Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

Update note: I wrote this post back in 2007, and it ended up in the “private” section of the blog. I think the series of posts I have labeled as private got imported from someplace else (can’t quite remember where, which tells you how long ago that happened). Since they are private, I do not always remember they are there, so I recently went back to look over the cue. Some will likely remain private, as they have topics not necessarily for public consumption. But others like this can be public. It is a good reminder for bloggers and writers to keep on reading. So, via the old Wayback Machine, here is this bit from May 8, 2007.

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Karen Andrews, guest blogging at Problogger, has a post reminding bloggers to read. Yes, it is perfectly ok to unplug from the online world once in a while to actually read a book or a magazine. I know I try to do that now and then. In fact, as a reader, I face the conflict of having too much stuff to read and not enough time to read it in. Maybe I should take that advice and stay away from the feed reader a bit more often. Besides, if nothing else, reading can always provide you with something to talk about in social settings, but that is a different story. Ms. Andrews writes:

” Get off the chair and turn off the computer. It will be there in the morning. Pick up a magazine. Go to bed early with a novel you’ve had on your ‘must read’ list for a while. ‘De-plugging’ is a good option for those of us on the point of burnout. Standing back from your own words may give you a better perspective than if you are crouched over a desk.”

Maybe I should try the one about going to bed early with the book I have been meaning to read. I was not sure about this idea Ms. Andrews wrote:

” The skill of critically evaluating a text is commonly taught today. It is not enough to simply say you like (or don’t like) something anymore. You need to back up your claims and once properly done so you can debate a subject at a greater depth than you otherwise would have.”

I agree with the idea of being able to back up what you say. What struck me was the idea that such a skill was commonly taught. I am not sure I agree with it given my teaching experience. I am of the theory that standardized testing is ruining a generation. One way to the ruin is that students are not taught about critical reading or critical thinking as much these days. After all, the tests are mostly multiple choice, so not much critical thinking going on there. I had to learn how to argue and back up my points when I was in school, and it is a skill that serves me well today. It is also something I strive to teach my students. Reading broadly and diversely can help people learn how to think and evaluate texts critically. Anyhow, a good reminder of why reading is so important, especially for bloggers.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

In order to share my reviews a bit more, as well as keep track of what I did when, I will be posting lists of books I reviewed in a month with links to my main blog. As always, comments are welcomed, whether you comment here or on any of the posts linked. I will include a small segment from the blog to give readers an idea of what the book was about and maybe an incentive to read it as well. By the way, when I say reviewed, it does not mean all I read in a month. It means the books I managed to post a review for at the time.

I reviewed the following books at The Itinerant Librarian during the month of March 2014:

  • Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night. “This is a beautiful and pleasant book book that sings the praises of libraries, books, and those who work in them and use them in an erudite and elegant way.”
  • Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues. The first volume of Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja. “It is a tale of adventure and intrigue where we also get glimpses of Red Sonja’s past, learning of her origins along the way.”
  • Half Past Danger by Stephen Mooney. “It is a very entertaining action comic that has it all in the midst of World War II.”
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. “The author manages to coordinate the photos with the novel very well, and this is certainly a great element and asset of the book, adding to the sense of wonder. “
  • March: Book One. “This is the story of Congressman John Lewis in graphic novel form. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy.”
  • Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin. “This is Dark Horse’s version of the classic Japanese true story of bushido, with Kazuo Koike consulting on the tale as well.”
  • Mark Waid’s The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction. “It is the era of the advent of television, and the big corporations are trying their best to take over the public airwaves to make them into their own private advertising venues.”
  • Gene Luen Yang’s The Shadow Hero. Read the story of the first Asian American superhero as told by Yang. Yang is also the author of one of my favorites: American Born Chinese.
  • Best Bondage Erotica 2014 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. “This book is indeed a collection of opportunities to experience vicariously a diverse bouquet of pleasures.”
  • One for fans of Warhammer 40,000 novels. Check out James Swallow’s Hammer and Anvil. The Sisters of Battle return to the site of Sanctuary 101. “What exactly is hidden in Sanctuary 101?”
  • Chris Roberson’s The Shadow, Volume 3. “This time, award-winning author Chris Roberson brings us a story where The Shadow is hunting for a serial killer, a mysterious woman dressed in white who seems to be able to use the light to her advantage and moves like a spectre.”
  • Andrew Knapp’s Finding Momo. “This photography book by Andrew Knapp featuring his dog Momo is totally adorable, a beautiful book for folks of all ages.”


