Friday, August 19, 2011

What if Hollywood remade ‘Desk Set’?

Photo still from Desk Set
An information overload.

One of the texts in my online studies for Library and Information Technology reprints a photo still from “Desk Set,” a 1957 movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In it, Hepburn is the director of a corporate research library.

Tracy’s character has been brought in to install a super computer that can supposedly look up any fact quicker than Hepburn’s staff of reference librarians. The movie ends with victory for the librarians when the computer blows a fuse.

I was reminded of that film this week during my reading on reference services for one of my Cuesta College courses. “Libraries in the Information Age” by Denise K. Fourie and David R. Dowell state that reference librarians and technicians must increasingly help patrons evaluate information for credibility.

People are turning more and more to the Internet for information, instead of to sources that traditionally have been vetted for accuracy. Where better to turn than to a library professional for aid in navigating information online?

“Many industry leaders see this as the librarians most significant role in the future” (Fourie 180).

Thinking about “Desk Set,” I began to wonder what if “Desk Set” were remade today? Perhaps instead of being threatened with replacement by a physical computer, Hepburn and her librarians were faced by corporation officers increasingly turning to the Internet as their source of information.

The Internet is far different from the databases available through library subscription. In the case of the EBSCOHost legal database  available to Lake County residents through our public and law libraries, each item in the database has been curated by a professional.

In today’s remake, perhaps Tracy’s modern counterpart has been hired to demonstrate a meta-search engine that trolls vast swaths of the Internet at once. To the corporate heads’ thinking, who needs the staff librarians when everything can be looked up online?

I believe that in this updated scenario, librarians would continue to be viable. Perhaps the future of the corporation could hinge upon a decision to be made based on information gleaned from the Internet. Hepburn’s librarian could dramatically expose the piece of information as a hoax.

Checking for attribution of an online article with an author’s name, weighing that author’s name against documented expertise, verifying whether an article has been subject to professional editing, identifying who -- if anyone -- has financed publication of the article and verifying whether the article cites primary or secondary sources -- perhaps these are not the materials for an explosive Hollywood ending, but evaluating information for criterion that my textbook reading groups under credibility, bias, currency and appropriateness (Fourie 181) will increasingly need to be considered in a medium to which anyone can publish.

As the text states, “The same tool that allows brilliant insight to be communicated worldwide at near the speed of light allows any fool to broadcast lesser thoughts just as efficiently.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Open-work ‘Om’ T-shirt

‘Pin-Up,’ #11, Generation T
Project #11, “Pin-Up,” from Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay (Workman Publishing, 2006), originally featured safety pins holding the shirt together at the shoulders and sleeves. I substituted strips of open-work trim.

The shirt I used had been tie-dyed and batiked in shades of blue and burgundy with a white Om symbol on the front. My next step, after this photo was taken, was to cut the shirt at the bottom edge of the scalloping pattern and insert another panel of the open-work trim.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nothing like life with an adolescent cat

Our home is blessed to be occupied by a new cat! Starfire, a young cat, needed a home and filled a void caused by the death of our cat Elizabeth.

I was touched by readers’ sympathetic cards and emails responding to the death of Elizabeth, some sharing memories of their own beloved 12- and 13-year-old cats who had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Elizabeth’s end was as peaceful as we could arrange, aided by the Middletown Animal Hospital. We took comfort in the knowledge that we had given Elizabeth a long and happy life in our care.

Less peaceful was the feeling of coming home each day to a cat-less house.  I was used to being greeted by a cat when I arrived home from the bus stop each day and it was depressing to walk home to an empty house.

As it blessedly turned out, Jonathan and I did not remain cat-less for long.

Starfire was a cat whose former owner could no longer take care of her. Since then, she had been fending for herself but it was not an easy life.

We agreed that we could and should give Starfire a home and people who were familiar with Starfire’s situation gave us encouragement.

For the first night, Starfire hid under our bed and under dressers. She retains the habit of sleeping beneath the bed, which I think is a carryover to when she felt she needed to conceal herself by day. I’ve noticed this past week when I come home, she is stretched out on the bed, which I interpret as Starfire feeling safer and more at-ease in her surroundings.

Starfire is black with white stars on her chest and belly, plus she is so full of life and energy that our name for her seems a good fit.

We have to adjust all over again to living with an adolescent cat. We’d grown accustomed during the years to our mature cat’s decreased energy.

