Sunday, March 30, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Staging the Room

Along with observing a duck who seemed to be doing spring house cleaning of her feathers, taking a detour through MN that lasted a little longer than planned, and schlepping around PLA: I bought living room furniture. Thanks to Sibling-the-Younger--it's assembled too!

And yes, I do say these things:

"I keep having visions of gracious rooms and Ektorp Tullsta."

(Come on--if you've been to IKEA, you have thought that too. )

And speaking of setting up--while trying to impress upon various people why I don't want lots of tables at the Knit In:

"I want some cozy sitting areas, I don't want it to look like a junior high lunch room."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: A Fabulous Excuse

The Incredibly-Patient-Mother and Sibling-the-Younger are in for the weekend. While there is definite quote potential tomorrow, I'm reaching you early for now.

When next you need a reason to call in sick?

"I'm sorry, I won't be in.... my ears are fatigued." (Evan @ Popgadget)

Thanks Evan :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wondering When They'll Pursue Young "Adults"

To read a lot of library professional literature, or to read just about any positive news story about libraries of the moment, there is currently a huge focus on teens. The stories proclaim that nurturing teens means cultivating future patrons and support. So libraries cater and plan to the best of their abilities to get teens into the library- to stuff them full of snacks and play video games.

Before certain bloggers jump down my throat, I'll say up front I'm not 'against' gaming. This shouldn't be taken as an anti-gaming diatribe to be used as an excuse to tell me that I'm not "with the movement of the future." We have gaming, I've helped with gaming, I can understand it and appreciate its value without finding it particularly interesting. I can also do readers advisory for genres I find utterly tedious. But a lot of teens don't game and are getting passed over in this rush to grab the gamers. (I'm also not against snacks but it's occasionally frustrating to know one of the only ways we'll get teens in the door is to have food.)

It raises the question: what happens once they turn 18 or 21? What happens when at 25, they've moved beyond high school or college and are ready for something different? Are libraries stepping up?

Consider your adult programming: Are your adult services librarians reaching out with as much enthusiasm to patrons in their 20s and 30s as your YA librarians are to the teens? Are you as aggressive about meeting the needs of new home owners or independent business starters, those newly independent from parental homes, adults who have newly relocated to your area, or just people who are looking for others with whom they share a common literary interest? Is the majority of your adult programming done at times inconvenient to working adults or is it very limited in its appeal? I know, we can't be all things to all people, but I've encountered libraries where it seemed they weren't being anything to anyone of those age groups beyond a repository of materials.

There's a weird break that I've come across in library public programming: tons of stuff for kids, an increasing level of programs for teens, and then--seniors. While these are all valuable age groups to consider and program for, that cuts out about 35-40 years of people, many of whom are active library users and who are tax payers supporting public libraries.

Certainly with the increasing focus on gaming you could offer gaming programs for adults. But while the number of gaming adults is increasing, there are many adults who--like me--aren't interested in a library program based around a Wii or an RPG. I hear rumors of libraries making a concerted effort to reach out to adults with appropriate computer classes, programs on cooking or home buying, and business development assistance. I recently heard of one librarian who took a strong group of "aged out teens" and developed an adult version of their popular manga/anime club. I hope that's a growing trend.

I worry that some libraries run the risk of over-cultivating the teens. Is the concern being raised that we could potentially fall flat on our faces if teens feel they've outgrown us once they've left high school? Our teen librarians are working like crazy to keep them involved, what is happening to make them care beyond their 19th birthday?

One side note--it's broader than libraries. There's a trend to write and read more young adult and teen literature. While in many ways this is admirable, bringing out new writers and new voices and a wealth of enjoyable books--we're also seeing backlash of adults finding it unacceptable that other adults aren't reading "adult" books. If the good books are in teen though...

I'm pleased to see such a growth of outreach to teens. As much as I laud preschool storytime, it's wonderful to plan programs for youth old enough to have a "craft" with small pieces and hot glue. I'm glad there are librarians with enthusiasm and drive that are pouring their passion into making their libraries a teen-friendly place. I love and read a lot of the new literature coming out for young adults.

But I've grown weary of the magazine covers celebrating all things teen gamer. I'd like to hear about more things that worked to engage those just post-collegiate or ideas that we can use for our teen programming that may translate better into adult programs. Younger adults too are seeking their identity. Why not make the library a part of it?

Thursday Mind Break

One of my favorite commercials:

Such a cutie...

*sigh*--now returning to the real world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Book Review: Doesn't She Look Natural

Yes, I finally suffered through the last 100 pages. I probably should have put it down but I was hoping for a little character redemption. Disappointment was what I got for sacrificing an hour of my life that won't come back. That was time I could have spent getting through 100 pages of a fluffy romance novel. But a girl must have something to blog about, right?

