28.4.08

Breaking up is hard to do

I hate being in relationships I can't get out of, or relationships that I want to get out of but am having a hard time making that happen. Specifically, credit card and catalog relationships. Luckily, I got out of AOHell years ago and will never go back.

Recently there's been a lot of chatter about going to Catalog Choice and opting out of catalogs you do not want to get any more In November, I signed on and started with 21 (I get more, but I thought I'd start with the most egregious mailers). Since then only LL Bean has agreed to stop sending me catalogs. I've followed up on a number of them, and today I finally called two and said "please, stop - I don't shop via catalog, and I really don't need the extra paper." Their response? "We'll see what we can do, but are you sure you don't want them? People really do use them, you know." And then they offered me a discount on anything I bought today!

Grrrrrrrrr

And then there was the credit card I canceled this weekend. I've paid it off, and I really don't need it. The service rep. offered me a lower rate (how much lower than 0% can you actually get?), balance transfers, credit protection... in short, everything except canceling the card. It wasn't until I asked for a supervisor that they agreed to transfer me to the cancellation people, where I went through the rigmarole all over again. It's inconceivable that I just don't want all that credit floating around!

Grrrrrrrrrr

The problem is that these companies put so much stress on reps to retain clients/customers/suckers that they don't think about how much goodwill they'd garner if they just allowed us to gracefully exit the relationship. I may not shop at the stores for whom I get continual catalogs - and it costs them money to send the damned things to me on a weekly basis. I may not ever return to that financial institution because of the bad taste in my mouth. They would retain me if they treated me better at the end. But not now!

Somewhere in all this are thoughts about students and books and research, but I'm too irritated for them to coalesce. Stay tuned.

26.4.08

I dare you

I've just had a long talk with a colleague (S), someone whose advice and guidance I treasure. We're working on a project and were sharing thoughts and gripes about other areas of our lives. I mentioned a mutual friend (D), and the problems she's having with someone she's working with and how frustrating this can be. The situation is difficult, not just because of the other person's stature but also because there are things happening that could really benefit from the work they're doing. However, the refrain D is hearing is "it's not within our purview".

S said, essentially, that's nonsense. When you have a committee charge, an annual employment evaluation or some other assessment and there are minimum outcomes listed, going beyond is not "outside" your purview. For example, if my supervisor suggests that I find a conference to attend next year on green architecture, that's the minimum outcome. If I find two, isn't that better? Three may be pushing it, but it's showing initiative, right? So, D's case, going beyond the charge would show initiative and bolster their position.

The trick is conveying this to the other person. As a supervisor, I need my staff to meet the minimum recommendations, but I want to encourage them to go beyond. As a committee chair, I need to meet the minimum outcomes for the committee, but we must also look at ways to go beyond that. As a librarian, I need my students to learn certain skills and read, but I (and their teachers) should show them how to go beyond the bare bones to find a passion. In my personal life, I need to meet certain minimums to keep things going smoothly; going beyond will make life even better.

S is right: we need to dare.

Too little, too late

You know how relationships can go sour, with diminished expectations and hurt feelings because the other person isn't delivering as promised? And then, just when you've decided that the relationship Must End, something improves? The question then becomes "is this too little, too late"?

I've seen this in personal relationships (I've probably even been the guilty party in a few). Those can be the most difficult to end, because of the emotional investment over time. It's even worse if you've shared difficult times or had children or lived together. Worse still is when you have mutual friends that don't see the inequity or problems that you feel are blatantly there.

Work relationships are also difficult, because these are the people with whom you spend most of your weekday waking hours. There's the boss/supervisor who's been a royal pain but once you've decided to leave (with or without telling them) they're remarkably nicer... the employee on their last warning regarding lateness or attitude that suddenly desires overtime... the company that has bad benefits/pay scale that announces that they've decided to improve things. I could go on, but again, you've been there probably as much as I.

