Category Archives: Tech

5 Reasons Why I’m Straight Ballin’ At Work

Or, 5 Reasons Why These Apps and Online Tools Will Make You Rich and Successful and Cause Your Wildest Dreams To Come True (Not An Exaggeration)

1. I use OmniFocus.

Now that my work involves pursuing tenure through professional development and scholarly contributions (that’s just the kind of boring sentence a tenure-track person WOULD write), OmniFocus is, like, my crack. I discussed its ridiculous features in this post in some detail, so I won’t expostulate about it too much here. Suffice it to say that OmniFocus is capable of breaking down large goals or projects into small, achievable tasks with plenty of reminder and due date options. I use it to catch all my half-formed ideas when I’m on the run, flesh out projects and objectives, and keep track of my progress. Oh, and lest I forget, it also gives me the opportunity to enjoy a smug sense of superiority whenever I check something off the list. And who doesn’t want that?

I can be obnoxiously smug sometimes. It’s a shortcoming.

2. I keep my meeting notes in an online blog.

So most jobs involve, like, a million trillion meetings. Honestly, what is that about? You really can’t just send me an email? Anyway, all these meetings require note-taking, which means you need a good way to record, organize, access, and preserve your notes (and that’s just the kind of boring sentence a librarian would write). But seriously, y’all, it’s 2012. Time to step away from the notepad and file drawer (or pile of random paper on your desk, if that’s your system). Instead, do this:

  • Establish a free WordPress blog
  • Adjust the settings to make it completely private
  • Enable the ability to submit posts by email
  • Create categories for different types of meetings (staff meetings, committees, clients, what have you)
  • Establish a standard method for titling each post (“Weekly Staff Mtg 9/27/12” or “HR Webinar 10/4/12”, etc.) and use those titles every time
  • Download a note-taking app with rich text editing and email capabilities, like Notemaster
  • Use your phone or tablet to take notes in your meetings (and be sure to tell people you aren’t texting or you’ll get some really dirty looks)
  • Code your notes with appropriate categories and tags—most important step of all!
  • Email each new set of notes to your blog

And voila! Now you have a database of all your notes featuring built-in organization, instant access from any device or machine, and robust searching capability. Do you see the beauty of this system? If you’re trying to remember what your boss in that meeting six months ago about TPS reports, you don’t have to thumb through a stack of paper in a drawer somewhere. Just go to your blog and search your tags, or pull up the “Boss meetings” category and scroll by date. Immediate retrieval FTW!

3. I browse with Firefox.

Look, I know Chrome is a good browser (I actually use it at home), but for work purposes Chrome can’t quite compare to the level of customization that Firefox offers; plus it seems to work better with sites I visit often in the course of my cataloging tasks. And we’re not even going to discuss that other browser. What’s that you say? You like it? Excuse me while I scornfully harrumph. HARRUMPH SNARK HARRUMPH. Anyway, install Firefox. Done? Good. Now install some add-ons. My goal for my work browser is to give myself as much screen space as possible for actual content instead of wasting it on menu and tool bars, and I also like to speed up navigation as quickly as possible (I’m often jumping between six or eight different sites while cataloging), so here are my favorite add-ons:

  • Bookmarks menu —> places your bookmarks folders on the nav bar for quick access
  • Speed Dial —> make your home page and new tabs a panel of favorite sites
  • OmniBar —> combine search engine and nav bars
  • Translate This —> no more copying and pasting, just translate right on the page
  • All-in-One Gestures —> use efficient mouse movements to quickly navigate  through and between pages

With all these tools in place, I blaze through the web like a freaking comet. WHOOSH. That was me, just blazing by. I was probably saying “Suckaaaaas!”

Here’s how Firefox looks with all my customizations (click to enlarge!).

