Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The ARC's

With my book greed on a tight leash and one eye focused on my luggage weight (50 pound limit at the airport before extra baggage costs), I walked through the ALA conference exhibit area perusing freely available ARC's in children's literature, young adult literature, and books just for fun. I managed an eclectic mix of titles this year, three of which I read before leaving D.C. yesterday and a fourth I started on the plane during the storm cell delay. Here's the list with accompanying book description information from Amazon and/or the book jacket. I will be posting reviews and comments on the books as I finish.

"Chicago private investigator Michael Kelly is hired by his former partner, John Gibbons, to help solve an eight-year-old rape and battery case, a case it turns out his old friend was once ordered to forget. When Gibbons turns up dead on Navy Pier, Kelly enlists a team of his savviest colleagues to connect the dots between the recent murder and the cold case it revived: Diane Lindsay, a television reporter whose relationship with Kelly is not strictly professional; his best friend from childhood, Nicole Andrews, a forensic DNA expert; Nicole’s boyfriend, Vince Rodriguez, a detective with a special interest in rape cases; and Bennett Davis from the DA’s office, a friend since Kelly’s days on the force. To close the case, Kelly will have to face the mob, a serial killer, his own double-crossing friends, and the mean streets of the city he loves." (Book cover and Amazon)

"Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders into the woods near his home, discovers a grove of marijuana large enough to make him some serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours on the forest floor, he's released from the trap by the shrewd, vicious farmer who set it - but his confrontation with the subtle evils that underlie the life of his small Appalachian community has begun." (Book Jacket)

"Written in witty, accessible verse, Wendy Mass's novel tells the story of sixteen-year-old Tessa and what happens in the moments after a shocking gym class accident. Tessa finds herself in heaven, which bears a striking resemblence to her hometown mall, and in the tradation of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, she starts reliving her life up until that moment. Tessa sees some things she'd rather forget, learns some things about herself she'd rather not know, and ultimately she must find the answer to one burning question - if she only knew what the question was." (Book jacket)

"A swashbuckling adventure full of sword fights, sea shanties, and persistent pirate!Jack Jones is a very ordinary boy until the day his great uncle passes away and he inherits a terrible, horrible pirate curse from, the famed pirate Blackstrap Morgan, his great-great-many-times-great grandfather. Chased by a merciless band of pirates who can temporarily take over the bodies of anyone close to Jack—his teacher, his friends, and even his parents—he must find the courage to confront the curse and outsmart the pirates or spend the rest of his life running. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, this book is full of adventuresome pirates and hilarious escapades!" (Amazon and Book Jacket)

"Just when Joey Pigza’s wired world finally seems to be under control, his good-for-nothing dad pops back into his life. This time, though, Carter Pigza is a new man – literally. After a lucky lotto win, Carter Pigza has a crazy new outlook on life, and he’s even changed his name to Charles Heinz. He thinks Joey and his mom should become new people, too. Soon Joey finds himself bombarded with changes: a new name, a new home, and a new family business – running the beat-up Beehive Diner. He knows he should forgive his dad as his mom wants him to, and get with the new family program. But Joey is afraid that in changing names and going with the flow he will lose sight of who he really is. In this rocket-paced new chapter in Joey Pigza’s life, a favorite hero discovers what identity and forgiveness really mean, and how to cook a delicious turkey burger." (Amazon book description)

"High atop Hathorne Hill, just outside of Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves in the back, and of cold winds felt throughout its underground tunnels. And then there are the treasures found inside, eerie remnants of its former tenants: journals, hair combs, bars of soap, even old medical records, all left behind for trespassers to view.”

