Tuesday, December 11, 2007

b(ook)log--a virtual library!

So for my final project in my web 2.0 class, I created a virtual e-branch, and put it up online! I think it's pretty cool! Check it out:

b(ook)log url and features:

* WordPress blogging software
* Scriblio plugin which allows a OPAC to rest on the WP platform
* RSS (1 for general feeds and one using Feeder for event-specific posts)
* A vidcast, podcast, and transcript for how to use the site
* Meebo for chatting
* Teen MySpace

I was very interested in creating an e-branch as I enjoy creating and using web-based tools, and was interested in learning how to host an Online Public Access Catalog (henceforth referred to as OPAC) on a blog. Hosting an OPAC on a blog is useful for a number of reasons: many web2.0 tools can come into play easily through plugins, add-ons, and site-specific open source software; blogs allow patron interaction—something vital to online spaces; hosting a library catalog on a blog is free—something very useful for smaller libraries that lack sufficient funding.

Creating this was certainly a beneficial experience. I had some free server space on GoDaddy, a popular and inexpensive web-hosting company, so I initially decided to host b(ook)log there, as I wanted it to sit on a non-SJSU server so that I could include it in future employment-application-packages. Briefly b(ook)log’s creation consisted of the following stages:

1. Deciding what I wanted to include, and researching necessary software.

2. Downloading all the appropriate software: WordPress, Scriblio, bSuite, and a new file transfer protocol application called CyberDuck.

3. Uploading and configuring the above on GoDaddy (by far the most complex step!).

4. Organizing and designing the WordPress blog and learning more about uploading MAchine-Readable Cataloguing (MARC) records to the site.

5. Creating various features: a teen MySpace page, a secondary RSS feed, a podcast, and a screencast.

This report will go over each step in greater detail.

I had heard of OPACs resting on WordPress blogging software and knew that I wanted to try and create one. So I followed Debbie Faires’ advice to research Scriblio ( After looking at some of the libraries using Scriblio ( and, I was a little intimidated—could I create a well-designed, functional, e-branch too? The only way to find out was to try.

After downloading the appropriate software, I began uploading it to the free space I had on GoDaddy. Unfortunately, the FTP software I had been using, Fugu, proved overly difficult in uploading the software, so I chose to try another application—CyberDuck. CyberDuck was easy: just type in, and then the appropriate name and password, and, voila, my files were uploaded!

First, I loaded WordPress on to the server, which was not difficult—I just followed the directions included on WordPress’ website. More complex was getting an aspect of Scriblio to work. WordPress plugins first must be uploaded to the server, and then must be activated from the plugins page in the Dashboard. For some reason the Scriblio Catalog Importer plug-in would not activate.
It turns out that your web host’s database has to be running on Apache (which mine is), and also has to have PHP5 set as the default language. This was not evident at first, and I spent quite a bit of time investigating the error message. I found the answer on a blog, and then emailed GoDaddy tech service, who sent me a reply walking me through how to set up the language of the database. Afterward, everything activated normally and I was able to import over 300 MARC records donated in a file available at:

After uploading the MARC records file, I began designing the site so that it would be easily navigated and interesting for the potential patron. That meant that I had to play quite a bit with the site in order to better understand its structure. I stuck to the default theme, as that way I had one less variable to worry about, but changed the header to one that was more individual. For this new header, I chose a picture taken by my wife, and using Photoshop adjusted the size and created a border. Next, I just found the header file in the WP-Contents file, and saved the new header image under the same name, and replaced the original file with the newly created one.

Facets are vital to Scriblio—they allow users to narrow the search and they are found in the widgets menu from WP’s dashboard. So I used several scripts included for “narrow by subject,” “author,” “title,” and “isbn.” To use these, each has to be not only added from the widgets menu, but also needs to be set up from the option‡Scriblio menu.