Doesn't She Look Natural

Following a messy divorce that involves selling her home, quitting her job, and moving in with her mother, Jennifer finds herself without a clear plan. Then a call comes alerting her of an inherited property--a funeral home in a small backwater of Florida. Packing up her sons and mother she travels from Maryland to Florida to fix up the property and sell it quickly so she can return to her 'real life' and her ex-husband.

I was underwhelmed by this novel. I kept waiting for some wit to make it sparkle or a plot twist that made the three hundred plus pages more meaningful. Instead the book trudged along with unbelievable moments taking precedence over engaging characters. My reading was influenced somewhat by the fact I knew there was a sequel--I knew approximately how the book would end--but that doesn't excuse the disappointment that I felt at the end of the book.

Hunt chose an odd method of narration--altering between Jennifer first person and her mother and other characters in omniscient third person. About the time I would get on a roll with one, the voice would change. But the voices weren't consistent enough or independent enough for me to know always to whom we'd jumped. If Hunt had consistently used three voices to narrate or given equal time to the voices, I think it might have played out better but instead it was this side glance into someone else's head and it was jarring as a reader.

I was unable to like Jennifer. For a woman who supposedly was able to manage chaos and politics on Capitol Hill, she was remarkably incapable of managing change in her own life. She spent the entire book mooning over an ex-husband who forced her to give up her job (to make his life easier) and their home as well as their marriage. All Jennifer seems to think about is looking backwards to her marriage even as she sees the problems with it, there are allusions to her having had a drug overdose that really don't help with any kind of character development, and she seems too unconcerned about her five year old son, who spends a lot of time unsupervised. In Florida her willingness to be the latest thing come to mortician's school is far too rapid. One page she's incapable of being in the downstairs preparation area and seemingly the next she's ready to undertake the funeral home as her new mission in life--despite barriers that are presented when she first looks at selling it. And somehow she changed wardrobes completely from "sleek suits" to "clothes she wouldn't have dreamed of wearing three months ago." Different clothes for different activities, sure, but does that mean you have to completely scrap your closet?

There's a weird attempt at romance with the local lawyer, who might or might not have been pursuing the town librarian before (Jennifer and the librarian have a scene that made me wince painfully). Considering Jennifer's inability to move on from her ex--it was awkward.

Hunt tries to redeem the ex-husband who shows up with plans to take them to Disney, announce his engagement to the sons' former nanny and who ends up walking out the door "regretting for the rest of his life." I'm a cynic but it didn't make him a better person to me.

The ending was too convenient and someone in the editing process should have seen at least one major flaw: money comes from her ex-husband who is unexpectedly really well off financially. How? She has just finalized the divorce--she would have known about every dime the man had, or should have. How could his finances be that great of a surprise in less than a few months time?

One redeeming point to this novel was the Red Hat Societies. The brief glimpses of the older ladies in all of their caricature extremes were wonderful. I would have liked to see more of their verve and enthusiasm as opposed to Jennifer's petulance.

In summary: I will not be reading the sequel.

Overdrive Making Updates

If you listen to audiobooks, there have been some happenings of note at Overdrive. This is a company which has arisen as one of the primary providers of audiobooks to libraries in the past few years--working with Boston, New York, Chicago and many other systems. I started using it as a patron when I was working in an office where I could wear headphones all day.(1) It was a lovely opportunity to zone out and work with a classical book filtering past my ears. New York Public Library has the widest catalog available of any that I've seen thus far and material availability was pretty good too. Lending period is three weeks, which is the most generous time allotment I've seen.

A couple of things have come up in the past couple of weeks that are going to be something to keep an eye on--both as the consumer and as a librarian. First, Overdrive recently announced a partnership with Borders. This is an interesting change, because before this I think we've mostly seen Overdrive working with libraries. It changes their model. Of course, Borders isn't in very good shape at the moment but

I forwarded that little announcement to a friend who is an avid audiobook listener, but who uses Audible primarily. He likes patronizing Borders as well so I knew it would be a good fit but for one caveat: Overdrive uses WMA-Compatible DRM: Digital Rights Management protection software that only works with Windows. Said friend is also a heavy Apple user (2) and the DRM isn't Apple compatible. So here was a chance for one of his favorite stores to be selling an item he buys all the time--and he wouldn't be able to use it.

Then last week, the morning I had to give a training presentation on Overdrive usage, this press release came out: Overdrive to Distribute MP3 Audiobooks to Booksellers and Libraries. This is important because mp3 will be compatible to Apple. Now more titles will become available to a whole new group of listeners who were previously excluded because of the DRM. The press release isn't particularly clear about how much of their back catalog will be available (in May) for purchase without DRM. I did find this statement rather speaking about availability to libraries though: "Following the retail launch in May, a limited selection of OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will be added to OverDrive’s extensive library network." So I don't think that DRM catalog is going anywhere anytime soon and libraries are going to have the joys of trying to explain why some of the materials can be downloaded to a patrons Ipod and other's cannot.

Removal of DRM is a growing trend, which I think it a good thing for audiobooks. We're an increasingly wired and plugged in society and it's a pretty decent model for libraries and shoppers. Now, if you'll excuse me, my ears are going back to Persuasion.

1. My boss got very adept at getting my attention when I had those headphones in: she threw small soft things acquired from conference exhibits at me. A foam heart bounced off me about once a week.
2. Waited in line to get an Iphone

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hedgehogs in the News: Lolhog

I'm not sure if this is a unique way to look at life or just ridiculous. Either way a cute hedgehog photo.

Best Peepsearch I've Seen in a Long Time

We all know that Peeps will be around with the Twinkies and cockroaches long after humans depart the earth.

And here we find out whether or not they'll be able to do a little research about the past history of the globe they'll now rule. Even if you're not of the library variety, this is funny.

Thanks Blake!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Hoppy Easter!

I hope you're having a lovely Easter with your families. I'm enjoying a weekend without other people in it--which is it's own blessing.

But blessings aside, I couldn't keep myself from being strange:

"You didn't know knitting could be gross did you."
(We were talking about using bone needles and yarn spun from pet hair.)

"I'm being put in high company, I may have to stop blogging about my hair."
(In a conversation with My-Friend-the-Lawyer)

And guess what--it's Easter! Guess who went on a yarn binge!

Accidental Deletion

I seem to be having accidental delete issues.

I was just hitting "Delete All Spam" and I saw something that asked about quoting me for something. And then the screen refreshed.

Judith, I think, would you please email again? I'll watch more closely.

(I also hit Mark All as Read in Reader last night, which erased 400+ items. Oops...)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book Review: Fairest

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

After reading Ella Enchanted last month (hmm--apparently I didn't finish that review yet), I was interested to see what spin Levine would take. Overall impression: not as good but still charming.

A baby found at an inn is taken in by the kindly owners. She has black hair, red lips, white skin. Sound familiar anyone? We're taking on the story of Snow White and Levine works in many of the familiar aspects. An evil Queen, a magic mirror, the apple, gnomes (instead of dwarves), and potions.

Aza is considered a freak for her appearance, which is such extreme contrasts of color along with ungainly size. She tries mostly to stay out of the way but still is extremely sensitive to other's perceptions of her. Her single redeeming quality, in her opinion, is her voice and fortunately she lives in a kingdom where they sing practically everything. Another servant's illness sends her to court where her talent for ventriloquism lands her in all kinds of trouble.

Levine boldly addresses how a young girl with self-esteem issues can be manipulated by those she perceives as being kind to her. Aza is torn between hating the Queen--for whom she uses her vocal tricks--and wanting to be her friend. It's a common theme in junior highs and Levine quite accurately catches the torn emotions as Aza tries to please everyone and still feel true to herself.

The prince left something to be desired. He seemed nice enough but not someone who would really capture one's interest. He's present but without a lot of description or characterization and I would have liked to see him step up a little more. Aza spends a couple of chapters "beautiful" due to trickery and a potion but returns to her usual appearance, which the prince proclaims he loves more. It's a nice gesture on Levine's part but it didn't quite ring true.

Having an entire country where nearly everything was sung was a neat feature but it got old near the middle of the book. I'm a singer and I think it would annoy me to have to sing all the time like this. It was wearying that there were more songs and more songs and without any melodies to actually play in my head along with them, the sometimes lack of poetics just made the songs feel awkward.

A quick and interesting read for your tweenage girl and fun to escape into, but probably not a book I'll pick up again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

One More Year Down--the Rest of My Life to Go

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."- Benjamin Franklin

It's a depressing quote but at least TurboTax makes life a little easier when it comes to tax time. After approximately three hours of number crunching, I've printed everything, signed where I'm supposed to, and written checks to the appropriate treasuries.

If you've never done freelance work and are considering it be forewarned: self-employment tax can easily catch you by surprise with large amounts due. If you stay on top of your quarterly payments, it's a little less painful. This was actually my second run through the taxes, I compiled the papers and numbers once in February to see how it would shake down. Today was the real deal and I got the same numbers. So I've either made the same errors twice or I did it right. If it's the former, I'm sure they'll let me know.

Either way I just need to print postage and tracking for one envelope and hopefully that will be it until second quarter taxes are due. Yippee!

Recognizing Professionals

Rachel Singer Gordon has a very thoughtful post about what it means to be a librarian and the times when one can separate the degree from the word.

I found myself nodding through most of Rachel's post and I suggest you take a read through it. She makes some excellent points that cut through much of the blustering about who is a professional and who isn't.