“On the eve of the hospital’s demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it’s an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents’ diner. For the others, it’s a chance to be on TV, or for a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls and down every dark passageway, these high schoolers will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and of the spirits who still might.” (Book Jacket)

"Ten thousand years ago, humans and fairies fought a great battle for the magical island of Ireland. When it became clear to the fairy families that they could never win, they decided to move their civilization underground and keep themselves hidden from the humans. All the fairy families agreed on this, except the eighth family, the demons. The demons planned to lift their small island out of time until they had regrouped and were ready to wage war on the humans once more. However, the time spell went wrong, and the island of Hybras was catapulted into Limbo, where it has remained for ten thousand years. Now the tainted time spell is deteriorating and demons are being sucked back into the present space and time. The fairy council is concerned about this and is monitoring any materializations. But when the spells deterioration accelerates, the materializations become unpredictable. Even the fairy scientists cannot figure out where the next demon will pop up. But someone can. Artemis Fowl, teenage criminal mastermind, has solved temporal equations that no normal human should be intelligent enough to understand. So when a confused and frightened demon pops up in a Sicilian theater, Artemis Fowl is there to meet him. Unfortunately, he is not the only one. A second, mysterious party has also solved the temporal equations, and has managed to abduct the demon before Artemis can secure him. Once again, Artemis will have to pair up with his old comrade, Captain Holly Short, to track down the missing demon and rescue him, before the time spell dissolves completely and the lost demon colony returns violently to Earth." (Book Description, Amazon)

I have a few other titles to add here, but Blogger is giving me publishing fits and I have lost patience with the continuous "could not contact" message I am receiving when attempting to save and publish this post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm baaaaack

Today's horoscope mentioned the creative side of my nature would be satisfied with something as simple as paper and pen to jot down thoughts. I'll create a blog post instead.

My first conference topic will be air travel. I enjoy watching airplanes; seeing what different versions are capable of doing, marveling at the actuality and sheer genius involved behind them flying, captivated by talent necessary to fly one of them, and most often being thankful I am not inside of one. For me, air travel is basically limited to attending ALA and ACRL conferences, this latest trip being a specific instance. I arrived safe and sound, with my luggage, both to and from the ALA conference in Washington, DC.

Last Thursday morning I arrived at the airport in record time, cleared check in and all of its glory in less than half an hour. The plane itself was a small one, only three seats wide (two on one side, one on the other) and it could be said that I was riding shotgun, seat A1. It was odd being able to see into the cockpit and I was torn between awe that it was so tiny and wonder, would I get thrown off of the plane for taking a photograph? My dad was in the air force and a short quiz often follows any air travel. I am probably one of the only people who actually looks at the safety handout stowed in the seat because it details the type of plane. But, I digress.

After we were all collectively settled in our seats ready for take off, the pilot informed us there had been a slight "melt down" - his words, not mine - at the control tower and they lost our flight plan. He had to resubmit and get the results before leaving. This announcement was followed by the assurance it would take less than fifteen minutes. Sure enough, ten minutes later we were told the flight plan was a "go" however, we were now the twelfth plane in line for take-off and it would be another fifteen minutes before departure. Then he said not to worry, he would be able to "make up" the time in the air. Uh-huh. Guess there was a good tail wind because we arrived very close to our originally scheduled time.

Today the annoying Super Shuttle was scheduled to arrive at noon. To my shock and dismay (insert sarcasm) pick up was forty minutes late and I was still in DC at 1:00 pm. Less than thrilled with the prospect of long lines and missing the plane, I was relieved to arrive at BWI around 1:40. Check in was a breeze, but getting through security took another forty plus minutes. I arrived at the gate right as boarding was to begin, but when the plane was late coming in from Newark I actually had opportunity for a caffeine and chocolate bar lunch. Half an hour later we boarded without incident, I again had lovely seat A1, pulled away from the gate, and stopped next to both an AirTran and Southwest airliner. Seems there was a thunder cell at the end of the runway and take-offs were being aborted until it moved out of the vicinity in fifteen or twenty minutes. Off went the engines and a quick glance out the window showed planes to the left and planes to the right, all lined up waiting. When the cell cleared out, we were only fifth in line (sure beat twelfth) and ended up being only an hour late. No big deal for me since the stop was my final destination, however there were passengers meeting connecting flights that were not so lucky.

