Monday, December 29, 2008

Traveling to the ends of the earth

I took the Amtrak home to my folks for Christmas, for several reasons--caution and curiosity (an increasingly unreliable car and a simple desire to 'see what it's like').

The total amount of traveling that I did was almost double the amount it would have taken to just drive the eight hours home: 2 hours driving from Stanford, KY to Union Terminal in Cincinnati, OH; 10 hours on the Amtrak; 2 hours on the Union Pacific Northwest commuter train to Harvard, IL; almost 1 hour driving along Rte 173 to Rockford, IL. This does not include the number of hours spent waiting here and there. Suffice to say I left Stanford around 5 PM Friday night and got to Rockford around 3:30 PM on Saturday.

Would I have rather spent 8 hours driving in a car with nothing but my thoughts and vast cornfields to keep me company, or reading?

What I brought for reading material: Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope, Charles De Lint's The Ivory and the Horn; Laura Miller's The Magician's Nephew: a skeptic's adventurs in Narnia.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas day


The virgin brings forth today
the Word Eternal
and the earth offers a cave
to the Unapproachable
Angels give glory with shepherds
and the magi journey with the star
when for our sakes was born as a new babe
He who is from eternity, God.

~St. Romanos

Monday, December 22, 2008

Encounters of a third kind

I am currently in a house with 6 cats, 2 dogs, and five other humans besides me.

The power struggles between the cats are interesting largely because they are so subtle. A stranger would think all the cats are getting along just fine, but they aren't looking close enough. True, each cat's doing his/her own thing--Pope's on the rug in the living room, Bea's on the table in the dining room, Callie's under the guest bed, Toby's dozing on the in-law's bed, Burt's on the chair in the basement, and Delta is sleeping in the closet downstairs--but they are missing those rare encounters where these seemingly laid-back animals display their ferocious, mostly hidden, natures.

When they move through the house, it's mostly uneventful, or so it seems. Except for the alert ears, the penetrating eyes, the deliberate cold shoulders, the twitching tails, one would think the cats are fine in each other's presence. But then an encounter happens, explosive, shocking, over as quick as it began: a yowl, a BAM-BAM-BAM of a paw against another cat's head, fur on end, fangs bared. Then something is decided (we humans don't know what the outcome was) and the cats return to their docile selves, ignoring each other, going their own way.

Who was the victor? Who gave way? We'll never know.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Popular reading on the internet

You can now search magazines through Google Book Search.

I came across this intriguing title from the June 1872 issue of Popular Science: "On the artificial production of stupidity in schools." And I thought this was a recent problem.

One of the cool things about google digitizing magazines is that it captures the entire magazine, not just the articles (something many expensive databases do not do). This might not seem so awesome today, but think about how curious it is to see ads from fifty, even one hundred years ago. Such primary source material gives you a unique perspective on history.

Read more about it here.

Design paradigm

Sometimes you can do everything you can possibly do, and it still isn't enough.

A student had a problem locating an online article at the library. It was in the 2004 issue of some random journal. A search of our online journal list pulls up this random it looks like we have it. But, there is a indication of the years we have access to, clearly delineated when the user clicks on random journal title. 2004 is not included in those years. Yet said student does not register this.

This is something that I have noticed while helping people, both at the public library and at the university. People do not seem to read what is on the screen in front of them. At first, I assumed this was just laziness on their part (students today tend to give up at the first obstacle they encounter in their searches). Then I started wondering whether there is something wrong with the design of the websites they are looking at: is the layout confusing, the text too weird, the colors off-putting? Does our online journal list fall into any of those categories?

Something to think about next year. I'm supposed to be on break.

Friday, December 19, 2008

One day

A few things I did today, on the last day of work for the year:

  • Looked at Orlando, thinking about its usefulness to the library
  • Ruthlessly cleaned out my email and organized to-do's
  • Gathered signatures for a Christmas card
  • Made faces at a co-worker's baby
  • Ate tons of food at the annual Christmas party
  • Worked on a library resources webpage
  • Surfed flickr for interesting photos to include in above webpage
  • Read some blogposts about libraries
  • Ate a tangerine

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dancing through the countries

A strangely fascinating video of a guy and his travels. What a way to transcend borders. I dare my friend in Greece to do this at the Acropolis.

I stumbled across this in one of Time's Top Ten of Everything 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

The silence of everyday things

I spent the day without my hearing aid, due to an infection that refused to be subdued. I think the last time I went without my hearing aid for a day was 8 or 10 years ago when my ear swelled shut, like a clam jealously guarding its treasure.

It was (and is) a curious experience. You would think that being nearly deaf like me, I would be accustomed to it. And I am, to the extent that I look forward to being swaddled in silence every night. But to be up and about, doing things, with a vociferous cat underfoot, and not hearing any of it, is strange. My brain begins to reach for the sounds that it feels should be there. The rustle of a shirt, the tapping of fingers against the keyboard, the hiss of water shooting out of the faucet, the cat chirping at the birds outside. I find myself rehearsing those sounds in my mind, and, like the person trying too hard to remember the face of a person she treasured, losing my grip on them the harder I try.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A reading list

The idea for this post came from "A Whole New Way with Memes" from the People's Republic of Mortimer.

This list was compiled in the U.K. by the BBC. The average adult has read only 6 of the books on the list.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog. (This list in no way represents the top 100 books. It’s missing the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. For shame.)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A home for the ages

One of the nice things about looking for houses is getting to indulge my curiosity about nooks and crannies--hidden spots of a house. Every older home I pass, I wonder what its attic or basement is like, where the secret places are--a window-seat, a spot beneath a stairwell, a door that leads to another door.

So when we stepped inside the house I told you about below, it was like walking into a candy store. Never mind that my practical self was already decided (is it unfortunate that my practicality and imagination can co-exist so easily?), I was entranced from the moment we stepped into the cavernous, light-flooded foyer. A grand staircase spiraled up on the left, a broad hallway stretched ahead, populated with numerous doors that opened into other rooms that opened into more rooms with more doors.

A huge chimney anchored the house--almost every room touched it, and the fireplaces dominated those rooms, decked out in gleaming wood finery. Quite breathtaking.

It was a home I would have loved growing up in (I can see my parents rolling their eyes).

Then Jon and I walked out the back door, the realtor locked up, and we turned our backs on it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

House hunting

Jon and I have tentatively started looking for houses.

One thing we have learned : pictures can be deceiving.

The house itself was quite all right, an older home built around a massive central chimney. Its neighbor, however, made Jon and me look at each other as we shared the same thought: No longer interested. The neighboring house was a dumpy building, overgrown with weeds, festooned with junk, and guarded by a fitful junkyard dog who barked whenever a leaf fell from a tree (which is another way of saying "nonstop"). The crowning glory of said house was a large confederate flag emblazoned with the words: "Heritage not hate."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Working anywhere

I worked from home today. It was rather boring, though I was able to watch TLC's What Not to Wear while eating lunch, and pick up around the house when I needed a break. Pope slept at my feet most of the time (now I can see why he goes on wild romps about the house when we're ready for bed).

I hate my car with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. It is becoming unpredictable at the worst possible time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Originally uploaded by dwain
My friend in Greece has taken (and still is taking) absolutely astoundingly breathtaking pictures from his time in Greece.

I can't get over this one. My heart seizes, I hear the wind blowing, and my legs itch, wanting to explore this beautiful place.

The Book

If anyone at work doubts how much I love the Harry Potter books, they doubt no more starting today. The head of our department came by, holding The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and I gasped, clasping my hands in front of my chest.

Completely involuntary, somewhat embarrassing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The way vampires talk

The Twilight craze has hit J.'s school. He overheard two girls discussing the Twilight movie.

One girl, not too keen on the books, asked "Why is the dialogue so corny? Why does Edward talk that way?"

And the other girl, a fanatic, replied,"Well, he just doesn't know any better. He's a vampire--he's not normal, so he doesn't know that's not the way people talk."

The excuse for vampires prone to corny language: they just don't know any better!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A normal morning

I think Jon learned something new about what it's like to live with a hard-of-hearing person.

Earlier this week, he accidentally locked himself out of the house one morning while going outside to warm his car up. As this was a workday, he needed to get inside pretty quick to get the rest of his stuff.

I was in the bathroom at this time, enjoying the warmth of our space heater while getting ready for work.

