Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's start an Evolution

A few weeks ago I bought my first eBook. Yep, FIRST.

I've been purchasing eBooks for my academic library for two years now and I've used some of the ones we own. But these books until very recently were only available to be read at a computer. So, I've never found them particularly useful unless I was already chained to my desk and computer. Who wants an ebook they can only use when at their PC?

And I never really understood the lure of having hundreds of books on an eReader. I mean, I don't carry around hundreds of books in the trunk of my car. I carry the one book I'm currently reading in my purse or handbag when I think I might end up waiting somewhere. Add to that the cost of an eReader on top of the cost of individual books, and for someone who makes more frequent use of the public library than Barnes & Nobel for reading material, making the investment just didn't make sense.

So, you're asking why I made the leap? What changed?  Was there a solar flare? or a Fringe event that has replaced the regular Tattooed Librarian with her alter ego from another universe?

Nope, it was simply a matter of convenience and impatience. I was looking at a recently released non-fiction book that I could not find at any of my local libraries. I knew requesting that it were ordered, or inter-library loaned would take a few weeks. The print copy of the book from Amazon cost $13.99 plus shipping, if I could find it a local book store it would have been similarly priced. The eBook cost only $9.99 and would be magically (a.k.a. wirelessly) sent to my android phone if I downloaded the FREE Kindle app. This was a no brainer. I went for the eBook. While I was buying it online, my phone was downloading the app.

The big question I get, considering I was a dyed in the wool physical book reader, is how do I like it? Well, lets face it. Reading book on screen is never going to be like reading a book on paper no matter how many tweaks they make from eInk to simulating the turn of a page. So lets stop trying to make them similar. Let me break down what I do and don't like about using my new ebook:

Like #1: it's always with me. I always have my phone so I always have my kindle app and always have my book. I don't have to guess if I'm going to stuck waiting at the vet's office or in line at the post office. I never have to fear that I'll decide to sit down for a coffee and have forgotten my reading material at home. 
But, dislike #1: My phone's screen is small. And getting a real kindle or bigger tablet kind of defeats the whole "I have it with me all the time" purpose. Having said that, I'm half way through the book and I'm still reading the electronic version, so it can't be that bad.

Like #2: I can "write" in it! and highlight, and fold down the pages and take notes. If you haven't noticed by now, I am pretty geeky, but I hate to deface books. The most annotating I can do with a book (even my own) that isn't for a class is to add post it flags to the margins. They stick out of the book, but on the shelf nobody can see. But write in an anthology of poetry? No way! Now I can though. I can highlight particularly interesting quotes. I can mark the mention of another book or author and add a note of the library call number so I can pick it up the next time I'm out (yep, I already said, Geeky). Bookmarking is folding down the corner page (which you can also undo).
Dislike #2: I can't say this is a dislike of the ebook format so much as a fault with my app. At some point it did not register that I had a book to read, despite having already read many chapters on my kindle app. So, I had Amazon resend the book to my phone. Only then, I had TWO of the same book, and every time I opened the app it would open the "wrong" copy which had a book mark around chapter 7 though I was now well past that. The fix was to remove that copy from my device.

Like #3: Page turning or rather the lack there of. I read on my lunch hour and at dinner if I am by myself. Have you ever tried to keep a paperback open on a table while eating? Or turn the page while your hands are full? It's a pain. But now with a tap of my finger on the right side of the screen the page turns and there is no keeping a book open. And no, I don't need it to mimic the turning of a page. I just want an uninterupted flow of text. Which leads me to...
Dislike #3: There is no eBook design. The book in your hot little hands right now, went through design process to choose fonts, and headings and text sizes so that everything was nicely laid out on the page. A proofreader checked over all of this to make sure everything was consistent. The ebook on your Kindle or Nook right now, probably did not, it probably didn't even see as many editors as your print copy did. So, why is that a problem? The text adjusts to the size of the screen. Which means the words of headings get cut off in really random spots and I often have to read them many times to figure out what exactly it is supposed to be.

Long story short - despite a few minor issues with using the ebooks on my kindle app, I am enjoying the experience and will probably continue to use them when I can get affordable books (like free classics that are now in the public domain), or books not at my public library.

How about you? Do you use ebooks on an ereader, your phone or computer? How do you like them and why did you switch?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Self-Helping my way

I am a huge fan of self-help books. I know they saturate the market and for any one thing you may want help on you have a dozen or more choices of books that claim to help. Still, I love them. They are filled with the promise of a better you. And there is nothing that feels so good as being told "it's gonna be okay." Which essentially is the message of self help books. Regardless of how deep your anger management, relationship, grief, debt, time management or organization problems are these books tell us that in only x steps, or x amount of time, with x system or x rules you can fix those problems. Who doesn't want to hear a message like that?

