30.11.04

Venti = "Weasel Snot"?

Confused by the new terms for "small", "medium" and "large"? Language Log takes a look at Latte lingo.

I have to agree with their comments. It's much like that AmEx Gift Card commercial where the snotty saleswoman refers to "flavors" instead of colors. When did good, old orange become "pumpkin"? And what's with all the names for blue? Even my Crayola box didn't have those colors! Sometimes I wonder if I should be looking for a "Venti Cashmire Cerise V-neck with No Cables" when I go to the LL Bean site or into Bloomies.

It's bad enough that at 5'4" I have to get "women's petite" clothing (and doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?!). Can't we just use the words we learned years ago? Let's take back our language! Who's with me?

Holiday Gift Ideas

Do you know an angry driver? Consider buying Road Rage Cards this year. (þ: Librarian in Black)

29.11.04

Imponderables

Paternity suit runs into double trouble. Uh, excuse me???

Notable Quotes

There are three kinds of people in this world - those who can count and those who can't.
Unknown

28.11.04

And the divide grows wider

I know all about those Texas textbooks - you know, the ones with the disclaimers about what's "science fact" and what isn't. So now someone's created a bunch of stickers for other branches of science. I'm sure most "right thinking" people think the stickers, and the accompanying commentary, are funny but to me, they're not. They're the sad reminder that people are intolerant of other's beliefs and that if you're even slightly skeptical about what science claims, you're branded a kook.

26.11.04

Plenty to be thankful for...

It's that melancholy time of year: days getting shorter, and grayer; faux holiday cheer on the streets and in stores; "buy buy buy" warnings from the media; and families trying to gather the strength for one more get together (hopefully less contentious or stressful than last year's). It's also the time when many of us reflect on the past year, our hopes for the next and our relationships to people and whatever we call the Higher Power.

Some time ago I clipped this from Hoarded Ordinaries
In their work on Christian pilgrimage, anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner use the word communitas to talk about the experience pilgrims share when they arrive at their communal destination. Although each seeker might have taken a separate path, the footsteps leading to a spiritual goal being entirely one's own, when seekers meet up at Lourdes or Canterbury or Lough Derg, they find themselves in a community of believers. After traveling separate paths, these seekers are united by a shared belief that this particular place is the sight of special spiritual power... We each have to walk our paths alone...but at the end as well as along the way, we share our walks with other people.

Over the past few years I've been studying the works of C.S. Lewis (under the guidance and tutelage of Jim Como) and have, in a slothful way, made a pilgrimage towards a better understanding of the Divine and what Lewis called "Mere Christianity". I was not alone in this pilgrimage, there were others with me, and we all arrived at the end with different appreciations and results but, as the above says, "united by a shared belief that this particular [person] is the [site] of special spiritual power." And I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the friends I've made throughout the years. Recently I remade contact with a friend (almost said "old" friend, which she is but I really meant "someone I knew years ago"). She's in Australia and I'm here in America, and we haven't seen each other in almost 20 years. We might get together in April, when she's here for a family gathering. She is the person (excepting family) that I've known longest in my life. Then there are the friends I've recently made, equally important in my life because of the fresh perspectives and insights they provide.

Despite doing "nothing" yesterday, I felt comforted by the presence of my beloved cats. And last night, with Bogie curled on the pillow next to my head and Mallory using my feet as his pillow, I felt surrounded by their love.

No matter how gray or melancholy it gets, there really is "plenty to be thankful for."

(For those of you that don't know where that quote is from, or where the title of this blog is from, go rent Holiday Inn now)

Links Galore

23.11.04

Imponderables

I think it's time to start a new section of this blog: things I just can't seem to wrap my mind around. Here's yet another one via MSNBC Of mice, men and in-between

Stop the world

I want to get off. Why? Because sometimes, things happen that make you wonder what happened to the world you once knew. For example:
I just don't understand. Do you?

22.11.04

Notable Quotes

[Y]oung Americans are currently taught only about the violence of war. They must also learn about the violence of tyranny. For if we teach only the horrors of war, we teach cowardice.


19.11.04

Links galore

  • FLASHBACK: 80s lyrics alert (þ: Nina)
  • Sorry I missed the celebration this week. (þ: Language Log)
  • Just in time for the holidays: the Cook's Thesaurus. "More than a thesaurus, it's 'a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients and kitchen tools. Entries include pictures, descriptions, synonyms, pronunciations, and suggested substitutions.' (þ: Neat New)

18.11.04

Another example of getting what you didn't paid for (or want)

In July I mentioned that Linda Ronstadt had gotten booed offstage because of political comments she made during a concert. This bothered me then, and it bothers me now, particularly since the election.

