Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Slugdom

Today's plan was to head to Folklife with Amy. I was hoping to join the Band Scramble, a Sunday Folklife tradition. Band Scrambles are great fun, incredibly impromptu opportunities to make music on an hour's notice with people you've just met. The Scramble begins with names - participants put their names in a jar. Names are then drawn in groups of four or five, each group becoming a band. The bands have one hour to identify and practice a tune together before performing it onstage.

Bands are not typically balanced - it's just the luck of the draw that decides which instruments will be together and how skillful the musicians are. I was once in a Scramble band made up entirely of beginners and it was a challenge to find a tune that everyone knew. We finally settled on "Happy Birthday" and performed it with an exuberant Irish flair. Several years ago, my band was made up of four fiddles and a kazoo. Yes, kazoo. Neville hadn't healed enough for me to play my dulcimer so I took some of my secondary instruments to Folklife. You wouldn't think a kazoo would be welcome in a Celtic competition but the fiddlers graciously let me in once I'd explained the reason for my instrumental limitations.

Anyway, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, Folklife was on our schedule. I was up much earlier than necessary and decided to spend thirty minutes with a book and a cup of tea. Thirty minutes turned into two hours and a missed ferry. Amy wasn't up yet. The sky didn't look very promising. I went online to review what was on for Folklife and behold! There are no Band Scrambles this year. (The organizer, John Ross, passed away in 2009 and nobody stepped forward this year to keep the tradition going.) However, I discovered a dulcimer workshop scheduled for Monday morning.

So, I went back to my book for another hour of reading, then browsed a bit around the Web. I ate a cupcake for lunch and watched birds enjoy the suet feeder. I washed the dishes and made another pot of tea. Amy eventually emerged from her room. I stayed in my PJs until 3:00.

I frittered the day away and it was glorious.

Overheard on Twitter: My experience changing my rate plan with ATT was frustratingly straightforward and trouble free. Now what can I complain about?

Next time: a brief Folklife report. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Further Random Library Adventures

I thought applying for a Seattle Public Library card would be a straightforward process. Silly me.

The online application was easy indeed. It took less than five minutes to enter the required information and submit it. The confirmation instructed me to show up at a branch, any branch, to receive my card.

Two weeks later, I entered the Queen Anne Branch. This was my library back in the early 1980s, just three blocks from my apartment. It was a lovely old building, primarily one large room with radiators for heat, dark wooden floors, and windows high above the shelves. It smelled like floor wax and warm wood and paper. The staff had been there a long time and enjoyed talking with their patrons.

They had a lot of slow days, alas, which eventually prompted SPL to close the branch. Budget woes came along just as demand for reopening the Queen Anne branch began to build. There was hot debate about the future of the building - would the community use it enough to warrant a remodel or should it be sold? The community won. And here I was, visiting my old library once again.

I browsed around a bit. The floor plan was certainly different, chopped up into small areas by glass-and-wood dividing walls. They'd moved the checkout desk closer to the entrance. Hold shelves were right in the middle of nonfiction along with a tiny Reference desk, some opacs, and the public printer. It felt cluttered and tight. I decided to get on with picking up my new library card.

I approached the desk with my ID and KRL library card. The lone staffperson carried on with her task, clearly unprepared to interrupt what she was doing. There was a two-foot-wide counter between us. I waited. No response from her beyond a quick glance at my purse.

"Excuse me, I applied for a library card online. What do I do next?"

She looked up, blinked, and held out her hand for my ID. I waited as she typed something. She looked at me, sighed, and said, "You understand this isn't free since you live outside the city limits?"

"Ah," I replied, "my library, Kitsap Regional, recently entered into a reciprocal agreement with SPL. It should be ok for me to get a card without the fee."

More typing. Another sigh. "You need to register first."
"I do? I've already filled out the online application."
"I can see that but you still need to register. You can register on one of our computers."
"Okay. Where on the website do I find the registration? I didn't see it when I applied online."
Another sigh. She handed back my ID. "Come over here."

I followed her through a maze of walls and shelves to a single computer tucked into a corner. She brought up the screen I needed and left. Alrighty then. I looked at the screen. The registration consisted of confirming my email address. Are you kidding me? I filled in the two oh-so-important registration fields and hit Enter. Done! Back to the desk.

"I'm back!" I announced, holding out my ID and KRL card. "Now what?"

More typing. Pause. Type, type, type. She reached under the counter for a library card, scanned it, and handed it to me. She turned back to her task. I found the Humor shelves, chose two books, used self-checkout, and headed to my car.

What an experience! Had they had a difficult staff meeting at the Queen Anne branch that morning? Perhaps SPL's never-ending reorganizing and budget concerns are beginning to wear out the staff. Who knows? I was suddenly, deeply, homesick for the branch that this place had once been, back in its day.

I've gone to a couple of other branches since then to pick up my holds. The Lake City branch has expanded well beyond the small brick building we visited when our kids were pre-elementary age. You know the adage "You can't go home again"? That has certainly proven true for the Seattle Public Library of my memory. Oh well. I'm still having a grand time with their collection.

Overheard on Twitter: I grabbed a tissue, blew my nose, and then thought "This tissue smells like my cat." #whatsbeengoingonhere

Next time: whatever presents itself. Stay tuned.