4. I store articles and manage citations with Zotero.

Being a cataloger at an academic library means reading a LOT of scholarly articles, plus a bunch of other documentation on cataloging standards and practices. At first, I was printing articles off as I found them and sticking them in a “to-read” file, but again, I find this paper-based system inadequate. Some of those articles are about the tenets of cataloging sound recordings, but others are about changing standards in encoding bibliographic data. My file doesn’t allow me to easily sort by subject or date or anything helpful like that—instead I just have to thumb through a pile of paper and probably get a paper cut and turn into the Autumn Monster. To prevent these distressingly Hulkesque incidents, I’ve started using Zotero, a free program that will automatically save articles, web pages, and other content to folders which you can label by category, author, format, whatever. But that’s not all—Zotero also generates citation info in dozens of different authorized formats (APA, MLA, etc.) so that if and when you decide to write a brilliant and exciting paper about the use of geographic area codes in the public catalog, your bibliography is already formatted and ready to go. And the very awesomest part is, there is a Zotero add-on for Firefox. It is so easy to grab an article while browsing, stick it in a folder, and tag it “to-read.” In fact, sometimes I feel compelled to say BOOYAH to the computer when I do it. Sorry, coworkers.

5. I stay speedy and secure with LastPass.

If you’re like me, you have approximately five thousand logins to various essential sites online. Also if you’re like me, you’re dumb and use the same password all the time. Well, stop that. ::reaches through internet and flicks your forehead:: It’s dangerous, as I found out when someone hacked my Gmail. I had to fly around in a panic changing Amazon, iTunes, Facebook, bank accounts, bills, and other sensitive stuff. And then I couldn’t remember any of those new passwords. DAMEET. So…enter LastPass. I found out about it from a rave review on a tech blog and I haven’t looked back since. It’s a free service that stores all your login information in a secure vault to which you set one master password and which you can access from any computer. You only have to remember that one single password to open your vault, and LastPass does the rest. The LastPass Firefox add-on will automatically retrieve and enter your login information into all your sites, depending on your settings and stipulations. So when I click my SpeedDial button for ClassWeb, the next second I’m in, no waiting or typing. And LastPass will even generate crazy good passwords for new sites if you want. But for the LOVE OF GOD don’t forget your master password. LastPass can’t give it to you or reset it–they don’t store it anywhere, which makes your account nice and secure but also a huge pain in the neck if you forget. Then you might turn into the You Monster. And nobody wants to see that mess.

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5 Reasons Why My Relatives Should Expect Digital Gifts and Thank-You Notes From Now On

Or, 5 Reasons Why Somewhere, At This Very Moment, the Postmaster General Is Shedding a Silent Tear

1. I live in Michigan.

And y’all live waaaaay down there. I’m not used to all this distance. It depresses me, going to the post office and hearing it could take a week for this stuff to get to your dang house. Pssssh. Forget that.

Come visit me! It’s only 13+ hours in the car.

2. I can spend more cash on your present if I save on shipping.

It’s simple. You can get an annoyingly over-taped box on your doorstep three days late, or you can get some extra dollars’ worth of goodness in your inbox bright and early on whatever particular day we’re celebrating. Warning: This does mean you should probably expect a lot of gift cards (though the array of cool digital gift options is expanding every day). I try to be creative as possible within that framework, but if you think it’s boring, you’re just going to have to deal. Go spend your cash and quit whining, gah.

I’ve broken it down for you here in a highly technical chart.

3. I can make thank-you notes less boring.

Isn’t it more fun to see me enjoying your gift rather than reading the same old conventional words on paper about how much I love it? I mean, I do love it, but it’s hard to convey my true enthusiasm in a notecard. Photos and videos are much more entertaining for both of us.

Here I am with Monkey. We’re both luxuriating in my new Forever Lazy, which is like a fleecy hug. Thanks, mother-in-law! And before anyone asks: No, photo/video thank-yous are NOT a thinly disguised ploy to make you view even more pictures of my cats. All cat appearances are purely incidental. I swear.

4. It’s better for the environment.

No cards, envelopes, boxes, and wrapping paper going to a landfill. No giant truck burning tons of fuel and sending exhaust fumes into the air. Is anyone else feeling increasingly guilty about their carbon footprint lately?

This polar bear judges you whenever you send unnecessary mail.

5. Get with the times, people.

Look, we visit on Skype, we share pictures on Facebook, we talk by email and text. I probably know more about your day-to-day existence now than I did five years ago. Half our lives are lived online—it’s time for our occasion-celebration rituals to join the digital world too. I’m a librarian, for heaven’s sake. I’m morally obliged to make you embrace technology.

The future is now. And all that.

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5 Reasons Why I’m Turning Into a Rage Monster

Or 5 Reasons Why the Trials of This World Are Almost Too Much for My Sensitive Soul

1. I can’t control my water temperature.

For whatever reason (the gods like to laugh at mere mortals?), my shower faucet is totally wack. I have to start out at extreme melt-your-flesh hot just to get the water heater up and going. Then I spend ten minutes trying to find a bearable temperature, but that’s almost impossible because here’s what happens when I turn the handle toward cool:

  • Nothing
  • It gets hotter
  • Deceptive unresponsiveness—it stays hot until I give up and get in, at which point it suddenly becomes ice water and the whole process starts over again.

One day soon my neighbors are going to see a betowelled, crazy-eyed lunatic with scald marks and sudsy hair running down the street shrieking curses at the heavens.

2. I keep seeing girls wearing tights as though they are pants.

I’m…I’m just aghast. Dear every female college student: I guess you think that tights are no different from normal cloth leggings, but you have lost your mind. Tights are purchased in the underwear section of the store, which should give you your first clue. Under. They go under clothes. Also, have you ever considered that tights are actually not made out of real fabric? Meaning that they are somewhat translucent. Meaning that they don’t hide that whole situation you got going on there, which would and should be hidden by pants. And with the way they cling to your skin, you might as well just paint your bottom half and call it a day. Have you no pity? Please stop inflicting your horrifying pseudo-nudity on the general populace. Seriously, our nerves are shot.

Dear God...

I will never be able to unsee that.

3. Angry Birds Space is really hard.

I’m not some schlub, ok? I do not consider the game beaten until I get three stars on every level including secret eggsteroid ones (not to mention 100% for Space Eagle attacks). Which means that my blood pressure rises with each failed attempt to launch a bird with the exact velocity on the exact trajectory needed to kill the most pigs and garner the most possible points. Sometimes the sound of those smug pigs honking and snorting fills me with such profound fury that I want to hurl my iPad through the window and then stomp on the remaining shards. Instead I quietly pull out my hair and grind my teeth and think evil thoughts about the game’s creators, who seem bent on hastening me to an early grave.

4. Our dryer has a poorly placed lint trap.

Whoever designed this is 1) an idiot and 2) a dirty slob since clearly they don’t do enough laundry to know that putting a big pile of lint right on the dryer opening is dumb. It doesn’t matter how rabidly I clean this thing—there are always bits of disgusting filth clinging to it. That’s just the nature of lint traps. Usually that’s ok, since most lint traps are sensibly located away from high-clothes-traffic regions. But not this one, oh no. This one is conveniently placed in the exact area where clothes are most likely to come into contact. If I don’t want lint bits on the clothes that were JUST WASHED, then I have to gingerly load/unload items one by one, making sure they don’t trail over the trap in the process. And whenever I wash my giant (white) duvet cover, it’s impossible to get it in or out of the dryer without it dragging right across all that built-up grime. Thank you, useless dolt of a dryer designer, for contributing to my descent into OCD madness. I think I hate you even more than the people who are responsible for those awful kinds of restroom stalls where the door opens inward and you have to practically climb on the toilet to shut it (though they’re a close second).

I have feelings of actual violence toward the person or persons responsible for this outrage.

5. I owe Alabama state taxes.

This may or may not be fair—I’m not sure since tax codes are about as clear to me as astrophysics. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am gnashing my teeth right now. Paying (even more) money to the government sucks harder than…than…being married to Newt Gingrich. ZING! No actually, that’s probably not true at all. Anyway, it sucks. And on top of that, I can’t even e-file! I have to actually print and mail my return. And my printer just ran out of ink. Y’all, this mess is on my last nerve.

Brrrr. Makes the flesh creep.

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