Monday, December 29, 2008

Misuse of the Word "Memoir"

You know, I'm getting awfully tired of reading the rounds of books that were supposedly so carefully edited and presented as memoirs. Not genuine memoirs but the ones where within three months of publication there is a retraction of the story because people figured out that it was false?

Another one hit the boards.

I'd originally written about Angel Girl here.

Catching up on my feeds post holiday, I see that the memoir that was being published on this story has been canceled as the Holocaust survivor who it is about has come forward to say he was making the crucial part up.

I found this a beautiful, touching story. That it was based in well-researched fact I was willing to accept. This is not a typo, kids. This is bad fact-checking. The story was a lie. Have the publishers have forgotten that to not fact check is to lose revenue? The editing portion of my brain hurts now. I don't think Sudafed will fix this one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: On the Road Again....

What state I'm in when you read this will depend entirely on what time I get out of bed on Sunday. Everyone hope that I got up when I was supposed to and made it out of the door on time.

But did you think I could make it in and out of Atlanta without something odd being said? Of course not, you know me better than that, don't you?

"They're nice women, but they would have bought the chickens."
(M and I neither one are much for decorating with china/glass/ceramic/wood/straw/etc chickens)

"I will have a social life for one whole day."
(I'm seeing four different friends in about 8 hours on Sunday in Chicago)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Life without a Day Planner

I'm one of those people who, despite all the new and fabulous calendar gadgets that abound on computer and telephone, really still does best with a day planner where I can see each month as a whole. That would be a print day planner where I write things in. It's one of the first things in and out of the work bag.

And I don't have my 2009 planner yet. Our Lady of the Business Office promises me that weather permitting, it should be in tomorrow. But I finally gave up today and printed a calendar for the first three months of 2009. Then I painstakingly went through every day of my work calendar and my department calendar for January and wrote everything down. Duplication? Yes. Giving Me a Much Better Idea of my January Schedule? Yes. Providing me with Sanity and Clarity? Well...I won't go that far just yet. More sanity than if I hadn't done it.

I know I'll have to copy it over once I get the new day planner. But for now I can SEE what's coming up. Something about it being neatly on paper where I don't have to scroll.

It's one of those little ways I hope to take control of life. Along with the never ending, always changing to do lists.

For that I really do try to use Remember the Milk (Gmail widget) but I have a dedicated notebook that, like Donna Andrew's character Meg Lanslow would say, tells me when to breathe.

One of these days I won't overextend my schedule. That will not be today though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What March Will Be like....

Re-meeting my hairbrush. Right now the hair just gets stuffed under a hat or headband

funny pictures of cats with captions

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: I had better be in Atlanta

I'm off to visit M this weekend, weather in La Crosse permitting. Lots of lovely plans ahead!

Photo from

"Because everyone wears a bichon to write..."
(me to M regarding this picture of Barbara Cartland)

"I get a look of geek cred for reading his books."
(About Neal Stephenson--he's a good writer but it seems to surprise men that I read his stuff.)

"I keep a snowshovel in my trunk for just such occasions!"
(It's Wisconsin...)

"It's not often you get your lullabye cds to go!"
(I ordered the Rockabye Baby! series--all are either one hold or checked out of the 11 different titles I got)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Libraries in the News

Hey! Some good press for libraries. Libraries offer free relief from tough times

Since you're reading a librarian's blog I generally assume you're one of the converted masses who understands that there is a mass of adult and kids programs, books, dvds, music cds, downloadable stuff, computer access etc. And, yes, sometimes you can finegle extra guru library services from me when you need help with research.

And it is free--kind of. It's supported by your tax money. Kind of nice to get something tangible for your tax dollars. So make sure you're getting your money's worth, go check some stuff out!

And a reminder to the Brunette, since he travels a lot--did you know you can download free audiobooks from NYPL that are Ipod compatible? Give you something extra to listen to on all those plane trips. Overdrive is slowly rolling these out, so if your library has an overdrive subscription, they will hopefully be coming to most libraries across the US.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Popping the Champagne Corks: Congratulations to Friends

A couple of medical librarian congratulations today:

David Rothman's book is finally here! Congratulations to you and your coauthors!


Martha got a new job!! In 2009 she will become the Reference & Instruction Librarian, Assistant Professor, Metropolitan State University.

This is how I like to start the week!! Bravo to both of you for your work, endurance, patience, and efforts.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Rhetorical Questions

My orthodontist had originally recommended oral surgery. I declined, not really seeing the need to break my otherwise perfectly healthy lower jaw and move it less than 5 mm. Lo and behold, as we started moving the upper teeth, my lower jaw began to move forward and realign on its own. (This wasn't something I really noticed myself but the good ortho happily informed me Thursday morning.)

"Isn't it amazing what happens when you move the teeth out of the way?"

Of course, said appointment also led to

"I'll be in the ibuprofen bottle if anyone is looking for me."

and the ever fabulous WarMaiden, I wondered about libraries

"Can I not just be offended that you don't have something I find offensive?"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Popular Fiction = Future Classics

Apparently it's a week for people to grab blog post ideas from the conversations raging over at NewLib-L. I might not have ducked back into the fray but for Colleen, who, as always, writes witty and interesting blog posts reminding us that if you behave in an unprofessional manner on a listserv--people will remember. And since we're all human, we'll probably judge you too.

But I have a little lighter fare today, focusing more on whether or not society is falling to pieces because *gasp* popular fiction is what most people are reading. (See NYT Best Seller Lists here for the horror)

I asked the question: "I wonder if there was ever a time that librarians or "the learned" weren't dismayed to find out that patrons/regular people liked to read exciting adventure stories. "

Overall, many of us are amazingly regular reading creatures. We like adventure, a little bit of the fantastic, surprise, romance and the potential of a happy future at the end of the book. The bad guys are captured, the good guys rewarded. And this is, to a great degree, a lot of what happens in popular fiction. A detective finds the missing money, a marriage is proposed, a killer is stopped/discovered, friends are hanging out again, there is hope for the future. I could point to any number of popular authors or syndicated television shows that follow this pattern.

What then becomes "classic literature?" What are the "great books of the ages?" As I mentioned in my post about Dr. Crichton's passing, this is a topic I like to revisit occasionally. What that the lofty among us consider "mere popular fiction" today will ascend to "classic" in one hundred years? What will our great-grandchildren's grandchildren be forced to read that we couldn't get enough of when it first came out?

Personally, I'll still argue for Neal Stephenson and Michael Crichton. The former as being able to blend epic story with more math and science than I ever faced down in the classroom; the latter for heavily researched tales that took on all manner of scientific possibility. I could see Tom Clancy joining the ranks, though more as an example of period literature that could be studied for insight into governmental happenings, international relations, etc rather than perhaps a true classic. And don't make me answer what a true classic is, I'm not really sure. (This after not only an MLS but also a BA in English Literature.)

But I have found that there is nothing like sticking a Newbury or other award winning sticker on a book to sink the circulation rates. Kids don't respond especially well to the implied condescending tone of a group of adults telling them it's a Good Book that they Should Read. And yet, we assume adults are different? Granted, adults are a smidge less likely to let a gold sticker turn them off (and certainly as parents they look for those stickers when choosing for their own children) but the condescension remains. Librarians often get the joy of trying to explain that no, really, just because it's a classic story it's not that dry. I promise the original Three Musketeers is a delightful romp of manly men doing manly things in a time of men being men and women being....spies among other things. I have a harder time with Moby Dick but that's just my inability to get past the first 100 pages...

So I appeal to you--what will become our future classics? What will go by the wayside? Shoot me an email or a comment and I'll post a summary of responses in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Canadian Kerfuffle

If anyone has been seeing the occasional news story about Canada and feeling confused*, may I recommend you hop over to the Yarn Harlot's post and catch up on things there. As Canadian government isn't really covered in 8th grade history classes, it's nice to have a quick clear summary.