Tomorrow, a quick list of ARC's I grabbed from the exhibitor's area. Posts about particular sessions I attended and my poster sessions will follow at the beginning of next week as I will be out of town Thursday through Sunday.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

ALA bound

I have finished my pre-conference necessities shopping, strategically placed several outfits on my bed in preparation for packing this evening, and last night was able to make plans to meet a friend at the convention center tomorrow evening (yikes! tomorrow already) so we can go to the LOC, visit the main reading room, it's open from 5-7 pm specifically for ALA attendees, and "do" dinner. After looking at the preliminary program guide on Tuesday, I have to reiterate what I posted on another blog; one of the main reasons I like going to ALA as opposed to academic librarian specific conferences is that ALA has program opportunities for everyone.

At ALA annual, I get to feed my inner-geek-librarian at technology sessions, my inner-child-librarian with children and YA literature sessions, and my inner- teacher-education- liaison librarian with academic sessions on education librarianship and EBSS committee meetings. Case in point, here are several sessions I am interesting in attending:
  • LOC: Main reading room open Friday evening 5 - 7 pm
  • Can Blogs be Trusted?
  • Picture Books for Older Readers - OR - Alex Award Winners 2007
  • Stories for a Saturday Evening
  • Trend Setters in Teen Literature
  • Book Cart Drill Team - OR - Blogs and Related Technology
  • ALSC Poetry Blast
Add to the list my aforementioned EBSS meetings, poster sessions, and visiting the exhibit hall and I will have little time to peruse DC in tourist fashion. It's been years since I have visited the area and I would love to see the new memorials. It is a given I will change my mind once, twice or three times when I get the actual program and begin the decision making process. But that is part of the whole, one of the best sessions I attended last summer I went to because the session I really wanted was cancelled ... worked for me.

Here's hoping my posters and I make the plane on time tomorrow morning. I am grateful the airline changed my departure time from 7:30 am to 8:45 am. Be sure to say "hi" if you get to either of my poster sessions! And, unless I get an uncontrollable urge to blog from one of the computer stations at ALA, this will be the last post until July 2nd.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reading on the plane

What a lovely day one of vacation this has been, the sun shining, there is a lovely breeze, and the pretty blue sky has puffy white clouds. Naturally instead of basking in it’s glory I used my time running errands and, yes, shopping, for my upcoming trip. I needed several very important things, batteries for my digital camera (I’m one of those people, run if you see me camera in hand) and MP3 player, a book to read on the plane, and naturally a new top or two to wear.

In Target I found not one, but two books for my reading pleasure; one I was expecting and one that was a nice surprise. I was expecting, actually went in to the store specifically to buy, the new Stephanie Plum novel Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich:

“In the thirteenth book in the series, the stakes are raised even higher as Stephanie Plum finds herself in her most dangerous, hilarious and hottest chase yet. With her loveably offbeat family along for the ride (as well as a few new faces), there’s no doubt that the Stephanie Plum novels put the fun in dysfunctional, and its clear to see why they’re called Hot Stuff by the New York Times and why Evanovich herself is called the master.” (Book description, Amazon).

I was pleasantly surprised to see the next installment of the St. Kilda series, Innocent as Sin, by Elizabeth Lowell (see Running with Quills):

“Kayla Shaw is a private banker in Arizona—smart and capable but underpaid and under appreciated. Rand McCree is a haunted man who paints landscapes in the Pacific Northwest, burning with a need for answers about the terrible event that shattered his world. They are two strangers with nothing in common . . . until their lives entwine—and explode.” (Book description, Amazon)

Now I have a new book for the plane to D.C. and another one for the return trip as well. Talk about a win-win book-buying situation. The hard part will be not reading one of them this evening …

Tomorrow is another errand day, but tonight I have one more important preparatory task, updating the music on my MP3 player for the flight. After all, I have new tunes to add including Big Dog Daddy by Toby Keith, Some People Change by Montgomery Gentry, Enjoy the Ride by Sugarland, and Let it Go by Tim McGraw.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

The Off Season

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock features D.J. Swank, one of the famous Swank siblings of Red Bend, Wisconsin. Not an average 17 year-old, D.J. is the first girl to win a spot on the varsity football team. After surviving a year of taunting from classmates, she has finally been accepted as part of the team and things are beginning to look up. Then D.J. learns her best friend is moving away with her girlfriend, her "kind of" boyfriend, the starting quarterback for her school's bitter football rival seems oddly reluctant to be seen with her, her younger brother begins acting secretively, she overhears her parents arguing about their family farm's lack of solvency, and in the midst of it all somehow ends up profiled in People magazine. It's enough to make a girl crazy. But when her brother suffers a terrifying football accident D.J. learns what is important in life as she is suddenly thrust into the very adult role of caretaker, advisor, and friend.

I was glad to see this title on a freshly cataloged book cart this morning. A sequel to Dairy Queen, The Off Season begins where Dairy Queen ended, the beginning of D.J.'s junior year in high school. Dealing with very real teenage issues of boyfriends, family, sexuality, and school, this book has wonderfully flawed and insightful characters that invite readers along for the ride. Murdock's dialogue and descriptions of Win's injury and subsequent rehabilitation have a stinging ring of truth (see author acknowledgements) lending credence to the family's reaction. The ending is not sugarcoated or insulting to the reader; D.J. grows both with, and away from, some of her preconceived notions of family and friendship. This is another winner.

Mock Caldecott ... early choices

I am currently collecting books, and by "collect" I mean check out to me for the next three months, for September's Mock Caldecott session. I endeavor to find books not only new to our collection and possibly the participating students, but also visually appealing and meeting Caldecott medal standards. Picking from new books is slim right now with one fiscal year ending and another yet to begin, although luckily there are a few titles filtering into the library that were ordered in late April and May. At this point I have seven contenders, almost half way to the fifteen plus necessary; five have been in captivity for several weeks and two I took from the new book cart this afternoon.
The first five and their illustrators (in no particular order) are:

Today's jewels are:

My America is a beautiful piece of artistic poetry. Bryan and Gilchrist's illustrations perfectly compliment the book's poetry and each other in a way that should not be possible given the distinctly different style of each artist; case in point, bright colored water creatures flow into two youngsters enjoying a swim in the ocean and a stunning watercolor rendering of American children is enhanced by people dressed in traditional garb on the next page. This book begs to be read and enjoyed a second and third time.

When I Met the Wolf Girls, illustrated by August Hall, is a fictional account of two young girls discovered by missionaries in the 1920's who had been raised by wolves. Hall's art is a perfect accompaniment to this story as it ranges from lushly drawn forest and animals (the double page jungle spread towards the end is a visual treat) to the townspeople missionaries having a more somber amber toned palette. This book has an intriguing textural feel; it reminded me in some ways of a plastic placemat that the technical services assistant did not cover so as not to inhibit student's enjoyment of holding the book as well as reading it.

Time will tell if the students enjoy any of these selections, or the other eight or ten I have yet to select. They always find something unique in each of the books we discuss when making their choices.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The end of an era

Tonight was the next-to-last Stargate SG-1 episode on SciFi; next Friday is the final episode of the long running series. While I contend it has not been the same without Jack O' Neill (two L's) it is still sad to see it come to an end. There is to be a Stargate SG-1 marathon running beginning next Tuesday evening leading up to the final episode. Unfortunately, at least as far as viewing the final episode is concerned, I will be in Washington DC at ALA on Friday evening. I will definitely have to set the VCR so as not to miss all the action.

Here are a few SG-1 links:

I got a quick giggle when during tonights episode Vala was describing a dream she had to Daniel and Sam, a great Dancing with the Stars reference. One of the many reasons this particularly clever show will be missed. I have heard/read that Amanda Tapping will be taking over as commander of Stargate Atlantis starting next season. I'm hoping it also means a few well-placed guest appearances from favorite characters.

At least Eureka returns to SciFi on Tuesday, July 10th for the start of it's second season.

