Pandora Radio, Music Genomes, & Beautiful Sounds

Here we are, in the thick of finals. All-nighters. Citation madness. Dum-dum lollipops from the Reference Desk.

I know all about it — I’m the trusty librarian that is up at least half the night with you this week, at the Reference Desk ’til 2 am when we close.

But boy, did I come across a gem of a website that I believe you will love as much as I do. Because we all love music, right? But of course we love very different kinds of music… And that’s where the brilliance of Pandora Radio comes in.

This website allows you to create personalized, customized Internet radio stations that play only the music you love. When I first heard about it, I was very skeptical as to how user-friendly, effective or accurate such a claim could be. But I moseyed on over to the URL, where I was prompted to input a favorite artist or song. I humored Pandora, and typed in “Jason Mraz.” A station called “Jason Mraz Radio” started playing, with the first song as “I’d Do Anything” off of his first studio album, Waiting for my Rocket to Come. Okay, that’s neat, and I figured it would just play Jason songs in succession… But then, the second song began, and it wasn’t Jason, but a groovy rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by a Hawaiian artist whose name I can’t remember, accompanying himself on a ukulele — a version of the song I had heard about but never gotten around to looking up. A little pop-up from Pandora told me they were playing this song because, essentially, it “sounds” like Jason’s music. Well, it wasn’t Jason, but it was groovy in all the ways Jason is, and I was pleased. And the neat part is, now I have learned about an artist I never would have known about, for free, who plays the same kind of music as Jason — the kind of music I like. This is very cool indeed.

So I started creating other stations, and decided it was well worth creating an account at the site, so I could save my stations for future use. Right now, I am listening to “Bluegrassy Instrumental” (one of the genre-stations they also offer), and I’m loving it. And when Pandora plays a song I like in particular, I have a few options: I can rate it w/ a thumbs up, so the station knows to play more songs like it, and I can also Bookmark the song, so I can remember the artist and album for future reference. There are also ways to interact with other Pandora Radio listeners, recommending songs, creating profiles, etc. This site rocks my socks, and it will rock yours too. Just trust me on that one.

But you may ask, how does Pandora achieve this? How can a website or even an extensive database of music know what songs are really like other songs? That’s where the Music Genome Project comes in. I won’t go crazy trying to explain how the participants do what they do, but in short, they basically map the musical DNA of every song, characterizing and analyzing each song for many things like “melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics” (taken from About Pandora — worth reading too). Then Pandora takes these DNA maps (as I’m calling them) and uses them to match songs with other songs, to create a stream of music that can continually be customized to fit your taste in that style of music.

I think this is just awesome, and I felt the need to share it with all of you. We all love music, and this tool not only gives open access to the thing we love, but it enables us to discover artists and songs we might never have before.

So, if you need music in the background while you work on papers and finals — for my part, certain kinds of music (like “Bluegrassy Instrumental”) help me concentrate — check out Pandora Radio.

This is technology and the Internet at their best.

Great Reads for Harry Potter-heads

In the midst of finals and papers, I thought I’d blog about some books I think are worth a read (post-finals, no doubt), especially if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books. Even if you’re not a fan — and especially if you’re not a fan because you think they encourage occult practices — the following books are definitely worth your time. In particular, at least 2 of the 4 books I’m going to recommend focus primarily on faith and theology in Harry Potter, which makes them worthwhile reads for Harry Potter fans who try to seek out God in all things — which is one of the Jesuit ideals, by the way. I, for one, am a huge believer in the idea that God loves to reveal Himself through stories (all kinds), and the Harry Potter books are no exception.

And so, without further ado, here are my 4 recommendations of Great Reads for Potter-heads (or soon-to-be Potter-heads *wink*):

Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger (of Hogwarts Professor Internet-fame)

granger-11An awesome book (which blew my mind the first time I read it) whose main idea is that we are all “‘wired’ to respond to ‘stories that reflect the greatest story ever told'” (Publisher’s Weekly). Granger argues that the story of Harry Potter is certainly one such story, and he explains why, using very specific examples from the books. This book focuses on the first 5 books of the series.

The Deathly Hallows Lectures (also) by John Granger

granger-2I recommend this book, not having read it myself (yet), as a completion of John Granger’s take on the books. Written (and delivered as lectures around the country) after the release of Book 7, these lectures bring his “these books are a reflection of the greatest story ever told” thesis full circle to incorporate the rich contents of the 7th book. If you haven’t yet read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), it’s probably a good idea to hold off reading this book until you do.