In addition, this month I also reviewed some first issues of new comics series. I do not usually review single issues, but I got these as teasers from NetGalley, and since I wrote feedback for them, I also posted the reviews online. You may be interested in checking these out as well:

Happy reading.

This post was prompted by this blog post at Booking Through Thursday. I should note that I wrote this before I heard the news that GoodReads was selling out to Amazon, so I will probably have more to say on that topic later on.

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I keep lists of books I want to read in a few places. I have a large folder of clippings and handwritten lists. I started it as a reader’s advisory tool, and I still review it and add items to it now and then. In addition, now and then I jot down titles in the personal journal or in my small pocket notebook (one I carry to use for when I can’t get my hands on my personal journal). Those then I move to the folder, or I put them in GoodReads.

Once I discovered GoodReads, it became a great tool for me. I use it quite a bit to track books I want to read. I also use it to keep a record of books I have read. I even went back through old journals to find notes on books I’ve read and added them to GoodReads as well. I still make notes on books I’ve read in my personal journal, but this has always been for books I really want to remember. Now with GoodReads, I record every book I read, then I expand any brief review I think is worth noting into a larger review and note for one of my blogs or for my personal journal.

Finally, I keep another running tally of books I want to read here in Alchemical Thoughts. I basically make the lists from reviews that come in on my RSS feeds. I do include links to the reviews on the blog posts here.

Now, this may seem fragmented, but it gives me different places to browse for ideas when I need to find the next book to read.

This post was inspired a bit by this post on “5 Reasons Why You Should Comment on Blogs” from the Journal Addict blog.

I was recently rereading this post, which I had saved in my feed reader’s cue, and I got a moment to ponder on my own practice on how I comment on other people’s blogs. It also made me consider when I choose not to comment on other folks’ blogs. While I would not say that I have a consistent pattern to how I comment, I can say that there are some small informal rules or reasons in how I comment or not on blogs.

For starters, I do not bother commenting on large, famous blogs with tons of traffic. The idea of adding yet another comment on a thread that may already contain hundreds of replies seems a bit futile to me. This goes along with my blogging philosophy in librarianship (and to some extent in my casual and personal blogging too), that if a topic in the profession has been beaten to death by the celebrity librarian bloggers then I don’t see a point in adding a blog post or commenting. This may lead to my next point: I don’t care for drama or less than bright arguments in the blogosphere.

My  four readers may notice that in my blogs I keep politics to a minimum. I may  have started to address some issues of concern recently, but the current climate of misinformation, repression, ignorance, and regressive attitudes mean that I can’t really stay quiet. However, I write about such things in my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. I never bring such things up in my professional blog, The Gypsy Librarian. By the way, for me, this blog here is more of a commonplace book and a place for half-baked ideas not quite ready for prime time. So, this is where the topic of comments returns: I never really comment on blogs related to politics or religion. In other words, I don’t really comment on blogs that deal in topics not discussed in polite company. People on those blogs are more interested in parroting their agendas, simply spreading talking points from some pundit who likely knows less than they do, and all this regardless of actual facts, evidence, or reasonable argumentation. Such places tend to be examples of the worst in people, and I would rather stay out of such muck.

So I usually comment in smaller blogs where the odds are better that the actual blogger will read the comment. I do like showing some appreciation when a blogger wrote something I found  useful or insightful. If they visit my blogs, it’s nice, but I certainly do not expect it nor feel entitled to such reciprocity. For me, commenting on a blog is about thanking someone for sharing some good writing and maybe responding to something they said if I am so moved.

I guess in the end there’s not much to it for me.

Here goes another link post of my semi-regular (as in when I get enough clips together to make a post) series of post collecting clips about blogging and writing. My small way of keeping track of things that inspire me or just give me ideas for things to try out in my blogging and writing.