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Johnny and the Bomb

Johnny and the Bomb, the third installment of Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell trilogy, features Johnny and his friends Yo-less, Bigmac, Wobbler, and Kirsty as unknowing time travelers. Finding Mrs. Tachyon, their designated neighborhood crazy person, hurt in an alley, the boys call 911 for help and watch the ambulance take her to the hospital. Johnny takes her shopping cart home for safe keeping, a random act of kindness that changes history because the cart is, in fact, a time machine. Soon Johnny and his friends are transported back to 1941 and given the opportunity to change not only the history of their town, it was destroyed during an air raid, but also their own family histories. Packed with quick and humorous dialog, interesting implications of changing history and intrepid time travelers trying to do the right thing, readers will enjoy the ride.

I picked this book off of the cart without any prior knowledge of the first two books of the series, but the book is a definite stand alone title. At times the plot was a bit convoluted while the characters bounced back and forth between periods in history, however the humor and smart dialogue compensated for this quite nicely. Pratchett deftly handled interesting social issues of the time with help of Yo-less and Kirsty: "It's just how he was brought up. You people can't expect us to rewrite history, you know -."

Readers may wonder about the time travel happening from 1996 to 1941 instead of from 2007 (I looked twice at the 2007 date on the copy I read after seeing the 1996 date in front cover). This book was originally published in England in 1996. It does not distract from the action taking place, but was puzzling to me.

I could not help thinking of the first Back to the Future movie when Marty (Michael J. Fox) is sent to the past and changes his own future.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Brownie bribery

It was a hodgepodge day in academic library land as we close in on the finish line for the first four-week summer session. Students were frantically printing brochures for class, in color no less, and preparing final project power point presentations. As usual during end of term madness, most of my reference questions were technology related; can you help me download music (no) and why is my presentation burned on a CD-RW appearing as "read only" (it shouldn't).

During this time a friend of mine is conducting inventory on the juvenile books, she works in technical services and wants to finish this particular chore before the students return in a couple of months. Yesterday I mentioned needing to shelve the books on my new bookshelf. Today she shelved both bookcases of old "new" books, hence the brownies. Technically it was not a bribe when she volunteered for the task, but the time she saved me was priceless. Her well-earned reward was a gooey (her request) chocolate brownie with icing and nuts (ick).

Everyone has particular library talents, mine is NOT shelving, at least not if you want to find the books when I have finished. This same wonderful friend, and I'm not being snide or snarky, brought me a nice pile of book slips, purchasing information from B & T the cataloger gives us when books are added to the collection. My relief was palpable. I was concerned the last three entries on my resource center blog were going to be hour's updates. Wouldn't that look lovely for someone viewing the blog for a first time? I was able to add several entries this morning consisting of juvenile fiction, juvenile literature, juvenile biographies, and graphic novels. Sure I will still need to do an hour's update when leaving for ALA and my subsequent vacation, but viable posts will bookend the information.

I finished the web page/handout this afternoon, found a good buy on CD's (100 for $30) and laser printer labels during a lunch errand, and began burning the items on CD's while designing the label. In the midst of this undertaking my boss arrives and asks if I might happen to have a copy of an article I gave him several months ago from American Libraries; and if not, could I find it for him before I left for the day? He wants to give it to someone at a meeting. At this point I would like to brag and discuss how efficient I am at my job, but in all honesty I got lucky by using the ALA web site to browse issue covers (I'm very visual). I found the article(s) in question and printed them in color for, ahem, brownie points. Unfortunately that means I still have CD's to burn tomorrow morning and labels to apply as I check each and every CD for usability. But, the end is near and I vow not to procrastinate should I get sessions accepted next year.

Before I forget, the aforementioned book slips mean I will have new children's books to peruse at my leisure soon. At least I will be able to forage them for potential usage in an upcoming Mock Caldecott session this fall.

Plan ahead ... at least when I am not procrastinating

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Children's Book Mall

I just finished taking a quick look at my visitor paths in StatCounter and noticed someone found this blog via the Children's Book Mall website. Unfamiliar with the site I took a quick look to try and find myself (and there I am). I will take some time later today to investigate further, but it looks as if there are many links to blogs and information regarding children's books; categories include:

There is also a link to puppets I will have to check out, I need more puppets. It appears evaluations are done every 90 days and links are updated, pulling less popular and adding new ones, so my stay on this site may be short lived. Time will tell.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Posters or handouts?

