Monthly Archives: January 2011

Marginalia Winter Wrap-Up Part II

Here’s part two; professor quotes from last semester’s Organization and Management of Public Libraries class.

On religion: “The Church has always been interested in libraries – either building them or burning them.”

On Irish monasteries, where much classic literature was preserved while the rest of Europe was in the dark ages: “No one bothered to pillage them, they were too far away.”

On public library work: “Plumbing – that’s the number one thing they SHOULD be teaching you in library school.”

On funding: “They will fund ANYTHING that’s big and red and has a flashing light on top.”

On the limitation of the power of library directors: “NOBODY gets to do whatever they want.”

On the importance of contracts: “If nothing else, it cuts down on the number of times you’re gonna get sued.”

On the emergence of bar codes: “That was some kind of magic.”

On Boards of Trustees with too many members: “If there was a just and loving God this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.”

On Public Relations: “Nobody says no to a Children’s Librarian! They’re the best PR we’ve got.”

On the Chinese lead-paint-in-toys-scare, and deaccessioning: “It’s not going to be a problem until somebody sues you – and nobody’s going going to sue you for having children’s books. They’re gonna sue you for throwing out children’s books!”

On the 1950s: “The heyday of paperweights.”

On different rules for the teen room in a library: “You should be able to swing from the chandeliers in the teen room!”

On centralized selection: “It’s cold and heartless, but it’s brutally efficient.”

On the public’s reaction to outsourcing selection: “Can you imagine [the] Cambridge [Public Library] outsourcing selection? No! They’d burn the place down. They’d have a rally…”

On the obvious: “Librarians love to organize things.”

On power: “It’s amazing how much good you can do in a position of authority.”

On (dis)organization: “There’s a section where they stuffed a puppet!”

On catalogers: “Catalogers are obsessed with accuracy.”

On research: “I’m amazed at how often you go looking for information about libraries and end up in Australia.”

A guest speaker, on politically correct terminology: “I don’t think it’s pejorative – golfers still use handicaps.”

On the timeline: “[Public libraries] have been around for 150 years. That’s current events, not history.”

On the need to justify library costs in business terms: “Don’t blame me for this, blame Reagan.”

On upcoming lecture material: “Next week’s topic is puppets and power tools.”

On customer service: “The customer is NOT always right. Half the time the customer is INSANE.”

On humor and statistics: “There are very few statistical jokes out there.”

On the wording in job ads: “‘Scenic’ means COLD. ‘Scenic’ in Wisconsin means there are no hills to block the wind.”

On the difference between logic and reality: “That’s a logical statement, not a realistic statement.”

On literature, quality of: “SOMEONE should stand up and say Nora Roberts sucks.”

On the ‘Cockroach Principle’: “If one person wants a book, there are five other people who are too socially inhibited to ask for it.”

On strategic plans: “If you are within three years of being perfect, well then, you don’t belong on this earth.”

On the consequences of quoting inaccurately: “Now I’m going to misquote Oliver Wendell Holmes, for which I will burn in hell.”

What I’m reading: First Among Sequels, Jasper Fforde
What I’m listening to: The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, Badly Drawn Boy; Mae’s indie mix

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Marginalia Winter Wrap-Up

Yes, “Marginalia” returns! Today is the first Digital Libraries class, taught by The Patron Saint of Catalogers (TPSoC), who also taught the Information Organization class I took last summer. (See the collected quotes here.) I’m looking forward to whatever gems of language she has to offer this semester, but before it begins, I am taking the opportunity to gather some professor quotes from last semester. I had some wonderful professors, though none quite as eminently quotable as TPSoC, so here are some of their most memorable utterances, as well as other marginalia, i.e., doodles.

From Reference and Information Services

On information seekers: “Eventually, you will have to deal with people.”

On communication failures: [a drawing of a sad person, head in hands, bent over a desk, accompanied by speech bubble: “No one understands my information need.”]

On ageism in libraries: [a drawing of an old person with a cane and a young person slouching in a chair behind a computer. Dialogue: “Young scamp! You couldn’t possibly help.” “Old coot! I have access to databases.”

On confidentiality: “If someone really wanted to build a bomb, the last thing they’re going to do is go down to the public library.”

From Technology for Information Professionals

On e-mail: “I believe it’s a tool that should be used sparingly.”

On language: “We’re gonna teach you tech-ese.”

On outlook: “There are no problems, only challenges.”

On freedom: “Freedom makes extra complexity in life.”

On the hourglass (PCs) and the Spinning Colorwheel of Doom (Macs): “This is all so you humans will know what the machine is doing.”

On course content, limitations of: “The whole subject of why people do bad things is beyond the scope of this course.”

On the past (in a sad tone of voice): “There was a time when there were no hard drives in the world…”

On artistic talent: “So as you know I’m a tremendous artist…” [draws a stick figure]

On the sciences vs. the humanities in academics: “Anyway, there’s a lot of geekiness on both sides.”

On creative solutions to spelling problems: “How do you spell ‘caviar’? C – A – V… fish eggs.”