My love of self help books has me checking them out of the library on a regular basis. My most recent rental being The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom by Michelle Singletary.

I first heard about her book on NPR when she was being interviewed. At the time the book had just come out, my library didn't own it, my hometown public library didn't own it, and I couldn't inter-library loan it because it was so new. So, cut to me many months later and I finally was able to inter loan it.

The book prescribes a21 financial fast where you exist on cash - a predetermined amount you take out each week - and purchase only the necessitities. Now, she's not saying don't pay your mortgage, car payment, or insurance. She's talking about all of those other things that whip out the credit and debit cards for. Those moments when you walk into the grocery store with a list of 5 items and walk out with a cart load that costs $100 or more.

The other aspect of the book is God. Yep, God. God wants us to prosper and using biblical principles and daily activities for 21-days Michelle Singletary is going to show us how.

Now, I'm not a religious person. I don't espouse any belief or non-belief in particular and I'm not a Bible reader either. So, reading this book is going to get very interesting. Add to that the fact that I am not in financial trouble. I am not in danger of being evicted or having my car repossessed. I live fairly frugally, but I will admit to buying some cute clothes for the sole reason that they were cute. And find me a librarian that doesn't need another cute cardigan. However, money is a funny thing. It is easy come and easy go. I think I can easily say that most of us would like to see it go a little less frequently. And with that in mind I'm willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I have a confession to make...

So here it is for the whole world (or who ever actually stops by this blog, really) to read - I am cluttered and disorganized.

There, I said it. Me. A librarian. I am disorganized.

I have tried unsuccessfully for years reading countless self-help books on the subject to get a handle not only on my clutter and my space, but my time as well. I see the two going hand in hand after all I'd probably be early enough for work to get a cup of coffee before opening the library if I didn't have to dig through my clutter to find what I need in the morning.

In 2007 I found the website I have attempted to be a "flybaby" multiple times over the last 2.5 years to no avail. Last month was my latest attempt.

Now, if you're finding yourself in similar situations - I really would recommend the website although there are some pros and cons. (I'll start with the cons so we end on a positive note.)

1. The website itself is not organized well. In the baby steps (see pros below) for instance if you click on step 8, you must click back to the list to get to step 9. The idea behind this (I assume) is that the Fly Lady doesn't want you to skip ahead. But for someone who wants a quick overview before jumping in it was extremely annoying. And nowhere on the site are the baby steps laid out 1-30.

2. The intended audience is stay at home moms. The acronym SHE (sidetracked home executive) is used through out to stand for the cluttered chaotic mom. A Payroll SHE is one who works outside of the home. Now, I am not saying that this site isn't useful for us single ladies*, but it would be nice if we were acknowledged a little more often. After all if I start now maybe I'll never become a SHE but an OTHE (On-track home executive - okay, I just made that up).

3. Overly Christian message. This would be great if I was a devout christian or if I did in fact believe (or could be convinced) that keeping a neat and clean home for kids and husband is a "blessing" on my family. An hour of cleaning is called "Home Blessing" on this website. It's a little to cutesy for me. Cleaning is cleaning and no amount of trite sayings is going make it a more favorable chore to do. I'm just sayin'.

4. Capitalism is alive and well even for a stay at home turned De-cluttering Guru. Everywhere you turn the Fly Lady is selling Fly Lady brand stuff. Don't want to make your own control journal with a notebook and pen? Buy one of hers. Don't have a rag or swiffer to dust with during your "home blessing"? Buy a Fly Lady Feather Duster. Decluttering and can't bother to write "trash, donate, sell" on a few boxes? Buy the Fly Lady Pop-up Hampers already convienently labeled. I could go on and on. Everywhere you turn books and items tailor made to make a SHE's life easier and more convienent are bieng sold. And not just for the SHE, but her kids and her husband. Of course, I'm not saying the lady can't make a buck on what may be a great system, but seriously, a feather duster? Go to the dollar store SHE, it'll be cheaper and way more convienent.

4.5. To go along with that one of the baby steps is to check Fly Lady messages every day. Sure it keeps you motivated, but it also keeps those ads fresh in your memory.

5. Enough with the kitchen sink already! I don't freakin' cook much and I never do dishes. I'm single I live on Panera and Diet Soda. See #2.

