The Weekly Wrap: June 12, 2022
We have three Amazon Alexa devices in our home. I have a love/hate relationship with them.
I love them because they make great digital picture frames. I created a shared family album and upload pictures do that album regularly. We use this album as our background option and the images cycle through all day. We share this album with our extended family so it means the grandparents get to see new pictures of the kiddo on their Alexa devices as well.
I also love our Alexas because they play music with decent sound quality. I can just randomly ask for things like "90s music" or "acoustic chill" or "morning vibes." Sometimes the random stations are not quite what I had in mind, but I enjoy being introduced to new things.
My favorite part of the Alexa is that I can add things to a shopping list. The minute I run low on something I say, "Alexa, put shampoo on my shopping list." I can then refer to this list on my phone which makes shopping so much easier. I can also set reminders and alarms which has been most helpful when the Husband needs to prep something for dinner while I'm in the office.
But there are certain things I loathe about our A-words. And, yes, we call them our A-words both to not set them off and because it's more polite than saying, "A**hole! Just get my request right!"
I am convinced that assistive devices like this have not taken off because Amazon (and other companies) are so damn focused on marketing more stuff to you that they lose most of their functionality.
Those photo backgrounds I mentioned are constantly interspersed by ads I don't want. I BOUGHT THIS MACHINE, LET ME TURN THEM OFF! Plus, when you ask for things, the A-word just keeps talking trying to get you to try something new, upgrade to paid, or share something it thinks is useful based on your request. I don't want that. Cut it out. A task that should take the A-word 2 seconds ends up taking thirty because it just won't shut up. We are constantly saying, "A-word, STOP!" just to get it to be silent.
Then there are the inevitable tech glitches. I have never once gotten through a clean game of Jeopardy. The game is always dropping or restarting or skipping ahead. It's so much less enjoyable because I have to keep asking it to restart or repeat.
This is all on top of the wildly inaccurate answers to some requests that makes me think we have a second toddler who doesn't listen in our home.
Also, the inherent sexism in having a female voice be the default assistant vocal choice grates on me. Give me something like a "Giovanni" or, I dunno, maybe something entirely asexual like "Computer." I could at least feel like I'm piloting a spaceship that way.
Finally, they're totally listening all the time. I don't believe Amazon when they say they aren't.
What do you think of voice assistants?
Just Good Things #41
Every year, our University picks a book to be a common read for incoming students. This year, it's Normal Sucks by Jonathan Mooney. While I do have some issues with the text, I am finding it to be a surprisingly fast read. The author's personal narrative is woven with historical context and that structure is really working for me.
Here's what else was good in my week:
Now Reading: Champagne
Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times
Don & Petie Kladstrup
Champagne is one of my favorite wines. Anything with effervescence gets to be in my glass. I also like reading books about the history of things. Ergo, when my dad dropped this book off during his last visit, I knew it would be a read for me. I'm only about 50 pages in, but I'm enjoying the narrative non-fiction style. I love seeing how the history of champagne weaves in and out of the history of France.
The Now: June 8, 2022
Today, our reference team was supposed to hold an afternoon retreat to talk about our library instruction program. Unfortunately, two of our 5 person team our out because they are sick or had a COVID exposure. We postponed our event. I was really looking forward to this afternoon. It was going to be the first time we were all together since the pandemic started. Plus, I was excited to have us brain dump everything we want to do. Brain dumps are so cathartic and productive.
Here's what has my attention:
Tuesday Tips: Brainstorming
One of the most common requests we see at the reference desk is "I need information about X."
That "X" is generally a broad and undefined topic that can be tackled in numerous ways. This is where brainstorming comes into play.
When brainstorming you want to consider:
I like to recommend that students keep a list of information as they think through these questions. Then, they can develop a mind map to help connect ideas, themes, topics, and examples. Using brainstorming can make it easier to develop a strong research question and find keywords for searching.
The Weekly Wrap: June 5, 2022
Just this cartoon every month.
When I was a kid, summer felt like forever. The days went on and on, and it felt like I had all the time in the world to play and read. Now, three months go by and it feels like seconds. I was looking at my summer projects list for work and realized that if I got even half of it done, I could consider myself to be highly productive.
Time speeds up as you age. It's a known phenomenon. My sense of time was even more radically altered by becoming a mom. I can actually see time progressing by how tall our toddler gets compared to various objects in our home. (I will be happy when she grows past the "eyes at even level with the corner of the dining room table" stage.)
The pandemic has thrown things even more for a loop. What even is time if every day feels weirdly the same and we can't do big events to break things up?
I know that time is a real thing. But, it feels so much like a construct that I'm beginning to think it's pointless. In some ways, seeing time as something fake is radically freeing. It means we get to live in the moment and just enjoy the present as it happens.
Then again, when my doctor is 25 minutes late for an appointment, you better believe I complain about time.
How has your view of time changed?
Just Good Things #40
I had a doctor's appointment this morning. While I did have to wait 20 minutes to be seen, I at least got to walk there and back in glorious weather. It was a pleasant way to start my Friday.
Here's what else was good in my week:
Newsletter Update: My Top 3
I like making lists. I’ve got shopping lists, to watch lists, to read lists, and a bullet journal full of to-do lists. The idea for a second weekly newsletter post kept rattling around in my brain. When I started to do some strategic planning, I got so excited with my brain dumping that I created a list of content which will take me more than a year to get through.
My Top 3 will come out each Thursday evening. In these posts, I will pick a random category, define it with some backstory, and count down my top three items. Current categories on my list include white wine varieties, scents, regrets in life, kitchen utensils, songs, and mini golf themes. The possibilities are endless. (And some categories may crop up more than once as my views change.)
In keeping with The Weekly Wrap tradition, items will be linked to help you learn more.
The first three months of My Top 3 will be free for all subscribers. It will go behind a paywall on September 1.
I have activated subscription rates at the Substack minimum of $5/month or $30/year. Also, I offer a no questions asked gift subscription option. I’m basically only doing this to fuel my own desire to pay for other newsletter subscriptions.
The first issue of My Top 3 will go out tonight! We’re going to be looking at the best three books I’ve read but could never read again.
The Now: June 1, 2022
I'm finding that the productivity fatigue caused by the spring semester is still with me. In order to make any progress, I'm falling back on my tried and true technique of working on one focused project a day. Essentially, once the admin, email, and daily tasks are done, I only work on one thing. It's slower, but it gets me back on track. It helps that the reference desk has been quite quiet this summer.
Here's what has my attention: