Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Blog Day 2007

Thanks to Library Garden wishing everyone a Happy Blog Day this afternoon, I did not miss Blog Day 2007 (checking through old posts I did lament missing the 2006 exercise by two days last year). The Blog Day 2007 web site defines their endeavor as the following:

"BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest."

"On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors. With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs. " (What is Blog Day, 8/31/07)

I have to admit my Bloglines account has not been updated in more days than I care to consider; yes, I am a bit complacent concerning the number of current feeds (64). And while in theory I like the Blog Day activity of pointing out my favorites to anyone reading this blog, in practice I do not have an interest in "tagging" my favorites and attempting to piggy back on their readership. So I will do half of what is asked - I will recommend five of my current favorites, but will not actually visit the blog in question telling them I recommended them.

Reading over the previous paragraph, it makes sense to me. Of course, I may be the only person to whom it does make sense. It's a chance I am willing to take this first day of the last vacation period during the academic year until Thanksgiving (but I'm not bitter).

Here are five from my current list. Just remember, I am incredibly blog fickle:

  • Unshelved: "A comic strip about a library."
    Technically, this is part blog and part daily comic. Either way, it is good for a chuckle.
  • Running With Quills: A collaborative author blog featuring Susan Anderson, Stella Cameron, Lori Foster, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Elizabeth Guest, and often a Myster Blogger.
    "We know blogs are hot. We love the whole idea of doing blogs. We view blogs as a Great Leap Forward in the world of author-reader communication. But we won't kid you, the sad truth is that none of us has the time and energy to keep our own individual blogs going. However, in a burst of absolute desperation, we have banded together in the hope that we can inspire (read: nag and harass) each other into maintaining a group blog. We shall see how it goes. Meanwhile, offered below are some glimpses into the writing life."
  • Argh Ink: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer: Bob Mayer
    "More than you ever wanted to hear from Jenny Crusie" and "Just another WordPress weblog."
  • Blogthings
    "The Newest Quizzes From Blogthings, The Place For Cool Things to Put In Your Blog"
  • Library of Congress Blog
    "Light and liberty go together."

It's a mish-mash collection/listing of blogs, not particularly cohesive, or posted in any particular order. I should move out of my blog comfort zone and research new and exciting blogs to read. But, it's Friday and I am whiny. I survived the exhausting first full week of classes. I am packing for a trip to PA over Labor Day.

Maybe later. Happy Blogging!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Picture book ARC's

I have three picture book ARC's from the ALA conference; one has already been published, one will be published soon, and the third, according to Amazon, is not due for publication until April 2008. Where juvenile fiction novels and young adult novels in ARC format are completely ready for publication, editing and such not withstanding, the picture books are not bound. The books in question, The Lonely Moose, Nothing, and Grump Growl Groan all have loose pages within the proposed book cover.

It is intriguing to look at how the book is actually put together. When listening to illustrators speak, there is often discussion about double and/or full page spreads (apologies if the terminology is incorrect), gutter, and binding for their artwork. I have to admit, I have never given much thought as to how the pages would be assembled within the publication. I buy the book, the printer has everyting in the correct order, and I enjoy the illustrations. Looking at the loose pages in these three books has given me a different perspective regarding book layout ... especially if I had dropped any one of the books in question, losing the pages.

Next week I have a class tour scheduled in the resource center for a children's literature class. I am going to email the professor and see if he has any interest in showing the ARC's to his students. They research children's authors and illustrators and may like to see books in process, especially when I will probably be purchasing all three of the titles in question. Finding any differences might be fun.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Agnes and the Hitman

The second collaborative project by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, Agnes and the Hitman, was well worth the wait. Agnes Crandell, also known as "Cranky Agnes" seems to have it all; she purchased the house of her childhood dreams, has a successful career, and is engaged to a man who shares her passion for the culinary arts. Her plate is full with planning and catering a fabulous wedding for her god-daughter, juggling extended dysfunctional family members and the local mob, and is less than thrilled to have a series of strange men appearing in her magnificent kitchen threatening her life. Dealing with this takes a determined woman and Agnes is up to the task. Not all sweetness and light, "Cranky" Agnes has a few anger management issues; she swings a mean frying pan.

Shane, "just Shane," is a hit man for the government. Asked to look after uncle Joey's "Little Agnes" and perform his job/craft regarding a mobster attending Agnes's god-daughter Maria's wedding, Shane is not surprised to learn Joey has left a few pertinent facts out of his story. There is a small matter of missing mobsters, a contract on Agnes, and $5 million that went missing thirty years ago. Soon Shane and Agnes are caught up in mystery, mayhem, and murder, as well as enjoying inevitable sparks between them. If they can only decide what to do with those flamingos. A fast paced, enjoyable read with plenty of saucy and snarky dialogue between the main characters, Agnes and the Hitman begs to be read from start to finish, more than once.

