Xmas @ the Library: Deck the Shelves

December 16, 2012 Geekery, Library Life 0

Sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls”

Deck the shelves with books and movies,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


‘Tis the season for fake pine trees,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Don we now our tacky sweaters,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Like we’re real Yuletide go-getters,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


See the patrons try to find things,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Panic as the phone ring ring rings,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Follow me through the dusty stacks,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


While my patience slowly cracks,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Forgive some fines and look for lost books,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Shush loud children and dodge lewd looks,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Eat some cookies and chug coffee,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Santa’s here at the library,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Xmas @ the Library: 12 Days of Book Drop

December 15, 2012 Geekery, Library Life 0

Sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”

On the 1st day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

a banana beginning to rot!

On the 2nd day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 3rd day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 4th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 5th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 6th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 7th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 8th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

8 unglued spines
7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 9th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

9 candy wrappers
8 unglued spines
7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 10th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

10 crumpled tissues
9 candy wrappers
8 unglued spines
7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 11th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

11 broken crayons
10 crumpled tissues
9 candy wrappers
8 unglued spines
7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids
and a banana beginning to rot!

On the 12th day of Christmas we found in the book drop…

12 moldy pages
11 broken crayons
10 crumpled tissues
9 candy wrappers
8 unglued spines
7 cracked cases
6 lost school notes
5 books from another libraryyyyy
4 cockroaches
3 maxipads
2 used band-aids

and  a  banana  beginning  to  rot!


The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman

December 7, 2012 Book Reviews, Books 0

Perelman_SmittenKitchen

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman | Knopf | January 2012 | Hardcover $35.00

Deb Perelman loves to cook. It’s as simple as that. She isn’t a chef or a restaurant owner—she’s never even waitressed. Cooking in her tiny Manhattan kitchen was, at least at first, for special occasions — and, too often, an unnecessarily daunting venture. Deb found herself overwhelmed by the number of recipes available to her. So, she founded her award-winning blog, smittenkitchen.com, on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and that the results of your labor can — and should be — delicious… every time.

Deb is a firm believer that there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes. And now, with the same warmth, candor, and can-do spirit her blog is known for, Deb presents her first cookbook — more than 100 new recipes, plus a few favorites from her site, all gorgeously illustrated with hundreds of Deb’s beautiful color photographs.

I recently acquired a copy of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The author has been writing about food/cooking over at “The Smitten Kitchen” blog for years now, and her expertise is evident in this long-awaited book.

First, and most obviously, the book is beautiful. Ms. Perelman did all of the photos herself in her tiny little kitchen. And every single recipe has at least one photo — the more involved/complicated ones have more. Plus, I love that the cover looks great with or without the dust jacket. Oh, yeah, and it opens flat on your kitchen counter. Details like this make me so happy.

I do want to make it clear that this is not a cookbook for beginners. The instructions are all clear and the author has included plenty of little asides and tips, but if you can barely boil an egg this book is not for you! And it isn’t for folks who only like simple, meat-n-taters type meals, either. Ms. Perelman was once a vegetarian, and that comes across in her creative use of produce (and relative dearth of heavy meats) in these dishes.

But if you think cooking is a fun hobby, if you like trying new ingredients and combinations, if you want to try something different but not unrealistically complicated, if you appreciate recipes that have been tested and perfected by a foodie who knows what she’s doing — this is the cookbook for you.

I’ve already tried a couple of recipes from the book: a fancy sort of grilled cheese (which involved caramelized onions, and which made me seriously ecstatic) and a cucumber dill ‘slaw. Planning on trying the latkes this weekend (it is Hanukkah, after all).

This is one of the few cookbooks I have that I know will get lots of repeated use. And that’s probably the best recommendation a cookbook can get.


Links:

Publication information: Perelman, Deb. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. New York: Knopf, 2012. Print.
Source: Blue Willow Bookshop
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


We Are What We Pretend to Be
by Kurt Vonnegut

November 16, 2012 Book Reviews, Books 0

Vonnegut_WAWWPTB

★ ★ ★

We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut | Vanguard Press | October 2012 | Hardcover $19.99

Called “our finest black-humorist” by The Atlantic Monthly, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now his first and last works come together for the first time in print, in a collection aptly titled after his famous phrase, We Are What We Pretend To Be. In this fiction collection, published in print for the first time, exist Vonnegut’s grand themes: trust no one, trust nothing; and the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of We Are What We Pretend to Be by Kurt Vonnegut from a giveaway at Book Riot. It is actually 2 books in 1: his first novella Basic Training + his final novel If God Were Alive Today + an intro by the author’s daughter, Nanette Vonnegut. Basic Training was never actually published, and Vonnegut didn’t get a chance to finish If God Were Alive Today before he passed away in 2007.

