25.2.07

Not sharing

Many of my friends and comrades-in-books are listing their collections on Library Thing. I've looked at at and... not impressed. Even the "books you might like"/"books you'll hate" feature doesn't do it for me. Neither does knowing how many people have "my" book.

Recently, I learned about Good Reads. Again... not impressed.

It's not that I don't catalog my books (I do: check out collectorz.com's program). It's not that I don't talk about/share what I'm reading (I do). It's just that these programs seem to duplicate what I've already got without adding anything more than a social networking aspect. Which I don't need. It's also difficult to export all of what I've got easily - do you really expect me to spend all that time duplicating what I've done? I do have a life, you know (and yes, it includes reading). If (when?) the ease of export is matched with some great feature I don't already have, I might share. Until then...

23.2.07

Links Galore

20.2.07

A new book meme

(as if I needed one - þ: Little Professor)

Instructions: in bold=have read the book; in italics=want to read the book; with crosses=own the book; with asterisks=unfamiliar with the book.

1. †The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. †Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. †To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. †The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. †The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. †The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. †Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. †Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. †Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. †Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. †A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. †Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. †Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. †Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. †Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. †The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. †The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. †Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. †The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. †The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. †Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. †The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. †The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. *The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. †I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. †The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. †Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. †The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. †She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. †The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. †Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. †The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. †The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. †Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. †Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. †The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. †Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. †The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. †Shogun (James Clavell)
74. †The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. †The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. †A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. †Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. †Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. †Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. *Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. †Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. †Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. †The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. †Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. †The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. †The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. †White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

19.2.07

Customer DISservice

Thing One is back from vacation, which means it's time to return Lulu to Daddy. But before we do that, he came up to spend a weekend shopping at The Mall.

One item to be found was a Skagen watch, available at Macy's. Sunday, we went in, stood at the watch counter and waited. And waited and waited and waited. Why? Because the trainee salesman hadn't gotten the memo about catching the customer's eye and letting them know that they're next. Nope. He just dealt with the endless questions that the other customer had. So we walked.

Saturday, we'd stopped at Circuit City to find a shelf stereo system. I'd given up my own stereo years ago when Thing One and I moved in together - he had a really decent one. The cottage is too small for anything but I'll need something larger in the very near future (this is what's known as foreshadowing). After looking (and listening) to the selection, the JVC was chosen. Then we waited for a salesperson to help answer a couple of questions (Thing One absolutely had to have a remote control, and we wanted two units - one each). The salesguy for that area meandered over, we grabbed him and asked. Yes to the remote. But another one? That would require checking. He headed over to the computer/check out terminal, and 15 minutes later had neither returned nor caught our eye. So we left. Sunday we returned, and I found him and asked if perhaps now he had time for us and our questions. His response was a mumbled something about being busy the day before... and that there weren't any left. I asked about the next shipment - more mumbling.

So I headed for the manager. Thing One was pissed, and cranky, and that's never a good thing. I explained to the manager how this was not "service", and that we would go elsewhere because clearly they didn't care about our money/custom. But no! The manager was overly eager to help - what ever he could do to make us happy, he'd do. Then he suggested what the salesguy should have suggested: ordering the item. Why the sales staff weren't trained to automatically offer that, I don't know. We walked out with one unit, and another on order.

Back to Macy's watch counter. The salesman was still dealing with the other customer, this time with two others helping him. Turns out, the first guy was - you guessed it - a trainee. A few minutes later, one of the trainers caught our eye... ten minutes later, Thing One had a new watch. Very nice one too, I might add.

Here's my question/problem. I've worked in the "service industry" (I'd even argue that, as a school librarian, I still do). Eye contact with customers on line is essential. So is trying to help them so they don't walk away unhappy, much less walk over to your manager and complain. When did that change?

At MPOW, I try to have someone available for reference at all times. Sometimes that doesn't quite work, but the goal is to have someone at the desk, ready to help whenever we're open. If we treated our customers the way these two stores did, I'd be embarrassed and ashamed of my staff and our program. And we're non-profit!

I did it because I could do it

Thing One and I saw Breach on Saturday. I wanted to because I'd remembered the Hanssen case, and he did because of Chris Cooper. So...

I have no idea how historically accurate this movie is - although I suspect it's pretty accurate. One of the things I'd remembered about this case was the whole connection to Opus Dei and the commentary about how this didn't seem consistent with someone being a traitor to their country. This movie focuses a lot on the Catholic connection, with only one mention of Opus Dei and Hanssen's membership. Thing One was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, and, while he doesn't practice (although most of his family does), he's a little sensitive on this issue. You see, what wasn't brought out as much in the move was Hanssen's sexual deviancy. Now, I'm not drawing a line between the two (Catholic = sexual deviant), and perhaps the movie wanted to be equally careful not to make that connection. Or perhaps it's because the movies seemed to be from the point-of-view of the agent, Eric O'Neil, sent in to help make the case against Hanssen and perhaps O'Neil never got to see that side.

The problem, for Thing One, is that he sees this as part of an on-going culture in which it's ok to "pick" on Catholics (or Christians) in a way in which it is not ok to "pick" on Jews, Muslims, gays, cat lovers, the developmentally challenged, etc.. I don't know if that's true, but it certainly is something to think about.

One unresolved thread in the movie was the big "why". WHY turn traitor? We guessed it was because he knew he was smarter than the FBI and so, WHY NOT? Another unresolved thread was WHY Hanssen - so much smarter and more able to spot moles and liars than anyone - didn't suspect O'Neil. Again - and this is only a guess - perhaps Hanssen did "make" O'Neil, but didn't care or didn't think he'd get caught or wanted to get caught. Ultimately, it doesn't matter.

16.2.07

Links Galore

14.2.07

Snow Day!

Ok, I'm a child about snow days. This time, I have three fuzzy water bottles to keep me warm in bed (Lulu's here, and given that she was just here a month or so ago, has not once hidden under my bed!).

It's perfect timing, as I'm scrambling to get an issue of KQ edited and work on MPOWs annual book fair and read as many of the ARCs I got in Seattle as possible. It's also a perfect time to ponder this post over at BookLust:
Maybe you're this kind of person: For three months, you tried to cull a handful of books from the shelves that line your house, and you failed. It's not like it's impossible. You haven't even read half of them. You just can't pull the trigger, you wuss, you watery woman.

Maybe the same thing happens with every potential discard: You start to read it. Four hours later, you wake up on the floor, having culled nothing. Maybe your wife finds you lying there like a body on a crime show, and laughs so hard she has to cough.

We all know I'm sick about the whole "must own this book" thing. However... the past few weeks have really taught me that perhaps weeding isn't a good thing after all (as if I needed proof!). "Ok," (I hear you sigh) "What justification can she possibly come up with this time?" Here goes.

Reason Number One: Last year, our 6th grade history teacher was looking for a multicultural work of historical fiction -- something to do with the Crusade era would be just dandy. AHA! I read a book, The Star and the Stone, waaaaay back when (as in, when I was in middle school) and still had it The Collection.

Reason Number Two: This past month, our 11th grade started researching the Cold War. Now, the assignment is really, really broad, encompassing anything that happened during the decades of the Cold War, not just the War itself. So there are people comparing McCarthyism to the USA PATRIOT Act... Truman's decision to use the bomb... Mao v. Castro as a US threat... the Israeli response to Munich. You get the picture. Several students chose the Attica uprising. AHA! Somewhere in the boxes into which The Collection is packed is Attica: The Official Report of the New York State Commission (received as a gift and read when I was in middle school - yes, I was a disturbed child but let's not dwell on that, ok?). There's also a couple of students looking at British punk as a response to Thatcherism. AHA! I have a signed copy of The Downing Street Years.

Who knows what other treasures will be found over the years?

13.2.07

That's my name... don't wear it out...

I just had the opportunity to see members of my extended family (on my mother's side), and every time I do I'm amazed at how odd they are. And when I say "odd", I mean different.

How? Let's start with the name thing. Over 120 years ago, back in The Old Country, my great-grandfather was one of nine children. One of his older brothers, S., had married and started a family when the Tsar's army came a-knocking. Rather than serve, he convinced a younger brother, B., to serve in his name (B. not being married, etc. and henceforth known as S2.). Later, S. and S2. immigrated to the US, as did my great-grandfather and at least one sister. There's actually a lawsuit recorded when S. sued S2. for his legal name! S. won, apparently.

