Monday, May 31, 2010

I've moved...

Thanks for dropping by--I've recently moved to

Please join me there, as I'll no longer be updating this site.  I moved feedburner feeds over automatically so if you were subscribed through feedburner you should be fine. If you've received this though, you will probably need to resubscribe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Please Continue to Hold...

I'm trying to get the blog switched over to a custom domain. Having some issues.  We're working on it....

Your call is important to us....blah blah blah

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Both the Incredibly Patient Mother and I have to work today, so any chat will have to wait until evening. 

In fiction, the majority of mothers seem either to be absent or various caricatures: vague, evil, ridiculous, too busy. If you only looked at our literature you might assume that the mothers of all of our teens were alcoholic drug addicts who had abandoned their children with a) a father who doesn't love them b) a father who cares but is absent or c) no one leaving them to fend on their own while she pursues men, money, etc. It's not new--one need look only at Grimm's Fairytales or Shakespeare to see this is a long standing trend.

For what kind of drama would it be to have a good (alive) mother? Would you want to read a book where the character grew up knowing her mother loved her and always could depend that no matter what happened or what might have gone wrong, that she could go home? Would you want to read about a girl who faced betrayal from friends and other family members, but always had her mother's shoulder to cry on, even as that mother was facing similar betrayal? Would it be so exciting if the mother was always there--not in an intrusive helicopter kind of way--but in a supportive way such that everyone knew that you'd best not hurt that daughter? Would you want to read about a daughter who spread her wings and flew on her own, but kept her mom's cell number on speed dial--just in case she needed advice, an opinion, or an ear to rage about general frustrations of life?

Would it be exciting if this mother was a good woman, doing the best she could, raising her children without trying to define herself by finding a new man, designer shoes, or public office? If the mother was only a gifted cook, talented gardener, brilliant seamstress, excellent writer, and incredible listener--what a boring story that would be.

Fortunately for me, that's only real life.

Happy Mother's Day to my Incredibly-Patient-Mother.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Your Words Speak Loudest of All

*hops onto the soapbox*

Self-promotion is a challenge. Do it well, and it can be quite to your benefit. Overdo it and it can blow up in your face in all sorts of interesting ways. Fail to do it or do it poorly and find others wondering why it is you have a job, what it is you do, why they'd want to work with you, whether or not you're worth keeping about, so on, so forth.

In this day and age of ubiquitous social networking, self-promotion is a little easier. If there is a challenge I've overcome, I can blog about it (usually). If there is a triumph, celebration often comes with pictures and online cartwheels. If there is a failure, hopefully that can be expressed with lessons learned. I can do these things relatively immediately and in my own words and at my own word count discretion. Certainly I'd love to put every triumph in one of the professional journals, but that is highly unlikely to happen and those have the delay of going to press and requiring a subscription--a potential barrier in our instant update world. 

Tone, as it is with nearly all human interaction, can be everything. Certainly we don't always want to be in one camp or the other: the squeakingly hyper-happy cheerleaders or the ultra-emo-Eeyores,* we're human and feel a wide range of emotion. In the view of professional self-promotion though, a spoonful of moderation isn't evil. It's no secret I self-moderate here: my boss, my director, and my mother--as well as friends, professional contacts, coworkers, and potential future employers/employees-- read this. It doesn't mean I need to be untrue to myself, just aware of my audience. If someone writes me off because of their personal hatred of hedgehogs, that's out of my hands. If they write me off because I consistently present myself poorly in an online setting, that's something I need to be worrying about and actively changing. 

For this I believe:

If all you ever tell me is how you are a continual failure, eventually I will believe it and it could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, despite potential evidence to the contrary.  

Your words have such an effect on your present and your future. If one is confronted day to day or following a web search/social network perusal with nothing but a perpetual woe-is-me-athon, your name becomes synonymous with a slightly depressed feeling, an eyeroll, and a quick search for the block, mute, hide, or delete key.

I don't always seek to surround myself with optimists. I have a sarcasm streak about a mile too wide for that. Yet I do look for people who are inspiring, truthful, and trudging onwards, even in the face of adversity.  I'm happy to be there through the good times and the bad; it's when we end up miring in the pit of unending over-shared sorrows that I'm turned off, and I can't think I'm the only one who feels that way.

Don't make me heave a deep sigh whenever I see your name.

*Was I the only one who was a much bigger fan of Eeyore than of Piglet?

/end soap box

About those "Book Reviews"

A recent article suggests that female book bloggers are Faking It--making nice with the reviews for whatever reason one would like to throw out there. I hope you're aware that's not the case here. It's true that I tend to only bother writing up blog reviews for books I've enjoyed--and LibraryThing Early Reviewers--but that's more a personal choice. If I'm not enjoying a book these days, I stop reading at 50 pages--I don't finish it and write up a snotty review. I don't get to read enough as it is, let alone want to read books I don't like. My library basket is overflowing, there are unread book piles all over the apartment and we won't talk about how long the Google Spreadsheet of "To Read" is. I also have a draft box full of posts I want to finish--why would I add "Books I Didn't Enjoy" to that pile? Y'all have enough other things to read in your inboxes and RSS feeds I trust. So while you may wish to discount these posts insofar as being formal book reviews, I hope you'll continue to enjoy insight to what I've been reading. I'm still using the Book Review tag so you can find all of the posts together. A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy has a much more thoughtful look at and response to the faking it article. As for me? This is my blog, if I choose to say nice things, that's my prerogative.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

An "Up" date...

Remember that this is a Year of Up

A brief check up:

Shape Up: Yah, I know, I'm on the twiglet side of things. That doesn't mean I'm as in shape as I'd like to be.
  • May 2010: I've been doing Zumba once a week. Enjoying it! Need to start doing it at home too, not just class. Also, ordered a pair of Shape-Ups (caught a Skechers sale) to see about making those strolls down the walking trail a bit more productive.
Clean Up: Get what I'm not using out of the house. It means less to dust around.
  • May 2010: I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff--a trunkload to Goodwill, many trips out to the dumpster, books to the FOTL. And....things fluffed up. *sigh* there's less stuff. Promise.
Move Up: There are professional opportunities out there that I need to be working on/towards. Now if I can just guess what the major trend of ALA Annual 2012 will be....

  • May 2010: I've got ideas. Need to work on some action steps.
Speak Up: Blogging, Writing, on Committees.
  • May 2010: Guest Blog at Writer's Beware!This may be being republished, I'm waiting on an email. I've gotten a few of the long thoughts out on the blog. May not change the world over night, but the thoughts have been expressed.

