Sunday, December 2, 2007

Haiku you do?

silence, isolation
fragile eggshell edge away
snow squall brews like tea

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The snow! The Snow!

. . . (Despite the tags for this post, that is a real
picture of the falling snow in the parking lot.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This just struck me as funny

While searching for a list of Large Print magazines, I bumped into a resource that had this notation: "Magazines in Special Media is a descriptive listing of periodicals available to blind and physically handicapped persons throughout the country in these formats:

digital audio
digital braille
digital text
large print
press braille "

I clicked down to the list of digital braille (mostly because it was before the large print list and caught my eye). As I was scanning titles on my way down to the Large Print list, I stumbled over one that made me laugh for a couple of reasons:

Playboy: Entertainment for Men
digital braille, press braille

I know. I'm juvenile.
That's all.

May I help you? Pretty Please?

Geoffrey House, M.D., drug abusing television show character, update of Sherlock Holmes, and Uber-diagnostic magician says, "People lie." When he's trying to help them and needs information relating to the personal world of their medical history, relevant actions and symptoms he doesn't always (usually?) believe them for that reason.

When patrons come in certain that such and such an item isn't on the shelf where it claims to be, I will look up the item record to see when the item last moved. If it was recently enough that we should still have it in the collection, I'll ask if I may go check the shelf and see if it was misshelved. (Because they just told me it wasn't there, and why do I doubt them!)

Another variation on the theme happened when a patron came in and told me that we don't have a book she used to come in and use. "Why can't you buy a real book that people use instead of all the novels that aren't real. I don't see why my tax dollars are going to buy stupid novels when the book I need isn't here." The book in question was Court Rules. She wanted me to get the web address for Court Rules so that she could find the information she wanted. (And didn't I know that if everything went to the Internet, we wouldn't need libraries any more because who needs to pay for a nice building if everything is online?)

Well, I gave the patron the web address and she took it out, reminding me that at this rate it wouldn't be long before we don't need libraries any more, think about it!

I decided to look on the catalog, just for my own edification. WE HAVE THE BOOK!!! I expected the larger branch might have it and the patron didn't want to go there, and as it is reference it wouldn't want to come here, but we actually have the book! If only I had looked anyway. If only she had asked if we had it instead of rebuking me for not having the book, I could have found it. And of course, she was gone from the building and gone from the parking lot when I checked out there, just in case.

Like House says: People lie.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dewey or Don't 'ee?: The Promised Longer Post

I have mixed feelings about the Dewey Decimal System. I think it’s okay as a cataloging system. I don’t feel cranky nor apologetic about its biases, but I recognize they exist. I don’t have it memorized, nor do I feel the need to do so. My theoretical joy at the exactness of an item’s Dewey number extending six or seven or eight decimals places to the right is tempered by the difficulty of having to visually sort through all those numerals at the shelf.

In spite of that, just from the frequency of wandering down to the stacks to pick up a book, there are some numbers that stick in my head. But even there, my mental labels are not necessarily the real Dewey labels:

004, 005—computer books, PCs and some software [official Dewey, Data processing & computer science, 005 Computer programming, programs & data](The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is a general knowledge organization tool that is continuously revised to keep pace with knowledge. The system was conceived by Melvil Dewey in 1873 and first published in 1876. The DDC is published by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. OCLC owns all
copyright rights in the Dewey Decimal Classification, and licenses the system for a
variety of uses.)

200, 220, 290-99—religion (primarily Christian), Bible, Comparative religion [Religion, Bible, Other religions]

364.something—True crime [Criminology]
398.2—folk and fairy tales [Folklore]

423—Dictionaries [English dictionaries]
428—Learning English [English standard usage]
438—Learning German [German standard usage]
448—Learning French [French standard usage]
458—Learning Italian [Italian standard usage]
468—Learning Spanish [Spanish standard usage]

500s—Science [Science]

635—gardening [Garden crops]
635.9333—Roses [Roses]

636.7—Dogs [Animal Husbandry, Dogs]
636.8—Cats [Animal Husbandry, Cats]
641--Cooking [Food and Drink]
658—Management [General Management]

700—Arts [The Arts]
759—Historical artists [(Arts) Historical, geographic & persons treatment]

800--Various Literature, poetry, plays [Literature]

912--Atlases [Atlases, maps, charts & plans]
914-19--Travel [Geography and Travel, specific locations]

920--Biographies of groups [Biography, genealogy & insignia]
921--Biographies of individuals [Optional number]

930--Ancient History [History of the Ancient World]
940--European History [History of Europe]
970--American History [History of North America]
980--Latin American History [History of South America]

Admittedly, a very incomplete knowledge in my head. But I can find the others.

A couple days ago, a patron came in and said, "I found this book in your catalog and wrote down the number, but I guess I didn't get enough of it, because when I went there, I couldn't find the book. It's about Caribbean culture." She showed me here paper: Caribbean 641.5

I went back to the catalog with her and started to type in "Caribbean Cookery."

"No," she said, I don't want a Caribbean cookbook. I did a keyword search for Caribbean and about seven thousand titles showed up and I was going through them. At about page four I found one that caught my eye. It was about Caribbean culture."

"But 641 would be a cookbook...," I said.

"No, it wasn't a cookbook. I just searched on Caribbean."

"Okay, well, I'll try this." Then I keyword searched Caribbean and limited it to just books we own in the building. Seventy-nine titles claimed to be in the list.

"Oh, that's a lot better than seven thousand," she said. "I can find it from here."

So I went back to the desk.

Ten minutes later:

"It was a cookbook after all. But it had pictures and talked about the culture. Thank you," she said.

Even when I know what I know,
I can let it go
If a patron tells me so.

I have a longer post, but first, this Quiz result!

Thanks to a colleague for the quiz location. I parodied the cover from a book on Amazon.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, October 15, 2007

Re reading the Greats, and not.

Nearly everyone has something they learned or thought wrong as a child that they later discovered was mistaken. One of the things I had mistaken included the idea that boys and girls had different left and right arms. (When my mom was teaching me left from right, she'd be facing me, and we'd have opposite right arms and left arms. She never realized I didn't get it. Imagine my surprise when I got to 1st grade and saw while saying "The Pledge" that the girls placed their same hand over their hearts as I did mine.
The teacher explained when I asked her that every one's right and left are the same.)
Another idea I had wrong was the belief that one could only read a book once. Because then you'd read it. Other things were like that--if you thought didn't like a vegetable or some food, you'd have to try it, but once you tried it, you didn't have to eat it again. Or movies: once you'd seen a movie, then you'd seen it. You could remember it, talk about enjoying it, but you didn't go back. (Although one could play songs over and over and over again, which I did--which nearly drove my father to violence...)
One summer when I was reading through books like a paper shredder. Not that I tore or shredded them really, but I was just zooming through the pages and moving on. I played the same album while I read a book, and then I'd change the music when the book was over. I didn't really think much about it until I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I enjoyed that book so much that it colored the album I was listening to. To this day, that music makes me think of reading Tom Sawyer. And when I was finished, I completely stopped and breathed a sigh: I had finished Tom Sawyer, and it was great and I could never read it again, because I had read it now.
There were so many things to see and to read (and still are, for all that) that I didn't even realize until years later that one could see a movie a second time or more if it was really good, and one could read a book a second or third time or more. What fun! What a surprise for me!
Since that discovery, I've read a number of books more than once, and a couple books as regularly as annually or bi-annually. But I've never re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I know I could. I've known I could for many years now. But that first reading was so perfect, so intensely sweet and irreproducible that if I did re-read the book, like a river, it wouldn't be the same book any more. Although concerning books I had been mistaken about not being able to read more than once, this one experience of reading I'm saving as the perfect one.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What are you reading over and over?

These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users(as of 10/2/07). As usual, bold what you have read, italicize those you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand. Underline those on your to-read list. Add an asterisk to those you've read more than once.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
*Crime and Punishment

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
*Life of Pi : a novel

The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
The Odyssey
*Pride and Prejudice
*Jane Eyre

*A Tale of Two Cities
*The Brothers Karamazov

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
*Great Expectations
American Gods

Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
Frankenstein--I've tried reading this more than once, but I couldn't finish it any of the times.
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
*The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
*Sense and Sensibility
*The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Prince
*The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes : A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present

A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
*The Scarlet Letter
*Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an Inquiry into Values
The Aeneid
*Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
*The Hobbit
White Teeth
*Treasure Island

David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Monday, October 1, 2007

There is beauty in the bellow of the blast

(Thanks to Gilbert & Sullivan)
Actually, this was merely a wet rain and not any blast at all. But I thought the colors and blurs were pretty. I'm a little less than completely happy (apologies to Anne Shirley & L[ucy] M[aud] Montgomery) with the picture. I like it better than the picture I took of the same view that had the signs and flowers in focus, but I think I'd like it better if I had an even smaller depth of field--with the sign and the flowers even more out of focus and the raindrops startlingly in focus.

Still, after one finishes picking up warm brown liquids at the coffee stand, this is excellent weather to visit a library and hunker down with a good book--or in the case of quite a few people, a good computer.

heh heh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You always wanted to know

If Sherlock Holmes got infected and became a Zombie,

He'd be a clever cadaver.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Another Imaginary Book: The Duesenberg Diary

Ernesto Guevara--Ché to much of the world--was among other things a diarist. He wrote The Motorcycle Diaries which were adapted into a 2004 flim of the same name. Also published after his death was a collection called The Bolivian Diary or The complete Bolivian diaries of Che Guevara, and other captured documents, edited and with an introd. by Daniel James.

The Duesenberg Diary fits in between those two and is a record of Guevara's travels in a Duesenberg Straight Eight across one Autumn until the rains led to mud over the running boards and Ché had to climb out the window and abandon the car. After that, it's pretty much off to the revolution.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I saw that.

Random vignettes from today.
1. The man in the snack machine corner by himself talking to the vending machines, “Just remember that! That’s what I thought. . . Just remember that!”

2. A different man. I forget how he even knows my name, but he almost always says, “Hi, Yorick!” when he’s coming in or going out. Today he told me it was his birthday yesterday--but his family was out for the weekend--so they were going to take him to a steakhouse today.
Then he mentioned that he had seen some commercials for a particular steakhouse over the weekend while watching ball games on TV. His brother said that the place was way too high end so he wasn’t taking him there. And he said how he felt that most steak places were the same anyway—just take a steak and cook it over open flame, after all. He said he did like to eat at The Mug Steakhouse better than at The HugMug Steakhouse (names are changed so that this isn’t a commercial). Then he said he guessed there was some difference in steakhouses after all.
I smiled and nodded and told him happy birthday late, and have a good dinner.
He smiled and said thanks and went out and I still don’t know him as well as he seems to think he knows me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Imaginary Book

Twilight of the A-Pooh-Calypse-Oh!

A Story of the End of the World and Latin Dancing
For the Very Young!

By Timothy Sparrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Choice

If you read only one book this year...

What? Are you insane? Where are your priorities??!!! You should read at least two. They don't have to be long, but really--at least two!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Provocative Juxtaposition

On the New & Interesting shelf, Cuffed by Candlelight : an erotic romance anthology, three stories published by Parker Publishing LLC, was sitting next to and slightly on the top of another book, 7 Steps to Bonding with Your Stepchild by Suzen J. Ziegahn.

Coincidence or conspiracy?

Pointless, self-referent quiz here

Which Author's Fiction are You?

William Gibson wrote your book. Technology terrifies and delights you.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Modest Mouse

It is a disappointment to have bad taste sometimes.

I just watched Modest Mouse on PBS's Austin City Limits. I'm not a regular viewer, but I was surfing the channels to see what might catch my eye or ear and I came on this in the middle of a song. It was like a train wreck and I couldn't look away.

I know a number of people like the group, and I tried to see why. I think the rhythm & percussion are catchy. The pump organ one of them played added an interesting element to the total sound. Last night I watched the DVD of PBS's American Experience episode about the Original Carter Family, and I think the short phrases and repeated words of the Modest Mouse songs are distantly related to Old Timey folk lyrics.

In that sense, Modest Mouse is like extremely painful modern classical music: it's more intellectual/technical than pleasant. One is more likely to "understand" it or understand what they are doing than to enjoy it.

That's what I mean about bad taste: after I thought about it, I could see a number of things Modest Mouse was doing, and I could see the folk music connection with their lyrics, but even though I know some people enjoy MM, I just can't make that next step myself.

On the other hand, Guided By Voices, the second band in the Austin City Limits show moved me to change the channel.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


he was loved.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Book Thief--a review

I didn't want any of you to think that I was going to talk about some book thief or other at our building.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a strange and moving book. The Narrator is Death, so that makes it different from standard realism from the start. The story takes place in a town outside Munich, Germany, during World War II. The events naturally include a lot of pain and death, and yet, because the narrator's style is friendly, matter-of-fact, it doesn't strike me as viscerally painful as say a movie version would be.

Some readers may not like the book's aesthetic distance from the horrors, although I found it close enough. Death announces "spoilers" through the book (unlike me in this review), and I think it helps the reader prepare somewhat for when events are actually related.

The story concerns Liesel from 10 through 14, mostly and her foster family, a friend named Rudy, the town Mayor's wife, a jew named Max, and the different effects WWII had on these people in Germany. It has everything I think a good story should have--excitement, some romance, some suspense, sadness, death (and Death), redemption and ambiguity.

I must admit it didn't take the top of my head completely off, but part of that may have been because I read it so gingerly: I have to ration my pain, and I didn't want to become crushed and devastated by surprise. (e.g. When I read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis when I was in college, I was depressed for a week. Really. It was that good, and I was that depressed. For good or ill, The Book Thief didn't affect me like that.) Nevertheless, TBT is an excellent book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the everyday obstacles and pain that some Germans had to overcome during WWII.

