31.8.05

Outed

Each new job is an opportunity to remake oneself, to jettison bad habits or traits and to create a new image of who you are.

I started my new job with that intention and to some extent that's worked. Except... I've been outed as a reader and as having a mind that traps trivia. Since I'm a librarian, I'm hoping that's going to be seen as a good thing.

If not, I guess I'll have to apply for Head Research Librarian on "Jeopardy" for my next posistion.

30.8.05

Fatwa?

It's been all over the news that Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, but didn't really mean it (perhaps). Now Venezuela is asking for Robertson's extradition.

One question remains unanswered: did Robertson issue the Evangelical Christian equivalent of a fatwa?

29.8.05

Notable Quotes

It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one's adult enjoyment of what are called 'children's books'. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty--except of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for creme de menth: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.

C.S. Lewis
"On Stories" from The World's Last Night and other essays

Imponderables

If you haven't heard by now, there's a hurricane named Katrina bearing down on New Orleans. This isn't just any old hurricane, it's HUGE. Large enough that people in Cincinnatti should be worried (at least, Headline News thinks they should). About Last Night and Maud Newton have some great links to information about the storm, and NOAA's official warning is here. And then there's this, from Colby Cosh:
I'm up late watching streaming video from WWL, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina is about five hours from landfall; a meteorologist reporting from the Superdome--now full of twenty or thirty thousand people who had no way to escape--is explaining very carefully and literally that residents who ignored the evacuation order and remained in city homes are as good as dead. At last report, most of New Orleans still had power: some of those people are probably watching the same broadcast.
I have a friend who lives in NO. His house is about 175 years old and stuffed with all sorts of treasures. So, has he evacuated? No. Despite the first-ever mandatory evacuation, he's hanging tough on the 11th floor of a "hurricane safe" hotel.

Don't know about you, but if a storm's this big... this distructive... this scary, I wouldn't stay in some untested hotel. I'd be hitting the road outta town.

Stay safe, Terry. And all others that live nearby.

28.8.05

September Arrives

No matter how old you get, if you work in a school or are on an academic calendar, you still get those going-back-to-school butterflies. And you still have that going-back-to-school checklist. Here's how I'm doing:

√ haircut/trim
√ annual checkup
√ get new shoes
√ choose first day outfit
√ get new binders, notebooks and pens
√ read the September preview magazines*

Since MNPOW provides hot lunch, I don't need a lunchbox.

And for those of you who noticed that there were a couple of items left undone in June, you'll be happy to know I have a vet, a cat sitter, a dentist and I've registered to vote. Even found a butcher and a baker (candlestick makers seem few and far between these days).

Now, all I can do is worry that I won't be invited to sit at the cool kids table.

________
* when I was younger, that would be Glamour and Mademoiselle and Seventeen for their clothes and make-up tips; now it's Entertainment Weekly and Premier for their movie previews.

26.8.05

Love it!


Cat and Girl
hits it square on the head. (þ : Librarian Avengers)

Hi Ho, Go to the Fair

I still remember hearing the New York State Fair jingle that played on tv when I was younger. A listing of all the counties, and the chorus "Hi Ho Come to the Fair". Good advice.

Last year I wrote about the Dutchess County Fair and my memories of the Long Beach (NY) carney. It's that time again, and I'm off to spend Saturday at the fair.

Come join me or (if you live too far away), go to your local fair and then tell me all about it. What better way to end the summer than acting like a little kid eating candy apples and riding bumper cars and seeing all the sheep and rabbits?

25.8.05

Imponderables

Pat Robertson has called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Chavez, to his eternal credit, has responded by asking (I paraphrase), "Pat who?"

What bothers me is the amount of attention being paid to this. Jesse Jackson got trotted out by ABC. The Daily Show has spent two nights on it. The blogosphere is all atwitter. The White House has commented. Why? Why not just say, "this man is a crackpot" and move on?

It truly is, as the British say, the silly season.

It's the little things

Years ago, my beloved Howard had to be hospitalized for a week. During that time I had to leave the apartment, because it felt empty without him. When we finally returned, he had one of those collars on that made him look as though he'd gotten stuck at the narrow end of a megaphone - it was supposed to keep him from licking his stitches and pulling them out, but in reality it made it impossible for him to eat. I removed it, he gobbled down some food, and then I helped him onto the bed. I lay back, he crawled on top of me, tucked his head under my chin and let out a huge sigh of relief. We held paws and slept that way for about three hours.

Howard's long gone and Mallory has taken to climbing up my side when I'm in bed reading. He puts his arms around my shoulder or kneads my neck and chin, occasionally snuffling my ear with his wet nose. Last night, for a variety of reasons, I couldn't sleep and so today I decided to take a nap. Mallory climbed on me, snuffled for a few moments and then tucked his head as close to my chin as he could and we fell asleep.

