Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Public Internet Jeopardy

Answer: When the deskslave was designing Microsoft Word 2007, he decided to remove all the useful commands from the menus and stick them in various ribbons where their graphical representations would be far from obvious to most. He also removed Microsoft Mindreader which would figure out what the user wanted and make it look all purty, just like that. It's the deskslave's fault and you may abuse him for it.

Question: What is, "Why can't I find any of the commands in Word and why doesn't the program automatically intuit what put the type in single space Georgia 12 point when I start typing and who can I demonize and hate for this?"

Alex Trebek:

Lady on Internet Computer #14: I'd like Things That are the Fault of the Mild-Mannered Middle-Aged Guy Over There and For Which I am Incredibly Angry for 400, please, Alex.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh, That Jennifer Schuessler

On the New York Times Book Review website this week, Bestseller List editor Jennifer Schuessler introduces Dan Brown's latest with:

Dan Brown’s “Lost Symbol” enters the hardcover fiction list at No. 1, as predicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Federalist Papers and Season 4 of “The X-Files.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Though it is not my fault...

Recently, we* moved our DVD collection to a new spot. (Civilians often think we hide stuff from them to either make them feel bad or perhaps to give ourselves job security. But really, there is typically a perfectly good reason to move stuff around. I swear.) The old spot was 11 feet behind and to the left of me. The new spot is 8 fee to the left in front of me. "Where are the movies?" has been a frequent question since we opened the new library, though it has been trailing off lately. Until the move. The move was a good idea, there is more room for people to browse. But until that sinks in, the questions have come back. Which I don't mind. I like them better than all those questions that I can't answer. However, there are a few ways the question is expressed that I don't care for. One is the accusatory, as in, "Why did you get rid of your DVDs?" (Trust me, I'd like to do that.) Like we would one day decide to chuck tens of thousands of dollars of high-circ material!

*by we, I mean, of course, other people.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chain wallet for a 10-year-old?

It's kind of sweet when you see little kids with wallets. No money, maybe a school id, hopefully a library card. I thought it was a bit much, though, when the 10-year-old checking out the stack of DVDs had one. Though, I suppose you could make the point that her was using it as it was originally intended before it was coopted by posers trying to look tough. Motorcycle riders had them so that their $$ won't go flying down the highway. So maybe the kid does some serious BMXing and needs such a thing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh, The Extra Work!

I was summoned over by a cross-looking fellow at a library catalog computer* a while ago. He was trying to reserve a book and I got all good and ready to give my patented "here's how you place a hold" pep talk. But that wasn't the problem. He was down with the tech. It was the number of digits he had to type to place the hold that was the source of his scowliness. Like most libraries, we have a barcode with about 6 zillion digits on it. OK, only fourteen, but still. I was informed that in the neighboring county's truly amazing system you only have to type in 5 or 6 or some other small number. He wanted to be able to do that here in the lightless regions where we filthy primitives huddle. The news that he just couldn't do it like they do it in the paradisiacal system on the other side of the highway where I earnestly wished him to be struck him as not just odd or irritating, but bad and wrong.

We have all had the experience where there is something that we have nothing to do with and can't do anything about, but have to weather the storm of others' frustration and it's never fun. But this was different, since he could not believe that he had to type all those gosh darn numbers, so it had to be the stupid moron, i.e. me, who was just being, well, stupid. I just didn't know enough to let him know which 5 digits he had to type.

My shrug is practiced, and he was treated to one of them.

*Or OPAC, as we library types like to say. OPAC is an acronym for Obtuse People's Automatic Confusion, reminding us all that, even in this day of computer ubiquity, lots of people still haven't the faintest clue.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sir, your ringtone?

The loud one? Sounds like an old fashioned telephone? Timeless classic. Thanks for sharing it with us. Again and again. No, really. Thanks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Don't Go Away," he ordered.

