How I Work: Scott Plutchak

Location: Lister Hill Library

Current gig: Director


Scott at the Bodleian Library in Oxford in April



















Current mobile device: iPhone 4. On/off switch is dead, but otherwise it does what I need. A 1st generation iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard that I take with me when I’ve traveling – it’s not upgradeable so I’ll need to replace it at some point. But I don’t think I’ll ever need to travel with a laptop again.

Current computer: Dell desktop w/ dual monitors at the office. At home I go back and forth between a MacBook Pro and a Dell laptop. I’ve had the Mac about 8 months and there are still a couple of things that are easier for me to do on the Windows laptop.

One word that best describes how you work: Reactive.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? iTunes most of all. Evernote more and more. Dropbox has dramatically improved my productivity.   Email, obviously, and a decent word processor.

What is your workspace like? Cluttered around the edges. Lots of piles of things that I printed out intending to read but never got around to. Too many binders from conferences and workshops long forgotten. If it’s on paper I should probably recycle it.

What is your favorite to –do list manager? For many years I’ve used a simple Word document. I keep it in Outline view which makes it easy to rearrange things. There’s some simple color-coding. I put a double line through things I’ve completed just for the emotional satisfaction of seeing them crossed off, and then delete them after a couple of days. I usually have about a week’s worth of items, along with a list of things to get to one day when things settle down a bit. They never do.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?  Coffee pot with a timer and a built-in grinder. It goes off ten minutes before my alarm clock so that fresh coffee is ready for me when I get up.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Dealing with people the way they are and not expecting them to act the way that I wish they would (or that someone thinks they should).

What do you listen to while you work? iTunes, usually on album shuffle, sometimes song shuffle. I have very eclectic tastes and a nearly 18,000 item catalog to draw from. Recent album purchases include the Iggy Pop anthology “A Million in Prizes,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” the Peter Gabriel pair “Scratch My Back…” & “…And I’ll Scratch Yours,” Ron Carter’s “Where?” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.” I try to keep the volume down so I don’t freak out the neighbors.

What is your sleep routine like? During the week, in bed by 10:00 for the Daily Show and Colbert, although I’m usually asleep before we get to the end. Not sure what I’ll do when Colbert moves. Up at 5:45 for coffee and an hour of journal writing, then breakfast, shower and go. On weekends to bed an hour or two later and sleep until 7 or 8.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  Most people aren’t sure what to do next. If you act like you know what you’re doing, they’ll follow you.



Wearable Tech

From Google Glass to a variety of wearable fitness trackers to smart watches to gesture rings, is resistance really futile? We can already control most of our lives with a smart phone and now it seems we’ll be able to do the same with a stylish wearable accessory. It is kind of ironic really. We buy an activity tracker to help be fit but then buy a gesture device, like the Nod Gesture Ring, that will let us control our TV, house lights, and environmental controls without moving from our seat on the couch.

According to Daniel Bulygin on, 82% of Americans that have wearable tech believe it has enhanced their lives. No doubt that technology has enhanced lives throughout history. The flushing toilet alone was certainly an improvement over the outhouse. But for the everyday person, how much of this really makes our lives better or easier? I’ve kinda decided that wearable tech is kinda like library instruction without a course assignment. It isn’t very useful until you actually need it for something.

For instance, a gesture ring could seriously improve the life of someone who is wheelchair bound. If someone is really motivated to get fit then a health tracker could make a real difference.

So what is the verdict on wearable tech? You tell me.

7 ways to make your (finals) week less stressful

1. Find a stress buster event on campus near you

Take a break from studying and join Campus Recreation, the Counseling and Wellness Center, and the Student Nursing Association for our FREE Stress Buster Program!  Enjoy chair massages, blood pressure screenings, yoga classes, and stress relief handouts. There will also be free blue books, scantrons, and stress balls!

Free Massages* & Blood Pressure Screenings+

  • M // APRIL 21 // 4-6PM // (COMMONS)*+
  • T // APRIL 22 // 11:30-1:30 PM // (LISTER HILL)*+
  • W // APRIL 23 // 11-1 PM // (COMMONS) + (no massages on this date)

Free Yoga in Studio 1 of CRCT

  • M // APRIL 21 // 4-5PM (KAITLYN)
  • T // APRIL 22 // 12:15PM-1PM (TERRIE)
  • W // APRIL 23 // 4PM-5PM (IHSAN)

2. Take a humor break

Basset Hounds Running

Image source: Buzzfeed Bassett Hounds Running







3. Drink some tea – we’ve all heard that tea drinking is good for you but another benefit it provides is a chance to stop what you’re doing and take a break.  Afternoon tea is a Wednesday tradition that Lister Hill Library has been doing for several years – we know it’s popular with students and it’s been great for us too!  We enjoy hearing what you think about services and resources at the library so stop by, have a cup of tea (and a scone) and tell us what you think!  Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30

4.  Go outside – take a walk around the block or just sit outside on the green or at a table on the plaza for 15 minutes.  Turn your phone off and enjoy a few moments to feel the breeze, listen to birds, and breathe.