Thank you Stephanie :)

*That would be me

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Getting Rid of Books


At least two of you gasped that I would write a blog post with that title. Admit it. Especially if you've ever seen an apartment I've lived in or you've been to the Incredibly-Patient-Mother's house. I think I've gotten about 80% of the books that are mine that were living at her house out--but I know there's at least one more bookshelf I have to tackle. Maybe this Christmas? (What am I saying? Now she's going to be anticipating it....)

I usually weed when I move. Clothes, books, everything got evaluated when packed 0r--more likely--unpacked. It helps when you move at least once a year, which I did for a full decade. But this year it does appear I'll make my new years resolution for 2008: Not to move for a calendar year. It may sound kind of frivolous or not really a resolution but it meant I wasn't hauling all of my belongings out of my current dwelling. It meant I did things like switch from/to summer/winter wardrobes without packing to move. Not having to wonder where I packed my toothpaste for 12 months has been a pleasant change.

It also meant that the Incredibly-Patient-Mother could suggest ever so gently that I start getting all of my books out of her house. Considering many of those books had been languishing in boxes for the better part of a decade, I suppose this was a reasonable request. And I was surprised how many of the books I was able to easily part with. When they've lived in a box for five+ years, you've forgotten you had them and the connection to them has lessened. So I could prune much of that collection.

Getting rid of books that have lived on the shelves more recently? That I've repeatedly un-boxed and shelved? That's harder. Not bringing home more books from trips to bookstores and library book sales? Nearly impossible. But I'm trying.

The short fluffy romances that I read in alternative to sitting through RoCos or television go into two boxes which get cleaned out every couple of months and sent either to the mother or friend. Everything else kinda sits around, waiting to be assigned a correct shelf spot. Or they've been assigned a shelf space (based on incredibly deep thoughts this last move of "this will go here") and are now just languishing.

And books aren't meant to languish. They need good homes and ideally someone else who'll read them to falling apart or at least enjoy them and pass them on. So I'm trying. I've put 40+ books on Paperback Swap and have actually gotten about fifteen out the door. Pay no attention to the fact I've then grabbed copies of the few Cat Who books I don't already own in paperback so I can get a complete set. At least those I will read until they die. Even if her writing has gotten lousy. The ones that aren't moving out the door in a timely fashion are going to go somewhere. Where I've not figured out just yet, though the Talking Books Librarian mentioned Cash4Books a couple of days ago and I might look into that for a few of those weeds. I can't imagine they'll want much of what I've got though. I could drag them back to work and give them to the Friends group, which I've done with other books I've weeded and probably will do with some. Most fiction has a shelf life...

It's hard to get rid of books though. And little apartment dwellers like me don't get to have yard sales. So if anyone wants 5 of the six books from the Dragon Prince/Dragon Star series by Melanie Rawn, let me know. They've been read once, maybe twice but I doubt it. I'm missing book 1--it got loaned apparently and never found its way home. And since it's been two moves since I remember seeing it, I'm guessing it's somewhere in New York. Also...for some reason I've started grabbing every vintage Gertrude Chandler Warner that comes across my desk. I have to think about whether or not I really need hard cover copies of all 22 of the original Boxcar Children books. Even if I think some of them might be first editions.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holiday Wool....

The more I knit, the more ideas I get of things I should knit for people for Christmas. So then I cast those projects on and think of more things. It's a loop that is set to run right up until around 6 p.m. Christmas day--when I'll probably have seen all of the people who are receiving Christmas knits. At which point I'll have to start after-Christmas knits (maybe some stuff for me?) because a) I live in freezing Wisconsin and b) my hands will be so used to constantly knitting that I'll have to work on something to maintain my sanity.

No, unfortunately I'm not joking. I knitted pretty much non-stop last year in December and by the time I finished the holiday projects I was quite literally unable to just sit and converse. Fortunately, the Incredibly Patient Mother had some knitting tucked away that I could work on to keep from just sitting in a very fidgety manner.

Things to note: I never want to knit another pair of gloves ever again in my entire life. Sibling-the-Younger requested a pair and while this was a first from a family member (knitted request), I don't think I'll be doing more of these any time soon. I can do a pair of fingerless mitts in about 8 hours. With fingers nearly doubles the time and I had 9 double pointed knitting needles in one glove at one point.

I am trying a new pattern for a number of gifts this year: Turn a Square by Jared Flood. Jared's patterns have been received with high acclaim and this one is pretty addictive. Of course, I did have to come in this morning with one of the finished products and track down a couple of male coworkers to double check size but I certainly would recommend this pattern! The rest of the knitting world is doing the Noro scarf (again, Jared Flood) --- I'm making hats. Hey, they only take 3-4 hours. Another coworker seemed stunned when I mentioned how long they take to make. Yes, there's time involved, which is why I'm knitting mostly for people I am closely related to. But it's four hours of time at home, with an audiobook or a movie or a friend on the phone. When I finally catch up with the Tech Sergeant, it's good to be able to sit down and knit something moderately mindless while I'm hearing all the details.

So, that's my plan for December. Me and the wool.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Keyboard Aggression

Ah the start of the holiday season...where some people seem to think it is to the benefit of the library staff that they bring their overstressed child in to scream hysterically. And you wonder why I wear a knitted headband (hides the earplugs).

Me to coworker:
"You're typing in a really frustrated manner."
(I couldn't see her, just could hear her typing...)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hopped up on Wool Fumes and Girl Scout Cookies

Welcome to anyone wandering over from the Lime and Violet show notes (wow...I made the show notes). And don't worry, I still have a ridiculous amount of knitting left to do for Christmas. I just have the bags done.

I had a small adventure yesterday. One of my local yarn stores (if you count a 40 minute drive local) was having her holiday open house. Katherine always has delightful stuff and her store atmosphere is warm and welcoming. AND it was my first day off in two weeks. Guess what went on my calendar in capital letters.

Only, I didn't much like the prospect of driving down alone. I put out an email to the local yarn mavens, who amazingly all avoided the temptation. Thus with only one seat taken in the car by someone it's best I not write about at length, I started calling the kids from the knitting group I ran at the library earlier this year. In short order I was supplied with a backseat full of giggly girls.

I picked the girls up first and tossed a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints into the back seat. There would be snacks when we got there but I figured cookies for the road was worth the vacuuming that would need to be done. And we were off! It's a lovely drive between La Crosse and Viroqua, especially with a sunset out the rearview mirror (which I kept checking to make no one was actually strangling each other).

We got to the store and the girls were given a couple of ettiquette points--this being their first trip into a "real" yarn store. We swept in and they were almost instantly overwhelmed. Here was not just one or two aisles of yarn, most of it being of the acrylic or fun fur variety (although I have to say Hobby Lobby has a pretty sweet collection of dishcloth cotton). Here were walls and walls of wool--in far more varities than I'd brought them to see from my stash.

I let the girls browse for a little while and ask questions and then lured them away from the snack table. I told them they each could spend $10 on yarn or supplies and I'd pay for it. Now--it was browsing with a purpose.

There was a lot of education going on--why was this yarn so much more than that yarn? What was so special about a $50/skein of yarn with bison wool in it? Why was there balls of fiber on the wall? Could you knit with that?

I let everyone browse for about an hour--and then it was time to check out so we could get back at a reasonable time. Stuffed further with cheese and crackers, the girls hugged their purchases and we headed to the car. You'd think they'd have been quieter on the ride home. Nope! Much giggling ensued. Little Brunette cast on a number of stitches with the yarn and needles she'd gotten (green wool with purple knitting needles) and knitted aimlessly. Little Blonde had gotten a boucle that I imagine will be a hat the next time I see her. And the Little Redhead found red handspun that she couldn't live without.

I got some handdyed sock yarn and needles to finish Christmas projects--which I had best go and do since it's one of my days off.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who Am I? Blog Analyzer

Stealing unabashedly from Random Musings of the Desert (Congrats on your anniversary!)

Typeanalyzer--Provides a Meyer-Briggs analysis of my Blog

"ESTP - The Doers
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.
The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

(Hmm---anyone surprised at this result?)

GenderAnalyzer--Is a man or a woman writing this blog?

Believes I'm "gender neutral" though more likely male. Hmmm....this after all the blogs about my hair and my knitting and hedgehogs.

Blog Readability Test-- What kind of vocabulary and reading level should you have to read this blog?

blog readability test

(I wonder what they base this on?)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boogie Boogie Hedgehog....

Ah the things people are willing to put music too....

Consider this your moment of ridiculousness for this week.

(Thanks Jill)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

It used to be that day at school where you got out of class and there was a ceremony and you didn't necessarily understand all of what was going on but you stood up next to your grandmother and thought about the grandfather who had served both in WWII and Korea.

Today, I honor specifically three veterans of Iraq. The Tech Sargent-- who voluntarily served two tours; AD's husband--who was wounded while serving and who is still working to regain full health; and the 2nd LT--who just emailed me to tell me he's headed home in a week!!!

Please take a moment today to think of those who are serving and who have served, and also of their families.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

On a November Afternoon

The weather was a dreary harbinger of more days to come, gray and overcast. There were moments of precipitation and times where peering out the window made me wonder if it was smoke, wind, snow, or just imagination blowing past.

There was a lot of be done--piles of housework, freelance work, and Christmas knitting all waiting. There were many books to be read, a number of which would need review upon completion. The tea had long since gone cold. There was only a weak half cup left anyway and that was from a couple of hours ago.

I would just read one chapter. A treat to myself before I settled into the things that needed be done this dim November day. Already I'd acknowledged ruefully that I was getting ready physically for winter. A quick trip to the post officer earlier in the day had found me fully accepting of the fact that it was 36 degrees--and this felt "warm."

I sat in the almost rocking chair, staring out at the gray. Trying to reconcile with myself the muted feelings of the weather and the very real to do list waiting. And finally, like sinking into the comfort of a blanket I refused to acknowledge I needed, I crawled back into the book. Just one more sub-section, I promised. One more essay.

And here among the pages I found someone who understood. Whose experiences were far different from my own--whose life bore little resemblance to my own--but who understood. Who empathized unapologetically with why half of my den resembled a yarn store. Who didn't think it strange or a waste of time to hand craft a good half of my Christmas gifts, even if that meant the knowledge that I would be quite frantically knitting right up until Christmas Eve or Day (depending on what time on Christmas Day I would see the recipient).

I tried to break the spell. I got up and did a sinkload of dishes. I took a hot shower. And then crept again to the chair and the book. Promising myself just a few minutes more.

As a result, it's now evening, my to do list still stretches before me. As night comes early, it's been dark for a couple of hours now. I have a fresh cup of tea now and wet hair because it takes forever to dry. Closing the book after finishing the last page was a little bit saddening, but the sadness that comes when a good friend must leave after a satisfactory visit. I know I'll have the chance to visit again.

Such is the contentment after finishing Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's latest work Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again.

Book Review: Robe of Skulls by Vivian French

The Robe of Skulls
Vivian French

Vivian French is currently best known among the little girls of La Crosse Public Library's Children's Room as the author of the incredibly popular Tiara Club series. These are short chapter books about a boarding school for princesses, with a dose of manners and friendship and mean girls tossed in. I recommend them to parents moving out of the Disney princess phase because, occasionally too insipid for words or not, good manners are a focus. Also, at the end of the day the friends are friends again...though one always hopes the more passive of the bad twins will shake off the more active of the pair and turn into a decent person.

Anyway, Tiara Club aside (apologies--I've read about a half dozen of those books), French's new book came out recently and I was torn. The reviews were pretty positive--the cover I found a turn off. (Madame Director and I do not agree on the cover.) So it followed me home and landed in the wicker basket that houses library books at Chez Hedgehog (if they go anywhere else they get lost among my books).

The tale is a lightly romping fractured fairy tale. An "evil" but aging sorceress, who seems to mostly be permanently bad-tempered, desires a stunning new dress. But how will she pay for it? At the same time a young girl is trying to escape an evil step-father and step-sister and the younger of twin boy princes is trying to determine his own independence. It's a toss up of "because a, then b" and "then x happened, which was good--well yes, but it's also bad." There's a troll servant but he's a pathetic comic creature that one pities and chuckles at rather than fears.

What I noticed the most was consistency of author's voice. And to some degree that's not a compliment. It was immediately apparent to me that I was reading the same writer behind the Tiara Club series and I'd hoped for something a little more mature. Other than the length and breaking out from the repetitive storyline, I'm not sure I got it. And while I can easily sell sparkly pink covers to our rising seven year olds, handing them a book with skulls on the cover general results in "ewwww, I don't wanna read that..."

Overall it's a light amusing read that I put on hold for Patron Age 9 who just came by and told me she's reading magic books now (magic being chapter books with a light sprinkling of fairy godmothers and kittens that transform into princes). It was a little too cute for me, but may just appeal to the alternative princess readers.

Other Recommendations for the Growing Princesses:

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rest in Peace, Dr. Crichton

As the United States waited in line in what will be forever known as a historic presidential election, we also saw the passing of one of our great authors. Michael Crichton, best known for his work on Jurassic Park and as the creator of ER, passed away on November 4, 2008. (New York Times; CNN )

Crichton was one of my preferred authors in high school and into college. His books had depth and research to them that appealed to a young teenager who didn't really go for the whole "coming of age" books. Perhaps I was most impressed by his bibliographies--tucked in the back to remind us that these well crafted stories did not merely come out of his imaginings but also out of meticulous research.

My favorite of his works is Timeline, which offers the supposition that we might one day be able to create an ability to move through time and witness for ourselves great events of the past. That the chosen destination of his characters was the medieval time period might have had something to do with why I was half-frantic to grab a copy.

Crichton wrote fiction in an informational way well based in research and non-fiction tomes but with the liveliness and story that captivated readers. Here was not just information about how one could possibly find a way to recreate dinosaurs after finding mosquitoes in petrified tree sap0--here was the idea that we could do it, and thoughts on how it might turn out if we did. Crichton had an amazing imagination for what humans might be capable of creating and a strong sense of the pragmatic as he showed how it might very likely go wrong.

I had the pleasure of using Crichton's Timeline, paired alongside Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, for a honors student conference round table in Chicago in 2001. The argument I was presenting was that these were two authors we would teach our children and grandchildren. Some of Crichton's "outlandish" ideas we might bring forth as sparking research and awareness. Though Crichton may not have liked the idea, he might one day be required reading. And I can only think that those students will enjoy his stories better than I enjoyed some of the tomes I was required to read in the name of "good literature."

This weekend, in memory of Dr. Crichton, I think I might revisit Timeline. Thank you sir, for the stories.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Book Review: The Youngest Templar

The Youngest Templar (Book 1)
Michael Spradlin

Tristan was an abandoned foundling raised at a monastery and taken as a squire by the Knights Templar. Caught in the midst of the Third Crusade, he faces battle before being entrusted with one of the greatest treasures of the Knights, which he must attempt return safely to England.

I had to speed read through this one as my intrepid cataloger needed to know whether or not it was supposed to go in Teen or Juvenile Fiction. Fortunately, it reads very fast.

Though the protagonist is fifteen, the book is written for the ten-twelve year old boy range. Tristan is young and eager, and also interested in his own mysterious past. Spradlin suggests that he's a son either of nobility or aristocracy and him having the knowledge of his birth seems to be a threat to someone--possibly King Richard.