Michael McGrorty had a recent "Unfortunate Event" with David Handler at CLA:
Mr. Handler observed the usual conventions and added a contemporary twist. During his speech he mentioned more than once his dismay over the victory of the Republican party in the presidential elections, and managed to compare the current reign of President Bush to that of former two-term President Ronald Reagan. His reference was anything but complimentary; it was in fact an expression of distaste, even loathing. For the record, these remarks received a thin smattering of applause from the assembly.... I neither welcomed nor appreciated Mr. Handler’s political asides in sum or in detail.

To begin with, Mr. Handler has misjudged his audience. He was speaking not to a group of individuals who may believe as he does but to a convention of librarians whose role and duty is to preserve the right to freedom of expression and to information without the stain of partisanship, whatever their own views....

For another thing, the assumption of a uniform dislike of the Bush administration is simply a mistake and presumes that librarians would submit to the muzzling of their more conservative peers...

Finally, it must be said that we do not appreciate the presumption that we possess any uniform set of beliefs, even and perhaps especially those which appear to be in the majority among our population. The assumption takes too much for granted, denies us our individuality and the right to change our minds, to make different decisions based on our own evaluation of facts and circumstances. It assumes we can’t think for ourselves, a bad guess to make about a group of folks who spend their lives in rooms filled with computers and books.... For myself, I add this note: The next time you want to agree with me, Mr. Handler, don’t do it in front of a crowd of librarians.
I find it refreshing that a self-confessed liberal questions the appropriateness of Mr. Handler's comments.

I've "met" the author at another conference and he was very funny and charming. Would I find him to be so if he'd made political comments? I think not. But this isn't the worst of it: even friends make these assumptions and then refuse to back off.

At the conference I recently attended, several people were still visibly upset about the election results. One friend mentioned that she'd never met a conservative or a Republican that she liked; when I responded that I was fairly conservative and my friends/family are Republicans it was amazing how quickly her smile faded and she left. Only one person understood what I was saying and decried the divisions in this country.

On a similar note, I've dropped an on-line group I hung out with for years because of the intolerance of the "other" point of view. Calling people that voted for Bush "dumb" and people that are religious "dumb" (or "dumber than most") is just not helpful, people! Trying to understand why these divisions exist and how to bridge that gap is what's needed, not refusing to accept that a large number of people don't agree with the so-called Liberal Elite and are rebelling against their ideas.

Sadly, I only see another four years of this nonsense.

17.11.04

Blog Thoughts (Part Three)

Yesterday a friend forwarded me a .wmv file captioned "Old Habits Die Hard". It showed a woman typing away on her keyboard and then slamming her computer off the desk as she atavistically hit the return lever. Remember those?

Also yesterday, another friend started a Yahoogroup and a website (which could hold a blog and a forum and... and...) for the group of neighbors that are protesting a housing development in their area.

And, also yesterday, Karen Schneider wrote on her blog:
And frankly, though I believe in Hot Tech and Ubiquitous Computing and all that, the best part of the CLA presentations was that the audience members were listening to what I had to say. Which is where I have a bone to pick with my biblish buddies Michael Stephens and Steven Cohen, who are at Internet Librarian wondering where the bloggers are, because they are one of a handful of people blogging during the presentations.

Yeah, I know it's called multitasking, and I know the NextGens think it's hot. But I think it too often can be an excuse for solipsism. Just when you should be all eyes and ears for someone else, what are you doing? Blogging!

As an adjunct library science instructor, far too often I have had to walk around the room and say Shut Down That PC And Listen. I have seen the pouts, the lower lips pushed out, the dagger eyes. I have said Shut It Down Anyway. If nothing else, you are paying good money for me to bore you.


All this blog/computer activity got me thinking about technophobes vs. technophanatics. While I'm not accusing any of the above of being the latter, they don't have too much sympathy for the former. Me? I'm somewhere in-between, trying to figure out which technology I like, which I don't and how to integrate that into my life in a meaningful and helpful way.

For example, I use Quicken to pay my bills and keep track of expenses and my checkbook. But I can still do manual double-entry accounting, should I ever need to. Part of me misses those green columned pads and Fred, my TI calculator, sits on the floor of my living room. Using the computer makes it a little easier in terms of playing with the numbers and, since the advent of Check 21 and on-line billpaying, it's probably good to have kept up with the times.

Last January I made a conscious effort to write to friends. I have stationery and a fountain pen, and I used them. I got a number of responses back that said, in effect, "I loved getting your letter... I hope you don't mind my e-mailing my response." Well, yes, I do mind. Getting letters is fun. Getting e-mail is, well, everyday stuff. I do have one penpal and we correspond, but beyond that my mailbox is bereft of communication with friends and family (except at holiday and birthday time, when they still manage to get cards into the mail - but how long with that last?).