One final note: while the audio book is an excellent recording, there are line drawings of pages that Max made for Liesel, and if you don't have the book on pages, you don't get to see those illustrations.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fine Japanese Cookies

Fine Japanese Cookies5141
Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

Delicate double
Chocolate cookies enveloped elegantly
No Latex inside.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

I usually like Dustan Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Queen Latifah has been good in all the movies of hers I’ve watched. I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan, but this movie was one of the good ones.

I liked it so much that I naturally questioned my taste and went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what they had to say about it. STF got 6.9 out of 10. The critics’ consensus quote was a little mean-spirited, I thought:
A fun, whimsical tale about an office drone trying to save his life from his narrator. The cast obviously is having a blast with the script, but Stranger Than Fiction's tidy lessons make this metaphysical movie feel like Charlie Kaufman-lite.”

Kaufman, you may know or remember is the writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and others.

"Tidy lessons" "Kaufman-lite"--these are deliberately pejorative. The consensus statement is fair to the overall comment from critics if they were mashed together. Some liked the whimsical tale, the cast having fun with the script and roles; some people felt annoyed with the movie's accessiblity. Because it wasn't dark, difficult, nor ultimately damaged, they devalued it.

Well, them and the horse they rode in on!

While I couldn't sit still in the last third of the movie just before the ending (I stood up and watched shifting from foot to foot. It was the decongestant, I think. Or maybe I was just edgy. But you can be as crazy as you want if no one's there--no matter what the voices are saying to the contrary), I thought it was a good ending. Perhaps not a great ending, but very, very good. I'll be watching this film again.

Some of my favorite things:

Emma Thompson is daring and perfect!! Ms Thompson is a pretty, perhaps even beautiful woman, but she's playing an frazzled author with writer's block, and her make up looks like splotchy no-make up. I love her twitches, her habits, and her red nose. She rocks! She dares to be scrungy and not sweet scrungy like a comic hobo or something. Her character is unattractive and makes you want to look away.

Dustin Hoffman is funny and eccentric (dare one say, as usual?). He plays literature professor Jules Hilbert who takes Harold Crick (Ferrell's character) seriously enough to try and figure out what kind of story he's being written into, and to see if he can discover who the author might actually be so that Crick can do something about it. And for Hoffman's character, literature is more important (if not sweeter) than life. After all the work Hoffman has done, though it's hard not to see some schtick from his other characters show up. The professor's detailed perfectionism towards literature seems heavily borrowed from Hoffman's Michael Dorsey from Tootsie.

Queen Latifah as the publisher's author assistant who is trying to get Karen Eiffel to finish her book has just the right amount of no-nonsense, humor, and caring. Because the character, Penny Escher, is so perfect in a serving kind of way, I wonder if some people or critics would find the character objectionable as a movie/literary descendant of the mammy character Hattie McDaniel used to play. In any case, I liked the character, and I liked Queen Latifah.

In the spirit of overthinking, what about those character names!!!??

Harold Crick
Karen Eiffel
Ana Pascal
Penny Escher
Jules Hilbert (I didn't know, but I googled Hilbert, and there was a famous mathematician named David Hilbert who came up with some important concepts and theorems that have to do with finiteness and multidimensional space--which are quite beyond my capacity at this time.)

Stranger than Fiction has the straightforward emotional story of a guy trying to sort out his life and make it more meaningful than drudgery, it has a "chick-flickesque" love story, and it has tricksy details for those who want to overthink darkly. I think the critics who thought it was too simple didn't get the tricksy things. Myself, I'd give it an 8.9 out of 10!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Learning 2.1!!!! I'm on it!

Just discovered the place that originated the Learning 2.0 program has moved on to Leaarning 2.1. Go The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County!

Their lessons start with Thing 24 because they originally stopped at Thing 23 for Learning 2.0. The new blog for the more amorphous continuation of learning exercises is

Whooo hoooo! I have to start doing the first 2.1 Thing yet, but I just swiped their banner and made it a link in this post!! How cool is that? I'm not sure this is the way banner links are supposed to be made, but it works. (I added a link to their blog using the ''<''a href'' thing, then in the space after the greater than and before the lesser than /a greater than I added an image link and finished with the image's own ''<''/a''>'' [remove the single quotes. You know how it should look in html.) Ummmmmm it was linking just to the image. Curses.

So, what one really does is use the "a href" bit for the url link, and then in the space where the text would be if it were a word link, one inserts ''"[img id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5074868428055059554" style="CURSOR: hand" alt="" src="" border="0" /]. replace square brackets with the point ones.

This seems to work, now. (Understanding of course that the specific above stands in for the general technique of making banner links.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Originally uploaded by YorickWell.
Photo of Rosaraio Beach from a picnic table-----
I just discovered Autostitch--a free demo that automatically stitches together digital images to form a panorama. You can find the free demo download here: AutoStitch

I have to say that I'm able to work it much easier than the HDR program that I got, because stitching doesn't require a tripod to make the product come out useable.

Of course, it remains to be seen what kind of print I can get from these things.

The Elusive Pimpernel, Broken for You--Reviews

Not really a pimpernel, but it's a flower shot from my stock photos.

For the Reading Challenge this week I finished two of the books on my list. Some of the titles are bound to go more quickly than others, and in reading it's just as well to come out of the gates strong and worry about pacing one's self later.

The Elusive Pimpernel read very fast. It is an adventure book, and even though it's not terribly historically accurate, I don't know that it's any less accurate than the entertainments filmed by Oliver Stone, say.... (Before I go on, I'm compelled to do the word play stuff: If you misspelled the title The Illusive Pimpernel, it would still fit, but the meaning would be different. Then it would be as though this were a fable or a morality tale. Which it sort of is, but not. And if you separated the letters, The Elusive Pimp, Ernel, it would change entirely and be about some entrepreneur trying to stay out of the way of cops and mob bosses.)

The story takes place during the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel (an early incarnation of the superhero with a secret identity) is involved with his "League of the Scarlet Pimpernel" in saving aristocrats from the guillotine in France. Elusive is actually the third book in the series, and the best one is the first one, The Scarlet Pimpernel. It didn't seem to matter much that I had missed the second book (although if I read the second book, I'll know from a character in the third some of what happened in the second. But it's not like these are mysteries: as a reader, one knows that the Pimpernel will succeed, it's just a questions of how and how many close calls and inescapable situations he has to get out of first).

I think Marguerite (Sir Percy's wife) is a stronger character in the first book. She's still strong-willed and determined in this one, but even the villain notes that she's not behaving as the most clever woman in Europe this time. Anyway, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a good romp; and if one needs or wants another Pimpernel fix, The Elusive Pimpernel is exciting good fun.

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

This really is broken.

Broken for You is an award winner (Pacfic Northwest Bookseller Award, Quill Awards, and Washington State Book Award; it was also a TODAY Bookclub choice), but its plot summary may strike potential readers as something suitable for showing on Hallmark Network.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed getting to know the characters. They seemed real to me, even if the events had some strechy-circumstances / coincidences. The Seattle local color was very convincing. It was a relatively short book; it kept me turning pages and wanting more. Think of the kind of intensity Rowling creates in her Harry Potter plots, only with better characters and better writing style.