Blending in characters from Robin Hood (I confess I missed the first reference to Friar Tuck), Spradlin gives a dose of history without getting too deeply or dryly into the subject. The difficulties of having noble warriors who believed themselves answerable not to their kings but only to Rome is touched on, and Spradlin does a credible job of giving the background of the Templars in a manageable format. One understands how a young boy, sheltered in a monastery, could be swept up on this chance to see action and fight for the church who had raised him.

Spradlin also makes the Templars' enemies very human and, while not going into graphic detail, does not shy away from the realities that wars and battles are deadly. It's done in a thoughtful manner which will remind readers that there are human faces, brilliant planners and leaders, and different ideas on the otherside of the battleground.

When I read this I immediately knew to whom I would suggest it. There is one of the home schooling families whose elder son has often asked me for reading recommendations. He's gotten through Madeline L'Engle and it's been a stretch trying to locate fiction that I really thought he would really enjoy and find the characters relateable. When I saw him last week I pounced and recommended this new title. It's on hold for him (of course it was checked out) and he promises me an opinion.

In the interim, I'm looking forward to the next volume of this adventure.

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Version of Storytime

Every week on Wednesday I head to storytime. It's challenging, rewarding, occasionally makes me want to tear my hair out, and is one element I have a lot of control over.

And chances are good that many traditional children's librarians will tell you I'm doing it wrong. Generally speaking, I don't do a craft every week, show a video, drag out new fingerplays, wear an apron, use handpuppets, make extensive use of feltboards, hand out a song sheet, give out a take home activity/sheet, or have a snack.

Why is this?

First, you have to keep in mind my audience. Though billed as a "pre-school" storytime, I have children from four months through five years. Most of the kids are in the two to five year range. Because this is our one storytime that doesn't require sign up, I get different kids every week. Grandma brings her visiting grandchildren, parents who are in the building on a random Wednesday, everyone comes by. Such is not to say I don't see several of the same kids week to week--my core group is about 7 children--but today I had 16 kids, at least six of whom I'd never seen before. Not being able to plan for specific age, ability, and numbers changes a lot of how one plans storytime. However, I'd probably only modify it heavily if I took on an 18 month and younger group.

So what do I do?

We start every week with a talk about the weather. What color is the sky? How does it feel outside? Did you wear a sweater? It's something almost every child will respond to you about--even if they don't know you. It's subjective to each child and allows personality. It's also a sneaky way to introduce vocabulary (words like overcast, foggy, muggy, and dreary).

Next I ask the kids what they think we might be reading about--based on the covers of the books. I always bring in more books than we have time to read so they have some options to take home. Usually a few of those books do follow them out of the room. I do this to encourage observation of the book covers that are in the room. I usually pull for a casual theme (cats, pigs, astronauts) and while they're quick to catch the theme, often they'll go for the details as well.

Note: Yes, I'm asking a lot of questions but if you ask a kid a question, he/she's going to give you an answer. (Thank you Laura Numeroff)

Welcome Song: We sing the same song every week, and the majority of the regulars sing along. We wave hands and arms on the first two rounds and then the third round of the song gets changed up. Most popularly of late we've been waving our feet.

Read Books 1 and 2, possible rhyme or song in between.

Stretch Break: "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" --gets the kids up and moving, can be repeated at various speeds, most of the kids can sing it with you--all of the adults can. (And should.) If they are still squirmy a round of "Noble Duke of York" helps also.

Books 3 and 4, possible rhyme or song in between

Hand stamps

Announcements are fit in somewhere, either after book 3 or before/during hand stamps.

And this takes 35-40 minutes.

A lot of the reason it takes me so long is that I prefer to engage in a lot of dialogic reading. Before we even open the book, I'll ask questions. My kids have quickly grasped that there is the title and author on the cover of the book and I've said the words "the illustrator, the person who drew the pictures, is..." more times than I'd care to count. One of my favorite "break up the monotony" tricks is to pick up a book incorrectly and to ask if we're ready to read.

(Book is Upside-Down and Backwards)
"Are we ready to read?"
"No? Why not? What's wrong with the book?" (Identify it as upsidedown)
(Book is Backwards)
"Now are we ready? No? What's wrong?"
(Book is front ways but again, upside down)

This can easily go one for several questions. But I can sneak in the fact that an English language book opens to the left and pages turn from the right to the left hand side. The letters are upside down. The kids may recognize that it's not correct but not know why, and it's my job to fill in the blanks. You can also make sure they're not totally onto the game by asking with a book that IS correct and then go through the "Are the letters right side up? Does a book open this way ?"

Once we get into the book I will continue to ask questions or invite other responses. "How do you think the pigeon feels?" (We heard that a lot last Tuesday--I read all Mo Willem books for storytime) "What color is the....?" "What is he holding?"

or one of my more recent favorites "What do you see?" This works best one small group days where I can ask them to come up and tell/show me/us what they see on the page. On an intricate page, that can be a lot! Each kid wants to identify something different. Whatever they say they see, I reaffirm it, repeating it back to them in a positive manner. This means that sometimes I'm saying utterly ridiculous things that aren't what an adult would identify in a picture at all (e.g. a round shape sticking out of the water--I recognize it as the pig's belly in a swimsuit but to Patron Age 2.5 it's an Easter egg).

It sounds very simple, and it is. There's just enough structure that the kids have a general idea of what we'll do each week. And a clean simple format like this allows me to add things in without it becoming overwhelming to the parents or the children (or me). Adding in traditional songs like Wheels on the Bus or Pattycake allow the parents to take the song home with them. I prefer to keep flannel boards and fingerplays to a minimum. The kids don't usually remember the fingerplay three minutes after we've finished it so I'd rather look for an effective book than an ineffective rhyme. Flannel boards are similar fun--occasionally. And while a craft is a wonderful addition--I've also been in complete burnout because of trying to come up with crafts that will go together quickly and might actually make it home.

I do like to focus a little more on early literacy and that's where a lot of what I DO do comes in. Asking questions, introducing them to words like author and illustrator, talking about how to hold a book. Bringing in strange vocabulary and encourage the kids to read wordless books. It's different from any other children's librarian I know and different from how my coworkers do it but so far, the kids seem to enjoy it.

So feel free to join us on Wednesday morning and welcome to storytime.

Today, we're going to read stories.

One More In Early = One Less in Line Tomorrow

After seeing the Incredibly-Patient-Mother off last Tuesday, I headed to City Hall to get my vote in. As we're facing a 14 hour day at the library tomorrow (for which, thankfully, I'll only be present for about ten hours of...), and since I usually have at least an hour long meeting first thing--it definitely behooved me not to make the day any fuller than it needed to be.

I was surprised and pleased at how easy it was. I work at a public library and a number of the staff had been through training to take voter registration--so registering was as simple as tracking down Our Lady in Charge of Circulation. I'd changed my driver's license in early September so as to be able to vote in this election. I stopped in at City Hall and within about ten minutes everything was done. My vote had been cast for the next President.

If you have gone early or voted absentee--great. If you haven't, please make sure to get out tomorrow and vote. We're a democracy, not an oligarchy.

I'll catch you on Wednesday if I'm still standing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Only 62 More Knitting Days...

I'm actually home in La Crosse with the Incredibly Patient Mother. And I don't leave the state until December (if all goes as planned). AND election day is nearly here, which means in just over another week I won't have to look at any more campaign ads. I will, however, have to survive my library as polling place.

But until then:

"It's a good pattern, life force sucking and evil but a good pattern."
(Can we tell the holiday knitting has started?)

"He did his best but I managed to survive the evening."
(Re-enacting Anne Boleyn's death for the library Halloween party.)

