Monthly Archives: December 2006

Goodbye to You

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Say goodbye to an era. Geof is buying my old imac. I’m so glad it’s going to a good home where someone will love it like I did.

Soy Considered Harmful

I was frightened last night to learn that soy saps our precious bodily fluids and turns our manly boys into limp-wristed pantywaist homosexuals. There’s been some editing to the article since I saw it last night: originally the title was “A devil food is turning our kids into homosexuals.”

It’s since been changed to “Soy is making kids ‘gay’,” which is at least more readable if no less ridiculous. Still, I’m a parent now. I can’t take the chance that I’ll give Eli the gay. Sorry, dad, you can’t have soy milk the next time you come.

Cataloging Our Stuff

Here’s the deal. Like good consumers, we have a lot of CDs, DVDs, and books. Especially books. We have books on the bookshelf in Baby TBA’s room. We have them under the bed in Baby TBA’s room. We have them in closets. Under end tables. If you open the pantry? Books spill out, a tide of literacy and potential paper cuts. What’s a family to do?

Get rid of some of those books? Ha, you clearly don’t know us. No, what we need to do is catalog it all. We tried this a few years ago using a combination of Python scripts and chutzpah, but the scripts needed too much hand-holding and in the end I would have still had to do something with the information that was being saved in big long text files. But I hear there are nifty packaged programs now available to do the job. Maybe we should buy something from SIRSI. Ha! Ha! Just kidding, dad!

Anyway, I took a look at several cataloging programs. Here are the things I’m looking for:

  • Catalog books, DVDs, and CDs. The last is less important, since we’re about done with our year-long project to digitize all of our music, but I’d rather not have a program that just does books or just does CDs.
  • Decent interface. What doomed the project last time was all of the fiddling I had to do to add books, and I had no good way of looking at the data once I’d entered it.
  • Ease of data entry. Most of the software packages use barcode scanners, which is a fine way to read the UPC information. But it’s what the program does after that that is important. How much manual massage is required to turn that UPC information into bibliographic information?
  • Tracks loans. We hand out books and CDs and all, and it’d be nice to keep track of who has what. Our current system of writing things down on post-it notes that then get lost or thrown away is not so ideal.
  • Portable data format or good exporting tools. Any software package I buy today has no guarantee of being around in five or ten years. I need to be able to take the data elsewhere. Plain text is a bare minimum requirement, though export to something like XML or a CSV spreadsheet format would be nifty.
  • Portable data. One thing I’d like to be able to do is have the data on a PDA when trolling used book stores to make sure I don’t buy duplicates unawares.
  • Cross-platform. Ours is a house divided, with me using PCs and Misty using Macs.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our judging criteria. Bring in the candidates!

Collectorz.com

Collectorz is the goofy name for an umbrella of software designed to catalog media. You type in author and title information or ISBN data; alternatively, you scan the media’s UPC bar code with a barcode reader. The software then gathers full information about the book, movie or CD and populates its database with the results.

The good: Adding media to the database is simple. The program pulls information from the Library of Congress, the British Library, the various flavors of Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, IMDB, and their own online databases. The program grabs cover images while it’s at it. You can create custom printed lists using XML/XSL, and can export to HTML, CSV, and XML. The software is available for Mac or PC, though you must buy one or the other.

The bad: Each and every type of media you want to catalog requires a separate software purchase at either $20 (standard version) or $30 (pro version) a pop. Music, movies, video games, books, comic books (!), mp3s (!!), all are separate programs. The standard version of the software has no exporting features, does “simple lists”, and will not track loans. You can buy “premium support” to get your support questions answered faster.

Summary: Collectorz feels like it was designed to extract as much money from me as possible. To cover both books and movies would cost $60; throw in CD cataloging and we’re up to $90. That’s before you buy a barcode scanner, too.

Readerware

Readerware is the granddaddy of these software packages. You type in a list of ISBNs or scan them in using a barcode scanner. Readerware then downloads the information including cover images. The data itself is stored in an SQL database, though it’s not clear to me whether or not you can do SQL searches directly.