He started out by knocking on the door (which I didn't hear). Then ringing the doorbell (which I didn't notice). Then pounding on the door (which I didn't notice). Then furiously assaulting the door and doorbell (which I still didn't register). By this time, he realized that I was not coming to the door and that he would need to figure out another way to get in. So he climbed on top of the first floor back-porch, crawled up and over the roof of the house, and squeezed through a window into our front room.

When I say I didn't "notice" or "register" these frantic noises he was making, I mean that I did hear them, but that my brain (bless its heart, trying to process mumbo-jumbo) translated these various noises as: Pope galloping through the apartment (which he does often enough) and Jon gargling salt water (he had a cold at this time). How the doorbell could sound like gargles is beyond me, but that's just the closest match my brain could come up with.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spence Field Shelter

Spence Field Shelter
Originally uploaded by ozimanndias8
This is one of the nicely refurbished shelters on the trail. They used to be more cramped, with chain link fences stretched across the open side, the idea being that this would keep bears out. As hikers were expected to cook their food behind the chain link fence, hang their food bags from the roof behind the fence, and keep all their intoxicatingly smelly gear behind the fence, where do you think the bears wanted to be?

A hiker we met at this shelter told a bear story about this very shelter. He and his wife were eating behind the fence when a bear came up. "Oh, how cute!" They said, taking its picture as it paced back and forth in front of the fence. They stopped saying that when it hooked a claw under the gate and opened it as if it were a welcoming door. It came in, grabbed a backpack and dragged it out, where it proceeded to maul it in search of food. When it found nothing, it returned and took the food they were eating.

Maybe you're asking why we stay in shelters, knowing that 400 pound+ creatures are roaming nearby. Our reasons are this: bears are interested in food. They have no interest in altercations with humans. We hang our food a good ways from the shelter, and cook all our food outside the shelter so that there is no inviting scent associated with the shelter, calling out to bears: "Free dinner! Here!"

We are 1 million more times likely to be assaulted by mice than bears.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Welcome sight at the end of the day

The simple things in life really stand out when you go hiking. Nothing warms the heart and lightens the load like seeing shelter just ahead after a long day's hike.

An adventure for the day

I have a little adventure to relate, from our time in the Smokies in October. On our last morning there, at Icewater Springs Shelter, I had to use the privy (shortly after Jon took the picture above).

Obviously, the privy is a little ways from the shelter: through the grass, down a couple rock steps and over a log. And it was dark. So I'm inside the privy, steeling myself up to bare my skin to the bitter cold (we woke up to frost), when I hear a deep "Hwoof!"

As this is not the typical sound of wind or birds (which weren't even out), I paused, a little perplexed. Again, "hwoof!"

And again (imagine the sound a large dog makes).

When that connection was made, the next logical step sent the adrenaline pumping through my limbs: what if this is a bear?...And why am I still out here, vulnerably situated in a giant box?

I hightailed it out of there, every step agonizingly slow, acutely aware of the wind nipping the back of my neck.

Later that day, I mentioned this to Jon. He slowly turned his head to look at me, eyes solemn,"That's the sound a bear makes when he is making his presence known."

Monday, November 10, 2008

What this blog says about me

There's several ways to analyze your blog or website to see what it says about you.

Typeanalyzer uses the Myers-Briggs method to determine what part of your brain you use the most while writing.

Genderanalyzer uses artificial intelligence to determine what sex you write like.

Blog Readability Test determines what grade level your blog is written at.

What is Your Blog Worth determines the profitability level of your blog based on Technorati ratings and advertising potential.

According to Typeanalyzer, I am an ISTP (Mechanic). This means that I "enjoy adventure and risk such as driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters." Let us pause a moment and ponder how true this is.

Genderanalyzer tells me that I write like a man.

The Blog Readability Test has decided that I write at the college/postgrad level.

The worth of my blog is around $565.

Thanks to LibraryBytes for this.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

An idea for change

In light of some people's despair (which I do not share) over Obama becoming president, thinking this will usher in a godless age (isn't this what some group of people or other think about every new president or ruler?), they would do well to consider Cal Thomas's article Religious Right R.I.P. He suggests that instead of trying to wield "political power for influence" (which hasn't really amounted to much in the past 30 years), evangelicals should instead focus their energy on following the example of Jesus (It always astonishes me how this is an old idea that is always new): living the life they would like to see everyone else live.

A quote: "Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative Evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?"