My friend that started the blog is one of those computer tweakers - downloading cracks for programs that he'll only use once or twice but thinks are "cool", lecturing all about the way their computers are set up, using VOIP services, etc.. He spends a lot of time frustrated with people that aren't interested in learning to be as advanced as he. Back in the "good old days", mimeographing announcements and coffee sessions to discuss the latest information took a lot of time and effort. Creating a website and a newsgroup is more modern, certainly but it's also more distancing: there's no "neighborliness" there.

Yes, I blog. But, as stated before, it's really for me and I often see it as sort of a journal that I can share (like these "Blog Thoughts" posts). I could use an old fashioned diary just as easily, but then the venting aspect wouldn't take place. For me, it's sometimes like writing that really hate-filled letter to an ex or a teacher or whomever and then burning it. You got the feelings out, but no harm done. Here are thoughts I want to share and it's up to people to decide if they want to share in them. Given my site stats, not many do and that's ok.

I recognize that this is the right tool for me to use right now. It might not be later: I may start a real diary or I may move to another forum or who knows what the future holds. But it's the tool that matters, and knowing when and how to use it properly.

My final thoughts for today are remembering a keynote speaker at a conference I attended a couple of years ago. He was extolling the wonders of the Palm and how everyone would be using them in school in the future (more on that in a later post). During the Q&A, I asked how we were teaching students about choosing the right tool for the right job and if we weren't pushing Palms as the cure-all rather than as one choice. He responded that "everyone" was using Palms and to get used to it. Then someone asked how large the IT department at his school was. He pulled out a piece of paper on which he'd written the response.

'nuff said.

Blog Thoughts (Part Two)

One of the intreresting things you learn from Powells Books - Ink Q & A Susan Orlean is this: "Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
Married him."

Given the anonymity that most bloggers have, and the distances separating us,not to mention the newness of blogging, I wonder how common this might be. I know that there are some husband/wife and boyfriend/girlfriend bloggers - not necessarily on the same blog - but to meet a reader and end up married to that person?

I'm sure someone will write a book or blog about the possibilities soon. But it does lead one to think about the nature of the connections we make with the people that choose to read our words daily (or weekly or occasionally).

More later.

15.11.04

Blog Thoughts

I recently attended a conference where blogs were not only discussed but there was a conference blog (and a session blog for one of the sessions). I'd been thinking about the nature of blogging for a while and this got me thinking even harder.

When I started this blog it was a way for me to put "out there" thoughts and links that I thought were interesting but that most probably didn't matter to anyone else. Friends could check, read and (or) ignore as they chose and I wasn't wasting their bandwidth e-mailing them stuff. The concept of belonging to The Blogosphere really didn't enter into my thoughts. Then I noticed that people outside my immediate circle were noticing what I was writing and some were commenting on it. While that hasn't changed what I post, it has made me think more about the community for whom I'm writing.

With this conference, the blog wasn't really a success by most blogger's standards. Few people really commented on the sessions and discussion was limited. Still, given the geographically diverse group of people that attended, a blog would appear to be a good way to continue the conversations started. Why a blog rather than an e-mail list? Because you can opt-out of a blog: it is your choice to read and respond. Because a blog is less annoying than an e-mail message with a ton of quoted previous comments. And because a blog can track comments on different topics easier than an e-mail list can.

I think the next time this group starts blogging, it'll be a richer experience for all. As for my blog, well... more on that later.

Notable Quotes

Previously seen on a colleague's sig file:

(until the Red Sox win the World Series)

Currently on that colleague's sig file:

(until the Celtics win #17)

Talk about greedy (although I have to admit I agree with the prayer)!

12.11.04

What are you waiting for?

Mozilla Firefox 1.0PR has been released. Check out the built-in pop-up blocker, tab-browsing mode and integrated Google, IMDB and other engine searching. Surf the web safely and without the nonsense that IE forces on you.

Links Galore

  • OOPS! Regret The Error reports on corrections, retractions, clarifications, and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in North American media." (þ: Bookslut)
  • Essential Keyboard Shortcuts "Easy to learn and real timesavers. For example, if you need to get into Windows desktop in a hurry hold down the Windows key and press D. Also, Windows-E zips you to My Computer."
  • Worried about who's looking at your stuff? Check out the Spyware Center from one of the most trusted technology resources (CNET). Includes spyware basics, a glossary, a blog for the latest info, and reviewed downloads of top-rated spyware fighters. (þ: NeatNew)

9.11.04

Productive weekend

I just completed a very productive weekend: banking, errands (including laundry), magazine editing, etc. all getting done. It's really incredible how much better life seems when you see that check next to the "To Be Done" list and that pile of papers/trash growing.