It's a bit of a conundrum, which is more important, the poster or the accompanying handouts? As a viewer of poster sessions I spend time looking at the completed project and then quickly grab handouts I can refer to at my leisure. Chances of remembering points from every session that interests me are slim ... and none, so I rely on good handouts. Previously posted poster glee aside, I am now working on crafting cd's (easier to cart on the plane than paper handouts) for people who visit my poster session(s).

I finished the blog poster CD today; it's a single web page that includes all of the text and scaled down images from the poster as well as a webliography of links to the counters, widgets, and blog sites discussed. Naturally I had to create a web page header, design a CD label, and burn the CD's. Beyond that I checked each CD's usability (found one dud), muttered at a computer with an excessively slow CD/DVD drive, and centered labels on each CD. Luckily the muttering commenced this morning when traffic was slight in the resource center and I had students commiserating with my plight. Actually, the students in question asked me to burn them a CD so they could see the project at a later date. But, I digress.

The collaborative conference poster session CD is fifty percent completed and I will probably need to purchase additional CD-R's and labels to finish the project. Deciding how many CD's to burn and bring is another issue fraught with guesswork; I would rather run out of CD's than have too many. My main concern with the second poster session is the archived web page from the conference. When discussing the web page option we asked how long the page would remain on the university's server after the conference was over. The answer was indefinitely, but who's definition of "indefinite" will be adhered to is the question. I can say with authority that as of today the site remains and I am reasonably sure it will be live at least through the summer session.

Tomorrow I will finish the project and only have to burn a few CD's Really. Tuesday grades are due. I have a vacation day Wednesday to pack and prepare (I think) and I fly out Thursday. Where has the month of June gone?

Update - next morning: I forgot to mention my fruitless journey to locate CD labels . First the university book store, then a local drug/convenience store and finally the hated WalMart in town. Zip. Nada. Tell me why a huge super WalMart (gag) would have every type of CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD-R and not have CD Labels? Today I'll go to the only office supply store in town and hope for the best. Otherwise I won't be finished until Monday.

Tags: ALA, ALA Annual Conference, Poster sessions, Poster session preparation

Monday, June 11, 2007

Read Roger ... again

Read Roger, the Horn Book editors blog, is always a great informational tool, as well as an intriguing children's literature resource. Case in point, today Roger pointed readers to the Horn Book's Summer Reading recommendations:

"Every few summers, and this promises to be one, the whole world goes wild about Harry. But no wizard has a lock on enchantment. Our editors have hand-picked some favorite new titles, all published within the last year, that are ideal for the season. There is plenty of magic here, too." (Summer Reading, Horn Book, 6/11/07)

I scanned through the list and noted a few titles I have already read (and blogged about), one I am in the process of reading, and several I would like to read. Also posted recently was an announcement about the 2007 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards. I was slightly smug to learn we had all winning titles and all but one of the honor books already in our collection. The book I missed was 365 Penguins and we'll order it when funds are released for the next fiscal year.

As to that summer reading list, here are the books I have read and/or blogged about:

Currently Reading:

  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing - This is not an average young adult novel. Written in what could be loosely termed a journal format, Octavian Nothing is a disturbing account of historical fiction written in the dialogue of the times, 18th century America. In it Octavian discusses slavery, his own, and the academic experiment that was the bedrock and downfall of his childhood. Readers are provided insights to the barbaric whims of slavery and slave owners during the Revolutionary War era, as opposed to the more widely known Civil War notations. I have not yet finished this book, but it is disurbing on many levels as the first person narrative intersperced throughout the novel is at times both matter-of-fact and cynical.

Would like to read:

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They're here! They're here!

My posters were delivered this morning and they are beautiful! In between meetings to finalize budget expenditures for the end of the current fiscal year I have been annoying all asunder by asking if they want to see my posters.

Some did .... other's graciously declined (smile).

I am waiting for my boss to see the finished product before gleefully rolling them up and placing them in the traveling tube. This week I have to prepare something for handouts and probably should take a look at conference offerings, print out directions to the airport, and verify a few travel necessities. But right now, I'm positively gleeful at the completion of my posters.