5. Speaking of breathing, if you don’t already meditate, try spending time each day sitting quietly.

6. Make a list – If you have lots on your mind, it often helps to write down your TO DO list so you can stop worrying that you’ll forget something important.  While you’re making lists, write down what you’re thankful for – it will help to keep things in perspective as you juggle a busy day.

7. Find more helpful hints at Lifehacker, The Joy Diet, & Zen Habits.

iPhone Shared Photo Streams

Are you tired of sharing your life through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Or maybe you have privacy concerns about these sites and have avoided them altogether. I recently discovered an easy-to-use, fun, and less public way to share and comment on photos among my closest family and friends: iPhone Shared Photo Streams. Granted, I think this has been around for a couple of years, but if it’s taken me this long to discover and use it maybe it will be something new for someone else out there!

Most of us iPhone users take oodles of photos on our phones. I often either text photos to someone or share them through one of the sites mentioned above. But have you ever noticed the “Shared” button at the bottom of the Photos app? That’s what I want to do (share), but why have I never clicked on that to explore the sharing possibilities?!

The first thing you have to do if you want to use this feature is check your iCloud settings. Make sure you have Photo Sharing set to “on.” (The screen shots in this post show iOS 7, but this is also available in iOS 6.)

Photo Stream Settings

Next, you need to set up a shared photo stream. Go to your Photos app and click the “Shared” cloud icon at the bottom. Click “New Shared Stream,” give it a name, and invite people. (I did have trouble inviting one person. I got an error message saying, “The phone number invited to [shared stream] cannot receive shared stream invitations.” I haven’t figured out why that happened, but iCloud support suggests trying an alternate email or phone number if this happens.) The people you invited should get a invitation to join the shared photo stream. To add photos to your shared stream, tap on the name of your stream (my shared stream in this example is “Springtime!”), tap the + sign, and navigate to select the photos you want to add from your phone.

You can make comments on each photo:


You’ll receive notifications when another person in the shared stream comments, likes, or adds to the stream.

Stream Feed

If you really want to focus on the images in a photo stream, turn your phone horizontally. It cuts out all of the extra white space, comments, etc. and makes a great little personal slideshow!


Another really neat thing you can do with shared photo streams is instantly create a public iCloud website, a URL that’s accessible to anyone. All of those iPhone photos you took on your fabulous trip to Europe? Just create a shared photo stream, turn on the “Public Website” option, and click “Share Link.” This will allow you to email them the URL and see a beautiful display of your images. Check out my example website created from my shared photo stream.

I’ve already started using this for sharing photos of my kids with their grandparents, but I could certainly see this being a fun tech tool to use in the educational setting. I’m thinking group projects in which students go out and capture photos to complete an assignment. Scavenger hunts, photo examples of certain types of architecture, plant identification, documenting before and after of some community project… and those are just the first few ideas that popped in my head! Endless possibilities. Oh, and of course the greatest part would be when students make their photo stream public on an iCloud website to showcase their work. Fun!

I’m Billie Montey and this is how I work…

Catch up on the other “How I work” posts: Pat, Gabe, Lisa, Jill

Location: Lister Hill Library, Administration Dept

Current gig: Office Services Specialist III

Current mobile device: Old dependable Droid Incredible years old and going strong

Current computer:  Dell desktop (work), Dell Inspiron laptop (home)

One word that best describes how you work: Distractedly

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My dual monitors. I’m always working in multiple programs at a time so this has saved my toggle fingers from cramping. 2014-04-07_1013

What is your workspace like? Organized-ish. If things on my desk get out of control I stop and deal with it. I’m not swimming in paper anymore thank goodness so most of it is trying to keep email somewhat organized. I also have a lot of spiral ringed notebooks with random work details I need. After being at a job for 12 years you can accumulate a lot of information that you may not use daily but are afraid to throw away.

What is your favorite to –do list manager? On my computer I use outlook to block time for projects I need to focus on. On my phone I use color note to make lists and set reminders.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My garlic press! I’m dangerous with knives so this gadget has probably saved my life more than a few times, or at least my fingers.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? I’m very good at working through distractions. Being at the front of the office where some days it’s a hub of activity multiple conversations, ringing phones and random questions and emails all the live long day. I’m really good at focusing back on task easily. I can even ignore conversations that happen right in front of me. It just becomes white noise.

