July 31, 2006

Wikipedia's Picture of the Day

What fun: wikipedia posts a Picture of the Day, with high-resolution images often available.

Today's picture (link goes to July; scroll to the bottom to see) is a lovely shot of Mount Hood in Oregon. I've also found — and downloaded for my desktop — photos of hereford cattle; an upside down White-breasted nuthatch; a painting of Charlotte Corday (reminding me of the Al Stewart song of the same name, which it seems he recorded, or at least sang, with Tori Amos, but I digress); and some gorgeous Radiolarians (amoeboid protozoa) .

Ok, enough procrastinating. Back to work!

July 28, 2006

Links for Vision Therapy

If you're interested in learning more about vision therapy, behavioral optometry, or developmental optometry (in reference to my post about Stereo Sue and my eye doctor), here are some links which will provide additional information.

First, according to my eye doctor, find a doctor who can provide a good diagnosis of your vision problem and provide a customized vision therapy plan. Ophthalmologists do not practice vision therapy, and neither do many optometrists. Behavioral/developmental optometrists are trained in optometric vision therapy, and most are members of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). You can search for a Fellow of COVD, ie a doctor with FCOVD listed after his or her name, at the COVD site.

The following sites are part of the Optometrists Network:

  • VisionStories Read many answers to the question "What changes have you seen as a result of a Vision Therapy program" or "How has Vision Therapy changed your life?"

  • Vision3D Explains what stereo vision is and provides lots of games and puzzles and optical illusions

  • Public Information about vision therapy. Provides links to information about vision therapy, convergence insufficiency, double vision, lazy eye, and strabismus. Some links are within optometrists.org while others are off-site.

  • What is Vision Therapy? Links about vision therapy, FAQs, and definitions.

Other sites:

Hope that helps!

July 26, 2006

World Music

Last week, Future Tense had an episode about National Geographic's World Music site.

From the Future Tense web site: "National Geographic is known for bringing the world alive through its magazine and television documentaries. Now it's aiming to educate the world about diverse cultures through music. National Geographic World Music is a music store, and includes videos, photos, maps and features from National Geographic Magazine."

Songs are 99c each, and you can listen to them in a nice streaming audio format. I liked a woman named Souad Massi, whom they say "writes some of the most gorgeous Algerian pop to be found on either side of the Mediterranean." You can hear 1 minute snippets of each song from her album Mesk Eli, so you get a real flavor of the CD.
Incidentally, eMusic has the album, translated to Honeysuckle .

Nice way to hear new music!

July 24, 2006

Preserving Languages

Fun podcast recently from Science Friday about"a plan to preserve dying languages before they disappear entirely. The National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Smithsonian institution are planning approximately $2 million in funding to fight the 'imminent death of an estimated half of the 6000-7000 currently used human languages.' "

Joe Palca interviewed D. Terence Langendoen, who has the fabulous title of "Director, Cyberinfrastructure / Co-Director, Linguistics Program / Division of Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Foundation." Read about some NSF linguistics & cog sci grants!

The show starts out with a guy speaking Dena'ina, and you can read about that language and hear the Dena'inan word of the day (a recent word was "hnalqin", which means "warm/hot"). You can browse over 200 sound recordings (sadly, you can't hear them); you can read a bit about the Dena'ina language; and you can see a map charting the Athabascan family of languages.


July 20, 2006

Neuroscience Links online

I'm just getting around to reading the Spring 2006 issue of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship and especially enjoyed the article called Mapping the Brain: Resources for Researchers in Neuroscience by Victoria Shelton, George Mason University.

Shelton says that her "webliography annotates selected web-based resources for researchers in neuroscience and is primarily intended for librarians who assist neuroscientists engaged in research."

Here are her Top 4 web sites for neuroscientists -- but there's much more (including links to online brain atlases)

July 19, 2006

SirsiDynix Institutes are Podcasting!

Check out SirsiDynix's podcasts! I've posted about their Instutites before -- they cover topics like wikis for librarians, customer service, and the one I saw, on electronic resource managers. They feature well-known names in library-land talking about hot technologies, services, and products in library-land.