Attesting to the appeal of Crusie and Mayer's writing, on the way to dinner this evening I mentioned to the student circulation worker I had to go back upstairs and get my book to read. She said, "is it anything good?" I told her what I was reading, she was excited and yes, a bit envious. We immediately began to talk about the Crusie books we had read (Alas, she had not yet read any of Bob's titles beyond DLD) and bonded over the clever dust jacket and cover on Agnes. Her aunt is going to one of the Crusie/Mayer book signings on their current tour and has promised to get her an autographed copy of Agnes and the Hitman for Christmas. I gave my word I would bring her my copy of The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and told her to check out Bob's book Body of Lies. Everybody loves a good book.

Check out the Crusie Mayer website for more information on Agnes and their first novel Don't Look Down.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Surviving day one

Today was a day full of questions, interviews, library web page issues and scheduling. A surprising number of students, both freshman and "the regulars," made their way into the library to say hello, inquire about job openings in the resource center, and take the time to speak with me concerning said openings.

Questions? The two most frequently asked questions today, after "are there restrooms on this floor?" and "Can I print from these computers?" were, "How do I print?" regarding any/all Microsoft Office 2007 applications - and - "Are you still hiring?" A quick look at the lovely Office Button revealed printing capability on Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher 2007. A smile, the answer "yes," and an application answered the second.

Interviews? Interestingly enough, most of the students requesting applications that came prepared to take fifteen minutes to a half hour to speak with me were freshman. Not just any freshman, but first semester freshman carrying full 18 hour credit loads. I hired two of them and am holding a spot until I arrive at work tomorrow afternoon for a third. I would like to possibly hire a total of four students since I lost one student due to her lack of work study hours. This week and next will have odd resource center hours, but soon we will fall into a boring rut and things will run smoothly.

And, the library web page. Before leaving work on Friday to attend a faculty learning community meeting (technology related), I made sure to update the library web site's hour's page and main page to reflect beginning of terms hours. Since all of our updated pages live on a staging server for two hours before going "live," everything should have been working before the end of Friday's work day. First thing this morning I found out they were live on the staging server, but not on the actual server. Luckily the university web master is indeed a web master; she was able to fix the problem before lunch.

For the first time since I have worked at the library, I do not have a student on staff to cover my lunch hour. Very bizarre. Out of the eight current students, every one of them has class at 1:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (really, I have copies of the schedules). I was able to get temporary help while interviewing and hiring. The wonderful person covering for this week is not all that thrilled, but was very appreciated none the less. On the plus side, one of the two new hires today will be able to fulfill the lunch hour shift and all I have to do is a bit of creative hiring and scheduling.

Not so bad for day one. :-)

Tomorrow is my first of two rotating evening shifts. I will have to be sure and tape Eureka and check online for Good Morning America; tomorrow they are announcing new teams for Dancing with the Stars!

Update: 8/28/07
Alas, I was wrong about the GMA announcement for Dancing being on Tuesday(today). Seems that will take place tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back to school shopping

My reward for finishing the GradeQuick tutorial, soon to be Edline since the university has purchased rights to the online version, and posting it successfully to WebCT from home (yes, the dreaded dial-up handled my 10 page pdf full of images!) is a short trip to the nearby outlet for back to school clothes. I feel like a whiny child, though maybe cranky is more appropriate, but really want something new to wear tomorrow on the first day of school.

The resource center schedule is complete and I am expecting several email messages from student workers discussing their hours and weekend responsibility. I plan to interview and hire as many as three new workers for the coming year, hopefully as soon as this week but it may be understandably delayed until after Labor Day. As far as the adjunct faculty responsibilities for my WebCT course are concerned, everything is finished. A short meeting with both GA's tomorrow will tie that whole package with a bright red bow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"You Never Take Me Dancing"

It's Friday and the countdown to a new semester has finished. Monday is the first day of the 2007-2008 school year and I still have one more handout to complete for my WebCT course. This evening I downloaded a thirty-day demo of GradeQuick software, successful even with my dial-up connection, and was able to complete the accompanying handout for using our licensed version.

It's Friday and so very hot here (95 degrees thank-you-very-much) I no longer wonder why I moved back north from South Carolina all those years ago. It is so hot I can't concentrate on writing anything resembling a content driven post. My attention span is so tiny I watched portions of CMT's Trick My Truck, they did an ice cream truck, and TLC's What Not to Wear. Shopping and ice cream, win-win.

It's Friday and on my way back from a technology workshop this afternoon I stopped at retail's evil empire and treated myself to a book and new music; Suzanne Brockmann's newest, Force of Nature and Travis Tritt's CD, The Storm, featuring "You Never Take Me Dancing." I'm listening to it as I write this post, what a very fine CD for a steamy evening. He's been making good music for so long it is easy to take his talent for granted. The man can sing.

Lastly, it's Friday and I am really excited about the workshop/faculty learning community I attended this afternoon. We are going to meet and explore different technologies and how they may be used in the classroom and/or library to benefit students. This is a great opportunity for me to not only increase my technological "savvy," but also a wonderful networking opportunity being part of a campus wide faculty community.

