Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Here's a new website that's interesting:
It's the website of Wendy Shalit, who penned "A Return to Modesty", a highly unique perspective in today's times. The postings on the website sometimes seem a little over the top and harsh-but I guess that's because these ladies are striking back at a promiscuous society (sp.) with their own opinions on the way one ought to act. It was rather refreshing to read their take on everything. I like to hear both sides of the argument (even though I am quite obviously on the side of modesty) and hadn't heard enough from the modesty camp lately.
I found this site out through a website about Lauren Winner. Even though the journalist was somewhat derogatory about the site, I was still curious (on a side note, she was quite pleased with Lauren Winner, as I think anyone would be--she's so open and candid about her past and faith without being judgmental, while at the same time quite intellectual and unafraid of the hard questions).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Turkey day was good, as always. Debbie said, "Here we are, with all these healthy vegetables, and look what we're doing to them!" It was quite nice not doing anything for a couple of days. It feels weird working at a place that willingly closes for just about any holiday, and for the days around them. I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm supposed to be at Joseph-Beth, smiling in the face of post-thanksgiving sale anarchy.
This makes me quite thankful that I'm on the path towards a decent job, not just because it would close around the holidays and all that (which seems pathethic to be thankful for, but I have a new appreciation for it after being in retail), but because it seems like employees in such circumstances are more respected, have more expected of them, instead of being just another cog in the machine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

So here I am trying to decide if a book is about "library orientation--united states" or "library research--united states" I think I would rather develop a career in thesaurus construction than to be the hapless cataloger trying to figure out the nuances of difference between 2 essentially similar ideas. This way, I get to come up with all the controlled vocabulary terms that catalogers must use in assigning subject headings to books.

Did you know that for some aspects of knowledge, a book's classification number is determined by adding 2 different numbers together? For example, to show that a book is about the history of forestry in the Soviet Union, one adds the number for the Soviet Union (63) to the base number for the history of forestry (144). This makes it 207 under the main class SD for forestry. (Yes, I know, this really doesn't make any sense). Here I was, thinking I had escaped math once and for all.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sometimes I wonder what on earth I'm doing juggling three different bits of work--EPIC, class, & Jo-Beth. Today has been that kind of day where I feel like one of those elderly residents in a nursing home--content to stare vacantly at nothing in particular for a very long time.

"Urban growth", "air pollution", "TMDL", "water quality modeling"--it's all giving me a headache. And then we're onto Library of Congress classification, with all the rules for class, subdivision, further class, book number, auther number, etc., in class. And then the usual customers at Joseph-Beth asking for something for an "8 year old boy," who then reject every SINGLE thing you suggest.

This is one thing holidays are good for--time to sit back and do nothing work related at all.
Ralph Fiennes continues to exceed expectations. His Voldemort is both terrifying and charming; one can still see traces of the handsome Tom Riddle he once was, even in his snakelike face. He was naked but for a ghostly cloak that flitted about him like shadow, insubstantial and cold. I thought this was a neat way to point to his powers, to the depths he is willing to plunge in his quest for immortality.
In the climatic battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic in the fifth book, Voldemort says there is "nothing worse than death." And Dumbledore counters, "Yes, there is, Tom." Hence the reason Dumbledore enters into the fray, exposing himself, so much so that Harry fears for him as he walks calmly around the fountain, looking rather frail. Those who want to live must be willing to die. So it has been written before, and so it will continue to be. Many of the great stories have this as their theme: Dickens's Tale of Two Cities; Tolkien's Lord of the Rings; LeGuin's The Farthest Shore ...

Friday, November 18, 2005

We had the usual pre-xmas staff meeting at Joseph-Beth this morning where the managers talked a lot just to hear their own voices and feel important, then run out of time before they actually say anything important. The GM had the gall to tell us that they saved money payroll-wise ($91,000), and that we the booksellers are great and doing great even when we have less help. In other words, we're working your butts off even more and saving money while we do it. Then they go on to espouse customer service values, which makes no sense to the 10 customers waiting in line because there's no one else on the floor to help them while I help a customer find 10 different DK travel guides (book series are notoriously difficult because no one catalogs/inputs them into the system in a systematic way).