Broken for You is one of the few books that I wanted to keep reading all the time so much that I listened to parts of it on my MP3 player and then read pages when I could get back to them. One interesting phenomenon for me: I went through the ending twice: 1st time I read the pages, second time I listened to the last chapters on audiobook. When I read the pages, I was affected, but I didn't cry; when I listened to the last chapters, I couldn't stop crying in some parts.

Anyway, I give it a strong recommendation: Read this book!!

(Also in this post, I learned about span style formats and no longer using "font" or "font size")

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ireland, Library, Mystery!

Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

The case of the missing books : a mobile library mystery by Ian Sansom

This is the first in a series of "mobile library mysteries." It has a sample chapter of the second in the series at the end of the book. TCotMB is worth the read, and fun in several ways. It's about libraries and books, some; it's about a stranger in a new place trying to make his way. It's about a mystery but not a murder. I'm glad I read it, but it does ask a bit from the reader.

First of all, the protagonist is not entirely sympathetic, as least as far as I was concerned. I liked Israel Armstrong usually, but not as much as I wanted to. And although the story is about a mystery (where have the library books all disappeared to?), it's also a bildungsroman to a certain extent--Israel is still finding himself. Which is a little different, but understandable in these times: if 50 is the new 30, then 30 could be the new 18; thus, finding one's identity/purpose/way at thirty instead of during or just after college age is plausible.

I think what may have saved me from disliking Israel Armstrong more than I did was that he means well, and a number of the people in the Irish villiage he goes to are even more quirky. Starting with him, the book has a number of stock characters and not quite stock situations. In tone / atmosphere it reminded me of the Vicar of Dibley television series, with an eccentric librarian instead of a woman vicar.

There's George, the capable, independent woman running the farm with little help from her grandda & her younger brother; there's Zenia, the pub-owner who is also fierce, capable and independent but who was in her past a most beautiful and dazzling woman; there's the single mother-waitress at the pub; there's the grizzled former driver of the mobile library who isn't sure Israel is worthy to run it. And there's the crafty but not really criminal council woman who makes Israel stay until the mystery of the missing library books is solved.

So it was a fun read, and quick--I read through it in two and a half days--but at the end of the covers, I wanted a little more. I wanted it to be more fun, more mysterious, more endearing. As a first book in the series, it's rather like a television series pilot--a lot of future interactions and plot threads are set up. As a stand alone book, it disappointed me just a shade. And Israel Armstrong didn't think Life of Pi was a very good book nor that it deserved the award it won! That annoyed me, too. I'll read Life of Pi a third time before I read The Case of the Missing Books a second time! (I've already read LoPi twice, thank you very much.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Life isn't all Beef Steak and Skittles

Omnivore’s Dilemma
By Michael Pollan

Known among book clubs as the author of Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan follows up on his fifteen minutes of fame with another book about how millions of years of evolution can’t be all wrong while 60 years of industrial farming development certainly may be. That is, once people have moved away from being their own hunter-gatherers, deciding what to eat becomes a trickier question than seems readily apparent to most consumers.

The strong points of this book are its lively presentation of information, both researched from sources and from personal experience; the interesting and sympathetic people—both industrial food source producers and non-industrial food source producers and a problematic hybrid of the two, large-scale organic food producers—that Pollan introduces to readers. Pollan’s humor and reasoned approach to his topic are also refreshing.

A weakness of the writing is that some phrases and words are repeated more than felt felicitous for me. Pollan identifies his sections of the book as he investigates the different paths that food might take from living entity to food on the table, but in his reporting, he sometimes makes some large leaps in geography and time back and forth through his experiences. The repetition of phrases and words and ideas gives the book an aura of being a collection of articles on this topic. Still, while this weakens the book if one is reading straight through, it also means that one could read in any one section and have a coherent presentation of Pollan’s ideas and discoveries about the topic(s) under consideration.

I listened to the recorded book (on CD), and I think the redundancy was helpful in that format (even though I noticed it and it disconcerted me enough that I had to examine what I really felt about the repetitions), because if I missed a point, he would remind the reader about it a little later on. (Not as a reminder, as such, but just in the course of bringing the same point to bear in another sub-topic.)

I’ll feel differently about what I eat from now on. I won’t necessarily stop eating over-processed foods based on unnatural uses of corn and corn by-products, but I’ll be more conscious when I do eat them. In any case, Pollan is persuasive without being strident and reasoned without being boring.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kitsch or Cliché?

Kitsch: n. Postmodern kitsch is bad taste masquerading as irony.
I think kitsch is fun and funny. For that reason, I have several pictures tagged as kitsch at Flickr. When I did a search among other Flickr members for pictures tagged as kitsch, some nature shots showed up--sunsets and seascapes--and one picture of a pony being fed something by a small girl reaching up.
These pictures, however, the nature shots, are not kitsch. They may well be visual / artistic clichés, but given that they are more or less naturally colored and that the subject matter itself was natural not manufactured or created by some man-made act of industry, they cannot be kitsch.

I offer here these two pictures of similar subject matter: Above, the painting of a seaside scene found in a pasty shop in a landlocked English town. And off to our right, a seaside scene taken in actual Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast. While the subject matter is superficially the same, the painting is in bright, garish colours and adds the "ificial" to artificial (as opposed to adding the "art" to artificial, which is arguable at best). I found it fun to look at on my eyes when I was there and amusing on a couple levels, but I don't mistake my admiration of the painting or its placement for good taste.
The idyllic scene at right with its shades of blue, tile roofs and lighthouse has all the elements of a typical sea view. Despite its being really like that, invoking fond memories of a better day in February than had any right to be expected, and not obviously ugly in its composition, it may be (probably is, but it's my baby and how can I say things against it?) guilty of cliché. It is, after all, the very type-ical-ness of the picture that makes it cliché.

But not kitsch.

I suppose kitsch that's repeated to the point of being a cliché would be a kitsché

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

#26 Reflections of a Chocolate Bunny & 27--One more Thing

3169_ChocBunny "I'm thinking, '27 Things, but
at least no one bit off my ears!'"
Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

Ah, I remember that Learning 2.0 project, 27 things to learn and play. In terms of affecting my lifelong learning goals, I couldn't say that it has, because I'm always looking to learn new and amazing technologies--at the level of playing.

As in, "What do you play?"

"Oh, I play the cassette player; I play the MP3 player; I play the CD player." (I actually play the guitar as well, but that's a litter deeper than I would say I can do with technologies. I also play the word processor, but I don't play assembly language, C, C+, C++, nor any of the other current computer languages. I do dabble in HTML, of course.)