The good: Like the Collectorz software, Readerware pulls information from many online sources and downloads cover images. It exports to tab-delimited files, CSVs, and UIEE. The software is available for Mac, PC, and Linux. It tracks loans. It has a built-in browser and integrates directly with sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble so you can purchase books through the program and enter them into your database at once.

The bad: Also like Collectorz, Readerware has separate programs for books, for CDs, and for movies. The programs are $40 apiece or $75 for all three. It’s a clunkier-looking program than the others reviewed here — it looks like one of those old Borland applications that companies use to keep track of items in their stockroom.

Summary: This has many of the same strengths and weaknesses of Collectorz, though you can get all three versions of Readerware for less than the three analogous Collectorz packages. On the other hand, Collectorz has a nicer-looking interface.

Delicious Library

Delicious Library, like the previous two programs, lets you scan your media and catalog them. It’s a Mac-only product that is tightly integrated with the OS and uses an iTunes-like interface.

The good: Delicious Library is extremely pretty. The iTunes-like interface has the benefit of familiarity. You can scan your books in by putting the barcode in front of an iSight camera. (How cool is that?) Your catalog is saved in XML format, and a number of pre-written scripts exist to take that data and export it as other things. It keeps track of loaned items. For $40 it will catalog books, movies and CDs.

The bad: It’s Mac only. The interface is only as good as the iTunes interface; you don’t have the flexibility of Collectorz in setting up views. It doesn’t pull data from as many sources.

Summary: Everything I’ve read has given a big thumbs-up to Delicious Library. I will admit my shallow outlook and say that the program’s look is just about enough to sell it to me. Plus the ability to read barcodes via a camera is genius. I’ve seen that application in industrial machine vision applications, but had never thought about applying it to the problem of cataloging media.

LibraryThing

LibraryThing is an online book catalog site that collates its members’ catalogs into a collaborative social catalog. You type in a book’s title and author, import a list of ISBN codes from text files or web pages, or pull information directly from a CueCat scanner. LibraryThing then collates information about the books from various libraries and from Amazon.com.

The good: The del.icio.us-like social aspects are intriguing, and allows the site to provide recommendations. You can enter 200 books for free; for $10 a year or $25 lifetime you can add all the books you want. You can export your book information as tab-delimited text or as a CSV file. Playing with the website is fun. You can integrate your library into your blog easily. It’s clearly cross-platform, and it has an API you can use to get at its data.

The bad: It only does books. It doesn’t track loans per se, though you can tag books that you’ve loaned out as being on loan. You’re giving your library data to a business to hold, which may or may not bother you.

Summary: LibraryThing is a really fun site, and if we were only cataloging books, this is the way I’d go in a heartbeat.

The Summary

From where I’m sitting, Delicious Library is the way to go, even though we have a number of PCs in the house. It has a number of nifty features and has a lower price point for my needs. I may spring for a full LibraryThing account as well because it’s fun to play with. Were I going to limit myself to software that ran under Windows, it’d be a toss-up. Luckily, everything I’ve looked at in this article has trial versions or free-but-limited versions. Talk to me in a few months when I’ve tried using one of these programs in more depth.

File Under: I am SO pregnant

Night before last, Stephen and I were reading in bed when I suddenly had an overwhelming craving for a donut. Now this is rare for me. I like donuts ok but while pregnant I don’t do too well with overly sugary foods. Then in the night I had a donut dream. I’m pretty sure that Homer Simpson was involved. I told Stephen about my dream yesterday morning and he laughed at me.

Yesterday afternoon I couldn’t stand it. I called Stephen at work and asked him please, please, please to stop and get me a donut and a bag of frozen mixed berries that my sister-in-law totally has me hooked on. Last night after dinner, I had a beautiful chocolate covered donut for desert.

Homer would be so proud.