I think I enjoyed Nanette’s introduction more than either of the actual stories, which is unfortunate because I count Vonnegut as one of my favorite authors. Neither of the stories were actually bad, but neither of them were anywhere near the quality of his other works — and that isn’t surprising. These stories were never published in the first place because they weren’t really ready for publication. I guess the novelty/nostalgia factor is supposed to make up for that now, for Vonnegut fans who are obviously never otherwise going to get new works out of him because, y’know, he’s dead.

I caught glimpses of the author’s budding genius in Basic Training, but it is definitely in need of some editing (which I suspect the publisher was reluctant to do, and I can’t really lay blame for that). And If God Were Alive Today has the makings of something truly profound, but I found it very, very obvious that it was unfinished (and, again, in need of more refined editing, but then it would be, being unfinished and all).

Overall, I’m glad I got a chance to read it and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to lend it out, but I wouldn’t recommend this to Vonnegut virgins as an introduction to his works.


Links:


Publication information: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Literary Trust. We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works. New York: Vanguard Press, 2012. Print.
Source: Giveaway from Book Riot
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Texas Wildlife (… sans the “life” part)

November 4, 2012 Geekery, Museum Musings 0

These photos are actually several months old. We took them sometime before the new HMNS Morian Hall of Paleontology opened in this past summer.

This is one of my favorite halls, even if it isn’t the most exotic or expensive or unusual. It’s all native flora and fauna, for one thing, and I love that our museum gets to showcase that. For another, there all kinds of details and little surprises stuffed into each diorama. Just strolling through the hall (as many visitors do as they head to other exhibits) isn’t enough; you really need to take the time to observe the scenes, really take it all in.

Actually the Texas Wildlife Hall needs a little TLC. These are pretty old exhibits and the displays need some attention/repair. Of course that’s been delayed because of the construction, but I think they may be working on it again soon… but I haven’t had a chance to see these exhibits again recently so I don’t know.

As you’ll probably see in some of the photos below, the hall itself is dimly lit. This can make taking photos frustrating, but it also makes the dioramas seem more like little worlds unto themselves.

txw16_edit txw13_edit txw14_edit txw12_edit txw11_edit txw7_edit txw6_edit txw15_edit txw8_edit txw10_edit txw4_edit txw3_edit txw2_edit txw1_edit

There are a couple of displays that I missed out on because they were already closed for repairs when Gary and I started volunteering at the museum last year. These are the bat cave, which featured Mexican free-tailed bats, and the predators, which featured a mountain lion, a bobcat, a Red-tailed Hawk, a black bear, and a coyote amongst other carnivorous birds and mammals.


A Challenger Appears!

October 21, 2012 Geekery, Library Life 0

I almost got to do my first book challenge not too long ago. How exciting!

But it was only an almost.

*Minor details changed/omitted to protect privacy.

A gentleman approached the desk and very politely asked to talk to somebody about the appropriateness of a certain book for our library. I’ve listened to patron complaints before, but usually it is just that — complaint, not an actual challenge. Most folks just want someone to listen to their concerns, to tell them that they’ve been heard and that their opinion matters (and it does matter, even if I don’t personally agree with it). But that’s it — hardly anyone wants to take it to the level of formal challenges and board reviews. But this guy that I’m talking about, he knew what was up. He fully expected to be able to file a formal challenge.

He went on to explain that his son brought the book home, and that he was very glad that he makes a habit of reading his son’s selections before the youngster does because this particular book appeared to be marketed to teens but it was in fact entirely inappropriate for that age group and maybe for everyone because it was sexist and racist and generally promoted a bad attitude towards other people and the language was terrible. According to this patron, anyway.

I’m not going to mention the name of the book, because that doesn’t really matter, but I was curious and looked up the reviews for it on Goodreads and Amazon. The reviews are not good. Most folks apparently agree with this particular patron.

Does that mean that this book doesn’t belong in our library?

And it wasn’t just this book. The patron went on to complain that we shouldn’t carry books like this in the library. Like… what, exactly? About this topic? About this topic for this particular age group? Books that are mis-marketed to teens? Books with this sort of language? Books that are sexist or racist or otherwise promote bad attitudes?

I’m not going to get into the whole book banning/censorship mud pit. It’s complicated, for one thing, and also many other more articulate librarians than I have written plenty on the subject already.

So why was this only an almost… ?

Turns out the book wasn’t actually checked out from the library. His son had bought the thing from our semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale. It wasn’t even a discard, just some random unwanted donation in good enough condition that the Friends folks thought they could make a few bucks off of it.

Let’s get this straight: he gave his son some money, set him loose at the book sale, let him buy whatever, reviewed his purchases after getting home with them, and THEN came back to the library to complain about it. I guess he didn’t really understand the concept of a library book sale?