Okay... enough ripping on the Fly Lady. Here are the pros:

1. Baby steps. Yep, she breaks de-cluttering and the return of peace and calm to your home in a month of routine building baby steps. There is no step where you must devote hours to over hauling your home. Everything is done in easy to accomidate small chunks of time like 2, 5 or 15 minutes. The one con to the baby steps - most new habits are added to the morning routine, great for a stay at home SHE, not so great for us Payroll single SHEs. But, it's meant to be a personal routine so arranging your routines how they fit for you is encouraged.

2. Constant message of "you don't have to catch up. Just jump in where ever you are" and you don't have to do anything perfectly to be doing it right. I like this message, because it tells the audience that you do not have to go from Chaos to calm over night. It's a process and trying to be perfect the first or fiftieth time out is just going to lead to frustration. As long as it's better today than yesterday, then great that's an acheivement.

3. Some of the routines really do help and make sense regardless of who you are. I'm amazed at how something as simple as putting out my clothes for tomorrow really helps me be on time in the morning. And no, thinking about what you're going to wear (at least for me) does not work. Pulling it out of the closet and putting it on a hook really does make me think about - does this go, does it fit, does it have a stain, etc. that would cause me endless number of changes in the morning.

Okay, so, as I said I re-discovered the baby steps. Today is March 9th and I'm going to start with step 1 - shine my sink. It'll be the bathroom sink if you're wondering. That really does need to be cleaned.

*All the single ladies, put your hands up! You so know you got that song in your head, go head and bop around in your chair a little to it. You know you want to.

Monday, February 8, 2010

And then there was one

After that first semester of juggling three jobs I chose not to continue at the community college. I kept on with the dance teaching and even added extra hours there. This past fall (2009) I swapped out the dance teaching for the English teaching once again. It was in some ways easier and harder than the year before.

On the one hand I had a better grasp on the material that I was teaching. I was better able to plan for the classes since I had an idea of what was coming up and what I would be testing them on. I even had a better grasp on grading. Although, that part was still time consuming and far from perfected. Actually, none of it was perfected, even by the time I was finished.

In many ways this semester was also harder. I had three plagiarized papers turned in (that I know of!) and one person who cheated on a quiz. One section began with 27 enrolled students, 25 actually showed up the first day, and 16 finished the semester. I had a handful of very good students, one of which I liked having in class - he did the work made well thought out comments and generally contributed well in class - until half way through when I mentioned that I had a boyfriend. Then this student was chronically late and had little to say in class. My first semester teaching a male student did pushups on the last day of class after the final in an attempt to get me to go to dinner with him... in front of other students. I had a number of students in both classes who just failed to turn any work in - or handed in 1 page essays when the assignment called for 6+. I understand that I was at community college, but I burnt out having to deal with blatant apathy week after week.

Teaching dance did in-fact put me in a good mood. Seeing students go from knowing nothing to learning a basic step to putting real moves together was a fun part of my job. The commute, the parking, the walking 5 blocks to and from my car, the students that thought they knew more than me, and once again the being hit on all the time, was not the fun part of my job.

And in that way I have gone from three to one job in just over a year. And it's a part-time job at that! So what is a librarian to do with all this extra free time on her hands?

Go back to school that's what! I enrolled and began on-line classes in January of 2010 for a Certificate in Publishing. I am not 100% sure that I will get the certificate, but I am taking the classes to know more about the publishing industry. For now I am learning about Trade publishing and copy editing. It is fun and exciting - well, editing is at least if you're a big fan of grammar which I am in the process of re-learning. I am going to attempt a new blog about this, but don't really know what direction it will take just yet.

Friday, February 5, 2010

At first there were three

In the fall of 2008 I went from being unemployed to working three jobs.

I was offered a teaching position at a community college, a dance instructor position at a gym, and reference librarian position at an academic library. All three of them fell into my lap as I hadn't done much in the way of applying for them.

The first, the community college, emailed me among many others based on an application I put in more than a year prior for the library. Because of my master degree in English, I was qualified to teach at the community college level.

The second, dance instructor, came about by having a conversation with my trainer, who also scheduled the group fitness classes. I was training in order to build upper body strength for my ballroom dance hobby. Their latin dance instructor was leaving and they needed somebody new. I was hired soon after telling him that I could teach.

The third, as reference librarian, I took over from a colleague of mine who was leaving the position. It was easier for the library director to hire me (after interviewing!) than open the position to applicants.