Rachel's post was somewhat prompted by snobbish backlash to this year's LJ Movers and Shakers. I've seen similar snobbery not only online in blogs and listservs but also I have seen it used as an excuse to devalue excellent people whose work is that of professionals in libraries. I'm rather particular about putting my degree on my business cards and formal letters sent out to the community because I'm proud of my education and there are times when reminding people that I do have an advanced degree is helpful. But when I need help, I'm also very likely to call the Incredibly-Patient-Mother, who ran a children's department for seven years without an MLS.

There are benefits to the degree, certainly. I think we're starting to see trends in the LIS programs that will make the degree stronger and more useful to the graduates, as opposed to being just the piece of paper needed to advance. On the flip side, the majority of the library students I knew (and know) are already working in libraries. They're taking the skills they've learned on the job back into the classroom.

In the real world we see different kinds of "professional." I know "library professionals" who have stopped learning, which is baffling for me as an information omnivore. Although fully burnt out when I finished library school, I'm probably headed back into some kind of formal coursework in the fall. I thrive in school. I know "paraprofessionals" who are continuing their education, some of them even including library school, and who, in a few years, are much more likely to be scampering up that professional ladder, gaining further recognition and accolades for their work in the community. How can we not recognize their achievements thus far based on lack of occasionally mind numbing coursework?

The nominations for the 2009 Movers and Shakers are open. To quote the requirements:
The editors of Library Journal need your help in identifying the emerging leaders in the library world. Our eighth annual Movers & Shakers supplement will profile 50-plus up-and-coming individuals from across the United States and Canada who are innovative, creative, and making a difference. From librarians to vendors to others who work in the library field, Movers & Shakers 2009 will celebrate the new professionals who are moving our libraries ahead.
I don't see a field that requires degree date and transcripts.

Something to keep in mind for those working as librarians who do not yet have an MLS. (This is a rehash of the nagging lectures I give to friends who are working in libraries.) Consider the future and if you will want to change jobs or move to a new location. If so, go and read the job ads. If the majority of the job ads for what you are doing require the degree, it is probably in your best interest to look into completing it. I would hate to see you unable to continue your work or find equal because the hiring place has that requirement in place and you are unable to meet it. I would hope that if you are the best person for the job you would still be considered, but have, as a candidate, been disqualified for enough other reasons that I wouldn't want to not give the committee an obvious one.
And for the record, one of the most motivating reasons I went to library school was a reference librarian at my hometown public library. Marcia was always welcoming and inspiring as I bounced through ideas of becoming a journalist, a writer, a professor and all other manner of English major things. It wasn't until just before she recently retired that anyone bothered to point out to me that she hadn't gotten her master's degree. And really, it didn't matter--She was a professional librarian.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Speaking of Knowing People

Congratulations to the 2008 Movers and Shakers. A list with names and blogs is available over at Librarian by Day. It's wonderful to see recognition given to people who are innovating--libraries need you and I'm inspired to share the profession with you.

A special hat tip to David!

Brain Shards...

I don't think I'm fully capable of a well thought out and mentally stimulating post today. Instead I'll give you a few nibbles to carry you through until I'm a little more pulled together.

I'm trying to read:

Doesn't She Look Natural

I say trying because I've dutifully made it through 237 pages between two lunches and my manicure today. It's not a horrible book but I don't like the style. I'd stop but for the fact that I'm 100 pages from finished and I want to reach the scene where the heroine finally realizes her ex-husband is a total jerk. It she doesn't get there in about 50 more pages, I might have to strangle said heroine.

Knitting at Work:
The kids are doing really wonderfully! One of my coworkers who joined us is almost done with her baby hat--and the baby isn't due for another month! I think we're taking on a meter for the world's longest scarf--assuming I can find some yarn we can use for that. There must be something acceptable in my stash.

Getting Ready for PLA:
I'll be at PLA on Friday only. Right now it looks like lunch is going to be the NexGenLib meet up and I've been instructed by Our Lady of the Director's Office that I need to make myself available to her whenever necessary. To this we say, "yes ma'am" and go home to figure out what to wear. Remember--sensible shoes for me means I don't wear 4" stilettos.

I got an Ego: That would be a storage device that looks like a flask. Most excellent! Even better, I can back up all of my database work on it--it was a business expense. This tidy little external drive is not expensive and it's sleek and very portable. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It Helps to Know People...

In nearly any career field, networking is highly important. Librarians constantly talk about getting know people--it just opens up that many more possibilities and opportunities. I had the opportunity to see a very tangible benefit of informal networking while in NY.

