Tuesday, December 25, 2012

So this is the new year.

Well, not quite. But it's close.

This blog went into radio silence for half a year for several reasons - a family member using the computer for nursing school, lots of commitments at the library, even a little bit of general burnout. But I've missed writing and I'm back.

For my reentry into the blogosphere, I thought I'd mention an intriguing product I found back in June: book-scented perfume. Are you an ereader owner who misses the scent of a book? Put a bit of this perfume on your Kindle and bring back the nostalgic aroma of a freshly printed novel. "Paper Passion" costs £70 for a small bottle so I won't be purchasing it any time soon. Hm. Perhaps I'll mention it around the house as my birthday approaches.

Overheard on Twitter:  No matter how old you are, an empty Christmas wrapping paper tube is still a sword.

Until next time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some miscellaneous things

Nearly a month has gone by, once again. I wrote posts in my head while the computer was unavailable but my words were too ephemeral and they misted away (I'd made no notes and shame on me.) But here I am at last, on a rare sunny morning, typing away.

The library is busy. School is nearly finished and Summer Reading has begun. We're collecting our costume things for the parade next week. Kindle and Nook classes continue to bring folk into the branch and our public computers are busier than ever. Audiobooks are in high demand as families prepare for their summer road trips. We make at least ten new library cards every day. I love it.

Book donations have increased in the last couple of months, really good book donations. And by really good I mean 1) great books in excellent shape that we can either add to the collection or the Friends can sell and 2) older books in terrible shape that I can use for crafting. October is our Month of the Book and we're going to offer some adult classes on upcycling old, discarded books and sheet music. I've had a grand time making samples - paper bows to use on presents, flowers of all kinds (the roses are my favorite), various envelopes, collage. We're making packets of book pages, die-cuts, and other paper ephemera to sell to collage artists and scrapbookers. October promises to be a lot of fun.

I'll end this post with something I found in the front of a book published in 1902. It was a typed sheet pasted onto the flyleaf. The discovery made my day:

My Book

I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend's bookcase and the bookcases of my friend's friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.

I give hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ash tray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff. When I loaned this book, I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of the long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again. But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad: Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and is returned again; Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books I myself have borrowed.

Arthur Griffiths
Juneau, Alaska

Isn't that delightful?

Overheard on Twitter:  There's gotta be a better use for the part of my brain that remembers every word to 'Baby Got Back'

Until next time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This week, brought to you by. . .

. . .our patrons.

It's been an unusual week, a week that included a car prowl right in front of staff. The thief was wearing headphones and didn't hear our manager calling out to him as he took a box from the car. The young man's brazen unawareness brought the Darwin Awards to mind.

I've had more account discussions in four days than I've had in a month. One encounter was particularly notable. A patron had brought her books to the checkout desk but couldn't check them out due to substantial unpaid overdue fines. She contested them aggressively and I was called to sort things out. Among her reasons why I should waive the fines:

- Her daughter needs these books for her final senior project and she'll fail if she can't use them.
- The fines occurred four years ago. Isn't there a statute of limitations?
- The fines were for books used by her daughter for school and her daughter just won the Presidential Scholar award. We should honor her by waiving the fines.
- They're moving out-of-state in six months and she'd prefer to use the money for the move.
- They're moving because she got a job as a pastor (her emphasis) in the other state.
- The Gig Harbor library staff are much nicer than I am. They waive overdue fines. (The Gig Harbor library is in a different library system, 30 minutes from our branch.)

It began to feel like a Seinfeld episode.

I suggested that her daughter get a library card and use it for the books she wanted. Alas, the daughter already had a card with (can you guess?) overdue fines and a lost book. After that, the conversation ended surprisingly well, despite her inventive persistence and my friendly-but-firm intractability.

When a role-play comes up in a future training session (and it will, inevitably) I'm going to play the patron and channel this encounter.

