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You’re a very nosy fellow, kitty cat

May 9, 2012

I lied when I said Deus Ex was my first game. I played and loved Portal 2 last year. And I was obsessed with the Myst series back in the day, especially the first one. I’m still a super noob in the game world and I don’t know all the ins and outs and whys and wherefores, but why can’t Myst be re-released for consoles or for Macs with current operating systems? Because maybe I’m a noob, but that’s got to be a classic of gaming and I know they’ve re-released things like God of War and Half Life 2 for updated systems, why not Myst? I’d just really like to play that game again.

The funny thing about me and my Playstation is that back in college I wasn’t the biggest fan of their tagline “Live in Your World. Play in Ours.” I was taking a class about technology and culture or technology and literature or something, the class that bred my obsession with Walter Benjamin and all things copied, and one of the things we discussed resulted in that slogan bothering me. I can’t remember what it was, maybe we’d been discussing video games and their influence on the culture or vice versa. Either way, I got hung up on the whole blurring of fantasy and reality. I overthought much more back in the day. Now I’m already quite fond my my Playstation.

Now to the point of this post. I’m making my way through LA Noire. I was decently excited about trying it, not as much as Red Dead Redemption, but decently excited only I’m not loving it. Maybe it’s because I liked Deus Ex more than I expected to, but LA Noire gets a little boring at times. I’m not a fan of all the driving, partly because I am horrible at it and keep running over pedestrians. It’s also very talky. Also, I don’t find the controls as intuitive as the setup for Deus Ex. I was really hoping there’d be more consistency between games, but there’s not so much. The other weird thing about LA Noire is that they’re all impressed with their fancy facial recognition action, and the faces look great, but the bodies still look ridiculous. The heads look way too big on most of the bodies. Though it is fun playing spot the character actor and I’ve already seen four guys from Mad Men. Especially weird is that a lot of the women’s faces look exactly the same. It’s like they’re just using one face and tweaking little things a bit. At least they got Carla Gallo for one female character.

Here’s my other thing. The title is incorrect. First, why the “e?” Second, I have noir issues. I get why people are obsessed with it. It looks really cool and the stories and characters are usually seedy and great. It’s a tempting style to attempt, but it can’t be done. It was a style that defined a movement that reflected the sentiment of an era. It wasn’t just detective stories, or a font, or a femme fatale, or shadows. And it was killed off by the genius satire Chinatown. After that, anything calling itself noir isn’t really the same thing. And you really can’t be in color and get away with calling yourself noir or neo-noir. Pastiches just make me angry, but then post-modernism makes me angry, even though I think I’ve assimilated a lot of it into my governing life philosophy. Yes, I have a governing philosophy. It’s not very strict and pretty much changes daily, but it generally revolves around the tenets of copying, fair use, and looking at pretty things. It’s a pretty good philosophy.

Such beautiful, bad suits

I’ve yet to actually post this post, but I’ve already finished LA Noire and had to return to add my thoughts on the ending. Without spoiling it for anyone, it starts getting much better during the second half of the game, around the time Jack Kelso shows up. You play the game as Cole Phelps, a fellow I didn’t care for much at all. He’s the golden boy, the war hero, the detective who’s always certain he’s got the right answer. Basically he’s everything I hate in a character, even though he’s fated to have a fall since he’s the hero of a “noir.” Who I do like is Jack Kelso, who has the much less glamorous job of being an insurance claim investigator. Jack is awesome. He’s the chump of the story, the one who’s always getting pulled into bad things by his fuck up friends, the guy who’s actually awesome, but never gets credit for it. Where Cole is “by the books,” Jack is whatever the opposite is of that. This is where the game gets a little fantastic. Towards the end you get to play as Jack! I would have really preferred to play the whole game as Jack. He has a far more interesting story. If they do a sequel, I hope we’ll see more of Jack.


the lane to the land of the dead

April 23, 2012

Just digging myself out after finishing my first ever video game. Technically it’s not the first video game I’ve ever played, a friend made me play Baldur’s Gate once and we had a Game Boy when we were kids, but I never really got into them before. I’d often get frustrated with games when they got too hard and I couldn’t get past certain sections so I’d just give up, but the past couple years it feels like there are more and more video games coming out that appeal to me. The kinds of games thatgamecompany make, Portal 2, Mass Effect 3, those are the ones that really started tempting me. Really though, this new inclination probably started with the first women’s studies class I finally managed to take.

A bit of a cyborg

You’d think that if I was going to take a women’s studies class I’d have done it when I was at Oberlin, but it didn’t happen till I ended up in library school. Gender and Computers, while one of my favorite classes, was also one of the most frustrating. Nonstop reading about stereotypes and the gender gap in tech fields gets depressing. That being said, it inspired me to be even more of a girl geek than I already was. I enlisted in the Information Science program, became mildly obsessed with programming, and got vaguely curious about games.

So about a month ago I finally decide to just go ahead and buy a PS3 and make my first game Deus Ex: Human Revolution because I’d seen some good reviews and my library had a copy (yes, my library is pretty awesome). Much to my surprise, the learning curve wasn’t that steep. I was playing it on the easiest setting, but I slowly figured out how to both aim and stop running into walls or in circles. That being said, I did almost give up at the first boss because I couldn’t figure out how to kill him. That was when youtube became my best friend. Yes, I cheated, I am a video game cheater and I’m not ashamed of it. All told, Deus Ex was a good first game. Adam Jensen, the main character, was nice to look at and enjoyably conflicted and it didn’t hurt that his body augmentations basically made him a cyborg. That whole theme, the augmentation one, was pretty fantastic, what that does to our humanity and all, but then I love cyborgs. If you squinted there was even some nice subtext between Adam and Frank Pritchard, his cyber-security contact. Also, the graphics and music were decently impressive. However, it’s not so long since Gender and Computers that I didn’t get a little sad watching the credits and seeing maybe two female faces among the creators of the game.

Here’s the thing, I got a bit immersed in Deus Ex, a bit dead to the world, so I know I should take a break from the PS3, get some other things done, but I kind of just want to jump right into another game. Maybe Red Dead Redemption, maybe LittleBigPlanet, maybe Journey, but I should really work on my cover letter and resume and finally make someone pay me to be a librarian. This PS3 is really not going to be much of a friend to my motivational skills.

Stray cat weirdness

April 30, 2011

I’m sitting down in AV on my last shift as an intern trying to figure out what to write for my last official s605 post. I just got an annoying phone call where a woman wondered why we didn’t have an alphabetical list of all the movies we own. We’ve had that before and it’s still a ridiculous request. Why don’t we just list all the books we own, while we’re at it. We give them a list of our new movies and books and an easy way to search by title. That should be sufficient.

To make up for that, I was able to successfully locate some Brit mysteries for a patron. Of course, despite the fact that I watch too many of those, when put on the spot I couldn’t come up with any. After a while I thought of some and luckily he was still around. Then I found some good chocolate stashed under the desk and ate it. It didn’t have caramel in it, but it was milk so it was delicious. I don’t get the high that some people get from chocolate. I wouldn’t mind some sort of high right now. Anything that could get rid of this business paper shaped stress tension in my neck would be greatly appreciated.

What I really want to talk about in this last post is the awesome people I’ve met here at MCPL. Ask anyone I know and they’re going to tell you that I’m not the most sociable person in the world. I’m a bit like one of those cats who you can tell did not grow up around humans and tried to figure out this whole ‘being around people’ thing late in life. That being said, just as those strays eventually settle somewhat, I have settled. Somewhat. Which is all just to set the stage for me pointing out how well I’ve settled in here at MCPL. I have been here almost a year now, and plan to stay on in whatever capacity they’ll have me until I finish the IS side of my degree, but still. This is a stray cat we’re talking about here.

The time I’ve spent at MCPL really has been made by the people I’ve gotten the chance to work with. There is not a single one that I dread being on desk with and each have left me with something that will help me be a better librarian down the line. So it seems I’m going to close with a fluff post, but that’s appropriate for a place and people I have such great fondness for. I can only hope that the library I end up at has people half as awesome as those here. Sadly, I have a feeling that between my experiences at FCDL and now here at MCPL, I’m ruined for any other library. I kind of don’t mind.

So what is a final image you can take with you of Mary Intern? Well, I’m still sitting down in AV singing and swaying along to the Okkervil River song that just came on the awesome playlist I made for today. I’m about to go refill the staff picks shelf and then I might take a break to go upstairs and take Nola a natural remedy I brought her for one of her foster cats. That is life at MCPL. It’s a good life.