I wish I could think of another word to describe the work there other than "demeaning" because there are booksellers that have been there for 10 years or more, while I am just working there for the money and ready to leave as soon as I can, but how can I when the managers talk like this? I do enjoy (to an extent) helping customers, but not when 10 of them are giving me the evil eye for doing the Joseph-Beth thing and paying this particular customer special attention. At least this makes me appreciate other customer-service people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I rounded a bend in Leestown Pike and saw on my right, amidst a patchwork of fenced paddocks, open fields, and crooked bare trees, a group of black angus cows moving like clots of shadow over the blue-tinged grass. A rorshach blot, torn funeral shrouds, gentle beasts. It was a chestertonian moment, a thrill of a dream that never was, the breath catching in one's throat. When I try to explain the moment, I can only think of the strange beauty of black against the bluegrass, of cows in the morning, of the loneliness of naked trees. Those are only the components, the scattered pieces of a puzzle.
The experience reminded me of encountering art (not just "seeing" art), where the combination of texture and hues and subject matter--disparate pieces at that--combine to influence your emotional self, bypassing your reason.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Harry Potter comes out this Friday. Of course we're all excited, but is it because of Harry Potter or Ralph Fiennes?
The desperate housewives is at my house thursday, so I thought I would make a British meal. The recipes are rather eccentric and dull (the British have made an art of it), though the names are funny. "Toad in the hole", "bubble and squeak", "faggots", etc. "Toad" is sausage baked in flour. "Bubble" is just sauteed vegetables. "Faggots" is kidney or liver. I think I will make Shepherd's pie, bubble & squeak, and oat scones, with tea and ale to drink. It might not be so Harry-Potter-esque, but surely the boy who lived ate plain food here and there.
Today has been the definition for "blustery". November has finally come. People down here wish for snow, and I want to tell them to go North (as far north as one can go in America, save Alaska) where my dad's from. It's flatter than a pancake as far as the eye can see, and in winter it's pretty much just blinding white, shiny on the ground from the snow, a dullish grey in the sky if it's overcast, else a blazing blue sky unbroken by trees or hills.
And then the temperature: it hurts to step outside. Just hurts. You can almost feel ice crystals forming inside any exposed skin. It can drop to 50 below. I wouldn't have been surprised if penguins had showed up while we were visiting for Christmas. I would have liked that as a little girl.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's always nice to leave Lexington for a little while. Jon & I went to his parents' for the weekend. We always end up watching the Discovery Channel or CNN, and eating too many sweets. (I have yet to get used to this Southern proclivity to desserts so sweet they make your tongue ache).
There was a special on dinosaurs yesterday that was highly amusing. I think it was just another way to let adult boys have fun smashing things up. They were speculating on the ways velociraptors would have approached their prey. They were about the size of turkeys, with a large scythe-like claw on both of their feet.
To get an idea of how the ankylosaurous would have defended itself, the scientists constructed a working mechanical model of its tail with a club on the end. The beast was about 4 tons, and its tail, in full swing, would have had the power of a 2-ton car smashing into a wall. Then they wondered, could a turkey-sized velociraptor have attacked it? The answer was quite obvious, but they had to put a turkey carcass on a stump and let the tail have at it. Of course the pink carcass flew across the room, and of course all its bones were broken and its organs would have been irreparably damaged.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jon comes home tonight. I haven't really missed him so much as just had the odd feeling that something wasn't right. It's been just me and the cat (who plows into me ceaselessly because the other human isn't there to notice him), and some books. Really rather nice, in an uneventful way.

And appropriate enough, because I was reading "The Narnian" a book about the imaginative life of C.S. Lewis. Lewis says "I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books." -C.S. Lewis (this is how it's been for the past week).

Another interesting (and highly amusing) thing from the book: the author reminds us that one of Lewis's favorite things to do (or have happen to him?) was to fall mildly ill and gorge himself on fantasy and fairy stories. This is exactly the thing I enjoyed when I was growing up. Mom would always tell my brother and I, "If you don't go to school because you're sick, then you can't do anything else and must stay at home." Think that bothered me any?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

When the air gets that crisp clarity, where the sky is truly blue, and the grass thoroughly green, and the trees whole-heartedly aflame, you know fall has come. The blanket of humidity has finally dissipated and the bugs are all dead. The wind kicks up the leaves, and the car shudders in its force on the road. Then winter and darkness mixed with the blinding light of snow comes.