And when I woke up, the world seemed a tiny bit better.

Imponderables

Because I'm a worry-wart, when the power went out this morning at 2:30am (a kid drove his car into the pole supporting the electrics), I started thinking about spoilage. Despite being told that it could take a while for things to get bad as long as I didn't open the fridge door, I thought that it might be wise to get some ice.

So, off I trundled to the supermarket. I've shopped there before and noticed that the carts were always in those canopy things in the parking lot. Until now, I thought that was for our convenience.

Today I noticed a sign on the doors into the supermarket: "Because of the hazardous conditions they create, all shopping carts have been moved to the parking lot and are not kept inside the store".

Hazardous conditions? Could someone please explain that? Especially since it only seems to apply to this one supermarket. Perhaps they bought a "bad" brand of cart? The carts have been known to rampage unexpectedly?

(ps. the power is now on - no spoilage noticed)

24.8.05

106/60

That's my blood pressure - arrived at after trying two different cuffs and having two people take three readings each. My resting heart rate is 66. Another low number.

One of my friends keeps telling me that going from parchment to ivory does not a tan make. I guess I'm going to have to do a whole lot better if I want people to think I'm still among the living.

23.8.05

If you didn't think about this before

Google Has Your Data: Should You Be Afraid? is not news. But to many it will be. Hopefully, those in power at the state and federal level will feel moved to do something about the proliferation of public disemination of data that should be private (I've got a fake SSN to tell people when I know it won't be checked and they don't need it). Sometimes, it's enough to make one want to stay offline!

Never misunderestimate the powers of your Mother

My mother read my post about the toaster and found it funny. Good.

Then she called me to tell me that she did so remember who gave them the toaster: the parents of the children that lived next door to her when she was growing up (we're still close with the family). Not so good.

I'd have been a lot happier if she could remember conversations we had ten years ago. Maybe in another 36 years, she will!

Still, I said I'd correct the post and I have. Love you Mom.

20.8.05

They don't make wedding presents the way they used to!

Several years ago I was home, visiting my parents (in their version of Smalltown USA). In their basement, on one of the shelves, sat a toaster that I'd grown up with; I thought it'd been exiled to the basement because my father likes to toast bagels and this toaster didn't know from bagels. Silly me. It was there because it was a wedding present and my mother didn't want to offend the giver by throwing it away.

NOTE: Their wedding was in 1959.

My father, being the kind of guy he is, decided that perhaps he could fix it. He did. I took the toaster home and for the past 10 years I've been toasting with it; it even became part of a story I told to my Storytelling class: "The Brave Little Toaster". My mother made me swear never to throw it away, because - you guessed it - it was a wedding present.

NOTE: She doesn't remember who gave it to them.

Sadly, I don't think it survived the move. I put bread in, but it doesn't go down and the heating elements don't get hot. So I called home to report the casualty and my father suggested that 1. I get a new toaster, 2. I throw it out (Mom agreed!) but that 3. he might take a look and see if he could get it working again. Just to see if he can.

Because, you know, a wedding present toaster from 1959 should last longer than a mere 46 years.

19.8.05

Links Galore

Good Stuff

People tell me that it takes four to six months before massive change starts to feel really normal - before you're comfortable in your new life. So here I am, only two months away from The Big City and feeling still very hesitant about things. Fine, I know it's a matter of time.

But then things happen that outweigh the incredible helplessness you feel when you don't know where the grocery store or the shoe repair guy is. Things that help that "ok" feeling grow. In my case it's been:
  • watching a family of blue jays and cardinals flit across my backyard every morning
  • meeting two people at MNPOW that love books as much as I
  • finding a few good shops where they were least expected
  • getting to watch my backlog of movies thanks to Alice and Netflix
  • having a quiet Sunday (football free, no less!)
  • tackling Mt. Bookpile
Stay tuned. There'll be more Good Stuff coming up. I just know it.

18.8.05

May I just add

The Little Professor lists Signs that the books have taken over:

* Your parents send you an article from the L. A. Times that describes the lengths to which people will go to house their personal libraries--converting a garage, for example. It's not clear if this article is meant to be prophetic or admonitory.
* You remember that one of your father's professors kept books in his oven (until, that is, a graduate student turned it on). After all, you don't use your own oven for much of anything, so...
* Your mother recommends building library stacks.
* The books have pride of place in your voice mail message.
* When visiting someone's house, you automatically calculate how much wall space could be used for bookcases.
* You take the local bookstores into consideration when deciding whether or not to propose a paper for a conference.
* Visitors inquire if books have the same mating habits as rabbits.
* The furniture store deliveryman remembers you. And your bookcases.
* A trip to Chicago is incomplete without expeditions to Powell's, O'Gara's, and the Seminary Co-Op. Who needs to go clothes shopping on the Miracle Mile?
* Will work for books.