Porn Viewing on NYPL Computers is Protected Speech

April 29, 2011

I think this is an excellent good way to wrap up my abstracts. The New York Public Library has a policy that allows patrons to view porn on public computers if they so choose. Library officials say that this falls under the protection of the First Amendment. Unsurprisingly, this is not sitting well with some religious leaders, patrons, and librarians. NYPL computers so feature extensions that allow patrons to block other people’s view of their screen, but this does not affect other patrons ability to hear the porn. Still, there are others who do not believe it is the librarians’ role to censor patrons, no matter what their interests. Free speech does not just pertain to things that a certain population or 5-year-olds find palatable. To receive federal funding, libraries must install filters on public computers that block content containing illegal obscenity and child pornography, which library officials say they are following to the letter. The filters can be turned off by patrons older than 17. This “kept the free speech protection in place but also raised the necessary roadblocks to keep the library from losing its federal funding.” To further restrict viewing, localities must adopt a new policy, which has the potential to open up another can of legal worms.

This is an ancient issue, probably trotted back out recently because a patron got a little hot under the collar and “porn” in a headline really grabs the eye, but it always brings up some fun free speech discussions. As Captain Fair Use, you can probably guess where I land in this debate, but at the same time, I don’t understand why anyone would want to view porn at a library. I’m sure there are some who get off on that sort of thing, the voyeuristic or exhibitionist element or something, but still. My experience with porn at libraries falls at two ends of the spectrum. At FCDL, we had the sort of filter where you can choose the level of filter that you want, one of which is no filter. We also had an Internet policy, which of course no one ever read, that stated that you were not to view porn on public computers. People certainly watched it despite this rule, but as we were not hovering librarians, we didn’t know about it unless someone complained.

I was very surprised when I started working at MCPL and learned that they did not have filters or a policy forbidding porn viewing. At the same time, if a patron complains, security will do a walk-by. It took some getting used to, but now I think it’s one of the most awesome things about MCPL. They are obsessively devoted to protecting free speech and universal access for their patrons, which is not something you see very often.

“City libraries say ‘checking out’ porn protected by First Amendment” by Douglas Montero and Bob Fredericks in the New York Post

“Pornography Is Protected Speech At New York Public Libraries” by Eydar Peralta in NPR News Blog

I have to go home, my shoe came untied

April 28, 2011

Now’s the time in Sprockets when we post the runoffs. The ideas that couldn’t quite comprise a post of their own. The microblog stories. First up, we have a lady who likes to come in and tell us how bad our light bulbs are for our eyes. As she puts it, you see that light outside, does that look like what’s in here? Our light is apparently too yellow and what we should have is white light, or something like that. This woman is very concerned about light because one of her eyes has already left her and she’s not about to lose the other one. Despite the fact that we’ve told her many times that we do not control these things and directed her to a comment card, she keeps complaining. I have a feeling she does this wherever she goes. Spreading the word about light.

Last semester in s505 we read an article about maintaining objectivity in the reference interview and making sure to not in any way communicate judgment. Now, I have a tendency to hum to myself while I’m searching for things sometimes. After reading that article I found myself wondering what my humming was communicating to patrons. I also tend to sigh, I’m told, when confronted with something vaguely confounding. Who knows what that says to patrons.

Think back to my favorite patron. The guy who only ever wants a guest pass. That guy is really fantastic. One time he came in wearing a baseball hat and I didn’t recognize him. This was also the day I thought I saw him at another computer past the hour his guest pass got him and was sad because I thought he’d joined the ranks of those who cheat the library. As it turned out, it was just someone in an identical hat. He must have sensed my sadness because he has never worn a hat again. At least when I’ve been here.

A fellow just walked in barefoot. Yup. You’re not allowed to do that. I spotted him with my eagle eyes and security quickly directed him to the list of library rules and then sent him on his way. From the look of his feet and tie-dye shirt, he was just being a hippie. I haven’t seen that since I was at Oberlin and even those barefoot hippies would wear shoes inside.