Quick Library humor

If you don't read Unshelved, the library comic strip, by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, you should.

"Welcome to Unshelved, the world's only daily comic strip set in a public library! Writer Gene Ambaum (the made-up name of a real-life librarian) and co-writer and artist Bill Barnes have been publishing since February 16, 2002. Some of the stories are made up, some of them are based on real life, and some are absolutely true stories sent to us from our readers. And the stranger the story, the more likely it is to be true."(Unshelved Primer, 6/11/07)

Today's strip struck features "library" questions at the reference desk, I would love to post it, but you can read it here.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Spare Change

Spare Change, the latest in Robert B. Parker’s Sunny Randall series, features former cop and current private investigator Sunny working with her father, Phil, a retired Boston police captain, on one of his former unsolved cases; a mystery over twenty years in the making. The Spare Change killer, so dubbed by the media because he/she leaves spare change next to the body, has seemingly returned for another rampage. Phil and Sunny have narrowed their list of suspects when the murders take a surprising twist; the victims begin to resemble Sunny. The investigation moves along at a brisk clip with the murderer identified, if not proven, early on in the novel making the subplot of Sunny's continued tumultuous relationships with her family (Mom, Dad and sister Elizabeth), friends (Julie and Spike), ex-husband (the ever present Richie) and her therapist almost overshadow the eventual unraveling of the decades long mystery. Those who are able to overlook Parker's expounding of the continual romantic saga of Sunny and Richie will not be disappointed with Spare Change.

While I found the mystery in this title a satisfying and easy read, I bought it before dinner and finished it the same evening, I continue to find something just short of annoying with Sunny in the Sunny Randall series and Jesse Stone and the Stone Cold series. Parker's characterization of romance and relationships in both his Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone novels tarnishes some of the overall appeal of the series. I very much enjoy the mystery involved in his work and while I applaud making his characters fallible and realistic, in my opinion he often overcompensates by at times making them seem shallow and insipid.

On the plus side, I do enjoy Tom Selleck's interpretation of Jesse Stone in the various television movies that have been made. (What's not to like about Tom Selleck?) I read somewhere that Parker wrote Sunny Randall with Helen Hunt in mind. Wonder how true that might be?

Update: Late cover image; Blogger hated me last evening and I was unable to add it to the post until this morning. I did try ... and it was trying.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Google & FeedBurner

Now how did I miss that? With all my poster preparation the last three days I used a screen shot of my FeedBurner account to highlight nifty tools, widgets, and gadgets that may be used for blogs and blogging.

"Unlike the rumor that FeedBurner is nearly code-complete on a multiplayer Wii edition, the blog posts, phone calls and conjecture about our future as part of the Google family tree are now officially true.

FeedBurner has been acquired by Google. The local weather forecast calls for general euphoria with intermittent periods of off-the-rails delight." (It's True-gle, Burning Questions, 6/1/2007)

Well, that certainly explains the fine print displayed when signing into FeedBurner stating that I have until June 15th to "opt out" of my account before it, and all accompanying information, is transferred over to Google. More information on this topic may be found:

FeedBurner, Google, Google buys FeedBurner

Off to see the wizard

Technically, I have just returned from seeing the wizard; turning in my poster(s) to the print shop on campus for processing. Two hours this morning combined with three hours last night in front of the television (Deal, or No Deal because Dancing with the Stars is over and season two of Eureka has yet to begin), provided me ample time for creating and setting necessary graphics in place for my second poster, conference collaboration.

I struggled somewhat with developing the second poster. After reviewing my abstract I briefly wondered how I would fill the space with enough information to make it plausible and enough graphics to make it visually appealing to attendees. A quick look at the conference web page, still archived on the university server (indefinitely, I hope), provided the answer in the conference photo gallery. The middle of my poster has images from the conference; the left side depicts the web page (my lovely creation) and technology information; the right side details attendee evaluation; and the last section reveals "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of the entire conference project. Since I am often fickle concerning my creations, my current favorite poster is the most recent one.

