8/29/2010

I Haven't Eaten Any of These in Years


. . . and yet, I managed to score 100% on
this quiz. Good educated guessing and memories of my family's favorites, I think.

(Via Bookshelves of Doom.)

8/27/2010

Photo of the Week

O.K., so I didn't get to everything I wanted to do this week. I didn't post about The Sting yet (I promise it's coming), but I finally ironed out the trip details with my cousins and everything's booked. I don't really feel ready for either the trip or for school to start, but at least I got to see my new school in depth a little more yesterday.

I did get around to returning a jacket I ordered but didn't like. It was a few days ago, the first day after all the rainy days. I had to go up to the mall near where I used to work in a previous life, but it was an easy in and out. When I got back to the car, I noticed a leaf was sitting on the rear windshield. I approached it to pluck it off and toss it to the ground, but a closer look at it made me stop.




It looked like a heart. Was it a valentine from God? Or was Nature apologizing for dumping so much rain on my car? Whatever it was, it made me happy for some strange reason, so I snapped a photo of it on my phone and left the leaf to be worn off by the elements. It stayed on another couple days, I think, until I noticed yesterday after getting back from school that just a faint residue in the same shape remained.

I'd be more than happy to see it again another time.


8/26/2010

Where to Begin?

Maybe I should work backwards.

Tonight I made three phone calls. Two were to my cousins because I'm having trouble booking the hotel and I need their input. (Turns out our preferred hotel is not available the night we arrive.) The other was to the apartment complex manager because I finally hit my limit with the Stompy-Barkingtons upstairs. And yes, they are stomping and barking right over my head as I type.

As a side note, I was totally creeped out to get home this afternoon and see, as I'm opening the patio door, Mama Stompy-Barkington, who was seated on the curb in an empty parking space directly across from us. Yap-dog on leash at her side. He wasn't yapping for once, but what the heck was that about? Sunbathing?

Anyway, I had gone out to school to meet the other librarian at last and get the lowdown. She's very nice and normal, but my brain is full. I have to do what? Decide what? The librarian who retired used to do x and now I'm expected to do it? I have no keys and no network access (so don't ask me if I got that faculty e-mail). I think it just seems like a lot, but once I get into it, it won't be so crazy. I took a couple of things home with me to look over for the weekend.

It didn't exactly help that I got no sleep last night, nor the night before. Last night was The Cat's fault--I don't know what was up with her and I am praying either it stops soon or I figure out what's going on.

Yesterday I faxed my paperwork for my CA visit and went to my parents' to borrow their scanner for some other things I was required to e-mail. That is one sweet scanner/wireless printer I helped them buy. (Except Mom says it eats ink like crazy when she's printing out her reading matter.) Oh, and my dad is back to his usual cantankerous self, for better/worse.

The only other really interesting thing that happened earlier this week was that I started getting weird out-of-state calls on my cell phone. I went to put my phone in my purse before church, and I noticed there were two missed calls, no messages. Then a few minutes after the second missed call, the same person called again. I answered.

Me: Hello?

Caller: (sing-songy) Lorr-ee, it's Jer-ry.

Me: (slightly echoing him) This isn't Lorr-ee.

Caller: Oh. Did I dial the wrong number?

I said yes, and he said sorry, the end. Or so I thought.

Monday morning, he called again. I missed it but saw it on the phone, no message. About an hour after that call, a text appeared from a number just one digit off (in the middle) from mine: "Hi, apologies..my # was misprinted on business cards w your cell..so sorry!"

What kind of moron doesn't check business cards she just got printed, before handing them out?

And what kind of business is it that two people are trying to get hold of her before 9 a.m. on a Sunday, huh?

Does she give rides to church???


8/22/2010

The Other, Kate P

I'm going to beg your indulgence, because (1) I'm going to rant a little, (2) I've got one good mojito into me at the time I started this, and (3) the mojito was partly to take the edge off the near-constant percussive noise from my neighbors upstairs.

It's taken a lot of effort and tolerance for me to put up with the noisy neighbors upstairs. I know there are two boys, one about first grade age and one teen, so I let some of the tantrums and occasional horsing around or stomping around drama go. I did complain about the Rock Band drum set that appeared after Christmas, and as it turned out, the teen was playing it in the living room against his mother's instructions, anyway.

Then about six months ago, they got a dog. One of those ankle-nipping yap dogs. I've put up with some early-morning barking and some scurrying around. I have yet to complain when they put the dog out on the balcony for whatever reason (vacuuming or some other thing that isn't safe for him, I guess) where I am subjected to even more hysterical yapping.

