Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Christmas Memory


This is the first time I've deliberately taken vacation for the last week of the year. The hubbub of Christmas is done, family has headed back to Seattle and Ellensburg, Ken is back at work. The house is quiet. There are no cooking deadlines. My time is my own. This could easily become a personal tradition.

A poster at the library caught my attention last week, a poster announcing the first annual Sing-along Messiah on Bainbridge Island. My, what memories that poster unearthed!

Years ago, my friend Peter mentioned that there was to be a Sing-along Messiah at a church on Mercer Island. A group was planning to attend and would I like to go too? Hmm. Despite many years in bands and other singing groups, I had never learned how to read music well. I could sort of tell where the notes should go when learning a part and that was it. But I did know the alto part for the Hallelujah Chorus and I was familiar with the rest of The Messiah, so I figured I could wing it. Plans were solidified.

The day of the event arrived. At the entrance of the lobby, we each received a book of music. Uh oh. I had forgotten just how much music there is in The Messiah.

The auditorium was huge, organized into sections according to voice. Our group fanned out, each of us heading to our respective sections. I paged through the music and thought what am I doing here?! I had even forgotten about the Amen at the end. So many notes.

For a long time there were only six of us in the alto section. Then, suddenly, our section filled up and I was surrounded by nuns, happy nuns, laughing, friendly, settling themselves into the pews. They easily made up one-third of the 120+ altos. I learned that this particular sing-along was a tradition for them, which eased my Sheet-Music Anxiety. I told the nun on my right that I wasn't much good at reading music; she smiled and said I could nudge her with my elbow if I got lost and she'd point to where we were on the page. Hooray! This was a group who would be singing well and I could just float along with them during the challenging bits.

The evening was amazing - the instrumentalists came from the Seattle Symphony, two of the soloists from the Seattle Opera Company. And there is nothing like singing in a choir of over 400 people. The nuns had phenomenal voices (was that a prerequisite to their calling? I wondered.) I even managed to make it through most of the evening without losing my place. We came to the final piece, the Amen. I made it through six bars' worth of notes and gave up. And that's when something magnificent happened.

I was engulfed by the music, the basses, the tenors, all the voices. And the nuns! They were Valkyries, wielding notes instead of swords, heads back, full-throated, no need to look at the sheet music. It was as if this piece, this Amen, was the reason they had come.

And then...it was over, the last notes echoing around the room. There was a three-second clock-tick, and we all burst into cheers, clapping for the music, for Handel, for the shared experience. Some of the nuns giggled.

We enjoyed flaming figgy pudding with hard sauce, afterward, served by the church ladies. Then we turned in our music and headed home.

I've attended subsequent Sing-along Messiahs but that first one is the only one I vividly remember. Even as I've typed this, I can feel the music from that evening. Ken has never been to a sing-along, an unfortunate fact; we can't go to the Bainbridge Island sing-along this year, but we sure do plan on going in 2010.

Overheard on Twitter: gave address to taxi driver; response: "where's that? I only know the main areas."

Next time: hostile holiday recipes. Stay tuned.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fun With Tautology


I've mentioned in earlier posts that my reading is often at the mercy of whatever happens to come through the check-in station. Ask any library employee. It happens to all of us. Shelving is dangerous enough but at check-in we see books that are on their way back to their home branches, books we aren't likely to discover through browsing the catalog.

The ones that catch my eye are usually related to either humor or language. One such book showed up in the bookdrop and it has entertained me mightily for the last week, Armed Gunmen, True Facts and Other Ridiculous Nonsense by Richard Kallan, a book described as "a compendium of repetitive redundancies." The author points out tautological errors that are common to American speech and writing, errors made by even the most respected writers, newscasters, and bloggers.

A tautology (I learned) is a phrase in which the modifying language repeats the meaning of word being modified, an example being Armed Gunmen. Would unarmed gunmen simply lack arms? Would they still be gunmen? You see the problem with this, don't you?

I've enjoyed reading the book because it's more than a collection of lists. Each tautology includes a definition, often a really funny definition, that makes clear why the phrase is a tautology. One of my favorites is Planned Conspiracy, "a conspiracy devoid of spontaneity." Another is Laugh Out Loud, "the most outspoken way of laughing". I am so guilty of using that one but at least I'm in good company. I've read that tautology in many a book review.

But now that I ponder this, I don't often laugh truly out loud but, instead, laugh more through my nose, short outward bursts of amused breath. It takes something hilarious to get an actual voice-powered laugh out of me. Laugh Out Loud and its definition suits me just fine.

Armed Gunmen is wonderful reading, good for many a snicker. How about these: Foreign Import (an import that hasn't been domesticated), Three-Sided Triangle (welcome to remedial math), or Shared Dialogue (more conversational than a shared monologue.) Some tautologies, such as that last one, have what the author calls Close Relatives: conversational dialogue, interactive dialogue, two-way conversation. I also like Disorganized Mess (a mess that's poorly designed and engineered) and Drunken Sot (a sot committed to leaving a memorable impression.)

Ridiculous Nonsense (nonsense unencumbered by thoughtful analysis.)
Tough Challenge (a challenge from the wrong side of the track.)
Jewish Rabbi (more authentic than a Catholic rabbi.)

I must buy this book.

Reading Armed Gunmen, especially on the heels of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips, has made me painfully aware of my own writing. This blog is great fun but I clearly need to do more self-editing.

Loosely related to the aforementioned tautology, I recently learned that there's an app for the iPhone called iLaughOutLoud. I don't own an iPhone. If I did, I wouldn't load it up with superfluous apps, but I could be tempted by that one.

Overheard on Twitter: Chinese Year of the Cow: mad cow disease. Year of the Chicken: bird flu. Year of the Pig: swine flu. 2012: Year of the Dragon.

Next time: A New Year. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sick Day No. 2


Alas, laughter has not saved me from a full-blown head cold.

I realized, this morning, that I posted an identical Youtube link in back-to-back posts. That's what happens when a germy brain gets online.

To take my mind off of my head, I've spent some time browsing blogs. I haven't yet figured out the logic behind Blogger's Next Blog option. Yesterday the blog after mine was garden-themed, as was every blog thereafter. Today it took me to craft/stitchery/Etsy-related sites. My most adventurous Next Blog experience occured last week - every single blog was in a foreign language.

But let's get back to today's Next Blog ramble. I've been keeping track of the One World One Heart blog, waiting for the post that kicks off this year's event - an event in which bloggers sign themselves into the OWOH bloglist with a link to their blogs. Each participant offers a giveaway; the way to enter a giveaway is to leave a comment on the blog. I did this last year (offering a new book as my giveaway) and found many creative people, folk that I would have otherwise missed.

I was reminded of OWOH when Next Blog took me to 20 Stamps Later. Heidi Harlequin has a delightful blog as well as an Etsy shop (her Christmas cards are wonderful); she's offering a giveaway on her blog that I'm entering. This is a first - I usually discover a giveaway the day after it ends!

Are you interested in American presidents? 44 U.S. Presidents offers a first-to-last look at Presidential portraits. Each portrait morphs into the next. I offer this link because it made me smile, especially the morph from #13 to #14, Millard Fillmore to Franklin Pierce in which Pierce seems decidedly flirty.

And that is that. I have a date with two aspirins and some ginger ale.

Overheard on Twitter (from a library in the UK): Eep, delivery man just relieved himself in our hedge. Postman did same a few weeks ago. What is the etiquette? Should we start charging?

Next time: we shall have to wait and see. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Laughter, the best medicine


Today's post title is shamelessly cribbed from Readers Digest.

My grandmother was an elementary school teacher who rarely had to take a sick day off, despite her exposure to all those children and their various ailments. Whenever she felt a cold looming, her approach was to ignore it into oblivion, the equivalent of putting her fingers in her ears and singing la la la la. Oddly, it seemed to work for her. My grandfather had a different method of dealing with impending illness - laugh it to death. He would get out his Book of American Humor and spend the evening reading, chuckling quietly; then he'd head to bed and wake up in the morning feeling fit as a fiddle.

I've been fighting off something germy since last Saturday, so I opted for my grandfather's method and watched Charlie Chaplin and Aardman films. I laughed a lot, which made me feel a little better (serotonin is my friend.) And there were several laughing moments this week that were spirit-lifting.

Last Saturday (besides being germy) was Port Orchard's 11th Annual Chimes & Lights celebration. We always host live music in the library for Chimes & Lights, music that has included The Average Djoes (a swing quartet with guitars, fiddle, and bass) and various members of Tuesday Jam, a celtic jamming group that I belong to. Sonja the harpist brought along her toy piano and absolutely rocked Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies on it. Another regular is a group that includes our former Friends of the Library president, Jim Herron. They come in Victorian costume, nine musicians with brass instruments, bells, and percussion, playing all the traditional Christmas favorites. One of my humor moments came while Jim's group was playing. Mind you, this group's music is loud (seriously, a tuba is in there.) One must shout to be heard at checkout. A patron came to me, beaming, and thanked the library for providing chamber music.

Another laughing moment came via my husband. Ken sent a Youtube link to me with a "you've probably already seen this" note. I clicked the link and had a delightful three minutes with a video I had not seen, despite the fact that it's been around for at least three years. I love it when really good musicianship blends with terrific humor. If you haven't heard Straight No Chaser perform The 12 Days of Christmas, now is your chance. (It's unfortunate but there's a short commercial at the very beginning. Be sure to let it load completely before you play it.)

One of the things I most enjoy about the Internet? Personal interactions. Not personal in the face-to-face sense, but in the conversations that happen all over the place. True Confession Time: I enjoy reading comment threads. Well, not all comment threads. There are some grievous things said out there (Youtube comments are grand examples), threads that deteriorate into something reminiscent of a 3rd grade playground altercation.

But some threads are simply wonderful. For example, here's a thread concerning a realty listing's photo of a bathroom with large, questionable stains on the shower wall. People were pondering the origin of the stains. We enter the four-person conversation mid-thread:

- ummm...doesn't old blood turn brown? This is reminiscent of a Psycho bathroom... shreee shreee shrrreeee!!!
- I'd often wondered about the exact spelling of that noise.
- These things are good to know. Now if someone can just teach me how to spell the sound of a cat sneezing...
- "echtsssh" Although I wouldn't say that covers all cats. I once had a cat
who sneezed "kgtknch"

See what I mean? That's what I love about comment threads.

Overheard on Twitter: You know those big, colorful, air-filled workout balls? I popped one today during my workout. Not sure what to think about that.

Next time: Musings. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Tis the season, once again


And so it begins. Christmas this year will be little different, for several reasons.

Our daughter-in-college has her own apartment now, which means she can stay put in Ellensburg for most of December and travel to Port Orchard when her schedule allows. (Pre-apartment, she was always booted out of the dorm on the last day of Finals Week.) Our son-no-longer-in-college has a commitment to an internship and a part-time job so he, too, will be arriving home closer to Christmas Eve.

This will be our second year participating in Advent Conspiracy, a call to Christians to get back to what we're supposed to be doing. So, we're asking family members to sponsor a goat or contribute to a well or some other worthy thing, rather than buying us a gift. We're keeping our Christmas Morning Stocking tradition, though, because it's still lovely to open a surprise. We've asked everyone to be "creative" - they can define that however they like!

We're also continuing to focus on Sunday Lunch, a free meal offered every Sunday at the Solid Rock Cafe. It's a place for people to come and have a nice informal dinner in a restaurant, people whose finances are thin or nonexistent. The meal started out last August as a hearty sack lunch; one church let us use their kitchen to prep the lunch and another offered their parking lot to hand them out. We were locked out of the kitchen one Sunday and had to put sandwiches together in the wind-blown parking lot. And one person was assigned swatting duty when a group of ravenous hornets descended (they wanted our sandwich meat.) It was a bit more adventurous than we had planned, but all was well in the end.

I'm digressing, as usual. Because of Sunday Lunch, I am more aware than ever of the people in our community who are living in their vehicles or tents, of families whose budgets are so strapped that a jar of mayonnaise is a luxury, of teens and children who are often left on their own as the adults in their lives struggle with many, many challenges. Because of Solid Rock Cafe's invitation to us to partner with them, people can come in out of the cold, enjoy a hot meal, listen to live music, and feel normal for an hour and a half. We'll deliver meals to those who dare not use the gas they have to travel to the cafe; they budget every precious drop of gasoline for heat. People were also significantly affected by Kitsap Transit's decision to discontinue service on Sundays, so we're open to giving people a ride in if they need one.

The cafe was purchased by The Coffee Oasis, a coffeehouse/deli in Bremerton that provides a safe place for teens to hang out, especially the homeless ones. The Coffee O staff plan to make the Solid Rock Cafe the same kind of refuge for South Kitsap teens, with the blessing of the Solid Rock's landlord (Debbie Macomber.) It is a tremendous honor to be partnering with these folk.

Someone sent a link to a wonderful Youtube video recently, footage of a college group singing The Twelve Days of Christmas. If you decide to watch, be sure to turn the sound up. You don't want to miss a word.

Overheard on Twitter: According to @mchristi, having a Kindle and buying real books makes you "bitextual".

Next time: hard to predict. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Viral humming in the library


I am a fortunate woman because I get to work with people who enjoy one another despite our diverse personalities. We're a pretty tight team and we often end up influencing one another, either directly or indirectly.

For example, I had been humming Darktown Strutter's Ball most of an afternoon while working at checkin with Ann. The next day, she let me know that she had ended up humming that tune all evening, thank you very much. And that's when the phrase "viral humming" was born. I confess that I try out a viral tune once in awhile just to see if I can get someone else to hum it. I'm successful, sometimes. Several months ago I was able to infect a coworker and a patron with a tune from Sound of Music. Do, a deer, a female deer...

Overheard on Twitter (and so timely, too): I have successfully inflicted Mr. Fancy Pants on my family. It will haunt their brains for weeks to come.

Next time: Game Night. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's all in our heads


As I awoke this morning, my brain greeted me with a song: Felix the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat...

I recently read a fascinating article about a sleep study. The goal of this study was to identify what the subjects' brains were up to while they were sleeping. Researchers looked at the activity in fresh ways and were surprised to learn that the brain kicks into much higher gear after we slip into slumberland.

Their theory is basically this: my brain needs a break in the same way I need an occasional vacation from my usual routine. While I'm awake, my brain is busy with monitoring and maintaining my organic functions, along with the secondary stuff - decisions to make, problems to solve, etc. When I sleep, those secondary functions decrease and my brain essentially gets to put on its party clothes. It gets refreshed by playing, not by slowing down.

The "party" is what the researchers are most interested in. What does all that activity represent? Their conclusion: processing all the information that the brain didn't have a chance to work on during the day, along with stuff it didn't get to mess around with in the past. The brain is doing the gleeful equivalent of emptying out dresser drawers - accessing memories, sensations, old books I've read...you name it. Dreams come from some of that whirlwind activity as the brain takes random bits and ties them together in a story.

My dreams tend to be adventures with a lot of comic relief. Many of them take place in the same "town", a place that doesn't actually exist in my waking memory. I once described it to my mom, hoping she'd say oh, that's where we lived when you were a toddler, but no. Apparently my brain simply made it up and enjoys going there. I've been there in my dreams often enough that I could draw a map.

I wondered, this morning, where my brain had been while I slept. Did it visit a dusty mental cabinet labeled "Cartoons I Watched As A Child"? Perhaps I should be grateful that I was serenaded with the theme from Felix rather than Deputy Dawg.

By the way, if you aren't familiar with Felix the Cat, you can learn all about him on The Classic Felix the Cat website. Scroll down to "felix in song" and click on the 1958 mp3 link. Watch out, though. This is a tune that can, potentially, stick to your subconscious like glue.

Overheard on Twitter: "Catch 22" was an early, darker "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

Next time: viral humming in the library. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wandering the Web


Ken is taking prerequisite classes for O.C.'s nursing program, hoping to be accepted next fall. Entry into the program has always been competitive, but it's even more so now that the economy has prompted people to review their employability. Many, like Ken, have assessed their employment future and found it to be a little thin.

