with the name "Secret Agent Librarian" myself. A co-worker and I were discussing blogs the other day and she said I should write one. That got me thinking about what to call it, "branding" if you will. I thought of a bunch of different things, but not one that I really liked.

Yesterday, one of the professors at Rivendell came into my office and asked me if we had "Calvin's Commentaries." He needed to see one of the volumes for a footnote. We don't have the set, but I said, "I'm sure we can find it free online." I quickly found it at Christian Classics Ethereal Library and showed it to him. He was very excited at the thought of accessing Calvin for free. As he walked off toward his office, he said over his shoulder, "You librarians are like secret agents or something!" I laughed. I also had the name of my blog!

This is one of the missions of my blog, to let readers know where to find cool and helpful websites like Christian Classics Ethereal Library. See? That's one!