What do you listen to while you work? I use Spotify some when I’m doing mindless tasks but due to all the distractions I get during the day I end up pausing or turning down the music and forget to turn it back on so mostly just the hum of my heater.


What is your sleep routine like? I like to describe myself as wide open until I stop then I’m usually sleeping which usually means bedtime could be anywhere from 8 till midnight. Regular wake up time is 5 am though i have found my ideal wake up time is 7. I think I “zombie” my way through the first two hours of the day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Let it go! It can be applied to so many situations.

Is it Still Tasty? Or will this year-old mustard kill me, my friends, and my whole family?

photo 3Have you ever stood in the doorway of your refrigerator, staring at the date printed on a bottle of salad dressing, two months past its expiration date?  What did you do?  Use it?  Toss it?  Put it back in the fridge and inspect the neighboring bottle?  What if there was an app to help you make those decisions?

You guessed it, there is!

StillTasty is an app that can help you decide whether or not the “best by” date means toss it or it’s fine to eat.

The StillTasty database is impressively comprehensive.  Just about anything that you can imagine is listed, from spices to beverages.  Take, for example, spaghetti sauce.  Within the list of possibilities, you can learn how to store and how long to store homemade sauce and store-bought sauce (listings for opened & unopened) will last in the fridge or in the freezer.

I used this app last Thanksgiving to plan when I would do my shopping and I beat the crowds by a week!  I looked up how to properly store my brussels sprouts and green beans, and how long everything would last in the fridge.  I checked on them every day before Thanksgiving to make sure they were still fresh, and they were!  It was a relief to not have to fight the crowds.

Just last week I discovered a better way that I can store blocks of cheese.  (yeah, it doesn’t take much to excite me.)  First, wrap in wax paper and then plastic wrap.  Finding this out really helped me understand how to store blue cheese better.  Since what makes blue cheese so good is mold, I usually just went with my own made-up rule which had my throwing away half a block of Maytag after 2 days.  But now, as you can read in the image below, I can wrap the cheese up good and it can stay in my fridge for weeks.  And it will be fine to eat as long as there isn’t any extra, not so yummy, mold development.



Getting their information from a variety of reputable sources, like the US Department of Agriculture, the Food & Drug Administration, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can feel safe following their advice.

So, as long as your home storage conditions are constant at 60-70 degrees for room temperature, and 35-40 degrees for refrigerator temperature and you follow the storage guidelines–you’re good to go.

StillTasty also features shopping lists and alerts.  Set an alert for the things you buy in bulk at Costco and never wonder again whether you’ll really eat all that quinoa before it goes bad.  And more importantly, you won’t putting yourself or the ones you love in jeopardy.

According to the web version, the StillTasty app is only available for iPHone.

Public Health Potpourri

Public health applications are a particular interest of mine, as one might gather from my past posts in this blog. Lately so many new online resources are being introduced, it’s difficult to select just one to highlight for Tech Lister. So instead I’ll give you a “potpourri” of new public health online applications. My selections include a couple of global health initiatives and one focused on historical disease statistics.

  • Community Health Systems Catalog ( This project was recently rolled out by Advancing Partners & Communities. It is an “interactive reference tool on community health systems” in USAID priority countries. The “intervention area” often focuses on family planning and reproductive health, but it also covers such vital public health issues as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and “neglected tropical diseases.” Using this resource, one might view a snapshot of a single country’s community health programs as well as compare community health systems between selected countries. Interventions are also identified according to their implementation status, such as nationwide, in selected areas, or “scaling up.” Funding partners in the venture include USAID, JSI Research & Training Institute, and FHI 360.CommHlthSystCatalog
  • Global Health SiteFinder ( This is an interesting application whose purpose is to facilitate collaboration in global health research and interventions. (Recent reports highlight the importance of such collaborative projects.) Are you looking for projects in Africa, for instance? You can click on a map of various sites or search by particular country. An Advanced Search feature also allows you to search by disease topic, clinical facility and global subregion. Perhaps you are actually interested in attracting collaborators to your project. You might register on SiteFinder and describe your project so that other potential partners can find you. There is also a link to the Global Health Regulatory Requirements Database, as well as relevant funding opportunities. SiteFinder is a project of the Global Health Network, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.SiteFinder2
  • Project Tycho Data for Health ( Project Tycho is an ambitious effort from the University of Pittsburgh which seeks to “advance the availability and use of public health data for science and policy.” The exciting part of this is the digitization of all the weekly U.S. NNDS (National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System) reports dating back to the 19th century. This data includes mortality statistics, reporting locations, time periods and diseases, and is searchable as well as downloadable (in Excel format). Registration is required to access the data, but it is free.Tycho

There are more online public health applications and databases being released all the time. Watch this blog for more information!



Have you ridden the new Blazer Express?  UAB has really upped the game for campus transportation with new buses and routes.  The buses and shiny and new and beautifully branded for UAB but best thing about the new system in my opinion is the app they are using to communicate.  TransLoc is an app and website that many transportation systems use to track their routes and buses.  Once downloaded, in the app, you can choose to view stops or routes and get real time information on where your bus is and when you can expect it at your stop.

UAB map on the web

UAB map on the web


UAB map on my mobile

UAB map on my mobile

UAB routes on my mobile

UAB routes on my mobile

The system is free, easy to use and updates on the fly.  If you need to move around campus on a rainy cool morning like today, I recommend you use Blazer Express and TransLoc!

P.S.  I’ll talk about TransLoc Rider in an upcoming post.



According to our old friend Wikipedia states “Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.”

While RFID has ties to World War II espionage the first true RFID ancestor was patented in 1973 by Mario Cardullo. The beauty of RFID is that unlike UPC barcodes they can store information. Imagine for minute that everything in the grocery store had an RFID tag and all you had to do was pass by the reader with your full buggy and the total would appear. Just like self-check except you don’t have to remove anything from your buggy. It is both exciting and terrifying. RFID tags with your medical history could be implanted in your body!!! RFID is already being used in Alzheimer’s patients and in pets.

It really shines for inventory control. Folks that have to use a toll ways often have passes attached to the windshield that deducts money as the pass through without have to stop. Some credit card companies are using RFID in their cards so you just tap instead of swiping.

RFID is not without security concerns. For instance, those with less than benevolent intentions can use scanners to read data on RFID tags. Called skimming thieves use a generic reader to gain access to the information on the RFID which may include personal or credit card information.

Since RFID tagging is about inventory and information not security of the items tags there are a number of ways you can protect yourself if you are using RFID in your personal life.

Read more about RFID:

Wikipedia, Radio-frequency identification.

Cardullo, Mario, Genesis of the Versatile RFID Tag, RFID Journal.

How Stuff Works, How RFID Works.

Make Grocery Shopping Zippy with ZipList

Grocery shopping. Are there people out there that like grocery shopping? I guess maybe there are, but I am not one of those people. In fact, it’s safe to say I despise it.

However, since I started using ZipList 4 or 5 years ago, I despise grocery shopping far, far less. ZipList is one of the 5 or so apps I use every day, and it has completely changed the way my family and I approach grocery list making and shopping. No longer must I dig down deep in my enormous mom purse, which is really just a black hole I carry on my shoulder, to find the crumpled-up, hand-written, coffee-stained grocery list that probably doesn’t even include items my husband may have jotted down on a separate list floating around somewhere on the kitchen counter.

ZipList has saved us from this insanity.

I use a combination of the ZipList website and mobile phone app to make my shopping list wherever I am. Of course, everything automatically syncs. I’ve set up multiple lists for various stores. Here’s a shot of my different lists (left) and my grocery list (right).

ZipList Shopping Lists          ZipList Grocery List

You can see the check boxes to the left of each item. As you’re shopping you simply check off what you put into your cart.

Also, when you’re viewing a list, you can click on the gear in the top left to view various settings for that list. For example, you can tell it to sort by specific stores (it apparently knows the layout of my neighborhood Publix!). The real beauty of ZipList, for me, is the ability to share lists with my husband (and when they’re older… my kids). With his ZipList account, he can not only view all of my lists but also add to them and check off items as they’re purchased. I’ve somehow convinced him to do all of our grocery shopping (back off ladies, he’s mine), so he loves this app!

ZipList List Settings with Arrow

Another extremely helpful feature of ZipList is the ZipList Recipe Clipper. Add this bookmarklet to your browser toolbar and click it whenever you’re on a page with a recipe you want to make. Within 2 or 3 clicks, you can save recipes and import recipe ingredients into your shopping list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a hurry and forgotten to put key ingredients on our shopping list – like ground beef for a meatloaf recipe – or written down the incorrect amount of a needed ingredient. Before adding ingredients to your list, ZipList allows you to remove items from the list you already have by unchecking them (see screenshot below). This handy recipe clipper is a lifesaver.

Taco Pizza Recipe IngredientsThe final feature I think is worth highlighting here is the integration of store deals into your shopping lists. Once you tell ZipList the stores you frequent, it will let you know if those stores are having any sales on items on your list. You can click on the blue money symbol next to an item to view the deal(s).

Store Deals

Life pre-ZipList seems like a distant, unpleasant memory. I hope you’ll give it a try and find it as useful as I do!