Having said that, L2.0 has assisted my lifelong learning goals in that I have now done several things I hadn't done before even if I had known about them or not. I had never put any photos online--although having gotten a digital camera in late December, it is likely I would have posted soon, but this program provided the impetus (not to be confused with the Pompitus [of Love] which is a mysterious phrase in a song lyric that is not clearly defined, even at this moment! Oops: This just in. is an article about what the word means and where it probably came from. Amazing). I'm also easily distracted at times, and the multiple lessons and exercises assisted me in the sense that I had no time to get bored by anything. (I hope the readers take longer than I deserve to become bored with my blog entries.)

I've been captured by this blogging thing. And the ability to start posts off with a picture, somewhat like an allusion to illuminated manuscripts or to stick a picture in the middle of a post to illustrate some point or just to relieve the readers' eyes from all this text has been great fun for me. I think the combination of Flickr and Blogspot is much better than either of them by themselves. I'm also pretty addicted to LibraryThing, although I must say my cataloging much more resembles copy-cataloging than original cataloging. (When I see a book in someone else's LibraryThing that I've read or own, there's a button that allows a signed in user to just add the book to her own library catalog! Whoooo hooooo!!!)

I've been surprised at how easy some of these Web things are; I've been surprised that some sites (like Myspace) strike me as less useful than I had hoped.

Moving to the next landing of this controlled wandering, I can say that I had enough help when I needed it, but I didn't necessarily feel that I was approached as much for help as I had imagined I might be. Most of my colleagues either had a different schedule from me or else didn't need much help (or possibly found me less than approachable, but people I've asked have said that's not the case.) I have had a few people ask questions, just not as many as I expected.

Improving the format or the concept:

I think I would have appreciated a written transcript of the podcasts (although, someone would have had to have transcribed them and that would have been a drag!). I don't quite know how to justify that feeling--I listen to audiobooks all the time, I listen to other mp3 files on my Palm. I guess that it has to do with perceptions of time pressures: I felt I needed to keep moving to the next activity, to the next lesson, and the information at the speed of sound (podcasts), was slower for me than information at the speed of sight (text, duh!). Also, the one time I had to use dial-up access, even the loading of the website and the loading of the links was slower than I could endure. I used dial-up for longer than many people, but now that I'm on faster connections at home and in libraries, it is a stress to operate at the speed of dial up. (Although one thing libraries should keep in mind is trying to have alternative services for those with slow Internet. The text-only version of the catalog is one of those dial up compensations that I think is still a good idea.)

One other format improvement would have been if the progress logs had had room for more than one URL, given that several weeks actually comprised two or three of the 27 Things each. The current progress log required that these two and three things be in one post in order to list the response in just that one URL.

I thought the concept of Learning 2.0 itself was sound, albeit somewhat second-round trendy. But I'm more of a second- or third- stoner* myself in relation to technology, so the drifting close to "me too!" nature of this program was probably just right. (*allusion to the proverb/quotation "[L]et ... him cast the first stone.")

I would like to see similar training opportunities when some new library-relevant technologies emerge, but I think we should try to come up with some steps or protocols for determining which things should be explored and taught, and which things are likely to be analogous to 8-track tape technologies. Libraries that had vinyl disc collections, that had (and have) cassette collections, and that have CD collections turned out to have guessed/bet right for the most part. Any libraries that had 8-track tape collections, I think probably had them go obsolete sooner than it was worth to have them. It's easy to say, but we should avoid adopting 8-track tape technologies.

In closing this ever-so-long post, I'd like to thank my parents, without whom I wouldn't even be here. And if I could go back in time and tell me stuff, I'd freak out. Er, no, that wasn't the question.

If I could go back in time and tell me to either participate in this program or skip it, I'd still tell me to participate. I'd also tell me to be careful of typos in naming my blog's URL so that I wouldn't lose all my readers when I fixed the typo of the URL and then no one could find where I had "gone."

#27. One more Thing.

At first I couldn't think of "one more thing." I re-read the wiki article on Web 2.0. Still nothing else. Then I gazed at the comments on the KCLSU #27 blog entry, and someone mentioned Second Life. An excellent example of how this collaborative can work: other people working together can help give ideas that we recognize as great but we might not have thought of on our own. (I'm thinking of a Venn Diagram here with overlapping and discrete areas of coverage.) So, anyway, my one more thing would be training and collaborative activities in SecondLife (which I had briefly looked at earlier in the program but didn't proceed on my own yet, because of so many other choices to look, learn, and play with.

Ooooooooooooooooooooohhh! Shiny!

YouTube, PodCasts and Ebooks--#23, #24, #25

I went to YouTube, but all I got was this silly joke video.

(As it used to say at the end of X-Files tv show, "I made that!")

#24. Lacking a microphone on my system, I haven't started podcasting, but I've subscribed to a podcast on my bloglines and I've turned my Audible dot com subscription to The New York Times Audio Digest into receive by Podcast using Juice. Since I listen on my Palm Tungsten, I'm having problems actually getting it to be an automated process, but it works well enough if I listen through Real Player or Media Player on my desk top.

I suppose a once a month podcast doing a book talk or high lighting some special KCLS event might be a good use of podcasting for KCLS, but one needs to consider content and time constraints before jumping into the crowed pool of more experienced and entertaining podcasters. It's better not to use some communication outlets (for a while) than to use them with embarrassing content (Parker the Well-Dressed Panther, notwithstanding).

#25. Ebooks. I have downloaded eaudio books, Mobipocket print versions and AdobeReader print versions. I notice that AdobeReader now has a separate Digital Editions add-on that has to be down-loaded. This was not the case when I first started using it a couple years ago. I'm glad I know that and found it out, but I still like Mobipocket better because it takes up less memory on the device. EAudiobooks from KCLS don't work right from the download with PalmOS devices. They don't work right from the download with I-Pods either. I consider this a flaw--but at least knowing it is so, one can tell patrons about it.

What would William Do?

27 Thing #20, 21, and 22.

Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

This is fun. Amusing and yet at the same time causing one to be mindful.
This is my favorite font. (Comic Sans MS. In case the actual posting changes the font, [posting did change the font, but I put it back by editing the post here at Blogger] the first two text lines were in Verdana--a completely uninspired font as far as I can tell. Okay, Verdana does get some good marks for unassuming readability, but it strikes me as just a step or two away from complete invisibility. It's certainly not carrying any emotional weight.)

I was going to post solely from GoogleDocs because it has an obvious connection with blogger, but Zoho has a button to publish to one's blog as well, so I'll have to publish from both to see what happens. And which ever one gets published 2nd, I'll change to draft so that I can finish items 21 and 22 on the one post.

Concerning what I think: I think I'll have a too-strong coffee and some 2% milk. No. Ummm, I think that the collaboration and the take it anywhere features are great. I'm very pleased to have alternatives to offer patrons who might want to do word processing or might want baseball box scores in a spread sheet and yet don't have MicroSoft applications available at home. (And with MS whining, suing, and wheeling and dealing in the (tech) news about Open Source software violating their patents, I'm even more glad to show people these alternatives.)

I also think that I don't have a favorite between Zoho and Google Doc yet. I'll have to try doing more with each before I can settle on which one is really better. Although in terms of an Integrated experience, Google, Gmail, Blogger, and Google Docs and Spreadsheets are all there together. Zoho is a whole other account and log in.

