Monday, November 26, 2012


The most interesting part of this book review of Chris Anderson's Makers: "Most of Anderson's product examples are the kids of things boys like to play with...."

Suddenly I feel like I need to do some research into criticisms of maker culture. The idea that much of it has fun or recreation as an aim doesn't repel me too much, but as we contemplate a maker-space for our new library, I do fear creating a space that reads as for only one gender.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

National Book Festival

I left my cozy home this morning at 6:40 a.m. to drive about 100 miles to D.C. to see John Green and it was totally worth it. Even after finding my favorite parking deck apparently closed, I was still in a folding chair before 9:00 -- and I was far from alone.

Just like I've seen in any number of Vlog Brothers videos, young people about 15 - 19 dominated the crowd. They wore Nerdfighters t-shirts, Dr. Who t-shirts, funky hair, silly hats, cute dresses, comfy jeans. A young woman near by perused the schedule aloud with her friends. She spotted -- well which name first? R.L. Stine, or Michael Grant who co-wrote Animorphs? One name triggered a memory: she told her friends about reading nothing but Goosebumps for all of third grade (or whatever it was) and gobbling up Animorphs. And yet here she is at 19 or so, reading literary fiction by Green and talking about his works and other challenging books with her friends. She's evidence that popcorn reading doesn't hurt you: she found something she loved, and learned to love reading in general. Sitting near her made me feel completely okay about selecting books for my library that are so-so writing but super-popular.

Not long after that bit of awesomeness, a voice behind me gushed to her friends, "There are so many glasses in this crowd -- it's such a cute group of people." One friend replied, "I just want to give everyone a hug."

That's just how I felt, too -- only with the weird barrier of knowing I was about their parents' age, so I had no business hugging anyone. Well, except for Sheila! Who I saw off to the side standing with her teen kids! Oh, and my work friend Mary (who, I know, is tall, but I forget I'm not, I guess? So this picture surprised me). She actually served as manager of the teens tent: she must be exhausted by now.

Green himself appears just as he seems online: bright, a little stressed and hair-tugging; dedicated to letting intelligent teens know they are not alone in their smarts, and in their quest for answers. Green  praised M.T. Anderson, another author who knows teens are smart, before launching into the tale of their urban exploration from a few years back. Green exuded warmth and genuineness about the community that is Nerdfighers. He values the dialogs he has with them and which he prompts between them; he's proud of the charities they support and of the things the fans are inspired to create because of him and his brother. Being in the tent with nerd-love made the drive worthwhile. I could have gone straight home.

I didn't though. The rest of my morning was spent failing to have any phone service, or much time on the free wireless before it dropped me -- so I couldn't find anyone else I knew. I looked in on the Library of Congress exhibits, then decided to bag it, and went to the National Gallery.

I ate lunch, and took a look at a George Bellows exhibition. Seeing so many of his boxing paintings (and drawings) at once emphasized that there were certain moments, certain lines, he liked to capture. There were portraits of the poor, with very creepy, hollow eyes -- like the Other Mother in Coraline, or sad-eye paintings from the 1970s. Many cityscapes appeared, too. One from 1911called simply New York blew me away. So much movement, so much New York.

George Bellows
New York, 1911
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
1986.72.1 National Gallery image

It hung on a wall perpendicular to A Day in June (1913), a vibrantly green picture (ok photo, here), that's so much quieter and emptier that it's weird to think it's the same city, and artist.

Refreshed by art, I checked back in at the teen tent, heard Lois Lowry say "last question" and give a reply along the lines of remembering the past is critical if we don't want to repeat mistakes. Despite that advice, I failed to rediscover 395 south the easy way and took a sort of mistaken alternate route to the highway.

audiobook for the trip: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
seen on I-95: tree removal south of Quantico, suggesting more lanes in the futre

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Brief Bird List

Several of us participated in a work day at Kittamaqund yesterday. Birded by ear as we painted Sleepy Hollow's shelter, and saw turkeys; saw and heard an osprey. List:

carolina chickadee
tufted titmouse
gulls. . .
(The paint dries less ... yellow-green than this, I promise!)

Revitalized Jetty Point

Weird fungus in Pine Ridge

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


I wonder if the people who conclude their Pinterest notes with perky little statements like, "my husband will love this!" and "I'll be glad I pinned this later!" are real people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's the Funny Pictures, Stupid

I've been thinking about social websites and attributing sources this spring.

I joined Pinterst, and one of the first things that irked me was how difficult it can be to trace back to an original site. I don't necessarily want to rely on (or re-post) a household tip, a recipe, a bit of advice if I can't tell that it came from a reputable source. And then there are the quotations and funny bits! I feel mindless passing on apparent bits of wisdom from Dorothy Parker, or unattributed gags. Then again -- what of those quote books we loved to keep in the 1980s? If I jotted down Letterman's hilarity, or a school book's wisdom, I know the source; but I also liked to copy out bits from a friend's book. Mindless re-posting?

I'm not sure if my copying from a friend's quote book is exactly the same as mindless re-posting, but it does refresh my insight into the young adult mind. At the beginning of this year, I'd read an item or two (which I need to find an example of to stick here) about how as more parents became active on Facebook, more kids ditched it and started connecting in other creative ways. Young people forbidden from Facebook also took these tactics. I read that they flocked to Google+, tumblr, or Instatgram to socialize unseen by their folks. I broached the subject with the teen advisory board, many of whom are not allowed on Facebook (even as they were completing their first year of high school). I was most puzzled by tumblr, which I took to be a blogging site: what on earth are you writing about? "Oh, I use it mostly to share funny pictures." Aha!Of course that's what teens most want to share. My Facebook and Pinterest feeds suggest adults are little different.

I often want to post witty/useful things on the library's teen sites (the "quotation" from Lincoln about not trusting online sources, e.g.), but we teen librarians are dedicated to modelling source attribution to the kids. For example, if they make a PowerPoint of book recommendation, we try to steer them to images in the public domain and to credit it if that the terms of a Creative Commons permission. Given this need to Do it Right, I find Pinterest and Facebook infuriating "sources" of humor: where's the beginning?

This morning I got around to my paper copy of the Sunday Washington Post's Technology page, and found that I am not the only one trying to trace back.* Farhad Manjoo (writing for Slate at the same time, I guess I should say) explores a particular BuzzFeed post that garnered tons of attention, particularly as it circulated on Facebook. "Like a modern-day, unstuffy Reader's Digest, BuzzFeed has a knack for distilling the good and the bad of life on the Internet into short, fun, highly clickable vignettes," he wrote. He investigated the sources of the post "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity" and also asked officials at BuzzFeed about citing sources. They talked about bringing together diverse images, clarifying the importance or meaning, and repackaging - that it's fair use that way. Manjoo doesn't seem convinced ("I'll leave it to you to decide if BuzzFeed is taking more than it's adding") and I'm certainly not convinced enough to begin to post all the funny pictures I know our kids are into without finding some kind of attribution. Although, gee it would be a great way to drive up traffic to our sites.

*Here I am trying to make a point about citations, so I need to say that this version of the story (accessed on July 3, 2012) is slightly different that what I read in my paper, out of town edition. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading to Learn

I imagine early childhood educators know this truism well, but I didn't know it and it made me sit up and take notice:

The next pitfall [for children struggling in school] is third grade. 'Because third grade is a magic year,' [Harold] Fitrer says, 'It's the year you switch from learning to read to reading to learn.' The transition is so crucial, he says, that many cities use third-grade reading scores to predict how many jail beds they'll need in the future.

From an article in Style (June 6, 2012) about the city's last-resort programs.

Monday, June 18, 2012


For the first time in about a month, I had a whole weekend with nothing planned. Cool weather called us outside: Saturday Phil and I biked to the park, and Sunday I read an dozed in the hammock. With two reading days, I finished The New Yorker's science fiction issue (June 4 & 11, 2012). I enjoyed the reflections of contemporary authors on s/f; my favorite story was Jennifer Egan's "Black Box." Having encountered the "problem" of fictional aliens being described as human-like in the introduction to some collection of short stories I gobbled down one teenaged summer (in my memory, Ursula K. LeGuin made the observation - or maybe it was a collection of her stories?; either way, I associate having my eyes opened to that point by her), I enjoyed revisiting the topic in "The Cosmic Menagerie," by Laura Miller.