Friday, November 07, 2008




This was about four days worth of food, pots, sleeping bags, clothes to sleep in, sleeping pads, and other what-nots: a house on your back, so to speak. Jon's pack weighed almost 30 pounds.

We should have put the cat in there for scale.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama smiling at the cheers

Jon and I ended up at the Obama rally in Cincinnati, OH on Sunday through random chance. We were in town visiting the animals at the zoo. After oohing over the big cats, we decided to scope out the McMillian Street neighborhood for food and we saw a flyer for the rally while walking past a coffeehouse. We figured it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially if he was going to be president.

This was my first rally, and I think it will be my last. 95% waiting, and 5% trying to see and hear the man over and around the noise and frantically waving signs.

Obama could say "The" and everyone would start screaming. But it was worth it.

There are more pictures over at flickr.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The things they write about

One of the reasons why I love ordering books for the library: I can subject people to intriguing reads like this book: The Big Necessity : the unmentionable world of human waste, and why it matters.

Not your typical Danielle Steele.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote on November 4th

Here's an interesting blog post about voting: My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election, by Jim Wallis.

Instead of voting based on whether Obama is black, or Palin sounds dumb, or McCain looks old, we need to really think about what we expect from the next administration, and vote accordingly.

To learn more about Barack Obama, go to his website.

To learn more about John McCain, go to his website.

Those wanting to know the truth behind all the ads and claims that the candidates make should go to FactCheck which is a site that works to be a "nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics...[and] monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases."

Head over to google's 2008 US Voter Info website if you're not sure exactly where you need to go to vote.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A treatise on the curious nature of learned astronomers and other such esteemed gentlemen and the writings they espouse

We have access to a journal published in 1665. Philosophical Transactions is a lot of fun to browse, as the article titles are elaborately wordy and the articles themselves an intriguing read, not to mention the fact that you're looking at a digital replica of typeface from the late 17th century.

To give you an idea of what's in there, you can look at the article published by Edmund Halley in 1705 describing the comet that was named after him: "Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis." You can't read it unless you know Latin, but, hey!, it's pretty darn cool.

Some other titles in there:

  • "The Description of a Monstrous Child, Born Friday the 29th. of February 1684. at a Village Called Heisagger, Distant about 4 English Miles from Hattersleben, a Town in South- Jutland, under the King of Denmark's Dominion, Communicated by Mr. Christopher Krahe, a Member of the Ecclesiastical Consistory and Provost of all the Churches Belonging to the Said Diocess"
  • "Two Letters Formerly Written to Mr. H. O, by Dr. M.L. Ist. concerning Some Very Aged Persons in the North of England. 2d. about the Projection of the Threads of Spiders, of Bees Breeding in Cases Made of Leaves, of a Viviparous Fly, and of Great Numbers of Maggots Observed at the Time of the Plague, A. D. 1666"
  • "Of a Place in England, Where, without Petrifying Water, Wood is Turned into Stone"

What's wrong with you, Indy?

I'm disappointed in the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The older movies had a sense of weight, tangible in the sense of the journey that Indy undertook in each of them, and we went along for the ride. The series was full of action/adventure drama and mystical overtones owing to the various searches for long lost artifacts, but I think it endures because it speaks to the curiosity in all of us, the need to know about something Other (whatever your religion, or lack thereof). Another reason for the popularity of the movies is the sense that we could do what Indy does, that the adventures he embarks on could possibly happen in real life.

This movie is just another action/adventure flick full of ridiculous fight scenes that could not logically happen in real life, and the search for the crystal skull is full of mumbo-jumbo that makes no sense to anyone who hasn't looked into the eyes of the crystal skull and communed with the extraterrestrial being within. Sure, we're all curious to know how ancient people could have achieved what they did without modern technology, but the movie's vague answer, that "Knowledge," granted from the aliens, is the reason (with no further elaboration, other than a character saying "They have gone into the space between spaces."), coupled with the focus on flashy special effects rather than a journey that Indy embarks on, makes for an overall silly movie that should never have stooped so low.

An interesting review over at Books & Culture: Indiana Jones and the Deadly Blather

Monday, October 27, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

I came across this title at work: American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb.