Over 70 years ago, my great-grandmother died. In the Jewish tradition, you name children after (in honor of) dead relatives. My great-grandparents had six children. In each of the six families, there is a child named after my great-grandmother. I'm not talking creative honoring, with a Laura and a Linda and a Lisa and a Lorraine. No, they're all Robert (well, one's a Roberta). So we have to use last names to distinguish between them in conversation.

Like many immigrant families in the Boston area, ours assimilated quickly. You'd sometimes think that my Chanel-clad great-aunts paid for the Mayflower; that's how rapidly they lost their immigrant status. Which isn't a bad thing... except in terms of religion. My grandparent's generation paid scant lip service to their Jewish heritage; my mother's generation is rediscovering it. One of her cousins (NOT a Robert, luckily) has actually embraced it to the point of really learning Hebrew (at 60+!), visiting Israel several times, studying the Bible, etc., and going to services daily. Part of the Shabbat service is the Torah service, when that week's passage is read. It's considered an honor to bless the Torah and read; in my cousin's congregation, you're called up with your Hebrew name, however, given the way he was raised, he didn't know his (despite making his Bar Mitzvah). He did know his younger brother's. This brother has converted to Catholicism and was clearly not in need of his Hebrew name any longer.

Of course, this has led to much soul searching, along the lines of Jacob/Esau.

11.2.07

Quick, get me rewrite!

I was talking with Thing Two yesterday - his sister is writing a book about her years working with the AIDS epidemic. I've read a couple of chapters and the chapter outline and they'd asked my opinion. I gave it, and he rejected most of it (notice: he rejected it, rather than passing it along to his sister). One reason? The in-house editor would catch these things if they were a problem.

HAH! What in-house editor? It's like asking for a fact checker these days: they just do not exist. Back in the day, yes, you had someone who'd work on your deathless prose, crafting that timeless work of fiction/non-fiction. But today? The art of editing is a dead one. I've read many a book that would benefit from better editing.

Take, for example, the book I just read, The Case of the Missing Books. It was remaindered, which is always a sign. Then there was the endless repetition. A good editor would have cut that in half, if not more. Why? Because it wasn't "charming" in quite the way that the author probably thought it was, it was just annoying. Within the first few chapters I heard way too many times about the main characters pudge, wrinkled suit, Jewishness, and other traits that just didn't really matter. Who cared he was vegetarian? Clearly, given the number of times it was mentioned, I was supposed to deeply care. I didn't.

Another couple of examples? The Lovely Bones and The Da Vinci Code. All other aspects aside, let's talk pacing. Both books proceed at a certain pace, and then in the last chapter or two, they speed up immeasurably. My guess? An editor told them that the book was getting a bit too long. Rather than tightening it up throughout the book, the last couple of chapters got slashed and the pace ruined.

In other words, Thing Two's sister hasn't a hope in hell of having some thoughtful person edit her work. That's too bad, because with good editing, this could be a very nice book. If it's allowed to go the way it is (or with little revision), I can't see reading it.

9.2.07

Say what?

As I was driving home last night, I heard on the radio that Anna Nicole Smith, Celebrity Blonde, had died.

Have we really sunk so low that a person is known for their hair color and nothing else?

6.2.07

Only the best people

Having just watched the calendar click over one more year, I feel blessed to share my birth month with such cool people as Sherri, Georgene, Zip, Daryl, Suzy, Terry and (of course) the Presidents.

Happy Birth Month to Us All!

5.2.07

Would this spoil things?

I belong to an on-line group of biblioholics and over the years we've talked about many books. One book we read was Judas Child by Carol O'Connell, a very dark mystery/thriller. I didn't usually read those, but boy was I glad I did! Since then, O'Connell's Mallory series has been a particular favorite of mine (and we know what happened when the newest was released).

A couple of us are discussing the book on the site and one person left me a private message with a few queries. One pertained to Winter House, the book before this one, while the others were about this new adventure. I didn't know how much to say, because some people don't like spoilers. I did ask why she hadn't posted these questions on the main thread. Her response? "I didn't post this on the regular thread because I don't like spoilers and if someone else hadn't read about the proposal yet, who was I to ruin it?" (OOPS! - Spoiler for Winter House!)