His current class is algebra. He joked, the first week, that he hadn't cracked an algebra book since the Nixon administration. Ken is a good mathematician with the daily stuff, but this class is an epic challenge. He spends most of his at-home time working on it at the kitchen table.

My computer time usually involves visiting favorite blogs, working on Etsy, and writing. (I'm fickle when it comes to facebook, ignoring it for days, then dropping in with a flurry of activity.) I try to structure my time online and I am pretty good at it. But, yesterday, a pending algebra test changed everything. Ken needed total quiet while he studied. Alas, I was in the house.

So, I exiled myself to the guest room and quietly surfed the 'Net, in the true sense of the term. No structure. Just wandering about.

I found an entertaining article from 2008 about a European conference on Web 2.0 (held in France), entertaining because the conference organizers had forbidden all access to technology at the conference site. The columnist pilloried the event in true Brit style, wry and disgusted and funny. He insulted Americans, too, near the end. Equal opportunity derision.

I found a photo of two homes decorated for Christmas.

I found pumpkins carved in astonishing ways.

I found a website that posts photos of inventive repairs. Clearly, there are some creative minds out there. Creative minds who are also cheap.

I found a blog about inchies, little bits of collaged art. I am in awe of those who create collage. It takes an expert eye to balance color, image, and texture. My early attempts at collage were Not Good but the inchies blog has inspired me to try again; the size of the collage might have something to do with it.

Those are just a few of the engaging things I discovered. I wouldn't say that my time online was, hm, well spent. There were productive things I could have done but it would have meant entering The Study Zone. I whole-heartedly support Ken in his study needs and if it means I must occasionally waste a day, so be it.

At the very least, after my computer time, I had a grand excuse to simply read a book. In the back bedroom. With the door closed.

Overheard on Twitter (from a Brit that I follow): My uncle coerced my gran into writing names on backs of family photos; if it was of her, she wrote "Me".

Next time: the vagaries of life with a 51-year-old who has returned to college. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Internet Rambles


Humor is everywhere and is particularly available on the Web. There are obvious places to look - College Humor comes to mind (warning: crude humor mixed in with the marvelous stuff.) Other sites are hidden away and found only through rabbit-trail links or friends in the know. Do you need a smile today? Visit these places:

For musical humor, there is no place like YouTube. A Tuesday Jam friend sent a link to an appearance by Willie Hall on Spike Jones' television program. Mr. Hall was a phenomenal classical violinist but he had a playful side, too. He was the Victor Borge of the violin, as you'll see here.

For visual humor, LovelyListing.com is a good spot to visit. The site posts photos from actual real estate ads. Click on the words "Found by" to additional photos from the listing. You'll find funny photos, peculiar photos, even disturbing photos, leaving one to wonder what was the realtor thinking? The photos stand on their own, but read the comments for further hilarity.

Do you enjoy reading about the misuse of language? Humor Matters offers an array of funny stuff, but my favorite section concerns overseas signage. Another site, Engrish.com, posts photos of notices containing amusing translations. Once in awhile a photo looks photoshopped (for shame) but most of the photos are obviously legit.

Blogs can be promising places to do some humor-grazing. One of my favorites is Word Imperfect. The blog owner posts a word each day and invites readers to make up a meaning for it. Sometimes I'll happen upon a singular posting (thank you, rabbit-trails.) like this October 12 post from The League of Reluctant Adults, which offers advice on fending off zombie attacks while trick-or-treating.

Finally, webcomics. My favorites are Wondermark and Unshelved. There is a long, long list of webcomics and it's growing weekly as comic-artists figure out how to post their work. You can find your favorite newspaper comics online, which is how I get my daily Zits fix. I also visit xkcd once a week, but heads up on that one. It can be very odd and and it sometimes qualifies for a "questionable content" rating. I take a chance on it in order to catch the good ones, like this one (saved in my bookmark file.) Another great webcomic is found on Inkygirl. The site is actually a blog offering "daily diversions for writers" but there's a delightful comic on the right side of the page that will change each time you refresh the page.

I'll end with a literary link to A Journey Round My Skull, in which poets are ranked by beard weight.

Overheard on Twitter (from a college student): Today's 1st lecture was about zombies. Our 2nd is about Coleridge. Tuesday may have peaked too soon.

Next time: we'll have to wait and see. Stay tuned.


Friday, October 9, 2009

I heart Grammar Girl


There is an uncertain tension that occurs when an avid reader is employed by a library. So many books! The tension increases if library duties include manning the Returns desk. I've read books that I would never have known about had they not come to my attention via check-in. Paging adds its own layer of discovery. (I didn't know there there was a book about this!) Processing hold requests can trip me up, too.

I cannot read everything I want to read. Therefore, tension.

The Internet contributes to this tension, offering scores of book reviews in the blogosphere (that's where I found out about Encyclopedia Idiotica) and by sites like LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Shelfari. Shelfari is currently sending nattery email alerts, telling me all about the reading that other members are doing and encouraging me to log my own. It offers to hook me up with some good books. If it only knew.

My latest Good Book of the Week came to me because somebody tweeted about it - Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips For Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty. The author has a conversational style that is easy to read. Although she is Grammar Girl, her book includes information concerning usage. She treats the subject with down-to-earth humor and she is not afraid to stand firm about things like asterisks. To quote from the book, "...it drives me crazy when ads have an asterisk next to some offer, and then you can't find what it means. More than once I've seen something such as Jackhammers, 20% off,* and then nothing else on the page to indicate what the asterisk means. Does it mean I get 20 percent off only if it is a Sunday and my name is Squiggly? I hate that!..."*

A podcast listener suggested she call them "exasperisks."

Ms. Fogarty addresses many common errors such as "alot" vs "a lot" vs "allot." I've learned some useful things, e.g. the difference between e.g. and i.e. Her examples are delightful; I've laughed out loud in public, reading this book. I would be happy to suggest it to anyone who writes anything. And now that I've read it, I am much more aware of my own writing style. Alas.

Rather than Overheard on Twitter, I'm choosing instead to highlight a recent discovery, Random Wodehouse Quote. Each time you refresh the page, you'll get a fresh quote from a Wodehouse book. I had to stifle a laugh while at the Reference Desk, an unhealthy thing to do to one's sinus. The quote that did it: His whole attitude was like that of a policeman with nothing on his mind but his helmet.

Next time: rambles among the Internets. Stay tuned.

* Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, page 112.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wot?


There are some absurd things on the Web, as you know if you've spent any time browsing around. One of those absurd things is a photo of Ken and me, ca. 1984, taken in an Amsterdam photobooth. Our son has added it to his facebook photo album and, as a result of friends' comments, is threatening to put the photo on My Parents Were Awesome, although we're not sure awesome is the best description for us. We think we look like members of Germany's Green Party, or the Red Brigade. Got bombs? You be the judge:

Overheard on Twitter: totally going to murder the elevator's disembodied robot-voice person if she refers to the floors of the hotel as "decks" one more time.

Next time: GrammarGirl. I promise. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Blog


This blog was started as part of a Web 2.0 training. It couldn't have happened at a better time because I broke my arm six weeks into the program. krl2.0 gave me something to do - I passed the time with the weekly assignments (typing one-handedly) and reading other staff blogs. As a soft-core geek, I enjoyed having the time to explore the Internet. All the technology stuff helped take my mind off of my arm and my highly-annoyed ulnar nerve. Best of all, I discovered that I liked blogging. Until krl2.0, most of my writing tended toward the instructional or technical, something I do well; blogging gave me a chance to write what I felt like writing. It didn't matter if anyone read it. It was simply fun to do.

And here I am, nearly two years later.

Humor is still my blog focus because I believe laughter is a major component in maintaining emotional health. Even a small chuckle does wonderful things. As a child, I spent weeks, sometimes months in a pediatric ward due to a congenital hip defect, receiving experimental orthopedic surgery. I learned very early on that finding the humor in difficult things helped a lot. All I had to do was keep my eyes open and watch people, especially the nurses. One of the orderlies made a point of visiting me whenever he was in my area - he would come into my room and tell me a joke, and I would tell one back: What was Snow White's sister's name? Egg White. Get the yolk? Hospitals are huge when it comes to funny stories, probably because the human condition is so in-your-face there.