Harry Potter & Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds by Travis Prinzi (of The Hog’s Head Internet-fame)

prinziHere’s another book I haven’t read yet, but that’s because it hasn’t been released yet (it’s available to pre-order now). But if you go to the link for it, you can see the table of contents, and man does it look like an awesome book! It covers imagination, literature, faith, culture, politics, gender… all of which the Harry Potter story meets head on, without fear or apology. And the results of this meeting are why people keep reading the books — over, and over, and over again. Prinzi examines this meeting of story and life in his book, which is definitely on my must-read list.

The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide by Nancy Carpentier Brown

brownThis book I just stumbled upon while collecting the links for the above titles, but I thought it sounded like a good one, and apropos since we are a Catholic Jesuit institution. It sounds worthwhile in particular because it offers a different perspective on the books — while Granger and Prinzi are both scholars (albeit dads as well), Brown is a mother first and foremost, which means her book is aimed at a family audience. She addresses among other things the books’ compatibility with the Catholic faith, and reveals an “attitude toward contemporary fiction that is both open and discerning” (Fr. Pierre Ingram, C.C. S.T.L.). For any of you Catholic Potter-heads out there, this book is sure to flesh out the Catholic meaning of the Harry Potter story for you.

All four of these books should be available in the Library later in the year, so add them to your “Must Read” list before returning to the world of finals and papers… Only 2 more weeks to go!

Closed for Thanksgiving, then Open Late for Finals

The busiest time of the semester is upon us, and so, here are the holiday and extended hours for the Library:

Thanksgiving Weekend:

November 26, Wednesday — 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
November 27-29, Thursday-Saturday — Closed
November 30, Sunday — 12 Noon-11:30 p.m.

Extended Hours:

December 1 – December 4, Monday-Thursday — 8:00 a.m.-12 Midnight
December 5, Friday — 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
December 6, Saturday — 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
December 7, Sunday — 12 Noon-12 Midnight
December 8 – December 11, Monday-Thursday — 7:00 a.m.-2:00 a.m.
December 12, Friday — 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
December 13, Saturday — 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
December 14, Sunday — Closed

All of us here at the Library hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Christmas in the Library: Pics with Santa and Tag Sale

December is a stressful month – our students have final exams to study for, not to mention holiday shopping to do and travel to plan. So what better than an excuse to take a break? Come to the Library for an early celebration of Christmas!

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Santa strikes a pose

On December 2nd, come to the Weinberg Memorial Library for Pictures with Santa. Yes, the jolly old man himself will be in the Heritage Room on the 5th floor for a limited engagement – 12pm – 5pm. You can get a *framed* photo of yourself with the man in red for just $7.00.  Your donation will help bring the magic of Christmas to a family in our area.

Then, between December 3rd – 19th, check out our Christmas Tag Sale.  Christmas decorations, CDs, books, toys, collectibles, baskets, mugs — all will be on sale at affordable prices.  Find that unusual gift that you’ve been looking for, on the 1st floor of the Weinberg.

Library Computer Lab

Busy writing that paper, but can’t find a computer in the Library? Well, beginning on Wednesday, November 19th, the Library Computer Lab (WML 306) will be open for student use. The bad news is that there is no printer in this lab. The good news is that you can send your print jobs to the UNIPRINT Station on the 2nd Floor. When the Printer Menu pops up, select ‘WML 2nd FloorQ on UNIPRT2-K3.” Oh, and by the way, there are different containers in the lab as well as throughout the Library, for Recycling paper (these are Green), Recycling plastic and cans (these are Blue), and for trash. Please put your garbage and trash only in the trash cans and remove the plastic caps from plastic bottles and place the empty bottles only in the Recycle bins.

Taking Care of Your Stuff

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If you’ve been in the Library this semester, you have probably seen signs like the one above, perched on many of the group study tables and in the group study rooms. The reason for these signs is simple: we (your team of intrepid librarians) have noticed the tendency for students to leave their personal belongings — including laptops (both personal and those checked out from the Library), textbooks, cell phones, USB drives, RoyalCards, wallets and purses — unattended while working in the Library.

Now, on the one hand, this is a sign that you guys feel at home here at the Library, which is a very good thing. It means we’re doing our job, and the Library is fulfilling one of its many purposes, so yay for that!

However, last semester there was a very bad situation during finals where textbooks were being stolen when left unattended in the Library, and were presumably resold as used textbooks, for a profit. And it wasn’t just one or two textbooks — it was entire classes who were stuck, the day before they were due to take the final, without a textbook to study from. It was a bad, bad situation.