On bald stick figures: “And we hope the person’s happy…he should have hair to be happy.” [draws hair on the stick figure]

On how long it would take to catalog everything, even if everyone in the world became a cataloger: “The babies would be dead by then.”

On the existence of librarians’ concern for privacy: “Unlike the rest of the world.”

On maintaining personal privacy in a technological age: “There’s all sorts of ways – you could become a Luddite, and refuse.”

On databases: “Any time you [are assigned] a number, you’re in a database somewhere.”

On the field of ‘competitive intelligence’: “It’s like spying.”

On potential employers: “They want a human being, not just a nerd!”

Part Two to come!

What I’m reading: The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
What I’m listening to: Big Star, Badly Drawn Boy

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The Living Kitchen

I met my friend Sarah in college; my second year and her first, I was the Resident Life Intern (called an RA at other schools) on her hall. We got to know each other then, and we lived together a few other times before we were both out of college. We haven’t lived in the same zip code since – and often we haven’t lived in the same country – but we have stayed close.

Without descending into total mush, I will say that Sarah is exactly the friend I would have wanted, had I been smart enough to dream up someone like her. She is funny*, she is listens, she is insightful, she is wise and articulate, she has a huge heart. For years I have gone to her for advice on all kinds of problems, and it’s probably not too far off the mark to say that because of Sarah and a few other close friends, I’ve never had to go to therapy. (Not that I never will, or that people who need to should feel anything but totally fine about it.)

*One of my favorite Sarah-quotes comes from one evening when we were talking about what to have for breakfast the next morning. I forget what dish we’d dreamed up, but it must have been mouth-watering, because Sarah said, “Let’s go to sleep so we can eat!”

Because Sarah studied women’s health in college, I sometimes asked her questions about that, and she always provided an excellent, sensitive, and caring answer. Then, when she moved to Toronto to study nutrition, I asked her questions about food. We had often cooked together in college, and we cooked together when I went to visit her in Toronto. I admit I am a bit of an alpha chef in the kitchen, but I love cooking with Sarah; it’s a little bit like having a really good improv partner (or, I imagine it would be. I’ve never done improv). I love her suggestions, which are nearly always healthier than what I would have come up with – though she recently came around and now has a higher regard for butter than she used to – and the results are undeniably tasty.

So naturally, I was thrilled when Sarah and her friend and business partner Tamara launched The Living Kitchen Wellness Group. I highly suggest you check out their site, and not just for the beautiful web design; they offer all kinds of services, pertaining to gardening, cooking, and yoga. They look at health and wellness from an integrated perspective, and that holistic sort of view is both genuine and of the moment. I encourage you to look at their site, even if you aren’t in the Toronto area; they are now offering an international program, a 30-Day Nutrition Challenge that you can learn more about by clicking on the link.

Clearly, I’m not perfectly objective; Sarah’s one of my best friends, I believe in her and I want to support her. However, if I didn’t think The Living Kitchen was worth checking out, I simply wouldn’t have written this post. So please, go to the site, and if you like it, pass it on. It takes a lot of courage to start a business at any time, but especially in this economy (even in Canada!), and I think Sarah and Tamara have an excellent array of services to offer, whether you’re interested in growing your own vegetables, trying new recipes, or experimenting with yoga poses.

“This world is a mountain. What we do
is a shout. The echo comes back to us.” –Rumi

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Winning the Future?

Taking into account the fact that I had to create a new category to tag this post, it’s fair to say I don’t write about politics or news much. For one, in terms of news at least, I feel like there is a responsibility to educate oneself with facts from the most impartial and objective sources (realizing that true objectivity is rare to the point of nonexistence), then consider multiple points of view in an open-minded and balanced manner, before weighing in. Although I read a few news articles every day from The New York Times and get the headlines from Slate, which I think does a good job of culling interesting items from a variety of sources, I am not as educated as I would like to be about goings-on domestic and international. This is not to say that I don’t have opinions about issues, but in terms of writing about them, I would want to do more research first. Which brings me to my second point, which is that there is a wealth of thoughtful political writing on the internet (along with all the ranting), and that’s just not my niche. I like writing posts about food and books and small sorts of adventures, which is what I’ve been doing here for the past year and a half, more or less. Plus, most of the people who read this blog know me, and if you are desperate for my keen insight on a particular political issue…well, ask away.

That said, I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night on whitehouse.gov, which had the benefit of having (a) no commercials and (b) a sidebar with illustrative charts and graphs. I wasn’t so keen on the theme of his speech, “Winning the Future.” Progress is all well and good, but doesn’t our “winning” imply that others must lose? For a person who places so much emphasis on cooperation, in this speech there was a distinct note of competition – particularly when Obama invoked Sputnik. Not that Obama was demonizing the Russians; instead, he was pointing out other countries’ students’ test scores and graduation rates – definitely an area where the US, as a report card might say, “Needs Improvement.”