Lately, though, it has turned into full-on steady playing fetch and/or running back and forth across the entire apartment--both dog and little boy (who is getting less little and more heavy-footed by the day). Barking and pounding, over and over, all above my head. The Cat is rattled. I can't hear the TV or stereo, or even my own thoughts sometimes. The pictures on my walls end up askew.

Thought #1 is that I have to get out of here. Not a possibility right now, between my lease obligations and the logistics and finances of a move. Where would I go, anyway? To another place where I won't know if I'll have the same amount of noise, and I'll be stuck again? Which leads me to. . .

Thought #2. Many people just don't seem to give a thought to the idea that maybe, just maybe, what they do affects anyone else. I've called management more than once to ask the people upstairs to keep the noise down, and while that has some short-term success, it always slides right back to the same old problem, prompting me to call management again. This recent backslide actually has reached a new low. I guess it's that because it's summer, the kids are up later and thus are noisier further into the evening. It also occurs to me that they don't seem to understand their dog's needs and that they ought to, I don't know, take him outside for some exercise on occasion, train him or treat him better so he doesn't have to go crazy constantly, that sort of thing. It's not as if there aren't courtyards and parks right outside our building.

Recently, our ranting friend Ricki talked about people who do thoughtless things--that thoughtlessness, like the s-word, happens. The article I mentioned in a previous post about anti-bullying programs and lessons for students had a line that stood out to me, and it pretty much is the whole idea of the most recent and most successful approaches: "[W]e have to teach children how to be good to one another, how to cooperate, how to defend someone who is being picked on and how to stand up for what is right."

Essentially, teaching respect for and (if necessary) defending others. . . which means cultivating children's ability to think about the other person. Empathy. Awareness of the other.

I just get the sense that we've really lost that sense of "the other" a few years back. Maybe more than a few years back. When people started saying, "I've got to find myself," en masse, perhaps--and we decided to accept that. I mean, I understand it's human nature to be most concerned with one's own best interests. I just finished a YA book from the library, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, in which a 10th grader finds herself exploring friendship with classmates perceived as "dorks" after her supposed BFF betrays their friendship with an extremely selfish act. (Whereupon the main character looks back on the friendship and realizes how most of the time she just got manipulated for the other girl's benefit, and finds out the "dorks" are just nice kids.)

Sometimes, I vow to myself that I'll just start behaving like the inconsiderate people and do whatever I want. That phase doesn't last long, partly because it's habitual or characteristic of me to be considerate, and also partly because it doesn't feel good. I don't want to do to other people what inconsiderate people have done to me. I don't want to give anyone the idea that it's O.K. to do that. And, honestly, can thoughtless people even taste their own medicine?

The thing is, I don't know what other options I have to cope with this. I mean, if others aren't going to change, doesn't it follow that I need to change, at least in some way? I don't think I can make myself be less considerate, and I'm not really sure I want to scale back my expectations for what constitutes peaceful enjoyment in a place that I pay quite a bit of money to rent.

Just, for a change, though, why can't someone else think about "the other"?

And why can't I be that "other," every once in a little while?


8/21/2010

Poor Ol' Dad

My dad was fighting a cold most of the week, until my mom convinced him to go to the doctor on Thursday. Of course, the doctor prescribed an antibiotic.

Now, my dad has the hiccups.

It's kind of a weird side effect, if that indeed is what's causing it. And it's almost like a trade-off. He's still dragging himself around (although it's debatable how much of that is just my dad's tendency to reinforce that "men are such babies when they get sick" stereotype), although he seems a little more ambulatory than before, but he's shaking with hiccups. Almost nonstop.

Remedies tried:

1. holding his breath

2. back massage from Mom

3. foot massage/reflexology from me (note: I have cured a baby's hiccups that way in the past)

4. Tums

5. drink equal parts baking soda and sugar in water.


Nothing seems to interrupt the hiccups!

Poor ol' Mom, too. I don't think either of them got any sleep last night because the hiccups were making Dad antsy. And in the middle of this, Mom gets an e-mail request from a frequently imposing relative for a last minute, week-long commitment from my parents to do something. I had to convince my mom it was O.K. to say no, because they say yes and drop everything for that person 99.9% of the time. And I'm sure she still felt guilty. The extra stress is not appreciated right now.

I suggested some non-dairy probiotics, so maybe they'll try that tomorrow. My mom wants to try homeopathic medicine, but that's a trip to the store, too. If Monday rolls around and the hiccups are still going, I guess it'll be another call to the doctor.

Crazy times up at my folks' home.