Today I experienced one of those "too little, too late" moments with a tv series. Thing One's back from his holiday and I realized I hadn't watched a show we watch together. It just completely slipped my mind. This show isn't one of the greats, it's never had wonderful acting or exciting plots or even believability in its favor, but it was fun to watch. This season, despite being broken up by the strike, hasn't been one of the worst, but it's not been one of the best either. Still, recent episodes have been pretty good and there are hints that this season will end well. But for me, it's too little, too late.

There's a thread over at GoodReads on "authors you keep reading even though you have no idea why" that I love. There are authors and series that I keep reading beyond what's reasonable because... well, because. Anne Rice, for one (I gave up after Tale of the Body Thief). And I've kept up with Martha Grimes because her non-Jury based mysteries hinted at better Jury's to come (and in a minor way, that's been true). The Cat Who whatevered can continue to sleuth, but count me out. I did read all of Harry Potter, but really didn't want to. There are sequels to books that I've read and just know I'm not reading the rest of that series. The bigger problem is when I'm professionally obligated to read, as with Harry Potter or Lemony Snickett (to name two).

The thing is, "too little, too late" can apply to almost any relationship you're in. It can happen with doctors, who go from never seeing you on time to having an efficiently run waiting room on your last visit. It can happen with mechanics, who miraculously have your car ready on time just as you've decided to find a new one. I'm finding that as I get older, it's easier to say "too late" than it is to hold on. In so many ways, I've reached my breaking point and it's easier to not do anything than it is to keep trying. What about you?

25.4.08

Casual racism

I know that one of the "issues" in the Obama/Clinton contest is the topic of race: are people voting for Clinton or are they voting against a black candidate? There's a discussion about the casual, hidden racism this contest has raised. I'm not writing about that (you know my views on the whole political thing) but to write about what happens when we read or watch older works.

One theme in Cranford is the so-called destruction of the town by the incoming railway. One character, one of those village matriarchs so common to Victorian writing, is opposed not just because the village will lose it's solitude and peace, but because there will be workers constructing the tracks and they might be Irish. Gasp! But that was reality then: the Irish were despised immigrant labor. The comment is so casual, so off-hand, that it's all the more shocking given today's PC culture.

It reminded me how I felt reading Ellery Queen mysteries last year. The first time I'd read them, when I was much younger, it was about the mystery and sharing something with my father. This time, I noticed the language. At least once in each book either Ellery or his father said "That's white of you" (sometimes "damned" or "mighty" was inserted into the phrase). The way they treated and spoke to their houseboy(!) was also casually racist.

There's been a lot written about the value of reading Huckleberry Finn: it is good for students to read that sort of language, to be exposed to those sorts of ideas? The same could be asked about these works, yet in the case of Cranford, PBS is ignoring any issues and airing it next month. I suspect we'll all survive, just as I've survived watching All in the Family and reading Ellery Queen.

It's nice to have friends

This has, by almost every measure, been a Very Bad Week, and on all fronts. You name it, it's been stressful (including an e-mail argument with my nutritionist over Trader Joe's). The piece de resistance? Today, I got my first sunburn of the season. I kid you not.

One of my colleagues knows that this week has been a Very Bad Week. She also has "connections" of the most wonderful sort. She knows someone, who knows people, who have access to press preview DVDs of Masterpiece Theatre shows. So today she handed me Cranford, due to air in May. She hasn't even seen it!

So tonight, rather than staying late and working or coming home and taking care of the house and other things, I'm curling up with The Gang, popping in the DVD and indulging in a little Elizabeth Gaskell (what, you've never heard of her? for shame!)

24.4.08

The Latte-effect

Breaking news: Starbucks' profits may be down this quarter. No kidding. Why? Has America gotten tired of overly expensive, overly caffeinated, overly large drinks?

No. It's the economy, stupid (to quote James Carville). Apparently we have enough smarts to realize that when it's a choice between a $4.00 Cappuccino and a $1.00 Dunkin' Donuts, and housing payments need to be made and gas is steadily climbing in price, it's prudent to go with the Dunkin' Donuts. Or, better yet, $.50 coffee from the cart on the corner.

Apparently, botox and Lasix appointments are also down. If only this trend would continue! We may end up with people that resemble people, not some yuppified plastic version of our old selves.

Shock! Horror!

22.4.08

This would just drive me buggy

It's beautiful, but practical? Well, ok, I'm a card-carrying bunhead so perhaps I'm biased, but organizing your bookshelves by color just seems, well, wrong. Or dumb. Or both.

For the record, I'm a DDC with fiction subgenres kind of gal.

So sad...

Little Guy is doing the submissive posture, and Lulu is not responding to his overtures of love and peace. Poor thing, he only wants to be included on the bed and in the overall life here when she's visiting.

21.4.08

Notable Quotes

Weakness is not a part of the definition of womanhood

Unknown

20.4.08

In which I get to impersonate the Berlin Wall (and fail to get a good night's sleep)

Lulu's here. She was just here three months ago, and a fragile peace between her and Mallory had been achieved. You'd think that'd stick, right?

Wrong.

So last night, I brought her into bed with me, hoping that the Strong Arms of Mommy would lessen all the growling and hissing (Bri knows how that feels with her CIO issues). Well, that only worked to a point. IF my arms were physically protecting her, she'd growl in that growl/purr kind of way, but the minute I moved we were back to full-throated noises.

I also tried curling my body around her, forming a barricade to keep The Boys from getting too close (although she never seems to have a problem with Bogie, and within a day they'll be cuddling together). My hope was that between her purr/growl and my body, we'd all be ok. You know, like the Berlin Wall or Korea's DMZ. Definitely not like Hadrian's Wall or (even worse) the Maginot Line. Just a nice blockade, separating the Girl from The Boys, with the Human in the middle, and allowing us all to get some sleep.

Well, it worked. Little Guy was channeling Truman for all he was worth, and tried to breach the Wall by climbing over, tunneling under, yowling louder in an effort to get to Lulu.

At about 3, I decided this was just not a good plan and kicked the boys out of my room so we could all sleep... until 4 when they wanted breakfast. I finally got some (restless) sleep from 6 to 7:30, and I'm hoping that now Lulu is safe in my closet (her choice) and Mallory is just lying there watching to see what she does next, I can catch a nap and actually start my day.

I often joke that I don't need kids, I have cats. Here's proof.

19.4.08

Imponderables

I was driving into Brooklyn today, listening to 1010wins (traffic report needed due to Papal visit) and a story came on about the arrest of Richard Quest, CNN reporter. Seems he was caught in Central Park, with meth in his pocket, a sex toy in his shoe, and rope around his neck and genitals.

Now, the part that got me confused was the "sex toy in his shoe" part. Either he was wearing clown boots, it was the world's smallest sex toy or he's missing part of a foot. I can't imagine how one would fit there, but then, I'm perhaps not the worldliest human. And maybe it's just me, but isn't this taking a foot fetish a bit too far?

(ps - the story is no longer on the WINS website, and most media aren't covering the sex side...)

Whew!

Made it through the week - five days of Book Fair (Sunday through Thursday), teaching, dealing with staffing issues, working on book orders and insurance claims, etc.. The budget is due and I've got to think about next year's needs and reconcile this month's report. Somehow, Fridays are always the worst because it feels that it's time to dump stuff on me/the library since it's the last day of the week. Making it all worse was a 3pm meeting!

But then I get to thinking about Annoyed Librarian's post about stress. She's got it right:
For pete's sake, people, we work in libraries. We're not saving lives here. Relax.
And even though we in the school library world like to go on about our stresses (including the high stakes testing) and the power struggles and internal crap that goes on at our schools, it helps to remember Henry Kissinger's comment, "There is no politics quite as vicious as academic politics, because there is so little at stake."

I'm off for a Lazyday in the Big City, picking up Lulu and shopping (and brunching) and then home. I'm taking none of my stress and angst with me. You do the same.

13.4.08

Out, damned Scot spot

Yesterday I saw "the Scottish Play" on Broadway. While others (betters?) have already pronounced on it, I thought instead I'd add some meager musings rather than a critique of the whole...
  • I saw Richard III at BAM several years ago, and like this it was set in a vaguely Nazi/Stalinist era. Why is it that Shakespeare's plays lend themselves so well to this type of "updating"? In another 25-50 years, will we find another way present his plays, or will these settings still be relevant?
  • If you want to convince people that Patrick Stewart has left Star Trek behind, don't open the second half with him clearly reacting to something not there, as if the director will CGI Banquo in later.
  • The (infamous?) witches scene (you know, the "double double toil trouble" one) is done as a rap, but comes out like a mash-up of Tainted Love and Eminem.
  • The scene where Mrs. MacDuff and her children are killed included a sound effect similar to the Psycho shower-stabbing violins. Coincidence?
Ok, minor quibbles only. The best news was that the performance I saw, 2pm on Saturday, was filled with younger people - the average age was 25-30 (if that). What a nice change from the usual bluehairs!

If you can, GO!

Peeping Leaves

I know that in the fall thousands of people head to New England to Leaf Peep. Well, that's fine and wonderful and yes, the scenery can be stunning.

But...

Being the contrarian I am, I find spring and the peeping leaves to be far better. First of all, the colors are so much brighter - all brand new and light green (and pink and other colors). Second, it's spring, with all the hope and joy that brings, particularly after the dull of winter.

How can you not love this time, when leaves peep out of their protective coverings and emerge to cover the trees and bushes with beautiful color?

10.4.08

Uncle!

As previously blogged, one of my colleagues was surprised I wasn't on Facebook. Well, no longer. I'm there, as "myself", not as Lazygal. I won't be linking to this blog or my other Lazystuff but I'm still happy to be your friend!

It's the little things

Thing Two often says "you're just a better person than I", and I'm not sure I buy it. I'm lazy, I have a huge selfish streak, and, well, I don't feel better than anyone.

But there are times...

One of my colleagues' daughter has a blog, which I read. A recent post pointed to some very good news (a Pulitzer prize "runner-up") so I sent a brief "congratulations" e-mail to my colleague. Last night, at dinner, she came up with tears in her eyes and gave me a hug. My 5-second e-mail had meant so much to her. I felt awkward because it really was such a little thing -- but not to her.

I also learned last night (as I catch up on my reading) that another colleague has been admitted to membership at her local Meeting. Again, I've sent an e-mail. And again, it's a tiny thing, taking only a few seconds.

Years ago I worked for a man that handled marketing and "rainmaking" for the company. One of the things he did was to make extensive notes about the people he'd met (on the plane or train, for example, or at a gathering of friends) and then to send follow-up notes. Sometimes it was stupid stuff, like cartoons or an article that might be of interest. Sometimes it was birthday cards or a brief note. Usually, those things didn't garner any response. But - and this is the critical part - all the recipients were grateful to hear from him, for his interest in the little things, and they'd remember him when it came time to suggest a company or service that we provided. Ultimately, all that care and attention paid off.

It's a good lesson to learn, and one I've been lazy about really doing to the degree I should. My new goal? To set aside a few minutes every day for the "little" things.

8.4.08

Imponderables

Apparently, cute Knut has Germany's knickers in a twist. WTF? He's a polar bear, fer chrissakes! (þ: Thing One)

7.4.08

Notable Quotes

Simplicity is the right ordering of our lives,
placing God at the center.
When we shed possessions, activities, and behavior
that distract us from that center,
we can focus on what is important.
Simplicity does not mean denying life’s pleasures,
but being open to the promptings of the Spirit.

6.4.08

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Children's/Young Adult
Fiction/Literature
  • The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri A rather passive woman's life during the years after Partition; well-written but I wanted more action and more of India's history
  • The Rosetta Key, William Dietrich If you like Indiana Jones-meets-Dan Brown fiction, this is for you
Humor
Mystery
  • The Dead Place, Stephen Booth I love this series - the darkness, the tension in Cooper's life, the sense of place
  • Death of a Dormouse, Reginald Hill For Hill, meh. For anyone else? Not bad.
  • Now You See Him, Eli Gottleib Stay far, far away
  • Secret Sins, Kate Charles Charles does ecclesiastic mystery in a really good way
  • The Silver Swan, Benjamin Black Wonderful writing, but so-so mystery. Not sure where this series is going, but I'll read another if it comes along
  • Slip of the Knife, Denise Mina Not my thing, but if you like the Temperence Brennan series it might be yours
  • Watchman, Ian Rankin Not a Rebus, but a definite must read
Non-Fiction
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • The Host, Stephanie Meyer Wow. Wonderful. I just hope this doesn't become a series, because it's a great one-off
  • Ink Exchange, Melissa Marr Great follow-up to Wicked Lovely.

Total removed from Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 32
New books added to Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 52
Net gain: 20

The gain was entirely due to ALA Midwinter; with no conferences between now and the end of this quarter, I should be able to play catch-up. A little.

5.4.08

Choices... choices...

The other day at work a colleague mentioned his Facebook page, and how he'd reconnected with a friend from high school because of it. He asked about mine and I confessed that I don't have one (nope, and I'm not on Friendster or MySpace either). It got me thinking: about three years ago, I got an e-mail from an unknown address, with the subject heading "Old Friendships", usually a Sign of Spam. Something (or Someone) prompted me to open it and am I glad I did. My best friend from 3-7 grade had Googled my name and decided to contact me; we've had one meeting, shared e- and snail mails, and I know she reads this blog (Hi, K!). It's been great having her back in my life. I mean, who else would remember huddling as molecules on the playground back during fourth grade recess (it gets pretty cold in Smalltown)?

Occasionally, I think about others with whom I've lost touch. There's an e-list for my prep school class, with about half the class on it (not that many participate or send news, but still...). I suspect that the half that aren't there wouldn't be on these social networking sights either. Friends from other careers, or pre-prep school, or college, might be on them, and it might be fun exploring and seeing who's out there.

The question inevitably arises: do I join as Lazygal, or as my real name? Walt's comments about blogging anonymously (which this sort-of is, since many of my readers actually know me IRL) gave me pause.
I agree that it’s important to know that what you write may come back to haunt you. I wonder whether blogging under a pseudonym is a reasonable response–unless you’re determined to make sure there’s never any link between the pseudonym and you.

That’s not easy. I’ve seen any number of cases where someone starts out under a pseudonym and then wants to brag about something, or writes something that’s so local and so specific that colleagues and coworkers can readily identify them, or just lets slip something clearly identifiable. (Worst case: the blog is identifiable through domain ownership or other means…)

If you want to blog under a pseudonym, I think you have to assume you’ll drop the blog after a while. You’ll find that the limits of pseudonymity hamper your thinking and your writing, or you really will want to say something from your heart. Not that there’s anything wrong with dropping a blog, of course… until you start another one, signing it, and somewhere down the road make a reference to the old blog that lets the blogger out of the bag.
(The Little Professor takes the view that it's up the the blogger to decide.) Now, I haven't found it limiting. I started as Lazygal to separate my personal and my professional blogging, and I'm clear on the division. MPOW would prefer that I not blog at all, so I try to keep my references sufficiently vague and generally related to being a school librarian (albeit one rebuilding a library) rather than about the school itself.