"You give me all that I want of your money, baby
But you never take me dancing ..."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And I didn't buy a gift

According to Blogger Buzz, today is Blogger's eighth birthday. I don't think I ever paid attention to how old the blogging software giant might be; however I do know that this is the second blog I created. The first blog I created was for the resource center on June 10, 2005. Five hundred and seventy eight (578)posts and two years later, it is still serving the same purpose and has replaced the "what's new" page on the resource center web site.

"Beginning with the fall 2005 academic school year, this blog will replace the yearly book lists published on the IRC web page. Items, both circulating and reference, will be entered as they are cataloged and available for use. Each entry will have an accompanying heading, specific to the genre. Please note that anyone with a specific book request will continued to be personally notified via email when the books arrive." (June 10, 2005)

That same month, I created a second blog to be used as a project for an educational technology class. Students posted article resonses on the class blog and were responsible for creating their own course reflection blogs during the term. Unfortunately this blog is essentially an abandoned blog. I really should delete it from my dashboard, but I can not quite bring myself to justify it's permanent demise since much of the information posted before and after the course is still relevant in some way.

I started this blog in April of 2006 with a blithley nonsensicle post about spring and driving my car too fast (so, some things do not change all that much). I struggled with it quite a bit until attending the ALA conference in New Orleans. The more I blogged, the easier the process became. Especially after determining a purpose.

In honor of Blogger's eighth birthday I went to the History Channel and checked out what was happening this day in history in 1999: This Day in History 1999: New York Reports first cases of West Nile Virus. Well, it isn't exactly the type of news I was hoping for ...
It did take eight tries for this post to publish.

I am a Roller Coaster!

Oddly in concert with the vicious ups and downs of my week, that has to date included graduate assistant intervivews, faculty meetings and luncheons, library meetings, a plethora of RA's creating bulleting boards, and the ever popular library semester hours update for the web page, was today's Blogthings quiz topic: What Kind of Carnival Ride Are You? On may way to another meeting this morning, I decided to share ...

You Are a Roller Coaster

You live for excitement, adventure, and the most intense of thrills. Nothing is better than feeling you're truly alive, and you're willing to take risks to feel this way. In relationships, people often feel a bit nervous about what they're getting into...

But generally, everyone enjoys the wild ride you take them on. Unless they stay with you too long - then they're apt to feel a bit nauseous!

Your life has more low points and high points than most people's lives. But that's okay - you love them. You figure that a smooth ride is boring! Besides, you know that super high highs only come from knowing super low lows.
You cherish every emotion you feel and feel it fully. Why deny what life is truly about?

At your best, you are loving life and sharing your wild times with everyone you know.

You are able to open your friends up to a whole new world of experiences.

At your worst, you feel extremely disoriented and even a bit dizzy.

There's only so much intensity a human (even you!) can take.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mock Caldecott, part two

This afternoon I had opportunity to finish out my Mock Caldecott choices; one whole week (give or take) before the planned session. In addition to the previously selected titles posted in Mock Caldecott ... early choices, here is a quick look at the remainder of the list, book and illustrator:

Two of these titles caught my interest. The first, Catching the Moon, is a charming tale of a Fisherwoman who is trying to stop high tide from completely eroding neighborhood shacks and piers. She and her mouse have concocted an ingenious plan to catch the Man in the Moon; "With my trusty mouse and his nose for cheese, I'm sure to hook the Man in the Moon. And once I do, I won't throw him back until he's agreed to keep high tide away!" The Fisherwoman catches the attention of the Moon, a mysterious monthly guest in her shack, who resolves her problem with an ingenious gift of moonbeam paint. Sheban's art work, bold watercolor paints and Prismacolor pencils, is suitably framed and placed along side the text of the book. Use of light, in the form of Moonbeams, is a purveying theme. From the grimacing mouse struggling to pull in a teakettle from the sea, to the thoughtful Moon in his many disguises, each illustration is delightfully complete.

Stick, according to the cover, is the debut picture book of "Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Breen." In this nearly wordless picture book, Breen chronicles the adventures of a young frog named Stick who likes to do things "all by himself." One day his overzealous lunch selection, a large mosquito, results in a wild ride through towns and cities, by car and by plane, and even by seagull, before finding his way back home. From ground level to a birds-eye view, the graphic illustrations cleverly portray Stick's journey. Breen's watercolor artwork is presented in comic book format, as well as full double-paged spreads that move the story along at a fast pace. Readers will be pleased at the end papers rendering of Stick's entire journey in map format.

The Mock Caldecott session is tentatively scheduled for September. Time will tell what title is the favored by the students this year.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

A week from today

It is almost unfathomable, classes start one week from today.