I'd like to add: you never pack for a trip without bringing a suitcase for the new books you'll pick up.

17.8.05

Beyond the Pale

The New Yorker devoted this week's advertising to highlighting Target. Fine - if Target wants to pay that much money for that much exposure, who am I to complain?

Well, I can. As Dan Kennedy (þ: Maud) says:
Maybe more importantly, I would like to pose this question: How many mid-six-figure geniuses did it take to come up with the idea of ads that feature BULLSEYE TARGETS painted on New York subways, bridges, and skyscrapers in 2005?

I'm talking to you too, Minda Gralnek, VP and Creative Director at Target in Minneapolis.
After Sept. 11, 2001, that's unconscionable. The New Yorker, of all magazines, should have known better. Write and tell both parties what you think of this. I know I will.

16.8.05

Newer isn't better

I switched my bank about a year ago because my old bank (very small, few branches) was making life difficult. My new bank was gobbled up by a larger bank and this past month there was a shift from the first on-line banking set-up to the "new and improved" set-up standard at the larger bank.

It just doesn't work for me. Here's an example. Last night I went to get gas - used the debit card. Paid to get my car back from the shop - used the debit card. Logged in to see the damage, and both transactions were listed as "pending". This morning - not 12 hours later - I logged in again because I had some bills I'd set up to pay. Nada. Nothing from yesterday, and today's payments haven't been posted. With the old system, it all posted the day I did the transaction and I had a much better sense of what my balance was.

Note to larger bank: your system stinks. Newer, larger, improved is not always the case. Sometimes (as readers of this blog know) older, time-tested is waaaaaaay better.

13.8.05

Imponderables

Why is it that Hotmail catches spam/junk e-mail with headers about He:rba:Lvia:gr:A or increase itsSize but can't manage to stop the ones that say SEXUALLY EXPLICIT?

12.8.05

Links Galore

10.8.05

Skunked!

Usually I enjoy my mornings here in the country: the breeze that wafts through the cottage, the sight of blue jays as they frolic in my backyard, the sounds of nature rather than the sounds of the BQE. Except today, when I was rather rudely awakened by an aroma. Not the pleasant aroma of earth after a rain, or newly mown grass. The aroma of an animal not happy with life. The ever-popular eau du skunk.

Hideous smell, but great alarm clock!

8.8.05

So long, farewell

Schoolhouse Rock, "Playlists and discussion topics from a weekly radio show on WSCB 89.9 FM, Springfield College, Springfield, MA, hosted by reference librarians Emily Alling and James Miller" has come to an end. The archives are a great resource for anyone doing this type of show!

Bad Week Warning

Today I dropped off my laundry, and before I picked it up I went grocery shopping (same shopping center/strip mall). As I'm pushing the cart around, trying to figure out where this place has stashed the raisens and the pita, I see a guy in a blue shirt. He's overweight... got dark hair in a bit of a pompadour... big bushy sideburns... slight sneer on his lips... Oh.My.God. I'm shopping with Elvis.

You just know any week that starts with an Elvis sighting is not going to be a good one.

RIP

Peter Jennings died last night. Whether or not you watch the nightly news on tv doesn't matter. For years he was the reporter I trusted most in times of national (and international) crisis.

7.8.05

unFriendly thoughts

I spent my time at Meeting today trying to get the "bad" thoughts out of my head, but didn't succeed. In fact, more crowded in. What were those thoughts?

1. What do you do when someone you like says something (on a blog, in an e-mail, in conversation, where ever) that you find offensive. Not in a FCC-wouldn't approve sense, but in the "I can't believe you actually would say that and think I'd be ok with it" sense. Responding to something like that is difficult - how do you do it in such a way that the other doesn't feel defensive or that it doesn't become the thin edge of a rift?

2. What do you do when you find that someone you've admired or respected really wasn't what they were cracked up to be? You know, one of those Wizard of Oz moments, when the Great and Powerful Oz is revealed to be the timid charlatan behind the curtain. In this instance, though, there's no Glinda to show you how to get home - you have to do it yourself.

That's what I went in with. As I tried to empty my mind and let the Inner Light help, I heard snoring from at least four different people. When the a/c was on, it was too cold, and it took some time (and a great many clicks of the remote control) to turn it off. The only message during the actual Meeting was really an announcement. And several of the Afterthoughts seemed to be just rambling without purpose.

So here I am, sitting at home, feeling unsettled and unquiet. Not the way I'd wanted to spend my Sunday.

What I didn't see at the theater

Yesterday, I went to see "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" at the Irish Repertory Theatre. I'm not going to review the play, but I can tell you that the performance by James Kennedy is definitely something to see. What I want to talk about is the State of the Audience.