But what about expanding to other networks? On GoodReads, I'm Lazygal. Ditto TheThingsIWant. But on The Readers Place, I'm someone else (a name I chose years before, when we were The Readers Vine and the convention was to choose a name and join a literary family).

So, if (and it's a pretty big "if" - doing these things takes time from other things I could be doing, like reading or sleeping or blogging or...) I decide to join one, do I use Lazygal, or my real name? If I do the latter, I'd not link to this blog, or my GoodReads account, just to maintain the pseudofiction that we're separate people. Would that matter? Does any of this? Comments? Opinions?

3.4.08

No Mo' Mo'

As previously blogged, I spent most of my Spring Break being very lazy. I also started Helidac for my ulcers (those pesky bacteria didn't die the first time).

After about 10 days of relaxing, my parents showed up. My father likes to be useful, so I had quite the To Do list for him (including fixing a microwave, installing cabinets and shelving, and repairing toilets). All my resting up over the previous days meant that I could tackle (with my mother's help) my closets and office space. I had The Big Mo'!

By the time my parents left on Sunday, not only was I exhausted, the side effects had set in. Monday, I couldn't drive safely thanks to the nausea, and there's another that still is a problem, even though I've stopped the drugs (luckily, I didn't get the black tongue side effect!).

For the past few days, all I've been able to do is come home, curl up and do virtually nothing. Mentally, I'm psyched to finish the organizing and tossing and eBaying and Goodwilling... but physically? No Mo' Mo'.

2.4.08

"I don't want to work that hard"

A couple of days ago, Terry blogged about opera, with a follow-up here. Yesterday I was chatting with the mother of a student, someone I know and respect and with whom I share a similar age and sensibility. She'd told me when the hotline for tickets to Macbeth went live and that she'd gotten two (neither for me; I'm going with a friend in a couple of weeks). Over Break, she'd seen the show and, well, her comment is this post's title.

I think that's the problem with much art today: people perceive it as "hard work". Opera is all-singing, usually in a foreign language (and forget the subtitles!); Shakespeare is something you've had to pick apart and discuss and memorize in school; classical music is for those long-hair effete people who understand themes and motifs and counterpoint. You get the drift. It's not part of our shared entertainment culture in the way it once was.

This mother went on to talk about her recent reading, and how she's veered away from novels that are "work". Once, she'd read War and Peace for fun, but now? Yeah, right. Some other person perhaps, but not her.

The thing is, I understand this. I do like Art, and indulge as often as I can. There is a side of me, however, that doesn't want to work at understanding the plot, or diagnosing the hero/anti-hero dynamic, or figuring out why this Bach fugue is so wonderful. I just want to enjoy, and if that means more "low-brow" entertainment, well, so be it.

As I was pondering all this, I remembered a few posts about education that I've read recently. One bluntly asks if schools are broken. Many bloggers (Will Richardson, for example) talk about making school interesting, using "2.0" tools to appeal to students. My question is: are we also ensuring that they, too, won't want to work hard at something? Not all learning is easy (my struggles with math are proof enough), and not all learning is fun. Fundamentals are sometimes best taught in a kill-and-drill fashion (quick: the 12 times tables, anyone?). I often tell my Middle School student that what we're doing may seem boring or pointless, but as they internalize the research process, including citations, they'll be able to do more creative work with ease.

Rather than taking notes, they want to cut-and-paste information, or Xerox it (seriously - one kid waited for 10 minutes to make a copy of one paragraph, instead of taking 2-3 minutes to write notes). They want instant gratification, and the gurus are telling us to give them a rich experience filled with the latest in ed. tech.. Where in all this do they learn to work hard? When do they learn that not every job will include wikis and social networking?

I could go on, but again, you get the gist.

Working hard shouldn't be shied away from, in education or entertainment. We should be teaching the next generation how to do the work, and to allow them the freedom to choose which they want to do when. My guess is that schools will improve, and that attendance at the theatre and opera will increase. But what do I know? I'm Lazy.