This reminded me of how sometimes I would think about what it would be like to live "back then," such as in Jane Austen's time. Then I would wonder what it would really be like if I was transported warts, hearing impairment and all, into the Regency era. I suppose, considering the fact that I've been hard of hearing (to the point that I am more likely to feel thunder, not hear it) since I was little, I would be considered dumb, especially if I did not have someone like Anne Sullivan to work with me. It's a sobering realization, especially just for daydreaming--I shouldn't be so literal in my imagination.

By the way, the title was changed to American Annals of the Deaf in 1886.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm cold

Deep autumn is here. The air is snappy and biting, no longer lazy with heat. This means sweaters and blankets, thick socks and soft scarves.

It also means that "cold as death" is around the corner. I use this term for that cold that gets into your bones, that you can't seem to shake unless you are standing in front of a bonfire. It's not necessarily limited to the dark winter months of the far north, where the wind howls for miles over the plains.

I freely admit that it's entirely subjective (to me). Jon finds this hilarious, he who can go outside in 50 degree weather with nothing on but a shirt and pants and be "on the cool side of comfortable".

I write this we're entering an uncertain period at the office--the span of time between when it first gets cold outside and when they turn the heat on inside--and it's "cold as death" in here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How many more books can there be?

LibraryThing now has more books cataloged than does the Library of Congress. While this is not a count of unique titles (Library of Congress still reigns supreme), this is still pretty impressive for a free social networking site.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Laura's short hair

Laura's short hair
Originally uploaded by ozimanndias8
Here's me and my hair.

We got a new camera, and have been playing around with it: me by taking way too many pictures of Pope, and Jon by actually tinkering with the bazillion buttons and controls that come with it.

One more thing

I forgot to add:

  • the abyss of hunger that sets in after the first two days on the trail, when eating a full-fledged meal is like tossing a pebble into a dry well

Monday, October 20, 2008

A list for hiking

Lest one think that I am somehow immune to the discomforts of hiking, I freely admit:
  • I don't like the grime that accumulates on my skin (especially in the recesses of my ears)
  • the sleeping pads we use are poor substitutes for a proper bed
  • how much I envy men the ability to go to the bathroom without having to remove an article of clothing
  • I despair at the sight of yet one more steep climb to make before reaching the day's end
  • the first couple of days, my legs are as stiff and creaky as an arthritic, stoop-backed old man
  • going downhill is worse than going uphill (seriously)
I do not list the rich aroma that hikers develop after days on the trail, simply because we do not notice it while we are in the backcountry.

Best things in life are free

Having a laptop and free wi-fi is awesome. Case in point:

Last week, I hung out in Jon's truck in the parking lot at Asbury College while he went to class for a couple hours. There was wi-fi in the area, so I was able to knock out an hour of work for my job while keeping the cat company in the truck. (Yes, the cat was in there with me, curled up on the driver's seat). When work was done, I watched youtube videos and trailers for various movies while night descended.

Stay tuned for stories and pictures from the Smokies (I have an adventure to relate)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Using our feet

We will be hiking along the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. We'll start off hiking south from Clingmans Dome, then we'll double back and hike north to Charlies Bunion.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Preparations for the journey

We're getting ready to hike the Smokies later this week. There is a bear sized pile of camping gear in the living room, which Pope investigates cautiously. Sometimes he sets off tiny avalanches of gear and flees wide-eyed, as if the hounds of hell are on his heels.

We have copious amounts of trail mix, which I know I will probably get sick of after the first day--which is strange, as I love nuts, chocolate, and dried fruit.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I cut my hair.

It's quite short.

My hair is so thick, my head feels weightless without that mass to anchor it.

Stranger things in print

You can search Google's news archive for some interesting topics (the timeline can be a little misleading, as it uses dates from within the articles--which may not always be an accurate reflection of the publication date of a particular article):

Try the abominable snowman.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Google was once named BackRub. See their 10th birthday website.

Search Google in 2001

Our daily adventure

Our cat has learned about the outdoors. He slipped out the door this morning and was investigating the neighbor's porch while we frantically searched. Being me, I was already thinking of squealing tires and a limp form on the road.

He couldn't resist the lure of kitty treats, however.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cat on a motorcycle

Originally uploaded by dwain
A picture taken by my friend who is in the envious position of being in Greece for a long time.

KLA observations

I went to the Kentucky Library Association annual conference last week in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. It was for professional development, so just about everything was paid for--a perk that I am still getting used to.