"Don't go away: I might need you," he ordered. I had just explained to him how to use one of our tragically slow Internet computers. Like me, he was a middle aged man. Unlike me, he had the air of somebody who is used to having people listen carefully and obey. He tried to swipe his card in our fancy new card swipe thingies that you can use rather than submit to the torment of typing in 14 whole characters. Swipe. Nothing. Swipe. Nothing. Swipeswipeswipe. Nothingnothingnothing. He looked at me with a look that suggested that this technological glitch was not just my fault, but something I had done deliberately, just to waste his time, a commodity, I should have realized by then, more precious than air. I shrugged and let him know that he'd have to type it in the old-fashioned way. I received my orders to remain as he began to type in his 14-digit bar code using the time honored "Eagle Method." You know the Eagle Method. If you don't, I'll teach it to you right now:
First,forget everything you know about typing. Really. Everything. Imagine that "QWERTY" is just a random string of charaters. A computer keyboard means no more to you than a wall full of heiroglyphs. Now, stick out your index finger. Here comes the eagle part: imagine that the tip of your index finger is a beautiful Golden Eagle, soaring high above the ground, its outstretched wings catching an updraft of air that sends it to and fro, high over the verdant valley of keys. OK, little eagle, circle the valley for a while. While the eagle circles high above the keyboard/valley, find the first letter you want to type. This key is what the eagle method typists call a "Field Mouse." Your job, little eagle, is to dive down and strike the hapless mouse. Then, quickly regain altitude and begin the hunt anew. Circle, dive, strike, climb. Circle, dive, strike, climb. Repeat this process until you're finished typing or until you notice one of the many mistakes you have made, whichever comes first. If you find a mistake, take a long moment to search for the backspace key and slap it around for a while so that you can retype even the correct parts. Remember: you are unfamiliar with keyboards and are innocent of such things as "arrow keys" and "mouse clicks."
No way I was going to hang around while he performed his complex aerial ballet.
"I'll be around," I told him, and walked the eight paces back to the very desk that gives your humble DeskSlave his name. But I have to admit, he was right. I was needed. And right away. The sound of the repeated and peremptory "Hey" he emitted told me of the grave urgency. I can be machine-like, I admit. Sometimes I answer the phone with my practiced and clever "Hello this is DeskSlave Central" opener and have people say nothing as they wait for the machine to deliver the rest of the message. But, dear friends, I am not a dog, so no amount of "heys" (or finger snaps or whistles) can get me to respond. He eventually found a slightly more polite way to get my attention.
"It's not working," I was informed. A finger was extended in a dramatic "J'accuse" fashion toward the screen. Maybe it was the spaces interspersed in the number that caused the failure of our system to work the way he wanted. Maybe it was the numbers themselves, which appeared to be randomly generated. Sometimes you try to teach the man to fish. Sometimes you drop the fish into the eagle's beak, if you know what I mean. I keyed all 14 digits in for him and got it right THE VERY FIRST TIME.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's All My Fault, Parts 368-411

The wireless is down here at DeskSlave Central. The crack IT team was immediately informed of this and has, no doubt, been zealously working in teams around the clock to make sure the good citizenry are not deprived of their single carrier direct-sequence spread spectrum radio signals. Being good librarians, we have pasted the joint with colorful signs, alerting readers to the lack of WiFi-itude. I'd say that 50% of inquiries at the DeskSlave Desk have had to do with this. Half fall under the well-meaning, confused or outraged informing me that they could get no wireless. (One even peeking around the largish "Hey we don't got no WiFi" sign to do so.) Half are inquiries regarding the exact time service will be restored. Some folks are taking it well, but others are clearly having a hard time getting their heads around the idea that they might not be able to surf the web* from the comfort of their laptops in the hushed and pleasantly temperature-controlled DeskSlave Central.
A particularly happy young man just asked me when I was going to turn the wireless back on, like there was a switch back in Technical Services that I flipped off to deprive him personally of wireless signal.