The first day back from vacation, whether conferences or actual time away from work, is almost always a day playing catch-up. Though my desk did not completely look like the one pictured, the virtual messages took up most of the morning. I had over 300 email in my inbox, and that was even after checking it three times while on vacation (looking for GA applications) and purging unnecessary items; two different mail bins full of catalogs and inter-campus communication; a small pile of curriculum items to shelve; and oddly enough, only half a dozen phone messages. Add in to that charming conglomerate of fun assisting an I.T. technician with resource center technology inventory (not a big deal and worth the time and effort - especially after she updated ALL of my computers), a small, persistent group of RA's creating their bulletin boards for the upcoming term (the first of which greeted me with,"Word on the street was you were on vacation last week"), and a smattering of patrons wishing to laminate. I was not all that sorry to see lunch time arrive.

The beginning of each year features an all-campus meeting. We get a chance to meet new faculty and staff, learn about retirements and promotions, and have a short "state of the academy" presentation. The meeting was directly after lunch today. A great resource for me, I get a chance to compile a list of new education faculty to contact, I was pleased it was as brief as it was informational.

Today was also school supply Christmas. All the cool supplies I ordered before leaving on vacation (spending spree) arrived. I spent a nice chunk of my afternoon putting away such mundane items as tape, staples, paper clips, post-it notes, pens, and glue - as well as fun things like new colors of poster board and a cross-cut paper shredder that works! Finding room for everything, especially laminating rolls, is always a challenge. But right now everything is full, labeled, and in it's proper place. It looks sooooo pretty.

It was well after four this afternoon before I realized one type of correspondence/communication I had not checked was my Bloglines account. I am used to seeing a large chunk of email and have to admit to being a bit surprised at over 253 new blog posts compiled. Alas, I did handle them in a similar fashion to my email by browsing, saving, and deleting.

Most of my WebCT course handouts have been updated, recreated, deleted, and/or posted as needed. I learned today a piece of software featured on an assignment has been replaced. Joy. I will have to investigate tomorrow and pray for patience if I must begin again. With luck, my Web Advisor account has been updated and my undergrad students separated from my grad students (it helps when grading). And, I may have a GA interview soon. Yeah!

Things are falling into place!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blog Holiday, last of the summer

A sure sign that the start of a new academic school year is pending; my final week of summer vacation begins tomorrow. I will be taking a blog holiday and visiting friends and family in Pennsylvania next week. Gossip, dinners, and birthday parties are high on the proverbial "to do" list. There has also been whispering about outlet mall shopping. I will get to see a pre-season Steeler football game (or two) and even watch and complain about a Pirate's baseball game. I know for sure the week will end with a six year old's birthday party complete with games, presents, and birthday cake. The pint sized fashion diva is getting clothes from me, she will be thrilled.

Two weeks from Monday, August 27th, is the first day of classes for the Fall 2007 semester. While a part of me is thrilled, new students always add an extra pop to the day, this year another part of me is just not ready. I would like another week to tie up all the loose ends; finish adjusting the juvenile shelves, create quick handouts for using MS Office 2007, shelf read the curriculum and materials kits collection, and maybe move into the office I have been promised. But it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement generated by students happy to be back. I have already had three students email me about their work schedules!

A chance encounter this afternoon revealed all of the computers on my floor of the library, actually all but the three lonely Dells, have been "upgraded" to MS Office 2007. I was blissfully unaware of the transformation until a student came stumbling into the resource center needing help putting page numbers on her Word document. In her words, "It's not there anymore!" A quick glance at the computer screen revealed Word 2007. Sitting across the aisle from her was a student who had been on the main floor earlier in the day. He was unhappy with the upgrade and wanted to finish his work on Word 2003 using an as-yet-to-be-upgraded Dell (I didn't have the heart to tell him they would be changed next week).

I returned the last of my un-cataloged book stash to technical services, left a lovely file folder of orders for the acquisitions librarian, turned in my vacation form, and gleefully headed out the door at 5:00 pm. I did grab my laptop, after all I have an article submission deadline of September 5th, but chances of me actually taking the laptop out of the case are pretty slim.

Happy blogging, I'll be back next week.

Beauty Shop for Rent ... Fully Equipped, Inquire Within

Ever since being abandoned on Granny Po’s doorstep with her mother’s infamous words “It’s not forever” ringing in her ears, Abbey Garner has lived and worked with her great-grandmother in her beauty shop, Polly’s Parlor. Almost fifteen, Abbey works hard, has a supportive non-traditional family with Granny Po and the “Gray Widows,” and is well on the way to accomplishing her goal of being a millionaire before she’s thirty-five. Torn between loving her mother and desperately wanting to live her life beyond her mother’s legacy of mistakes, Abbey lives carefully on the fringes with a few good friends, but systematically deprives herself of any possible relationship with a boyfriend, especially with her friend Mitch. Simple and complicated, Abbey is reluctant to take the chance of living life. The arrival of Gena, a friendly young woman with ambitious entrepreneurial plans for turning Polly’s Parlor into a day spa, sets in motion a series of changes in Abbey’s life that include opportunity and choice. Fighting to stay true to herself, Abbey must deal with the tumultuous upheaval caused by her mother’s return and the devastating family secrets she reveals.