Though I do not blog professionally, or at least with the intention of making money, I always find many of Darren Rowse’s posts to be useful and informative. I always find myself clipping them to look at later for ideas on how to improve my blogging. And who knows, maybe someday, I might make a penny or two from my blogging. In the meantime, hear are some items from ProBlogger blog,

Write to Done is another blog I find useful when it comes to writing advice. From Write to Done,

The folks at Dumb Little Man do more than just blog about writing and blogging. I always find something interesting there. From Dumb Little Man,

  • 10 Hard Truths About Blogging.” A few important reminders that I think, as a blogger, I need to hear once in a while.
  • Five Reasons to Keep a Journal.” Even when I take long breaks from blogging (voluntary or otherwise), I always go back to my personal journal.  And though I do not write in it as often as I would like, I do write in it, and I always know I have it there.


From On Techies,

CW, at Ruminations,

  • Wondering how to increase her professional blogging. I know I am wondering that question right now, up to and even considering whether I want to increase it at all (or decrease it). Some food for thought and useful links.
  • A short exercise I would like to try out sometime. I may even consider using the result for my About page in the blog, which I am considering how to redo. She writes “Life in 100 Words.” Writing it may not be as easy as it sounds.


Some things with ideas I think I can use for work mostly. Some may have personal application.


Via Social Media Examiner,

  • 6 Social Media Success Metrics to You Need to Track.” I personally do not care much for social media metrics for my own blogs and other social media presences. This in large part because I mostly do it for myself either as a form of professional development or as a hobby. However, for the library’s social media efforts, we do need to be doing more assessment, in large measure because the big honchos want assessment done as part of accreditation, and if I can somehow use some measurements that could go into those assessments, someone would be happy. I could go on a whole rant about some people being overly obsessed with numbers and forms, but I will restrain myself. At any rate, for the library there are some metrics I would be curious about since it would help me then improve content and engagement.
  • 26 Tips for Enhancing Your Facebook Page.” Our Facebook page is a primary way for us at this point to communicate and engage with our community. However, I am always looking for ways to make it work better for us. There are some items that might not be applicable due to being too business-oriented, but I think there are some good ideas here. Given my workload, I can use all the help I can get.
  • 21 Ways Non-profits Can Leverage Social Media.” This is a post with some basics, but it still has a few ideas I have tried that may be worth exploring for the library.
  • 26 Twitter Tips for Enhancing Your Tweets.” Personally, I do not use Twitter very much. I do have an account on it, and I mostly have a couple of other social media linked to it so they post automatically. I probably could do much more with it, but microblogging just seems way too short for me, and some of the mechanics of Twitter are just not too intuitive for me. In terms of the library, the director has asked me to look into it. So far, I am not convinced it would work for us based on our other social media presences. But I have to be prepared for the day when it may be inevitable (we’ll probably do it anyways regardless, and no, I am not commenting further). It is not that I am being negative about Twitter. It is just that it does not work for me personally, and as the outreach librarian, which includes our online social media tools, I don’t think we would have that much use for it at this point in time (later, maybe, but that would be later).
  • 3 Simple Ways to Rapidly Create Custom Facebook Landing Tabs.” This I definitely have to look into and implement at some point. Given that Facebook pretty much eliminated apps. (or made them so invisible as to practically not letting them exist) from profiles and pages, I may need to do some enhancing.

From Musings about librarianship:

Via Lost Remote:

Via Librarian in Black:

Via Mashable:

(This is cross-posted from The Gypsy Librarian)

We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!” –Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, from the film Star Trek: First Contact.

I have been attentive to what has been going on with the recent suicides of gay youths due to bullying up to and including the incident of the bigoted school board member in Arkansas. I have written some things in response, but so far, I kept them in my personal journal. The more I listen and watch and ponder, the more difficult I find it to stay silent, to not stand up, to not say anything. So my three readers can consider this post the one where I draw the line because bullies and bigots come and think they can get away with their crimes and uncivilized behavior. Well, no more. Not if this librarian has anything to say about it, and I do have a thing or two to say. What follows are two small items I wrote earlier that I am ready to share.