Here's the thing. In my mind, if you're not keeping up with the series, don't read any discussion of a new book or of the author. If you don't know that Dumbledore died at the end of Harry Potter 6, stay away from discussions of Book 7. Simple as that. If we're both reading Book 7, come July, then tell me that you're only up to page 50 and not to spoil things. But to have me keep quiet about past books? Somehow, that's not quite the same.

Other thoughts?

2.2.07

Still more silliness

I saw this post over at Oached Pish and thought, hmmmm....

Better Than Yesterday, by Robyn Schneider, is a novel about four former friends who created an underground pranking society, the Hilliard Hell Raisers. Now seniors at Hilliard Preparatory School, when the friends try to resurect the Hell Raisers, some unpleasant secrets surface instead. The secrets lead them away from the gated grounds of their prep school and to the streets of New York City, where they figure out who--and what--is worth believing in.

To enter the contest, write a description of the best prank you ever pulled, or the best prank you ever wanted to pull, post it in your blog along with the rules to this contest and email the link to robynschneider at yahoo dot com with the subject line "prank contest."

The contest is open NOW to US residents only and ends on February 5th at Noon EST. Prizes are as follows:

First Place: The person with the prank deemed the best/most awesome (by Robyn) wins One signed copy of Better Than Yesterday, and 4 other YA titles chosen at random. (That's 5 books!) Plus, their prank will be posted in Queued Paper (Robyn's blog), www.robbiewriter.livejournal.com.

Second Place: One signed copy of Better Than Yesterday and 2 other YA titles chosen at random. (That's 3 books!) Their prank posted in Queued Paper, www.robbiewriter.livejournal.com.

Third Place: One signed copy of Better Than Yesterday. Their prank posted in Queued Paper, www.robbiewriter.livejournal.com.

Runners up might also receive prizes if they are particularly witty and beguiling.

***********

My prank? Actually, not just by me, but an April Fool's joke played on an administrator at MOPOW. This person was in charge of hiring substitutes (or rearranging schedules to cover for missing teachers). She also had about a 45-minute drive home every day. So, on April Fools, about 10 of us (out of a teaching population of 25) started calling her at home shortly after she'd left school for the day.

Caller one had a sick family member. Caller two a doctor's appointment. Caller three was sick. You get the picture.

When she listened to her messages, she started writing down the names and subjects taught. After about the third call, she was shaking. By the tenth, she was thinking of shutting the school down for the day (how could she come up with replacements for half the teachers?!). The eleventh, and final call, simply said "April Fool's".

Apparently she needed a stiff drink before bed.

Links Galore

1.2.07

Sometimes, my life works

At MPOW, we're looking for a new Book Fair vendor. There's one that we really like, and on Monday we (by we I mean me and the Parents Association committee in charge of the Book Fair) went to the warehouse to see this vendor's operation. Do you know how hard it is to be that close to all those books?!

When we interviewed this vendor, one of the topics was the New Books issue: books that were soon to be published, that were sure to be hits with students. One book in particular came up: Titan's Curse, the third in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I've talked about these books before. The thing is, it's a very popular series at school... but this book won't actually be on the shelves until just after the Fair. This vendor thinks they can help (we're talking about a book we can easily sell 100 copies of - without it being required reading!).

When I was in Seattle, getting another load of Advance Readers Copies, this was one book I kept my beady eyes open for - no luck. Monday? The vendor had an ARC just for me! So, of course, I read it immediately.

I think it's back to the pace and style of Book One (The Lightning Thief). I, and others, thought that Book Two (Sea of Monsters) was just a little off: pacing? plot? something wasn't "quite right." Don't get me wrong, unlike other series where the quality has dropped between books, this wasn't a UGH-will-never-read-another issue, just a wonder-why issue.

So, this one? Percy and Thalia and Grover and Annabeth meet up at a boarding school in Maine. There, they meet Bianca and Nico di Angelo - two more half-bloods, but who's Daddy? (or Mommy?). After fighting a manticore, and Annabeth's disappearance, they meet up with Artemis and her Hunt. Then it's off to Camp, and a game of Capture the Flag, which ends in the Oracle's uttering a prophecy - Quest Time! I won't give more away, but I loved Bessie and Apollo (aka "Fred").

Of course, all sort of ends well. There is the obligatory cliffhanger ending, and I'm already waiting for Book Four to be announced!