One consistent factor is that my cat likes to “help” whenever I embark on crafts: whether it was Elizabeth plopping down on pattern pieces assembled for a sewing project or whether it is Starfire snagging a strip of cloth that I’ve cut to serve as a drawstring for a refashioned T-shirt’s halter-top neck.

Her zeal to attack drawstrings knows no bounds; although curiously she spares the laniard I use to hang my Lake Transit rider’s pass in a hand-made ID holder.

“Generation T” by Megan Nicolay is my present obsession. The book, which I checked out from the Middletown Library, contains 108 ideas for transforming T-shirts. My first project to refashion T-shirts was to snip off several shirts’ necks and sleeve cuffs and then knot them into a rope toy for Starfire.

A cat’s rope toy wasn’t actually in the book; it just seemed a good use for the remnants.

Starfire is one of the most intelligent cats we have ever met. She seems to understand the parallels between her litter box and the toilet. I think it only a matter of time before she figures how to use the toilet herself.

Finally, we are happy to see Starfire making friends with the apartment complex’s resident cats. It will be nice to know she has friends to interact with and upon whom she can rely against a neighborhood bullying cat.

Life with an adolescent cat is constantly entertaining. There is really nothing like it.

Published Aug. 9, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cat-tested, cat-approved halter top

T-Bird, #47, Generation T
It was only fitting to photograph Starfire for Project #47, “T-Bird,” from Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay (Workman Publishing, 2006). Starfire was extremely interested in the strip I cut to serve as the drawstring for the halter top. She darted out from under the bed to pounce on it.

Originally posted to Facebook

Generation T: Fabulous find at the library

‘It’s a Cinch,’ Project #8, Generation T

I checked out a really neat book from the Middletown Library: Generation T, 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay (Workman Publishing, 2006). It demonstrates how to reconstruct T-shirts into various other things.

For Project #8, “It’s a Cinch,” I cut open the front of my “V-Day” T-shirt just off center, stitched it back together with an approximately one-inch casing on each side. I threaded a drawstring up one side and down the other.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Take compassion to the stars and beyond

The appearance of each new photo on Facebook of the “Jayne Hat of the Week” is a cue for viewers to send a description of their starship to the proprietor of “Being a Geek.”

“Jayne” is a character on the science-fiction series “Firefly.” His mother made him a red, yellow and orange hat with earflaps and people submit photos depicting themselves wearing hats modeled after his.

While the purpose of the contest was to further viewers’ awareness of “Firefly,” I was intrigued by the contest’s emphasis upon the name of the ship, including the reason for its selection and its history.

I took as inspiration the Constitution-class starship of “Star Trek: The Original Series,” of which the most well-known is N.C.C. 1701, the U.S.S. Enterprise herself — but more significant than the class of ship or my choice of science-fiction universe, were the values that I hope to see entrenched in our future society.

The N.C.C. 1707, the U.S.S. Armstrong, is named for Karen Armstrong, progenitor in the early 21st Century of the Charter for Compassion.

Armstrong, a religious scholar, is the author of “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

In “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life,” Armstrong relates how she asked the nonprofit group Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) to help her create a Charter for Compassion that would be written by leading thinkers from a variety of faiths.

TED presents a $100,000 award to people to help them make a better world. The Charter for Compassion was the result of Armstrong receiving this award:

“Thousands of people from all over the world contributed to a draft charter on a multilingual website in Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, Spanish, and English; their comments were presented to the Council of Conscience, a group of notable individuals from six faith traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism) who met in Switzerland in February 2009 to compose the final version.”

The charter was officially launched Nov. 12, 2009.

A Lake County Charter for Compassion was adopted on March 22 by the Lake County Board of Supervisors. It echos the language in the original charter: that “The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

In creating my starship, I envisioned a future that would view this as a pivotal moment in history when Humanity finally put an end to poverty and war and took compassion to the stars and beyond.

Armstrong’s book presents  a 12-step program for cultivating and expanding compassion. Its emphasis upon the Golden Rule makes it a valuable resource for nearly every religious faith and even for people who cultivate compassion for a strictly secular benefit of treating other people as they wish to be treated themselves.

“Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life” is available in print and in audio format through the Lake County Library, which includes a copy that is shelved at the Redbud Library. Look for the book under 177.7 on the non-fiction shelves or place a request through the library catalog, accessible online or at any branch of the Lake, Mendocino or Sonoma County libraries.

For more information about the international charter, visit For more information about the Lake County charter, visit

Published Aug. 2, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee