30.10.06

Memo to NYC Marathon runners (2007)

Daylight Saving Time - When do we change our clocks? Just to be extra helpful for you, they're changing the clocks on Marathon Day. This year, however, you'll have to go with your normal amount of sleep.

29.10.06

Where's the ACLU?

UNEASYsilence : Google = NSA 2.0? ( þ: elearnspace)
What if I told you that I knew every website you visited, every email you ever wrote and received, every IM you ever sent and every call you ever made. I know how much your utility bills are, how much your American Express bill was, and that you have a proclivity to collect garden gnomes? Your reaction would be nothing short of utter outrage.

Now what if I told you that there is already a system in place that collects this information and has been doing so for years, and better yet, is not run by any government. It exists, and it is called Google: the vast black box of the information super highway.
Why isn't the ACLU, or more of the public, protesting this? Oh, wait: because we don't care, as long as it's not the goverment. Corporations taking personal information, storing, selling, sharing and displaying it, we're blase about that. But when the government does it, there must be a sordid reason.

Walt Crawford asks, after having upgraded to Firefox 2.0, "what's in your dropdown menu?"

I haven't upgraded to FF2.0 (just downloaded it and will do so this afternoon), but what's in my dropdown now is:

Google (because I'm too lazy to get rid of it and because it does the "inside blog" search well)
Amazon (for finding rarer books/music)
Alibris (to purchase rarer books)
Barnes & Noble
IMDB
Netflix
Powells
Snopes
Mamma (wonderful search engine, except for searching my blog)
WorldCat

That's it.

I do use gmail, and sometimes Scholar, but for the most part, I avoid Google. I just can't believe that they "do no evil". Can you?

27.10.06

Links Galore

26.10.06

Librarianship is not for the weak

So, you're thinking that being a librarian is easy? A nice cushy job shushing people and doing "book review" all day? HA!

In the past few days I've:
  • gotten numerous paper cuts
  • had bruised toes (not from teachers refusing to collaborate or people stating that, with Google and databases, libraries aren't needed but because I've dropped heavy tomes on them... and then there was the load of picture books that jumped off the book cart to land nicely on the already hurting digits: you need steel-toed shoes for this job!)
  • strained a muscle in my right forearm from moving 50 shelves of books in 1.5 hours
That's not to mention the constant assault from Other People's Germs, or the Never-Ending Dry Hands. Or the eyelid licking I get every morning (at 3:30am, thank you) from my Older Boy.

This is not a job for the faint of heart, or the delicate of physique!

25.10.06

Inaccuracy alert

How Many of Me seems to be the Site of the Moment. I went there, and I tried it. There was one of me (while I know that there are at least two!) and none of my father (who shares a name with his cousin, and both are alive). My mother might exist, but my sister doesn't (wish it were that easy in Real Life ;) )

So... play, but take the results with an ocean of salt!

Qualified?

Quiz Blogger features Interview: That Guy Off Jeopardy!
What was the most surreal moment you experienced during the time of the Jeopardy! madness?

There were plenty of odd moments, but nothing was weirder than the phone calls I got from prominent, front-page American politicians encouraging me to run for "Congress" (like your Parliament, except that they like to IM underage boys). The consensus, at the highest levels, appeared to be that, having appeared on a quiz show, I was now a viable Senate candidate. If this doesn't tell you what's wrong with American democracy, nothing will.
Which is only slightly better than the ads I've been seeing pro one New Jersey candidate, which basically say "A vote for the other guy is a vote for Bush" without explaining what he's actually for.

It's a coin-toss, I tell ya!

Ranting Elsewhere

MLearn: One Laptop Per Child

Am I totally off base with this?

22.10.06

Imponderables

I can't begin to imagine what the female version of looks like.

Plausible? Perhaps

In the beginning there was The Da Vinci Code. Actually, in the beginning there was Angels & Demons. Alternatively, in the beginning there was Holy Blood, Holy Grail?

Now, there are many books. Including The Expected One. I've read the ones listed above, and a few others besides. As fiction, they're not terribly well written. As fictionalized fact - horrible.

Why horrible? Because they stretch the bounds of plausible. Some of the "theory" I can buy.
  • It's plausible that Jesus was married
  • It's plausible that he fathered a child, in or out of marriage
  • It's plausible that Mary Magdalene fled the Middle East and landed in France
  • It's plausible that Mary Magdalene had a child, or two or three
  • It's plausible that Mary Magdalene preached her version of Jesus' teachings while living in France
  • It's plausible that some of those teachings have survived
Why are those things plausible? Because we know so very little about what happened, with the exception of the Gospels. Many of the disciples vanish from the pages of history after the crucifixion. We do know that there were many people at that time that preached variations of Judaism, much like there are many people today preaching their own versions of all religions.

But that's it, folks.

It is not plausible to me that there are people today who know that they are descended from the Holy Bloodlines. It is not plausible to me that there are secret organizations whose entire raison d'etre is to preserve and protect the "grail children". It is not plausible to me that the Vatican is spending a whole lot of time and effort covering all this up.

If you want to prove it to me, show me the evidence. Don't show me obscure, never before seen (or independently tested for verification) documents or just tell me that they exist: show them to me. Open the information up to scrutiny -- don't, as one author is doing, say "I know this and I have the proof, but I can't show you - you're just going to have to believe that my book is based on Real Information." If you're interweaving the information into the book, don't write "[character] slowly shook her head, trying to take in this incredible information" and then have them swallow it hook, link, sinker and kitchen sink. Show a little incredulity, because that's what the reader's feeling a whole lot of. Trust me on that one.

Because I don't buy it (and I'm not the only one).

So why are these badly written, badly plotted books selling? I don't think it's because we believe them, I think it's because our standards of good writing and good plotting have slipped. Yes, there are gullible people out there, ones who want to believe in Deep Conspiracies. But the rest of us just don't care as long as its escapism. It's just too bad that this is the form that escape is taking.

21.10.06

'Tis the Season

As you can probably tell from my previous post, I'm getting into the holiday swing: ghoulies and goblins and scary stories, etc.. I've been fortunate that the last two neighborhoods in which I've lived have been kid-friendly. Why? Because that means decoration friendly. All those lights and blow-up monsters and cobwebs... just wonderful.

However, like Reader_Iam, I sometimes wonder what's wrong with music programmers. The drugstore... the supermarket... Can't I even get a "Monster Mash" before I hear those bells a-jingling?!

Apparently not.

L is also for Lazygal!


What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?




You will swallow some tacks. You are a little weird, maybe not so much in a good way. Buy a yellow tie and wear it on your head.
Take this quiz!



(þ: Booklust)

20.10.06

Just NOT interested

Yesterday I had what has become a relatively common occurance: I'm sitting with a colleague, we're eating and talking about this and that, and they start to ramble on about a favorite show. Now, this is usually a show I've no interest in (including - but not limited to - The X-Files, South Park, Battlestar Gallactica, Firefly and American Idol).

I've been polite, and told them that I don't watch the show (due to the whole lack-of-interest thing). I've been curt and said "didn't see the episode" or "no idea what you're talking about". I'm almost at the point of being rude and saying, "look, if I'd wanted to watch, I would have - I didn't, so please, shut up!"

It's one thing if someone uses an episode, or a character, to make a point, and gives some background. It's completely different when they give a precis of the preceeding episode, as though telling you about it is incredible important. It isn't. I don't bore you with my favorite shows (and believe me, I could!)... why can't you just Leave. Me. Alone?!

Three Things

In this day and age, standing by while genocide occurs is inexcusable.

Three Simple Steps You Can Take

1. Educate : Inform your friends and community about the genocide in Darfur and inspire them to act!

2.Advocate : Urge Congress to pass legislation that is vital to end the genocide.

3.Fundraise : Help directly support civilian protection in Darfur and future crises by donating or holding a fundraiser to stop genocide.

“It is not in the interest of Sudan nor in the interest of Africa nor indeed in the interest of the world for us all to stand by and see genocide being developed in Darfur.”

Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria

18.10.06

A Quest

For as long as I can remember, I've been on a quest for the Perfect Blueberry Muffin. I've had some that came close to perfection, but none I've been totally awed by... my quest continues.

I haven't been on a similar quest for the Perfect Pancake, but I think that last Sunday I did find it! Where? In tiny Ashfield MA. Who knew? It was in a place called Edgar's, and the recipe was from South Face Farm (where, during sugaring season, people line up for hours just to eat their pancakes!).

There's a choice at Edgar's: Stack, Shorter Stack and Minimalist Stack. I had a conversation with an 11-year-old about this - we agreed that the Minimalist Stack really wasn't a stack, since it was just the one pancake. I should probably mention that the pancakes are the size of salad plates, and about an inch thick... one is definitely enough!

And then there's the hot chocolate. When they melt the chocolate, when it's not from some powdered, pre-made mix, you know you've entered a whole new world of hot chocolate making.

This breakfast followed another wonderful meal: sushi at Bizen, in Great Barrington. Not your traditional sushi menu, but absolutely wonderful and a great find (not my find, exactly, but someone from MPOW mentioned it and since it was sort of on my way to Amherst, I just had to try it!)

16.10.06

Upcoming...

My posting has been sporadic recently, in part due to my not being home enough to really sit and type.

So, here's what you lucky people have to look forward to in the next few days (possibly a week...):
  • an overdue rant on a new fiction trend
  • a discussion of quite possible the perfect pancake
  • a review of a chamber music concert and an art exhibit
  • a preview of upcoming events (including Shakespeare and the Opera)
  • my thoughts on why TiVo is dangerous
Quite probably there'll be more. But that should whet your appetite nicely, right?

Don't forget to check what I'm writing elsewhere, too!

The End

Like any good school librarian, I read The End this weekend. It's over. Luckily.

I think kids will like this one, as they've liked the other 12 books in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Unfortunately, the series lost its charm about Book the 4th for me.

Why? Well, it just tried too hard to be clever. Here's an example: the more-than-a-page discussion of being in the dark (or being in the dark about being in the dark, or being in the dark about being in the dark about being in the dark). Trying too hard, I tell you! And Sunny's conversation was getting to be more and more an exercize in "what the ()#&$(*& is she referring to NOW????" than humor.

Let's face it, when the books increase in size and cleverness, there's clearly something going on. I think it's an author who had a good idea - perhaps even a great one - and then couldn't stick with what worked really well. Just couldn't leave it alone (much like J.K. Rowling in the latter Harry Potter books: too much, waaaay too much, because the sense is that each has to top the previous).

Luckily, The End has ended, the series is complete, and I can move on to other things.

13.10.06

TGIF13!

In lieu of a real post, a little something from Savage Chickens!


(I promise to be better next week, after the current round of Culture Vulturing is over)

9.10.06

Notable Quotes

Someone accused me today of over-reacting to something he said. I replied that it's my strong suit, and I go with what I'm good at.

8.10.06

Statistics, Damn Statistics

Every so often I check my stat counter to see where people are coming from and why. I also check to see how many have learned that IE is a Bad Browser (only 30% of you seem to have done that - for the rest: Get Firefox!).

It's the "what drew you to this blog" part that gets me. I'm not surprised that people come here looking for information about a book. That thrills me. What doesn't thrill me, what worries me, are the number of people that seem to find me by typing in [title of book/author name] [study guide]. As if! I've done the research: three mentions of Those Guides by name, and a couple of posts that use the words, but not in conjunction. Sheesh.

Oddly enough, they don't seem to have returned to the blog for the sparkling wit and ranting. Don't miss any of 'em.

7.10.06

Someone gets it!

Some youth rethink online communications:
"Across campus, journalism professor Michael Bugeja -- long an advocate of face-to-face communication -- read Henderson's column and saw it as a 'ray of hope.' It's one of a few signs, he says, that some members of the tech generation are starting to see the value of quality face time.