Use Up: Wool Stash anyone? I'm part of a "5K Stashdown" marathon on Ravelry. As I have eleven times that much, it's not a huge commitment. I might try for the side bet of knitting up an average of a mile of yarn a month (nearly 20K). If I can get to where it all fits in the tubs, that'd be a huge start. Also--the fabric stash, which is smaller and therefore doesn't get as much blog time. See my actual blog page for my knit meter.
  • I brought a bunch of yarn in for the Knit In swap; I gave a bunch to Our Lady of the Business Office. The stash allllllllllmost fits in the tubs it's supposed to. Except for some of that stuff I bought when I shouldn't have gone wool shopping. 
  • I've cleaned out a fair chunk of the romance novel backlog. Not all of them--I still want to read the remaining 40 or so...but the others are either to the FOTL sale or off to the Opera Singer. There are only so many hours in the day to read. 

Cheer Up: Enough with the snark, the griping, and the drama. So 2009. I can't say cynicism is fully retiring, this is me after all, but maybe not all sarcasm all the time.
  • Hmmm...this one still requiring some effort. 

Save Up: Get the debt paid down and the savings account paid up. And more towards retirement (insert chuckle about a public librarian ever being able to retire *here*).
  • Making progress--it's a slow and steady thing. 

How are you doing on your goals this year? 

Monday, May 03, 2010

In Search of a Not-Pink Series...

Little girls, little girls, everywhere I turn--they're being marginalized...

I'm just finishing my second session of my Wee Reads group, a partial separation 4-7 year old storytime. Last session, I pulled Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio for our chapterbook read-aloud. One does like to start with the ringers when building a program and that's one guaranteed to appeal to boys and girls alike.

The Ambassador Emeritus does include some female characters, but TWT is mostly stories about three boys. Realizing this as I started to prep for session two, I decided I needed to have a chapterbook with a girl as the main character.

My criteria:
1) Nothing "pink"--where the majority of titles are pink/sparkly/princess/fairy. This ruled out such current popular titles as Tiara Club, Rainbow Magic, Magic Puppy/Kitten, etc. I wanted something that wouldn't give me a toothache just to read it aloud.
2) No horses
3) Short enough that I can read it aloud in 5 weeks. So about an hour long--usually about 80 pages.
4) Female protagonist(s)

I walked the shelves. I talked to coworkers. I went back through my order lists.

And I came away with the disturbing knowledge that once you take the "pink" and horse books out of the equation, series with female protagonists do not seem to be being written for emerging readers. We have boys having adventures and boy/girl pairs. Apparently girls can't stand alone--even as animal characters--unless they are princesses or fairies.

Examples of series I could have chosen to meet my parameters?

With Boy Protagonist: Time Warp Trio, Roscoe Riley Rules, Encyclopedia Brown, Jigsaw Jones, Horrid Henry, Dinosaur Cove, Matt Christopher/Jake Maddox, Pirate School, Something Wickedly Weird, Hank Zipzer, Melvin Beederman, Dragon Slayer's Academy (could potentially be mixed...), Roland Wright: Future Knight

Male Lead Animals: Elliot's Park, Bunnicula, Jack Russell Dog Detective

Mixed Pairs: Magic Tree House, Down Girl and Sit, A-Z Mysteries, Bailey School Kids, Keyholders to the Kingdom, My Weird School, All American Puppies, Calendar Mysteries, Capital Mysteries

There are a number of longer chapter books that fit the bill: Ramona, Franny K. Stein, Claudia Cristina Cortez, Rachel Yoder, Dyamonde Daniel, Sassy/Little Sister, Clementine, Ivy and Bean, Abigail Iris, Nikki and Deja, Sisters Grimm, Judy Moody, Katie Kazoo, Pippi Longstockings, Julia Gillian, Little House, Ruby Lu, Harriet the Spy

but most of those characters were 8-10, their stories almost always revolve around school dynamics, and the majority of those books were just too long.  I seriously considered Ramona, but I can't read it aloud in under an hour. And before anyone asks, I abhor Junie. The lack of discipline and grammar irritates me to no end. Most of my storytime two year olds have better language skills and manners.

This was what I found that might have worked:

Cam Jansen. This meets my requirements but I can't get into that character for some reason. I think what bothers me is that she has to get a lot of detective help from the boys around (every 2nd or 3rd cover has a boy on it) and basically only solves the mysteries because she has a photographic memory she seems to spend all day "clicking."  I just couldn't get enthused.

Meet the Kreeps. Female protagonist. Length was close. But an Adams Family set of characters when I have four year olds whose reading rules at home that I don't know?  Nah.

American Girl. Not sparkly, mostly not horse (minus Felicity). But the name says it all. 

I ended up reading a book called Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nadga. I wish I'd found something else. It was cute on initial, at-my-desk, read.  Reading it aloud, all I could hear was classroom dynamics, mean girl/teacher's pet nonsense, and the whining of the main character to be let out of a task when the results aren't instantaneously gratifying. I've edited out a lot of the mean girl stuff on the fly and my kids don't seem to notice. So why did it need to be included? 

It's disappointing and frustrating. Here we have girls ready to read and yet the selection of strong female characters is nonexistent until a third grade reading level--easy readers tend to be even heavier in the mixed male/female leads with a leaning on the side of male protagonists. And it will comes as no shock that little boys are not generally inclined to read anything about sparkly princesses/fairies/horses.

So what am I missing? Which series should I be buying?  Where are the girl detectives and girls going on adventures and girls who aren't stuck in the mean girl cycle and page counts under 100? 

I'll be reading up over the summer, trying to find something I like better for the fall. Judy Moody and Ruby Lu aren't off the list entirely, and I need to read the new Abigail Iris. We'll see.  

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Well..that's one word for my apartment I suppose.

Better than hedgepigsty, right?

Anywho, found via JennieLaw, you too can buy a Hedgehog Home

Friday, April 30, 2010

Kids Knitting: Into the Sunshine...

Tuesday was the last knitting session at LPL for my kids. Here's a picture from our Library Flickr account.

I started a child focused knitting group here nearly two and a half years ago for a number of reasons, my own knitting compulsion not being the least of them. It was a small group at first: four or five knitters. Things waxed and waned and when I regularly had six, we counted it a success.

Now, I consistently have a dozen to fifteen. Most of the knitters are home-schooled. Only one is in high school, the rest are late elementary through middle school. Though one boy has been valiantly with me from the beginning, it was primarily girls. This last session two more boys have consistently joined us, though others have flitted in and out.

