Summer Reading Challenge

No, this isn't the type of Reading Challenge that my friend Shree seems to do, this is a personal challenge: I'm going to read all the Children's/Young Adult books on Mt. Bookpile. That includes all the ones I know I'll pick up at ALA Annual in a month. Luckily, I think I can get through about a book a day (remember, many of these are thin books with Big Print and lots of white space).

Stay tuned!


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I'm still buying a lot of books via Amazon (not necessarily from Amazon; mostly from vendors using their site as a storefront) and the past few days I've seen this
Important Message
Due to a new law recently passed by the State of New York we are required to collect NY sales taxes on taxable items sold by Amazon.com on or after June 1st, 2008. If your order is placed prior to June 1st, your Order Total may not include an estimate of NY sales taxes, but those taxes may still be charged if your order is readied for shipment on or after that date.
as I've been checking out. I live in NYS so this will affect me. It will also affect Amazon sellers, like Thing Two, who doesn't collect tax on the items he sells (and I'm not sure he declares all his income from Amazon, either - but that's between him and the IRS).

I wonder how much this will change buying habits. Or selling habbits, for that matter. I mean, $.01 for a book equals what in NYS taxes?


Goals for the week

One of my favorite clutter blogs is My Simpler Life. Each Monday she posts simplicity tips...

1. Declutter 30 min and feel the extra space.

3. Let go of an old resolved problem.

5. Where are you overworked? What can you do about it?

6. Disconnect from the internet for a couple work hours and see what you can accomplish.

7. What visual clutter distracts you? What visual pieces inspire you?

As you can see, five of seven are on my To Be Worked On List for this week. Wish me luck!

Let's name names

While many of my friends, acquaintances and others were watching programs like Desperate Housewives last night, Thing One and I were watching Prime Minster's Questions on C-SPAN. If you've never watched it, I can't recommend it enough. Why? Because it's an interesting way for the party in power to respond, publicly, to issues and controversies and for those not in power to posture and accuse. No matter who the PM is, no matter how "damaged" they are, they have to stand there and respond to questions from all sides.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that there have been two recent natural disasters in the East: the Burman Cyclone and the Chinese Earthquake. Gordon Brown updated the House on the rescue/aid efforts in Burma, which met with approval from the Shadow PM, David Cameron. However, this exchange struck me:
Richard Bacon (South Norfolk, Conservative) Which country or countries blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Burma, and what diplomatic pressure are we applying on them?

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister; Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Labour) We are applying a great deal of pressure, and I think it would be in our interest to apply that pressure rather than to name names at present.
No. Let's name name. Who doesn't want to help the Burmese (besides the ruling junta, that is)? Who is trying to block humanitarian efforts? Who is playing politics with people's lives in this despicable manner?

As Cameron said earlier: Everyone will have seen the very swift response of the Chinese Government, which is in stark contrast to the reaction of the regime in Burma, where the neglect of the military junta is turning a natural disaster into a man-made catastrophe.

Given China's involvement in Darfur, one can only imagine who those "nameless" countries are.


The stories we tell

A very close friend of mine spent last weekend with the Landmark Forum. While there, she learned to unpack the stories she had been telling herself about her life, the things that were causing breakdowns in communications and preventing her from getting on with things.

Now, I don't believe you need to spend that money to learn how to see clearly that you are not the kid that got held back a year, or who couldn't get a prom date (or perhaps peaked as Prom Queen). Having said that, I do think that it can be difficult - but very useful - to let go of the past "junk" we're hanging on to, to live lightly emotionally. Holding past grievances against someone isn't healthy, just as trying to live up (or down) to who people thought you were isn't healthy.

It's also pretty damn difficult to change. You can change your job, and all the mistakes and attitudes you had from your previous one won't necessarily follow... unless you let them. It takes work, and commitment, and a self-promise not to beat yourself up if you slip a little (and believe me, as someone with a persistent "few pounds" to lose, I know all about that one!).