With Beauty Shop for Rent, Laura Bowers has painted a rich picture of family relationships. Beautifully writen with a teenager's clear voice, this story will resonate with readers who are struggling with the hurdles of high school, parents, and the changes maturity and independence bring to their lives. Straying from "typical" happily ever after, Abbey's ultimate acceptance of her mother's failings is a much more satisfying and realistic conclusion. Full of beauty shop gossip and everyday life, this is an enjoyable read. Sit down and spend some time at Polly's Parlor, you won't be sorry.

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Stormy weather

A quarter past four yesterday afternoon my work day culminated with time spent in the library basement due to a tornado warning. Sirens blared, campus security arrived, and everyone traipsed toward the relative safety of windowless side of the basement. In retrospect, grabbing my computer and taking time to straighten and lock the resource center was not the smartest thing to do with a tornado spotted north of town. We were lucky enough to emerge unscathed, but areas of northeast Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania did not fare as well with reports of wind damage and flooding.

Thunderstorm warnings were prominent most of last evening and I never turned on the computer, hence a lack of post for Thursday. I did finish reading Beauty Shop for Rent, by Laura Bowers (see her blog, Writing Without the Reins @ livejournal) and hope to have time to quickly post it after lunch today.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Happened

Author Peter Johnson effectively uses an unnamed narrator to tell the haunting story of a teenager's struggle with family, sanity, and doing the right thing in his first young adult novel, What Happened. Four teenage boys leave a house party; the driver and shotgun passenger are high and inebriated, and the backseat passengers, the narrator and his brother, have been drinking . Reckless driving, a blinding snow storm, and slick roads cause the driver, Duane, to hit a man crossing the street. A split second decision has Kyle and his brother attend to the victim while Duane and his friend drive off. After an anonymous call to the police, the boys leave the scene for home. When the man dies from his injuries, decisions must be made regarding telling the truth, or what truth should be. A simple enough premise, but Johnson weaves elements of each individual character into the narrators story, effortlessly building his own "great chain of being." Via the narrator, readers become engaged in the character's complicated lives rifled by both good and bad decisions. As things unravel in a dangerously climactic scene, the ultimate resouding truth each character faces is belief and trust in self.

This was an intriguing novel. At first, I was a bit bereft not knowing the narrator's name, age, or what condition he had that required medication. I could surmise he was a teenager, younger than his brother, and possibly suffering from depression. As the novel progressed, the narrator's prose moved swiftly between past and present; his quirky conversational jumps a compelling contrast unfolding drama. Teenagers will be drawn to this novel, instinctivly understanding that sometimes there is no easy answer.

Still adapting to 07

I have had MS Office 2007 for two days and have found things I like within the new application - and several things that are annoying. All in all I am adapting slowly to Word 2007 and Excel 2007 (used for the previously mentioned spending spree) and am soon to explore PowerPoint 2007, creating course handouts. Here is my list so far:

  • Office Button: Only slightly annoying, this icon provides quick access to what may be arguably the most used fuctions within the applications. Click on the action desired to prceed quickly, or use mouse roll-over to see more options available with the action. I'm finding this to be most useful when needing to save documents that will be compatible with 1997-2003 MS Office applications.

  • Menu Ribbon: Slighly more annoying, this ribbon takes the place of the file menu and smaller icons in MS Office 1997-2003 applications. On the plus side is is visually appealing, the icons are large, and the menu options clearly stated. On the minus side, everything has been rearranged just enough to make it cumbersome finding things I know should be there.

  • Office Button, part 2: A really nice option is the ability to email myself Word and PowerPoint documents in PDF without having Adobe Professional software. You need to have a default email software on your desktop, I was unable to use anything but the campus email, but it worked great. It also appears that attaching these documents in their true application form will be easier as well (no more hunting for a single document, send it directly). I'm a happy girl.

  • Default font: Somewhat annoying is the newly featured default font. No longer Times New Roman, Calibri (11) automatically displays and, generally speaking, it is a nice clean option.

  • Paragraph Spacing and Enter: Very, very, very annoying is the default paragraph spacing of 1.5 in place of 1.0; but it is nothing compared to the web editor like options greeting users when they hit enter. In web editor terms, enter is page instead of break. In Word processing terms, hitting enter is an automatic double space. Right now I am content to use shift+enter to get the desired single break. At a later time I will be seriously disappointed if there is not a way to circumvent this default line break.

Everything is still there and new functions have definite potential. Right now I am under a deadline and just annoyed at things not being where they "should" be located.

Joy, joy, joy, my wireless access issue has now been resolved. The I.T. technician just left and it seems a firewall was blocking my ability to connect via the wireless nework. I am happy to report the signal strength is adequate; at least it is while I am connected to the docking port.

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Spending spree

A new academic year generally means new fiscal spending opportunities; office and lab supplies as well as collection development. I am taking a short blogging break from my self appointed task for this week, preparing the resource center for back to school. I have ordered paper, toner (color and regular), printer parts, laminating film, office supplies, and the requisite ephemeral school supplies of poster board, glue, crayons, and markers. Beyond the basics, there is need for a new shredder (account numer safety) and a step stool for the juvenile collection because raising shelves necessitates a safe way for height challenged students to reach their selections. Knowing what to buy is often only the first step and is closely followed by finding the right vendor.