The best humor often comes from the collision between human nature and a challenging situation. The humor doesn't override what's happening. It just helps with perspective, sometimes long after the situation has passed. I was my mom-in-law's primary caregiver during her last months on hospice care. There were some truly wretched days as she lived with unimaginable pain from bone cancer. (Praise God for morphine pumps.) Did we laugh a lot together? Absolutely. For one thing, the morphine was good for a lot of laughs as she adjusted to the drug's effect. And she told me more about her life than I might otherwise have heard, since we had all the time in the world to sit and talk. As a retired nurse, she had a wealth of humorous reminiscences. (See "Hospitals" above.)

We watched a documentary this weekend about the Laughing Clubs in India. I would love to start one in Kitsap County. There are Laughing Clubs in Seattle but they are inconveniently located in...well, Seattle.

It's time to end this and get ready for another day at the library. May your days be sprinkled with laughter.

Overheard on Twitter: Why was the robber in the garbage? Because he was rotten! #mydaughtersfirstjoke.

Next time: GrammarGirl. Possibly. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Personal Safety Products


I'm not quite sure how I ended up reading a blogpost on KatyDidSaid. I don't remember my original search, or how many links it took to finally land on the blog. Have you read Outlander? The heroine walks into a ring of stones and (surprise!) finds herself in 18th century Scotland. That's the Internet, sometimes.

KatyDidSaid blogged about an interesting article of clothing created by a Japanese designer. I won't say anything more. If you're curious, read the post here. It even has photos.

The Japanese may be the most out-of-the-box thinkers in the world.

Overheard on Twitter: This hat would like to say hello: http://twitpic.com/j8di4

Next time: GrammarGirl. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Read any good books lately?


I have. But first, The Great Paint Project. Our home was built in 1981 as part of the Farm Home program. It's a small, plain, comfortable house. We are the third family to own it, having moved in on New Year's Day, 1992. Our friends took friendship seriously, evidenced by the fact that not only did they help us move from Seattle to Port Orchard on New Year's Day, but a day when there was a big Huskies football game scheduled. The men planned well. The first item out of the van was the television, which was promptly plugged in.

I'm getting a little off-topic here.

Our home. It was brick red with mustard-yellow trim. The roof, too, was brick red. It took us 6 months to paint the house white, using brushes. Our new neighbors were enlisted, as were visiting friends and family members. We had vertical board siding, the boards spaced 1/2" apart. We painted the flat part of the the siding first, leaving the red 1/2" grooves for last. (At one point, our house looked like a Shakey's Pizza Parlor.) It took three thick coats of white to cover the red. And that was that. No more house painting for us. Until this summer.

We re-sided the house, then waffled for weeks on what color to paint it. (You'd think we were deciding the fate of nations.) We finally decided on a soft dark gray, with light gray and white for the trim. And, once again, used brushes to paint the house. There is a special bond that develops between husband and wife when they're painting a very large object during sweltering summer days. Add a cluster of yammering chihuahuas in the adjacent yard, and...well. We're glad it's done.

My most recent Good Book was The Hypochondriac's Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have. (I've been drawn to peculiar nonfiction these last few years.) I enjoyed this book primarily because it made me laugh. Which is awful because the diseases are real, but the author presented the information in such a wry manner that I had to laugh. The illustrations added to the humor even though they were often disturbing. This book can inspire hypochondriac tendencies if you're not careful, because some of the diseases are triggered by simple everyday things, like aspirin, which can trigger a condition wherein your skin decides to take a hike.

I've thought a lot about Good Books vs Bad Books, revisiting a recent workshop by Nancy Pearl. One of the books on my Bad Book list is The Island of the Day Before, a highly-lauded novel by Umberto Eco. I came across it in the stacks one day and thought it might be an enjoyable book, given all those glowing reviews. Besides, the cover was really cool. I am easily beguiled by cover art.

I made it less than halfway through the book.

It was all very mysterious and the character's personal history was interwoven in interesting ways, but still. It reminded me of the film The Fountain - lots of atmosphere and not much else. If you like action in your fiction, this would not be the book for you. It certainly wasn't the book for me. But, perhaps I should give it another chance. As Nancy said, a terrible book can be a terrific book if one reads it at the right time. I could revisit some of my earliest Bad Book entries, like my 1973 foray into God Is An Englishman. Hm. Maybe not.

Overheard on Twitter: When she slow dances to Al Yankovic with you, you know you've found the right one.

Next time: Japanese personal-safety products. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September


For the first time in a long time, I misplaced my sense of humor. It didn't last long, thanks to a lot of deep therapeutic breathing. All I will say is, Neville has been a real stinker for the last two weeks. Clearly, some major part of that nerve has come up for air.

I have a day off! Today's plans were to include blueberry picking at Tacoma City Park but that was revised when I saw the rain. Rain, on its own, would not normally be a hindrance (I am a child of the Pacific Northwest) but Neville has redeveloped a hypersensitivity to cold. I'm keeping my left hand indoors where it's nice and warm. Wrapped around a cup of tea.

We've been in Ant Mode around here, gathering the foodstuffs and putting them into the larder. I was determined to pick as many blackberries as possible, given what a wonderful year it has been for them. It looked like they might shrivel on the vine with all the heat but the recent rain has plumped all those berries quite nicely. We now have lots of jars of jam, both blackberry and mixed berry, as well as several bottles of my great-grandfather's blackberry cordial.

That cordial is a family tradition. Great-grandpa Daniel emigrated from Hammerfest, Norway in the mid-1880s and settled down in Washington, first in Spokane, then around Puget Sound - Lopez Island, Seattle (Greenlake), and Auburn. He was a confectioner in Skagit county, with a bakery and small restaurant. We have some of his recipes, which includes the cordial. The original recipe called for lingonberries but Daniel found blackberries to be a fine substitute. The cordial was medicinal. When a family member felt a cold coming on, Daniel or his wife would heat up 1/4 cup and the infected member would drink it down, just before bedtime. We still use it for that. It is, quite simply, good for what ails you. And it's pretty yummy on vanilla ice cream.

The recipe:

Boil together 1 quart blackberries with 1 cup water, until the fruit is very soft.
Strain out the seeds (a jelly bag is great for this).
To the juice, add 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp clove.
Bring this to a soft boil and cook, stirring, for 15-20 minutes.
Let it cool.
Now mix 2 parts juice to 1 part whiskey.
Bottle it up. Hot diggety.

My grandmother made a pretty mean raspberry cordial, too. It could take the top of your head off if you didn't just sip the stuff. It was a great mystery to me that my sturdily-Baptist grandmother made bottles of it every year. It contained vodka, for goodness sake. I finally discovered that my grandparents had been Methodists first. Alrighty then.

Overheard on Twitter: Restroom keys: the next great biological frontier.

Next time: spousal bonding through house projects. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Twitter Wit"


I've discovered I could have contributed to a just-released book with my Overheard On Twitter posts. The book is Twitter Wit, a collection of witty tweets. Wish I'd known about this (she muttered). I have a few favorites I could have submitted. Ah well.

It should be a busy afternoon now that Cedar Cove Days is in full swing. There are many happy Macomber fans all over town, with rumors flying - Debbie will be at the library! Alas. She will not. Then again, who knows? Perhaps there will be a surprise appearance.

The most common question yesterday was "Are you Grace?", referring to one of the characters in the series. Grace is the Manager/Librarian of the Cedar Cove Library. We've puzzled over who might have been the inspiration for Grace's character. We think we know but you won't see it in this blog.

And now breaktime is over and it's back to work.

Overheard on Twitter: After browsing through a rack of donations, I wondered if Harlequin gives its authors a chart from which to pick their titles?

Next time: end-of-summer musings. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Month Later...


...I finally have a moment to write something. It's been quite a summer so far - full days at work, wedding and baby showers, Etsy, and visitors both planned and unplanned. To that mix, add painting a house by hand (our version of spousal bonding) as well as mucking out clutter, and there isn't much time left over for blogging. My only creative extracurricular activity is rehabbing my Summer Reading t-shirt. Read a book? Har. A number of books have come and gone, only partially read. I haven't let this many books go by since I broke my arm.