They're free and very professional.

My only beef with them has been that the Institutes (live webinars) play only with PCs. So I either had to watch them live, which I did once, or try to catch them some other time while I'm at work and have access to my PeeCee.

But now! They're available as podcasts! Yippee!

Podcasted topics include a discussion of The OCLC Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources Report; a 2-part series called Beginner's Guide to Podcasting; and Steven M. Cook on The Center of it All: How Libraries Can Be in the Forefront of Building Active Communities.

Haven't heard one yet, but they are available for subscription in iTunes. I couldn’t find tem when I searched SirsiDynix in the ITMS (iTunes Music Store), but I was able to connect directly from the Sirsi web site. This itunes graphic link should work, too, but ymmv.

(also found some podcasts from the recent Special Libraries Association conference.)

July 17, 2006

Animal Planet podcast

Heard a fun podcast from Discovery's Animal Planet called Ultimate Guide: House Cats (mp3 file; full list of Animal Planet podcasts ). Covered some scientific studies (did you know that cats can measure speed with their paw pads?) and some human-cat interactions.

Here’s what Animal Planet says:
"They've been living with people since the beginning of civilization, and yet the've become domesticated without losing their essential "catness," their independence, their ability to live without us. But they obviously do like people, and a lot of people do liek them. People and cats: it's a partnership. Learn all about our feline friends in Animal Planet's Ultimate Guide to House Cats."


July 16, 2006

Off-topic: new favorite band

Heard these guys a few times on XM's fabulous music channel the Loft (which, frankly, is why I'm listening to fewer podcasts ...), and I want to promote them my own self 'cause they're so great:

The Guggenheim Grotto are *terrific*. You can hear / download a few songs from their web site, and their CD "Waltzing Alone" is on iTunes & eMusic. You can't buy their CD in stores, yet, as they only just signed with a record label.

If you like Winterpills and/or Kings of Convience, you'll like these guys too.

July 15, 2006

Promoting Libraries Locally?

So I was at a soccer game the other night (s), and across the field, I saw a large advertisement / poster for "Ludlow Community" ... Immediately my thoughts turned to the library, but I kept reading, and reread "Ludlow Community Market."

This got my brain whirling: what if libraries advertised at soccer & other local games?

"Ludlow Public Library" in large letters, followed by http://www.hubbardlibrary.org/. Sweet!

And later, I heard on the PA system, "Follow the Pioneers on WKRAP radio" and "Watch highlights of the game on WONK tv".

What about this, too: "Read about soccer at the library."

And you know how when you go see local theater, music, etc. the playbills are full of ads for local businesses? How about if they could give some discounted or "public service announcement" space to the local library?


In related news, I have started a blog explaining to my non-library friends how to use the local library system. I'll post infrequently, but I hope it helps people use our great resources more effectively. Let me know (here, not there) if you want to play along.

Check it out at Libraries for My Friends.

July 13, 2006

Scholarly Research on Vision Therapy

There's not much scholarly material about vision therapy, but here are links to searches in PubMed on related topics:

About Vision Therapy

Got a few posts from people wanting to know what I did for vision therapy so they could do it themselves. Well, I'm a librarian, not a doctor -- and I started VT over 5 years ago -- so I don't feel comfortable promoting the exercises *I* did.

Instead, as a librarian, I recommend doing some targeted research. I'm going to pull together some useful web sites & post 'em here, but in the meantime, here's a good approach:

You need to find a doctor who can provide a good diagnosis of your vision problem and provide a customized vision therapy plan. Ophthalmologists do not practice vision therapy, and neither do many optometrists. Behavioral/developmental optometrists are trained in optometric vision therapy, and most are members of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). To find such an optometrist, go to http://www.covd.org and click on the Find A Doctor button. Look particularly for a Fellow of COVD, ie a doctor with FCOVD listed after his or her name.

There are some doctors who may provide some "vision therapy" but are not rigorously trained in the techniques as my eye doctor was. An FCOVD doctor is well trained.