After the facets were set up and functioning on the site, I knew their utility would not be self-explanatory to most patrons, so I decided to add a screencast, a podcast, and a “How to use this site” page. First, though, I had to solve one last riddle: I was receiving an error-message whenever I tried clicking the RSS link in the url field.

Initially, I decided to use a work-around, and include a separate RSS feed using Feeder (a feed-generator application found at: After creating a post, however, Feeder could not upload it to the server, so I took the xml file, and manually uploaded it to the WordPress file, and then added a link to the file, along with a button, to a widget. This worked, but I was still troubled why the general WordPress RSS would not work.

As earlier mentioned in the report, b(ook)log was hosted for free at GoDaddy, which means that scrolling advertisements infest the top of the site. These advertisements constantly change—which means they probably interfere with RSS updates. This was easy to investigate: I upgraded the site for very little money, and as expected, the RSS worked.

All this had taken quite a bit longer than expected, and I was ready to take a break. Creating a MySpace profile for b(ook)log’s teens’ space seemed like just the next step. I created the site, found some music from the Yoshida Brothers (whose neo-classical Japanese music is heard every time anyone hears an advertisement for Nintendo’s popular Wii gaming system). I found a theme for the background, edited out all the advertising code, and added it to the site. (On a brief side note, I hope to add a catalog search to the MySpace site, but was not able to add this and still make this project’s deadline.) I then added the MySpace address to a widget, and called this section of the project finished.

Also simple and fun (and important!) was adding the Meebo widget with a descriptive enough title so as to be self-explanatory (I just used my existing Meebo account).

Next, I added a tag cloud so that book-reviews (which are important because customer services are important to any library) could be found easily on the site, wrote two book-review posts, and tagged them. The last step was the creation of different ‘casts to help teach how to navigate and utilize b(ook)log. I linked to each (which exist on my server) on the “how to use this site page,” and then created and uploaded a screencast of using b(ook)log to and embedded it in b(ook)log’s welcome page. Initially, I had thought about only adding it to the “how to use this site” page, but then reconsidered—how many people would even acknowledge they needed that page, how many would notice it? Better to have a bit of redundancy: have the embedded video on the home page, and link to it on the “how to use this site” page.

Creating b(ook)log was useful on a variety of levels: it taught me a lot about different online resources and free applications (plus, there is nothing like experience and problem-solving to learn how to use them!). On a design-based level, I had to really look at the site as a new patron, and evaluate the interface: could I navigate the site effeciently? Was it pleasing to view? Were the search function and the facets comprehensible? For these questions, I pestered my wife and my friends, and observed their use of the site.

Today, I looked once more at the Scriblio-based online libraries listed in this report’s introduction, and while each site may be a bit more polished, b(ook)log stacks up well against them. b(ook)log’s search engine works as well as any, the site is well-organized for ease-of-use, and includes a variety of tutorials. All said and done, b(ook)log is a challenging, successful project that not only taught me a lot about design, scope, and implementation, but also serves as an important aspect of my educational-career portfolio.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Will Alexander Benefit

Poet Will Alexander is ill with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. He's spent his life largely off the poetry grid, taking on odd jobs, and has no financial support or, needless to say, health insurance. Please join us on Dec 1 at 7:30 for a Bay Area benefit reading. Donations will be bundled and sent directly to Will.

Readers include:

Nate Mackey
Juliana Spahr
Taylor Brady
Lyn Hejinian
Andrew Joron
Tisa Bryant
Adam Cornford
D.S. Marriott
and more!

hosted by David Buuck and Small Press Traffic

$10-up donations
Saturday December 1, 2007
7:30 PM in Timken Lecture Hall,
at the California College of the Arts,
1111--8th Street, San Francisco

If you cannot make it, but would like to contribute, please contact David Buuck for details at:

or, you can also send donations directly to Will:

Will Alexander
400 South Lafayette Park Place, #307
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Television and Book Reviews

Check it! I was interviewed on NBC Channel 11 a few days ago for their show Quills. I feel it was a success as I only said "um" seven times, and concluded the interview with a high-minded "indeed."