Over time, things evolved, as they do in all classrooms. I started bringing in piles of books to recommend to them-- with most of the books heading directly towards the checkout afterwards. I led two sessions of advanced knitting techniques so that they were confident to pick up patterns on their own and tackle lace without fear. I held a contest and was stunned by their creativity. I taught them how to make needles and stitch markers, and why putting a piece of yarn in bleach can help you determine what it's made of--which is good when you've lost the ball band. I introduced them to Ravelry and we took a field trip far far away to the land of Upstairs Adult Non-Fiction so they could see where the adult knitting books were, as most of my knitters are far beyond the basic how-to-knit books they mass produce for kids, though the Scrapbooker (non-fiction selector) has added what more difficult material she could find.

And with the understanding of their parents that it was NOT A LIBRARY RELATED/CONDONED/SUPPORTED FUNCTION: I took a six of them to a yarn store. Seeing their eyes pop as they contemplated all the delicious options was priceless.

And they grew--both in skill as knitters and vertically as children are wont to do. From slowly suffering through the knit stitch, the first cast on, the first finished square to the projects currently in progress: two sweaters, three pairs of fingerless gloves, two scarves, three pairs of socks, a couple of bags, and I'm not sure what else... They've made Christmas and birthday gifts, knit for new babies and grandparents, but mostly for themselves. I've hopefully taught them it's not wrong to devote time to making something beautiful for yourself. They're more confident in their craft, even if they are still hoping that I'll fix all the mistakes and help them figure out what happened when it's all gone wrong. 

I'm grateful for the trust of their parents. Children often express themselves more easily when adults aren't present and while I was always in the room, I was their Fearless Leader, so often I didn't count as they discussed school, siblings, and life. Parents were supportive as I suggested a social networking site for knitters and cases of new books for their kids to read and talked endlessly about yarn, knitting techniques, knitting books, knitting humor. They brought the kids in week after week after week and let me teach, coach, cajole, and shove.

I'm grateful to the kids for their enthusiasm and determination. I ripped out their knitting numerous times and said "Okay, do it again." I lured book review after opinion out of them, endlessly asking what they were reading. I challenged them to think beyond squares and garter stitch. And I learned more techniques than I can begin to count when--faced with a question or idea--I had to say "Sure, we'll start that next week." so that I could frantically run home and find instructions on how one did whatever "that" was.  

So why end now? Because while it hasn't died a slow death, things have changed, parents do get tired, and I'd like to see what else we can offer elementary/middle school students. I'm ending with a group of now confident knitters and things have evolved to needing just a minute of my help--and then a lot of socializing while they knit. Certainly they're welcome to come to the library to do that, and I've told them that this ending doesn't mean they can't ask for help or book suggestions. I certainly hope they do continue to come and find me.

It also means my hobby can moreso retreat to being that, rather than a work obligation, which will be nice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why I Won't Use Your Website to Purchase Books From...

I was recently pointed towards a distributor that was said to work with a number of small presses, with the suggestion that I might find some new and exciting things there that I was missing when I was ordering books.

I'm all for new resources, certainly I haven't figured out everything there is to know about collection development, and so I shuffled over and signed up for an account.

Issue Number 1:  The signature on my work email includes the name of my library. Now, granted, there is both a La Crosse Public and a La Crosse County system, but it's very clearly specified in the email I sent requesting an account where I belong. So when I got my sign in confirmation and logged in to be welcomed as La Crosse County, I was a little thrown. As there was no where for me to fix this problem, I needed to contact Customer Service again.

Issue Number 2: There are two options of finding materials on this site: search through their "topical lists" which included selection by library shows (in case you wanted to see what they took to Florida), monthly themes (XYZ History, etc), and "New titles" or a Known Item search of the catalog, where you toss in a title/ISBN/etc to see if they have it.

Issue Number 3: I looked at the "what's new in Children's" which took me to 15 (at the time) pages of things to scroll through without any sorting options.  Fiction, non fiction, picture books, grade levels I assume from birth through middle school. And it's a bizarre mix of things I'm seeing in the review catalogs, things I've never heard of, things from big presses, reprints...etc. And when I looked under what was new for YA, I got a Dinosaur non-fiction book that would be great for a fourth grader. Our definitions of YA must be different. 

I emailed about the incorrect library system and I mentioned that I was having a really hard time finding any way to browse through the materials. I'd been told there wasn't a print catalog of new things, but there wasn't a good electronic one that grouped things well either. Generally speaking, I don't usually take an hour or eight to wade through 15 pages of materials that may or may not be remotely applicable when I'm looking for new books. I have so many catalogs and publishers materials that are pushed to me, I only go out and search when it's something I'm getting asked for a lot: e.g. more Star Wars books. 

The email I got in return, while bright and chipper, caused a *facepalm* with a potential side of *headdesk*. I quote:

"Once you get the basic understanding of the advanced search, most people find our website very simple to use."

Hello huge barrier and condescension. I know, I'm a librarian, we're all about mastering the advanced search, demonstrating our GoogleFu, whipping through full text queries at the speed of a flying internet. I've also spent enough years mucking around with Access to set up a pretty decent SQL query when one is called for, so I grasp how to add parameters to my searches.  

Their advanced search involves selecting options, one at a time, and then running a search. "Grade Level" = "Type in level here" (one at a time only please), Homosexual Content = yes/no, Height = enter parameter (in case I only want short books?). The "Intellect" option threw me---( people only books?) but was for YA, Adult, child, etc..

Yes...I could enter all of these... and I tried a search for English/Fiction/K-8. Over 1200 results, which are only sorted by title. And I can't narrow the query from there, I'd need to back out to the Advanced Search page and hone again. I can't select more than one format at a time. etc...etc..

So, again, I don't think I'll be ordering from them. When I can't find a way to get to your materials in a way that works for me, the end user...

Library lessons to be learned from this kids? 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Top 100 Chapter Books

I participated in Betsy Bird's Top 100 Chapter books poll. She pulled a couple of my comments for Matilda, Ranger's Apprentice, and Boxcar Children. :) 

Which ones have I read? Probably fewer than you'd think... See the bold below. 

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980) [Technically I remember the IPM reading this aloud]
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999) [I had to check and see titles, I stopped at book 3]
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961) [Never cried...I think we lost too many dogs growing up]
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Welcome Writer Beware Readers!

If you've clicked over from the Writer Beware Blog--Welcome!

