s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: December 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cat. & Reference: How to find lots of books on any subject at your library

1. Go to your library catalog and do a keyword search on the topic you're interested in.

2. Once you find a book that matches your topic, click on the record to look at the subjects or subject headings which describe the book. These will usually appear near the end of the record, after the title, author, and information about the number of pages in a book.

3. Click on the subject heading to get more results on the same subject or start over and do a subject keyword search (not just a general keyword search) with all of the words from the subject heading. (It takes more steps to do a search the second way, but it's worth it because this method will catch some books that you won't get by just clicking on the subject heading.)


(a) It's more work to search subject headings than it is to do general keyword searches, but the results you'll get will be more accurate to the topic you're looking for.

(b) Library of Congress Subject Headings are constructed from general to specific, from left to right. If you find a subject heading that is more specific than your research interests, you can broaden the subject search by removing terms at the end of the heading. For example, if you find the following subject heading:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union--Virginia--Arlington

But you're interested in military facilities anywhere in Virginia, you can shorten it to this:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union--Virginia

Or to this, for all union military facilities:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union


(c) Sometimes the topic you're looking for doesn't map perfectly to just one Library of Congress Subject Heading. In that case, do an initial keyword search, then click on multiple matching books and copy down all of the subject headings that look appropriate.

(d) This approach works well for books, but not very well for articles. To search for articles, you'll have to go to a journal database and do a keyword search. You can also find more resources by checking the bibliographies of any books you do find.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

S is for Sneezes

A recent 100 Hour Board post on what to say when someone sneezes reminded me of a funny story.

When I was in grad school, I worked with a guy who was Thai, who said that when he first came to the US, he couldn't figure out why everyone was making fun of his sneezes. Every time he sneezed, someone — often a total stranger! — would pretend to sneeze back! Were they making fun of him for being a foreigner? Were all Americans just terribly rude?

Finally, he complained to an American friend about this recurring experience, but she couldn't figure out what he was talking about.

"Whenever I sneeze, someone says 'achoo'!"

Then it clicked.

"Are they saying 'bless you'?"

"Yes! They say 'blessyu' to make fun of my sneeze!"

She laughed and explained that Americans say "bless you" when someone sneezes, based on an old superstition about sneezing indicating bad health or an evil spirit, and that they definitely weren't making fun of his sneeze.

(Now I'm wondering if anyone ever said "Gesundheit," and what he made of that.)

(Oh, and I guess I should wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Have you ever noticed that most of my posts aren't really tied to any point in time in terms of dates or seasons?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

States I've visited, annotated

I thought it might be useful to explain why I've visited the particular states I've visited, so I'm reposting the list, with annotations.

Lived in:
Illinois (grad school)
Maine (job)
Utah (grew up in Utah, plus college)

Spent multiple days in:
Alabama (business trip)
California (family reunion)
Indiana (visiting friends)
Manitoba (family reunion)
Maryland (visiting friends)
Massachusetts (business trip, fun, visiting friends)
North Carolina (visiting friends)
Ohio (visiting friends)
Tennessee (visiting friends)
Washington, D.C. (business trip)

Spent at least one night in:
Iowa (visiting family)
Nevada (traveling between Utah and California, fun)
Nebraska (road trip)
New Hampshire (visiting friends)
New York (traveling from Illinois to Maine)
Wyoming (traveling between Utah and Illinois)

Spent less than one day in:
Georgia (business trip)
Kentucky (temple trip)

Drove through:
Arizona (traveling between Utah and California, traveling between Utah and Nevada)
Virginia (traveling from North Carolina to Indiana)
Pennsylvania (traveling from Illinois to Maine)
West Virginia (traveling from North Carolina to Indiana)

Had a layover in:
Colorado (flying from Utah to Manitoba)
Michegan (flying from Illinois to Massachusetts)
Minnesota (don't rightly recall, but I know I've been there)

Several of you wondered why I'd never been to Idaho, Vermont, New Mexico, etc. The simple answer is that I've never been sent on a business trip to any of those places and, for the ones within driving distance, I've never had friends there I wanted to visit.

As you can see, I don't travel purely for fun much. (This is not to say that I don't sometimes do fun things on some of my other trips, just that it's not the main purpose for the trip.) In order to travel for fun, you have to have 2 out of these 3: time, money and health. If you have time and money, you can take things slowly enough that you don't get sick. If you have money and health, you can take quick trips to fabulous places. If you have time and health, you can find slow, cheap ways to travel.

I'm lucky to have 1/3. (Half of my yearly vacation time and $1,000 goes to my trip home for Christmas and traveling always makes me sick. ALWAYS. I have to schedule time off after getting back from a trip just so I can get better.) So, given the choice between spending money I don't have to go somewhere I'll be too sick to enjoy and staying home to enjoy a long weekend, I'll stay home, thanks.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

States I've visited

The problem with saying where you've been is deciding what "counts." Some people don't get to travel much, so they have to count layovers and that little section of I-15 that goes through Arizona. (Can you even get to the rest of Arizona from it?) Other people (*cough*Petra*cough*) have been so many places that they don't bother to count it unless they were almost arrested for being a spy or something equally significant.

In the interest of accommodating both extremes (and all groups in between), I have arranged the states (and one province) visited from most to least defensible. Start counting at the top and stop when you reach a group which offends your sensibilities. (I'll be interested to see what number everyone gets.)

Lived in:

Spent multiple days in:
North Carolina
Washington, D.C.

Spent at least one night in:
New Hampshire
New York

Spent less than one day in:

Drove through:
West Virginia

Had a layover in:

Never visited:
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
or anywhere else

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

There's a blogger called The Boston Bibliophile who posts a LibraryThing-related question every week and asks her readers to respond. This was last Tuesday's question:

What's the most popular book in your library?

The most popular book on the entire site is is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which I own, so that's my answer.

Have you read it?

My first thought was "Yes, of course!" (Not only have I read it, but I used to re-read all the books before each new book came out, so I've actually read it several times.) However, I then remembered that LibraryThing combines all translations of a book into one "work," so my foreign-language copies of the first Harry Potter book also count as the most popular book on LibraryThing. Since I haven't actually read my copies of Hali Bote: shen me de mo fa shi or Hari Potter a Maen yr Athronedd, I guess those count. (I'll let you figure out the languages and give you the clue that one is transliterated.)

What did you think?

I liked it and, on rereading it, was amazed at some of the early details she put in that tied in with later sequels.

How many users have it?

There are 37,483 copies besides mine.