You can see it here:

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Saw this on YouTube whilst watching videos of how to use various social software tools and cute girls dancing in their underwear. This is neither, but perhaps better...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Punch's tongue

is swollen with this,
this pen's ink.
He etches a hex
upon his head:
a lovely kiss
some stolen bliss
O, where do
your eyes pry?

The ghosts never
bother, but
their bodies are
a nuisance.
Punch only meets
matter with his
cleaver--the rest
eludes, eviscerates
his better parts.
Renders and wrecks
him speechless.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Complexity Trumps Static

More than mechanism, diode, diagram
information insists & insinuates
itself into liminal, the limbo of
our ontology & occupancy.

Recently residence began to signify--sigh
not a lot.
Our locative "lives" permanently on the perimeter
daily dating sweet disaster.

That's what we, my continued comrades, must
recognize, integrate, & investigate:
complexity collaborates with or without us.
We're never certain.

In a city this size, populated, pounded
with three-hundred thousand
enervation is extinguished by a relentless rush
toward a total & terrifying emergence.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Central Structure

So I've been reading the Norse epics, and got curious about the poetic structure. I pulled out the Turco, looked up "edda" and went from there. I wanted to use this pretty old and structured form (full of kennings and alliteration), but to adjust it for a more contemporary voice. So here is experiment 1, a slightly modified edda:

No Central Structure

Devils infest, hence
we want distraction, dance.
"The more the merrier" mayhaps
be pretense, but well-wrought.

Some pray, pound the pulpit
but, c'mon, to who?
No central structure exists.
Finally, no falcon or falconer.

Tough luck, hon, it's just
the way we roll, really.
Priests, PR, & Optimus Prime
scatter far, tremendous, tempting.

We squeal, run pell-mell
'cuz we are pigs, even me.
In our wide weird, our way, exists
memes & margins--an infested complexity.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why Wikis are Cool

I take a lot of walks. I live in a city. I find a lot of neat stuff as I walk (chairs, 1st edition rare books, antique typewriters--no lie). However, as cool as these are, they must have a use, otherwise I don't allow myself to take them back back to my small studio apartment. The following video is like that--like finding an beautiful Eames-esque lounge chair that I just can't take home because I don't have a use for it yet. Unlike that chair though, I can pass this wonderful thing to everybody else and can come back to it when I do need it. Common Craft, who made this video, is so cool! Now I actually want a group project just so I can create a wiki.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back Room Live--Poetry!

Back Room Live ! Proudly Presents ! Eleanor Bayne Johnson ! Hillary
Gravendyk ! David Larsen ! Julie Choffel ! Trevor Calvert ! Saturday
Night ! September 29 ! Mc Nally's Irish Pub ! 7pm !

Like a lot of people, Julie Choffel lives in Oakland and writes poems.
Unlike a lot of people, she wishes she lived in Texas and wrote poems
on billboards. For now, she works in a shockingly pleasant office
making up tiny poems about data entry, which may combine into
something enormous and legible at 60 miles per hour.

Hillary Gravendyk lives in Oakland, where she pretends to work on her
dissertation. When she's not doing that, she pretends to write poems.
Occasionally, she actually does write poems; some of them will appear
or have appeared in Tarpaulin Sky, Colorado Review, Fourteen Hills,
1913, The Eleventh Muse and other journals with names that include

Originally from New York, Eleanor is now a Berkeley poet and scholar
of medieval literature at UC Berkeley. She studies Chaucerian
poetics, and practices metabolic poetry, eating the archive
morseliciously, and defending it from fetishists of period and

Trevor Calvert is an aspiring librarian, sometimes book-seller, and
sporadic poet living not too far from here. His work can be found in
many places--some electronic and some text--but it's best heard in
groups. Incidentally, an image of an ominous black billy-goat,
printed by David Larsen, hangs over the entrance to his apartment.

