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.