If you're a regular reader--I've written a guest post about my book selection process for my public library at Writer Beware Blogs!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hedgehogs in the News: Slimhogs!

JennieLaw sent this on! (Thanks Jennie)

The pudgyhogs of before went on a diet. Now they can show off their new slim spring figures!

Diet success hedgehogs released into the wild

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Egypt: Days -2 to 0

I left La Crosse on Saturday morning and headed for New York. Got to see the Brunette and Husband. Attempted to locate new reading material for the Brunette before he left for his next work trip (he's picky). Met up with M on Sunday evening. Monday, M and I walked up and down Manhattan, trying on hats, futilely searching for interesting silver, and shunning the spring fashions that were just starting to make their appearance.  I'd been able to leave my heavy coat in Queens and wore only a light fleece. In January!

After one more meal we headed to the airport. Security was pretty standard, nothing I hadn't expected. I'd now gone through two sets of airport security with knitting needles and no questions. For the curious, I was flying with KnitPicks Wooden 4" Double-Pointed Needles, or as I prefer to call them, oversized painted toothpicks. I cast on a project immediately after getting through security in La Crosse and through 4 airports no one even asked what I was making. I did, of course, have extras in my checked luggage. 

We boarded and were happy to find that we had a set of three seats to ourselves. After a first round of airplane food, we read, listened to music, I did a minimal amount of knitting, we talked...the usual airplane time passing tricks. And we tried, pretty much unsuccessfully, to sleep. This was abnormal for me. I've been known to fall asleep before take off.  

Arriving in Paris at something like 4 a.m. Eastern Time, 9 a.m local, we hustled down the concourse and on to our next gate. I was bleary and my brain wasn't registering what was said to me in English, let alone polite French, but eventually I gathered I needed to also shed my jacket (not just my shoes) and got my carry-on bag rummaged through again. We had coffee and muffins and eventually we shuttled out to our plane, where we boarded and waited for a couple of hours. No particular reason was given, so we all just hung out and eventually they said sit down we're leaving. It was a full flight this time and we were seated next to a man heading to work on the oil rigs.

We'd left New York in the dark Monday and arrived well after dark in Cairo on Tuesday, total travel time about 16 hours I think? Whatever time it was, I was wiped. We shuttled to the airport, got our passports stamped, and started the search for our luggage. I also flagged down the car service meeting us. Luggage in hand we were passed through a couple of people to our personal car.

We hurtled towards Cairo, the guide accompanying our driver chattering a mile a minute about what we were passing and offering to set up various tours for us, which we politely said we'd consider. We arrived relatively quickly on Zamalek, an island in the middle of the Nile River, which is the richest area of Cairo and where our hotel was located. Zamalek is a warren of one way streets, abrupt turns, and triple parked cars, as well as the home of most of the embassies, including the one for the US.

M and I stayed at the President Hotel, which, we were told, is primarily a Canadian/European travelers hotel. Our room was relatively spacious, with a desk and a "comfortable" chair besides the twin beds with bedside tables. There was a mini fridge that we didn't use, and a TV where we kept up on world happenings, mostly the earthquake in Haiti and the Senate race in the US. It was clean though slightly worn and we were very careful about using bottled water to wash our faces, brush our teeth etc. Our room had a view over the courtyard of the Chinese Embassy next door.

Now local, I phoned our tour guide arranger Mohammed, who joined us at our hotel to review the plans for the next four days. My one page of details and scribbled notes became the basis of all reminders and my travel journal. He also took us to buy water and sandwiches from one of the local delis. Fed and through showers, we adjourned to bed. Cairo continued it's noise, the noise pollution of car horns, sirens, etc, said to make the city 8x as loud as a city of equivalent size.

We would sleep through a light rain and awaken at 4:30 a.m. to the pre-dawn call to prayer.

Monday, April 05, 2010

In Which I Ramble About Content, Shiny Packages, and My Love of Books

Many of my social networks seethed this week with conversation about Saturday's initial deliveries of iPads. Debates swarmed about the viability of buying one, whether or not it was worth it, how one could possibly get by without it, and of course the initial debates of what it might be used for in libraries and whether or not we should be investing in them. I know NCSU has some coming, I'm sure they aren't alone.

Though upon Apple's initial announcement I was mildly intrigued, increasingly I am less charmed. A lot of it falls into what others have said: we don't see a specific purpose for it. A laptop, I understand. A smart phone, I comprehend. An mp3 player, I'm permanently attached to when I'm traveling. That the majority of the utilities of these has been rolled into one for those using an iPhone, I grasp--particularly when hanging out with My-Friend-the-Laywer.

Part of it, too, for me is a little whiplash against consumerism. A lot of new and exciting tools and software have come at us in the past decade, the past five years even. Ten years ago I had a desktop computer. Now I have a digital camera, cell phone with full keypad and internet, two laptops (for my freelance stuff, they aren't really "mine"), a desktop computer, and an mp3 player. Do I really need one more thing that needs to be charged, updated, where did I put the special screen cover and personal bag as I'll need to carry it in something bigger than my purse?

I think one of the things that bothers me is that we're increasingly buying packages without content. And that is what troubles me most about the Ipad. I'm not entirely clear on what it comes preloaded with but from the sounds of it, it doesn't appear to be much. One can purchase any number of things to play and run on it, assuming of course that said things are sanctioned by Apple (at least until someone hacks it, which I anticipate to happen very soon if it hasn't already), but it still strikes me as a watered down laptop that doesn't have a full keyboard, on which I can't multitask or do anything requiring Flash and for which I would end up paying yet more monthly subscription fees to somebody.

I certainly have any number of purchased items for which their purpose is to work with other content that I purchase separately. My DVD player is an excellent example of this. It serves no purpose other than to play DVDs I pop into it. It doesn't record, transfer, any of those things. But it has a specific purpose in my life that I can identify and a boatload of content here at Chez Hedgehog to use with it, without further expense on my part.

I like purchasing content in final form. Owning a copy of that content. I have a suspicion that's part of the reason I own so many books. When I buy them, I've bought them, I've paid for the final format, it's mine and there I have it. I don't need a secondary device to access the content, certainly not a proprietary one. My DVDs will play on any of my computers as well as my DVD player. I can also lend them to a friend without losing my proprietary gadget.

I was home on Friday and I spent nearly the entire day away from "screens"--computer screens, television screens, even my phone. Of course, there was some email that needed to be answered and I did that, but otherwise it was an incredibly peaceful day of me and the cat and a thunderstorm. I did radical things like brew endless pots of tea and read books I already owned.

I'm usually in front of some sort of computer screen 8-10 hours a day. Work puts me in front of a screen a minimum of 6-8 hours a day. Add any time spent on freelance or personal stuff, on my phone texting, clicking the TV on to catch an episode of Good Eats or Bones, and my sporadic addiction to games like Peggle or BubbleTown and suddenly it's been 12 hours. And in a way all too familiar to those who do it too, I'm exhausted. I'm always multi-screen-tasking, even now I have six tabs open in Firefox.  Being able to step away, to not feel plugged in to one of my own gadgets, was a pleasant change. I think that's one of the reasons I've felt so anti-ereader. I can certainly see a purpose and no doubt the next time I move someone will lecture me about how much lighter and easier it would be to move me were I to shed the 7 packed bookshelves. But I like the option to disconnect. I like having something that doesn't require charging. (*insert side comment about the fact that I knit and that doesn't require batteries either, nor "added content" once I've bought the yarn and needles*/end blogjack)

Ten years ago, I had one gadget that needed a subscription, plugged in, that I purchased a lot of content, etc. Now, I have at least six (eight if you add in the TV and DVD player). I think we're swinging back towards fewer devices, with the iPhone probably the best example of leading the way--combining web, phone, and music--which are the big three I think. And I'm skeptical of first generation just about anything....

But I don't think I'm alone in wanting to own the content I've purchased, wanting to focus my purchases on tools that are useful and not just objects that require more purchases and cash outlay, and a move from proprietary to cross platform. And if record circulation numbers at my library are any indication, I'm not the only one who still likes reading in book format.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Book Review: Eye of the Red Tsar by Sam Eastland

Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

Eye of the Red Tsar
Sam Eastland

What if what we know about the Romanov's death was wrong? What if the government itself didn't know the truth? Who would they ask? Who could they trust? And if you found the most trusted and most feared adviser to the Tsar back from Siberia, what might he uncover?

The good:

Eastland creates and interesting premise of a top advisor/spy/investigator to the Tsar who, after the Revolution, was exiled to Siberia and is brought back to solve the mystery of what happened when the Romanovs disappeared. Told in a blend of flashbacks and present day, it gives a humanity to the Tsar and his family, a glimpse inside times just prior to the Revolution. 

There's a decent level of intensity that keeps one going through the book--it was a surprisingly quick read. I got through it in an evening. I was slightly disappointed by the ending, though I could comprehend it. 

The bad:

I had an ARC so I won't comment on the layout other than there were a lot of errors hopefully corrected before final print.

The history was imaginative. There was enough historically inaccurate that I was unsure how much to actually believe, and would err on the side of fiction rather than fact.

It could easily stand alone as a book, and I was disappointed to see that the author intends for it to be a series. A lot of what I enjoyed were the flashback sequences and I don't think those would successfully hold up through more books. We've explored them, we understand the main character's angst and what he's been through. Reliving them over in future books would be less effective.

 Final Thoughts: If you're up for suspense and willing to set aside the blatant historical inaccuracies, it's an interesting read.  

Happy Easter

Wishing you and your families a Happy and Blessed Easter!

Gypsy and I will be taking in the sunshine, ham and chocolate. 

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Egypt: The Pre-Show

Ha...and you thought there would be pictures of my trip to Egypt. Yes yes, they are forthcoming.  But to answer a few questions ahead of time:

M and I went to Egypt together in January. We went for the brilliant reason of "Because it is Tuesday." This is an excellent reason for just about anything, I suggest you make use of it.

We traveled with Air France Holidays. Our vacation package included round trip airfare from JFK through Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris to Cairo, ground transportation to and from our hotel in Cairo, and hotel accommodations. Through a friend of mine here in La Crosse, who used to go to Egypt every couple of years, and a professor in Minnesota, I obtained the phone number for a gentleman at Wings Tours. He and I communicated mostly via email, which was helpful considering the eight hour time difference. I gave him a wish list of things we wanted to do and he filled gaps with recommendations and arranged for a driver and personal tour guides for our days in Cairo. I cannot speak highly enough of our tour guide in Cairo or of our driver.

It was just the two of us, no big tour group, which I loved. We could set our own speed, ask a million questions, decide between us on meals without it being a production. I may never get on a tour bus ever again.  :)

I know it's been a while getting this up. February kind of exploded in my face and suddenly it's April and I have the 4th Annual Knitting in Public Day next week.  Bear with me.

Oh's a picture of a Pyramid:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reaching Young Adults--More Ideas.

At the recent Public Library Association conference in Portland Oregon, there was a session on reaching out to GenX/Y/Millenials.

PLA 2010 Conference: Reaching “Quarter-Life” Adults and Young Professionals

There are some very interesting ideas. I wonder if I can talk Madame Director into letting us show movies on our flat roof?  Hmmmm...........



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Won I Won I Won

So my ffeeps and close friends and coworkers have already been assaulted with this but I was one of the top three essayists for the LISNews Essay Contest!  Hooray! 

The comments have been interesting, mostly very supportive, for which I'm thrilled and grateful. I hope it inspires people to think outside of the box. I hope they'll reach out to working adults, not just in the age groups I mentioned, but as a whole. I'd love to see a resurgence and enthusiasm for adult programming that children's and teen librarians are constantly trying to achieve. And if your library is doing something awesome, I'd certainly welcome an email so I can share it with others--the library collective can certainly come up with more ideas than I alone can.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: Elvis and the Grateful Dead by Peggy Webb

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

Elvis and the Grateful Dead
A Southern Cousins Mystery
by Peggy Webb

An Elvis impersonator festival and contest should be full of sequins, crooners, good music and food--especially when it's being held in the King's hometown. But when someone starts picking off the impersonators, it's up to Callie Jones, her estranged mystery man ex-husband, and her basset hound Elvis (who IS the reincarnation of the King) to solve the mystery and keep cooking cousin Lovie out of the Jailhouse.

The good:
The story is told by both Callie and Elvis (the dog). Their voices are very distinct and amusing. Elvis spends a lot of time "singing" references, which can be a little distracting but I can imagine a friend of mine's basset hound doing this. 

Well developed secondary characters. Though I never really felt for the Elvis's who were being killed, I could completely recognize some of the other town characters. Callie's Mom was delightfully outrageous and many will be able to identify a beloved Uncle who is ready to lend an ear, helping hand, and sage advice. 