8/20/2010

Now This Is Fun

(Who knows the musical reference for the title? CCR?)

Wednesday, my former bookstore--well, it's still my bookstore but it's my former job--had a little event for educators, so I managed to look presentable and get myself there. I forgot I hadn't been there in a while (to avoid the temptation to buy books/CDs/movies) and was greeted heartily by one of my former co-booksellers. . . who told me she's leaving in about a week to finish school and get her teaching certification while substitute teaching full time. I'm so happy she finally decided to do it, so she can get a permanent job.

She also told me about two other co-workers who were leaving. I guess change is inevitable. Heck, I left about this time last year. Sometimes it's hard to remember that life goes on after you leave a workplace.

The former co-worker who was organizing the event, a wonderful lady, comped me an iced coffee and we got to catch up, with intermittent interruptions by other co-workers. The one manager said she loved what I'd done with my hair. That was awesome because I love her style. Anyway, I stayed way longer than I'd planned, but that was partly because there was another educator who tagged along the entire time--an older lady--who was very chatty, but also pretty interesting. She retired from "the system" and teaches English at a local co-op for homeschoolers. I also got a bunch of free swag (book posters, bookmarks, study guides) and an extra discount on this new book I'm dying to tear into.

All in all, a great visit.

And today was kind of a family day. I got to practice with my one cousin's choir for singing on Sunday, after which my mom and I picked up Oldest Nephew from SIL's BFF's house (long story, don't ask, my parents are whipped) and got to catch up with him about his trip to New England and his new hockey league. I think one of my public library teens was working the water ice place, because she gave extra Oreo crumbles to my nephew for his custard. (That, or she thought he was cute. Which he is--but he's just a 7th grader! Who is almost taller than me and still growing! How do other aunties deal with this???)

Then I got home and one of my other cousins had left me a message--YES she is interested in going out to CA with me! Yay!!!!!! So we talked and are working out the details so we can actually do some tourist-y things when we go out there. She might even convince her husband to go so he can be our chauffeur. Man, this is shaping up to be cool.

I might be able to get some sleep tonight.

8/17/2010

In Short

A short list of things I hate: waiting around for a phone call.


But once the call came in, after a short discussion, I got my answer.



I'm cleared to go.


UPDATE: Annnnnd my mom has already started making me second guess myself because she wouldn't feel right asking for off from her new job, and practically the whole week, so soon. I was excited, but now my head just hurts.


8/15/2010

The Oscars Project: Movie #21

(Explanation of The Cinematherapy Oscars Project found here. The following post may contain spoilers!)

From 1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Summary: Randle P. McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson in his first Oscar win after several nominations) went to jail for dallying with a minor girl but played crazy to get a transfer over to a mental institution which he thought would be an easier way to carry out the rest of his sentence. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, Best Actress winner), the oppressive head of the ward, does everything in her power to keep him down. She succeeds but not before McMurphy has inspired many of the ward's residents to embrace life.

Um, I really don't know where to start. I didn't particularly enjoy this film and was pretty lost by the end, but the more background and analytical material I read, the more I understand. So I'll start with the book that was the basis for the play which was the basis for the movie. (Sounds like the previous film discussed, except there's no singing.) I'm not familiar with it, but according to the handy Shmoop guide, I understand that the story was told from the perspective of (ironically silent) Chief Bromden. That's not the case with the movie, although the Chief (Will Sampson) does figure fairly prominently in the movie.

It is stunning that this movie swept the "Big Five" at the Oscars, but if I had to guess at reasons I think a big one was that the the cast really went all out in their roles. Maybe I thought McMurphy was a selfish, first class narcissist who indirectly motivated mental patients while getting the fishing and ballgames he wanted, but Nicholson sold it as the "straight man" of the entire story and I can't argue with that. It was a detailed film but didn't rely on flashy special effects (probably a sock in the gut to fellow Best Picture nominee Jaws) or costumes or music to get its point across.

I guess when it comes down to it, because we are in the 1970s chapter and the theme is "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," I could agree with Peske and West that McMurphy was like a father figure to his fellow ward-mates and took them "under his wing [to] teach" them to break the rules that otherwise held them back from living life to the fullest (p. 94).

Oh, and if you want more Jack Nicholson, definitely go visit Sheila to read her "Chronological Jack" series--the most recent one here (coincidentally containing a mention of Cuckoo's Nest).


Next up: The Sting


8/14/2010

I'm O.K.; Cat's O.K.

Well actually I'm not all that O.K. because I'm still waiting to hear from the assistant principal and I'm thinking most likely I'll have to try contacting the H.R. person on Monday. I'm starting to feel a little weird about the whole thing.

But the Cat passed all her tests with flying colors. I mean, seriously, the vet was really impressed with how good her test results were for a 13 year old cat.

That pretty much means that the only thing left to do is stop rewarding her unacceptable behavior of prodding me and licking my arms at 3 a.m.--in other words, I can't get up to feed her that early in the morning. This morning, I managed to ignore her i
n the moment of annoying me and waited until she had given up and walked away before I got up to feed her. Yup, I held out until 4:30 a.m.

Baby steps.

"My cuteness makes me irresistible."

8/12/2010

Round-up and Surprise News

I've been a little quiet lately because Younger Sister came into town on Saturday and things got all shifted around. Here's what else has been going on:

--Saturday, I watched One Flew etc. in the morning and Shall We Kiss? in the afternoon because I realized they were due back. Then Younger Sister took Mom and me to the movies to see Toy Story 3. Three movies in one day. Still processing #1. #2 was O.K. but not what I expected. #3 made me laugh (and get a bit sniffly but that could've been PMS).

--Sunday morning, I went to Mass at the local parish and loaned a pen to the mom in front of me. I think she was about to put a check in the collection and realized it wasn't signed. That's my guess, anyway.

--Sunday afternoon, I went to my niece's belated birthday tea party. So I got to meet some of the neighbors of Older Brother & family as well as catch up with my cousin's wife and their cute little girl while we made bead bracelets and (other people without allergies) ate rainbow colored cake. I think Niece enjoyed herself.

--Monday, I spent more time with Younger Sister and saw her off. I think that's why my week's a bit off-kilter. Usually she's here Friday-Sunday.

--Wednesday (yesterday), I took The Cat to the vet as a follow-up to last month's harrowing episode. She has been begging for food a lot (including crying and waking me up at odd hours) and I wanted to see if she was dropping or gaining weight. She did gain back about a pound, which in a way was good because she was underweight at her last appointment--a dramatic two pound drop from her annual check-up last October.

--While we were at the vet, The Cat defied a child-proof latch on the cabinet under the sink in the exam room and crawled inside in seconds flat.
The vet tech was speechless. I was kinda proud.
Of course, once we fished her out, the Cat spent the rest of her time in the room trying to get back in there. Probably because she knew she had to get tests done.

--Tomorrow I should be getting the test results from the vet. I'm hoping she doesn't have thyroid or kidney problems, or diabetes, because that would suck. I just wish I knew what she needed so she's not crying and begging for food so much.


The surprise news? Well, I got a phone call saying I was chosen for that thing I did a few weeks ago. I was pretty excited. However, I found out they want me during what is the first full week at my new school. I told them I'd have to ask my school, and they gave me until Tuesday to get back to them.

I called school pronto. The principal is tied up with a family matter, so I didn't want to bother her. I learned that the assistant principal is out both this week and next. I left her a message in hopes that she'll check her voice mail. (Next stop is the H.R. Lady if no response tomorrow.) If that's not enough, it's also the week that my aunt from Mexico (Dad's sister) is in town which I think effectively ties up my parents, and Younger Sister will be away on vacation. So even if I get the O.K. to go, nobody from my immediate family can travel with me, and I am not exactly the kind of person who's good at traveling alone.

I really, really want to go. But I am freaked out about leaving my job so early on. But I don't want to miss a unique adventure. I feel as if this is the story of my life. That one bright spot of happiness in the middle of such an awful time last month--to have a chance at it, again. Everything's so fraught with complication.

Hoping for things to work out, but preparing for the disappointment.


8/06/2010

Could This Happen in Many Other Communities?


Camden Closing Library System

Either I don't follow enough people on Twitter or nobody else thinks this is really news. I don't think it's the absolute death of libraries in Camden, but it's a definite disappearance for a good while unless something injunctive happens. If they do close, I hope that the collections that they say will be donated/sold/destroyed (and honestly I don't think there will be mass destruction except of things that should've been weeded long ago) will go to other regional libraries that are supported and continuing to thrive and/or be developed. It's just going to make it harder for former library users in Camden to access those materials, sadly.

Did it have to come to this? I honestly don't know. Camden is a city that's trying to turn around its decline. Unfortunately, the changes are coming hard and fast, and usually anytime sweeping changes occur it means that libraries take a big hit.

At the same time, interestingly enough, the owner of Barnes & Noble is looking to sell. (If you are an online subscriber to WSJ or can get your hands on yesterday's paper, there was an interesting opinion article in there titled "Bye Bye Bookstores."