"No one else seemed to realize I was in mourning, but wearing black in New York--even to a wedding--is almost always acceptable."
(Quote from a hopeful NaNoWriMo project)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making an Effort....Or at Least Trying to

There's been growing discussion on the boards the last couple of weeks about participation in our national organizations. For the majority of us, this seems to be a sore topic full of frustration. I particularly liked Emily Ford's discussion of it, self-identifying somewhere around Level 2 (trying to be involved but generally feeling stifled).

I did finally re-up for another year of ALA, after much pondering, many consultations, and not a few rounds of ranting how this was resume filler that didn't seem to be doing much good to/for anyone. I appealed to NMRT, Madame Director, the RefQueen, and a ridiculous number of non-librarians (who don't particularly care) on their opinion of if I should rejoin. It meant I reconnected with one of my libschool cohorts but didn't provide much in the way of clarity.

Ultimately, I decided to give Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) a try. It's a division of ALA, such that to join what I was interested in, I had to join the overhead. With optimism of how welcoming they are, and the knowledge that I had a few friends in there already, I sent away the hard earned funds and the committee form. I signed up on the LITA list....

Thus far....that's been it. No one has emailed regarding committees and while the list has had a couple of interesting conversations, I've not really seen anything I felt inclined to dive into. This is rather dissatisfying as I was looking to actually get involved in doing something more than read lists.

Granted, I actually can identify projects LITA has taken on (e.g BIGWIG) and I know a number of the names and faces around LITA. But when I've brought the topic up on other library related networking places it's been met without much response. And that's kind of frustrating. I'm not sure if everyone is just focused elsewhere or if it's based on my inability to go to both conferences.

So tonight I fling myself at the list again, hoping to spark something. Not sure what yet, but something....

And yes, in the interim, there is the LSW.

Making Changes...

It seems to be quite the month for change, this month of October where the weather can't decide if it's actually fall or some other month not to be determined (we've had everything from April to December). Not only did I add braces, I also cut my hair.

This doesn't sound particularly life changing unless you've known me for a number of years. I've had waist length hair since grade school.

And then, on an almost spur of the moment before the Brunette's wedding, an extremely wonderful hairdresser named Olga cut eleven inches of hair off. It was in the back of my mind that I might consider it when I went in for the first trim I'd gotten from her in a long time. Moving half-way across the country from your trusted hairdresser is not something I recommend.

The cut off locks will be donated when I can round up an envelope and get myself to the post office. As certain friends can attest, I'm not very good at mailing packages in a prompt fashion. So now I give you the update and some commentary.



Thoughts on the Process:

1) If you are not the person who is considering donation, it is the extremely rude to approach someone--either friend or total stranger--and suggest to them that they should cut their hair and donate it. Chances are very good that some other impolite (and usually short haired) person has already tried to shove the suggestion down their throat and they're really not interested in hearing about it for the fourteenth time. If it's not your hair, it's not your decision or place to comment. Stop it.
1a) Do not force children to do this against their will. Either the growing out of the hair or the cutting.

2) If you're going to donate, I suggest that you plan to cut off twelve inches. Locks of Love requires ten inch lengths, so your hairdresser may need to cut off eleven and then another inch off in making it look fabulous. Pantene also accepts hair donations.

3) Find a hairdresser to stick with during this process--changing to someone new may very well mean starting from scratch. I've met too many hairdressers who "think they know best." Olga had been cutting my hair for four years.

4) Think about major events. Is anyone getting married in the next year or two who will a) kill if you cut your hair before it happens or b) will require you to get an up-do? Are you doing anything with your hair involving the word "bleach" or "permanent"? Note: you can do a lot of cool up dos with long hair .

5) Everyone has their reasons for cutting or not cutting their hair. It's your choice, it's your hair. I'm of the belief that hair should be kept healthy and shouldn't be causing you headaches/neck problems.

Many people assume it's much easier to deal with shorter hair, care for, etc etc. So far--it's actually been a little harder. I can't get my hair up into a bun or a french braid easily and the ponytail crimp is a lot worse. I get annoyed when it's in my face so it's either down for half the day and then wadded into a ponytail or it's just up in a ponytail. I'm going to look for some butterfly clips or smaller barrettes but have yet to hit a Claire's.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hedgehogs in the News: Prehistoric Toy

A hedgehog toy was found with a prehistoric child. Apparently prickles are perennially popular!

Metallic Hedgehog.....

I got braces today on my upper teeth. According to my orthodontist we'll add the lower in about six months. So just about the time I learn how to get through storytime with one set of teeth covered in metal, we'll completely change my speech patterns AGAIN.

Overall braces are a good thing but my teeth are sore and making me want to find solace in a large bowl of oatmeal.

Now with extra prickles....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: My College Motto

My college motto was as follows:
Breathing is necessary
Eating is essential
Sleeping is optional

I would now only add one additional piece:
Caffeine is required

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hedgehog Radar: Librarian Ears

Like any mother who can hear her particular child calling "Mommy" through the din of a noisy children's room (and it gets really noisy in here), I've noticed my own somewhat attuned "ears" based on patron/friend requests that come my way*. To some degree this probably drives my friends nuts--if I see something on or related to a recent topic of discussion or an interest of theirs, I shoot an email that rarely says anything other than "thought you'd like this-Abs. [Hyperlink]" But at times I'm told it's helpful.

It's a skill that can bring a lot of value to a patron/friend, especially if that someone is willing to work with a librarian and who has an ongoing research project.

Point in case: last fall, in a fit of what-was-I-thinking, I took on an intense short term research project for a former editor of mine. The deadline just happened to be the week before I moved out of Chicago. While we squeaked in under the deadline her particular subject (veteran medical care, particularly trauma that may not have a clear physical manifestation), this is obviously a topic on which material is still being published. So while I skim through the endless RSS feeds that pour in each day, if anything has her particular keywords (or looks appropriate), off goes an email. Though often these are just archivable supplemental material, it meant last week that she quickly saw the new change in the Disability Rating Schedule for Traumatic Brain Injuries (Thank you Docuticker!!!). She was thrilled to get that email.

Of course, a lot of this is patron/subject specific. I'm in a public library working with children. As a result, at present I have a better hold on what new ya novel might be fun for a middle school girl (Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty--Jody Gehrman), what easy chapter books a mom with a young princess-obsessed girl might want to grab for bedtime (Vivian French's Tiara Club series), and just where the big set of color-themed picture books are (P* SCH) than I do on the most recent military histories or cookbooks or changes in real estate law but that can be said of anyone working with a specific type of patron. But certainly your "ears" can change over time, just as a mother might have to adapt to a) her child's voice as it grows and b) a new child, a librarian should be flexible enough to grab different subjects as patrons change.

It's a convenient filter to have set for the researcher though, one I could see particularly useful in medicine, law, or academia in general. If you have worked with a librarian who is in contact with resources on your subject every day and they know what your current project is--might they be not more likely to send you the latest and most fabulous new article to help you? But I preach to the choir.

As my ears go off again though whilst I scour my feeds, know that I forward you that 50th link to DC comic art showing all of the women of DC Comics not because I'm trying to flood your inbox. I've just developed strong Librarian Ears.

*Note: This particular type of ear is different from those ears that pick up on children crying for reasons other than it's time to leave the library or vacate the computer, can hear a curse word at 100 paces in the children's room, and have a keen sense of awareness when tween boys are gasping over a website that probably shouldn't be opened here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Book Review: 39 Clues: Maze of Bones

39 Clues: Maze of Bones
Rick Riordan

I came at this book skeptically but was surprised and pleased at how engaging I found it. Scholastic has decided to pull together ten strong children/ya authors (Riordan, Korman, Carman, etc) to write a fast moving, marketing friendly series.