Random Library Adventures

I've owned a King County Library card for five years. Amy needed access to RosettaStone to practice Japanese. KRL didn't have RosettaStone but KCLS did and when I learned that I could receive a KCLS card through a reciprocal agreement with our library system, I signed up and received my card in the mail. Easy! Amy was able to hone her language skills - mission accomplished. Since then, although I've never checked out a physical item, Ken has used their databases for school, supplementing his access to KRL and Olympic College databases.

And then, behold! Seattle Public Library entered into a reciprocal agreement with KRL. This was pretty big news and we had a flurry of questions from our patrons. The conversation usually went like this:

"Will it work like Interlibrary Loan?"
Nope, you have to check out and return items in person.
"But can't I place holds and have them sent to my branch?"
Um, no. You have to check out and return items in person.
"Can I return Seattle Library's books back to KRL?"
NO! You have to check out and return items IN PERSON.
"But what if I'm not going to back to Seattle anytime soon?"
Then you shouldn't check out anything because you have to check out AND RETURN IN PERSON.

Frankly, happy as we were about the reciprocal agreement, it was also driving us mad.

To make matters worse, one of our patrons visited an SPL branch, received her card, and was told that she could return her books to another library system. Sigh. I made a polite what-the-heck call to the offending branch. It turned out that SPL's agreement with KCLS allows items to travel back and forth between those library systems at no charge. The staff assumed that the same was true for KRL.

Things did eventually settle down. We still find an occasional SPL book in the bookdrop but we no longer mutter over it.

I pondered getting an SPL card but ultimately decided that we didn't visit Seattle often enough to make it worthwhile. That changed, however, thanks to my involvement with WLA. I learned that I'd need to be in Seattle for several WLA meetings, spread over four months. I'd be able to check out and return items in person. I went online, filled out a library card application, and chose the Queen Anne branch to pick up my card.

I couldn't place holds until I had my card in hand so I browsed the catalog to see what I might like to order for my second visit. I was astonished. They had Elizabeth Goudge books that I'd never been able to find! They had The Collected Works and Letters of Charles Lamb! I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy shop.

My meeting day arrived at last and, when the meeting ended, I headed to Queen Anne. The experience of actually getting the card deserves a post all its own but for this post, suffice to say that I was finally able to check out a couple of books from their Humor section. I've been back since then to pick up Goudge and Lamb. I am thrilled to have my very own SPL library card.

In other humor news: alas for Pastor Camping and The End Of The World. It isn't at all funny that so many people placed their trust in his prediction, selling or giving away everything, quitting jobs, leaving their families. . . it is sadder than sad. I cannot imagine what they're experiencing now. As a Christian, it's painful to see how ridiculous the Church looks when folks like Mr. Camping come along. I want to tell people, "Don't just blindly follow this guy - read the Bible for yourself and make sure he's teaching what's really in there."

What I did enjoy was how people responded to the whole thing, both before and after. There were many rancorous comment threads about religion and Crackpot Christianity, of course, but the overwhelming response was more lighthearted. People posted photos and commented on Twitter, businesses adapted their signs (Taco Bell: "Now Hiring May 21 Survivors")...there was even a facebook page dedicated to "Post-Rapture Looting." My favorite, at the end of the day, is this billboard.

Now the world gets to wait for 2012.

Overheard on Twitter: Math teachers wanting to illustrate the concept of Infinity could do worse than this line for rental cars.

Next time: acquiring a Seattle Public Library card. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where has all the sunshine gone. . .

. . . long time passing. . .

Ken Schramm recently dedicated his morning show to people who wanted to call in and whine about the weather. He also invited one of KOMO's weather reporters to give listeners (aka whiners) a reality check. According to the statistics, this isn't the wettest, coldest spring in recent memory - 2010 was. I'm a Child of the Northwest and don't complain much about the weather, unless it gets too hot, but even I am growing weary of how cold it is. The morning program on KOMO was cathartic for those who called and entertaining for those who listened. A lot of the comment was pretty funny.

The program reminded me of an old Bill Cosby routine about Seattle. Referring to Seattle's reputation for unrelenting rain, he mentioned a compliment he had overheard: Hey, you look like a prune! to which the complimentee replied Why, thank you! Cosby also noted that the population gets nervous when the sun shows up, ducking and asking one another what have we done??

Bill Cosby is timeless.

I spent some time with Alden last week, giving him a ride back to Seattle, and our conversation turned to altered street signs. He had discovered a No Smoking sign that some clever person had changed:
No Pie! I love this kind of humor. There's something about the unexpectedness of it, the surprise, the discovery that someone had a moment of inspiration and acted on it.

We talked of other signs we've seen. One of the best used to be near Carkeek Park in Seattle, a crosswalk sign that had been altered to "Stop For Me, It's the Claw". The silhouetted pedestrian's hand was rehabbed into an ominous three-pronged appendage. I went back a few days ago to take a photo but, alas, the sign has been replaced with the traditional (boring) one.

Our conversation turned to signs that we could alter and Alden came up with a grand one: change the word Parking to Barking. It would be so easy to do and would only require a fat-tipped marker. Think of the possibilities! No Barking, 2-hour Barking, Staff Barking Only. . .and there are city blocks that offer barking zones: No Barking East of Here at one corner, No Barking West of Here midway along the block (you may bark over there but not here.) I'm a law-abiding person but I am deeply tempted by this. Parking signs will never again be quite what they're supposed to be, for me.

Overheard on Twitter: A few minutes ago I came so close to spelling "unbeknownst" correctly. So close.

Next time: random thoughts on my new Seattle Public Library card. Stay tuned.