Overheard on Twitter:  A woman is trying to do her makeup on the bus but her lipstick has become a seismograph needle.

Until next time.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Well now. I've been gone from my blog for a month and surprise! Blogger has reimagined itself and I must now learn afresh how to add a post. I'd be moaning all over facebook about this except for the fortunate fact that I like technology and, on the whole, expect to be adapting to these things as they improve and (inevitably) change.

I'm doing something a little different with Overheard on Twitter this time around. There was a series of tweets recently from David Malki as he was mired at the Los Angeles Airport. Each tweet stands alone but they're even better when read together. Here goes:

Some kind of power outage in LAX Terminal 2. X-ray line at a complete standstill. TSA agents forming turtle huddles. Escalators mocking us.

Officious-looking man in suit gazing over the cattle line of motionless travelers. Just a slight swaying betrays that we even live. #LAX

New travelers with hopeful eyes encounter the line. Their spirits audibly drop. I am at a line vertex and can see/hear/watch it happen. #LAX

The terminal is beginning to resemble a Hooverville of sorts. Any rumors whispered in earshot are repeated with increasing urgency. #LAX

Somebody mutters that the problem has been going on for three hours. True? Rumor? I will start a new whisper and see if it spreads. #LAX

"They have shut down all baggage screeners on the detention level. Shut down all baggage screeners on the detention level!" #LAX

Spontaneous applause from upstairs! Either the power has returned or rebelling travelers have performed their first beheading. #LAX

"This," I just thought to myself the instant I hit Send, "will be the one that gets me detained for questioning." #LAX

His tweets began to descend into the surreal, which is to be expected if you're familiar with his Wondermark comic strip. (And if you're not, you should be.)

"The problem," says a TSA supervisor with a walrus moustache, "was Mynocks. Chewin' on the power cables." #LAX

And then:

Faith in humanity restored: adorable moppet at the gate FLOORED to discover that new friends (at same gate) will be ON THE SAME PLANE, TOO.

All was well, eventually, and he made it onto his flight to Calgary.

In related news, I discovered an artist, Nina Katchadourian, who has been working on an airplane-based project since 2010. The project is highlighted via her blog, on the post titled Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. Creative expressions such as this are included in my Anti-Stress Arsenal. When I feel myself wearing thin, I head out to into the Internet and find something that makes me smile and triggers the Happy hormones. Trust me. It works.

Hm. A mystery: some of the lines between the tweets and paragraphs are double-spaced. The html doesn't look right but my changes make it worse so I'll leave it alone for now. Until next time. . .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Library Tale

Library staff can predict some of the situations we'll be sorting out each day - account questions, books gone astray, excitement with the public restroom (someone didn't bring the key back!) - these things happen consistently. But once in awhile something comes along that is unlike anything else.

I had the pleasure of springing an audiobook from jail this week.

The story began five months ago. A patron (I'll call her Martha) notified us that her car had been broken into several weeks previously; among the items stolen was a bag that included a library audiobook, "Light On Snow". The thieves didn't get the whole book - Martha was working her way through the discs and #5 was still in her CD player. She waited until the audiobook was overdue to bring in the disc and tell us what had happened. She didn't want to pay for the audiobook because she wasn't technically responsible for the situation (this conversation happens more often than you might think.) We gave her a receipt to prove the value of the item and encouraged her to include it in her insurance claim.

Weeks passed. I called Martha to see how the claim was going. Alas, she hadn't yet submitted the claim but thank you for the reminder. She would submit it tomorrow.

I called two weeks later, just to follow up. Oh, she said, I'll get that in the mail today! Hm. I told her that she'd been billed for "Light On Snow". She could pay for it and be reimbursed by her insurance company.

Martha came into the branch more than a month after our conversation, disputing the bill. Her car doors were locked. The thieves broke in. It wasn't her fault that the book was stolen. She wanted to check out another audiobook but she couldn't until the bill was paid. The insurance company had denied her claim because she had waited too long to submit it. (Ah, life lessons.)

And this is when it became interesting.

We offer a service, Ask A Librarian, in which people can submit a question about anything, truly, anything at all. The larger branches in our system take turns monitoring the service and responding to the questions. It happened to be our turn. I signed in and the first question I fielded was this one, from a Kirkland Police Department detective:

"We found an audio book titled Light On Snow by Anita Shreve from your library. It was liekly (sic) stolen during a car prowl. Please call me."

I called him immediately. Yes, they had Martha's audiobook! It was among the items recovered during a Car Prowl Ring bust. They were collecting information about car prowls that had happened all around the Puget Sound area over the last six months. Could I put him in touch with the person from whom the audiobook had been stolen? I assured him that I would give his phone number and email address to our patron and strongly encourage her to get in touch with him quickly. Then I called Martha.

Three more weeks went by. Knowing Martha's tendency to put things off, I followed up with her, asking if she'd been able to speak with the detective. Indeed she had. So, I asked, what are their plans concerning the book? Silence on the other end. She finally said that she thought they'd be sending it back to the library.

I called the detective. Yup, they still had the audiobook. They just needed someone from our library to call the Evidence Tech and give the ok to release it from the Evidence Room. He emailed that phone number to me, cc'ing the Evidence Tech, and asked that I let them know how we wanted them to return it. And then came the best part of all. The detective said that he could walk it down to the local library and they could send it back to us - he was already planning to go there after work to pick up his holds.

I made the call, the audiobook was released, and it's on its way home. Someone familiar with the story said it's too bad the talking book couldn't talk about its experiences during the last five months. Someone else suggested that it would be a good subplot for a mystery, the audiobook being the key to solving the murder.

And this week in Ask A Librarian? A query from a library in Hawaii, asking what they should do with a large-print book belonging to us. . .

Overheard in Twitter: A woman asked me if her elderly dad could sit with me while she shopped at @powells. Grandpa-sitting and loving it. https://twitter.com/#!/Carrie_Rachel/status/181157223987286016/photo/1

Twitter wouldn't let me copy the twitter-truncated photo address, so the long version is copy-and-pasted in. I hope it works because it's a lovely photo; you might have to do your own copy-and-paste. The tweeter is Carrie Brownstein, former member of Sleater-Kinney and one of the primary actors in Portlandia.

Until next time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The humorous side of Technology Fails

I was searching for song lyrics on my laptop this morning when an entertaining 404 Error screen appeared:

  • A serious misjustice has occured. Write your congressman
  • If the original source is not youtube, vimeo, or metacafe, we won't have it archived. We're working on archiving more video sources
  • We may still be downloading the video file. Please be patient and check back later.
  • The video was taken down before we were able to archive it. It happens.
  • Weasles have eaten our servers.

  • I'm pretty focused but things like this induce a temporary ADHD, which no doubt substantiates those dire warnings about what the Internet does to our brains. So distractable. Never mind what I was originally looking for. The 404 screen prompted an immediate web search for "funny 404 error" to see what's out there. The answer: more than you might think. I wasted some time researched the most promising and found a particularly good collection on Hongkiat.com ("online tips for designers and bloggers"), a post titled "60 Really Cool and Creative 404 Error Pages." The 404s represent the gamut of webpage fails, some in other languages, everything from the benign to the not-so. Many of them made me laugh but the one that I laughed at the most belongs to Limpfish. Acorn Creative's 404 is a very close second.

    I did eventually get back to that lyric search.

    Overheard on Twitter: And just when I think I can't sleep in like a college student anymore, I wake up at 11:15. #nowwhosemakingbreakfast.

    Until next time.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Bookmarks and Facebook. Hahahaha.

    Emptying the library's bookdrop can be one of the best times of the day because we never know what we might find in there. Books, of course, along with magazines, DVDs, and CDs, but we often find mysteries, things not commonly associated with books and libraries, and some of those things are pretty funny.

    My first experience with peculiar bookdrop items happened within weeks of my employment. I had rolled the bin into the building and was nearly finished emptying it when a small movement caught my eye. I cautiously moved the remaining contents to one side and discovered several tiny crabs hiding in the cushiony folds of the bin. We're one block from the beach so their origin was no mystery, but we were bemused by their presence so far from home (far, that is, for a traveling crab.) Someone had clearly helped them into the bin. Crabs appeared for several more days, then stopped, no doubt due to the perpetrator tiring of the joke.

    I've mentioned bookdrop contents before, like the $721 cash discovered inside a book about being more organized. People will use anything for a bookmark, apparently, and some of those bookmarks are remarkable. Ask anyone who has processed a bookdrop. They'll tell you of wondrous and puzzling bookmarks - a butter knife, socks, payroll checks, drill bits, organic matter both identifiable and disconcerting. One of the funniest this week was discovered by a librarian at another branch:

    The book: "What's Happening To Me? A Book For Boys."

    She posted the photo on her facebook page and, of course, I had to share it here. This entry has moved into the #1 slot on our list of Notable Bookmarks, dislodging the enormous well-pressed marijuana leaf that we found several months ago inside a book for boys on teen-age parenthood.

    Speaking of facebook, I had a lesson in just how closely social media keeps track of my interests. I was unusually lethargic on Saturday, most likely a response to the last few very busy weeks. Ken was at work and I had no commitments so I watched the entire Neverwhere series at one sitting, grazed the pantry and fridge, and finished reading a couple of books. I posted this status on my facebook page near the end of the day:

    "I was a total slug today. And it was glorious."

    Within minutes, the advertisement column on the right displayed an ad for "#1 Snail Cream." It extolled the virtues of the cream with assurances that it contained "86% Helix Aspersa Snail secretion filtrate." I wasn't sure what disturbed me more about this, the active ingredient in the skin cream or the fact that facebook had so quickly picked up on the keyword "slug." The ad was completely out of context, of course (the joke's on you, facebook advertisers!) but still.

    I logged into facebook the next day and there in the adverts was an invitation to purchase a SlugBell, "the world's best slug and snail control device." I mentioned this in a new status and fb friends instantly commented, including Who says they're not listening???

    I'm tempted to post an odd facebook status just to see what ad might show up. I'll let you know what happens.

    Overheard on Twitter: Today I got a UCLA library card. They let me take home a book that the Library of Congress only let me look at in a room full of cameras.

    Until next time.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Humor for a wretched week.

    I've always lived in a city or town, from the metropolis of Seattle to the backwater of Woodburn. They were distinct places near other distinct places. But not long after moving to Port Orchard, I noticed that I thought of where we live in terms of the County. Yes, we were in a town with its own identity, but I was unusually aware that our town is a Part Of The Whole. Perhaps it's because Kitsap is a peninsula, island-like. Maybe it's because there are still many born-and-bred Kitsap natives in the area who've moved around the county but who remain connected by their shared history; conversations, local newspapers, annual events all serve to highlight how connected we are, including the non-natives like us.

    That kinship was confirmed this week as we reeled from the unprecedented violence scattered around our Kitsap County. It surprised us, how personal it all felt. Some of it was personal - we know Trooper Tony and his family. The suspected shooter holed up in a friend's neighborhood and shot himself there. Two people in Ken's nursing program had children in the 3rd grade class where a young girl was accidentally shot. And that suspect interviewed regarding multiple stabbings? Yup, connected there too - the first victim was a young woman who regularly came into the library with her mom. (They had a delightful mother-daughter thing going and it was great fun to watch them.) There were other tragic events as well. There was even a three-hour lock-down on Thursday at one of Port Orchard's junior high schools because someone saw a man with a gun in the lower field.

    Helicopters hovering over neighborhoods is an unusual event, remarkable in its rarity, but it happened three times in three days. People are edgy and anxious and sad. Some of them have come to the library just to talk, trying to make sense of it all.

    I suppose that this post is one way of processing my week. Having written it, I can let it go. Well, except for Trooper Tony. That's going to be hanging on for awhile.

    In situations like the above, well. . . first, I pray. Then I turn to things that bring a little light back to the day. Youtube is outstandingly helpful with that.

    Mike Nichols and Elaine May were one of the best comedic duos of their time. Here's footage of them presenting an "honor" at the 1959 Emmy Awards. The film and sound is a little fuzzy - it's from 1959 - but stick with it. Replay it, if you must, to catch anything you might have missed the first time through. Then check your library for Nichols/May sound recordings. You won't regret it.

    One more from youtube: Peter Schickele, a music educator/composer/NPR commentator, "discovered" the youngest and little-known member of the Bach family, P.D.Q., and spent several decades making P.D.Q.'s music accessible. If you enjoy classical music (or were forced to endure it), you'll probably like what Schickele has to offer. I have five of his LPs and I've attended every concert that has come along. He was an ace at composing a quodlibet, a piece that does nothing but quote other composers; Peter Schickele did this superbly with The Unbegun Symphony, a piece that is in my list of Top Ten Schickele. It's a shame that I was unsuccessful in a hunt for a list of all the music used (where did it go? she muttered) because it's a hoot to listen to The Unbegun Symphony with the list in hand.

    Another of my Schickele favorites, New Horizons in Music Appreciation, is highlighted in the blog Short Ride In Fine Music. Read the post, then listen to the 8.5 minute "broadcast" in which the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is subjected to play-by-play and color commentatary, much like Monday Night Football. The more familiar you are with classical music, the funnier it will be.

    And finally, if you've now become intrigued by Peter Schickele's music, take yourself one step further and read "Music Engendered Laughter: An Analysis of Humor Devices in P.D.Q. Bach." written and presented by David Huron of Ohio State University.

    Overhead on Twitter: However crappy your day has been, just know this: today I found out that next Tuesday I must dress up as a baked potato.

    Until next time.

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Miscellany (and books, of course)

    Our children (adult children, I should say) send me funny things once in awhile. Those things will often refer to past conversations or blog posts I've written. Amy found something online in December that she thought I'd enjoy and she was right. I did.

    And for a little humor on the musical side of things:


    On to books.

    In the bookish world, there have always been adventurous, creative authors who do curious visual things with their work. Those medieval monks come to mind, men who illuminated book pages using clear deep colors and gold leaf to bring their images alive. They hid playful things in there sometimes, to surprise the reader who cared to look closely. And how about e. e. cummings, who rocked the poetry world with artistically-scattered lower-case arrangements on his books' pages?

    There are books that challenge the reader beyond the simple act of reading. I tried to read "House of Leaves" a few months back, a book mentioned by a young woman in an interview. She enthusiastically described the book and I thought hm, that's sounds intriguing. The library happened to have it on the shelf and I took it home. Ugh. I bailed on it within the week. It wasn't a book that one could read. It felt like an Author Performance Piece, created in the spirit of "look what I can do!" I wonder if the interviewee truly enjoyed it or just mentioned it to impress us. Maybe it was assigned reading. Who knows? One good thing came from my reading attempt, though. I learned a new phrase, ergodic literature. "House of Leaves" is ergodic literature on steroids.

    For pure coolness, take a look at "Between Page and Screen", a digital popup book. The title has a double meaning - it took me a minute to realize that the conversation was between P (Page) and S (Screen). I'm putting in a Suggestion For Purchase for this one.

    To finish up today, The Joy of Books is a short, delightful film. I watched it repeatedly and I bet you'll do the same. For more youtube fun, click on the 'crazedadman' button and watch some of his other videos. I especially enjoyed "My Anniversary Gift to Lisa" but they're all good.