Today I read I am Not Joey Pigza, and what my friend has gone through resonated throughout the book. Joey's just figuring out and coming to terms with who he is, when all of a sudden he's being told he's now Freddy Heinz. Joey keeps popping up, as can be expected. His mother isn't happy about that, nor is his newly-returned father. But his father's change from Carter Pigza to Charles Heinz doesn't "take" either, because the underlying person isn't really changing. There's no self-check to say, "ok, you messed up but you can correct this" or "yes, this works and feels good so let's keep on doing it." It's just a sad slide downward.

That's what too many of us do when we try to change. Best of all possible intentions, followed by a few "oopses" and then backsliding into what we were. I hope for my friend's sake that her time at the Forum does affect a real change; as they told her, you have to keep at it, keep practicing, or it'll go away.

Changing your story, or the (as I prefer to think of it) the backstory to the character you know as yourself, is never easy. I think Joey does get some good change out of his time as Freddy, but it would probably have come without being ripped from his known life. Changing even one story, one learned behavior, one small thing can lead to a landslide of change.

Can't take the stress...

It's year-end and there's a lot that needs to be done -- ordering new books for the new year, trying to pre-plan for next year's projects, inventory, updating things, creating an annual report, etc..

And it's time to start thinking about summer vacation, and the things I'll accomplish at home, like finally getting the last bits painted, and working on decreasing Mt. Bookpile (five books this weekend!), and organizing the basement, etc..

I also need to take care of my health (which, according to the doctor, is not "low enough" to be treated).

So what am I focusing on? The Celtics. One of my favorite colleagues (he introduced me to the phrase "Massholes" when describing those of us from MA or who root for Boston-based teams behind "enemy" lines) told me not to fall in love too quickly again. We had the Sox win this year. The Celtics have done far better than ever expected. Prepare to have my heart broken again.

Yeah. Right. Like you can ever prepare for that.

ETA: Four points is not a comfortable lead. So there, Thing One!


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I finally heard back from Catalog Choice regarding their really low rate of success. Apparently the reason is
For a catalog to change from "Unconfirmed" to 'Confirmed", one of out merchant account managers needs to establish a relationship with the catalog company. This can be a relatively quick process; or it can take weeks or even months - it depends on the merchant. With six merchant account managers, we are quickly tackling all of the catalogs in our system - but it will take some time before they are all "confirmed".
What irritates me most is the way this service is being billed: that there already are relationships with various merchants and that there will be a relatively quick resolution (if by "relatively quick" you mean 6-10 weeks).

So I'm still recycling too many catalogs and hoping for the best. You?


Five things meme

Pretending that Kelly knows me well enough to tag me...

What were you doing five years ago?
Working as the Librarian for an independent school in NYC.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
  • Finish balancing the budget (YTD)
  • Filing (my desk is a nightmare)
  • Preparing new books for shelving
  • Dishes
  • At least one load of laundry
What are five snacks you enjoy?
  • My homemade trail mix
  • Frozen eclairs (no one said anything about healthy, right?)
  • Frozen grapes (in summer)
  • Goldfish (the cracker, not the animal)
  • Melted cheese on bread
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
  • Set up an education fund for my 18 nieces/nephews and growing great-niece/nephew collection
  • Buy pieds-a-terre in London, Montreal and one city to be named later
  • Get all the books on my Want to Read list
  • Take off one year just to read, then find some school library to volunteer in
  • Spend more time with friends and family doing fun things
What are five of your bad habits?
  • I'm lazy. 'nuff said.
What are five places where you have lived?
  • Newton MA
  • Shaker Heights OH
  • Upstate NY (where my parents live, and counting college and prep school)
  • New London NH
  • Brooklyn
What are five jobs you’ve had?
  • Art counselor at the YMCA day camp in Smalltown NY
  • Box Office Manager for a summer stock theatre in NH
  • Box Office Assistant for a theatre in NYC
  • Executive Recruiter
  • School librarian
What five people do you want to tag?


Serial mistakes

I finished The Battle of the Labyrinth. Now, you know me: I've gushed about Rick Riordan's series before. This time, it's less of a gush and more of a stream. Why?