On the fun side, I was able to place an order for a few Ellision dies! Almost completely out of room, I have took inventory and located eleven open storage slots. So in addition to various cutting pad replacements, I have three different types of machines, I selected several music themed dies (music department), flowers and a flower pot, math related dies, and a pilgrim hat. Purchasing new Ellison dies is always money well spent, not a week goes by that someone does not use the machines. During the year it is a daily activity!

Shopping the ALA vendor exhibits, The Stacks, in Washington DC netted me a great catalog resource, MerryMakers. While it has mostly dolls (I would rather puppets), I was thrilled to locate a Chester the Raccoon Doll to accompany Audrey Penn's The Kissing Hand. One of the children's literature professor uses this story at the beginning of each term. She's been making due with a groundhog puppet (don't ask) and though Chester is a doll and not a puppet, he is a raccoon.

Tomorrow I will be perusing different vendors for activity books; Mailbox, Carson Dellosa, and Teacher Created Resources are favorites even if I dislike their shipping policy (charging for multiple ships instead of shipping all at once is not cost efficient or consumer friendly).

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Billie Standish was Here

In Nancy Crocker's novel, Billie Standish Was Here, William Marie Standish, better known as Billie, is the only daughter of struggling farmers in rural Cumberland. It is the summer of 1968 and at age eleven, though not physically abused, Billie has suffered from continuous emotional neglect and learned being invisible has its benefits. Left mostly to her own devices, she chances to meet elderly neighbor Lydia Jenkins one afternoon while picking up the mail. An unlikely friendship forms during a town emergency and strengthens, as friendships do, with shared experience after Miss Lydia’s son brutally attacks Billie. Lydia becomes Billie’s protector, confidant, and family as they struggle to cope with the initial aftermath and consequences of rape including disease and pregnancy.

Years pass as Billie and Lydia’s relationship progresses to a time in life when the child becomes caregiver to her elder. The ending is heavily foreshadowed, but the impact of Billie’s strength during final moments of love between friends is not lessened. This novel examines important social issues of the 1960’s including Vietnam, women’s rights, and education, and charges the characters to search personal beliefs learning that more often than not, right and wrong are shaded with gray.

Crocker’s portrayal of Billie’s parents and their disinterest in her as anything but an afterthought was wonderfully done; the reader could feel sympathy for all. The rape scene and Lydia’s response were vividly realistic and definitely within the scope of reason, though they may be difficult for younger readers to digest. I was a bit disappointed in the quick passage of time at the books end, but understood the need for a mature conclusion. This first novel is a strong entry into the field of young adult literature. Crocker's has a previously published children's book Betty Lou Blue.

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Chatting about live tech service

Now that I have brand new Office 2007 software on my computer, it was time find out why my computers wireless connection mysteriously disappeared last week. There was a campus power outage over a weekend and viola, no wireless on my computer the following Monday. I tried the repair option and my computer told me, figuaratively speaking, that it could not locate my IP address.

A quick help ticket this morning resulted in a phone call and subsequent conversational chatter with the IT technician (aka "snotty" help desk specialist -must get the term correct) who is freaking because he thinks I am transcribing our conversation onto this blog. I'm not ... not really. It just sounds like it because he can hear the typing as we talk and paranoia is abound. After watching him trouble-shoot from I.T. - kind of like the chat reference option when it worked - and a bit of showing off because he could open my CD drive from there, the technician from yesterday left the office CD in the drive, it was determined more action is needed.

My computer is free. Back to work.

Monday, August 06, 2007

And another thing

Later that same day ...

Now I am beginning to wonder about Microsoft Publisher. Why? It is a current MS Office 2003 product on my lovely laptop and chances are it may also return "updated" and invigorated with the rest of the 2007 software. Looking at the big picture forest, this is a good thing. As part of the annoying things to be updated trees, I am now envisioning updating another portion of the WebCT course as well as a few possible issues with a new library lobby sign I just created in Publisher 2003. If it is upgraded, I am lucky some of the resource center computers have not been updated because I will need to open a 2003 document for editing in the next few days (that's what happens with a committee for signage).

As to Publisher, I do not use it as a main processing tool for library brochures and/or handouts. Sure the templates are quick, easy, and often visually appealing; but I have my own ideas in mind when creating library documents. I do use it when needing large signs, size appears to be limitless when you create your own beyond their planned templates. I used Publisher to create posters for the resource center (24 x 36), to make posters for my sessions at ALA (96 x 36), and have had some luck using them for quick, smaller projects (those course directions).

I will know for sure tomorrow. On the plus side, I am getting more practice adding pages to WebCT!

The joy of software upgrades

Information Technology is currently in the process of upgrading computers from MS Office 2003 to MS Office 2007. Some of the library has the upgrade, but my floor and the resource center have not yet been blessed. I decided to bide my time and wait before requesting the upgrade for my work computer, it is not that big an issue for me. Well, it wasn't until an email arrived stating all of the rest of the library had the upgrade. That means we will be inundated with questions beginning August 27th and I need to know what I'm doing.