    Overheard on Twitter: A Google image search for "man wearing pants" brings up 100s of images of men NOT wearing pants.

    Until next time. . .

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Why did the chicken. . .?

    A lot of nonsense is posted in the name of humor on Facebook. Some of it is a little too cute (LOLCats, ugh) and a lot of it is nothing but juvenile potty-mouth. However, once in awhile something comes along that simply must be shared. One of them appeared this morning:

    That's an example of my favorite kind of humor, two diverse and immediately-recognizable quotes blended into a clever surprise. It completely made my day and, of course, I instantly shared it on my Facebook wall. I try not to do that too often but sometimes it just has to happen.

    Overheard on Twitter: I'm going to invent "The Librarian's Workout" which'll include The Hokey Pokey and Head/Shoulders/Knees, & Toes. That's some SERIOUS cardio.

    Until next time. . .

    Sunday, January 29, 2012

    Geez Louise.

    Has it been three months?? Good heavens.

    One of my goals for 2012 is to write in my blog once a week, a goal more easily accomplished now that Ken is a full-time student who works weekends. It's a rough schedule for him but it means I have access to the desk computer on Sunday afternoons. I could use my laptop to write but it's just not as handy. Sometimes I simply need a mouse rather than a mousepad.

    I had started a post in November highlighting the Ig Nobel Prize, awarded for Improbable Research (motto: "For achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK"); the Prize is still worth mentioning. It proves that no field is so highly regarded that it can't be poked fun at. We've all heard of peculiar scientific studies. A local study of Orca poop was recently highlighted in the news, most likely due to Tucker, the dog whose sniffing ability helps locate the floating poop. Who can resist a story like that?

    Let's return to the Ig Nobels. Among the 2011 winners are studies on:

    - the ideal density of airborne wasabi particles needed to wake people who are sleeping, leading to the invention of a Wasabi Alarm. (Chemistry)
    - contagious yawning among red-footed turtles. (Physiology)
    - using procrastination to get things done. (Literature)
    - a certain kind of beetle that mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. (Biology)

    Those are actual studies and you really should take a look. You can browse the winners all the way back to 1991.

    There's a noticeable rise in grammar humor. One of my favorite posters comes from The Oatmeal, a Seattle-based cartoonist with a curmudgeonly attitude. There's often a swear word or two included (heads up) but some of his work is really funny, about all kinds of things. I should just give in and buy his "How To Use An Apostrophe" poster.

    In other Grammar News Online, there's a deep debate going on about the Serial Comma vs the Oxford Comma. It's surprising how hotly this is being discussed in blogs and on Twitter and Facebook. People have strong feelings about it. I prefer to use the Oxford comma. Want to know why? Look here for an explanation of the difference between them. I bet it will make you smile. There's an even funnier but mildly disturbing example out there involving JFK, Stalin, and two strippers. (That sounds like grist for a terrible joke, doesn't it?) This particular example is all over the Web, noted in a blog as recently as the 24th. You can see it here. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    Have you heard of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar? They have a website. SPOGG is as bad as I am about posting - the last entry was in October - but it's a good place to browse if you're a grammar or word nerd. People send in spelling and grammatical errors that they happen upon. It reminds me of the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks. Oddly enough, I'm currently reading a book written by Martha Brockenbrough, SPOGG founder. The book, "Things That Make Us [sic]," takes on "Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the world." Ms. Brockenbrough muses upon the errors and eccentricities of the English language, highlighting mistakes in letters, speeches, emails, and classified ads. I enjoyed this excerpt from a letter written by Lord Chesterfield to his son in 1750:

    "You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w."

    Good spelling matters, always.

    Finally, if you need a small diversion, you can discover what typeface you are. It's based entirely on your name and is pretty silly but, for what it's worth, I am Pistilli Roman.

    Overheard on Twitter: Kid: "How do you spell America?" I'm going to file this under reference-questions-that-sound-like-country-songs.

    See you next week.