I didn't figure the mystery out until the end. That's always a challenge for me, because very often one sees it coming and then you have to decide whether or not to slog on through. 

The bad:
Webb occasionally switches narration mid-chapter. That was a little confusing the first time as usually you got a fresh chapter.

Callie is obsessed with having children and a "good father" to go with that. Certainly that's a big part of her character but the dwelling on having babies and how her ex isn't good father material makes her less dynamic.

The confusing not-quite-ex-husband thing. Personally, I can't say I'd let my soon-to-be-ex wash my back (literally) if it was serious enough that we were divorcing. It's clear that he doesn't want the divorce, but Callie's a confused bundle of nerves. She vacillates from sleeping with her ex husband in Chapter 2 to a possible new love interest by the end of the book, which was a little overdone for me.

There's some definite male as heroic rescuer that gets a little old. The whole idea of always needing a big strong man to rescue one grated a bit.  

Elvis' constant singing could certainly get old after a while if one isn't a fan of the King.

Slightly over-referenced book one of the series. I felt like I almost didn't need to read it because everything was rehashed in book two.

What I'd like to see more of:
The relationship between Callie and her mother. It reminded me a bit of Donna Andrews' style, which I adore, and I'd like to see more of that.

A very cute addition to the cozy mystery section. Book one is going on the hold list at work.  Share with your animal and cozy mystery lovers.  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: Dusted to Death by Barbara Colley

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

 Dusted to Death
Barbara Colley

The plot:  Charlotte's been called in to keep an eye on the house of one of her more difficult clients while they shoot a movie there. Amid the drama queen leading lady, her intimidating bodyguard, an attractive older male actor and the chaos of filming in an older New Orleans home, there is a messy murder. Not only does it ruin a rug, it might ruin the movie. 

Charlotte is a multi-faceted character, what with some romance with her next door neighbor, problems with her son, and the realities of not being a twenty something who spends all of her money on shoes, handbags, and fancy dates. Brought in to mind the movie set and make sure none of her client's "treasures" are destroyed, she gets an interesting look behind the scenes of film-making. She has a crush on the leading man, an older actor whose heartthrob status has lasted and his gentlemanly nature only wins him more brownie points.

The book focuses behind the scenes on not only the actors but the people whose names only fly past up on the credits: prop masters etc and the creepy paparazzi that orbit that world. It's nice to get a sense of their frenzy, frustration, and planning.  

Though I could tell I'd dropped into the middle of the series and probably wasn't fully grasping the implications of all of the references, the book was able to stand by itself without a lot of filler backlog giving me history of books I hadn't and might not ever read. I really liked that. The romantic aspect was really obvious, but it didn't detract from the book. I got the sense that it would have been more well rounded had I read other books in the series. 

The biggest issue I had with the book was the film's leading lady Angel's, whose "real life" presented some confusion insofar as her age and personality. She  is supposed to be in the role of a young engenue, playing a younger girl, but the various descriptions given of her background seemed to add up to someone closer to 30. It seemed like too much had happened to her for her still to be playing a Catholic schoolgirl.That jarred me out of the story a bit. She also was fluxtuating a little too fast between being a sweet girl under pressure and being a royal Hollywood party girl diva. Her secret past required just a little too much abandoning of reality--particularly in this day and age where it's hard to keep ones past buried.  

An enjoyable cozy mystery and, from the ending, one where I would be interested in going back and finding out some of the previous events leading up to it. Just as soon as I wade through my reading basket.   

Monday, March 08, 2010

Web Animal

Found via Jennie Law--who is back from New Zealand.  Oh so jealous...

According to a Web Behavior Survey: I'm an ostrich 

Fast-moving - We can tell from your results that you are a speedy surfer - one of the characteristics of the Web Ostrich, whose real-world counterpart has an impressive top speed of 45mph.

Sociable - The web is a social place. You take full advantage of this when you search for information by using social networks and other sites whose content is created by its users. Real-world ostriches are also highly social, even keeping eggs in each other’s nests to share the burden.

Specialised - The real-world ostrich is a true specialist, highly adapted to survive in hot, dusty African grasslands. You might not be at risk from lions when browsing the web, but you are still very focused. From your test we can tell you do best when you concentrate on one task at time, rather than several things at once.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wimp Yourself!

Madame Storyteller pointed me to this one. 

Wimp Yourself for the Upcoming Diary of a Wimpy Kid  movie!

Meanwhile, this wimp is off to Zumba.  Going for a more slightly more toned hedgehog. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Book Review: Cart Before the Corpse by Carloyn McSparren

**I received an e-book version of this book as part of my participation in LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.**

The Cart Before the Corpse
by Carolyn McSparren

Cart Before the Corpse is a cozy mystery, with Merry Abbott trying to figure out who killed the father who she was estranged from for the majority of her life. It comes as the first spin off of a collectively written series called the Mossy Creek Hometown Series. I've not read the latter, but they're floating around the system, so I might try to get through at least the first one.

Merry, a horse/carriage trainer and show manager who won't herself drive, learns at the end of a show that her father has been murdered. She drives down to where she had planned to meet her father on his new horse training farm in rural Georgia and, as the heir, must sort out who did it along with deciding whether or not to stay on the farm she now owns.

Overall the book was okay, not something I'd have picked up otherwise and not something I'm particularly interested in continuing to read. McSparren, in my opinion, was way too hung up on the idea of reconciliation between father and daughter. Merry felt a whole lot of guilt about picking up her life and moving on after repeatedly being abandoned be her father. It felt overly forced for her to spend nearly the entire book blaming herself for not reaching out earlier to a man who had rejected her. But that could just be my cynical opinion. 

As the local law is never enough in these books, a GBI agent was brought in to provide the cop side of the story as well as being the potential love interest for Merry. The voice of the character was decent, though I didn't feel like we got enough of his story to really care about him. He seemed like a potentially interesting character.

Probably the best character was Peggy Caldwell, Merry's father's landlady and friend. She was well developed enough that it wouldn't surprise me to find that she's the character McSparren has already fleshed out in the Mossy Creek books. Her voice was very strong and she seemed like someone who would be fun to know. 

Mixed voice narrative made it occasionally confusing but it was generally clear when I'd move away from the book and return.    

If you're interested in carriage riding, it's a light fun read. I particularly struggled with trying to read it in e-book/on screen format (no, still no e-reader at Chez Hedgehog) and I can only hope someone did a final edit--as there were quite a number of errors in the text, particularly as the story progressed. I had trouble sticking with the narrative and really getting involved with the characters and overall, it wouldn't be a first recommendation.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Wee Reads: The Mid-Session Update...