We also sometimes find Library laptops left completely after they’ve been used, and the poor student who checked out the laptop for 3 hours suddenly gets charged a huge overdue fine (around $70!) when the laptop finally gets checked back in at the end of the night. Now, imagine if you left your personal laptop unattended and then it were stolen — the expense would be even worse! (Not to mention all your lost files…)

And along the same lines, we also sometimes notice Library computers (PCs) which no longer have a student working at them, but are often left logged in, and sometimes even have websites with personal, sensitive information left on the screen for anyone to see, copy or steal. And I’m talking social security numbers, FAFSA information, and the like! Not good! With the risk of identity theft already being high in our digital world, I strongly encourage all of you to close out of browsers and documents, and then log out of the Library computers before walking away. By logging out, you make it so the next PC user can’t inadvertently stumble upon the website or file with your personal information during their time on the computer following yours, since all files and browser history are wiped out when you log out.

So, please, don’t leave your personal belongings unattended — or do so at your own risk. (And the risk is high!)

And remember to close browser windows and documents, and log out of Library PCs before walking away.

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This has been a Public Services Announcement provided by your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian.

:-)

Blessing of the Books

Two of my favorite words are “blessing” and “books” — and the U sponsors and runs an annual event that involves both of these things!

From today’s issue of Royal News:

Have books been a blessing in your life? Pass the blessing on! New and gently used children’s books, suitable for toddlers through young teens, as well as Spanish language books are being collected by the Panuska College of Professional Studies. On December 1, at 3:00 P.M. in the McGurrin Reading Room, Father Pilarz, S.J. will be blessing the books. The books will then be shared with the children of Scranton, and beyond!

Other useful information:

Collections boxes are located in: McGurrin Hall lobby, Weinberg Memorial Library lobby, Brennan Hall second floor, DeNaples Center by the Community Outreach Office and the John Long Center in the Exercise Science area. If you need books picked up from your office or if you would like a collection box placed in or near your office please call 941-6390.

As you can see, the Library is a great place to bring your books for kids who may not have any other opportunities to get books this year. It works out nicely — come to the Library to access the abundance of books and resources we’ve been blessed with as Scranton students, staff and faculty, and if you have any books lying around that you think the children of the greater Scranton area would enjoy, offer that blessing back by donating those books to the Blessing of the Books event! Everyone wins!

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And a special “Thank you!” to our U.S. soldiers — past, present, and future — who have served our nation selflessly and bravely, on this day in which we honor our Veterans! May God bless you and your service!!

Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

On Thursday, October 30, 2008, the annual Harry Mullin M.D. Memorial Lecture was given by Howard Gardner, PhD, Harvard University, who is also a native of Scranton.  His lecture, titled “Multiple Intelligences: The First Twenty Five Years… and Beyond” was open to the public in the Houlihan-McLean Center.  I was among those that traveled to see Dr. Gardner speak.  The basic interpretation of Gardner’s theory is that we all possess intelligence in a number of different areas to varying degress.  No person is alike, not even identical twins when it comes to intelligence.  Our intelligences interact and communicate with each other just as a series of computers can interact and communicate with one another when programmed to do so.  I knew the basics of his theory of multiple intelligences, but I wanted to hear more.  Over the course of his lecture, Gardner did say that it was difficult to truly measure intelligence and that traditional tests of intelligence only measured an individual’s abilities to read and calculate.  This made sense as I thought about how each person is gifted in different areas and reasoned that IQ tests were flawed because they only assessed math and reading abilities.  I was not disappointed as Gardner described how he came up with his theory and how he believes that in the future education will be customized or tailored to the individual student in order to strengthen and improve a student’s multiple intelligences and enhance a student’s overall learning and abilities.  This revolutionary man and his theory will continue to spark debate and influence how humans think, learn, and act for years to come.  I look forward to seeing who the speaker for next year’s  Harry Mullin M.D. Memorial Lecture will be here at the University of Scranton.

Howard Gardner - Theory of Multiple Intelligence
Howard Gardner – Theory of Multiple Intelligence

 

Book-to-Movie

I think it goes without saying that usually, the book is better than the movie. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy seeing our favorite stories played out in front of us — it’s like a concrete manifestation of our imagination! Or, maybe it isn’t, if the movie doesn’t do your imagination justice… Though this is usually the case, I find that often the best movies are the ones based on books. Maybe it’s because the source material is fleshed out so well, simply because it was first in book-length format.

Either way, I came across a neat website that has movie trailers for soon-to-be released movies, which are based on books. The book covers are side-by-side with the trailers. And I’d say there are some awesome sounding movies coming out in the upcoming year!

So, check it out here. And let us know what books-to-movies you’re looking forward to this year!

For my part, the one I anticipate the most is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This isn’t on that website, but you can see the latest trailer here. But out of the movies on that side-by-side website, I’d say the most interesting-sounding of the lot is The Reader.

What do you think?