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From my personal journal, October 6, 2010:

I’ve been wanting to blog about the recent bullying and suicide stories, but I am not sure what approach to take. Jeff Jarvis, in discussing the tragedy at Rutgers University, summarized it well: “It is a story of human tragedy.” What we have here is not just an individual failure. We have a community failure from the parents of those bullies who very likely failed to instill good values like common decency to a society that pretty much is willing to accept bullying. That we had more than one suicide due to bullies in less than a month was probably enough for the media to cover it. But if it had been just one suicide in some small town, no one else would have heard about it, and people in that small town, with the exception of the victim’s relatives, would have likely chalked it up to “boys will be boys” or some similar line. A line such as “kids in school will always be kids” should never be an acceptable cover or excuse for bullying, hazing, harassment, or other kind of anti-social behavior. That adults consistently use that excuse reflects a serious lack of character and compassion.

But there is another reason I find it difficult to blog about it. It means making my views more public in a fairly hostile environment. But if I don’t stand up and speak, then who will? For me, this is the right thing to do, and yet I have my fears. As a librarian, I struggle with the illusion many in the profession hold of neutrality against the belief that we should help educate, that we should not only provide information but use our best professional judgment in providing good, accurate, and reliable information. Taking a stand breaks that illusion. It raises a flag stating that this is what I stand for and what I will defend or oppose. Yet, if I remain silent, it would not be right. I don’t think anyone said this profession would be without some risk. Then again, every time I blog, or even post a shared link online, there is the risk of offending somebody, somewhere, maybe even a future potential employer. A lot of librarianship is about image, and it is a pretty small profession where the wrong blog post can get you shunned. I try not to let it bother me. I try not to self-censor more than is necessary. But I am finding it harder and harder to stay silent. The truth needs to be spoken. We have to take a stand for what is right. In my case, writing and blogging are my ways to do so.

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From my personal journal, October 11, 2010 (National Coming Out Day):

Today is National Coming Out Day. I think it has a special significance this year given the series of LGBT youth suicides due to bullying. As Jeff Jarvis said in a post I read a few days back, those deaths are a human tragedy.

What I am thinking about today is the bravery of those LGBT folks who do choose to come out, whether today or any other day. Maybe that is just what moves me to be an ally. Maybe it’s that I think everybody should be able to love whomever they like and not be discriminated against on that basis. That civil rights should be rights for all, not just for some. That if you choose to live in a committed relationship of marriage, the gender of those involved should not be an issue for receiving the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

But what does it have to do with me? I am a straight male (at least I was last time I looked, haha!), so one would think I have nothing to gain or lose. In fact, I may have more to lose–from folks suddenly thinking I may be gay to workplace concerns; East Texas is not a particularly friendly place if you do not fall within its norms and parameters. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I do it because I look forward to the day where coming out won’t matter because it will not be an issue. Just like I hope for a day when no one is judged by race, handicap, so on, I look to the day no one is judged by their sexual orientation. I don’t think I will live to see that day given how much work and education this nation needs before it truly embraces diversity. But I hope that some day, maybe in the days of my daughter’s grandchildren, they will look back at our society and say things like “what the fuck were they thinking?” or “discriminating because someone is gay? How quaint.” Maybe some day, and I hope that day arrives sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, coming out (as an ally) is the small part I can do to bring about better days. It is my small way of saying to those in the LGBT community and the rest of the allies that they are not alone. It is my way of saying that as a librarian my skills and knowledge are at the community’s disposal, and if I can’t find a resource, I know someone who does know. I am here for those who may need a supportive person.

Do I want to be “that” librarian? I sure do. It’s the decent thing to do, and I cannot do anything less. And if certain coworkers don’t like it, then let them stew in their bigotry. They will either see the error of their ways and do the right thing, or history will simply pass them over.

I thought I could remain silent, but I can’t. Not anymore. I am coming out, and I am letting others know.

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Other readings I had in mind at the time I was writing:


Update Note: (11/1/10): Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Academic Librarian, picked up on this post, and he wrote a very detailed, thoughtful, and reasoned response on librarians and our neutral (or not) stances. It is worth reading it in its entirety.

April 2020


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