Here's some info about vision therapy - it's from a doctor's practice, but it might be useful and doesn't look too commercial:

Try this Google search for educational sites about vision therapy, developmental optometry, or behavioral optometry:

site:edu "vision therapy" | "developmental optometry"| "behavioral optometry"

Hope this is helpful -- more later.

July 12, 2006

New book: Designing Interfaces

I just started reading a cool new book called Designing Interfaces. The subtitle is "Patterns for Effective Interface Design", and it's about ways that "interfaces" (software applications, web sites, PDAs, etc.) can be designed to best meet the needs of users.

Bookpool's blurb says "Designing Interfaces captures those best practices as design patterns -- solutions to common design problems, tailored to the situation at hand. Each pattern contains practical advice that you can put to use immediately, plus a variety of examples illustrated in full color. You'll get recommendations, design alternatives, and warnings on when not to use them.

"Each chapter's introduction describes key design concepts that are often misunderstood, such as affordances, visual hierarchy, navigational distance, and the use of color."

So far, so good.

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design
Jenifer Tidwell
O'Reilly Media, Paperback, Published November 2005, 331 pages, ISBN 0596008031

July 11, 2006

Mirror Neurons & Video Games

Been reading about mirror neurons a lot lately; first in the April issue of Scientific American Mind (abstract only) and now in the New York Times (from June 4, subscription may be required).

SciAm suggests that mirror neurons are how we learn from the world — learning language, for instance, but also maybe why we yawn when someone else does (are you yawning? I am ...). My buddy Ramachandran is quoted as saying that mirror neurons may be as important to psychology as DNA is to biology.

The New York Times says that some golfers and Nascar drivers make use of mirror neurons by playing video games to improve their skills. It helps them visualize situations they will encounter in their sport. The Penn State football coach is using Madden's NFL game to help train his new players.

Both articles are referring to research conducted by Marco Iacoboni, a mirror-neuron researcher at UCLA's Brain Mapping Center. You can see some of what he's written "recently" from Google Scholar.

Finally, the radio show / podcast Future Tense recently discussed research showing that "that surgeons who warm up by playing video games perform better at simulated surgery." They didn't mention mirror neurons in the podcast, but I bet there is a connection ...

Scientific American Mind
April 2006
A Revealing Reflection
By David Dobbs
Mirror neurons are providing stunning insights into everything from how we learn to walk to how we empathize with others

New York Times
June 4, 2006
Sports / Play Magazine: The Home-Screen Advantage
Hooray for mirror neurons! It turns out that video games can be good training tools. Just ask a Nascar driver or a Penn State QB

Future Tense
May 30, 2006
Jon Gordon
Surgeons who warm up playing video games make fewer mistakes

July 08, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell on Cesar Milan

Have you seen the Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic channel? It's fascinating, as a pet owner (cats, not dogs, but I can make some leaps) and as a fan of animal behavior science. Cesar Milan seems to have an instinctive understanding of dog behavior — don't know if it's good science, but it certainly seems valid intuitively.

In the episodes I've seen, Milan mostly tells the dog owners to spend more time with their dogs, preferably walking / exercising them. He says the three things that are most important (not sure of the order here) are: Exercise / intellectual stimulation; Discipline; and Love. Many owners are heavy on the third but lighter on the first two. I will watch more to see if there are any dog tips which can be applied to cat lives. "More exercise" would not interest my felines. But I digress.

Malcolm Gladwell interviewed Cesar Milan in the May 22 issue of The New Yorker. There's also a New Yorker Q&A with Gladwell at the New Yorker site.

WHAT THE DOG SAW. By: Gladwell, Malcolm. New Yorker, 5/22/2006, Vol. 82
Issue 14, p48-57.
Sadly, this isn't on Gladwell's blog yet ... maybe soon? It's in Academic Search Premier & the other usual library databases, though.

July 07, 2006

User Interface & Search Screen Design, from JASIST

Finally! I'm recovered enough from teaching to start reading the journals that have piled up patiently awaiting my attention.

The Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology recently had a special section entitled "Perspectives on Search User Interfaces: Best Practices and Future Visions". There are some fascinating and short (i.e., easily readable) articles on various aspects of screen design and the user interface.

I'm working on a project to redesign the public interface of a (confusing) database, and I found several nuggets very useful:

Regarding the ability to match a user's search term to "what the database calls it" (as I explain it to my students), Resnick and Vaughan say, "Jefferson and Nagy ([2002]) report that the probability that both a searcher and search system will apply the same term for a given concept is only 10-20%." WOW!!! Only a 10-20% chance that the user and the database will be using the same term?!

Resnick & Vaughan continue with these best practice suggestions for the search user interface:
  • "Simple ideas such as increasing the size of the text input box to encourage users to input longer queries have shown some promise." and

  • A recent study by Bandos and Resnick ([2004]) found that users generate more effective queries and are more satisfied with interfaces that contain brief guidance on search syntax and semantics. These were provided in the form of search hints, located adjacent to the search query input box.

Peter Gremett, who does UI Design at AOL, reported on a usability evaluation of Amazon, and said: "The majority of the time users browsed first and then searched when necessary. Search was typically used when browsing areas became too busy, ambiguous, or lacked visibly relevant content."

And finally, in a nice summary of the user search experience, Barbara Wildemuth summarized Shneiderman, et al's research suggesting that "the search process consists of four phases:
  • formulation of the search strategy,
  • the action of submitting the search,
  • the review of the search results, and
  • the refinement of the search strategy (indicating that the entire process is iterative)."
(bullets mine)

It's a great, easy-to-read series of articles and if you're doing any kind of search design, I highly recommend them. You can read the abstracts for free at the Wiley / JASIST site, and you can get the articles you want via your library or Interlibrary Loan.

July 06, 2006

Alcohol => Hippocampus => Blackout

That's what I got out of the frightening story in Tuesday's New York Times story The Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking. Apparently adolescent rats are more severely affected by serious alcohol consumption than are adults; this seems to be true for adolescent humans as well (tho’ much harder to test). What is most affected is the hippocampus, which affects learning (rat testing) and memory. Scientists discovered that teens experience many more blackouts than previously known.

I read the story on Tuesday and listened to a podcast interview between Science editor David Corcoran and the reporter, Katy Butler, on the Science Times podcast today.

Very troubling.

July 03, 2006

All right!

From yesterday’s Times comes a treatise On Language used in rock music, specifically the difference between "all right" and "alright".

Judge for yourself!

July 02, 2006

More than Déjà Vu?

Some interesting insight into memory, déjà vu, déjà veçu, and more from today's New York Times magazine:

July 2, 2006
Déjà Vu, Again and Again
People with a syndrome called déjà vécu spend much
of their time living through experiences they are
convinced have happened before. Researchers think the
phenomenon may be a clue to some of the enduring
mysteries of memory.

July 01, 2006

Stereo Sue and me

My eye doctor was interviewed by Oliver Sacks last year! He wrote about her in the New Yorker! (that's about as close as I'll come to being published in the New Yorker, so I'm rather excited).

Here's the deal: Dr. Theresa Ruggiero prescribed vision therapy for both "Stereo Sue" and me (tho' not at the same time). We both had miraculous recoveries of our stereo vision. Truly amazing, in my experience -- my biggest revelation was three dimensional vision, especially on paper, and especially with colors.

Stereo Sue had an equally amazing experience, which she shared with Oliver Sacks, who wrote the aforementioned article about it. If you want to read that, you can go to you local library & look it up in Academic Search Premier, LexisNexis, or another database with the full-text of the New Yorker.

Here are the details:

STEREO SUE. By: Sacks, Oliver. New Yorker, 6/19/2006, Vol. 82 Issue 18, p64-73.

She was also recently on NPR's Morning Edition -- read about her experiences on the NPR site, see photos of her (including one with Dr. Ruggiero & Oliver Sacks) then track down the New Yorker article.

Fascinating stuff!