In part it's because of the nature of series books - they become formulaic. This is very true in the case of the Lower School series we buy (like The Secrets of Droon or Magic Tree House), with a relatively controlled vocabulary and action. That's great for very young readers, because you want them to become comfortable reading and this is a great way for them to do that. As an older reader, however, you don't need that sort of scaffolding and you enjoy a challenge.

Now, I have to admit, there is a sense of comfort in the cozy mystery genre. Reading a Miss Marple means that you have general sense of the structure of the upcoming mystery; ditto a "Death on Demand" or "Puzzle Lady". Even a series like Ian Rankin's Rebus books have an expected arc (and you can say the same about books like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, or Kathryn Kurtz' Deryni novels). Reading a book like this is like eating comfort food, isn't it? Many of my students will come in asking for "a book just like ___", by which they mean a book that has the same arc, the same essence as the book they finished.

There's nothing wrong with that kind of writing, or enjoying that style of reading. I do it often. The problem is when the series (for me) becomes stale, when the formula is so obvious that there's nothing surprising or new in the Recent Release.

Battle of the Labyrinth is edging close to that staleness (as you faithful readers know, I felt that way about Harry Potter, too). Even worse for Riordan, I'm not the only one that's noticed! One of my students said, "It was good, but 'meh'". Fairrosa said the same, only far more eloquently.

Yes, I'll read Book Five. But it's a good thing that Riordan's moving on to other books, other ideas. This one seems to me running out of steam.



Yesterday Thing One and I went to see City Ballet's Robbins/Bernstein collaborations program where they performed Fancy Free, The Dybbuk and West Side Story Suite.

The Dybbuk was vastly different from the other two: the plot's more difficult to follow, the dancing a little less exuberant. I'd not noticed before, but Bernstein had some definite themes that appear often in his music, lending a sense of connection from one piece to the next. Robbins' choreography was, well... The usual precision of the dancers at NYCB was on display here, but there was a little laid-back quality because that's how Robbins did it. The "average Joe" dancing in West Side Story or the sailors in Fancy Free are looser than, say, a Giselle or Firebird. Because it was Mother's Day, there were a number of kids in the audience and I thought how perfect this program was to get young'uns excited about ballet. Not just girls, but boys, and not just as dancers but as patrons.

My impetus for getting tickets was seeing a photo of Faye Arthurs in the NYTimes - Faye was in my homeroom one year, and I remember her as a students new to New York, new to SAB, and so eager to learn/experience everything. Within two years, she'd been given a "little pas" (her phrase) in Scenes de Ballet! (It was there that my parent's realized that the ballet recitals I'd clunked my way through for years were nothing compared to what my students could do. And that's putting it politely!) Faye was in two pieces yesterday, most notably as Maria in WSS.

She wasn't the only familiar face yesterday - there were many I'd remembered running up and down the stairs, sitting in class or hanging out on the 6th floor. One has become an example of "why it's not just you I worry about with drinks in the library near the books": just before her AP Calc. exam, she's bought an iced something from Starbucks. She set the plastic cup down and - whoosh! - the bottom seam split and we had iced something all over the place. Completely not her fault, but a good example for future years on how it's not necessarily the klutz that's the problem.

When you work with students, you often wonder what they'll do after school - how well, what they'll become, etc.. In the case of MFPOW, in many cases I know. That's not to say that the students at MPOW aren't talented, but the school's emphasis is different and the talent is not always obvious during their time here.

Yesterday also made me realize how much I miss the energy of the arts, and how lucky I am to be able to see ballet, opera and theatre with relative ease.


A little off the mark

Today starts Children's Book Week, and Chicken Spaghetti mentioned the authors vying for Favorite Author Status: Jeff Kinney, J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Anthony Horowitz and Erin Hunter. Don't get me wrong - these are good authors, solid favorite writers at MPOW. However, at MPOW, the students that read these authors would be a little miffed at being called "children". Why? Because they're in Middle School. "Children" are in Lower School, attended to every minute of the school day. They're older now, more mature, more responsible. No, they're not quite ready for Teen Read Week, but this is a bit below them, title-wise.

Another favorite author in the Middle School is Cecily von Ziegesar. Who? She's Gossip Girl. Now, I've seen Ms. von Ziegesar talk about her books, and she says she's writing about her days in Upper School and the things her friends (not she!) got up to; these books are written for the Grade 9+ crowd. Except... I've never seen or heard someone in 9th grade read or ask for GG or the Clique books or A-List or any of the other derivatives. I am constantly pestered by my Grade 5-7 girls to get them for the collection. It's a little like when I was 11ish and reading Teen magazine, and then I was 13/14 and reading Seventeen, and 15+ reading Cosmo: people want to read about "what life will be like when I'm --- age" rather than "what life is like now".

Finally, Dorothea Salo wrote a book about Fantasy Authors. She says
This book is what you buy if you have K-12 (or maybe even undergraduate) students who would like to write book reports on an author they might, you know, actually like. There are also some readers-advisory bits that I think came out pretty well (and I say this having opposed some of them pretty strenuously at the time): if-you-liked pullouts on some authors and subgenre listings in back. It’s a pretty good mix of authors if I do say so myself; we pulled off a couple of fairly daring tricks, such as including three or four graphic-novel authors as well as several YA authors, and openly acknowledging the female half of male-female writing partnerships. (Yes, I know, the latter shouldn’t be daring, but find me another reference book that does it properly, I dare you.)
Wonderful, great! But... the cover. It's got a flying white horse. None of my boys would want to have that book in their hot, sweaty hands. It's too "girly" - give 'em trolls or an orc or even a wizardy looking guy, please.

My problem with all three is that they're great ideas/books/concepts, but the marketing is just, well, a little off the mark.



According to the SSA, my name has had a steady decrease in popularity since 1993 (from 43rd place to 183rd place in 15 quick years). That's not so difficult to believe.

What I'm having a problem with is Michael. It's #2 (where it's been for a decade), and that's pretty expected. What gets me is that Micheal is #435. That's right folks, the 435th most popular name in the US in 2007 is a misspelling. (þ: ALOTTFMA)

Abby something... Abby Normal?

I'm so frustrated with doctors right now. One doctor, an endocrinologist, says I'm fine. My nutritionist says, no, you have low Vitamin D and T4/T3 counts. My doctor, who redid all the blood work, had her nurse call to say you're normal (which here means "on the borderline with very low but still in the normal range but not really"). And yes, the Vitamin D count was low (so, "low" is the new "normal"?) and oh, well, yeah, the TSH count has fallen in the past month.

So, perhaps not so much with the "normal". More like Abby Normal.

I suggested that my doctor actually look at the results in light of my chronic fatigue and perhaps think about what we could do. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm taking another nap.



I've been working on purchasing/pricing out-of-print items to replace those lost in the fire. I can understand an art book selling for $256.70. But there are other books, more "popular" ones, that sell on Amazon for $.17 - that's seventeen cents. No typo. Some sell for even less. WTF???? Is it even worth the time to enter the book for sale? Just give it away!


Notable Quotes

Getting older means paring yourself down to an essential version of yourself


"I didn't mean it"

Yeah. Right.

Too comfortable to blog

Right now I'm watching the Celtics and hoping they make it to their 17th banner. My tv is in my room, "hidden" in my armoire. There's still work to be done on the insurance claim, and a number of Web Clutter posts to annotate.


Today I got my new living room furniture. Two cuddlers and an ottoman. They're cuddly. I started the Sunday paper, and fell asleep. Thing One woke me up for the game, otherwise I would have stayed there snoozing and reading all day.

As I told Doug, I'm planning on spending a lot of time there reading and snoozing and less time up here watching tv and online. You can keep track of my reading over at the GoodReads widget, and you know I'm not completely abandoning you. Just focusing on me and what's important for right now. Me, the books, The Boys... You get the picture.


Can't keep this to myself

Blog a Penguin Classic (þ: Thing One)

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