David Larsen wrote The Thorn in Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose. Now he
lives in San Francisco, where he's still writing. He loves poetry
readings and will see you at the next one.


So that's,
Saturday, September 29th at 7pm
McNally's Irish Pub
5352 College Ave
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 654-9463
Minutes from the Rockrige BART Station
and on the 51 bus line

Next month look forward to prose writers Scott Thomas Cooney, Janett
Hardy and Ben Brashares!
Back Room Live is at Mc Nally's Irish Pub 7pm the Last Saturday of
Every Month barring major Holiday or sporting event.

Also next month Saint Mary's College Presents as a part of their
Graduate Students Reading Series; Robert Baker, Valyntina Grenier,
Victoria Hudson, Jean Pierre LaCrampe, and Julie Weinberg Wednesday,
October 10, 2007, 7:30 p.m. Soda Activity Center for more information
regarding SMC's Creative Writing Reading Series go to:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ask Cerebra

Okay, I have always thought of myself as a comic book geek, but today, shamefully, I must admit that I realize I am only comic-book-geek-lite (not even "light," friends, but "lite"). Not only did my lack of going to my local comic book store on comic-book-day (the sacred day when our comic books hit the shelves) mean that I missed out on James Jean's latest, Process/Recess 2, but only today did I realize there is a comic-blog search engine: Ask Cerebra. My shame is only matched by the terrible happiness I have discovered in this search-engine.

Tetrapods, ecology, and Japan

Just saw this article on Tetrapods today in the JapanTimes. When I first went to a Japanese beach, I thought to myself, "what the hell are those?!" It looked like some sloppy, spoiled, and super-sized Japanese okachan had left his jacks casually littering the beach with his discarded gomi.

I could go on (and go off) about child-rearing in Japan, nature, control, and weird Japanese aesthetics for quite some time, but Alex Kerr does it so much better. I just want to quote one section from the bottom of the Japan Times article:

"Around the world, there are some spectacular examples of the damage caused by retreating shorelines. And there are equally spectacular examples of the expense to which some governments will go to hold their shorelines in place. More than 80 percent of the world's shorelines are eroding at rates varying from centimeters to meters per year," write Orrin Pilkey and Terry Hume in an article in a 2001 issue of Water & Atmosphere titled "The Shoreline Erosion Problem: Lessons from the Past."

This is wild--80%! I'll just leave it at that. Eighty percent.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poets in the East Bay!

So my pal Clayton runs a terrific series at a great bookstore (see below). Just check out the following line-up!

2349 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 649-1320

All readings at 7:30PM.

Sunday, September 9: Nathaniel Tarn and H.C. ten Berge.

Friday, September 28: Parthenon West Review Issue Five launch. Wine and cheese.

Saturday, October 13: Gloria Frym, Ethan Paquin, and Chad Sweeney.

Monday, October 15: Adam Clay and Alex Lemon.

Tuesday, October 16: Daniel Machlin and Brent Cunningham.

Thursday, November 1: Joshua Clover, D.A. Powell, and Juliana Spahr.

Tuesday, November 6: Joseph Lease and Lisa Robertson.

Thursday, December 6: Monica de la Torre.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo

A colleague of mine just brought this to my attention--and, oh man, amazing! At the end of the presentation Arcas mentions that the software essentially creates links based on the content of the photos. This is amazing in itself, but then when one considers the wealth of meta-data attached to each photo, the composite image's information-richness is staggering. Take a look:

Too bad though the moderator fellow at the end had to wear that outfit! Homey watched The Matrix too much, and thinks he can get away with a Nehru jacket.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Golden Compass Daemon

Okay, so I am totally doing New Line Cinema's bidding by posting this, but nonetheless, doing the quiz was fun (who can say no to online quizzes? I swear they make up like 20% of the web) and I think Azaria is rad, and red.