Articles have been saying for a long time that libraries and physical bookstores can't compete with digitization.
The thing is, I'm not sure libraries ever wanted to, for better or for worse. If that's all people think libraries have to offer, though, then they probably don't understand why it's so distressing to see libraries close, especially when people seeking jobs or trying to take care of themselves and their families in spite of pay cuts need them even more. But that's probably not news to you.

The other thing I rarely see pointed out--maybe because few writers of those articles analyzing the death of bookstores haven't visited actual ones lately--is that bookstore users treat bookstores they way they had used libraries in the past, but for some reason (users driven away by bad staffing, libraries failed to keep up collection, libraries unsupported by community and public funding, or whatever) stopped using them.

I can't tell you how many times I was approached at my former bookstore job by a parent looking for research materials for a child's report. Or how many times I reshelved dozens of books on the same subject because someone was looking up colleges, or seeking medical advice (a librarian could help you with that and maintain your privacy!), or planning travel. Or processed an entire return of books I knew were for a high school student's project--her mom bought them, she used them, and then her mom returned them just before the expiration of the return policy.

The libraries that are surviving are fighting an uphill battle. Many of them seem to think they have to convert to that bookstore model (offer coffee, outlets for computers, etc.) in order to gain users.

The bookstores lost money operating like that.

What are libraries going to do differently so they don't go the way of the bookstore?

8/01/2010

The Oscars Project: Movie #20

(Explanation of The Oscars Project here. The following post may contain spoilers!)

From 1971: Fiddler on the Roof

Summary: This movie was based on the Broadway musical of the same name, which was based on stories by Sholom Aleichem. While the U.S. was dealing with the fallout from social revolution in the 1960s, Tevye, village milkman and father of five lovely daughters, struggles with the balance (not unlike a fiddler trying to play atop a roof!) of tradition and progress--in his little world as his eldest three daughters marry unlikely husbands, and in the outside world as Russia nears revolution. Oh, and there's lots of singing and dancing as this is a three hour musical.

This film had eight nominations, including Best Picture/Actor/Supporting Actor/Director, but won only three--none for acting. John Williams won for Best Score.

My thoughts: I really had a hard time assembling my thoughts on this movie. What crystallized it for me, finally, was the appearance of My Big Fat Greek Wedding on basic cable this weekend. (In fact, it just came on again in the background about five minutes ago.) I know, I know--not a perfect movie. But it's an interesting parallel to Fiddler.

Couldn't you see Costa the big Greek bear commiserating with the leonine Tevye (portrayed by Topol, who also starred in the Broadway musical) about how their daughters are driving them crazy? They'd probably strike up a duet of "Traditiooooooonnnnn!"

Both fathers have very strong ties to tradition and great love for their culture. Not, mind you, that their daughters seem to love their culture any less. . . but their daughters have experienced the down side of adhering to tradition, especially as women--and they also foresee what will happen, as the larger world around them bears down on them, if they don't adapt to survive. I think that ultimately these women do express by their actions that they do feel traditions have their place and most of the time are good. I think Peske and West hit the nail on the head when they say that by the time the third daughter, who pretty much broke his heart and cut herself off from the family by running off with a Russian man (when all Russians were seen as the enemy), "Tevye is forced to open himself up to the reality of the changes going on around him and the limits of his control, and ultimately his love triumphs over his fear of change." (p. 104) He realizes that his daughters didn't do what they did because they didn't love him. They did it because they knew his love for them and that he wanted them to be happy and fruitful. (Besides, they'll all fight over who gets to take care of him when he's old, right? You just get the feeling they will.)

The musical numbers are well sung, scored, and choreographed. Incidentally, according to the commentary by director Norman Jewison (who also directed Moonstruck, another movie about tradition and matchmaking of sorts!), most of the cast was imported from the stage. That's probably something that doesn't really happen nowadays. (That also might explain why there were only two acting nominations and neither won--but at least Topol got an acknowledgement for his outstanding work in the leading role.) The only number I didn't care for was the one in which Tevye is trying to convince his wife Golde (Norma Crane) he had a dream that their eldest daughter shouldn't marry the wealthy butcher who is many years her senior. It just seemed kind of clunky and given too much screen time in proportion to the story. That said, it lacks the power to detract from the movie, anyway.


Bottom line: Again, this is one of those movies that I'm probably the last person in the world to have seen, but if you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Don't forget the tissue box because you'll cry, if not during Sunrise, Sunset, then somewhere between there and the end.


Next up: TBD. I'm checking availability of what's on my list and will let you know as soon as it's decided, so stay tuned.