Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Talking about Mysteries

I attended my first ever book discussion group this morning. We had a small but very lively group. We agreed to read a variety of mystery subgenres, and that we would rotate into the mystery mix novels of suspense as well.

We wanted to be able to read older classic titles and authors as well as newer titles and authors. The older authors can be a problem just because often it is difficult to find multiple copies of them for a whole group to read.

In cases like these we will read any book we can find by that author for the discussion, and we will discuss their work more generally and look for common themes and perhaps methods of presenting and solving crimes.

I've agreed to do the author background, discussions and read-alikes.

This will be alot of fun, and I'm glad I chose mysteries as my first experience with book groups.

These are our first selections:


Daughter of Time/Josephine Tey


Murder in the Vicarage/Agatha Christie (Note the group is meeting Tuesday March 17th instead of Tuesday March 10th this month.)


Any book by A. A. Fair


The Devil's Teardrop/Jeffrey Deaver


Woman in White/Wilkie Collins

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mr. D.O.A. Wayfarer Part II

"Oh no (Mr. D.O.A.), there is no seafood on this table. Lake crab yes, but certainly no seafood. (Hidden in the dumpling that looks like Christmas ornament.) The chow mein looks more normal than it did in person."

The elegant dumplings in the chafing dish are filled with Lake Crab which is not seen as seafood or fish.

Taken with the very handy iPhone on the streets of Shanghai or Hangzhou, Zhejiang (he'll correct me).

Here we have Mr. D.O.A. posing in a "KTV" room. Wildly popular, this is a personal karaoke room for you and your friends. All of the songs were in Chinese, so Mr. D.O.A. shyly said no he couldn't possibly sing along.

Wonder of wonders! They had beer and Led Zeppelin up their sleeves! Here he is, a virtual Robert Plant, singing "Stairway to Heaven". That deep old golden voice of his must have been mesmerizing.

I have no pictures of the ultra relaxing cigar smoking session that apparently left him a bit green and...well you know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Real Librarians Read to Their Dogs

I haven't bought a board book in a very long time that wasn't a gift for a new niece or nephew. I love board books for their bright colors, sturdy covers and simple, joyously presented concepts.

Passing through Target one afternoon Snuggle Puppy! A Love song by Sandra Boynton caught my eye. I have a particular love of holiday themed books, but this was the only one in the "Valentines" display that I liked enough to purchase.

Since my son is still home on break, I began a dramatic reading of my new treasure, making sure to draw out the ooooooooo's. He thought the story was cute, but my beagle loved it. There he was, in the kitchen doorway absolutely rapt, especially on the ooooooo's.

As a test to see if he really did like the book, I read it to him again the other night. You'd think I was finally talking his language, he was so taken by the reading.

If you have a child, even over toddler age, they'd love this book because it is sweet and reaffirming of your love in the tradition of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Mama Do You Love Me by Barbara M. Joosse.

Let your dog listen in too, though he'll love Snuggle Puppy best.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Things Than You Can Shake a Stick At

The ever exciting 23 Things on a Stick begins again soon, having morphed into the More Things on a Stick Wiki

In preparation for that I am adding a link to their wiki on the right and also I will add in many links to the 2.0-ish sites such as Twitter, del.icio-ous, and Meebo.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chat Reference

Spending several hours online in chat mode last night made me think of Chat Reference services and how they are and are not an effective way to communicate. I hear many times librarians say in frustration why don't they just call us! We're open! Talk to me! As it turns out, I think that Chat can actually be a more effective tool than speaking directly or on the phone at times.

1. Chat Reference/Assistance forces both parties to keep the conversation focused.

You are asking and answering only the essential questions and providing the essential information. In person and on the phone you or the customer may easily veer off topic completely. While this is a very warm, human social aspect of talking with people, as staffing levels drop and demands on staff at any given time climb, often you need to offer the assistance and move on to help the next person.

2. Chat Reference erases physical and spoken barriers to communication.

I noticed this when talking to Norton. Communication was fine until one point where it was necessary to speak by phone. The consultant's accent, and I'm sure my accent for him, suddenly made communication more difficult.

Our library serves folks from many countries, and with many new English speakers this can be a challenge simply because of accent in many cases. If you are simply reading text that is erased and you are able to speak and respond much more easily.

Having been an Outreach Librarian long ago to a very active Deaf Community, I am always aware that communication for those folk is so much simpler with the ability to type questions and answers.

3. As I'm sure we all appreciate going into this uncertain new year, voice chat is also very economical. You could not speak to someone far away without high cost if it were not for these voice chat abilities.

4. It is easy to provide web site links quickly for your customer to direct them to additional help. This can be very useful especially when assisting poor typists or new computer users.

5. There is a record of the conversation log so that it is easy to see what work has already been done on a question, what referrals were made, etc. so that further work can be done by the original librarian or another person taking over the question.

On the Downside:

1. Poor typists may have trouble expressing themselves.

2. It is difficult to have the give and take often necessary in a reference interview.

3. Both parties might get frustrated if they are not able to express themselves clearly and quickly.

4. The Human element of hearing someone's voice and reassuring tone is gone. Also, you are not able to hear soon enough perhaps when the customer is getting frustrated with the conversation.