So here 'tis:

Monday, August 06, 2007

swords and maps...

My pal Saudade found the following interactive map, and it is so awesome I cannot help but share it. For all those design-savvy, sci-fi geek, Japanophiles this site is for you.

And for all of the samurai fans, kenjutsu enthusiasts,and hoplologists out there, check out the following site--a super resource for all the terms of yoroi and katana.

Friday, July 06, 2007

West Coast Buyu Camp 2007

This year’s buyu camp at the Marin Headlands was immensely fruitful. Like every year, we met, trained, and discussed what it means to train in a warrior art. This is a very important distinction. When most people think of martial arts, visions of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, or, in my case, Toshiro Mifune, leap to mind, as do a variety of graceful and deadly movements. While this is certainly a facet of martial arts and can act as a powerful motivator, it can also act as an unfortunate diversion from Budo’s real nature.

Over the weekend, I realized how important compassion is to my art. A warrior must be willing to protect others as much as him or herself. This not only includes friends and loved ones, but in some circumstances, the people also acting as a threat. It dawned on me that if I were to dehumanize those who are threats, then I am dangerously blind to one aspect of a given situation—how could I ever hope to de-escalate a situation, were I to immediately have compassion for only those threatened? And from a very pragmatic perspective, how can I respond naturally and efficiently to conflict, when I cannot understand my opponent?

This leads to another idea—principle versus technique. A budoka’s technique may be flawless, but if he or she does not comprehend the principle behind it (and by extension, the underlying “principle” of any given conflict) then the budoka’s technique is hollow.

This year, a lot of pieces finally came together conceptually for me—they’ve probably been rustling about in my unconscious for a while, but finally after years of training they decided to stroll out into my consciousness. And this is immensely humbling; suddenly I realize how very little I know. Hatsumi Masaaki Soke once told of how his teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, told him that he was only a small bug, but that even a bug, holding onto a horse’s tail, can travel far. For this I am grateful.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Henka -- A blog

I just discovered Doug Wilson's blog, Henka. It's very good, but first a few words on Doug:

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar in Sacramento led by Doug, and it was terrific. Doug balanced talking about the philosophy behind much of this year's theme (kimon and kukitaisho) with the kinetic training aspect very well, and was very helpful in explaining the nuts and bolts of a movement, or in other words, the "why" of "how." Especially impressive was how Doug responded to a question toward the end of the seminar: Doug's reply to the question was "I'm not sure. Let me think about that." And then he thought about it. And then later, after he had worked with the question, he came back with an accurate and thoughtful reply. For the most part, I don't trust teachers that know everything--chances are they are only good actors. As an ex-English teacher, I can honestly say that there were plenty of questions I couldn't answer off the top of my head, questions that I would either have to think a lot about or research.

In any case, Doug's blog, Henka, is direct from Japan--where Doug resides--and is fully Soke-Approved. Doug's writing is very honest, and in his "about" section he mentions that "Some may find the content to be too direct or controversial. It is not meant to be, it is the truth provided in a “zero” way to those people who are interested in hearing it." I suspect the only people to be wary of his writing are those who feel threatened by it. Soke has spoken about the importance of knowing your weaknesses better than your strenngths, and I suspect that some folks take this to only refer to taijutsu. In fact, I believe that he was referring to something of which taijutsu is only part: a person's life. And finally this leads to the idea of humility. How can we honestly face our weaknesses and flaws if we are too proud (and thus threatened) to perceive them? Doug's writing is honest, accurate, and insightful, and I very much recommend his blog to any and all interested in not just Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, but in martial arts in general and those who are more than happy to read about something outside their usual interest-zone in order to learn a little and hunt for new metaphors.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Japan trip, 2007

I try and make it over to Japan annually to visit and train in my martial art as I believe it to be very important to get a “feel’ for what’s being practiced in the Hombu dojo by Soke and the resident Shihan. Not only does one get excellent instruction (available stateside as well), one is able to train from 2 to 6 hours a day if one chooses (a little harder to obtain).