Creating these posters in Publisher has given me an opportunity to learn more about what this software is capable of doing. I especially liked the horizontal and vertical floating document guides that allowed me to align various textual and graphical elements regardless of where they appeared on the page. I now have a week or so to convert the poster presentations into something viable to burn on CD and use as handouts.

An aside: I just had a student tell me I was "brilliant!" I don't even mind that she may be a bit misguided. I will simply bask in the knowledge that for a short time this afternoon someone thought I was brilliant.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Visually appealing or busy

It took most of the day but I finished the blog poster for my session at ALA. I managed and micromanaged the placement of images (all aligned just so and equal in size), inserted the desired text, and continuously reminded myself of the importance of white space within the poster. I ran a spell check, always important and potentially awkward, and created the PDF that will go to the campus print shop tomorrow. I am satisfied with the finished product and have made the timely transition from striving for brilliance to settling for not embarrassing myself.

Short of yesterday's timetable, finishing one poster before lunch, I brought home my laptop to work on the second poster this evening; it needs to be finished by 3:00 pm at the latest. Once the posters are completed, I will be able to create short PowerPoint presentations and handouts to burn to CD detailing the poster. It is simpler to travel with CD's than it is to haul paper handouts on the airplane.

Why the seemingly arbitrary deadline of 3:00 pm? I am leaving for a two-day board retreat Thursday morning and have yet to file my reports, print the necessary documents for the meeting, MapQuest directions to the retreat location, and compile the resulting printouts. I have volunteered for additional responsibilities for a year (it's official, I've lost my mind) and need to prepare for that transition as well. All of these things are important to me both personally and professionally, but some days the juggler gets a workout.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Posters & procrastination

While grading assignments this morning I was lamenting (on the inside) the number of students who have yet to submit a significant amount of work for a project due next Friday. As I placed, and replaced, images and text to a poster presentation this afternoon, I admit I appreciated the subtle irony of personal procrastination for a task with a self-imposed due date of Wednesday afternoon. Some things just never change.

Poster Update: I am three-quarters finished with my library blog poster presentation and have finished both poster headers (1 ft by 8 ft). I enjoy creating poster sessions, but freely admit to spending an inordinate amount of time determining color palette, graphic placement, and visual literacy elements. Poster sessions are a visual medium, but content should not be deemed a secondary character in the story being displayed. To prepare for content I developed a detailed outline from my session abstract and will be able to insert text tomorrow with some ease. Piecing together the poster I am finding the challenge is viewing the whole project (3 ft by 8 ft sans header) on screen for placement and at 25% to inspect individual pieces and parts. Which is better, the forest or the trees?

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back from vacation

Three loads of laundry bring end to the weekend bidding a sad adieu to my vacation. I did take my laptop home with me, but did not even turn it on to work on my poster session posters. While I feel a bit like Scarlet, tomorrow is not only another workday; it also includes extended hours in the resource center for students enrolled in the lab class. I did find time to read and enjoy one of my recreational book purchases.

Obsession, by Jonathan Kellerman, is the latest installment in Kellerman’s series featuring psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis. When former patient Tanya Bigelow is disturbed by her adopted mother Patty’s deathbed confession of a “terrible thing,” she contacts Dr. Delaware for professional help. Though sure the confession is nothing more than Patty’s pain-filled ramblings, Alex and vacationing detective Sturgis agree to ease Tanya’s mind and unofficially examine what may have happened. Soon the duo are involved in a complex murder investigation that spans over a decade and encompasses a myriad of socioeconomic players.

Kellerman uses his cast well, including secondary characters Rick (Milo’s partner), Robyn (Alex’s live-in love), and Alex and Robyn’s new addition, Blanche (puppy with personality). Unraveling the murder mystery provides many an interesting glimpse into the psyche of these recurring characters. For this particular installment in the series, getting to the end was more interesting than the end itself; it was not all that surprising and, depending on readers point of view, is either a well spun mystery or stretches a bit tying a neat ending bow. Fans of the Delaware novels will enjoy the read.

Tags: Jonathan Kellerman, Obsession, Recreational reading, Alex Delaware Novels, fiction, Mystery