One is plunged into the first book, introduced to characters all around and about the time you start to get a handle on what's going on--the book is over. Amy and Dan Cahill, having lost their favorite relative Grace, now are on a hunt to scour the globe and find 39 Clues that appear to be a path to great treasure. Up against them are a series of relatives on their own teams and own hunts. You never know who to trust or where the next possible alliance might come from but so far it's betrayal on all sides.

Amy and Dan are engaging characters--the former suffering awkwardness exacerbated by being an early teen, the latter a "normal" kid who likes his baseball card collection and teasing his older sister. While the other characters are more charicatures--Amy and Dan stand out as very real kids, a little brighter than average but concerned about very regular things (like lunch) and feeling natural fear at various points.

Riordan has done a good job of setting things in motion, giving the audience a huge cast to try and track and lots of ways the story could go. I look forward to handing this to even reluctant readers--there's a lot of action with moderate (not overwhelming) doses of history tossed in for good measure. I expect those who do grab the series to also be headed for the biography section as they are putting the next book on hold.

Korman's up next, and as he's one of my favorite children's authors, I'm happily expectant.

P.S. While you're waiting for book two--read "I Want to Go Home" by Gordon Korman. (If you can find a copy--it's out of print.) Absolutely hysterical book that Mr. J read aloud to a captivated audience in his sixth grade classroom when I had him.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Book Review: Primavera by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Primavera Mary Jane Beaufrand

While I am a fan of historical fiction, I'm not sure I would have picked up this novel but for its being on the Mock Newbury prerequisite list.

Beaufrand's first novel tosses one into the middle of a feud between the Medici and Pazzi families. Told from the perspective of the less beautiful (and therefore less valued and forced into partial servitude) younger sister of the Pazzi household, Beaufrand attempts to engage the reader in the intrigues that ran rife throughout the Renaissance.

Protangonist Flora is a strange character. Though destined for the convent she has not been sent, for vague reasons involving her grandmother. While my memory of the roles of women in the Italian renaissance is a smidge rusty (it's been seven years since that incredibly awesome college history course), I find it extremly unlikely that any young woman of noble family would have been permitted the freedoms described. Young noblewomen, whether valuable enough to marry off or not, weren't given weapons training.

Plot summary: The head of the Pazzi family, Flora's father, seeks power--either through a marriage alliance with the Medici or by murdering the Medici brothers and driving the family from Florence. Despite the manipulations by him and his wife, including having daughter Domenica painted by Botticelli as a Madonna, the marriage contract is not made and the attempted murder is foiled--by Flora. Father and one son are executed, another son permanently imprisoned, Domenica escapes into a convent, mother is exiled, and associates are murdered. And Flora is taken in by a goldsmith, where she learns to work beautiful gold pieces before escaping the country with a former servant.

Overall I was disappointed. Even putting aside my skepticism at how freely and openly Flora behaved, things didn't feel realistic. I could believe the scheming and the power plays being carried out by the families but I felt they got buried and confused with side stories of a captain of the guard in love with the older sister, the story of a servant boy who'd had nothing to eat for two days, what the grandmother's role was, and the addition of Botticelli. I was expecting a lot more involvement from the artist or more use of him to advance the story--and instead it felt like a reuse of Leonardo da Vinci's role in Ever After.

Following the assassination attempt the story hit a peak with the violence and then game to a grinding halt. Suddenly we advanced four years with very few problems and oh, btw, people have been talking about this "girl dressed as boy apprentice" but no one has done anything about it? That rang entirely unbelievable. We got suggestions of the gold work at the beginning of the book but didn't have a chance to really hear about her development as a gold apprentice. The ending, which finally brought together the title with the storyline, was far too rushed.

Despite my rather critical review of it, I understand why it was selected for Mock Newbery and I think it has a good shot for the real Newbery. The writing is good, albeit somewhat dry. There's a healthy dose of history mixed in and it's one of those books I can see adults saying is a "good book for children." Whether or not it will actually go over well with the age group it is intended for remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: It's a Wedding

Yesterday one of my best friends, the Brunette, was married. I had the honor to be in his wedding party, even though that meant transporting my dress on two planes (after having it mailed to the Incredibly Patient Mother and driving to/from her house to get it hemmed) and buying two pairs of shoes because we went from gold to black at some point (June? Maybe?).

"When he says brunch does that mean brunch bring something comfortable to wear on Sunday or brunch bring another pair of heels and skirt?"
(When you're flying half way across the country, you need to know what shoes to bring.)

"Did you tell him I have waist length hair?"
(The hairdresser. You warned him right?)

"I just found four pair of tweezers in the bottom of my make up bag."
(That explains where they sneaked off to when I couldn't find them. I hope they're not like coat hangers....)

"I put on a little mascara for the dentist."
(Discussing with Sibling-the-Elder waterproof mascara the night before a dental appt after I practiced "wedding make up")

Congratulations AJ & DJ! And thank you for letting me be a part of your special day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Rhythm and Rhyme

Guess what state I'm in? (Beyond the state of confusion or exhaustion, I'm an almost permanent resident there.)

Clue #1: It's not Wisconsin.

As some of you know, I like dance music. My-Friend-the-Lawyer often sends me mixes and tracks he thinks I should hear and I have a YouTube list that I usually have running when I need to zone out and get down to work. DJ Steve Boyette also does some nice stuff. But it was a long week this week and by Thursday this was indicative of my mood:

"The dance music isn't working. I'm not perky."

And a bit of a story today for you. An acquaintance of mine just welcomed a second child. Beautiful healthy boys, both. And they've chosen traditional names.




And...I'm a children's librarian. (Hands up if you can see where this one is going--and yes, you're required to sing along.)

May I be the only person whose first reaction on hearing the baby's name was to exclaim, "John Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt...his name is my name too...." and then stop and look really really guilty.

This is what happens when your brain is full of nursery rhymes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

PW and the Ever Growing Holds List

While it takes a concentrated effort for me to get through most of the review journals (School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, etc.), usually involving a house/trance/techno soundtrack and a full jar of coffee (32 oz), Publisher's Weekly is my brain break, easily skimmed through and passed on to the next person even during the more frequent of interruptions.

It's also where I get caught up on what's coming out from the adult authors I read. As I think is the nature of most of us--I see my library almost exclusively as my place of work. I don't come here during my off hours to browse the shelves for new things, even though I should. Other than the occasional quick pass through the new books shelves, I rely almost entirely on the PW Bestseller's lists and other RSS notifications to warn me when I should be putting something on hold.

My library allows us to have ten holds at a time. At present I have only nine, but I picked up two items today and placed another hold within about five minutes of retrieving those holds from the ever patient front desk staff. And of those holds? Eight haven't arrived at the libraries yet, may not have been published yet. But I'm waiting for them.

Holds lists are a fabulous invention. It lets me reserve something when I think of it or come across it, even if someone else is already enjoying it. I don't have to only scour the shelves at my local location, I can grab from any and everywhere around my consortium. And very patient staff grab the books I want, bring them to me, and check out my items for the third time this week.

Speaking on that, I need to go place a hold :)

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

(yes, another video--please click through if you're reading this via email)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Brain Break: Sticky Notes

Thanks to Susan!!

EepyBird's Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

Library Society of the World

Chadwick recently did a very nifty Pecha Kucha* presentation on the Library Society of the World. And he quoted a brilliant librarian (cough cough *me* cough cough) around 4:28

*Pecha Kucha = presentation style where you present 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Total of 6 min 40 seconds. After your almost seven minutes, you're done.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Weeding with a Vengeance: The Last of the Music CDs

(The first part of the saga.)
Ahh the tracking of the elusive music cd. It's a slow hunt. A REALLY slow hunt.