5. If the person answering voice chat is on a reference desk, they are fielding questions in person, on the phone and also by the voice chat. There is an immediacy to using the voice chat that makes the customer expect they are the only person being assisted or in line for assistance that can lead to frustration on all sides.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Your Issue is Being Escalated...

Its an ugly world of viruses out there. Even uglier is the issue of having problems resolved, apparently.

So I had your basic virus attack. I have Norton 2009. The Viruses apparently disabled a portion of Norton...so I use the chat feature to ask for assistance. two and a half hours later, after talking to two people and waiting for resolution, I go back to their web site and get in a 22 person queue to say I've been waiting an hour and a half for someone who would help me in 20 minutes.

Here is the text of that wait:

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

( ) has entered room.

( )(Mon Jan 5 19:38:56 CST 2009)>You are being transferred to ( ).

( ) has been temporarily disconnected. Please wait while the analyst attempts to reconnect.

Analyst has left the room. Your issue is being escalated to another analyst.

I bet they think the term "escalated" means something different than it actually means, because it has been all downhill so far. I have the original window up waiting for Prince Charming the Anti-Viralist up (no activity since "Please wait while I connect you to a Consultant. This would normally take around 20 to 37 minutes.")

Wait.. I have a bite.... Lord got two all of a sudden.

Back soon.

11:00 p.m. They're still working on it. Turns out to be the thorny sort of problem a tech person hates to sink their teeth into. Blue screen...nothing happening...hourglass...hourglass...hourglass...hourglass...

Stay Tuned...

Almost Midnight. Back in service. Boy I will say once I had someone working on the problem they were thorough and helpful. And patient. Okay then. Foot Pajamas and sleep.

Update: So... a Norton window popped up and said run live update and reboot, I did and it just boots to the desktop but you can't click on anything and Norton doesnt load at all in the system tray. Too tired to think about it anymore.

Mr. D.O.A. Wayfarer

Mr. D.O.A., that Grand Master of Dance, (see Elf Yourself videos in a previous post) is in Taiwan and China over the next week or so.

He is giving up his usual cuisine of Chips (Old Dutch Ripple) and Dip (Top the Tater) for exotic fare, such as this lively looking fish, about to leap from its bowl onto the table!

His caption is: "This shows a complete fish including head sitting in front of me. Tasty."

Other items on the menu:
Shrimp Cake with honey (He missed that it wasn't typical cake till it was in his mouth...neither of us eat fish)
The Dark liquid in the glasses is MILK with a shotglass of sugar...
The Yellow/orange soup sort of stuff is curry.

How I do miss him :(

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Keeping Things Lively in 2009

I love New Years and the alleged ability to start over, do better, make fewer mistakes, and make tons of improvements. For years I happily made a New Years Resolutions list. In the last couple of years, I decided it would be better to list instead things I’d like to learn. This gives me a zero base for messing up because I am already at the newbie bottom. I can only go up! The sky is the limit. Here is my 2009 short list:

1. Learn to sew I was terribly scarred in Junior High by my stern and exacting Home Economics teacher “Mrs. K’. We made simple beach bags for our BIG PROJECT. I spent most of the project time “ravelink the edges to make sure they were straight!” Mrs K. had a rather Doctor Ruth like accent. She had zero sexuality, so don’t think anything like that.

Side note to the Home Economics teacher in high school who answered a student’s question about what sex was like by thinking deeply before saying it was “like pulling a t-shirt over your head”. Yeah sure. An obvious laundry freak….

Anyway, I have modest needs as a potential sewing meister. I would like to make my own curtains, and I’d like to make skirts and jumpers and perhaps do some dolls of the sort mom used to make for craft fairs.

A customer this week was taking out books on learning to sew and I mentioned I was going to learn too but I had been cowardly so far. She said she had been that way too, but she just got an old pillowcase or towel and practiced the basics on those and it was a good way to reuse materials and no worries about messing up a nice piece of cloth. Great idea!

2. Master photograph restoration in Adobe Photoshop Elements I use this program at such a basic level. The skill set that would be most useful for my purposes would allow me to replace the missing sections of very old photographs of my dad and others who need a bit of restoration.

3. For the library computer classes I teach, I would like to hone my presentations and my public speaking skills (which have already leaped forward just from teaching these classes). I need to be able to read the audience better so that I can see when they need additional explanation. I’m hoping we can move forward this year and teach an e-mail class and I think I know Publisher fairly well so I could offer that as well.

4. HTML basics I have meant to learn HTML for a long time. I copy a lot of already done widgets and pictures and stuff from others, but I would like to understand colors and making banners, page layout, etc so that I can really customize my blogginess.

5. Become an excellent Bread Baker. You’ll see in a separate post how I have already begun the process. When I graduated from college I was baking my own bread and for some reason I just got busy or lazy and stopped. I am really enjoying small artisan breads available locally, and why not make my own?

So I cheated, and there is a bit of improvement in these but my current skill level is such that any improvement would be miraculous!