One of my favorite authors died on New Year’s Eve.

I first read Donald Westlake close to 30 years ago. I don’t remember what book it was (The Hot Rock? Bank Shot?), but it hooked me on the guy for life.
Westlake will be remembered for the Dortmunder novels, but he was so much more than that. I don’t own many books (support your local library!) but I probably own more of his titles than of any other author. Dortmunder is his most famous creations (other than Parker, who was way too grim for my tastes), but my favorites were the non-Dortmunder, non-crime ones. Adios, Scherherezade; The Hook, A Likely Story were an uncommon look at the writing world. Many (but not all) were comic (Dancing Aztecs made me laugh out loud continuously), and sentimental (Thank god, Westlake was not averse to a happy ending) but all were sharp, clever, and utterly delightful. (there’s a wonderful exchange of Biblical verses in Brothers Keepers) He was a craftsman in the William Morris sense of the word (Romantic, not literary agent). I’m sorry I’m not a good enough writer to do justice to the man.   Others do a better job.


One of the most-quoted lines from Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech is, “You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?  Lipstick.”

Governor, I’ve worked and played with pit bulls, I know pitbulls, I am friends with pit bulls.  Governor, you’re no pitbull.

Most pitbulls I have met are sweet, non-partisan souls, who would rather lick a person into submission than lay teeth on them.  They can be hazardous around cats and squirrels, but unlike most hockey moms, can often be taught to leave smaller critters alone.  They bear fewer grudges than your average politico.  I haven’t known one to wear lipstick, but some have painted toenails.

I run a program, Paws to Read, where children can read to dogs, and two dog members are pitbulls:  the effervescent Egg and Monte the Magnificent.  Egg is cream colored, with big dark eyes and a nose made for kissing.  He is always ready to play, but easily settles down.  Monte is a huge brindled hunk.  Like the Rock, he is daunting to look at, but is a serene soul who is unfazed by hordes of small children.

Not any Joe Blow dog can join the program.  They have to be tested and certified therapy dogs, safe around people, obedient to their handler.  Therapy dogs are invited to hospitals, schools and libraries.

Hockey moms or beillergent governors?  Not so much.

I don’t have permission to put Egg’s or Monte’s picture up here, but here are some other pibbles I’ve been lucky enough to know:

Look at that smile!

with apologies to Mr. Sendak

The weeks Lin wore her librarian suit/and made mischief of one kind/and another/the system called it “Web 2.0” and Lin said, “I’ll text you up!” so she was sent to bed without texting anything.

Okay, enough of that, or it’ll tip over from stupidity right into sacrilege.

Since my desk and work area is composed of various stratification of materials, I was very curious about the various To-Do lists: WorkHack, Tadalist, Todoist.

Workhack is very WYSWYG, which made it easy to get going.  It is very, very simple,  and once I found you could visualize by size, the huge font point and glaring colors were manageable.  My design-oriented DH would absolutely hate it.  Bad points:  1)you can’t edit the tasks once you type them in, and you can’t make sub-categories (i.e, ‘Lamorinda Reads’, and all the stuff you need to do under that.) 2) WorkHack is meant to be bookmarked, so most useful if you use one computer.  The other two are accounts, so can be logged in from anywhere (or put on your deli* account if you’re one of those)

Tadalist definitely had the worst homepage.  It was very cluttered, and the you could not see any sample pages, and why would I going to join if I couldn’t see what the pages were like? (Aside:  This reminds me of Blockbusters horrible webpage.  They won’t tell you about their rental plans until you give them your personal info) There are supposed to be links to actual Tadalist pages, but they were either dead accounts or had gone private.  And then there are no instructions.  At all.  A mostly white screen pops up with  ‘My Lists’. What the @#$% ?  After my third try, when my blood pressure went down, I finally saw the little FAQ on the side.  Tadalist (which is quite a horrid name:  ‘Ta-dah a list’? ) and the next one, Todoist, operate on the principle that you have projects, and each project has sets of tasks to be completed. As opposed to WorkHack,  which just has you make a list, hierarchy be damned.  Once I figured out about projects, I was able to merrily create.  You can even RSS your list (to yourself, I guess) if you happen to be one of those.  Bad points:  1)  You can’t sort anything by date or urgency; 2) you can’t show your tasks on the main list page, only when you go into each individual list.  Tadalist does this intentionally, keeping things simple [somewhat]; 3) Tadalist upsells their other programs.  Pretty low-key, but irritating nonetheless.