The funny thing was--I didn't get as much out of it as I thought I would. Apparently, I'm not alone in thinking this. My colleagues told me and a fellow newbie to get used to that feeling.

The two sessions I enjoyed (out of a two day event) were "Next generation catalog landscape" and "Copyright in the library: painless solutions for the moderately squeamish." Absolutely fascinating for those of you outside the library world, I know; nonetheless, very enlightening for those of us that need to know.

I felt very much a "Generation-Y" person there, a youngish person in a sea of mostly grey-haired professional folk (I was wearing jeans alongside other folks smartly dressed in blazers and shiny loafers). My library is remarkably forward-thinking, especially as regards technology and the evolving paradigm embodied in "Web 2.0," so it was interesting to encounter folks who were reluctant to acknowledge the place that technology has in libraries, especially as our patron group is shifting as younger generations grow up. I understand this reluctance, even as I am impatient with it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A way to begin the day

This morning, while walking to Magee's, I came across a chipmunk. It was stretched out, tiny and slim, on the sidewalk, as if in sweet repose, were it not for the rosy blush staining the sidewalk beneath its head.

I looked up and saw a large, brilliant white cat with golden eyes staring at me, almost as if in challenge, "What?! What do you expect?"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open

I saw this book at Barnes & Noble the other night. The back flap indicates the reasoning behind the title.

"It's 'black belt' in the sense that it is strong, resolute, and to the point, like a roundhouse kick."

This quote sounds like it came from the website Chuck Norris Facts.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quote for the day

"Democracy requires of its citizens qualities that it cannot provide."--J├╝rgen Habermas (German philosopher)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More than you wanted to know

For those of you dying to know, my official title is "Electronic Resources Access Librarian." I have business cards, too, if you want one. My supply will probably last until I die.

So what exactly do I do at work?

I tell people who ask that I deal with all the "online stuff," such as


online journals

I also deal with access issues (as my job title suggests), which involves anything from checking links to communicating with publishers and/or our middleman at Ebsco (which handles most of our subscriptions) to updating SFX, our linking system and all other sorts of things.

Are you even more confused? See why I just said "online stuff"?

I also spend some time on the reference desk, am working my way into serving on some committees, and am a liaison to some departments on campus.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Stuff everywhere

This kind of stuff fascinates me. It appeals to the pack-rat within, the curiosity-shoppe minded person living in the back, the little kid still enthralled by oddities of nature.

On a similar note, I want to see the places mentioned in this Smithsonian article: Small Wonders: Europe's idiosyncratic house museums yield pleasures beyond their size

A library position opened up in the Field Museum in Chicago...sigh

You really wanted to know

There are few things I keep tally of. One of those is how many years it has been since I've had to throw up.

I had a bout of food poisoning this weekend. We think it was the spoonbread at the Spoonbread Festival in Berea, Kentucky. One hour after eating, I was vomiting in the parking lot, and vomiting on the hour until late that night, with the Discovery Channel to keep me company, long after there was any food left to come out. I lost four pounds.

It's rather amazing how vigorously the body works to defend itself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Owls in the air

I want to read this book:

Apparently, baby barn owls smell like butterscotch.

When we have our farm, we hope that barn owls will come to roost with us.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bill Bryson

I'm a big fan of Bill Bryson. His writing style is very laid-back, intelligent without being stuffy, not to mention laugh-out-loud hilarious at times. His writing is witty in a subtle, conversational way, and he has a knack for using words in unexpected ways.

"It shows a balding but not unhandsome man of about forty who sports a trim beard. In his left ear he wears a gold earring. His expression is confident, serenely rakish. This is not a man, you sense, to whom you would lightly entrust a wife or grown daughter."--p. 2 of "Shakespeare: the world as stage"

His book "A Walk in the Woods" is a classic. Some quotes from there:

"I turned to my own bunk and examined it with a kind of appalled fascination. If the mattress stains were anything to go by, a previous user had not so much suffered from incontinence as rejoiced in it."

About a waitress in whom Katz (Bryson’s hiking partner) feels a romantic interest:

"She went off to deal with a distant customer, and Katz watched her go with something like paternal pride. 'She's pretty ugly, isn’t she?' he said with a big, incongruous beam.
I sought for tact. 'Well, only compared with other women.'"