My latest printout was about 40-50 sheets long. Truth be told, I didn't count. I just found out the hard way that it is taking me on average about 10 minutes per page to track down the cds that weren't on the shelf if there is nothing else distracting me. And I have 12 pages left at present count.

The process for each cd that isn't checked off yet:

Is the cd checked out?

If no, when did they get returned? If within last 10 days, I will assume it is actually here.

If they are recently returned or checked out--do I need to see them/pull for replacement? If yes, mark on list in green (if in) or place hold (if out).

If they are "in" but haven't been touched in a couple of months and weren't on the shelf when I went through it--go to another screen and mark them as missing. If someone returns/checks out the cd, they'll go back to regular status. If not, we'll look around a few more times and then there will be some pruning. Either way, once in a missing status patrons can't put holds on them, so there are fewer disappointed patrons and consequently, fewer frustrated staff.

One line at a time--and some of these pages have a full half page of stuff. The good news is that a surprising number of the cds that weren't on the shelf were checked out. I was envisioning a far greater number of missing records. I hadn't realized that many parents and kids were picking up music. Yay that.

And that money I got to replace cds? Well....let's just say I went a little over budget. So I have a healthy "back up list" that I'll pull from once we know final prices on the cds and probably well into next year's budget.

It's been a pretty hefty amount of work but, all in all, once I finish, it will have been just over a week. Not a bad time investment considering the return is happier staff who can find cds patrons ask for and hopefully happier patrons who can find enjoyable music on cds that are in good shape.

So I think it's worth my time, even if I still don't understand why the previous selector bought five copies of the Chicken Little soundtrack.

(For that matter--neither does she)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Blame the Kitchen

"I can't appliances won't let me."
--Apparently every time M goes away one of her appliances goes bananas. When she went to France it was the kitchen sink. She just got back from Germany and it's the TV. I suggested that excuse for her next business trip.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years....

Apparently the first draft of this post got eaten, so if it shows up twice, I apologize.

It has been seven years today since I, with classmates, huddled around televisions wondering what exactly had just happened. I'm still not sure I have the answers, though the memories of those days are some of the most vivid from my undergraduate experience.

A year later, my choir and I, with thousands of others, would gather together to sing Mozart's Requiem. We'd performed it in spring of 2001 for our semester concert, which eased our preparations fifteen months later. That day we each wore the name of someone who killed in the attacks--mine was the name of a firefighter who was the cousin of a close friend of mine.

For Lee, and the many other victims:

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Weeding with a Vengeance: Music CDs

I hadn't appropriately weeded the music cds since starting my tenure here at LPL. It's not something I have a huge budget for and much of that budget has been siphoned off by Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, and replacements. Children's music cds, as with many other children's things, get used and broken pretty regularly. Not a horrible fact but hard on the cd budget.

But then, as we looked at budgets last week and a little migration of some funds, we found some moveable money for my sad little section--and so it was time to weed and replace.

I spent six hours on Monday crouched, sitting, squatting, hunching--choose your verb--over our low blue bins full of music cds. I filled half a bin with "weed", buried my desk under "try to replace" and filled another bin with "send to the branches." The ones that landed on my desk were ones that had circulated more than 50 times--Mary Poppins had circulated 101 and 104 times on the respective copies. Time for new ones!!!

With sore back I retreated to my desk and made an executive decision. If it had circulated more than sixty times and I couldn't replace it, with a few exceptions, it was being weeded. There is enough children's music to be had without sending out scratched cds or leaving them sitting on the shelf looking grungy. We are, after all, magpies all of us--looking for what is new and shiny.

I hadn't really thought about how badly the music section needed to be weeded until Aide Miss S showed up behind my shoulder around five p.m. and exclaimed how much better it looked. This followed by Aide Mrs. D on Tuesday, who popped in to tell me how fabulous the music section looked and how much easier it was to shelve. Okay, got it, hint taken. Should have weeded a while ago.

At present I'm almost through the cd piles that were on my desk--then I need to go through the CDs that have come back in the last two days (16" pile) and check them against my list. (Then Aide Miss S gets to shelve those--she'll be SO thrilled.) Finally I have to go through my giant list and see what's out that I need to put on hold to weed or replace and what's missing. I think we may not have a good sense of what's gone and I'm about to have a great big trace list.

Back to the trenches.

Hedgehogs in the News: Blondie...

RAPatton pointed me towards today's link

Rare blonde hedgehog nursed back to health

Blonde, brunette, albino--there's all kinds :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: There's a Reason We're Friends

If you skipped last weeks posts, well--you missed some awfully pretty pictures. But when you put Tech Sergeant and I in the same place/conversation for very long, something crazy is going to come out.

"It's proof of how long we've known each other: he can see the skepticism through my sunglasses."
--Me to TS's dad. Did you see how big the sunglasses I was wearing were?

"Death and despair and lizards and such"
--Tech Sergeant's description of Nevada

"Here fish, fish, fish, fish..."
--My tried and true fishing call. I will attest that it worked, I caught a trout, much to the relief of the patient guide who kept telling me I was casting appropriately but the fish just weren't biting. JB was awesome.

"I'm impassioned about 25 cent tacos."
--Tech Sergeant, why he wanted the Rockies to win.

"There was bat movement and then he looked displeased."
--It's better than my play-by-play of football.

"I aspire to be your desktop."
--Me in full hipwaders, it's the closest I'll get to being a calendar girl.

Friday, September 05, 2008

5 Minutes is All That Stands Between Me and Chocolate Cake 5 minutes. I wonder if I have any cocoa in the kitchen.

A Little More Colorado....

I promise, this is the last of the vacation picture posts....

So, remember a couple of posts ago I mentioned climbing up a rock structure after the Tech Sergeant? This would be what we were climbing. We did not do the entire structure, obviously, but you can see here why it's called a fan.

On the way home we stopped by a small church (St. Catherine of Siena) that seems to be rather secluded among the hills. A gorgeous structure though--my flash in the near dark doesn't do it justice. Pope John Paul II stopped here one time.

And for whatever reason my flash registered the light shining on the front of the church as green. It wasn't quite this spooky (although...I enjoy the spooky nature of the photo). The church was surrounded by several little streams that all fed into a lake/marshy area. It was also built on an enormous boulder.

It was quite a trip, filled with so much natural beauty that I don't think one can fully comprehend without actually seeing it in person. But I hope the pictures give you some idea.

I headed back Tuesday (after catching the Rockies vs. Giants game Monday and enjoying a hot dog at the very gorgeous stadium) and it's back to library deadlines for me. I almost found my desk on Wednesday and hopefully by the time this posts I'll be back towards "caught up." Maybe.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Natural Beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park

My third day in Colorado, after alpacas, we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and up the mountain trail. It's a single car wide hard pack dirt road that winds you up through the mountains. Relatively tight turns and constant climbing, along with quite a number of stunning sites to pull over and photograph the view. Some of these are out the window of the SUV, some are when we would pull over and hop out. These are only a few.
It felt like you could see forever

Even in the last days of August there was still snow

They let you climb 200 feet or so up to the top of this mountain. Our hearts were racing on the climb from the lack of oxygen but once at the top we were okay. We were above the treeline. What does it say about humans when we climb above where the trees can't grow?

Oh....right--that we like an incredible view.

On the way back down we caught this pretty lady by the side of the road. Many of the cars stopped and people hopped out to take pictures as she had a snack and then crossed to the other side.

Picture Book You All Should Read: Angel Girl

Angel Girl
Laurie Friedman
Ofra Amit (illustrations)

I was nearly in tears when I finished this book a few minutes ago and considering my teen librarian's similar reaction--get thee to thy library.