My only complaint is that I didn't had enough time to read my new book. I was looking for something "good" to read after two disappointments in a row (something I haven't experienced in a while). I found one, but which book it is isn't important. What is important is why the two books I read were, in my mind, disappointing.

Because of my job, I read a lot of YA Literature. Now, some of it is really good, with interesting characters and plots and all that. C.S. Lewis said that a good story can be read by anyone at any time, and I agree with that: just because the intended audience is much younger than I doesn't mean that I won't really enjoy it just as much. The three big trends in YA Lit seem to be Harry Potter-esque, Lemony Snickett-esque and Darren Shan-esque. The problem is that, while imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, often it's done poorly. The Prophecy of the Stones is a meld of Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Jane Yolen/Diana Wynne Jones and written by a 14-year-old. That, of course, is the salient point: the author was 14. To tell the truth, it's quite good for someone that age, but it's not quite good enough. At least, I don't think so.

One of the bigger problems is that Prophecy was described as "The Next Harry Potter". That's an automatic UH-OH. Anything that's "The Next" probably isn't (I mean, really, the Bay City Rollers were so not "The Next Beatles"). That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good, but the expectations one has of something being The Next are inevitably not met.

The other book I read, Codex, was The Next Da Vinci Code. And again, it wasn't. It wasn't even a good imitation. I had no interest in the characters or the plot; I honestly contemplated not finishing it. The last book I didn't finish was several years ago, The Mark Twain Murders (the killer was when an academic library was shelved according to Dewey and Twain was located in the 820s - if you're a librarian you know how wrong that is!). Codex didn't have any such egregious errors, it was just boring. If you're going to be Da Vinci-esque, at least talk more about the book mystery and how that's resolved. This was one of those blink-and-you-missed-it solutions.

I do enjoy series-type reading. Good series, that is. One problem is when the author loses the thread or the charm as the series grows. Martha Grimes, for example, did that with her Richard Jury series. Her solution? Write a few books that weren't part of the series and voila, the series improved. Reginald Hill, on the other hand, has not lost his ability to write a good read. Good Morning... Midnight has restored my enjoyment of the written word. Now I'm on to The Next (next) Da Vinci Code. More on that later.

8.11.04

Notable Quotes

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.
- Moses Hadas

5.11.04

Last words

Once again, Colby Cosh gets it right: "How about reaching for a tall foamy glass of the obvious? Gore and Kerry lost because they were Gore and Kerry--schoolmarmish, humourless stiffs who had spent most of their lives preparing consciously for the presidency." And Daniel Henniger explores why Blue Democrats lost red America back in 1965. (login required)

Links Galore

3.11.04

Sorry about the lack of posting

Unlike some, I'm not depressed about the election. I get why Bush won. I even understand people that voted for him.

I do, however, have a serious case of the book-blahs. Two books I read recently just weren't that great. I'll write about that later, but right now I'm in search of 1. a good read and 2. some Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

A long night's journey into the unknown

  • These are cool: no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, you've got to love the BBC Interactive Electoral College Map. C-SPAN has another map, showing slightly different results.
  • The view from Canada can be found over on Colby Cosh and at Macleans. My favorite line? "As I type this, Ralph Nader, who has already received more minutes in screen time from C-SPAN than he did votes, is droning on about how great Canada's voter-registration and balloting systems are. Sure, I agree, but it's like hearing a homely, aggressively dumb girl explain in detail what a hard, throbbing crush she has on you."

2.11.04

A humorous thought for today

Exploring Aravis contains this in today's post: "As I was driving through the town I saw something that struck me as funny. First there was the standard yellow street sign which read 'Caution Elderly Housing.' The next building after this sign was a funeral home.

Actually, the elderly housing development is across the street from the funeral home. I'm not at all sure that's an improvement. Whose poor granny gets the apartment that overlooks that?"

For today

(assuming you're a liberal and/or Democrat) Election Day/Night Survival Guide (þ: Bookslut)

No matter what your politics are, VOTE. It's the very least you can do.

1.11.04

What to do tomorrow night

Your very own Election Night cheat sheet (þ: Crooked Timber)

Notable Quotes

That unknown persons should think themselves entitled to comment upon so private a matter as a death and a resurrection, that they should vent their curiosity in letters to her daughter was a circumstance to excite Mrs. Wintertowne's utmost displeasure; she had a great deal to say in censure of such vulgar, ill-bred beings, and upon his arrival at Brunswick-square Sir Walter was obliged to listen to all of it.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke