April 20, 2009

Deaf Sentence

I just finished reading David Lodge's most recent novel Deaf Sentence. My enjoyment was enhanced by its relationship to cognitive science, as it touches upon linguistics and language comprehension by the deaf.

Desmond, the main character, suffers from high frequency deafness, and he writes about his increasing difficulty hearing with both accuracy (as he describes loss of hair cells inside the ear and various technology he uses to compensate) and frustration. It was fascinating and somewhat chilling to read about this character's struggle to understand conversation, starting with the loss of consonants. It's often humorous as well, as Desmond describes some language misinterpretations, as well as the continual "what did you say, darling" conversations between him and his wife.

I suspect that the personal description of high frequency deafness would be helpful to new or experienced audiologists, as the character is articulate about the limitations of his hearing in a personal, rather than clinical way. I highly recommend this novel.

Also of interest to some cognitive geeks is the linguistic aspect of the novel. Desmond is a retired linguist, and most of his encounters throughout the novel are tinged with his linguistic touch. He reviews concordances for words like deaf and love; thinks about homophenes (words that look the same when lipreading, such as park, mark, and bark); and, academically, the stylistic analysis of suicide notes.

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April 15, 2009

Promoting & Poking Fun @ Your Libary

... if you're at the University of Texas at Arlington, that is.

My e-buddy Eric Frierson tweeted yesterday "librarian v. stereotype videos getting great feedback - next one will involve a gorilla suit." The current YouTube videos are a great combination of library promotion and poking fun at the profession; here's the video introducing Librarian and Stereotype:

and here are Librarian and Stereotype talking about scholarly communication:

Can't wait to see the gorilla suit!

April 12, 2009

Government Web Site Widgets

I just had two great librarians talk to my reference class, and I learned as much as the students did about government documents work and GIS / geography sources. Thanks to UConn's undergraduate and GIS librarian Michael Howser and Connecticut's federal documents librarian Nancy Peluso!

Nancy showed a fabulous feature of usa.gov, the US government's search engine. A search for the word widgets yields some amazing widgets, free for use on any web site.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has many widgets, including an FDA peanut recall widget, a National Flu Activity map, and a Daily Health tip (today's is a warning not to give birds as gifts):
CDC Everyday Health Widget. Flash Player 9 is required.

This is also available in Spanish:
Widget de Salud al día. Flash Player 9 esta necesario.

Other cool widgets that come up include:
  • San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District "BART" News Widget
  • AmeriCorps widgets
  • Business.gov Gadgets; their widget includes a search box and links to information helpful to small businesses.
  • FDA Drug Information links, including widgets for drug safety information, Medwatch, FDA podcasts, and Drugs @ FDA

... search for, oh, say, Wellbutrin & see what kind of information you get.

Take a peek at the search, too -- the results page offers a nifty preview option, displaying the widget right in the results page, and a "Remix" option on the left which lets you narrow results by topic, agency, or source.

There are some great free web resources here for libraries, health marketers, and others.

April 06, 2009

the Brain, lately

I've seen some neat stuff about the brain lately, and since I'm swamped with mid-semester craziness, plus mid-move tasks, I thought I'd just link to the stuff I've seen:
Today's New York Times reports on research showing ways memory may be erased. Yipes! The article raises lots of interesting physical and philosophical issues. See Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory, by Benedict Cary. New York Times, April 6, 2009.
Last week, uber-librarian Stephen Abram blogged about 2 Wired stories reporting on efforts to map the human brain. (Note that the images are not for the squeamish, but if you want to see what the grey matter looks like, check out these images). Mapping the Human Brain, Stephen's Lighthouse, March 31, 2009.

edited to add: I just went the print issue of Wired and thoroughly enjoyed the article that goes along with the photos: Jonah Lerer's Scientists Map the Brain, Gene by Gene from the April 2009 issue of Wired. Highly recommended!