As the novelty of their wired lives wears off, they're also are getting more sophisticated about the way they use such tools as social networking and text and instant messaging -- not just constantly using them because they're there."
Isn't that great news? To read that someone realizes that " a lot of the online friends he accumulated were really just acquaintances." How many young people today realize that? These on-line buddies aren't people that you can call at 2am because you've been in an accident and need someone to come to the hospital: real life friends are. Yes, you can "share" things with them that you might otherwise not tell people, but so what? Will they really be there when you need them? No. Because if you're not connected, they're not there.

I hope more people consider the complexities of virtual lives, and question whether life isn't better lived in person.

ETA: Two others that get it - WorkBook: "I'm working on learning to rely more on phone and in-person conversations."
And Edith.

6.10.06

Links Galore

4.10.06

How like a librarian


I just can't imagine not going to work on Halloween dressed like this (þ: Librarian Avengers). My question to Target is: how did you find out? No one I know would give our secret away...

Celebrate!

World Teachers'Day 2006
Don’t forget: the voices of teachers striving for quality education need to be heard throughout the world on World Teachers’ Day, 5 October.
In addition to my many librarian-teacher friends, let's hear it for Karen, my father, my uncles, my colleagues (in all four schools in which I've worked), the teachers I've had in my K-18 career, Puffin, LizzieD and Cam: all of whom try to do the best work they can for their students.

3.10.06

My Heroine!

The Little Professor has over 6,000 books. I'm only halfway there...

Irony Alert

I was catching up on my magazine reading and came across this gem in the September 2006 American Libraries:
"We track library books better than we track sex offenders" U.S. Representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.), sponsor of a bill to create a national internet database of convicted child molesters, "Senate Backs Child Molesters Database," Associated Press, July 21.

2.10.06

Ahead of the curve

Maud writes about Ancestor Stones. Been there, read that. And liked it.

Inquiring Minds Get An Answer

According to my uncle (who lives in Israel, but checked with a sabra):
David's brother-in-law explained to me the writing of Hebrew words under musical notation. The second word would appear to the right of the first word, as in English, so that the words can follow the sequence of notes, although in a normal Hebrew text, the second word would appear to the left of the first word. As a result, he said, the lyrics are a bit hard to read.
For someone like me, who can neither read music nor Hebrew, that'd be a nightmare. For people that can read one, the other or both, probably not much better.

But aren't you glad you know
?

1.10.06

Just get over yourselves.

First Spike Lee thinks he's the first thing people think of when they hear "Spike" (sorry - this is my first thought)... then Diddy has to change his nickname in England.

Anyone anywhere doing anything important with their lives? These two need to find you and learn from you!

What a serendipitious read!

Jay Parini talks about Other People's Books

Great companion to the "Notes from Mt. Bookpile" posts, wouldn't you say?

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

A much better quarter than last: 55 books read!

Children's/Young Adult
  • Cathy's Book, Sean Stewart Not as interesting as it thinks it is; trying too hard to be a bit "different" (with links to websites, drawings, scribbled notes) but not good enough a plot to really care
  • Daughter of Light, Pamela Walker good for Middle School girls - a little fantasy, a little realism, and a very strong female lead
  • Evil Star, Anthony Horowitz Suffers a bit from sequel syndrome, but otherwise a good read; just lay off the repetition (I got it the first time when one character was described as "the female Bill Gates"!)
  • The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, Tracy Mack Not a bad version of the Baker Street Irregulars (and I'm glad they changed the title from the original, "Amazing Wallendas"!)
  • The Floating Island, Elizabeth Haydon Fun start to an interesting series; if all the books are this good, should keep YAs happy for a few years
  • Framed, Frank Cottrel Boyce Very cute, and a good lesson in Art History, too boot
  • Good Girls, Laura Ruby One of those "lesson" books, but not so heavy-handed that it'll turn kids off
  • Grace's Turn, Christy Carlson Romano Can't imagine where Christy got the idea for this plot... This was tested on three YAs and they all liked it, so the star of "Kim Possible" and "Even Stevens" may have another career on her hands!
  • Hell Phone, William Sleator Tested this one on a few YAs and they thought it was too scary for the suggested age group (that and the plot didn't grab them).
  • Homefront Doris Gwaltney Not bad historical fiction, from WWII
  • The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, Jack Gantos 'nuff said
  • Notes from the Midnight Driver, Jordan Sonnenblick Again, a no-so-heavy-handed message/lesson learned book
  • Nova and the Charmed Three, Tea Emesse Just tried too hard to be good for the target audience, rather than letting the story flow
  • Pirate Curse, Kai Meyer Not just pirates, but girl pirates. Who could resist?
  • Revenge of the Shadow King, Derek Benz "Normal" teens caught in supernatural stuff... yawn
  • The Road to Inconceivable, J. M. De Matteis Hints of other books kept intruding, but I think younger readers won't notice (or mind)
  • Secret in the Tower, Candice Ransom A American History version of the Magic Treehouse series - young kids should like this one
  • Secret of the Spiritkeeper, Matt Forbeck Sigh. Yet another one written for an age group, not because it's actually a good story.
  • Sold, Patricia McCormick Harrowing story, and not for the younger reader
  • Stones of Abraxas, K.Osborn Sullivan Another "feels like I've read it before" book
  • Storm Thief, Chris Wooding I've read similar before, but this has just enough of a twist to be enjoyable
  • Such a Pretty Girl, Laura Weiss Again, pretty harrowing and not for the younger reader, but older (teens+) readers might enjoy it
  • Urchin and the Heartstone, M. I. McAllister A sort-of "Redwall" for the younger kids, and pretty readable

Fiction/Literature
  • A Princess of Roumania, Paul Park Set in "our" world and "another" Roumania, and suffering mightly from being the first in a series
  • Almost Friends, Philip Gulley Ok, if I said "quiet" about a Quaker book, would you hate me? Because that's exactly what this is, and definitely a series I'll be checking out more.
  • Ancestor Stones, Aminatta Forna An interesting look at Africa's history, told by four different women (all wives of the same man, and aunts to the "narrator")
  • Big Hair and Flying Cows, Dolores J. Wilson Not my cup of tea. But someone else might like it
  • CoronadoDennis Lehane 'Nuff said
  • The Expected One, Kathleen McGowan I can, and will, probably go on at some length about this genre, but for right now, all I'll say is NO THANKS
  • I, Mona Lisa, Jeanne Kalogridis Good historical fiction, but this obsession with Leonardo is just eluding me
  • Keep Going, Joseph M. Marshall Newage
  • The Last Wife of Henry VIII, Carolly Erickson Historical fiction, but with less history than I'd like
  • Sabine, A.P. Ohhh - French girls... possible lesbianism... smoking... possible vampirism...yawn
  • Saffron and Brimstone, Elizabeth Hand Bizarre series of short stories, but well worth reading
  • Spider Kiss, Harlan Ellison'Nuff said
  • Versus, Keiko Yamada My first manga. And possibly my last, but not because I thought it was bad - just too confusing as to how to read the damn things!
  • Winkie Clifford Chase Tried too hard to be weird, but for weirdness sake: when a teddy bear comes to life (Pinocchio? Velveteen Rabbit?), gives birth and becomes a suspected terrorist, it's just too much
  • The Zero, Jess Walter If you enjoyed Memento, you'll like this (and the setting doesn't really matter)

Horror

Humor

Mystery
  • The Bookwoman's Last Fling, John Dunning Good, competent, but the magic in the series isn't quite there
  • Caught Stealing Charlie Huston For lovers of hard core
  • Dying Flames, Robert Barnard seems to be a one-off (not a series book) and enjoyable
  • Dying Light, Stuart MacBrideFor lovers of hard core procedurals
  • Kiss Her Goodbye Allan Guthrie, Yet another hard core procedural
  • The Oxygen Murder, Camille Minichino A little too cozy, but I think my father will like it (the main sleuth is a physicist)
  • The Rossiter File and Undertow Thomas Rendell Curran Nice procedural series set in post-WWII Newfoundland
  • Unseen, Mari Jungstedt Set in Sweden; saw the twist from a mile away but not bad otherwise

Non-Fiction