Oh, to be young again

Mom poses as her daughter to become a cheerleader


Monday, September 15, 2008

Once upon a winter's morn

Jon is trying to convince me to accompany him on more winter hiking trips.

It's quite easy to want to agree, while one is wrapped tight in humidity, wearing short sleeved shirts and sandals in response to glaring heat--when cold weather is easily relegated to distant memories and vague associations.

Then I remember one of my very first nights out on a cold winter's night--how it seemed the stars must shatter on such brittle air, how a breeze felt like razors scraping my pink, raw cheeks, how strange it was that I felt warmer outside the sleeping bag than in it.

But that was back when I was inexperienced, before I realized that bodily discomfort and the nearness of death don't necessarily come hand in hand. Each time we go out, the more accustomed I get to the things nature throws our way, to the point that I treasure a blurry picture Jon took of the two of us laughing in a spate of icy rain that blew parallel to the ground.

Such moments make the simple pleasures of being dry, cocooned in warmth, with a mug of piping hot chicken noodle soup all the more treasured--you no longer take them for granted.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I know that place!

There's a new cool feature over at Google Maps. They now have a "Street View" option that lets you actually see the location you are pinpointing on the map. It's a strange feature that lets you "walk" along a street, looking at the houses along the way.

I looked at my parents' house in Rockford, and, lo and behold, there was my dad's truck parked out front. You can also look "up" at the sky and treetops while in the "Street View" option (you have to play around with the buttons a little to get a handle on it).

It's necessary

I'm doing some mandatory online workshops on "Office Safety." A sample question, and its possible answers:

The better your _______, the better prepared you are to handle stress factors.

a. psychic abilities
b. SAT scores
c. physical condition
d. golf handicap

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The dilemma

"Only librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find."--Roy Tennant

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Movies on the menu today

I've seen two rather dark movies lately that were excellent. One is No Country for Old Men, the other is Eastern Promises.

I went for a long time without seeing No Country for Old Men--it just didn't seem my cup of tea, in spite of the rave reviews it garnered everywhere. Then a good friend of mine from the old library told me to see it, so I did, and was blown away. I have no intention of watching it again--it's not Pride & Prejudice--but it sticks with me still. In the midst of its bleak imagery (the amoral hitman appears to get away, leaving a rampage of blood behind), the good characters shine brightly all the more.

Two things stick with me from that movie: the wife of the dumb and careless ranch-hand. When the hitman shows up in her home near the end of the movie, she refuses to submit to his power, thereby breaking the cycle of violence that he thrives on. The other thing is the sheriff's story of a dream he had, of his father riding ahead of him into the darkness, and how he knew that there would be a fire waiting for him, a lone point of warmth and light in the middle of a dark wilderness.

Eastern Promises is strange. A rather bleak tale of a midwife who comes against the powerful Russian mafia in London, the movie manages to make her small victory quite feasible, in the face of such mindless eye-for-an-eye violence.

Monday, September 08, 2008

People grow up

I went home for a spell--what better way to spend the break between my old and new jobs? Not much happened while I was North, which is the way I intended. I spent lots of time at the house, scrapbooking and reading and pestering the new cat and watching cable (I got addicted to these shows: "It's me or the dog," "Jon and Kate plus eight," and "What not to wear"--I know, I'm pathetic).

In addition to spending time with the folks I love--my parents, Grandma, my dear cousin Rosie with whom I grew up (I treasure a photograph of all us baby cousins piled on the floor, where Rosie is staring, open-mouthed, at something off camera, and I am transfixed by her open mouth, reaching my pudgy fingers out, determined to have a look-see), I ran into some old friends from the high school years: Keelan McMorrow and Salem Barker.

I am blown away by how they turned out, maturing into full-fledged artists with art shows in the Chicago area. When we were all younger, I would never have seen them turning out this way; yet, looking back with hindsight, I can see clues scattered along the years that point to their unfolding as artists.

Keelan McMorrow does paintings:

Salem Barker does wood sculpture:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A new beginning, and wi-fi

I'm a couple days into my new job. My brain feels like a box of puzzle pieces, with some pieces missing.

One perk of this job is the laptop, which has wireless. Because of this, I found out that there is a wireless signal in the area called "bigdaddy."