Todoist.  OMG.  Obviously designed by geeks or engineers.  There are so many add-on-doohickey-web-thingys that it took me a while to figure out how to start a list.  The homepage boasts that it is simple and intuitive, but it is neither.  However, unlike Tada, there is a LOT of help info on Todoist, in the form of screencasts, which show you how things work.  The screencasts are a bit tedious (the creator/narrator could have used a tighter script), and obviously you can’t use it for a quick referral, but essential for figuring out this thing.

Todoist (another odd name) has a learning curve like Lombard street.  You can do a LOT in Todoist.  You can make hierarchies, date them, color-code them, make sub headings.  Bad points:  you have to figure out how to do these wonderful things. That takes time.  Lots of time.  Hope none of your projects are too pressing, or your deadlines will be shot to hell while you try to create your projects lists.  Todo* reminds me of Doug Adams wonderful Last Chance to See.  While observing an obsessive bird, Adams thinks of how he will happily spend the day creating a program that will pop-up a window on a certain part of text.  The creator of Todo* reminds of Adams.

In conclusion, I haven’t quite figured out which of the three works best for me.  They do all have their good points and bad points.  I like the ease and color coding of WorkHack, and the hierarchy of Tada*.  If I get the time to sit down and figure out Todo*, I can see that being very useful.  At present, I will continue to scribble in my calendar, and tape little notes to my monitor and above my desk.

I subscribe to some podcasts (geek confession:  I actually prefer to listen to radio broadcasts than music), most notably Radio Lab.  I also recorded for our very own CCCL story podcasts.  You need to be careful with podcasts and pick a story that can stand on its own without the pictures.  We are such a visual society (and getting more so with every technological advance), that we forget that words can paint a picture.  Seems like some of the writers and editors forget this as well (especially artist/writers).

Vodcasts add the visual element, and many layers of complication, since you usually have to ramp up the technical sophistication.  The Fort Allen library video showed a nice variety of shots:  long, close-up, overhead.  That meant a lot of camera shots and a lot of time editing.  On the other hand, after the library video, I watched a craft video on the making a coffee sleeve into a cuff bracelet.  This video was just a close-up of the hands.  While there was a bit of editing, it certainly wasn’t as fancy.  But that would be a cool thing for the library — to make a craft, and then show the book and have a subtitle:  “for more projects like these, check out…”  Not sure what kind of copyright violations that would be.

Caroline set up an Orinda Library Ning, especially to facilitate communication between staffers that don’t have a library e-mail.

Social networking has the potential to be an excellent way to communicate and connect. The trick is keeping a group active. There’s a Youth Programs and Services group, but it hasn’t posted since Feb. 7 By contrast, the Pubyac listserv will send out an average of 5 to 10 messages a day. Maybe the topic (Web 2.0) is too narrow? An inactive group is a sad thing, a bit like having noone show up for your program.

Bloglines wasn’t the easiest site to navigate, but knowing what new dvds are coming up makes it worth it! It is frustrating not to be able to go straight to the catalog, but I can open another window for the catalog (Classic)

I had thought that RSS feeds meant I would get e-mails from my selected sites. I get enough e-mails as it is, and didn’t want to have to wade through them all. Going to a site is results in less clutter.

The calendar didn’t show this week’s puppet show!

I’d be curious to know how many of our patrons subscribe, and what they subscribe to.

Me and Meebo don’t quite see eye to eye (e to e?).  Admittedly, most of this is missed connections; I’m not online when the meebo lab or any of my buddies are on.  For meebo, or any IM to work, you have to be connected to your device, which has to be on.  I am quite 20th century, and prefer not to be so available. 

Unlike most of the upcoming masses, it seems.  I can see the library using it, especially for a teen page.  Is there a way to get it on the MySpace page?  You then have to have someone monitoring it.  Because if patrons don’t get a quick response, they’re not going to use it anymore.

But we better move fast.  It looks like there’s a similar game in town:  18002ChaCha, to be used on any mobile phone.  For twenty cents (when will there be a keyboard that includes the cents sign?  I’d definitely buy it) you can text a message and get an answer within minutes.  I heard about it on public radio, but neither NPR or Marketplace gave me a hit.  Here’s a totally biased explanation from the ceo

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