Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Seattle...even MORE thoughts

They say that Seattle has the highest IQ per capita in the US. I am not surprised by this statistic after noting two anomolies. First, Seattle and environs has more book stores, new and used per block than anywhere I have been, including New York. Second hand books are everywhere, and the St. Vincent de Paul store on Bothel Way in Kenmore has a huge used book section running to two rooms and a children's section! You won't see that in a thrift store many places. And the books are not all schlock! I had to hold back so I wouldn't have to drag books home on the plane. In the grocery stores and the usual chain stores there are larger selections of books, including literature than I have ever seen in run of the mill stores. I didn't get a chance to hit any larger book stores in downtown Seattle but I have heard rumors of great finds to be made!The second odd thing hit me in the face while driving around the area of Kirkland, Kenmore and Bothel just on routine errands and scenic tours - the street signs! Where else would you see a sign reading "Road Revision" not to mention "Arterial Ends"! Out in normalville the signs say either "No Thru Traffic" or "Dead End", and the "Road Rivision"; does that mean "Construction Ahead?" My goodness, one would have to have ones handy Pocket Webster's to navigate! There must be a handbook somewhere with Handy Travelers Phrases for Seattle. In the foreign language section perhaps. All in all a good thing to see signs of intellect infusing the landscape. Pervasive sense of civilization, all the while remaining quite the most calm setting of any major city I've visited.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Seattle...more thoughts

Thinking about Seattle for another month since my return, I realize I really liked it. I liked the area and the undercurrent of a slower pace of life. With so many people moving to Seattle from the urban East and California, I wonder how long this pace of life will last. The climate, like the climate in Vermont, makes casual comfortable garb the norm - boots and wool; fleece and hats abound in both places. And that's summer. No, really. Oh, I admit in summer there are warm days, then it's jeans and tee shirts. After awhile you own no dress shoes in Vermont, and I wonder if that's not true in Seattle too...unless we call clogs dressy. So, all in all, I am looking forward to my next visit, and I can tell you could get used to living there easily.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

LibraryThing...it's fun!

I fell across LibraryThing one evening while surfing for I don't remember what? I was drawn by the exotic scent of organization to put in about 57 of my own books. I have some really nice software I paid for to "catalog" books, and I have tried simple cataloging software that was free. Library thing provides a title search among various countries libraries, as well as searching the AMAZON.COM database, and LibraryThing is web-based, and lives on the web in a Blogger supported site. All you need is the title, author or illustrator name, or ISBN etc. The searching uses Z39.50 protocol across numerous databases (you don't have to know anything about what this means to search, and in fact it should be an invisible aspect of searching) It does require correct spelling - no fuzzy searching here. I paid little attention to the editions I brought in, just the title was the thing because I was trying the "tagging" function. Instead of set Library of Congress subject headings, LibraryThing allows you, the user, to "tag" your individual books with the subjects you feel apply. This is hardly standardized of course, and that's the fun part!

With Library of Congress Cataloging, the cataloger wants to pinpoint the subject of a work so that a heading can be given which describes precisely what the book is "about." Thus a new heading: Distracted Drivers, created when a book only about distracted drivers comes across the desk at LC. So it is not the subject heading which may be searched in a precise hierarchical form, it is the call number assigned the work which is the hierarchical form.

The call number system of the Library of Congress is the most widely affirmed system of categorization of works. There is a book with Dewey system equivalents which point to the LC number equivalent of each Dewey category. Thus, since libraries are arranged by call number, when you go to the library you can browse the shelves in informational clumps. When you search online however, you usually use title, keyword or subject, and the average person has no idea what the LC heading for subjects may be, thus there is a system in place for cross-referencing. If the heading is not an LC heading, you will see a "SEE" reference, and if there are related headings, you will see a "SEE ALSO" reference. You can of course search library catalogs by call number and browse call numbers as well, so you can get a list of works in a given subject area.

I have a theory that today's searchers are putting in a lot of general keyword searches. I know I do, as well as title searches with truncated forms, such as just a few words. The problem here is that on AMAZON you will get about a million hits that you have to wade through. Do people care if they have to wade through a lot of hits? How about if the list was less illustrated and more compact, thus allowing you to roll your eyes speedily down a hundred titles on the page?