Another thing I have noticed this week: how much I enjoy seeing cows in the fields during my daily drive to work. What is it about seeing living things--animals quietly chewing their cud, standing blissfully in a pool of mud, or contemplating the rock at their hooves--that is so pleasant to see? And cows, of all things!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The gentleman with the thistledown hair has been occupying my thoughts lately. If you have not read Susanna Clarke's tome "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell", you will have no idea who this disturbing, compelling character is.

The reason I mention him is because I came across a discussion of Faery in Alan Jacobs' book "The Narnian". In it, the author relates the various ideas concerning Faery that Lewis & Tolkien and their predecessors had. Tolkien says that faeries are not supernatural, but natural, in the sense that they are part of Nature, much like animals and trees.

In this sense, they are neutral, in the way that storms and sunshine are neutral. Neither care whether they land upon the just or unjust; they just are. (I am reminded here of a favorite LeGuin quote "The dragons! The dragons are avaricious, insatiable, treacherous; without pity, without remorse, But are they evil? Who am I to judge the acts of dragons? . . . They are wiser than men are. It is with them as with dreams, Arren. We men dream dreams, we work magic, we do good, we do evil. The dragons do not dream. They are dreams. They do not work magic: it is their substance, their being. They do not do; they are.")

The gentleman with the thistledown hair is quite disturbing; he strikes me as an overgrown child with absolutely no moral compass whatsoever. In the book, he talks dismissively of waging expansive bloody battles and skinning fellow faeries and such just because it hasn't been done in a while. He wants to make his favorite human Stephen king just because, so he makes King George go mad (see the parallel with history?) He thinks a girl is pretty, so he brings her back to life, only to whisk her off to Faery every night for dances (one thinks of the tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses") for as long as he feels like, which could be just a year or eternally. And because he is all-powerful, he can't be destroyed.

The way he is defeated is breath-taking. I can't relate the ending because its effect can only be felt after having read the whole book and working up to that perfect moment. Off the top of my head, only two other books have similar breath-taking perfect endings, which is Gregory Maguire's "Mirror, Mirror" and C.S. Lewis' "Till We Have Faces"

"Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" is phenomenal. It's one of those books where you feel your life has been changed, even if only your imaginative life has been affected. I speak as an unabashed book-lover here. As Thoreau says, "How many a man has dated an era in his life by the reading of a book!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jenni asked me how I felt about UK, as compared to Asbury. The question gave me pause--it's not something I've thought about in a while. With UK, I just feel like I am going to work. It's not something I think much about.
Asbury was a community, whether I liked it or not. Oddly enough, the most galling thing about it was curfew. I could handle the snooty kids, or the sheltered ones with fundamentalist upbringings (I hesitate to name them themselves fundamentalists), or chapel (there are only one or two speakers that I can distinctly remember with pleasure--everyone else has quickly faded into obscurity). But to come to a place where you had curfew, when you had grown up with much freedom, was taxing. My parents and I had a good relationship. They trusted me to tell them where I would be and when I would expect to be home. (I know Mom is reading this and wanting to point out that this was all within reason). Asbury made me feel like I was an unruly teenager.
So there's my shallow reason for disliking Asbury.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I'm flipping through my stash of quotes. They covered the walls in my dorm-room at Asbury, a stamp of personality on those bland walls. Here's one I copied while spending a quiet Saturday morning at Kinlaw. It was so strange to me, as though I was hearing a story of my child-self from my mother.

"The deaf are said to be rigid and immature, impulsive and egocentric, cautious but lacking good internal controls, naive about the motives of others and short on empathy. Possibly the most tantalizing of all, they appear much less susceptible to obsessive and depressive ailments. In short, a childhood full of confusion, ambiguity, and isolation generally produces not a psychotic, but a particular sort of eccentric."

This was one of those moments where you suddenly realize with cold-water clarity something that has always been so naturally a part of yourself. It's like those moments at work when a deaf person approaches me with a question, and I slip into sign as easily as if it were my native tongue. I feel like I am seeing a long-ago dream of myself while I am helping them out.

My deafness has always been a source of confusion. Most of the deaf community have embraced their disability as their identity. I have not. For me, it is usually just a physical thing, a remnant of a high fever that ravaged my inner ear. Yet it has played a big role in shaping who I am, and this quote reminds me of it.

I'm quite glad I haven't turned out a psychotic.
In honor of Halloween:

"There is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts, except in our long-established Dutch communities."
-Washington Irving, from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"