Showing posts with label 7 Quick Takes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 7 Quick Takes. Show all posts

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seven Quick Takes -- I've Been Sick Edition

A bit belatedly, I'm joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary in presenting "Seven Quick Takes," a medley of mini-topics, each of which is too slight to support its own blog post.

1) I had foot surgery at the beginning of May. Because my house has stairs, I decided to spend my convalescence next door at my mom's house, and I'd brought my laptop with me hoping to catch up on my blogging. After all, my wireless network extends to my mom's house, and I wouldn't have much else to do, would I? You'd think, wouldn't you, that having had similar surgery on the other foot twelve years ago I would know better! (Note to future self: lying in pain with foot elevated is not conducive to writing.)

2) Previously read Georgette Heyer novels are probably the best sort of books to read after surgery. They are light and undemanding, -- essential qualities for a book intended to distract one from pain and nausea. (Note to self: No fear of ever becoming a drug addict -- everything seems to make me throw up.)

3) Netflix is wonderful resource for light and cheerful movies, and since my new laptop can use their instant play feature, there's no waiting for the US Postal Service to deliver the next disc. However, I still had a DVD of Housewife 49 which had been delivered before the surgery, so I decided to watch it. Big mistake. I'd originally ordered it because I couldn't get a copy of the book on which it was based. The protagonist is a withdrawn and depressed housewife in Britain at the start of World War II. Though her husband had previously discouraged her attempts to become involved with people who might be outside her class, she heeded her doctor's advice to join the Women's Volunteer Services and gradually blossomed into a stronger and more independent person. She also volunteered to write a journal for a British agency which was documenting the lives of ordinary people during the war. Now that I'm feeling better, I still want to read the book. But the movie did nothing to improve my spirits while I was still on my bed of pain. (Note to self: Timing is everything!)

4) Since I cannot drive yet, my mom's been taking me to my weekly followup appointments which means that I can actually look at the scenery along our route. (I did not learn to drive until I was middle-aged, so I still feel like a relatively new driver. I tend to grip the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip of death and fear to let my eyes stray from the road by even a fraction of an inch.) So yesterday I enjoyed being able to look around, but then I noticed a billboard with a blatantly misused apostrophe. Normally, I can hide the fact that I'm a grammar geek. But abused apostrophes make me twitch. Coincidentally, this morning I stumbled across this poster: "How To Use An Apostrophe" which I think ought to be widely distributed as a public service announcement.

5) Okay, as long as we're on grammar peeves, I also love "The Alot is Better Than You at Everything" which my daughter just emailed to me. (Is she trying to tell me something?) It will not improve anyone's grammatical usage, but it could definitely help someone like me develop coping skills.

6) While I was still too weak to sit up and use my 4 lb. laptop, my brother came to show me his new iPad. Kewel! It's so light I could have held it up while lying flat on my back (with my foot elevated) to watch movies and read books. And it comes with an ebook version of Winnie the Pooh! What fun I could have downloading obscure short stories by Louisa May Alcott. (Note to self: Don't be silly. You can do that on your laptop. Besides, you just spent all your money on your foot!)

7) On the bright side: I have no more feet eligible for surgery. I will never have to do this again!

For more Quick Takes, join Jennifer and her posse at today's Conversion Diary.

Friday, January 22, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Catch All Edition

Seven Quick Takes hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary

1. Seraphic not only finished "Eilidh and the Empty Fame," but she's now posting segments of "Eilidh and the Christmas Spirit." If you were pitching this as a movie it would be "Bertie and Jeeves, only female and in Scotland -- and um, Catholic." Though it seems to me that some of Lady Bramble's relatives could have wandered in from an Evelyn Waugh novel. Both stories are posted here (in reverse order since it's a blog). I really like Catholic fiction that's not what people expect when they see that label.

2. Yesterday, while shelving books in the library, I noticed an unintentionally amusing title: The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Compte-Sponville. We aides aren't supposed to pause to read jacket blurbs, so I'm not sure how the author reconciles spirituality with a belief in the existence of nothing beyond the material world. Perhaps, like many people, he equates spirituality with simply being nice. (Reviews on Amazon are mixed.)

3. I had a really weird dream last night, possibly triggered by my visit to the Road to California quilt show on Sunday. Though the details have faded, I distinctly remember that I was in search of dish towels with embroidered redwork designs showing Cthulhu engaged in different chores for each day of the week. You know, wash on Monday; iron on Tuesday; sew on Wednesday; etc. When I was a girl, you could buy Aunt Martha's iron-on embroidery transfers for this sort of thing at Woolworth's. But they featured cute little girls, kittens, or duckies. Not Cthulhu. And the really odd thing is that I don't think I've ever read any Lovecraft.

4. Having recently noticed that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery in 2009 for The Graveyard Book, I decided to give it a go. Ho, hum! An interesting premise -- human baby raised by the ghosts in the local graveyard -- but rather disjointed in execution. Perhaps that is not surprising since the author says that it took him twenty-some years to write the book and that it initially started with what is now chapter four. The Graveyard Book doesn't really begin to act like a novel until near the end.

5. For more timely Newbery excitement, click over to Everyone's a Winner as Peter Sieruta of Collecting Children's Books uses Twitter and a cell phone to help a book seller friend place her orders for the new award winners as they are being announced so that she'll have have copies in stock for the Award Day rush.
I was very glad to help her out. In these uncertain times, independent bookstores -- the kind where they know your name and make personal recommendations -- are having a terrible time competing with the big chains and dot.com dealers. When Awards Day rolls around, everyone --from local libraries to first edition collectors -- calls or drops by my friend's store, trying to find the winning titles. So it was very important that she have these books in stock; her business depended on it.
I also enjoyed reading his reflections on the books that won and those that didn't.

6. Who knew that there was a blog devoted to the Dewey Decimal system? Appropriately, it is called 025.431: The Dewey Blog. Tuesday's entry concerns dark matter and the Milky Way.

The comprehensive (and interdisciplinary) number for dark matter is 523.1126 Dark matter; an example of a work classed there is In Search of Dark Matter.

The comprehensive (and interdisciplinary) number for the Milky Way is 523.113 Milky Way; an example of a work classed there is The Milky Way.

Where should a work about dark matter as part of the Milky Way be classed?

If this is the geeky sort of thing that makes your heart go pitter-pat (and I have to admit that mine does), click here to find the answer and the reasoning behind it. Someday I'll have to write about the fun I had cataloging the library at my previous parish.

7. Have you been to see my other blog, Quilting Bibliophagist? (When I'm not reading, I quilt.)


Friday, October 30, 2009

Seven Quick Takes -- Sloooow Day Edition



Once again I'm joining Jennifer for 7 Quick Takes on Friday.

1. I am sick. Not the flu, thank goodness. But my sinuses are so painful that it hurts to read. Aaaaaargh! Which is worse -- not reading or reading with sore eyeballs? Either way, I guess I should offer it up for the Poor Souls in purgatory. (All Souls Day is just around the corner. Pray early and often!)

2. I love reading children's literature, but I'm not that keen on young adult fiction. I hear that many adults enjoy reading YA, but I don't. The teen years were not a happy period of my life, so I cannot fathom why any adult would want to relive them through fiction -- especially nowadays when most of the titles look so grim, dark, and gloomy. (Some YA fantasy is kind of fun such as Sorcery and Cecelia. But I never really consider books like that to be YA. Although they're marketed as young adult fiction, they aren't awash in adolescent angst.

3. Shelving in the YA section has its own special challenges since our library has set aside that area as a teen only zone with movable floor seating which sometimes makes reaching the shelves a job for a contortionist. And I overhear all kinds of things when I'm working there, everything from what kind of pornographic content is available on cable to whether Arnold Schwarzenegger is French, Australian, or a robot.

4. I guess I'm showing my age. When a patron says he can't find a certain book on the shelf, I always ask if he's already checked the card catalog to ascertain whether the book is in the library or currently checked out. Recently I realized that I'm probably the only aide who says card catalog. Because of course there aren't any cards. It's all on computer and has been in most libraries for quite some time. Old habits die hard.

5. One of the things that most surprised me when I first began to work in libraries is how filthy the books are. I am not, you understand, referring to their contents but to their covers. Like filthy lucre, books pass through many hands and pick up a good deal of grime. You don't notice it when handling a single book. But if you work as a library aide, two hours of shelving will leave your fingers black. I can't bring myself to eat my break-time snack until I've washed my hands at least twice. With everyone getting excited about the upcoming flu season, the city has installed hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance of the library and near the reference desk. But book don't get cleaned unless they're returned with seriously sticky, icky stuff on their mylar covers. So consider yourselves warned: When using library materials, don't touch your face.

6. Okay, so fiction books get shelved first by author, and then all of the books by a certain author are shelved alphabetically by title. Now I've always been taught that titles that begin with numerals, such as 92 Pacific Boulevard by Debbie Macomber, are shelved as if the numerals had been spelled out. (So this title would be shelved after Mrs. Miracle and before On a Snowy Night.)

When I started work at my current library I made it a point to ask my supervisor about this point just to make sure that this was the shelving protocol they were following. (It was.) But I notice that some of the aides are placing these titles at the beginning of an author's books, even before titles beginning with the letter "A." I think this must be the younger aides who have grown up with computers which always place numbers and symbols before letters in alphabetized listings.

7. For some reason being sick always inspires me to do long neglected household tasks. Yesterday, in between collapsing on my sickbed of pain, I slowly washed my way through a great stack of dirty dishes which had been piling up all week. And washed several loads of towels. Today I am slowly cleaning the stove top, including the burner grates. I don't know why I do this. Maybe my subconscious figures that if I'm feeling lousy anyway, I might as well do housework. After all, when I'm feeling fine there are so many other things I'd much rather do.

Friday, February 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes - Misc. Edition

1) As I was shelving in nonfiction I noticed a title on the shelf which spoke volumes to me: Why Women Need Chocolate. I don't actually know anything about this book, but it seems to me that the title states an eternal truth. Women need chocolate. And I've discovered that the craving for it is distinct from the craving for sweets.

Because I'm prediabetic, I cut sweets from my diet about a year ago. And I found that the craving for sugar really does fade after a month or so. Not so with chocolate, not so! When life is stressful there's still nothing like it. But now I've discovered a way to eschew sweets yet still self-medicate: Trader Joe's Belgian Unsweetened Baking Chocolate. No sugar at all and a smooth chocolate taste! It's not at all bitter or harsh. Of course, it probably helps that I've always been a fan of bitter sweet chocolate. (Milk chocolate is for wimps!)

2)Darwin recently wrote about the toy appeal of Amazon's Kindle 2. Though I love the feel of a book in my hand, I have to admit that I have occasionally considered the advantages of a Kindle, most recently on my trip to Texas to visit Fillius Major and his family. I always try to travel light which is not easy to do if you're also worried about running out of reading material during the trip. Books are heavy, and I can't take just one thanks to the current security regulations which require arriving at the airport as much as two hours ahead of flight time -- because I can read through a lot in two hours! And then there's the flight time, and maybe a layover. And what if that doesn't leave me enough reading material for the trip home? Talk about midflight panic! It was this sort of fear that had me standing in an airport book stall, with my carry-on firmly clutched between my feet and my purse dangling from my arm, reading about Dewey (the only palatable selection in the whole store). A Kindle would be so much lighter to carry than a stack books, and I'd never have to worry about running out of something to read.

3) Dewey Decimal Conundrums: The Dangerous Book For Boys is at 031.02 which is right next to the Guinness Book of World's Records. Why is The Daring Book for Girls at 606.7008 right next to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?

4) Yesterday the unthinkable happened: I forgot to take a book with me on my trip to the doctor's office. I surveyed the magazine offerings in the waiting room. The inevitable Sports Illustrated (ugh!), various automobile magazines (zzzzzz), Parents (been there, done that), Golf (the most boring game on the planet), various financial magazines, and Arthritis (don't need that yet!). So that left JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. (I did read one interesting article there in which the author was reminiscing about the lone family doctor who served his tiny hometown and who sparked his desire to enter the medical profession.) But it would have been another good time to have had a Kindle. Except I probably would have forgotten to bring it with me.

5) I've just discovered that one can subscribe to a Spanish Word of the Day at Dictionary.com.

6) I bought a copy of MindFlights, Issue 4 in order to read "Dragonsaint" by D.G.D. Davidson, the proprietor of The Sci Fi Catholic. The author has described his novelette as featuring, "such things as ancient legends, dragons, coffee, attractive women with glasses, dragons, wildland firefighting, dragons, unrequited love, and dragons." I thought the story was a lot of fun and had some interesting world-building. And ya gotta love a dragon who wears a scapular. Why a Catholic dragon? Well, that would be the fault of St. Philomena, a spunky little girl who, after taming her dragon, insists that he be baptized. (After being catechised, of course.) But has the dragon really been converted? Or has he only restrained all these centuries by the power of St. Philomena's cord around his neck?

7) In a previous post, I spoke about mentally mispronouncing words I encountered in my reading which I'd never heard spoken aloud. But I forgot to confess that (despite the title of this blog) I've no idea how to pronounce "bibliophagist"!

Friday, January 30, 2009

7 Quick Takes - Library Edition

Once again, I'm joining Jennifer for 7 Quick Takes on Friday:

1) There are some mysteries of human behavior that will probably never be solved. For example, judging by the number of times the topic crops up in the works of Miss Manners, scientists have yet to discover why a sizable number of people are afraid to use the fancy guest towels in their host's bathroom. Similarly, I've yet to figure out why so many patrons of the public library, people who probably leave their towels on the bathroom floor, feel such a compulsion to return books to the library shelves when they have no idea where they belong. These patron-shelved books are easy to spot because they've usually been placed on the shelf either upside down or backwards (i.e. with the pages facing out).

2) This problem is especially acute in the children's section, but I harbor no ill-will against the perpetrators because I'm so glad to see kids using and enjoying the books. However, this past week as I was sitting on the floor reordering a lower shelf that was hopelessly mixed up, a very small Asian boy toddled up to me with a picture book and asked "Where this go?"

"May I put it away for you?" I asked politely, curbing the urge to hug him in gratitude. His eyes widened and a delighted grin split his face as he handed me his book. A little while later he returned with a slightly larger boy in tow who also had a book needing to be shelved. I thanked them gravely.

Oh, mothers, unless your infant prodigy knows the Dewey Decimal system, please teach them that when they've finished looking at a book, they should simply leave it on one of the tables for us to reshelve. It's so much easier for us library aides to put books directly where they belong rather than to have to weed them out of the wrong places while we're trying to shelve other books.

3) One thing that's really struck me while working in the children's section is how much more fantasy there is now than when I was a kid. I seem to recall its being rather rare in those days, so my hunger for fantasy was usually fed with fairy tales, mythology and folk tales. But the shelves are awash with it now, much of it in trilogies or even longer series. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from acting the old curmudgeon, "Ah, you youngsters don't know how easy you have it nowadays . . .

(Historical note: I know that The Hobbit had already been published before I was born, but I don't think I ran into it until at least the 6th or 7th grade -- and that was only by round-about chance. I was reading an anthology of supposedly humorous stories, and the only good selection in it was the riddle chapter from The Hobbit. So naturally I had to track down the complete book. Interestingly, the anthology had the original version of "Riddles In the Dark." The copy of The Hobbit in our local public library had the revised chapter which Tolkien prepared after writing The Lord of the Rings. The Narnia books were also in our library during that period, but I never deigned to read them. Why? I thought the titles sounded stupid. Ah, youth!)

4) It's also interesting to see which authors which I read and enjoyed when I was a kid are still on the shelves. (I'm not talking about big names like Laura Ingalls Wilder or Beverly Cleary. Just favorite authors whose books happened to cross my path when I was young.) I'm pleased to see that Noel Streatfeild's "Shoe" books are still being read. I was not surprised to see at least some Carol Ryrie Brink since she won the Newberry for Caddie Woodlawn. However, they don't have Baby Island which I would dearly love to read again. (I haven't seen a copy in almost forty years!) I am delighted that Mara Daughter of the Nile is still on the shelves, but The Lost Queen of Egypt is not. In fact, getting a used copy online would run me at least a hundred dollars! Sigh.

5) The big excitement at our library lately was the recent discovery that someone was checking out our new books with a stolen library card and selling them on eBay. However, thanks to his invincible ignorance of how libraries work, he was tracked down and caught. The moral is: Don't mess around with librarians. They have powers far beyond those of mortal men! (Even if we don't wear capes and spandex.)

6) Some people might think that a four hour stretch of shelving books would be boring. But I love my job! It allows me to become more closely acquainted with the collection than I might otherwise be. Whenever I see a book that looks interesting, I sneak it onto the bottom shelf of my bookcart so that when I've gone off duty, I can examine it more closely and decide whether I want to check it out. (I am very scrupulous about not reading blurbs while I'm on the clock.) Consequently, my check-outs mirror whatever section I've been assigned that week. Here are a few of the library books I've recently borrowed:

Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear.

Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, interviews selected and edited by Karen Wilken. (The interviews are from various sources and date from 1973 to 1999. Includes illos from Gorey's books and copious notes.)

Down a Sunny Dirt Road: An Autobiography by Stan & Jan Berenstain. (The creators of the popular Berenstain Bears books write alternating chapters describing their early lives and fine arts training. I hadn't realized they already had a flourishing career as cartoonists and authors long before they started writing their books about the Bear family. They also describe how, with the sometimes dubious help of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess), they got into the children's book business. )

7) One of the perks of working in the library: you get an advance peek at the donations that come in. Donated books are sold by the Friends of the Library. I bought a stack of nearly new children's books last week for about 25 cents each.

Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Quick Takes Friday

Every Friday Jennifer at Conversion Diary has been posting "7 Quick Takes" in which she blogs about about seven topics too slight to support individual posts of their own. Though I seem to have trouble posting even one topic (however slight) per week, I thought I would give "7 Quick Takes" a try. (I'd planned to add to this blog post all week long, but actually it's taken me more than a week to compose it.)

1) You see all kinds of odd things in the library. A couple of days ago, at the end of my shift, I noticed a pair of false teeth on one of the library tables. I can only assume that the old fellow ambling towards the magazines had just slipped his teeth out in order to get more comfortable. He must certainly feel at home in our library.

2)And you hear all kinds of things in the children's section of the library. As I was shelving picture books I overheard two very small children chatting as they played with the toys in the game corner. "That lady is my babysitter," the little girl explained to her companion. "My real mommy is in jail because she does drugs." Okay.

3) Mysteries are a genre in which I am not very well read because I've never been able to fathom the appeal of a story which requires that someone be murdered as a precondition of the action. However, now that I'm shelving at the public library, and a wider variety of books is passing through my hands, I've checked out a couple of them just to try. (I'd like to like them. They usually have such interesting titles.) My most recent attempt was Ash Wednesday by Ralph McInerny, a "Father Dowling Mystery."

I pulled it off the shelf because I'd previously read an article by McInerny, "On Being a Catholic Writer," and I was curious to see how he'd handle Catholicism in one of his own novels. I was further intrigued because, according to the dust jacket, the story involved an ethical question concerning life support and euthanasia.

But I was distinctly underwhelmed. To be honest, I had trouble keeping the characters straight. And Father Dowling was off-screen most of the time, so I really never got a feel for him. But since this novel is one of a series, perhaps it was written for an audience who already knows all of the continuing characters and doesn't require much in the way of characterization. Personally, I felt the book was pretty thin.

4) Actually, I do enjoy some mysteries -- older stuff such as Sherlock Holmes or G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories. And I also like Dorothy Sayers' books because they are actual novels which just happen to be mysteries. This past week I've also been enjoying a book of short stories, English Country House Murders edited by Thomas Godfrey. But again, the collection included a lot of older authors such as Wilkie Collins whose Woman in White I devoured a couple of years ago. And I really enjoyed the female protagonist in Baroness Orczy's "The Fordwych Castle Mystery." I'd never been able to get into her The Scarlet Pimpernel, so this delightful short story was a pleasant surprise.

5) I've just read Matilda by Roal Dahl. I'd recently seen the movie which I enjoyed very much. (Naturally -- since the young protagonist is a voracious reader! How often do you see that in a major motion picture?) So I decided to try the book. Ho-hum. The movie was better -- which is not my usual response to a movie vs. book comparison. I had the same reaction to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I much preferred the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was delightfully zany, magical and bizarre. The book seemed flat by comparison.

Perhaps I should try reading The Witches (and watching the movie) to see if the pattern holds.

Why is Dahl so popular?

6) We got a catalog in the mail which had many book-related gift items. One of them was a Christmas tree ornament with the inscription, "She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain." The quotation was attributed to Louisa May Alcott, but I have my doubts. It doesn't much sound like her. I've read all of Alcott's novels many times* and probably all of her short stories (including obscure ones such as "A Free Bed" which was printed as a chapbook by Friends of the Brigham Young University Library in 1978). But I do not remember this quote at all. Can anyone tell me if it is indeed Alcott, and if so, where it appears? I will admit that I've only read her letters and journals once since I don't own copies. Might it be in there? Or is the company that sells this item just faking everyone out?

*Well, now that I think of it, I've only read Moods once because I don't actually own a copy of it.

7) A rather more charming, book related gift would be either the Bibliovore or Bibliophibian tee shirts. I'd be tempted to buy them were I not so cheap. But library aides aren't allowed to wear tee shirts with pictures, slogans or logos, so I can't even justify their purchase as work related.