Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Virginia is Beautiful

According to this, freezing fog brought the stunning sights on today's drive to Winchester. I gave a fraction of a second's thought to taking my camera with me: but who brings a camera to a funeral? On the other hand, it is a pretty drive. No; you've seen it before. The internal discussion having ended there, I give you grainy pictures from the cheap-ass phone.

College friends moved to West Virginia a couple of years ago; sadly the only time we'd met up in person was at reunion last year. Several speakers at the memorial service recalled Sandy's determination to attend it, cancer be damned. It claimed her last week, and so there I was driving through mists and light rains until the hills began to appear. At the higher elevation, some of the trees were gorgeously frosted. Route 17 by Delaplane is stupid-gorgeous normally; with misty fog icing the trees ... well, I just had to pull over. I stopped at the state park: breath-takingly cold after the warm car; quiet except for chunks of ice falling off branches. I trotted to the bathroom -- first state park visit in flats and my dress coat! -- and back to the car. The cold, gray, quiet cleared my head.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Last spring, someone asked me to attend what I thought would be a committee meeting about an event at Camp as part of the local Girl Scout council's 100th anniversary celebrations. It turned out to be the whole 100th anniversary committee sitting around the conference table. I did not feel I had much to contribute, until someone said, What's going on with the highway markers? Some personnel had changed and some things were unclear. The project to nominate two state highway markers in honor of local Girl Scouting seemed likely to be let go, so I spoke up perhaps for the first time: Oh, that shouldn't be too hard; I can do that for you.

Well, collecting the appropriate 19-teens documents for troop 1, Highland Springs, Va., did not go well, but by the time a faculty member moved from Chicago to Richmond in the 1930s and asked to keep her daughter's Girl Scout experience going in their new town, bureaucracy existed. And that was a good thing: we could mark the first African American Girl Scout troop in the South. I found minutes and other useful things on file in the Council's archive at Virginia Commonwealth University, and so today at Virginia Union University, we unveiled a marker celebrating troop 34.

The celebration went like many a formal Girl Scout program: welcoming remarks, flag ceremony, the national anthem (sung beautifully by a young man in his first year at Virginia Union), Girl Scout promise, and various speakers. Two animated Ambassador Girl Scouts served as mistresses of ceremonies. A VUU vice president spoke not only of his Boy Scout and Girl Scout family members, but also noted the coincidence of troop 34 and a 1960s VUU group arrested for "disturbing the peace" at a sit-in downtown: they were the Richmond 34. The daughter-in-law of one of the adult founders of the troop remembered her mother-in-law, a tireless community activist. A surprise speaker was Gloria Scott, GSUSA's national president in the 1970s, the first African-American to hold that job. She talked about being a newly-appointed dean at a college in Texas and having someone -- from the local council? GSUSA? -- say, Look,we're starting this Campus Girl Scout thing and we need you to get that going on your campus. It echoed Juliette Gordon Low's oft-described tact of just telling people what they could do rather than asking "could you maybe help with this?" I appreciated seeing another pattern of history. Many of the phrases in the 1930s council minutes sounded familiar, such as wishing National would let the local council take care of things in its own way.  However tricky the road, we got there, and because of Girl Scouts, I have all kinds of women as my sisters.

I must also pause to remember my brother Girl Scout (as it were), the late Reggie Tupponce, who led me to my first marker project.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Puzzle mania spilled from home to work, and back to home again. Here's a birthday present puzzle I just finished! Mega Puzzle -- Sri Mariamman Temple.

Monday, July 14, 2014


short version

A la Pintester, I present this pink lemonade bar from a recipe I found on Pinterest. The original photo made it seem like it would be way thicker! Also, my powdered sugar keeps sinking in. Now that I look again, I see it's a super close-up shot. There's a spoon in my picture for a bit of scale. The crust is very crumbly, but that may well be because I threw on all the ingredients at once, rather than creaming butter and sugar together first. I'm on the fence: crumbly crust, too sticky to eat with fingers, but maybe those flaws are my fault and I need to try again before declaring it a bust?

Saturday, July 05, 2014


As a life-long Girl Scout -- and professional staff member for seven years -- I frequently have to hear about someone's terrible experience with a bad troop leader, an un-fun camp. Seemed like one of the many ways librarianship would be a refreshing change is that people wouldn't have bad things to share, but they do. Like this tubmlr's tale, I find myself wondering if I should come out and say "geez, sorry your town's library is terrible."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


As you know, I've been thinking about fandom lately. I read this item today; it's about a proposed television version of Lev Grossman's outstanding book The Magicians. In it, Sarah Arboleda proposes that as a book about fandoms -- fandoms of fantasy worlds that it turns out are real -- with in-real-life fans, it could be successful if it really appealed and worked for those people enthusiastic about the book already; in which case it would lose the coveted (still?) Average Viewer. And of course if it worked for the average viewer, it probably wouldn't be anything that outstanding or lasting.

Even as I write, I've brought to mind the latest Criticism of YA Books That Shall Not Be Named. This gist of the Slate editorial was that adults should be ashamed of themselves for indulging in teen books; adults read literary fiction. A glance at a bestseller list, or a day of readers' advisory at a public library tells another tale entirely. Adults read James Patterson and Debbie Macomber and Nikki Turner. Maybe it would be okay if a T.V. version of The Magicians turned out merely pretty good? I keep telling myself that much of the BBC's Merlin is fair-to-kinda bad. Yet I watched all the way to the end; I saw another Arthur off to Avalon. Like versions of Alice, I seem to have a hierarchy of versions of Camelot stories. Nicely acted, with gorgeous sets and generally-good costumes, Merlin's not as low as Disney's Sword in the Stone or Excalibur.

Well, I digress, as fans do, and I drag myself back to the Arboleda article: if there's a "divide between 'normals' and 'fans'," which side do I fall on? I keep thinking I'm not ... something enough to really be a fan. I'm not back-and-forth with others on tumblr or blogs or whatever. I tear through something, think about it a bit -- and these days reinforce it looking at Pinterest. Maybe I am a quiet fan.

Friday, April 04, 2014


The other day, I rewatched the 1999 Alice in Wonderland TV production, and still keep it at the top of my favs list. Watching a bizarre 1966 TV version this winter made me want to check in again on my leading choice. For the record: Disney is a big NO, and Tim Burton disappointed greatly.

My disappointment in Burton was underscored by comparison to the 1999 telling: much of its look I might have called Burton-esque, or Pee Wee-esque. Details that make me think of Burton include the splendid way the Red Queen, in particular, looks like a playing card -- down to the "drawn" black lines of her hair; or the checkerboards of grass that curve dreamily in backgrounds and transition scenes.

This Alice follows the books closely enough to please an avid reader. We get "why is a raven like a writing desk," we get the treacle well, we get the Cheshire cat checking on whether Alice said "pig" or "fig." Tina Majorino makes a spot-on Alice (looked into it real quick: looks like she's gone on to a strong career in things that I don't watch). Gene Wilder captures the Mock Turtle; and -- omg! that's the Queen from "Black Adder"! (Miranda Richardson). Brilliant.

Before urging this version above all other on someone, I might mention that it starts off a little slow -- there's no need for the Caucus Race to be that long a scene -- but it is the one I would suggest, above all.

See also: my Alice pins.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This morning I was assailed by such sadness at the velocity of life -- the distance I've travelled from my own youth, the persistence of old regrets, the new regrets, the ability of failure to freshen itself in new forms -- that I almost crashed the car.

"The Largesse of the Sea," Denis Johnson (The New Yorker, March 3, 2014)

Not sure if I should call it an episodic story, or if it's really just odd scenes stitched together. This line hit me so hard I reread it three times right then.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What I Learned Today

Some re-arranging of schedules means that I now have more opportunities to be "in charge" which should give me more "formal" management experience @ the library.

Yesterday, it sleeted and snowed all day (but little accumulation as it had been 60s for days), then sleeted some more this morning. Because a workman was here for our heater, I went in the back door, not the public front door. In my rounds, I looked at the front walk, saw a dwindling patch of ice a few steps from the door and decided not to fuss. One of the first four patrons complained about how slippery it was; sure enough the far end of the walk was pretty bad.

Lesson: don't do a half-assed check. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ref Grunt

Wow, three great things in a row! Let's see if it holds up:

  • Put some Star Wars movies on hold for (immigrant) family; nice conversation about viewing order, forthcoming movie (kid reported it's due out in 2015).
  • Pair of 20-somethings dashed in-and-out in about 2 minutes. They retrieved something in the "Uglies" series; those new covers are distinctive, but difficult to distinguish with a furtive glance.
  • Readers's advisory for a teen who likes thrillers, horror -- she took Code Name Verity and at least one other.
  • meeting room
  • retirement planning books
  • finance books
  • question about our new location

Monday, March 10, 2014


I thought I would do due diligence and add this weekend's pretty-good bird list to eBird. But, oops: I forgot that good citizen scientists keep each outing as a separate list and count individuals. The latter is actually pretty easy to ballpark, but since I tend to keep a running list for a whole trip, adding birds at the end when I remember "oh, we saw that yesterday," the time/walk is hard to reconstruct. I wanted to add to it, though, because we ID'd a rusty blackbird and a very early tree swallow. eBird shows one other list in Halifax County with a rusty blackbird -- at the end of last year -- so I feel OK about that. But no one's reported a tree swallow since last spring! Yet I felt confident of that ID, if surprised by how early they were (2).

The other "meh" thing about eBird is that it creates a life list -- in theory, awesome, but not an asset for someone who's been at this a while. This weekend was not, after all, my first sighting of a killdeer!

Highlights from a list of 39 species across 3 days, mostly at Staunton River State Park, but these first 2 from Staunton River Battlefield SP:

red-headed woodpecker
all the other Virginia woodpeckers! (a full house?!)
bald eagle that swooped over us as we entered park, with nest material in its talons
rusty blackbird
many pine warblers feeding on the ground
red-winged blackbirds eating grass seed
tree swallow
LOTS of titmice

Weather: Southside Virginia got about 3 inches of snow on Friday; when we arrived Saturday afternoon, picturesque dustings -- more like crusts --  remained and some lasted until departure Monday morning. Days got up to low 60s, I think, and it was nice and sunny.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ref Grunt

Printing, printing, logging on, street lit, devotionals. Announcing several times that you "don't use the library much" does not fill me with extra joy as I help.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I believe I learned this exercise while learning to be a trainer. It goes like this:

  • Think of a book -- or a TV show -- that you like a lot, but that you don't really talk to people about. A secret indulgence. Once you've got it, jot down some of the character's names for me.
  • Now think of a book -- or show -- that you talk about around the water cooler. And jot down some of those characters.
  •  How'd you do?

Most people find they can name more characters from the book or show that they talk about. We reinforce what we have learned (character names) when we discuss things. The lesson to wannabe trainers is This is why we ask people to report back, share, discuss.

This activity came to mind as I thought about fan-hood, lately. I missed the teen crushing phase: I found the idea of gazing at pictures of Andy Gibb or whomever vaguely embarrassing. Then there were the handful of months after I graduated college and before I got a "real" job -- the first time I temped. At lunch one day, I sat in a sunny break room with several middle-aged women who cheerfully chatted about "Alf." Good lord, is this what being an adult is going to be like? Were the smart meal-time conversations of college a brief and shining moment? Between, seemingly, not being predisposed to be obsessed and having had many phases of my life when I was surrounded by Alf-lovers and not fans of what I liked, I seldom reveled in being a fan, in having a common language with people.

The internet, of course, changes this; fans discover each other, more easily now than in the old bulletin board days of yore. Things that I might have been keeping as secret indulgences show as I get the chance to say "what, you too?" Curiously, the sort of sharing we can do online these days not only sets into our minds the characters' names, it also ossifies certain moments.

The activity of being a fan and sharing becomes self-centered and meta.

Recently, I had a truly weird experience: a real-life event -- observing a woman wearing a lovely red-orange wrap at a concert -- made a gif run through my head. Have I processed -- learned -- too much?

I have to admit to myself, at this point, that perhaps I do become obsessed? TV re-runs allowed me to learn more quotes from M*A*S*H than a 13 year-old needed to know . . . hmm, and I did have a M*A*S*H trivia book. But I didn't dress or draw pictures or even talk in a particular way because of the show. Perhaps there were other kids who were? Perhaps without participation in a fan club, much less internet-sharing, I just didn't know about them.

All of this drifts around in my mind not only as I watch TV or the ref desk with one eye, and scan Pinterest and tumblr with the other, but also as reasonably reputable articles on my current crush, BBC's Sherlock, appear. (For instance, Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker and well, several items in WIRED, but especially this one by Devon Maloney which asserts that the show does not pander to the avid fans.) I feel reluctant to call myself a fan girl -- pictures of handsome actors not in character, pictures meant just for gazing at, still embarrass me -- but my browser's history would argue otherwise. Perhaps it is time to go clear that.

Capital City weather: freezing rain, thunder