In a brief story that is all the more poignant for it's simplicity Friedman tells of a young Jewish boy interned in a labor camp. Nearing starvation he one day spotted a girl through the fence. She gave him an apple and each day--for months--she would return to bring him an apple. After liberation he moved to England and then the United States. A friend set him up on a blind date with a young woman who seemed familiar. Over that first dinner they realized that he had been the boy in the camp and she, the girl who brought him apples.

Amit's illustrations are simple and painfully evocative. While guards are present in the drawings and do carry weapons, they are not the focus and your eye is instead fully caught by this young boy trying to survive.

A beautiful story, very accessible for early elementary aged students. Go find a copy.

ETA 12/29/08: The "true" story behind this picture book has been revealed as something a Holocaust survivor made up for unclear reasons. *sigh*

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Climb Up the Mountain; Slide Down the Stream

I'll probably have to break this into two/three posts--it's very picture heavy. And if you have no interest in what I do when I'm not at to move along for a couple of days. These are the dreaded "look at my vacation photo" posts. Just be glad I'm not forcing you to sit through all 180 pictures that are on my computer (150 of which are being slowly uploaded into Flickr).

After nearly ten months of planning (last year before Christmas) the Tech Sergeant and I headed for TS's parents' place in Colorado. They are about 30 minutes out of Boulder, with an absolutely incredible mountain backdrop outside the windows. I'd never been that far west before (Minneapolis and Des Moines just don't feel west to me, for all that they are on the other side of the Mississippi) and the difference there was just amazing.

Somehow I'd forgotten the elementary studies of Colorado where they mention that it's a desert. Along with Denver being a mile above sea level, which my lungs took note of but didn't complain about too much, it's dry. We never went anywhere without a bottle of water or three and of course all of that hydration meant I took quite the tour of powder rooms across the Longmont/Boulder/Denver/Estes Park area.

Our second day there I was pried out of bed at a wholly unreasonable hour to go fishing. The hour was made only slightly less unacceptable in that I gained an hour flying out. But I'd promised and so I duly suited up in hip waders and followed our knowledgeable and very patient guide into a stream. This particular stream happens to be one of many that comes from snow melt. In late August it was very chilly water.

(Tech Sergeant in the Blue Hat--Me--and Guide JB)

I'd never been fly fishing before but enjoyed the meditative quiet of it, casting and trailing the line. And while I would have been most content with that--I did catch a fish.

No worries, he's still swimming. Trout where we were are catch and release only and I was very happy to let this one swim away.

The next morning was my turn to pop out of bed bright and early--for while he wanted to take me fishing, I wanted TS to go with me to the alpaca festival. And thus, with Mom and Dad (his not mine), we headed up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

(Tech Sergeant and Me)

After petting lots of alpaca and some alpaca yarn purchases (so pretty, so fluffy and soft) and after alllllmost talking his mom into a gorgeous felted alpaca coat (and an alpaca or three...), we had lunch in Rocky Mountain National Park, by the Alluvial Fan, which was created in 1982 when a natural dam broke and sent water and boulders hurtling through a pass. TS decided he wanted to climb up to one of the ridges and so he and I charged up the side of the mountain. (These shoes ended up being perfect for this kind of gallivanting up rocks and down cold streams.) Here's the view from where we stopped--if you blow the picture up we started at the small wooden bridge in the bottom right corner.

Now that we'd achieved up---we had to navigate down. Did I mention we were standing next to a stream?

The water had made a lot of the huge boulders very slippery--so what we couldn't climb down we just slid down. Made it to nearly the bottom in one piece--and then waded out in even more frigid water than the day before for a photo op (not on my camera). The water was COLD!!!

Meg, who patiently let me shove my camera in her face, is here to tell you there's more...but in another post.

Food Meme: Whatcha Eating?

Shamelessly stolen from the WarMaiden, the meme of the day is: Food.

This is a list of 100 foods that every omnivore should eat sometime in their life. The idea is to bold the ones you've eaten.

I'm not especially picky (except for the whole seafood/fish thing) and the only known allergy is mushrooms, so let's see how I do...

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue (EVERY chance I get! Love it!)
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart In New York, we called these "dirty water hot dogs," because the flavor was best when the water hadn't been changed in awhile. And omg they're awesome.
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes Cue Deana carter singign "Strawberry Wine"
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream Gross. Dad liked it. Well, he ate it. Pretty sure he only ate it because it was the only ice cream we kids wouldn't touch.
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O -Shots
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (On purpose?)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (the best when they are warm and it's 8:00 a.m. on Sat a.m.)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail In a lovely garlic butter sauce. Mm.
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (don't remember it but I know my dad fixed it for us a couple of times)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Conclusion: The non-swimmy thing definitely cuts down on the list...and there are several of these I think I could live without. But an interesting prospect.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: I'm in Colorado....

At least, I will be on Sunday. I'm hanging out with the one of my best friends and his parents.

In preparation of getting ready to go:

"I forgot to plan around the orange hat. I'm going to have to go home and reevaluate. Can a pink tank top work with a burnt orange hat?"

Discussing seafood--which I don't eat:

"When the eating instructions at the table involve "cut/tear the head off..." and it's not a marshmallow peep or chocolate rabbit..."

And what are we on?

"Plan Q...because we know I passed plans A, B and C a looooong time ago."

While Madame Director found it both amusing and...strangely normal, I still don't think she was expecting me to announce that I was going to an alpaca festival over the weekend. Hiking and fishing, okay... alpaca and Stephen King? But the 50SPF and I are off having a marvelous time. The alpaca yarn and I will be home soon.

(Have I mentioned how much I love scheduling posts in advance?)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Different Kind of Life

I made the mistake of explaining my current involvement in online social networking sites recently. The response from the adult in question, who has no problem shoving gaming down the collective throat, was that I obviously had no life. Forgive me if I snarkily disagree. It's a more wired/screen focused type of life but it's where I have developed a number of new close friendships and professional relationships and it has led to a number of IRL contacts.

I'm into my "adult" years (according to advertising categories). I've reached that point where friends aren't as easily come by after relocation. I'm not currently in any coursework where I might go to coffee with classmates and while I have some awesome coworkers, even we need some time away from each other. I wouldn't really consider myself an introvert but going to bars by myself has never particularly been my thing (and generally not that of most people I know) so I've moved more into meeting people in online communities. With such a wealth of people to be met through friends of friends and through hobbies, is it any wonder that many of us are doing the same?

Social networking has also allowed for regeneration of old friendships or to continue/supplement current or newer ones. Because of bizarre schedules and never knowing just what time zone the Brunette is in, I'm hesitant to call him when I usually think about him--which is usually between ten p.m. and midnight. It might be okay, or I might be interrupting the one night of sleep he really needs before an early morning in Florida. But when I see him in online chat we can catch up, in real time, without having to worry about interrupting each other. One of the editors I used to work for is in Alabama, which is a bit far for board game night, but we can Scramble our little hearts out on Facebook. And "old-fashioned" email is keeping me connected to a high school classmate currently deployed in Iraq.

I have friends all over the world who share my knitting and yarn fascination. It is to them I turn when I hit a snag in a project, need inspiration, or just feel like jumping into a debate that to pursuers of other hobbies, sounds amazingly trivial. Alongside the conversations comes notes about each others lives and it is incredibly difficult to separate yourself or to not care. We cheer each other on whether it be a knitting or other triumph and share sorrows and grief. When you are connected one way, it is easier to find other connections in life.

Such of course is not to devalue the new friends I do meet locally nor the friends I see only in person. Having face to face interaction is one of the best way I like to spend time with my friends. On a recent trip, I checked email once in four days, perfectly content to let the online world take care of itself while I immersed myself in the people I was with. While I probably missed a few things, as I would if I missed a night out with friends, I could browse through and catch up on details when I got back. So while it may not be a life some would espouse, it is a full and pretty rewarding one. And it means there's usually someone up for a chat when the insomnia kicks in yet again.