Back to the fun of LibraryThing: the tags. These are what they say - metadata tags right in the record with which a searcher will find all the "stuff" with the same tag in the database of LibraryThing. If there is no standard list of tags, pretty soon you are all over the place. Is this good? It well may be good. I found that I gave books tags that perhaps others would not have given those titles, yet when I went back to search, I found that there were others who had had the same general ideas, and thus I saw more titles of works in the same general category of (for example) pulp fiction.

So LibraryThing has energized my thinking and brought a lot of semi-dormant theorizing out of my own wetware database! It feels good to throw off a little dust and rust, and to think about stratified, codified, hierarchified and funified information delivery.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Seattle...trip to Microsoft

I admit to feeling thrilled to be able to visit Microsoft. Even for those who eschew (or pretend to) Windows et. al., it still remains that Microsoft is a mecca of techies everywhere. The day was sunny, giving the lie to the idea of Seattle and Redmond being constantly drenched with rain. In fact in the two weeks I was there the weather must have been ordered by the Chamber of Commerce because it couldn't have been better! So I saw Microsoft at its best in a sunny happy vista (get it? VISTA?) on a sunny happy day. Just a "civilian" observation - Microsoft recruits the best of the workaholic techie community. These people love to work, they love their jobs, they are fired by the competition of the job, and they also seem more collegial that many corporate cultures. There is a shared pressure, a shared deadline awareness, and a willingness on the part of most to "get-er-done." They work in a clean, modern, comfortable environment in one of the most topographically pleasing spots on earth and they get to dress "business casual." And in Seattle that means a lot of shorts and polo shirts.

We sampled the dining hall's offerings, and I must say the facilities are terrific. A varied selection of food was available, and lots of ethnic foods as well. Delicious! Even in the dining hall there are many themed posters and reminders of the corporate culture, such as in the paper table signs reminding employees who they work for, in case they don't remember.

Microsoft likes to decorate the campus with all sorts of promotional materials about themselves, and it lends a colorful and somewhat festival like atmosphere to the whole place. Colorful banners abound, like this one with a festive decorater touch in a server theme. It hangs in the vestibule of one of the buildings, and is visible from a glass enclosed mezzine up on the second floor. An open, airy building which houses workers in interestingly named corridors like a branching miriad of inner city European streets, criss-crossing and leading who knows where, all abuzz with activity.

All in all a pleasent visit, and one I hope to repeat! Next time more pictures and more exploration. As we drove away, I felt that these 24 years of my computing experience had gotten a terrific treat, no matter what OS I currently use. A bit of history visited.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Seattle...second installment

Downtown Seattle at the Pike Place Market was interesting. We got there and parked in a garage right at the market. It cost $11.00 for the maybe two hours we were there. It was worth it though, because the streets were narrow and crowded, and finding parking would have been no fun at all. The market itself was not as "grand" as I had pictured it, and in fact bore a certain resemblence to downtown Burlington, Vermont on farmer's market day. Seattle's tourist people should take a real hard look at the Pike Place area, because it seems to be peopled by three sorts. The obviously out-of-town tourist from some tourist factory in the midwest somewhere (where DO they get those same shirts and shorts that tourist wore in 1963?) who walk around faces agog taking in the bizarre sights of the crunchy-hippie-down-and-outs who make up the second group. Unfortunately the nearby park was occupied in one entire half by homeless men trying to catch a few winks wrapped up in their blankets, and bleary-eyed druggies who looked out at the tourists as if the visitors were the odd birds. The third group inhabiting the market is the vendors and the locals who go there to buy. A busy trade goes on, and there are jewelry stalls, art of various kinds, totebags, tee shirts and the like for the tourists, fresh herbs, flowers, seafood, and several eateries, soaps and herbal products, and more. All told a thriving, jostling vortex of humanity packed in like the fish on the displays.The fish market is as you would expect a fish market to be. That whole thing about throwing fish around is really over rated. It looks like guys throwing fish around. Well, I've seen the Fulton Fish Market in NYC, so maybe fish aren't a thrill like they are to some people.I got some lovely honey sticks at a really good price. Less than I could get them in the NorthEast. So that was a good days work.

The crowning glory of Pike Street Market are the flowers. The plethora of bloom was incredible. The variety of flowers was amazing, and the colors and groupings were truly wondrous. The prices for cut flowers were so low that if you could keep flowers for months it would pay to import them from Seattle. I have never seen such lush, large, colorful bouquets. Going rate was $15.00 for a large bouquet better than the local florist could make you for $40.00. Arrangements of these flowers was so professionally done, and so attuned to color and size that if I lived there I would always have fresh flowers and never have to grow any myself!