Checking back in as we've gotten through Week 4 of this first session of Wee Reads. Overall, I'd say it's going swimmingly--the kids keep coming, they're having a good time, and no one has melted down at the idea of separation.  I lost one kid because he and dad weren't quite ready for a separation storytime, but they are attending a family storytime elsewhere. The other parents are right out the door, celebrating the idea of running across to the adult fiction section for a book by themselves.

For those playing the home edition (and yes, I'll have a Google Doc of Reading Recommendations when this is all over)

Week 2:

We started off with Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin. The "Diary" series are wonderful because there is a TON of biology and fun facts dangled before you without really beating you over the head with pedantics of "this is a fly, it has wings."

Once you start with the Diary of a Fly, one must then have Fly Guy! Tedd Arnold's books are delightfully gross and small children this very unusual pet.

We did more ribbon dancing and then into our chapter book, continuing with Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Sciezska. So far, they'd knocked down a knight.

Week 3:

I had to squeeze a bit more in this week because my "back up" book was due. I always try to keep at least one back up book in the room in case something goes wrong, falls though, isn't working, or turns into a 30 second read.

We started with Melanie Watt and Chester. This went okay...Chester is a bit more of a one-on-one I think...there is so much going between the characters and in the artwork. Perhaps it we'd had a bit more time to slow it down and talk it through...

Next was a classic Berenstain Bears. There are a lot of these in our easy readers: Inside Outside Upside Down and The Bear's Vacation. I'm not a big fan of how Papa Bear is portrayed in a lot of the books, so I opted for The Spooky Old Tree. It has just enough repetition and fun to carry through and it reads very quickly.  And everyone knows what it feels like to get the shivers. 

Then we read Egg Drop by Mini Grey.  This, along with the Book that Eats People, has easily become a new favorite of mine. The subversive humor is just enough for this age group to get--they know where the story is going and are willing to play along. And the adults are chuckling through the end.

With parents sent onwards, we did Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes (by popular request).  But I made them learn the second verse (blame the Blonde and Think Big): Ankles, elbows, feet and seat, feet and seat....

And then back to Knights of the Kitchen Table and King Arthur's court, complete with a scary Merlin.

Week 4: 

This week turned out to be "return of favorites"--somehow I'd missed that they turned Little Bear into a television show. I can't say I'm thrilled about that.

We started with SkippyJon Jones and my horrific Spanish accent.  Somehow I always end up with Speedy Gonzalez. I inevitably apologize to the parents for my bad Spanish. Singing, I'm fine...reading with an intentional Spanish accent--not so much. 

We did Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes again, this time with a twist. I asked them, for the first round of it, to imagine themselves doing it while encased in jello. Then of course, we had to shake the jello off before we did the second round and I asked what flavor jello they had been encased in. There are more flavors in small children's heads than the company making the boxes is ever going to produce....

And another two chapters...we're making headway through the book.

This will go up during "Week 5"....catch you back here for more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banking Drama....

It's been an evening of customer service experiences. 

I've had issues with my current bank, which have made me yell, use a lot of vulgar language, and at one point I ended up in the branch manager's office after sending her a pointed email about how poorly I'd been treated by her staff. Things have, unfortunately, not gotten much better.

Current bank
1) The website is often out of date.
2) One can only reach the bank by phoning during business hours. There is an email account but then one gets to receive a return phone call while I'm at work. My coworkers are sick of listening to me talk to my bank.

3) Very little can be handled online.
4) They shut off everyone's card due to a data breach but didn't bother to tell any of the card holders for 16 hours--and didn't put any notification on their website or voicemail about this. (Guess who surprised a bunch of story time parents the next morning with the news that their bank cards wouldn't work?) Over 24 hours later some people STILL hadn't been notified.

5) Don't allow for pin changes on location--you have to get an entirely new debit card to change the pin. I found this out 24 hours before I left for New York--while planning to take only the new debit card. 

6) Didn't have a drive through ATM--in Wisconsin--until about six months ago.  You had to park illegally in an all-reserved-spots-parking and get out of the car. In January. In Wisconsin.

7) No walk in ATM at the bank, despite being on Main Street where we have a lot of foot traffic during the summer.

8) No ATM at all at the remote branch, which is closer to Chez Hedgehog.
9) Remember I went to Egypt? (yah I know I owe you pictures) I called them in advance and was assured by the receptionist (I don't know her name but I recognize the voice at this point) that she would mark my account so they wouldn't shut the card off on me while M and I were abroad.  On the trip home and while I was in NY praying the wind would let up long enough that I could fly back to CHI/LSE--they called about odd account activity. There was no record on my account that I was going to be traveling to Egypt despite my advance phone call. While I appreciated the verification and rattled off exactly how many debits had been made, when, and the approximate amount with some wiggle room for exchange rates, the obvious fall down on that one was HUGE. "Who did you talk to?" the caller asked. "Whoever answers the phone." was my not extremely chipper answer.  

10)  Tonight--for no apparent reason--they're holding double my rent payment hostage.  The money is there, it's just "not available."  I only got one receipt from my landlord through their electronic bill payment system and it's automatic, so that shouldn't have gone through twice. I've used that system for two years. So tomorrow morning I get to call to find out what exactly is going on this time.  

I've had plans to go to a different financial institution, one recommended highly by a coworker. It's a credit union, they pay interest on their standard checking accounts, and she's been really pleased with them. Only, they keep banking hours and I hate leaving the house on Saturday. As I kvetched about this online, one friend suggested I start the account opening process online. 

It had never occurred to me that I could do that. Certainly at my current bank this wasn't an option, I couldn't assign a designated inheritor upon my death without an Act of Congress (insert political party joke *here* if you so choose). But at my new choice of financial institution...I could. 

I filled out all the standard questionnaires, forms, verification of who I was, etc--online. I read electronic versions of all of the usual documents. I assigned a designated inheritor in case the cat steps on my windpipe one too many times. It was polite, it was easy, and it took about ten minutes--including setting up an electronic transfer from my current bank to start initial funding.

From their website:

1) I can FIND the number to call and report if my card is lost--24/7.
2) There's a secure way to communicate with them online.
3) They listed on the application forms what countries they don't allow debit/credit card usage at present (Burma, for example).
4) There is a drive up ATM on my way home and a satellite branch where I do most of my grocery shopping.
5) I'll get interest on my not very high balance checking account just for banking with them and using online banking.
6) Automatic savings account set up for me, which I've missed having. I "can" do it all on the spreadsheet I keep--and will continue to do so--but being able to move money to a savings account that isn't my ING account is nice. (The ING is great--but it takes 3 business days to move funds around.)