Speaking of Neville, that nerve is still talking in my two outer fingers. To Neville's credit, the healing is moving along right on schedule. In fact, another bit of Neville recently awakened and it has taken concentrated effort to ignore the non-stop zaps. Covering the reference desk is particularly entertaining (as Mark Twain would say.) Neville's buzz increases dramatically when my little finger touches anything, especially a keyboard, so I've learned how to type with nine fingers. Patrons have noticed this and asked why my pinkie sticks up out of the way as I type. I'm running out of silly answers.

As promised in my previous post, I'll share some of the Twitter tweets that caught my attention over the last couple of months. Humorous tweets are small but effective weapons in my anti-Neville arsenal. I recently joined a Twibe, Librarians, where the tweets must include some form of the word 'library'. My personal twibal tweets are primarily Viral Humming In The Library reports, in which I note how many staff ended up humming the awful tune that I'd been humming. I was happy to report a bonus hummer, once - I caught a patron humming my tune (sweeeet Caroliiiine...) I've learned a lot from the Librarian twibe; so many people post things that are timely and interesting in the greater library world. And, librarians can be pretty funny when commenting on the events of their day.

So. Tweets that made me smile, in no particular order, some from Librarians and some from the general tweeting public:

One of the benefits of working at a library is discovering interesting books when you are supposed to be doing something else.

(tweeting from ALA) at the exhibits, in a huge line for Gaiman-overheard one librarian say to another: I hear Neil Diamond is here.

I don't mean to brag. I don't mean to boast. I like hot butter on my breakfast toast.

File under Unfortunate Library Errors: DVD of Diary of Anne Frank housed in case for Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.

Boys see the library as world run by women who demand behavior easy for girls to do.

Facebook is for reconnecting to people you knew. Twitter is for connecting to people you should have known.

I always attribute Twitter downtime to The Rapture. You can imagine the mix of relief and disappointment I feel seeing you all still here.

Pro tip: always pick wild blackberries that are higher than a dog can lift its leg.

I want to write a country western song detailing the particular agony of waiting for a torrent that's stuck at 98.88%.

And, finally:

Apparently there is a librarian at the Cleveland PL named Dan Boozer who invented a language entirely out of chipmunk noises.

Next time: more original writing, less cribbing from Twitter. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Unsuspected Influence


It came home to me this week, once again, just how important the library may be to some folk. We may never know it. It might be revealed by a chance remark at checkout. Sometimes it's evident by a direct encounter.

I started my KRL life at the Manchester branch with a dual position (Page and Library Assistant). I loved it. Within weeks I knew the regular visitors. We were busy but there was always time to share a few personal bits of news - weddings, travel plans, freshly-minted grandbabies, milestones achieved. Sometimes the news was tougher - disappointments, illnesses, jobs lost. It was clear that this small library branch was the center of the community, a sort of Cheers Bar, if you will, where "everybody knows your name."

When the opportunity arose to work full-time at the Port Orchard branch, I had to really think about it. Yes, a larger branch would offer some wonderful challenges and probably be great fun, but would I lose the connection to the community in the process? Could I still know the patrons?

It turned out that yes, I could connect with patrons and get to know them, even in a large branch. It just looked a little different. After all, it was still absolutely possible to welcome them with a smile and let them know I was happy to see them. And, eventually, the little bits of news began to surface. There wasn't time for the extended chat, but I could still affirm the good news and commiserate with the bad. (It's pretty cool what a heartfelt "I'm so sorry" can do for someone when they share a rough bit of personal news.)

I'd worked at Port Orchard for about a year when one of our regulars came through the door and went straight to the checkout line. After she approached the desk, she stood there for a moment, just looking at me, then said, "I've just come from the doctor. He told me I have untreatable lung cancer. I didn't know where to go after I left his office. Then I thought of the library. I feel so safe here that it seemed the best place to be to think about this. I haven't even told my family yet."

Wow.

It was a huge Heart Of The Community moment and I was glad to have contributed to that feeling of safety. Library = refuge, sometimes.

So. To get to the point of this posting, there have been similar, though not quite so dramatic, instances over the last seven years. The most recent one was a few days ago, while I was on-desk in the Children's Cove. A young girl, probably no older than eight, sidled up to the desk after browsing the books. She just wanted to chat, shyly holding one of the puppets as she talked with me. After a few moments, she looked directly at me and said, "My mom and dad just got a divorce." She looked back at the puppet and added, "It's really hard."

Oh my. Saying "I'm so sorry, sweetie" seemed, I don't know, kind of lame. Not very helpful for a young child. I said it anyway and she knew I meant it. We talked a little more, about moms and dads who say bad things about each other. About how important it is to remember that both of them love their children - they're just mad at each other right now. And yes, it's pretty tough to be in the middle of it when you care about both of them, but you don't have to take sides if you don't want to.

A lot of people came into the Cove right about then and our conversation ended. As library staff, we just don't know how important our attitudes and responses are, how they can affect somebody for good or ill. A sincere and welcoming smile can do so much. I hope her visit to the library helped a little bit, beyond her hunt for the next Summer Reading book.

Next time: Overheard on Twitter. So many funny people. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surfin' Youtube


There are four basic steps to listing an item in an Etsy shop - write the description, define the tags, figure out and list the shipping, and upload the photos. It's a straightforward process but it can take some time, especially the description. After all, I'm trying to beguile someone into buying this particular little item, so the description takes some thought and attention to detail. I reached the point where everything was entered, pressed the button, and...Epic Technology Fail. You can't save as you go when listing something, so 20 minutes' work was down the drain.

Despair.

I signed out of Etsy. What to do with my last 15 minutes of alloted computer time? I subscribe to a couple of humorous things on Youtube so I headed on over to catch up with them. There is nothing like a chuckle to put things in perspective.

While in Youtube, I found the first film made by Mel Brooks, circa 1963, titled The Critic. This brought a smile because we, too, have attended regrettable movies (we paid $8 each for this??) I like Mel Brooks films, mostly, so this was a happy discovery.

My fifteen alloted minutes are up.

Overheard on Twitter: It's 60 degrees, windy, and the clouds are threatening rain -- in Seattle, that means it's time to go to the water park.

Next time? Hmm. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Technology Wars? (not yet.)


What a wild week is ahead!  The technology is taking a back seat, mostly, to many other things that must be done before week's end.

In other news, Ken has begun something new - he's going back to college with the goal of becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse.  He has to take some preliminary courses before he can apply to the program at O.C., getting them done one per quarter so he can still work full time.  He started his first class yesterday, Psychology, with professor Dan Dunlap.  

We think Ken is going to have a grand time this quarter, as evidenced by his professor's website.  It should be an interesting introduction to being a student again.  (He earned a B.A. in Political Science/International Affairs in 1980.)

Overheard on Twitter:  Like finding the hat of a missing predecessor deep in the Peruvian rain forests, I've just discovered faint evidence of a dog-ear on pg 79.

Next time:  well, it probably won't be Technology Wars.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

While web surfing...


...overheard on Twitter:  If my dog could smell his own breath, I'm pretty sure he'd want to roll in it.

Next time:  technology wars.  Stay tuned.

Technology Fun


Just playing around with backgrounds today.  I've had this blog since October 2007, begun with krl2.0, and I thought I'd try a new look.  It's only semi-new, since the Posts section still looks the same.  Resizing the Reverbnation widget is a work-in-progress, too.  (It shouldn't be this hard, she muttered.)  I'm having a lot of fun with html.  Really.  I am.  I love coding but haven't done much of it in the last couple of years, so the rehab has been a great refresher.

There are so many other things I should be doing, like posting more grandmother items on Etsy, but I needed a minor creative break.  Rehabbing the blog turned out to be a little more than minor, but that's the way it goes.  At least I'm learning something new.

And speaking of Etsy, my next technology challenge will be learning how to make digital collage sheets.  I became a Friend of the Port Orchard Library in order to help them with a load of donated vintage books and ephemera.  It struck me that we could get more bang for the buck if I scanned the ephemera and made it into collage sheets, then sell the sheets on Etsy.  I made a shop section for that purpose, so anyone who may actually purchase these will know that all the proceeds go to the Friends.