This year’s theme, Kukishinden Ryu, was in full effect in the dojos, and feeling how different instructors play with the principles of this ryuha was a great lesson . Each teacher was by different means precise, brutal, graceful, and, most of all, playful. There was a freedom this year that I didn’t catch last year (not saying it wasn’t there, but only that I didn’t catch it). For example, last year I came away with a notebook full of step-by-step techniques, and this year, while I definitely still have some of those, I have many more…beginnings. Entries that read something like: “Uke does a right punch, tori evades with a uke nagashi, uke does a left punch, tori evade with an uke nagashi and begins a mushadori, then do something natural other than the mushadori.”

It was a really incredible time. On my last day there, I saw a friend from Sweden with whom I trained last year, so that was good fortune, and in Someya sensei’s class, I got to try on a full yoroi (Japanese armor). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, but hopefully one fellow practitioner who took a picture will email me a copy.

Besides training, I took a couple of days off to see some friends in Tokyo, and we climbed Mount Takao, ate at Mishima in Kichijoji, a kick-ass izakaya in Shimokitazawa, went to an antique fair near Omiya, and once, I got lost in Noda, late at night on my bike, I almost got bit by some animal resembling something between a raccoon and a ferret.

I left happy, a little tired, and already looking forward to going back.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Backroom Live on April 28!

Hey y'all,

I am pleased as punch to announce that I'll be reading on the 28th at one of my favorite bars in its secret back room. Hurray!

Press release is as follows:

Back Room Live ! Every last Saturday ! Of Each Month ! Beginning this Next Last Saturday ! With Trevor Calvert and Beatrix Chan reading poetry, Alicia Bleuer reading prose and Lukas Champagne reading one the other or a bit of both. We'll look forward to seeing you at McNallys Irish Pup This Last Saturday April 28th at 7pm and/or the many more to come!


So that's,

Sat. April 28th at 7pm

McNally's Irish Pub

5352 College Ave

Oakland, CA 94618

(510) 654-9463

Minutes from the Rockrige BART Station

and on the 51 bus line

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An explanation of sorts...

Ok, so I've not been as diligent with my posting as some might like, and now I am only posting a youtube flick, but really, this one made me smile and I'd like to share that.

Thanks to Julie for sharing!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Saturn’s gravity

Open your
mouth so
the spirit
can enter.

Today we
weep our
deluge, our

To each

On Saturn
methane rains
upon its turning
gasses. Saturn

is old and cold
and melancholy.
Its rings engulf
us when we sleep.

Gravity keeps
our hands
so this poem
might flee

its terrible

Monday, February 05, 2007


Have you ever been given a riddle of some sort, and it proves usolvable, and when you finally discover the answer, you realize the only reason you could not solve it was for its deceptive simplicity? This often occurs with me, and last Saturday, it did so again: I was in my first "Intro to Archives" class and during the introduction we were asked to discuss why we were interested in Library Science and Archives. I didn't give it a lot of thought, as my interest seemed fairly evident: I like books, librarians are often fascinating people, I am a generalist at heart, etc.; however, riding BART back home, just standing there trying to keep my balance without touching what-I-always-consider-gross-hand-rails, my mind had a chance to settle down a bit and offer up what I think may be the real answer: comic books.

Since I was seven, I have collected comic books without pause. I have sorted them, protected them with protective sleeves and back-boards, organized them in long white comic book boxes, and have figured my way through countless cross-overs, alternate universes, identity switcheroos, and the ever-ephermeral creative teams for any given title. I have very much enjoyed the organizational principle so vital to my collecting. It is this very simple, but long-lived, passion that, I think, ultimately fueled the engine carrying me to Library Science.

And, it appears, I am not the only one. Check out BadLibrarianship. Tres fantastique.