He wasn’t happy when I told him that there was no way to file a formal challenge since the book was not actually a library item. And even if it was, he’d only be able to challenge that particular item — there’s no way (at this library) to file a formal complaint about a vague “type” of item, like books with subjectively vulgar language or whatever. He even brought up the fact that he’s some sort of professor, as though it would make a difference. I guess he wanted me to say, “Oh, you’re a professor, well then that changes things! Of course I’ll do whatever you say, just please don’t fail me sir!”… when in reality, I was thinking something more along the lines of “Huh, well, if you’re such an intellectual maybe you should understand how libraries work by now.”

But I shouldn’t be so snippy. He was just an overly concerned parent, doing what overly concerned parents tend to do (which is to assume that others are also going to be overly concerned, and to be upset when they aren’t). He was trying to do right by his kid, which is more than I can say for some parents that frequent our sacred institution.

So that was exciting. An almost-challenge.

Below are some ALA resources regarding book challenges:


Another (Better) Skirt, Simplicity 1807

October 19, 2012 Home Sweet Home, Stitching 0

This time with pictures…

Finally, it is finished. After lots of frogging (is that an acceptable term in sewing, or is that just a knitting thing?) and starting over, I finally finished my first project with my purdy new sewin’ machine.

Behold:

skirt1

That’s another skirt! Same pattern as last time (Simplicity 1807), but a different version. This one has two layers and is longer — much longer than I expected, actually.

skirt2

I learned some new things. Improvement is good, yes?

The most obvious new thing: the French seam!

skirt3 skirt4

It looks much neater compared to the first. Both the linen blend and the denim ravel easily, but I didn’t know what that meant when I made the first skirt. As you can see, the seams are all terribly messy now. I’m not sure how to fix that yet.

skirt5

The only edge I didn’t enclose was the upper band edge, where the skirts meet the waistband. This would have involved stitching together four thick-ish seams (two on the drawstring casing, and one for each skirt layer) and I just wasn’t confident that the needle/foot I had on the machine could handle it. I could have figured out which needle/foot would work for the thick stuff, but by this point in the process I just wanted to be able to wear the damn skirt already.

skirt6

The drawstring is stitched bias tape instead of ribbon this time. I thought it might be less likely to untie by itself than the shiny ribbon I used before — and it does stay tied — but I’m not sure that it is 100% awesome. Maybe something different again next time.

No pocket on this one either. I originally planned on doing one (because, dude, pockets) but I was just tired of this whole thing! Much better to be done for now, so I can move on to a new project, and maybe later a patch pocket can be added on.

skirt7

I think I’ll work on some more mending next. Or maybe some curtains?


My First Skirt, Simplicity 1807

July 29, 2012 Home Sweet Home, Stitching 2

One of my personal goals has been to learn how to sew.

Well, 2 weeks ago I got to spend some time with a couple of sewing buddies. M. was kind enough to let me borrow her older machine (she has a fancy new one), and to help me along in my first foray into sewing.

I made a skirt! It is purple! With yellow ribbon! And a POCKET. I am super happy about the pocket. All skirts should have pockets. Everything should have pockets.

I don’t know what I want to make next. I’m tempted to try another skirt. Like, this same skirt but in a bunch of different colors. Or patterns? Fabrics? Or maybe I should try something more appropriate for fall?

Well, I don’t know when I’ll next get a chance to sew, anyway. So there’s plenty of time to decide. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?


Dinosaurs!!!

June 10, 2012 Geekery, Museum Musings 0

Want some photos of the new Paleontology Hall at HMNS? I took these while we were being led through the hall by one of the scientists who was instrumental in putting it all together. So now we’ve been “trained”… if only we had more time to spend actually docenting!

Fair warning: 55 photos. Without further ado….

Read more »


25 by 25 Year-End Review

March 18, 2012 Just for Fun 0

It’s been nearly a year since I started this blog.

And by this time next week I’ll have been on this Earth for 25 whole years.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long already. Wait, I’m actually an adult? Since when?!

So, how did I do with my 25 by 25 goals?

Well, the checked items are things I feel like I at least kinda-sorta succeeded at or completed. X’d items are total failures. Mostly, these are what you might call qualified or partial successes. And I’ve graded myself, like a good little self-despising grad student.

  1. Set up exercise, housework, blogging, hobby, and study schedules — and stick to them!
    ✓ Grade: B

    I’ve done OK on the schedules. There’ve been a few days… fine, weeks… when I’ve just given up on doing exactly what the calendar tells me to do, but for the most part I’ve done OK. It has actually been really useful for setting up study times, social plans, and exercise classes.

  2. Read 75 books.
    ✓ Grade: A
  3. Write in my journal at least 3 times per month.
    ✓ Grade: C
  4. Find a full-time job or a second part-time job or an equivalent income-earning activity.
    ✓ Grade: B

    I do have a full-time job now. Same job I was doing this time last year, but for 40+ hours a week. Actually almost every week I’m doing overtime, which is great for the paycheck but hard on my schedule. But… it isn’t what I what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be an actual librarian (or archivist, or curator, or… you get the idea) and circ clerk work isn’t going to cut it. Plus the Mr. has put his own job search on hold for the next few months while I finish up my degree. I guess I can mark this goal as accomplished, but not spectacularly so.

  5. Refresh my French.
    ✓ Grade: C

    I did put some small amount of effort into improving upon my sadly atrophied French skillz. Not as much effort as I had in mind, and not enough to get me back up to par, though. This is something that I want to continue to work on over the following year.

  6. Fix up my garden.
    ✗ Grade: D

    The garden is… meh. Well, right now it really does look like utter crap. But Gary and I (well, mostly… almost entirely Gary) did fix it up a little bit over the summer. Some of the things that I planted back in 2010 when we first moved in have survived/thrived… plus we have all those surprise lemons. So overall this is barely a pass, and really that’s mostly thanks to my husband.

  7. Do something artsy/craftsy.
    ✗ Grade: F
  8. Get good enough at knitting to produce a sweater for the dog.
    ✗ Grade: F

    Total fail. I didn’t even get around to making another crooked scarf, yet alone figuring out how to produce a Sneakers-sized sweater. It’s been a warm winter anyway. Maybe next year?

  9. Take at least 5 “good” photos per week.
    ✓ Grade: B
  10. Organize digital and physical copies of photos; begin gathering photos from friends and family.
    ✓ Grade: C
  11. File/recycle all of this old paperwork that’s clogging up my desk drawers.
    ✓ Grade: A
  12. Convince the credit card companies to reduce my APR.
    ✗ Grade: F
  13. Organize the closets. Properly this time.
    ✗ Grade: D
  14. Try at least one new recipe per month.
    ✓ Grade: A

    Passed with flying colors on this one! I tried at least one new recipe every month — usually more than one, though I didn’t always keep track.

    • Hamburger Lentil & Bean Stew
    • Spätzle — a terrible failure, by the by
    • Banana Bread
    • Salted Chocolate Caramel Cookies
    • Bell Pepper Chicken + Rice
    • French Toast Casserole
    • Zucchini Bread
    • Shepherd’s Pot Pie
    • Lemon Cake Cookies
    • Pumpkin Spice Muffins
    • Whoopie Pies
    • (Not-a-Tequila) Sunrise
  15. Learn how to bake bread. Edible bread, I should say.
    ✗ Grade: F
  16. Lose those last 10 pounds (in a healthy way, of course) and maintain that weight.
    ✗ Grade: F
  17. Properly fix up this current computer or build a new one.
    ✓ Grade: A

    Big win. My new little beauty has been running like a dream since June.

  18. Donate to at least one charity.
    ✓ Grade: A
  19. Patronize small and/or local businesses often.
    ✗ Grade: D

    Not so much. We have been to a few local cafés, and I got a couple of gifts from crafters on Etsy, but beyond that… not so much. I would seriously LOVE to get back to a farmer’s market, but so far I haven’t found one that’s consistently available when I’m off work.

  20. Obtain a vintage (or well-made vintage repro) dress.
    ✓ Grade: A

    Well, it isn’t strictly vintage, but I did get myself a semi-vintage-style dress as an early birthday present (using Christmas gift cards, but still). It’s a bright coral color with a big bold print of black & white flowers (roses?) all over. It’s kind of a mid/late 20th century style — not over-the-top ‘50’s fem but not quite ‘60’s mod. The knee-length skirt’s loose enough to have a petticoat under, but the extra poof isn’t necessary. The low wide neckline and a couple of bits of boning in the bodice make for a very alluring décolletage.

  21. Figure out how to curl my hair so that it will stay curled for more than 5 minutes.
    ✓ Grade: B
  22. Learn how to wear liquid eyeliner and/or red lipstick.
    ✓ Grade: A
  23. Keep nails (fingers and toes) fixed up.
    ✓ Grade: C
  24. Go somewhere fun for a weekend.
    ✓ Grade: A
  25. Learn to be genuinely kind.
    ✓ Grade: C

    Am I a kinder person now? I don’t know. I mean, I have tried. And I have been called “kind” by others, which was a nice boost to the ol’ self-esteem. But I also feel like my customer service-esque job seriously saps my patience and has really lowered both my tolerance for idiocy and my level of hope for humanity as a whole. I guess this calls for a pass-ish grade?

Sooo… that’s like a C average. Story of my life.

Tune in next week for more naval gazing/pie-in-the-sky expectations!