A friend of mine is currently in a Broadway show. I met said Actor in Chicago while we were both doing a show--he, on stage; I, ushing. Once it had been established that I was headed home for the weekend, he and I discussed tickets and the possibility of dinner thereafter. He advised that post show I could come backstage so I didn't have to wait outside in the questionable early spring weather. I would have 2 other gorgeous women with me, would that be okay? It would.

The day arrived and it was utterly torrential. Add to that a line to get into the theater that was over a block long and only two umbrellas between the three of us and we were quite damp by the time we got into the theater. Post show we were less damp, mostly. Wet wool coats that are being sat on in close quarters just don't dry in 2 hours, so I still felt somewhat like a wet sheep. (Baaaa)

I got directions to the stage door and headed outside to find it. Ahh, the one with the big burly man standing in front of it. There was a small barrier set up to allow the actors to come out and not be immediately assaulted by signature seekers. I sucked in a deep breath and (not realizing that the Blonde and other friend weren't directly behind me) walked right up to the security man.

"Hi, I'm here to see Actor" (Praying that he remembered to put me on the list...)
"Are you on the list?"
"I'm supposed to be."

He consults with another large burly man who is in the theater, this one with a list. "I'm Hedgie, here to see Actor."
"You have two people with you?"
"Yes!" (Frantically gesturing to friends)

Second Large Security Man put us just off stage right with clear instructions to stay put until Actor appeared, which he did relatively promptly. Then we got to sweep back out the stage door and off to dinner.

It was a neat opportunity, standing out just a little from the rest of those waiting by virtue of knowing someone and knowing just a little bit more. It's also kind of heady.

Trying to figure out how soon I can do it again.

Now They're Playing With My Head

Recently, I snarked about the fact that Google had changed their Gmail format, making it less convenient to get over to Blogger. Then, a few days later--they changed it back. Super! Except now it's different almost every time I open Gmail. Some days I can easily get to Blogger from the drop down, other days not so much. It doesn't seem to matter what computer I'm on and since I only use XP and Firefox on both home and work computers there's no obvious disconnect that I can find.

Yaaaaaaah! Obviously I'm much more a fan of including Blogger in the drop down but I wish they'd choose one format and just run with it. This bouncing back and forth makes for a confused hedgehog.

Seeking solace in a cup of Darjeeling...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Yes, I'm Odd

Yesterday afternoon--to my sister

"While doing my impression of a grocery laden pack mule...."

The closest I'll ever get to rap:

"Just once I want to use the phrase 'You and your baby llama mama drama'"

and I actually answered this question in the affirmative:

"Is this your egg?" (Can be found at "Goo-ology"---a subject I want to study.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It Shouldn't Be This Hard People....

The search was on for a baby shower gift this evening and it was an adventure I could have lived without. No worries, the Incredibly-Patient-Mother supervised via telephone.

A coworker is having her first baby soon and I wanted to get her something for herself. While I, too, enjoy cooing over little baby clothes and thinking of that first favorite toy, I'm also pragmatic enough to recognize that the baby is going to outgrow that 6 month suit awfully fast and most new parents receive more stuffed animals than are really useful.

Wait a second, I see a hand in the back. Ah, yes, knitting...yes there's going to be a knitted object for said baby. But it's not ready yet and the shower is tomorrow. Before I work on that though, I have to finish my godfather's birthday gift. He's turning sixty and gets priority when it comes to my knitting time.

Back on track--I went to Kohl's. Dual purpose really, I have friends and family coming soon and wanted a couple of new towels for when they all arrive. Towels were easy but then I started looking for the expectant mother's gift: a bathrobe. Something simple, something fluffy, reasonable color--these were my requirements. I'd decided to buy a larger size so she can wear it now and have some extra room to snuggle the baby in after the baby has woken her up for the 14th time on the third night in a row. Extra snuggly fabric to wrap oneself in isn't a bad thing, right?

Except...Kohl's doesn't have any fluffy bathrobes now. Or rather, they had two on the clearance rack that were a noxious shade of pink. I don't think she wants to look like she's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol at 3 a.m. I could be wrong, but I'll err on the side of caution this time. After the employee I tracked down confirmed that they didn't have any, while simultaneously managing to suggest my judgement was a little wonky in expecting them to carry bathrobes in *gasp* March--it was off to the mall.

Bath and Bodyworks always has ads out for "fluffy robes." So I was off to B&B. Another employee and another gentle suggestion that I'm not thinking clearly because I expect to find fluffy robes. Any suggestions? "How about Victoria's Secret?" she said.

Ladies and Gentleman, I apologize but I just couldn't rectify using the phrases "Baby Shower Gift" and "Victoria's Secret" complementary to each other. Yeah....

I hit a local department store and lo, there were a small handful of robes. Yea and they were pastels, very very very fluffy, and there were no zippers or beading or anything bizarre. And verily, they did have my credit card and I did make a beeline for elsewhere.