* The always interesting Shushie pointed out that BusinessWeek thinks that the phrase "Surf the Internet" is as outdated DooWop music, but I'm an old codger, so I'll still use it. At least I didn't say that they might not be able to get on to the onramp of the Information SuperHighway, or InfoBahn, as you young people call it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

It's Pretty Peppy Party with Michelle's Marshmallow Melange

... and don't forget the yummm

(found in a returned book)

You have a nice day, too

OK, I'm a total library nerd and as such, I find the catalog far too interesting and too much fun. When I get the chance to show somebody how it really works, I am probably a bit more excited than the occasion warrants. Sometimes, people get into it, too. Most of the time, I get the "Drop the Bone, Dog" look eventually. And sometimes I get the nice woman yesterday, who seemed interested enough about my on-the-spot tutorial, and complemented the system by cheerfully predicting the imminent redundancy of librarians.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This part of the village is tired of raising your child

The sweet-faced 8-year-old walked up and said, "I want my glasses back."
Now, there are many things I want back, my youth chief among them, but I do not barge up to strangers and demand that these needed things be produced. After some questioning, using my finely honed reference interview skills, I determined that the child had left her glasses at a computer and that they were in the Lost and Found. Retrieving them from the box, I must say I was fairly chuffed. If I had lost my super fashionable glasses and some guy was holding them out to me, I would regard that person as my hero. The little girl literally snatched her specs out of my hand, turned on her heel and walked away without a word.
Not long afterward, she told me she wanted a guest pass to use one of the fine IntarWeb surfing machines we provide for the children of our community to conduct scholarly research. She snatched that out of my hand in the same way.
I'm cutting her off. We need a little more manners around here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's All My Fault, Part 367

I was summoned to a computer in the teen room. A screen was pointed at. It appeared to be an attempted gmail account recreation of someone, perhaps the young woman who summoned me. I guess that Google now texts the would be gmailer an activation code to start the new account. I explained this to her, pointing to the phone number and telling her that the text looked like it had been sent there. I got a blank stare. I tried again, asking questions to make sure she was the person who filled out the form, etc.
A young man, whom I took to be her brother or maybe boyfriend, or perhaps just an interested observer, fixed me with a practiced sneer and a somewhat outraged look.
"When I set up my account, it didn't ask me for no activation thingie."
I recommended that he contact Google and take up the injustice with them, since I had nothing to do with account creation at Google.

The Savior's Name Invoked in Lieu of an Offering of Thanks

Lots of little print shops used to have a sign prominently displayed that read "Poor Planning on Your Part Does Not Constitute and Emergency on Ours." Maybe not a great declaration of customer service, but I sympathize with the sentiment.* I was in the back conducting necessary deskslave business and not at the desk as scheduled. Of course, that was the moment that a typically levelheaded colleague rushed over and asked if I was supposed to be at the desk. "Some lady is freaking out over there."
She pointed to a woman giving a shelf the once-over. I boldly strode over to where she stood.
"Hi, can I help you find any..."
"Yes! I'm looking for [some currently semi-popular novel]. It's supposed to be in! It's not here!" This was all said in the sort of tone I would expect from somebody looking for a lost child or wallet.
I asked about what she had tried and I was told breathlessly that she had already told somebody. Not wishing to take the time to explain my lack of telepathic skills, I asked her to repeat what she had tried, which amounted to looking on the fiction shelf. I told her that I would look it up to see if it was supposed to be on the New Fiction shelf, or perhaps had just been
checked in, blah blah blah. She told me that she was late from her lunch and had NO TIME FOR THIS. I told her I'd look, but also mentioned that we could place a hold and she could come back later.

I'll cut to the chase here and say that after a longish search I found it. Jubilantly, I approached her with a smile and held it out to her.
"Jesus!" she exclaimed, pulling the book from my grasp. She stomped over to the self check from there.

*Another great sign I once saw read "Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick Two."