That fall was extremely busy. I had two 11 hour days and two 13.5 hour days because Monday through Thursday I was commuting between two jobs. I was always at work by 8 or 8am and home around 10pm or later. I was constantly planning for classes, grading papers, and making notes about what in my curriculum needed to be changed. It was an extremely stressful four months.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's been awhile

I realize I haven't blogged in a very long time. Besides that, I am also toying with my template. I found quite a few good ones at It was hard to choose just one, and they are very easy to install. So if you see it change again you'll know why!

Some changes are going on in my life - I've enrolled part-time in school while I work part-time at my academic library job. I have dropped my numerous other jobs to focus on these.

This is my first foray into Online classes and let me tell you that has been an education all of it's own.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Babette's story part 4

My senior year of college I went to Scotland, UK to study abroad. Some time after my return I was talking to one of my neighbors, a young girl I used to baby sit for, and she tells me, "I wasn't supposed to say, but your cat got out!" Only once did Babette ever make a break for the door and hide in some bushes in our front yard. It took about 10 minutes but I eventually coaxed her back in the house. And I'm thinking that my mom must have had to ask a neighbor to help. When I mention it, laughingly, to my mom later that day, I got the whole story. Babette hadn't been gone for a few minutes. She got out in November and was gone for month!

My mother and her husband made frequent trips to the local shelters, put ads in the paper, and flyered the neighborhood. One day a man called not with news about Babette, but with a suggestion for retrieving her. Apparently, cats, not having the same sense of direction that dogs have, don't wander too far from home (usually). So he suggested getting humane traps, placing her favorite food in it and place them around the property near places she might use to hide.

Right after thanksgiving a neighbor mentioned to my mom that she thought our cat was living near, her home, if not directly under her deck. At Thanskgiving they found a hungry gray cat crying by their back door and gave it some turkey. My mother new instantly that she had found Babette and took the humane traps over to the neighbors house and with a few days, Viola! Babette was back home. Turkey has always been her favorite meal. The minute it started to cook she sat directly in front of the oven until it was done and cried until she was given her fair share. Leave it to Babette to smell from outside this family's Thanksgiving dinner! Needless to say she never tried to get out of the house again.

Babette snuggly and warm at home on her favorite blanket.

Babette is the reason I became a vegetarian. It didn't happen right away, in fact it wasn't until I was done with college and studying abroad, and was on my way to starting my Masters in Library Science.

I was living with my father at the time and since he and Babette didn't get along, she stayed with my mother. The hour drive wasn't terrible and I was home nearly every weekend, particularly after I was accepted to "Library School" and was going to move back to my mom's anyway. During a routine check-up the vet found an abscess in one of Babette's teeth. To prevent infection and the loss of all her teeth she had oral surgery performed the week before my LIS orientation and a few days before my mother left on vacation.

Babette needed seven days of antibiotics and pain medication. I was still working at the community college near my dad and couldn't move home yet. So, it was decided that she would come live with me for the week. After her surgery Babette went from living in a huge home, to being confined to an attic bedroom. She was miserable. She spent every day hiding under the bed and every night curled up on it with me. Giving her her medicine was a huge ordeal. She would hiss and spit, bat at me with her paws, and hide so far under the bed that coming after her was a dangerous prospect for both of us. It was an agonizing week for both of us.

Around the same time I saw a documentary about chickens and factory farming. As an animal lover, I never really liked the idea of meat (my mother used to lie to me about where meat came from when I was young enough to believe her) and in that week of watching my cat scared out of her mind from pain and incarceration I put two and two together. Those animals feel pain and fear too. At that point I stopped eating meat.

Babette lived with us for 13 years before she finally succumbed to old age and illness. On July 11, 2009 I realized she wasn't well and took her to veterinary emergency where they took her and made her feel comfortable. Two weeks ago today, on the 13th, exploratory surgery discovered a tumor obstructing her bowel, growing into her intestines and effecting her lymph nodes. At the veterinarian's recommendation I made the rough decision of letting her go.

Pet loss is a rocky road. Not everyone understands the deep feelings of grief that come after losing a family pet. I'm lucky to have very supportive friends, family and colleagues. It's been a rough couple of weeks beginning with her trip to the hospital, but it's getting better.

The librarian in me will leave you with these helpful resources: - The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement -Pet Loss Grief Support Website -Ten Tips on Coping with Pet Loss

Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet by Moira Anderson, M.Ed.

For anyone else dealing with grief after pet loss, check with your local human shelters, or animal hospitals for support networks, groups, or hotlines.