I put a gift receipt in the box, if she doesn't like it--I wish her luck finding another bathrobe. I give up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Apply Storytime as Necessary

Wednesday mornings are always a little dose of sunshine during the week--for that's preschool storytime.

The 'preschool' time is a challenge to prepare because it is our "drop in" story time. Thus I have no one formally registered, no clue on how many I'll have week to week, and an age range generally running from 2-6. Development levels are all over the place. I use crafts sparingly, usually focusing on more physical activities rather than crafts as they don't require manual dexterity the 19 month olds don't have and which can be expanded to a broader age group without the five year olds being bored and "done" in .5 seconds.

I usually prep on Tuesday nights, finding picture books appropriate for whatever theme I'm doing (today was trains), semi-memorizing action rhymes that help reinforce what we're talking about, debating the use of a flannel board activity, figuring out a little early literacy tip to sneak in, and if I'm a week ahead of time-working on a craft. I did use a video a couple of weeks ago--our copy of Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was out and we have it in video from Scholastic--a really nice gentle version. But that's a rarity for my story times.

I close Tuesday nights and have never professed myself to be a morning person, so Wednesdays aren't my favorite morning to roll out of bed. The residual lethargy slips away about 10:07 a.m. when I head into our story time area. This is, quite literally, a Mississippi riverboat. There is a deck outside the room and the kids have a fabulous time climbing all over it, pretending more boat stories that I could ever imagine, and frolicking on the carpet that truly looks like hard wood flooring.

Young children are marvelously enthusiastic, particularly in story time. At 10:15 I ring the bell on the boat to call everyone in and from the second they race for their carpet squares, the energy is teeming. Now I'm faced with excited children, some forward and some shy, all anticipating and that's as powerful a wake up as a Starbucks Double Shot. There's a 'hello' song to pull their focus and we're off into adventuresome tales. Toss in an action rhyme and the required 'head and shoulders'-- which we have to do (at P's demand today) "REALLY fast!!" and 35 minutes flies by without a thought. We finished with a little parachute time today--circling around while singing "Little Red Caboose" and then letting them shake the parachute and run under it. I've never quite understood the parachute fascination, but I think if I had the opportunity to lay under one sometime, I might.

It's one of the best half hours of my week, that chance to be with children who are happy to be there, introduce funny stories on familiar and new subjects, and find a way to change it up just enough to keep it fresh for the parents and myself. It's a lovely way to set aside the rest of the world for a few moments and allow our imaginations to run free.

And besides, how often do you get to say "After a rousing round of 'Hot Potato'..."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

With a Side of Queens Accent

I went home for the weekend, back to Forest Hills and seeing just how many times I could get in and out of the City in a 72 hour period.

As discussed over brunch--there comes a point in geography where only one feature matters. At my current residence there's "The River" ( the Mississippi); in Chicago everyone gives directions by "The Lake" (Lake Michigan); and for me there will only ever be one "City." That's the 'appropriate' name for Manhattan despite the fact that New York City as a whole encompasses about half of Long Island (Queens and Brooklyn counties), the Bronx and Staten Island.

I'm duly accented again, though I'm sure that will slip once I start hearing the people around here speak again. The New Yawk accent is a slightly more gravelly version of my voice with a heavy dose of Queens.

It was such a change being back. I'd forgotten how easy it is to be around 15 different nationalities, all different ages and stages of life and who are speaking multiple languages --all this on one subway car. The United Nations is Midtown East but the nations of the world truly come together on the E and the F trains, all trying to get home. It's a great reminder of how we are similar despite outward appearances. I'd also forgotten my ability to sleep on public transit. It's suddenly clear how I managed to function on 5 hours of sleep a night, I was dozing for the better part of two hours on the train. During the squished morning commute, you're mostly just trying to play Jenga with your body and everyone else's but on the long stops between express stations, you do relax a little. If I have a seat, forget it, I'm mostly comatose within about two stops. I'm perfectly aware of where the train is; I hear every stop. I know where my purse is and am keeping it secure. That doesn't mean I'm particularly lucid otherwise though.

And despite my much shorter commute (ten minute drive), I do slightly miss having a train commute. My train ride from 14th St and 8th Ave to 71st/Continental Ave in Queens was just about 40 minutes, with a ten minute walk on the Queens side. In the evening, if I was lucid, it was my reading time but often, that was just my time to think. Particularly on the walk. You descend into the train and because it's dark in the tunnels you're moving to a different world. When I came up the stairs in Manhattan--it was "work world" and I was in an office frame of mind. Once I arrived back in Queens I came up to "home world." It gave a clear break between the two locations that I think we miss out on when we drive.