I went to see the show because I know a cast member and I know a crew member - and while I know that almost every waiter in the City is also an actor, it was clear that the audience wasn't made up of "friends of...". Rather, the average age of the audience was 60. Granted, it was a summer Saturday matinee, but still - 60? Not great if a theater company wants to survive. The audience needs a median age of 40-ish - difficult to do in these times. Part of that is the rise in ticket prices. I understand that theaters have to pay Equity salaries and IATSE salaries and rent and rental for costumes/props and royalties and other salaries and all that. But it does keep audiences - young, necessary audiences - away.

Artistic vision has something to do with it as well. When I was a Sweet Young Thing (as opposed to the middle-aged curmudgeon I am now) back in 1984, I moved to the Big Bad City because my first job out of college was as the Assistant Business Manager for a renowned Off-Broadway repertory theater company. They had introduced us to many works we now consider "modern classics" (and isn't that an oxymoron?!) and recently had transferred two hits to other OB stages. Many of the actors nurtured by the company are now well-known, and others make a steady living in the realm of "Hey, it's that guy!" performances. Yet when I got there, I became privy to the Behind the Scenes secrets: fiscally, the company was in bad shape and artistically, even worse.

My first season I got paid the whopping salary of $50/week. I worked in the Business and Box Offices, and got a pretty clear picture of the problems. The first was a really bad season that the critics savaged and the audience avoided in droves. One play was cancelled when it became clear that the author was unstable (going on stage and attacking - verbally - the audience and - physically - the people asked to escort her offstage was a major clue). There was a hugely lucky last play that saved the season and ended up transferring to Broadway. In the Business Office, though, things were even more dire. The Assistant Technical Director had been allowed to submit copies of candy wrappers in lieu of actual receipts - not cool in the accounting world. The computerized accounting program (remember, these were the Old Days in terms of computer programs - anyone remember WordStar?) allowed unbalanced transactions to be entered, so by the end of the year there was $10,000 in an account that we had to unravel. Of course, this $10,000 wasn't in one transaction: it was +$10 from one and -$.75 from another, and so on.

The second season my position was eliminated and I took a second job, working full time at an Elite Girls School on the Upper East Side during the day and working in the Business Office nights and weekends. For free. Why? Because by then I was the only one on the "inside" that had any memory of the previous fiscal year. We'd had two Managing Directors and three Business Managers and four Box Office Managers in one 12-month period. The company ultimately became fiscally sound, but the artistic vision never really came back. The Founding Member that had had that vision wanted to try Hollywood (Hollywood felt differently about that) and without that guidance, the company ultimately folded. I made good friends there, but the simple fact was, friends do not a viable theater company make.

Usually things aren't this dire in the world of Off-Broadway. Artistic Directors can leave, but the replacement is someone who can lead the company forward. Sadly, it's not uncommon for a company to not survive because the fiscal issues are too heavy a weight. And part of the problem is the aging of the audience. A subscription series that is priced for people not making millions (or even hundreds of thousands) is usually available only for previews and mid-week matinees. That's not helpful for people that work or have scheduling conflicts that make having a one-week timeframe problematic. Yet many companies cling to this old model and the results are... well... what I saw in the audience yesterday.

It's too bad, because Off-Broadway is where the exciting stuff is happening. It's where innovative productions and interesting actors are being nurtured. Losing that will mean losing part of our cultural heritage. What's the solution? I don't know. But there has to be one. Doesn't there?

5.8.05

Imponderables

Today, on my commute to work over the Tappan Zee Bridge, I saw something that made me go "what?????": a rung ladder propped against the outer edge of the bridge. Not on the pavement - seemingly in thin air leading down to the Hudson. I mean, it has to be the Hudson because we were over water at that point. SO, my question is "how long do we think that ladder is?" Not to mention, "who's footing it to keep it steady?"

UTA: I've seen a number of these ladders lashed to the outside of the TZB. Clearly there is some purpose to them, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out!

Links Galore

2.8.05

I'll bite

Aravis passed this book meme on to "anyone who cares to have a go", so...

Number of books on shelf?
On my shelves now? About 800 (split between the Children's/YA collection and Mt. Bookpile).

In storage? 2028. I think.

Last book purchased?
The Secret Man (Woodward with Bernstein)

Book I'm reading now?
Da Vinci Decoded (Martin Lunn)

Last five books read?
1. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
3. The Last Days of Dogtown, Anita Diamant
4. The Secret Man, Bob Woodward
5. 100 People who are Screwing Up America, Bernard Goldberg


Passing the torch to?
Sherri, Bri, Coco and Kar

Welcome

I'm a little in shock this morning: Terry Teachout has labelled me a "preferred blogger". Coming from him, that's high praise indeed. And a little dismayed because this is in the middle of inventory, when my blogging ability is limited (8307 items done, 31686 to go).

Still, welcome to all the About Last Night readers. Any friend of Terry's is a friend of mine. I've even updated the sidebar just for you. Enjoy!