Google Labs test drive.

What worked: Music Trends seemed to work. It could be useful to know songs and artists in the top 20 (among GoogleTalk users. Of course it is an unidentified demographic beyond what assumptions one might make about GoogleTalk users--generally younger, techologically connected). But at this point it is merely another pulse check on pop culture rather than an authoritative information source. Google Trends worked, but if one's search terms are not popular enough to get a graph, it doesn't tell a person a lot about how many if any were searching on those term(s). It works, but I don't at this time see as much use for it as even Music Trends. Google Page Creator works, but I'm not entirely sure just what would make it better than a Wiki or a Blog--Wiki if one wants to constantly, regularly update bulletin board on Newsletter type information, Blog if one wants to update with continuous narrative as we're doing here. In someways, a Page Creator strikes me as very Web 1.something rather than Web 2.0 or higher.
Google Voice Local Search and Google Accessible Search which seem self-evidently useful for those with abilities related accessibility issues are the exception; the other choices didn't pique my interest enough to even look to see if they worked. It's also possibly a failure in Marketing....

I've already mentioned above which ones I found potentially useful.

Web 2.0 Awards. Before I move on to the actual award winners, let me note that Technorati took 1st and Bloglines took 2nd in the Blog Guide category. In a cursory glance, it seems that the user interface made the difference between 1 and 2. In my own experience, I've been a little disappointed in Technorati because I've claimed my blog, allowed as I think Technorati to have access, and yet, when I search for words in my own blog that I know are in the post(s), it comes back with nothing found. Technorati has also been slow or unknowing about when I update my blog, even though I send it a separate ping from time to time.

I did change the spelling of my blog's web address, and I had to delete my original claim and re-claim the new spelling. So I wonder if that has caused connect problems between the blog and Technorati. But when I had to do an analogous procedure on Bloglines, it found me (back) right away. (In a note of sadness, I should have announced it before I did it, because I had been "watched" by 15 subcriptions on Bloglines before the address change, and now I'm being watched by only me. :-( )

The awards I looked at were the top 3 in the Books category. I can understand why got 1st--it's a place to self-publish on the web and sell one's "intellectual property." As the cut quote from the SEOmoz interview says, "“The ultimate goal for Lulu was to become a digital marketplace, like a mix of eBay and, a place for people to monetize their intellectual property instead of stuff.” ( Read our interview with Lauren Parker, PR Manager, Lulu --link to their interview) (While we're at it, I think "monetize" is needlessly jargonistic. The PR Manager is trying to impress people with the stuffy word instead of a more direct word. Points off for stuffy diction, as far as I'm concerned.)

I know is very cool for finding books you didn't know you could find again. But I'm not sure why it beat Alibris which does essentially the same thing. (I used Alibris to find the very first chapter book that I remember reading myself. It was $25 plus shipping, but it was worth it.) I read the paragraph at zeitgeist#award-selection page of the Awards site, but it didn't really give me a clear understanding of "what were they thinking?!" I suppose one thing is that some of their expert web site judges this time included marketers, so naturally they'd have an impact in award choice.

For my ranking of the three in books, I'd switch LibraryThing which I find completely addictive like Flickr with Biblio.

That's my experience; that's what I think.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is fun

27 things, #20

This is fun

This is my favorite font.

At first I was going to post from GoogleDocs because it had an easy and obvious connection with Blogger , but as I was looking around in Zoho , it does too, under the Publish tab.

Nevertheless, this post will be the also ran, the B-team .

I will mention (so that you perhaps don't feel it was a complete waste of your eye muscles to look here) 3171_lines and Curves
that in the staff breakroom, sometimes people leave food on the table(s) as an offering for others. And sometimes, people step away from their food intending to come right back.

Since it is embarrassing, as well as not my intent, to nab someone else's munchies, lunches, or snack, I always examine the item's distance from the center of the table. If it's in the center or very nearly in the center, it is obviously free game. If it's nearer the edge, it's much more likely someone's food not looking for a foster home. Even in the case of center-placed food, not every offering is best suited for every staffer. Whatever its level of attachment to others, (even mildly) burnt popcorn is safe from me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Review of Un Lun Dun

I just finished Un Lun Dun a couple hours ago. I found it engaging from the beginning. I think Mieville has done some really interesting things in his book. It reminded me of a lot of other other books, but in a good way.
A laundry list:The first and most obvious is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman the whole UnLondon of Mieville is very like Gaiman's London Below. Richard Mayhew becoming invisible to people in London Above because of his association with the people from below is like Deeb being nearly forgotten by her family and friends while she's away because of phlegm.

I did think it was too bad that Zwazzy was so quickly essentially written out of the novel (that's an admittedly a bad writing choice--similar to what Orson Scott Card does with the real estate agent in Homebody.) Nevertheless, Deeb is like Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle,--she's not the one who's supposed to be the hero/savior, but she's the one whose intelligence and bravery solves things anyway.I thought the Wraithtown was a lot like the City of the Dead from Brockmeier's A Brief History of the Dead. It was especially similar given that people either go to Wraithtown or sometimes go straight to the other place. UnLondon is also like Narnia in that one route to get someone there may not work to get back there the next time.

Finally, in a really far reach, Un Lun Dun is like Watership Down in that each of the characters on the good team contributed their part. I don't know that I'll read ULD every other year and get teary-eyed like I do with Watership Down, but Deeb will definitely be in my list of strong, clever, admirable female characters along with Sophie from Howl's, Coraline from Coraline, Lyra from the Dark Materials Trilogy, Thursday Next, Ruth Thomas from Stern Men and others.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Test post

Does anybody know what day it is? Does anybody Care?
What date is this really?

This was started on the 8th, but not posted until the 10th.

Monday, May 7, 2007

#18 narrower search engineering; #19 Library 2.0 (From the Tablets at Ebla and the books at Alexandria, ...

I'm not fond of all these different registerings we have to do to get into the various new, electronic conveniences / improvements.

Like many have stated before, I like the Google search group creator better than the Rollyo. Google still has ads, though unless (I guess) you claim to be a government, school or non-profit. As an individual, I am none of those things.

In Rollyo, I used the public domain ebook search engine and tried "Chaucer." It turned up a number of interesting and useful links, including things about C. as well as by C. However the item that really had my bloodpressure meds doing its job was an ad link to "The Nation's Oldest and Largest Term Paper and Thesis Source. / Over 55,000 of the latest Topics and Reports On File. / xxxxxxxx Papers has been providing high quality research reports for over 32 years. / Reproduction of existing reports or termpaper at $6.00 per page. / Custom Research starting at $16.00 per page." Admittedly, one could just do a search for term papers on Google, but I resent having a cheat site turn up in a "ebook public domain" search.

Some of the other ads are the same ridiculous type that you see on a normal Google search--"Find Chaucer for sale on Ebay," or "Chaucer / Millions of products from thousands of stores all in one place. / www. ... /". Oh yeah, I'd be interested in Chaucer home furnishings! I find that kind of customization (to quote from Perry Mason [t.v. show]) "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial."

#19. From the tablets of Ebla and the books of Alexandria to now, shouldn't we be on at least Library 8.5 or something?
(Stepping toward the Future!)
Library 2.o
Reaction to ''just in case'' collection development as an "iceberg" to steer away from.
Weeding is not my favorite activity. I understand its necessity, I understand the goal(s), and I do my professional best to follow the policies in place. But the step farther advocated in moving to digital collections away from warehousing of specific items is a step too far. Libraries need both. As another 27things blogger has noted, a library with digital content licenses as opposed to physical items owned is at the mercy of the content providers even after it has paid for the information.
You may have noticed even "warehousing" (my usage, not the article's) is a connotatively negative term in this discussion. What positive term does libraryland have for owning physical resources? I'm fairly certain that the words we use to describe and label things matters greatly in our and others' emotional and intellectual reaction to the debates concerning those things.
One of the things I've noticed, for example, is that although the library system has copies of a book at different branches, if a copy isn't at a particular branch when the patron is there, putting the title on hold and having it delivered doesn't feel like the instant satisfaction the patron had hoped for / expected. And in someways, a digital collection might solve that problem because if the system had a licensed copy of the content available, the patron could access it from whatever building or even from home.
Nevertheless, given that public libraries haven't yet for the most part formed their own digital content creation cooperatives, it leaves the control and the pricing in the hands of the [digital] publishers. I don't trust their altruism.
But what am I thinking? Libraries (to say, users of all stripes) don't control the creation nor pricing of gasoline, it's in the hands of the gasoline "publishers" and that works fine, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

You Never Know What You Never Know

Originally uploaded by YorickWell.
Short one:
A mom comes in with her daughter, looking for a biography that her daughter needs to read for a book report. Not a specific biography, just a biography.

The mom sees a book: "Oh, T----! Here's Hank Aaron. Why don't you read about him?"

"MMoooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!! We HAVE to read about someone FAMOUS!"

Mom and I at the same time,"Hank Aaron was famous. He is famous!"

I don't know if Mom convinced her or not.

SmartCar is here, even here!

Originally uploaded by YorickWell.
Today as I was walking before work, I saw this Smart Car in a parking lot. Whooooo hooooooo!! They are a little hard to come by here in the States, although it should get easier by later summer.

Of course, I can't be getting one for years cause I just recently got a Kia Rio after the accident that killed the Kia Sephia I had before that.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Different Harry Chapin Song.

A while back I mentioned Harry Chapin on the radio singing his song "Taxi". This picture reminded me of another of his songs, "The Rock."
"The rock is gonna fall on us," he stood and told the class.
The professor put his chalk down and peered out through his glasses
But he went on and said; "I've seen it, high up on the hill
If it doesn't fall this year then very soon it will!"
--Harry Chapin, "The Rock" on the albums Portrait Gallery and Harry Chapin: Story of a Life [BOX SET]

Number 17

Catch-up and Play Week: Play with an online image generator.

done and done. But now, a word from our sponser, the Number 17.

The Japanese verse form known as Haiku contains exactly 17 syllables. Note that it consists of 3 lines, with 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively.
Back to our show.
This poster was made at the Do It Yourself tab at
the Parody Motivator Generator at (The do it yourself part included the picture, which is mine, and the aphorism, which is also mine, all rights reserved!)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thing 15 & 16 (My, how far you'll go, Thing One and Thing Two!)

27thing 15.

beginning wikis

I like reading a number of article entries--the frontiers-town feeling of wikipedia was fun. But I'm more comfortable with some authoritative control for my reliable sources of information. The Booklovers' Wiki was okay because it felt more like a modified / evolved version of the old BBS (electronic bulletin board), or a newsgroup archive. Having said that, I was a little sorry that it's closed for the season, and it isn't being edited or added to until the adult summer reading program coming up.

(random question: since Cartoon Network has "Adult Swim" would it provide amusing marketing value to call an adult summer reading program "Adult Skate"?)

What types of applications within libraries might work well with a wiki?
(random question: since numbers of us are answering this same question out of our learning and varied experience, does that make this a 'meme'?)

In connection with library application / use of wiki, I'm seeing it more in terms of instant archive BBS, or as a living operations manual of some sort. In fact, the Booklovers' Wiki is rather like a searchable, archived set of posts about particular books (including the posts on the Harry Potter volume that hasn't yet been printed). The Library Success: a Best Practices wiki is more nearly a living manual.

27thing 16. Practice & graffittoes

Things I did after school.
I went to the kcls 27things wiki. I replaced the Front page which had gone missing. I added a link to my blog in the "Best Blogs Ever" page, as instructed...well, almost as instructed: I couldn't get the interface to work on my machine, so I edited html instead to put my link in. I changed to color of my font link to green--which is totally non-standard for links, I know, but I was so far down in the list, I wanted to stand out a little from the crowd.
(only slightly off topic: I discovered how to fix the typo in my blog's url so now it is instead of infinietjests.blogspot... But I'm sad because everyone [more than five] subscribed to my blog on bloglines dropped off because their rss link is to the no-longer-existing url. I suppose infi nyet jests might have been amusing if I had intended it--some play on infinite and "no" in Russian, but mostly I thought it just looked careless or illiterate.)

Even though I can physically/technically do a number of these wiki, blog, flickr, etc., etc. techno-things, in many ways I'm at the horseless carriage stage: I dabble in the new, but I'm still thinking some in terms of the old. It will take some more percolating time and some conversation with zen-tech / tech-zen masters to make the jump into automobile, grand touring car, race car, and hybrid powered vehicle.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Non-27things Post / Sometimes I hate the world I live in.

`Not an actual picture from the story.
Actually a night picture from Dublin.~

Last night I was driving home from work. Given the two hundred mile commute and my 40-mile bladder, I stopped in at the rest area to empty said bladder, mooch a free cup of coffee and a couple cookies and be on my way. Normally it would be just a quick stop and then I'm on the road again (sorry, Willie).

This stop was longer than usual. While I stopped, I finished listening to a radio episode of Selected Shorts: it was the short story by Audrey Niffenegger "The Night Bookmobile." Then all I needed after all was the coffee and cookies.

Up at the volunteer hutch between the bathroom buildings, a young woman was telling the coffee volunteers that she's out of gas and she ran out of the house without her driver's license or wallet. The volunteers ask me how far the next exit is--like I would know!!

I explain I just drive between Seattle and Portland and I get off at rest areas and I don't really pay any attention to actual exits. The woman has stepped back and is trying not to cry and listening, but it doesn't sound helpful. Then some trucker steps up and tells me that the next exit is only ten miles to the south, I say thanks, but I wasn't the one who wanted to know, I was just here for some coffee.