Many of the personal reflections touched on the ghettoizing of s/f. William Gibson, shows how important it was for him; an implicit cry not to discount any reading. He recalls science fiction authors he read seeming to flow naturally to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs: "... my own Golden Age of Science Fiction came, in some sense, to an end, the otherness of my adolescence joining up with the wider tributary of all literature, the mother of all otherness. Had science fiction not found me when it did ... I suspect I might not have found that river. Or else, finding it, I might not have recognized it, and turned away."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bryson's "At Home"

(I started on Shelfari, but got long winded.) Why can't I have 2.5 stars? Why isn't there a "meh" choice? More importantly: Why did I finish it, when I know I don't like Bryson?? I missed the book club meeting -- and I think it was sort of an optional title? Speaking of titles, "a short history of private life"?! It's full of notables and industrial revolution - not private life. First, I wondered why this book exists, given terrific actual histories like Clark's The American Family Home; I soon found it was because Bryson wasn't trying to do architectural or social history, he just wanted to snarkily ramble about things of interest to him. And it is a nice compendium of that sort of thing: charming tidbits strung together.

Some tidbits I enjoyed enough to flag:

Gas lights, a boon in so many ways, mildly poisoned the air, stained and corroded things, and under its light, "most plants turned yellow unless isolated in a terrarium." Aha! That's why the Victorians loved them so. Bryson followed that up with, "Only the aspidistra [a plant I had to look up] seemed immune to its ill effects, which accounts for its presence in nearly every Victorian parlor photograph." (p. 123) Neat!

"Almost certainly the most memorable finding of recent years with respect to microbes was when an enterprising middle school student in Florida compared the quality of water in the toilets at her local fast-food restaurants with the quality of the ices in the soft drinks, and found that in 70 percent of the outlets she surveyed the toilet water was cleaner than the ice." (p. 248)

A comment towards the end stuck me as Bryson's personal mission statement: "Although it is unlikely that Mr. Marsham was acquainted with either Moby-Dick or Fossil Lepadidae, both reflected a fundamental change that had lately overtaken the thinking world: an almost obsessive urge to pin down every stray morsel of discernible fact and give it permanent recognition in print." (p. 433; emphasis mine)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ready as I'll Ever Be . . .

. . . for summer reading. I've made extra copies of the lists from the public schools and I've bought extra copies of required books. I'm lucky to have sufficient funds for book-buying; what I don't have is space. I do have storage space, but a book marked "storage" in the catalog is an invisible book, so I try to put there only extra copies of things that only check out when they are required.

The other facet of summer reading is the "club" we run. In short: read stuff, keep a list online, win prizes. I think I have memorized the prizes, so, yeah, I guess I am ready for summer!

Monday, May 21, 2012

On Thursday, I finished Tanita Davis's Happy Families, about a family with a father coming out as transgender; then on Sunday I read an article about a family at the other end, with a small child who is transgender. That story, in the Washington Post, is here; and here's the short blurb I wrote for my Shelfari to help me remember the book so as to suggest it appropriately* to readers:

Ysabel and Justin, twins, have a great family. Each twin pursues a passion -- making glass jewelry and debate team; mom has a catering business and dad's a businessman; they're close to their grandparents, and are active in their church. Then dad comes out as transgender and moves out. Much of the action of the novel happens during the spring break Ys and Justin spend with Dad, going to a therapist and participating in activities with a support group for families with  transgendered person in them. The twins are mad and confused, each in his/her own way -- will the Nicholas family find its way back to happy?
Terrific realistic fiction with conflicts small and meta, teased out at a pace that is slower and thoughtful where it needs to be, and fast in enough places to keep us wondering what's next. Would be fine for a middle schooler who needs/wants to know about a transgender person as there's (almost?) no swearing, no sexual content. Useful appendix explains terms, instructs which terms are offensive. 

*which is the point of my Shelfari, all the time

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plan R

Lots of changes of plans this weekend (don't ask); spent a pleasant day yesterday at Jamestown and in Smithfield. History, ferry ride, ham. Only the most casual of birding; imagine if we had tried:

blue bird
carolina wren
red-winged blackbird
pine warbler, probably 
some egret, flying
g. c. cormorant
laughing gulls
other gulls
bald eagle
osprey (one siting was baby looking out of nest - on channel marker - while parent eyed the ferry-full of humans)
crows - because their voices were certainly "different" I am calling them fish crows

Evidence that I am turning into my parents: I wanted to take pictures of gulls on ferry ride. Evidence that I live in a different time: it took one snap with the automatic 35 mm to get a satisfactory in flight shot, and I could tell right away that it was OK.