The course I teach as adjunct for the college of education is in WebCT and uses Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher in different assignments, so instructions for 2003 and 2007 need to be prepared asap. I emailed a help request on Friday afternoon and a lovely technician arrived after lunch today to install my upgrade. Alas, my computer was being it's usual hateful self and she was a bit dismayed with the time it was taking to load (welcome to my world). I told her to go ahead and take it back to I.T. with her with the understanding I needed it back tomorrow. While I am now computer-less, except for resource center PCs, it is worth the inconvenience to be able to use 2007 on my own laptop tomorrow. With luck, they will be able to figure out why my laptop refuses to connect to the wireless network ...

I finished the Word 2007 instructions on Thursday last week and noticed that while it does a lot of the same things, 07 is a very graphic based interface. Oddly enough, it really resembles previous Mac versions. The biggest issue is saving. Students are going to do what they always do (and rightly so) and just "save." However, the new version saves to a different file extension and it is not compatible with older versions of Word. Joy.

If they take time and use the save as option in word that says "Word 97 - 2003 document" all will be well. I do not forsee that happening. I do see the same issues we had a few years ago with Microsoft Works (.wks) and Microsoft Word (.doc). I am starting early with announcements and handouts, but forsee fun for six weeks or so. Time will tell.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

One Beastly Beast

Well known for his Keys to the Kingdom series and other fantasy novels, One Beastly Beast, by Garth Nix, is a collection of four short stories. As advertised in the subtitle, Two Aliens, Three Inventors, Four Fantastic Tales, Nix entices readers with a rapscallion band pirates, a princess, an inventor, and a vegetarian sea serpent; interspersed with aliens, monsters, and elements of magic.

In Blackbread the Pirate, Pete’s innocuous trip to the video store becomes a supernatural adventure when his overdue DVDs are hijacked by a cutthroat band of pirate rats. Reluctant to explain how the booty was lost, Pete agrees to be transformed to a rat-sized boy. He joins the navy fighting Blackbread, becomes their champion righting evil wrongs, and returns home in the nick of time.

The second tale, Princess and the Beastly Beast, features Princess Chlorinda, the daughter of a wizard King and warrior Queen. Prone to exaggeration, her pet pig is the beastly beast in question, Princess Chlorinda yearns for grand adventure. Her wish is granted not by trolls or werewolves living in the kingdom, but by a clockwork monster that swallows her whole!

All in one piece, but found in a banana peel and living in a home for lost children is Bill the Inventor. Mrs. O'Squealin tries to find the right parents for each child, but Bill is proving to be difficult. He does not want to join a band of pirates or be turned into an alien and taken to another planet. He does not want to be adopted by a wizard King and Queen, unable to spend time on his inventions. With luck, a final interesting human family will fit just right.

Being right is not a problem in the last story, Serena and the Sea Serpent. One of sixteen girls in a family, Serena is the smartest person in her town. Always right, her propensity to be a bit of a know-it-all grates on the townspeople's nerves. When a sea serpent begins terrorizing their town and Serena offers to talk to the serpent, it seems to be a blessing in disguise for those tired of her meddlesome ways. Serena's solution to the problem provides her with a unique vacation opportunity and ultimately solves a serpents hunger pangs.

Quirky pen and ink drawings by illustrator Brian Biggs add just the right touch providing strong visual elements to each character’s personality and enhancing individual stories. Definitely a title for younger readers, this is an ideal title for fans of fantasy and chapter books.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bravo Zulu, Samantha!

In Bravo Zulu, Samantha byKathleen Benner Duble twelve-year-old Samantha’s summer vacation is off to a bumpy start; she is spending a month visiting her grandparents while her parents are out of town. Not only is she forced to spend time with her grandfather, a cantankerous newly retired Air Force Colonel, but also strangely befriended by her next-door neighbor and nemesis Billy. After several days observing his mysterious and furtive behavior, Sam concludes he is hiding something. Determined to uncover his secret, Sam and Billy follow the Colonel and learn he is building an experimental aircraft to enter in an aeronautical competition. Convinced to let them help, a simple matter of blackmail and threatening to tell of the project, Sam, Billy, and the Colonel band together forming an odd, ragtag team completely devoted to their goal. Sam's quirky love of facts and her grandfather's gruff manner oddly mirror and compliment each other throughout the novel as they reach common ground. Throughout the book Sam's voice and attitude are wonderfully reflective of a pre-teen girl dealing with authority figures and her first "boyfriend." While the end is somewhat manufactured, Sam and Billy work together to save the day, a few deft twists keep it from being trite. This is a nice summer read.

An author's note details information about the Experimental Aircraft Convention and resources for facts spurted by Sam and the Colonel throughout the book are provided. Bravo Zulu, aka "well done," to Duble's interest in flying and her avoidance of the stereotypical boys and airplanes connection; it was nice to see the main character with an interest in aviation be a girl.