The volunteers look back to me and say, "Oh yes," and they take my cup and give me coffee. They say, "we can't really leave here; we're dropped off, and he can't drive because he has Parkinson's." (Which explains something else that I had noticed, namely that the man had an old scar, rectangular-looking running from the one side of his head, across and above his forehead and back the other side of his head towards the back. It looked rather like a temporary lid had been put in, but you don't like to ask about those things. [some kind of brain surgery was and may still be a palliative treatment for Parkinson's])

Anyway, the woman went over to the pay phones and put some money in and dialed and then waited, hung up and the change dropped back. So I asked (since I have a cell phone), "Is there anyone I can call?" I know, it sounds stupid, but I didn't know what else to say.

She said, "No, I've tried calling, but no one's answering, and my family is out of state on Spring vacation. My girlfriend called me up to come pick her up, she's finally getting out of a bad situation and I just ran out to my car and started out and didn't bring my purse or my wallet or anything. Then I noticed I was low on gas, so I turned around and idled into here."

I have to say here that I am really, really suspicious of people in need at rest areas, and especially people with gasoline issues at rest areas. I mean, how did they even get there if they don't have gas? And if you give them money to help get them back to Arkansas or Montana or New Mexico or whatever isolated outpost of Americana they claim to be from, how are they going to actually get gas if they're out as they claim!!!

But I ask her, "If you got a lift to the next exit, do you have anything to put gas into?"

"No," she says, "and I don't have my wallet even, I ran out of the house without it. I might have enough gas to get to the next exit, but I don't want to chance it and have to walk in the dark on my own."

"Would it help if I followed you to the next exit?"

"Well, if you wouldn't mind...."

"No, that would be fine. I'll follow."

She goes down a ways to her car and I go to mine. I get in and start up and let her drive past, then I pull out behind her. No doubt to improve gas mileage, she's going 60 in a 70 zone. But I follow at a safe distance anyway--but not so far as to make her think I'm abandoning her. We turn off at the next exit and there's a gas station. There's also a car following me through the exit off the freeway, so I'm starting to sweat bullets in 45 degree weather, hoping that someone back there isn't getting ready to put them back in me. She turns right toward the gas station, I turn right, the third car turns right. She pulls into the gas station parking lot, I pull into the gas station parking lot....the third car drives past.

Man, I hate being a coward!

Anyway, I get out, she gets out. I ask, are you going to be okay? And she does start to get red-eyed again and mentions that she still doesn't have any money. (and you're thinking, well, duh!! nothing changed in ten miles except she's at a station instead of ten miles away, but she didn't suddenly come into possession of the wallet she said she left at home!!)

And then I wrestle with my thoughts: I hate being stupid, I hate being in a position of being taken advantage of by a con artist. On the other hand, if she's acting she really should be on film or stage because it doesn't look a bit faked to me. On the other hand, it's not like I have expert social skills in knowing when someone is really telling the truth or faking crying. On the other hand, I really want to help if the need is real and I can help.

Oh well. I decide given how bad gas prices are, offering to fill up her car would approach painting the word "Sucker!" on my forehead; also given how bad gas prices are, offering anything less than $10.00 of gas might not get her any meaningful distance towards home and her wallet where she needs to get so that she can start her trip over right and fill herself up.

"Listen," I suggest,"I can't fill up your car, but if you drive over to the pump, I'll go in and have them put ten dollars on the pump. Would that be enough to get you back home and you could get your wallet?"

"Yes. And give me your name and address I'll send you the money in the mail."

I go inside and pay the cashier.

I come back out, and she pulls down the hose and puts the ten dollars in her car. As she's filling, she says again, "If you just write your name and address on a paper, I'll get the money back to you."

"Thanks, but if you'll forgive me, I think it's okay if you just keep it. You, know I...."

"No, I understand...strangers, right?"

"Yeah, right." Momentarily, I think about offering to give my email address, but she doesn't really want a conversational relationship, she just was in an awkward and embarrassing position and didn't want to be thought of as somebody trying to con or cheat ten bucks of gasoline from a gullible stranger. And it seems self-evident now, but I hadn't thought about it until I read it recently somewhere, but it's ungallant and NOT selfless to try and make some deeper acquaintance out of helping somebody. It's like taking advantage of THEM. So I just ask again, will that be enough to get you home or to your friend? She says, I'm going home and get my wallet, and then I'll go get her. She'll be there, because she told me she ran down the street."

"Okay, then. Well hope it goes okay." (Literature is what we have to save us from the boredom of what dull real people actually say. That, of course was not literature.)

As I drove back on to the freeway, I thought again how much I hate that I would even have any reason to think someone might be trying to trick people out of money at a rest area; how much I hate the several minutes of fear as I thought it might really be a scam with a confederate following in the car behind me, waiting to spring the trap and perhaps even thump on me as they decide what they're going to take from me or my car. And I worried whether 3.324 gallons of gas would really get her where she was going. (It was an older Toyota; figure around 20 miles to the gallon, lower bound and she'd have about 66.48 miles, not counting whatever fumes she had still had in the car before she added the gas.)

So I was replaying everything, second-guessing whether I had really helped enough, was I a mark in a con, was the real con getting my name & address (which she didn't do) for use in a later, bigger con or identity theft? Then, on the radio, Harry Chapin came out of no where and sang "Taxi."

And I felt better. It is, of course, making too much of it to think "it was a sign." But having said that, Harry Chapin is just a comfort in so many ways. He was philosophical, sophomoric, philanthropical and inconsistent. His song coming on just then make me think that what ever had just happened was as okay as I could make it, and to quote from Dick King-Smith's book, Babe, the Gallant Pig, "That'll do ...That'll do" (118).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Calling all fantasy lovers!!

I'm handsome, fair, and close enough to six feet tall that, well, who's to quibble
Ummmm......forgot where I was for a moment.

Anyway, for the other kind of fantasy lovers, lovers of those stories, you may know or want to know that since Februrary of 2007, a re-mastered DVD of The Last Unicorn has been available. If one buys it from the Conlan Press website , Peter Beagle gets a better cut of the moneies. Two versions are available there--a $24.98 that's autographed in 3 places by Beagle, and a $14.98 unsigned edition. But the important thing about this is that sound and picture are much better than the earlier DVD version that (I own and )was a lower quality recording of the videotape.

Well, I suppose another important thing is that Beagle is getting fairly compensated for his work by sales at that site. But mostly I was really excited to see this is available, especially since I didn't know there was a new version coming available and couldn't wait anyway two or three years ago and bought the lower-quality DVD with no special features. I would have liked to have seen this new one in my Easter Basket, but now I'll have to wait until the next gifting day....

But you pick it up right away if you want.

In related news, he's got a short story called "Two Hearts" that is a bridge story/sequel to The Last Unicorn and is on the short list for a Nebula Award. And he's writing a full-legnth novel sequel. Find it! Read it! Share it!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Hands across the bookshelf, Hands across the Web

One thing I like about bloglines is that when one looks at subcribers for a particular blog/website feed, it just says "subscribers" not "friends" nor even "contacts."
It's less social pressure. One isn't trying to garner friends or trying to show which celebrity in listed as a friend. It's just readers.
Of course, having said that, I'm envious of several blogs that have more readers.