I'm back to La Crosse and the piles of snow the sun is valiantly attempting to melt. I'll be teased for a week until I can get my voice back in the register people of "WisCAHNsin" think it should live (there's a clear accent here too....). And while it's nice to have my car, knowing I need to throw nearly everything out in the fridge and try again, I do miss the E/F/G/V/R (transfer upstairs to the Long Island Rail Road).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: The NYC edition

Did you really think I could make it without checking my email? Yah, I didn't either.

This super special Sunday edition of Random Quote Sunday is sponsored by the makers of painkillers and the inventor of the speedy cab ride up Broadway.

"You only get one pillow per hamster?"

(Have you started chucking hamsters yet?)

and regarding LOL donations:

"I don't tell you what to do with your fingernails, do I?"

Catch you on the flip side!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Running Early

I have to hop a plane in a couple of hours and I have every intention of avoiding a computer for the majority of the weekend. So these are coming a smidge early.

Trying to provide a good visual for for my boss:

"I feel like a meerkat in the picture books"

Happy weekend all!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Just a trim....

I'm probably one of a slight number of people who would consider the amount of hair that was chopped off my head tonight a "trim."

A new town always means the search for a new person to cut my hair and this is a search filled with trepidation. For those who don't know me personally, I keep my hair very long. It's usually in a bun which, combined with the cat's eye glasses, yeah--- I do the whole "librarian look." I can also do the "shampoo commercial look" where a model whips her hair around in a frothy and totally unrealistic mess. The difference being that the model's hair then looks totally perfect and mine looks like I just whipped it around.

In New York I had Olga. I miss Olga. A totally practical lady who was incredibly patient with my fear of scissors near my hair. With Olga I reached a comfort level of being able to give general directions and trust that I wouldn't walk out of there missing half of my hair. This is a legitimate fear--I have two friends who walked in to get "trims" and lost over a foot of hair they didn't want to lose because the hairdresser decided "he knew best" (both times it was guys wielding the scissors). I live in horror that someday I'll have to fend off Nick from What Not to Wear (American version) because I won't let him annnnnnywhere near me with scissors. Not that I ever intend to grace that show but anywho....

In Chicago I went to one of the wig mistresses at the theater. I didn't ask for anything crazy because she was doing it more as a favor than anything else and she wasn't charging me much. Plus, I mostly just needed the bottom evened out.

Tonight-->same thing. I went in and we discussed that I just needed a trim. And then I took my coat off. My hair had been tucked in my coat and the stylist's eyes got big as she realized that my hair was well past my waist.

Five inches and about twenty minutes later, I was out the door. She did a damp (spritz not wash) cut, which was fine since I really wasn't in the mood to sit through a full wash and blow dry.

Yes, I said five inches. If it had been Olga, I'd have told her six and some layers please. But this is Wisconsin and while K may just be who I let administer a much needed trim every few months, I'm not quite ready to give her free reign with the scissors.

So now my hair is back to my natural waist. Much more manageable.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Asking a Second Question

On occasion, I like to ask weird questions. After reading Mansfield Park the first time, I spent the better part of a summer asking friends if they thought they could identify with a character who marries their first cousin. It provoked a lot of interesting conversations, including one that lasted most of an overnight security shift with DBG.

But of late I've not read anything quite so thought provoking or conversation starting. While thus deprived of usual stirring debate--I noticed something about my interactions with other people.

Quite often, it's not the first question I ask that elicits a response--it's the second.

I wonder if it's a societal conditioning. We are short in the first answer to not unnecessarily waste the time of our listener. How often do you answer the question "How are you?" with "Fine." It's a short answer, acknowledging the asker without actually beginning a conversation. Granted, one can change up short answers to confuse the masses (answer "vacuous" the next time you feel like your brain is on vacation--see how many people chuckle and how many people stare strangely at you...) but generally we all fall into line with a nice, neutral, polite comment. It's not really a conversation--it's polite noise.

But then a second question unlocks the tongue. Now we've actually engaged in a dialog other than the general state of our well being. As the asker, it's my responsibility to figure out the appropriate question--whether that be a coworker's children, a child's choice of reading material, or an adult patron's quest for a certain topic. It's a step beyond polite, offering a little more human interaction. And for me, I've noticed it produces quite interesting results. That shy child who shows you a book suddenly launches into a discourse of why that's their favorite book EVER; the coworker might offer up a really hilarious anecdote; the patron may clarify in a way that helps you to more sympathetically choose materials.

Why does this matter? It doesn't really, but I think it's something to be aware of when we're giving and receiving customer service. There's something about asking that second question that provides more humanity and helps you to connect with the person. It need not necessarily be the most detailed connection ever, but for that moment you set aside the rest of your day to hear from someone else.