I really garble the word “digits.” Sadly it is a word that I have to say a lot because people tend to forget the password for their library cards and most times it’s the last four numbers of their phone number. For some reason, whenever I’m asked this question I tell people it’s the last four digits instead of the last four numbers. I’m not sure why I do this and I often wonder if people understand what word I’m attempting to say.

Some people, generally children, expect us to remember what other child they were with. I have had multiple children come up to me wondering if I’ve seen the child they were with when they spoke to me earlier. Here’s the thing. Unless they’re a regular, someone I know, or curious looking, the second someone leaves my desk I forget what they look like. Especially if they were only here to get a guest pass. If it was a longer interaction, sometimes I will remember the person, but not always. I’m just very absent-minded and I don’t keep track of random children wandering the library. I generally tend to ignore children as a rule.

Robots invade East Arlington Branch Library in Texas

April 26, 2011

Because I was really going to not share an article about libraries and robots. Even though it is way down in Texas. East Arlington Branch Library in Texas is creating a new youth technology centerto “promote science, engineering and robotics learning outside the classroom.” Lego Mindstorms, which are programmable robotics toys, are going to be part of the program. Arlington Public Library wants this program to encourage creativity, imagination, and career pursuits. The center will feature video games, software programs, laptops, and a mobile technology center. The library hope to collaborate with area universities and the private sector to connect kids with professionals in the engineering and robotics fields. The grant funding this center will also fund audiovisual equipment for the existing The Studio: Teen Arts Underground, which is responsible for bridging the digital divide for 1,224 teenagers in the area. The library will also be launching an internship/volunteer program that will train teens to help patrons of all ages to use the library’s equipment.

“Robots coming to Arlington library branch” by Susan Schrock in Arlington Citizen-Journal

Like Captain Tight-Pants, but less sexy

April 26, 2011

It is my hope that when people look at me they see a public library. I’m pretty sure they do, or at least one guy in my Information Architecture class does. After a recent class discussion in which I rambled about public libraries again, this fellow told me he thought it was neat that I knew so much about public libraries. This made me feel pretty fantastic, because they are what I love. If I’m not yet Captain Public Library in people’s minds, I should at least be Captain Fair Use considering how often I refer to myself as such. That’s not too far removed from Captain PL.

Growing up, I knew libraries through my experience with my school’s library and the local public library. As time went on, my main contact with libraries became just the public library. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but when talking about libraries, my default frame of reference is public libraries, despite having used multiple sorts. This internship has certainly cemented this default. It was already pretty firm, but despite a couple librarians reminding me that this is not where the money or fame is, my default has just gotten firmer. My time at FCDL, while responsible for planting the idea that this could actually be my career, wasn’t long enough to clue me in to some of the inner workings that I’ve gained more insight into in my time at MCPL.

I didn’t need reminding of the importance of public libraries, but if anything was going to do it, it would be Indiana’s unemployment filing situation. The filing of unemployment is now only available online. The first day you can file is Sunday, which is when most of our patrons try to do it. Here’s the thing. The unemployment office isn’t open Sunday and I don’t think they have public computers anyway. WorkOne, which is another source for the unemployed and I think has computers, isn’t open Sunday. Both tell people to come to the library if they need a computer. This is usually fine, but for about a month last year their site crashed every Sunday under the onslaught of unemployed traffic. Whenever someone tries to tell me that any other public service is more important than public libraries, which is something I’ve heard more than once at SLIS, I trot that little gem out. They generally don’t have a comeback for that one.

That’s just one of the things I’ve encountered at MCPL that’s reinforced my interest in public libraries. There’s plenty more. I’m not sure I hate to say it, but the main thing that’s done the reinforcing is the technology situation. Tax season too, but to a lesser degree. (It is so much easier to get through tax season when you can offer patrons free tax help sessions hosted at the library instead of just an 800 number.) Mostly it’s the public computers and computer literacy classes that we offer. The unemployment situation suffers from the myth of access. They think they can do things that way because everyone has a computer. Only they don’t. I firmly believe that public libraries are at the forefront of solving the myth of access. If nothing else, that’s what will keep me cemented in public libraries. Also, that’s actually a new thing I gained from my time at SLIS and MCPL. I had inklings of an interest in computer literacy from my FCDL time, but it’s become more ingrained recently, especially as it relates to older adults. It seems that’s going to be my public library niche, which plays right into my role as Captain Fair Use.