The donations sparked quite a few ideas for things to sell on Etsy and in the Book Harbor.  Some of those vintage books are falling apart and worthless, others are worth (at most) $2.  I've found that there is a high demand for collage and scrapbooking materials, particularly one-of-a-kind materials, so we're bundling loose pages and selling them in sets of 20.  (Collage artists value the old fonts and aged paper.)  A lot of pages are in rough shape, so I've die-cut them into circles, ovals, and rectangles to sell in packets.  It's an experiment, certainly, but worth a try.  It's better than just tossing or recycling them.  Actually it is recycling them, right into art and jewelry.

We'll also use the die-cut shapes for some things to sell during Month of the Book, things I'm not going to reveal here quite yet.  It's going to be a busy crafting summer, getting ready for October!  We've recently had a large influx of volunteers and the Month of the Book items will be there for them to work on if we run out of things for them to do.

Next time:  collage sheets - can she or can't she?  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whither a Widget?


Technology can be a delight or a fickle mess, sometimes a little of both.  Although this blog is primarily for musings, it's occasionally used to test something.  Today's test:  adding a widget to the blog.  The trick now is figuring out how to resize it, a trick which won't happen this morning.  I must go to work!

Next time:  widget fun.  Stay tuned.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Folklife Festival Debrief, condensed


Attending Folklife is a family tradition.  Actually it's more than a family tradition, since I had a craft booth there for a few years (late 70s, pre-Ken).  My booth was always among the trees that line the western side of The International Fountain.  In those days, I liked to design peculiar things out of fabric and, fortunately for me, Folklife attendees enjoyed buying them.  The hottest item one year was my Stuffed Nose pillow.  The pillows were in the shape of famous noses and included J.R.R. Tolkien's, Machiavelli's, and C. S. Lewis's.  I wonder how they've held up and if any are still around.

This was the first year I was able to attend the whole weekend (sans booth, that is.)  So much fun!  We heard the Mandolin Orchestra, Whamdiddle, Croatian a capella, fiery Norwegian fiddlers...ate the traditional Apple Dumpling and roasted corn-on-the-cob...signed up for harp lessons with Magical Strings...so many wonderful things.

I also had a mission:  find someone to lead sea chantey singing at the library.  The City of Port Orchard hosts an annual Pirate Mystery Weekend and I've wanted to have a community sing-along to be part of it.  The bad news:  the event is the same weekend as Port Townsend's Wooden Boat Festival and guess where all the sea-oriented people are?  Last year was close - I nearly snagged someone who was willing to lead a sing-along but it fell through (Tugboat Bromberg, where did you go?)

So.  This year I talked with Folklife performers who were leading sing-alongs.  One group didn't know chanteys, another was already booked elsewhere.  I was considering giving up when I noticed a lovely group of pirates.  I stalked them to the Northwest Stage Beer Garden and boldly spoke with The Captain, explaining my mission.  He said yes, he thought his group, the BOOM Pirates, could join the Pirate Mystery Weekend and they would be delighted to organize and lead sea chanteys.  We exchanged business cards and went into the beer garden, where he and his group led a sing-along.  They were terrific!  I jubilantly went on my way when the sing-along was done.

It wasn't until I got home and looked at the Boom Pirates website that I realized what a treasure I had found.  And I wondered if they would really come all the way to Port Orchard (for not-much-money) because these pirates were well-known and from Portland.  And it turns out that, yes, they really will.  They only ask reimbursement for gas and gunpowder (gunpowder!)  The BOOM Pirates will do much more than lead a family-friendly sing-along, including a demonstration of pirate weaponry (which explains the gunpowder expense.)  They'll happily camp at Manchester State Park.  It is almost too good to be true.

Summing up, I noticed that:

- the best place for people-watching is The International Fountain (find a spot with your back to the sun and and prepare to be entertained.)
- the food lines are shorter at the booths near the crafters' Marketplace.
- marijuana is not in short supply among folkies, evidenced by its unmistakeable scent on the wafting breezes.
- mandolins are epic when there are over twenty of them in one place. They are awesome any time, but en masse...wow.
- a kilt and an unadorned t-shirt is the fashion choice for young men at folk festivals.
- folk humor is rampant, an observation that deserves a posting all its own.

Next time:  Hm.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Folklife Festival Debrief?


Nope. Not yet. But...

Here's a Coke Ad, set in a library.

Next time:  Folklife Festival debrief.  The pirates are coming!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A quick humorous item


Overheard on Twitter:  Going to set up email autoreply: "Dear, dear friend, I think that, deep down, you already know the answer to this query.  Warmest rgds, etc."

Next time:  Folklife Festival debrief.  Really.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What a month


Regarding time, my grandmother used to say the older you get, the faster it goes. Mom once told me that Great-Grandma Hattie had said the same thing to her when she was a child. I've already shared this little nugget with Alden and Amy. It's an important bit of wisdom that translates into use your time wisely.  Because, hoo boy.  Time flies right along.  This blog is an example.  Despite the posting date up there, this post wasn't published until today (May 26).

The Five-Year-Box update - there are no more five-year-boxes.  I think we have unpacked them all.  Now the trick is finding which of the unpacked boxes contains the S&H green stamps, the WWII ration books, the costume jewelry.  I didn't start making lists of contents until the last few boxes.  Alas.

My Etsy shop is up and running (thank you, Five-Year-Boxes.)  I sold eleven things in the first week and a half, which took me by surprise.  I spent a lot of time in the Seller's Forums before launching My Grandmother's Estate, and there were many posts along the line of "I've had a shop for three months and still no sales.  Help!"  Since my shop was new, I was prepared to hang out for awhile, not necessarily selling anything.  I thought I'd have time to get lots of things photographed and properly written up.  Har.  I went 'live' on May 5.  I had a sale within 24 hours.  I even sold something to someone from Australia.

The hardest thing about getting started?  Epic unpreparedness for the details of shipping.  I had the boxes and the bubble wrap, but I hadn't really thought about the weight of a butter pat or a crocheted doily.  I mean, honestly, how much could 15 vintage photographs weigh?  (Answer: 56 cents' worth more than I thought they could.)  And I had neglected to consider the weight of the packaging.  I was in the middle of trying to figure out the actual shipping cost for 12 thimbles (to Australia) when Ken mentioned that he'd seen a postage scale among the contents of a five-year-box. My hero! It's about 120 years old and it works beautifully. (The scale belonged to my great-great-grandfather Rion, who was the first postmaster in the Lost Prairie district in Oregon.)

I went to the USPS website where, according to Etsy forums, it would be easy to buy and print my postage and shipping labels.  It looked wonderful but one must download the free software from USPS and behold!  It doesn't work on a Mac.  Hahahaha.

So.  I will get to know my local Post Office folk really well.

I like having an Etsy shop, now that the first wild flurry is past.  I've learned how to photograph small stuff.  It's really fun to write item descriptions.  Shoppers who have come to browse 'heart' my shop.  They don't necessarily buy anything but they'll be back to visit once in awhile and maybe they'll see something then that they can't resist.  I have well over 150 things to add to My Grandmother's Estate.  I'll be busy for the next few weeks.

Overheard on Twitter: Our driver to the airport used to be an interrogator for the U.S. Army. Now she's a librarian.

Next time: Folklife Festival debrief.  Stay tuned.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Five-Year Box


I finally opened the Five-Year Box.  This box must have been packed near the end of things, given the motley nature of the items within.  Among the contents:  the spurs my grandfather made for my grandmother shortly after they were married, bank statements from 2002, unmatched silver-plated cutlery, a 1998 pocket calendar, three detachable tatted-lace collars, and several quartz and amethyst crystals.  (The crystals are part of a huge collection of rocks and minerals, gathered on my grandparents' many rock-hounding jaunts.)

Several of those things are going into my Etsy shop, which is presently under construction.  I'm still deciding what my Shop Policies and payment options should be.  Etsy is fairly easy to use, from a storefront-newbie perspective.  There are forums and communities for all aspects of Etsy commerce, as well as off-topic discussions.  I've spent a lot of time browsing shops to get an idea of their shop policies and payment options, which has helped a lot.