Education was Obama’s second main point, after “Innovation,” and before “Building” (i.e. infrastructure), “Responsibility,” and “Barriers.” Speaking about the state of education in the US, Obama said, “In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders.’ Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.” This is an admirable sentiment, but it involves changing more than just the educational system, which is a huge task in itself; it involves changing the way people think about the value of education, and the importance of teachers. Looking at it from a financial perspective, our society doesn’t place much value on teachers at all; teaching is one of the most underpaid professions there is. (And speaking of undervalued – Obama didn’t mention libraries at all, but cutting library services from the school budget is not the way to help students achieve better results.)

After education, Obama spoke about infrastructure, and not just repairing the roads and bridges we already have, but laying the groundwork (tracks, that would be) for high-speed rail. Let me say, HURRAY FOR TRAINS. We are so far behind other countries on this one – most of Europe, Russia, Asia – and I am so looking forward to this becoming a reality. Faster than driving, better for the environment than flying (and without the pat-down, as Obama pointed out, though this, like all his other jokes last evening, fell flat). Yes, after much research and consideration, I am prepared to support the president in this endeavor with the following statement: fast trains are cool and we should have them.

Obama then tackled the subject of responsibility, and said some brave and honest things. Some of the points he made were just plain common sense – but how often do you hear that in government? It can be a struggle not to be cynical; speeches often sound good but lack follow-though. However, the fact that our president wants to face issues like fiscal responsibility and the necessity of structural (re)organization of the government, rather than ignore them and leave them for the next administration (and generation) to deal with…it’s an improvement. It’s something.

Last night, on the topic of responsibility, Obama said, “We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets. But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.” He went on, “Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past…In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America” (emphasis mine).

Obama concluded by speaking about “Barriers” – obstacles to these goals. He addressed Americans’ cynicism and lack of faith and promised more transparency in government, giving specific examples. He said, “In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history…A 21st century government that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means.” That does sound good, doesn’t it? But, he was quick to point out, “We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing the way we use energy; reducing our deficit – none of this is easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law. Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they get a railroad – no matter how many homes are bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written. And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.”

Well, that might be taking it a little far. There are, Obama himself pointed out earlier in the evening, some other democratic countries that have their act together a little better than we do at present. But because I have no plans to move anytime soon, and because it’s gonna be the future soon…Win, Team America!

Full text of President Obama’s State of the Union speech from The Huffington Post.

What I’m reading: Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
What I’m listening to: Jonathan Coulton

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Cheddar-Chive Scones, and more from the kitchen

I won’t go so far as to say that grilled cheese and tomato soup, as a meal, can be improved upon, but if you feel like changing things up, try tomato soup with these cheddar-chive biscuits on the side.

Doesn’t look terribly appealing in the photo – again, indoor nighttime photography really is not flattering for food – but it’s quite tasty, I assure you.

Here’s a natural light photo of a vegetable quiche I made recently, with leeks, broccoli, and red bell pepper. Oftentimes I’ll cheat and buy a frozen crust, but this time the store was out, so I made my own. More work – for someone likes baking as much as I do, I have a strange aversion getting sticky dough all over my hands – but you can taste the difference.

Which is to say, my crust has more butter in it.

I also made those deviously good chocolate chip cookies from Good to the Grain again. And as everyone knows, if you give a mouse a cookie…

…he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. (Not that we have mice in the house. Just lots of allusions to children’s books. Actually, the infestation is getting rather out of hand.)

What I’m reading: Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
What I’m listening to: Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

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Amaryllis

Two Thanksgivings ago, one of my great-aunts started a new tradition of giving out amaryllis bulbs. Last year, after I dutifully watered mine, it rapidly grew three-foot-tall green leaves, then proceeded to do nothing. I was kind of expecting the same result this year, but I watered it anyway – greenery is greenery, right? – and look what happened.

Not just ONE flower…

But four!

Almost perfectly symmetrical, too.

Very trumpet-like in shape, and very bright red! The petals were sparkly, though that doesn’t show in all of the photos.

What I’m reading: The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
What I’m listening to: Mozart for Your Mind and Symphony No. 40, W.A. Mozart

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Knitting

I didn’t pull out my knitting at all throughout the fall and early winter – partly because it didn’t get cold* till late in the year, partly because everyone I know already has plenty of scarves, and partly because I had no knitting circle and therefore no (benign) group pressure to continue making things. However, one of my goals for January was to complete Michel Thomas’ 8-CD Spanish language course, and I needed something to do with my hands.

So I made another scarf.

This only took about three CDs’ worth of time. It’s certainly nothing special – mostly straight knitting, with a few unevenly spaced patches of knit-perl – but it proves that I do still know how to cast on and cast off. I suppose now I should find a knitting group up here, and ask someone to refresh my nascent cabling skills, so I can finally take up this hat again. Hmm…

*It’s cold NOW. Here are a couple of screenshots from Accuweather.com, one from this morning, one from this evening:

They’ve given up on sun and cloud images and gone straight to a thermometer that’s blue with cold.

And they have to bring adverbs into it; it isn’t just going to be cold, it’s going to be bitterly cold. (A quick note to my immediate family here, who all live in California: I always welcome your calls, and I love to hear from you, but please think twice before complaining about the “weather” there. Fifty-five degrees does not count as cold.)

What I’m reading: Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde

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