7) Far more transparent.

I've avoided doing this also because of all of the places I'll need to change routing numbers: work, freelance client, student loans, other online bill paying stuff, retirement savings account. But changing routing numbers has got to be easier than the excess of frustration I feel about every three months when my current bank screws up again.

Everything for my new bank account is in process, as confirmed by an automatic but still very clear and polite email that I got upon clicking "Finish." I expect tomorrow I'll get an email or perhaps a phone call. Initial set up probably should have a live human-to-human contact at some point, I'm okay with that.  

*sigh* I could tie all this back to libraries, online fine payment and card registration, policy transparency etc, but I've done my taxes and signed up for a new bank account--so take away what lessons you will for yourself. 

Also--anybody want to come tell me what's wrong with my printer? The black ink is being screwy despite changing out the ink cartridge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is a Song for My Generation

Over the past couple of years, I've commented about the focus on teens and a lack of library service to young adults--which by my definition is people over 18. 

Following the discussions I had with people at ALA last summer, I kept editing and working on a draft about what kind of programs to offer, what focuses I saw missing, and this general issue of a lack of outreach to a big part of our tax base.

This morning I had the chance to express my feelings on a broader level. I entered the LISNews Essay Competition with the following:  Don't Forget About Us. 

I wrote that essay for myself, for the Blonde and the Brunette, for AudioGirl, My Friend the Lawyer, LibraryChic, Sibling-the-Elder and Younger, and the other friends who look at me like I'm crazy when I suggest that they use their local public library. It's sad when my friends will call me--two time zones away--rather than reach out to their local resources. Not that I don't appreciate the validation that they think I'll be able to find the impossible, but they have free resources closer to home. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Did I Not Know About This?

I am continually amazed how many resources libraries have that at times elude even the librarians.  For example, today Our Lady of the Business Office came to show me something she'd found spotlighted on our website: 

Ebsco's Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center (link goes to a listing of what all it has--sorry, local access only)

It covers visual art, collecting, games, photography, outdoors, needle craft, textiles, models...all kinds of stuff.

And it's mostly full text patterns. Okay, how many of you just perked up?  Be honest. 

I can't wait to show this to my knitting kids and the Tuesday night library knitting group.  And, you know, everyone else on the planet.

Free Access to Cool Stuff -- Welcome to the Public Library

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hedgehogs in the News: Heavy Hogs....


Third story like this we've seen in the last year.  In Scotland, they've put 10 hedgepigs on diets

Heavy hedgehogs join 'fat club'


This one has a video of the pudgsters... 


Thanks to TimK for the heads up!

Monday, February 08, 2010

How to Win Friends and Make Sure Everyone Knows You at Work

At three jobs I've made a small but substantial investment in chocolate and hard candy.  At the financial firm it was in a small jar on top of my desk, most recently here it's in a desk drawer--as small children are likely to walk in and I'd rather they not help themselves.

Everyone who works in the building, we proved during a staff scavenger hunt last September, knows where "Abigail's Chocolate Drawer" is and knows they are welcome to come get a piece during a bad day, when in need of a break or reward, etc.

I do this for multiple reasons.

1) I like chocolate. It means I have a steady supply. Having it always available takes the binging out of it and I'm more likely to just have "a" bite sized piece of chocolate rather than snarfing down a king-sized Snickers. 

2) Other people like chocolate. How easy is it to make someone's day better with a little square of chocolate? I also usually have some kind of hard candy in there for the non-chocolate-noshers.

3) It provides a positive reason for people to stop by and see me.  As I said, everyone in my building knows where the chocolate is and it's a good reason to head back to the children's area (we are kind of off in our own little corner).  Madame Director makes ventures, Madame Storyteller always knows where her favorite type of bite-size candy bar is, Our Lady of the Business Office has been seen.

4) It means access to chocolate without the temptation of it being in their desk drawer. I can go several days without breaking into the chocolate stash. Others have said if they kept the chocolate by them it'd be gone. But since it's not officially "their chocolate" they can limit themselves to an occasional piece. 

And this for maybe an occasional $15 investment we get peace, sanity, goodwill, and chocolate. 

I get and certainly accept bags of Dove, Hershey's minibars, etc etc....pretty much anything but Hershey's Kisses, which no one but the teens seem to like.  (Though I'm not above bribing tweens and teens for good behavior.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rumor Has It There's a Desk Here....

I keep promising myself that I'll "find my desk."  And then I go and put another 30 books on hold for my Wee Reads group.

So far, for next week, we have all boat load of Fly Guy books and Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Fly plus other Cronin books  I have Berenstain Bear easy readers, other long picture books,

There is also a pile of chapter books for my knitters and a pile of ARCs that Madame Storyteller brought back from Mid-Winter that I'm trying to find time to look through and debate on ordering. 

I'll find my desk....somewhere around spring break when Wee Reads ends.  At least, that's the rumor.  

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Review: Leaving the Bellweathers

 **Reviewed from a library copy**

Leaving the Bellweathers
by Kristin Clark Venuti

Meet Benway, the long suffering butler to the Bellweather family. Bound by an ancestral oath of service (200 years no less), he's spent his entire professional career keeping up with an inventing father, a mother who loves to repaint rooms, and their five children--who rescue dangerous animals, stand up for anyone who is opp, and create imaginative "art."

Benway introduces each chapter with a journal entry as he counts down the days until he'll be free to go Far Far Away from the family to enjoy peace and quiet. He's examining cottages, planning a garden, searching for a replacement and getting ready for his tell-all book about the (which will finance said retirement) to debut. Only, life is never quiet at the Bellweather Lighthouse and chaotic adventures that SOMEONE must clean up after riot around his ears. Only when the children begin to realize that perhaps their much overworked but beloved butler might leave do they consider a change--only with the Bellweather children, change is never what one would consider quiet and normal.

Venuti's debut appealed to me from the moment I started seeing reviews and the book lives up to the high praise bestowed upon it.  Benway has a strong, clearly defined and refined voice and one empathizes with the deep sighs he utters only when out of the sight of his clients. She includes perspectives from the children of the family as well, bringing depth and providing motivation and the clear thought process of children and teens with a mission--rather than just singularly focuses holy terrors.

It's a fairly quick read, middle-elementary level but certainly enjoyable by most ages.