My Montana sister-in-law, Debbie, has on online jewelry shop, Pambatoto (the proceeds support two orphanages in Kenya).  She and Brian visited last weekend; I shamelessly picked her brain on how she runs her business.  She also had her camera with her.  Woohoo!  We set up a 'studio' on the kitchen table and did a photo shoot of all the open salts.  She has a lot of experience photographing finely-detailed and high-reflective jewelry, so my salts were easy subjects for her.  102 photos.  Guess what I'll be selling first! We would have photographed all the butter pats, too, but ran out of time.

I thought the Five-Year Box was the last box, but behold!  Several others lurked behind it.  I know the contents of one - lots of paper ephemera, including Great-grandpa Lorenzo's 1942  voter registration card, WWII ration books, grandma's grade school report cards (1912-1915), and Great-grandpa Daniel's citizenship certificate (acquired at age 72, after living in the U.S. for decades.)   A family mystery:  how did a sturdy English family of Bacons decide to name the eldest son Lorenzo?  We will never know.

Overheard on Twitter:  I never judge a book by its cover.  The author photo, however...

Next time:  further adventures with Etsy.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Overqualified


Sometimes my family wonders why in the world I sign up for enewsletters.  Doesn't it clutter up your email? they ask.  Well, yes.  It does.  But I simply hit the Delete button once I've read them.  I am circumspect about it, only subscribing to things that might turn out to be wonderful.  And most of the time they do, like this morning's twice-weekly missive from Wondermark.  

David Malki added a blogpost to today's comic, pointing to a book he was reading:  Overqualified by Joey Comeau.  It was an intriguing book review.  I immediately logged into the KRL catalog but was disappointed.  We don't have it.  I'm reluctant to buy a book on the basis of one review, no matter how engaging the reviewer may be, so I hunted around the Web for a little more information.  And there it was!  I can read it online, courtesy of the author.

Joey Comeau had filled out many job applications and was working on yet another when he was struck with the canned nature of cover letters, his or anyone else's.  He decided to write cover letters that would catch the eye of Human Resources.  He ended up making a blog of them for the enjoyment and inspiration of job-seekers everywhere.  Overqualified is that blog.

Begin with #1 and work your way up.  It's entertaining reading but be warned - some of the letters (#54, for example...whoa) have some inappropriate bits.  Keep in mind which company he's applying to.  And, he got into trouble sending #37 (as well he should have, as you'll see if you read it), trouble for which he apologized in #38.  This event convinced him to continue to write the cover letters but refrain from actually sending them.

It's unlikely I would have heard of this Canadian author or his book without the nudge from an enewsletter.  So there, I tell my family.

Next time:  the Five-Year Box.  Really.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Excavations


Part of my day, every day, is involved with the effluvia of two lifetimes that is currently stored in our garage.

Lifetime #1.  My mother, bless her, was an inveterate collector.  She loved garage and estate sales and she had an eye for stuff that had real value.  When she died in 2004, there was so much to sort through that we gave up.  We feared that we would toss or give away something that we shouldn't.  We didn't want to be the garage sale in which someone paid $5 for an item and then went to Antiques Roadshow and discovered it was worth several thousand.  So we boxed it all up and put it in the garage to be sorted through over time.

Lifetime #2.  My grandmother had already sorted through her household things.  When Mom died, Grandma moved from her home of 40 years into a Senior Living apartment.  She had very little attachment to inanimate things (and often commented derisively about Mom's stuff), so when the time came to move, she went through her belongings and kept only those items that meant something to her.  Despite that very major winnowing, when Grandma died there were still quite a number of boxes that came to our garage.  Grandma had a lot of family history in her apartment and we didn't want to sort too speedily and toss something that mattered.

It can be daunting, this sorting of stuff, especially when the stuff is so esoteric.  I ask myself how much is this really worth?  It would be easier if Mom had simply bought things because she liked them, but I know that she was savvy about "collectibles" and so the doubt rises.  The internet has helped greatly, as have many library books on the values of collectibles. But after five years, I've just about had it.  With the economy so slowed, is it worth the time to try to sell the rest of it?  I'm in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, but honestly, who collect salts cellars?  Or butter pats (my grandmother's sole collecting interest), as wonderful as they may be?  And what if a particular item is part of family history of which I'm ignorant?

Because of this experience, Ken and I are resolute:  we will not leave this much stuff for our children to deal with.  We are documenting family heirlooms, the who and the when.  Sometimes even the why.  Our house is full of 25 years' worth of married life, a good bit of it still here because we're sentimental about it.  Ha!

I checked out It's All Too Much, a book with practical advice on jettisoning clutter and reordering a home.  I've checked these kinds of books out before, but this one is by far the best.  The best advice - three questions to ask ourselves:  What is the purpose of this room?  Does this item contribute or detract from the purpose of this room?  Does it contribute to another room's purpose?  These questions have helped break the logjam, as it were.  We are now on a mission, and this mission will be the subject of most of my blogposts for awhile.

One of the things unearthed yesterday - my mother's Funnies Folder.  It contains humorous email she had received, clippings, newspaper comics, whatever made her smile.  Beneath it was one of my CPR class folders.  Well, here's a prime example of how disorganized things are, I muttered.  But no!  They were actually related.  On the Notes page of the class folder, I had written some of the instructor's comments.  His name is Dave and he does an excellent, and hilarious, job of teaching CPR/First Aid.  His suggestions on how to fill out the class evaluation sheet:

How'd you like the class:
a.  Nobel material
b.  Better than a weekend with the in-laws
c.  I've learned more from a book of stamps

The Instructor:
a.  is an expert in his field and related the information in a concise, easy to understand format
b.  did a decent job keeping our attention considering we're just here because our job requires it
c.  isn't qualified to provide Emergency First-Aid Services to a stick

Dave's classes are never dull.

Next time:  the box that hasn't been opened in five years.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You never know what you might find


Has it really been over a month?? Good heavens.

Alden, who works in the Special Collections department of a UW library, was home this weekend. One of the things our family likes to do is browse through the second-hand shops in town, so that's where we headed in the afternoon.  Mind you, we rarely purchase anything because we have our own second-hand shop in the garage, three estates' worth. I'm slowly winnowing through it all but that is grist for another blogpost.

When browsing those second-hand shops, we're always drawn to books. There's something about paging through an old book. The scent of old paper and bindings, the texture and visual interest of the cover, the discovery that this book is over 100 years old.  We can't help but think about the people who once owned this book and we are tempted to buy it, to rescue it from the shop, for their sake.  We are shamelessly sentimental about books.

During the Saturday browse, Alden made a surprising discovery:  a 1923 volume of The Tyee, the University of Washington's college annual.  He was astonished to find it.  He has seen these books in the Special Collections vault, highly treasured volumes, and here was one right in front of him.  It was in good shape, only two torn pages (repaired with scotch tape, which caused a cringe).  The binding was intact with very little wear on the edges, and there was a bonus item tucked within - the bookmark that came with the volume when it was published.  The price was $20.00.  $20.00!  Alden, of course, bought it.  He plans to bring it out with a flourish when he goes to work today.

What does this have to do with humor?  We had a lot of fun looking through the annual, visiting an era long gone.  The language and fashions of the day, the names and photos of the graduating class, pages dedicated to student groups and activities...it was fascinating.  Alden discovered that his current 'apartment' housing was a fraternity in 1923 - there was the photo to prove it.  Each College had its own page, listing the faculty and department accomplishments.  The best college page belonged to the Law College.  The first paragraph, to quote:

The law gang's yell is the first thing to be heard in University assemblies:
"Assault and battery, broken jaw, murder, arson, Washington law!"

If you don't think that's funny. . .well. . .it cracked me up.

Next time - the Lee Family Second-Hand Shop.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

For a good laugh...


...go to Google, type "french military victories", and choose the I Feel Lucky button.

Next time? Hmm. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One World-One Heart Giveaway

I'm surfing too much this morning - I need to get ready for work! But I found something interesting and decided to participate. Photo

One World-One Heart is an annual event connecting bloggers throughout the world. The event includes a giveaway - each participating blogger can offer a prize to those who visit the blog and leave a comment. For more information, click on the image.