And when on the receiving end, which I was surprisingly while grabbing a cup of coffee yesterday, it allows me to pause and step out of my thoughts and not just function on social autopilot. It also set me up with another woman coming to the Knit In Public day in April!! (Bonus points to self for recruiting more knitters to come)

So...all that being said--do you think you could marry a first cousin?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tuesday Morning Chuckle

Just some morning link happiness. Safe for work.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Random Quote Sunday: Failing the Tara Test

It's a good thing my friends don't always expect me to start conversations with pleasantries--this week, I started a conversation in this fashion:

"People don't really call each other 'chicken' do they?"

Yes, yes--I'm a Yankee, born and bred. As M pointed out--if you're southern and have read your Margaret Mitchell, it's a perfectly acceptable term:

"Don't be scared, chickens!" came her voice with teasing gaiety.
"Your big sister was trying to clean the rust off Charles' pistol
and it went off and nearly scared her to death!" --(Gone with the Wind)
What makes this question even more ridiculous is that over the course of that conversation I realized I've called people Duck, Duckling, and Duckie for a few years.


Gmail Update Makes Me Unhappy

One of the reasons I use Blogger is that it is tied to my Gmail account. Google has managed to compile just about every kind of tool I use on a regular basis and linked all of it to an email account whose formatting I love. But they've done something to Gmail that's really getting on my nerves--they hid Blogger.

If you don't use Gmail here's a screen shot to make this a little more understandable:

Across the top of Gmail--there are links to the other parts of Google--> Reader, Documents, etc. There is also a "More" drop down--and Blogger used to head that list. Now, it's nowhere to be found on the list and I have to go to "Even More" at the top of the list, which takes me to an entirely new page, to get to Blogger.

No warning of the change. It just happened one day. Not particularly convenient. And I don't appear to have the option of customizing it to say I want XYZ Google Item Links across the top of my email. If anyone knows of such a customization feature--let me know.

Gently Mocking 2.0

I really enjoy the cartoon strip Over the Hedge. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, though I did actually make the effort to see it in theaters.

But the strip, with it's sarcasm, and often gently mocking tone--does more than many diatribes ever will.

Their "2.0" strip

Thanks Michael Fry and T Lewis!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In Which I Should Not Shop Alone...

Shopping shouldn't be done alone--I'm a firm believer in this. This is why I'll call Sibling-the-Elder from halfway across the country to discuss the merits of cream corduroy pants. But over the years I've begun to learn--it's a bad idea to shop alone for groceries, clothes, yarn, and books. There's no one to second guess you, remind you that you already have 2 pounds of butter in the freezer, and observe that in reality, it's doubtful you're ever going to wear, eat, read, or knit some of the stuff that looks SO appealing.

This is a particular problem for me when it comes to books. If there's one thing I can justify to myself--it's another half dozen books.

If I stopped purchasing now and/or checking things out from the library, I probably have enough reading material in the house to get me through a couple of years. This assumes I don't re-read anything I've already read and skipped some of the textbooks. I'd probably have run out at least a month or three earlier had I made this estimate yesterday.

I went to the Friends of the Library Booksale today. Insert downfall here. It should have been my first clue to myself when I casually grabbed a large box from under a table--a box that had previously held lots of bananas. I wasn't going for particularly heavy reading. Book sales for me are often a lot more about getting cheap escape literature. Certainly I can check this out said literature from my library--and don't think I'm not waiting for the circulation staff to ask why I'm balancing Stephanie Laurens' latest historical bodice ripper with a history on Savannah, Georgia and some MySQL books--but there's an added bonus with these: I get to pass them on.

Romance novels, particularly, are the guilty pleasure of many women I know. We're intelligent, well-read, educated, interesting women who have a lot of our own personal drama. Yet we like to sneak off into a world where women wear pretty dresses, men are amazingly handsome, and everything works out nicely in 175 pages. The habit of trading the books started, for me, in college--we had limited off campus transportation, less time, and to this day I don't have a clue where a public library is near there. We also had limited funds and dorm room space, so buying wasn't always an option-- Amazon was just taking off and Ebay didn't exist. So we shared. We kept shelves in our closets and bins under our beds and swapped.

And that transient ownership, before passing it on to the next girl, still stays with me. It wasn't too long that I'd been in Chicago before discovering another reader of Regency-period romances. She's a graduate student and doesn't always have the time or funds to go scrounging. But I had a couple of piles to pass on to her, which then went to her mother, then her mother's friend at church, etc. I've not found anyone here in LAX just yet and she's still studying so for now the books are getting wrapped in brown paper or boxes and media mailed to Chicago. It's a most convenient way for me to justify my shopping and really, considering I spent all of $17 on nearly 50 books-- about four of which I might actually keep--I don't think I'm ending up too badly on this deal.

The next sale is in May--do I have any volunteers to attend with me and possibly curtail how many I bring home?