Returned home to find some clown stole one stretch of copper gutter off the garage. I'd call Do-Over if I could figure out how far back to go to change the karma.

Monday, May 14, 2012

American Modern

I've been enjoying participating in a Facebook Russel Wright group. I posted this picture recently as part of a conversation about colors we like together. I like it, so I posted it here so I can have it in more than once place. My colors are granite, chartreuse, cedar, and black chutney. (This is a good color chart.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I am the 7%

The library teens got me hooked on a quiz site called JetPunk. I just took a "famous animals" one. Apparently 93% of people (as of today I suppose) knew Mufasa, the only one I couldn't place. Guess it's from The Lion King, huh?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My brother kindly forwarded yesterday's Morning Edition piece on Lender's bagels, which was great because I hadn't heard the whole thing on air. The timing neatly correlates with a cold breakfast paradigm shift I'd previously observed myself. 

Girl Scout troops often plan for a cold breakfast at the end of a weekend long campout to make clean up go faster (no wood fire to put out, ashes to cart away or spread). In the 1970s and early 80s, my Girl Scout troops always chose mini cereal boxes and Sweet 16 doughnuts for Sunday breakfast. And fruit or juice when urged to keep it balanced by our troop leaders. We'd always try to do the thing with those boxes where you cut open the flaps and the waxed paper lining would hold in milk, but it only worked about half the time. 

By the 1980s and 90s when I was a camp counselor, I'd help the girls plan a cold breakfast for the middle Sunday   of our 2-week session, when the cooks had the morning off. By now, campers increasingly often asked for bagels. Puzzled, I'd ask, "You understand I'm talking about ideas for a cold breakfast on sleep-in Sunday?" And they'd say, "Yeah, bagels are good cold." The really cool part was that we'd be able to actually purchase them through our restaurant food delivery service -- and later still we could buy bagels at the Food Lion in Heathsville, Virginia. Crazy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm glancing at reviews of the Hunger Games movie. The reviewer at STACKED reflects on an audience of enthusiastic young fans, "Cheering and applauding for the death of children is nice, isn't it?" And that reminded me of watching Return of the King, I believe it was, and while I was getting choked up over families gearing up the elderly and their children for the apparently futile battle (of Helms Deep, I guess?) an 11 year old boy broke into whoops. (The dark side of me figures he's old enough to be fighting in our current futile battles and perhaps views things differently, if he's survived. Or perhaps he's one that's gone violence-mad?)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Girl Scout Week

On Monday, GSUSA turned 100. As I tweeted, "Because of Girl Scouts, I have confidence, leadership skills, tons of great memories, and friends worldwide. ."

Also notable:
-  My first paycheck came from the local GS council for my job as a camp counselor
- The first "long-distance" driving I ever did was from home in Midlothian to camp in Northumberland County.

- GS didn't take me to as many far-flung places as it takes some, but I did go to the Edith Macy training center in New York (1997; below) and a GS convention in Kansas City.

- I've made life-long friends -- sisters -- across generations.

- I've earned stuff.

- and honored others for their achievements.


Monday, March 05, 2012

My college classmate Karen Middleton (now president of Emerge America) shared an article from the Daily Beast about women in leadership roles. Above are the related links that algorithms suggest people reading about women ("women in the world" as the tag suggests) need to see. Two are marked as advertisements. Three items are about women; two of them appear to proliferate the objectification of women. Is it any wonder women don't imagine themselves cut out for leadership roles when this is how we are taught to see ourselves?

(I clicked on and will link to the item on teen feminist bloggers in hopes of helping clear up for the search/ad bots what women might want to read about ourselves.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Star Wars Linkage

"R2D2 with Other Droids" photo by Flickr member Mr. T in D.C.

"On the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor" at McSweeney's.

A lengthy, but good, essay suggesting an efficient and more entertaining order for the Star Wars movies.

Star Wars characters in yoga poses.

Death Star cake.