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Weeding pains, growing pains

Weeding hurts, even if it is virtual weeding. After adding Rat Life to my LibraryThing account and inserting the corresponding blog review URL, I noticed several titles missing their reviews. I reasoned in my zest to fully utilize the cool LibraryThing sidebar widget I entered every book I read, as opposed books read and discussed on the blog.

Alas, I remain widget weak.

With that in mind, I used my nifty blog search widget (blogger in draft) to match my juvenile book collection and deleted all review-less titles. It was sad watching them go, but as with actual weeding the end result benefits the collection. Now all of the books in my LibraryThing juvenile collection link back to this blog - and - there is room for new titles to be added. If only my current library project were solved as quickly and painlessly as this one.

I am now almost half-way finished with adjusting the shelving on the 50 section juvenile collection. When I am done, I will have touched every book in the juvenile collection at least twice in the last eight months.

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Harry Potter: Sales & Censors

Publisher's Weekly is reporting sales figures for Harry Potter:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 1.7 million copies in its first full week on sale through outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. The additional sales, for the week ending July 29, brought total sales through BookScan retailers to 6.9 million." (Publishers Weekly, 8/2/07)

And with what could be termed both an unfortunate and natural progression of the books popularity, ALA's I Love Libraries site has a well timed article on censorship and Harry Potter. In Harry Potter and the Censor's Flames, Judith Krug, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, discusses the downside of Harry Potter sales and the continuous challenges school and public libraries face. She also makes an interesting point about this process:

"I believe, in fact, that what some parents and adults find most threatening about the Potter series is what engages young minds and fires the imagination of young people- Rowling's willingness to deal with the truth that adults in children's lives can sometimes be unthinking, authoritarian, and even evil. The best books always have raised questions about the status quo - and are the most threatening to censors who want to control what young persons read and think about. Like the tyrannical Defense Against Dark Arts Professor Dolores Umbridge, who insisted on providing a "risk-free" education to the young wizards at Hogwarts, they would limit education and information to facts so incontestable that they arouse no controversy at any level, thereby leaving young people unequipped to think about and address larger questions about the nature of our society." (Krug, ALA, OIF, 8/2/07)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rat Life

In Tedd Arnold's first young adult novel Rat Life, it is end of the school year; almost summer in 1972 and fourteen year old Todd is balancing homework with chores at his family's motel. An avid writer, Todd amuses his friends and classmates making up stories and writing about every day life. One afternoon Todd meets Rat, a young Vietnam Vet, and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Working with Rat at the local drive-in movie theater, Todd meets an array of characters including Rat's mother, the owner, and several of Rat's 'unks.' When daily gossip turns to Todd's preoccupation with a local murder, things begin to quietly unravel as circumstances lead to the possibility that Rat may be involved. Issues and prevailing attitudes of the country towards Vietnam War vets, as well as 1970's pop cultural and musical motifs, are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of this coming of age novel that does not shy away from difficult issues of war and survival. "I know now that some things people do are impossible to understand unless you've lived their lives" (Rat Life, p. 199).

Rat Life is the second book I have read in the past few weeks set during the Vietnam War era (The Wednesday Wars). Both books tackle the country's unrest during that time, but Rat Life deals more realistically with the attitudes of people towards veterans. Rat's depiction of his home life, filled with physical and emotional cruelty, is related in a non-nonsense manner that is almost casual. However, it provides insight to his abuse; further expanded upon when readers learn Rat's mother enrolled him in the army at age fourteen with forged enlistment papers (Arnold provides an interesting historical footnote to this at the books conclusion). Though the classical dead body mystery is eventually solved during an emotionally charged town flood (mirroring an event in the history of Elmira, NY), it takes second place to Todd's maturation and acceptance of Rat and the choices he made to survive.

This book is the first of several I will be able to pluck off the cart at my leisure without disturbing anyone in technical services. The acquisitions librarian, cataloging librarian, and technical services assistant, all responsible in some major way for preparing books for the shelves, are on vacation for the remainder of this week and part of next. Additionally, I will be able to tag several picture books with hopes of adding them to my Mock Caldecott shelf for late August/early September.

In the famous words of Col. Jack O'Neill, "It's good to be King."

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More feedburner

From the files labeled "I knew it was too good to be true," comes a post from the Known Issues for the New Blogger blog:

"The new “Post Feed Redirect” will occasionally stop redirecting clients when it is set to a FeedBurner feed. The workaround for now is to add an “?alt=atom” parameter to the feed URL in your FeedBurner settings." (Known Issues, 7/31/07)

I went back through all of my blogs, added this fix to each site feed, and now will wonder about another shift in the subscriber statistics displayed.
Updated: 12:45 pm
Taking a short break from shelf-shifting I worked a bit with the feedburner headline animator. The case of the magical missing post clip art, it's here - it's gone, is because I wanted to try my own background on the headliner; it didn't like the photo I loaded. I deleted the clip art and decided the headline animator was not necessary here. Play to work.