As a child, I depended on books to take me out into the world. Book discussion groups have always been delightful experiences. I work at a library and participate in BookCrossing. Since books loom large in my life, my prize is a book - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a new hardback copy. The book will be awarded by a random-number drawing.

I'm looking forward to meeting new friends. To enter my giveaway, leave a comment on this post.

Who will win? Stay tuned!

Added 2/11/09 - Comments will be closed at 10:00 p.m. PST and the drawing will take place immediately thereafter!

And the winner is...Jill of Jewelry Elegance! She's #400 in the Caravan, at http://http://jewelryelegancebyjill.blogspot.com/. Congratulations, Jill!

Many thanks to Lisa for giving me the opportunity to travel in the Caravan.

I was once a Hendrew Sister


Who are the Hendrew Sisters?  Three women who happened to meet as part of a six-person music team.  The team was together for four days, long enough for the three of us to discover our common interest in Big Band music.  We were singing In The Mood when (nobody knows exactly why) I began to cluck the words.  They began to cluck too, and we finished the song in Andrews Sisters style - three-part harmony.  The Hendrew Sisters were born.  We clucked Elmer's Tune for the talent show.  It was a really, really fun weekend.

Chickens have been a significant source of humor in our family since 1994.  I had always thought they were funny but it took a Fred Penner concert video to take chickens to a higher level.  In the middle of the concert, Fred and his band took out bath towels and began to roll them up.  After a couple of other adjustments, behold, they had created what looked like a plucked chicken!  I had to learn how to do that.  I grabbed a towel and stopped/replayed that portion of the video until I had it down, then taught my kids how to do it.  Alden has performed the Chicken Towel Act for many talent shows.  (We have a beige-yellow towel that's perfect for it.)  One time, a musician friend played Turkey In The Straw while I 'folded' the chicken.  It always gets a surprised laugh from those who are watching.

Chickens had some attention at the library last week.  A patron's cell phone went off just as she was walking into the branch (as so often happens).  The unusual thing about it?  Her ringtone was a chicken clucking.  One of our staff keeps chickens and would have enjoyed it but she was on break.  We told her about the ringtone and, during a slow moment, I went online to hunt it down.  You would not believe how many chicken ringtones are out there.  I clicked on the sound samples, hunting for the one we had heard.  The library was unusually quiet at the time, but the samples were quiet also and didn't disturb the patrons. . .until I clicked on the 'prelisten' button for Chicken Diva.  The pure dulcet notes of an operatic chicken rang out.  I couldn't get her to stop.  Everyone in the branch looked up, smiling, as I quickly closed the browser.

I've collected a lot of chicken-related music over the last 15 years.  It's fun to include a completely out-of-place song in a performance.  Ghost Chickens in the Sky is a favorite.  That link takes you to a very informal performance; we're a little more polished!  We've performed it as it was originally intended, of course, but we've also put it in the middle of a Celtic set. Country/western goes Irish.

Chicken jokes?  I've got chicken jokes!  And most of them are terribly corny, which is as it should be.  How about the rubber chicken?  Who invented it?  I Googled this and didn't get a definitive answer, but this query came up in the search results. I snickered.  Clearly this is a person after my own heart.

I've helped make over four hundred Clucking Chickens.  I can make one in my sleep, nearly. We didn't add feathers, partly due to budgetary concerns but mostly because we didn't relish the idea of glue + feathers.  This is a craft that everyone should try if children are around. I must mention, however, that the aforementioned several hundred went to adults, who enjoyed them mightily. These Clucking Chickens sound like the real thing.

Poultry.  Humor.  Stay tuned.


 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

National Hat Day...


...is tomorrow, January 15.  I've encouraged our staff to wear one to our staff meeting.  It's fielder's choice as far as how fashionable the hat may be.  I tend to opt for the more exuberant, like a giant sombrero or a Cat-In-The-Hat hat.  (I wish I had a Viking helmet with horns.) Wearing a hat at unexpected times is a playful and non-threatening thing we can do at the library.  Our patrons are getting used to us, though.  They hardly blink when something odd is going on.

I'm home for a couple of days with a grievous medical thing.  I can hardly move and have a lot of time on my hands, which leaves a wide open space for mind-wandering.  Pondering hats brought up a memory of a household from many years ago.  There were five of us.  Four of us were of the spontaneous sort, ready for anything.  The fifth, whom I shall call Madge, thought we were...well...silly.  I suppose we were, some of the time.  She once suggested that we were people who needed attention.  I took a serious look at her suggestion but decided that it wasn't really the case, at least for me.  I could live for days (quite happily) with no human contact at all.  Still can.

Thinking about Madge brought up other roommates of my past.  One of the most memorable came about as a result of an ad in the newspaper.  She was seeking a roomie for her established apartment, I was in search of a place.  We met, spoke, and seemed compatible, so I moved in.  Once my stuff was settled, she came to my room, gave me a list of 'shared expenses' that had not been part of our rental conversation, and headed out to an appointment.  It was a lengthy list.  Some of it was reasonable.  But the further down the list I went, the more questionable some of the items became.  The one that sent me over the edge was lightbulbs.  She planned to charge me a percentage of the use of all the lightbulbs in the apartment, since I hadn't been there to share the original cost.  Hm.  This list indicated some potential, and significant, problems.  I called my friends, the ones who had just finished moving me in, and asked them to help me move out.  That afternoon.

It speaks to the depth of friendship when people say ok to a request like that.

Besides hats and roommate memories, my thoughts have been engaged with websurfing.  I received an email from a 2.0 application, Stikkit, in which it was announced regretfully that Stikkit was shutting down in 30 days.  That's one of the vagaries of Web 2.0.  You just never know if an app will be supported enough to stay put.  Doggone.  I used Stikkit a lot - it allowed me to put a virtual sticky note on a website, a handy tool for reminding me why I went to the website in the first place and what I found useful there.  It was kind of them to let everyone know, giving Stikkit users time to gather their stickies and mark the sites in other ways.  It's more the norm that apps simply (poof) go away.

But as one app goes out the window, another takes its place:  Etherpad.  I tried this with a friend.  I'm not sure when I would use it, except perhaps to plan a travel list with someone, or write a group notice, or something.  Maybe it could be used at work in lieu of a meeting, when collaborating on writing documentation or training materials.  Hmm.  The primary hurdle would be getting permission to download Skype.

To finish up, I revisited some of my favorite videos.  Font Conference is wonderful.  It took a couple of viewings before I got the joke with Wingdings.  If you go there, be warned - you should pause it after it starts, to give it a chance to load.  To find the pause, put your cursor over the lower left corner of the video screen and it will pop up.

Next time:  something odd, no doubt.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Words, wonderful words


Happy New Year! Ken and I were on our own this year, no parties, no gathering of friends. Many within our circle were catching up with family celebrations postponed by the weather, others simply out of town. So we watched movies until 11:30, poured a couple of glasses of Asti Martini, and tuned into a local channel for the Space Needle fireworks.

The movies.  We started out with Mama Mia.  So...exuberant.  Pierce Brosnan, singing.  Um.  We moved on to The Cocoanuts, an early Marx Brothers film.  We watched the news.  It doesn't get any jazzier than this on New Year's Eve.

We played a lot of games over Christmas, spending the most time with Bananagrams and Scrabble.  Our final game was dismal all around - nobody had much to work with - which led to a conversation about 2-letter words.  Alden went hunting online for a list of such words, finding one through a link on the official Scrabble site.

And what a happy discovery that link it turned out to be!  The Phrontistery is a site I'm going to have to spend some time on.  A personal vocabulary is a living entity and must continue to grow, even if the additions aren't words one can use any old time.  There are some grand words on The Phrontistery.  The best browsing so far has been within the Compendium of Lost Words.  You really should take a look around if you enjoy the intricacies and wonders of language.

I'll end with the most recent egregious bookmark.  It was discovered by Dan, nestled within a book that had been shelved.  It was a 2" cigarette butt.  This is the kind of thing that causes me to mutter.  What are people thinking??  And how did we miss it when the book was returned?

Library mysteries.  Stay tuned.