Three Cool Things

1. This morning as I was checking my email, Eli climbed up into my lap and demanded to watch videos. He meant the videos that Stephen posted this past Friday. We always watch them at some point and he deemed this morning would be video morning. So we watched both of the “Such Great Heights” options and as he was sitting in my lap and bobbing his head in time to the music I thought to myself that there wasn’t many other things better than sharing something that you love with your kid. It was a really nice moment.

2. I got a letter this afternoon. An actual, in the mail, with a stamp, someone sat down and wrote to me long hand, kind of letter and it was great. A really thoughtful thing for a far off friend to do and I am very appreciative of it. Touched and feeling really blessed over it, actually.

3. Stephen got a phone call tonight from some friends in Durham. They are moving to AZ and wanted to know if we could see them when we come in January. Wow! A really nice surprise there. So when we go to Phoenix next month it will be non-stop friend visiting action. I’m pretty excited about that too.

So I’ve had a good day. I hope some good things happened to you today as well.

How Do You Save Memories from Your Travels?

We have two trips planned after the first of the year. One to Phoenix to see some friends that used to live here. The other one to Boston to visit friends that we normally vacation with in the summer but because of Baby TBA won’t be able to see this next summer. I’m excited about both trips because I’ve not ever been to AZ and the time I’ve spent in Boston mostly consisted of the airport, the hotel, and the main office of the company I used to work for.

I haven’t gotten to travel a lot in my life. In fact the bulk of my travel has happened since I’ve been married to Stephen. (He is cosmopolitan in that way.) But when we do go places I always like to pick up a souvenir. When I was younger, I always got a t-shirt, even if I didn’t go on the trip. This accounts for the rather large number of Hard-Rock Café shirts I owned at one time.

These days my souvenirs typically take two forms. One is jewelry. I like to pick up stuff that is “native” if possible or at the very least, made by a local artist. If that’s not an option, I like to pick up something that I know I’ll wear a lot and when I do, remember the time I spent at Spot X.

My very favorite necklace came to me this way. The silver one with the colored beads that I wear all the time? I got that on Ocracoke Island when we went to the Outer Banks with Stephen’s parents. That was a fun trip. Stephen got to fly his kite A LOT. It was very cold but we got to ride the ferry to Ocracoke. (Ferry rides are another must have, if available option, for my travels.) And the fog was beautiful. We played a lot of games and in general had a great vacation. I think of those things or something from that trip, nearly every time I put it on.

The other thing I like to pick up on my travels is a squished penny. I don’t have many just because I only get one when I happen to be someplace and there is a machine handy. (I don’t seek them out. Although I just found a website that reports locations so that may change.) This is a nice souvenir option because they are so small. I even had them hot glued to my computer for a while so I could see them all the time.

Eli found my collection this morning and I decided that you, my friends, needed something to marvel at this cold morning. So here is my souvenir squished penny collection:

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The Las Vegas coins that started it all.

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Ocracoke Island (yes, that’s the same trip I got the necklace on) and Chicago, IL (Just this summer. Sam and Eli had a blast sleeping at the aquarium!)

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Nashville and Little Rock. Easy ones to get, I know but the Little Rock Zoo one is the first zoo Eli’s ever been to.

You can visit the Squished Penny Museum Site to learn more about this hobby. By the way, it is legal. And then tell me how you celebrate your travels. I’m excited to hear so I have other things to collect!

The Mall

It sucks my will to live.

Do not attempt to go there.

Order presents online.

You have been warned.

Friday Night Saturday Morning Videos: Come Down Now They’ll Say

The Postal Service: Such Great Heights (2003)

You may be familiar with the Iron and Wine cover of this song that ended up on TV with M&Ms gracefully pirouetting about. What I love most about this video are the plaintive looks between the two workers in the Skyworks Solutions wafer fabrication plant.

Ben Folds: Such Great Heights (2006)

Ben Folds was on jTV in Australia and decided to cover the song. So he gathered up several drummers and some found percussion and this is what resulted.

Birthday Frogs

I just made two birthday cards and when I finished I realized that I had put frogs on both of them. Some days are just like that, I guess.

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If you see one of these cards in the next week or so, you’ll know I was thinking of you.