Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Progress on 4 (!) projects

Just to top off an already bad day, I came home and tried on my cardigan, which had been blocking. Lying there on the table it looks so cute, so comfy.

But guess what? It doesn't fricking fit. The armholes are too tight and then the parts just under the armholes are weirdly baggy. Why are armholes the bane of my existence? I got stitch gauge, row gauge- you name it, I got it. So why is this so wrong? Let me just say that I do love Stefanie Japel's designs, but I noticed that the schematics for this pattern don't include as many helpful measurements as it could. For example, the raglan seams: no measurements indicated. I did, of course, try the sweater on while it was in progress, but it was hard to tell anything about the sleeves as the ribbing was SO tight before I blocked it that I couldn't get it on anyhow. I don't think my shoulders are ridiculously large, but I haven't heard of other people having this problem.

So what do I do? Should I try to block it again? Do I just rip out the whole thing and start again? I wouldn't even know how to correct these mistakes though, because I'd want to knit longer before detaching the sleeves, but that would mean more increases, and I don't want more increases as the bust area is plenty big. Since the increases are decorative eyelets, wouldn't it look funny if I just left them out?

Oh also, the purple blob on the top left of that photo? It's Foliage from the new Knitty.

I knit it the other day to use up some stash yarn and it makes my head look like a grape. But don't let that deter you - I'm sure on a person with a normal-sized head it would look very cute. On those of us with child-size peaheads, not so much.

I do have some good news though. I'm making great progress on my second Baudelaire sock!

Dear, sweet sock! You will fit me perfectly, as does your sister, and will not plague me with weird problems that make me feel like my body is weird-shaped and out of proportion (when in fact it is you who are weird-shaped and out of proportion). No, you will keep my foot warm and look beautiful as a well-behaved sock should.

Last but not least, I have cast on for the Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee. I showed you the yarn back here in June. I will be keeping a close eye on the armholes!

Oh, one more thing- if you are on Ravelry, I have finally posted most my projects there (my username is threegoodrats). If you are not on Ravelry, I have also posted these pictures on Flickr.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Continuing Education for Librarians

As information professionals, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about current technologies and information trends so we can continue to be relevant to our patrons throughout our careers. (I touched on this subject a bit here) This sounds like common sense, but I think we can all use the reminder. I don't know how many libraries support continuing education, but from my limited public library experience it appears that it is not emphasized enough. Let me just say that I think most of us don't want to end up being this librarian. I'd like to think this situation is an anomaly, but the fact is that many librarians do not embrace change, nor do they think their skills need to be updated regularly. I don't know if it's ignorance, apathy, or some other factor, but it appears that many leave library school and think they know everything they will need to know for their whole career.

This is a subject which I feel strongly about and could expound on at length, but instead I will offer some suggestions for continued learning. There is no one-stop shopping center for library continuing education and sometimes you need to poke around a bit to find something more sophisticated than Email 101 or Introduction to MS Excel. Here are some of the education sources I've come up with:

-Library schools. Many have continuing education classes; many of those classes are online so you can take them no matter where you live!

-Your library's network may have classes for members.

-State library associations also may offer courses.

-Conferences are always good learning opportunities with sessions on the latest trends and technologies. In addition to ALA, PLA, SLA and the other big national conferences, state and regional associations have conferences that are much less expensive to attend.

-Adult education centers. Many will include technology classes.

-Informal learning. 23 Learning 2.0 Things, reading blogs on librarianship, identifying topics you are interested in and picking up a book or going online to learn about those topics.

Any more suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Friday, September 21, 2007

On Chesil Beach

One of the reasons why I like Ian McEwan so much is his penchant for writing about uncomfortable subjects: obsessions, incest, and in his latest book, the wedding night of two virgins with sexual hang-ups. What could possibly be more awkward than that?

In the early 60s when sexual mores are about to change, Edward and Florence are still very much of the 50s. Rather repressed, neither knows a whole lot about sex and both are rather uncomfortable with the subject. Both are from dubious backgrounds as far as opennes and communication are concerned; Edwards mother was mentally ill and the family took great pains to pretend that she was not. Florence's mother was distant, and Florence was cold to her father.

Florence is absolutely repulsed by the idea of consummating the marriage and does not know how to tell Edward this, so she simply doesn't. Edward is eager, a bit too eager, resulting in...well, some disappointing and unsexy results. The situation is made far worse because they don't know how to talk about it, and just say whatever words comes to mind, which are of course the wrong ones. It is all the more unfortunate as they were quite in love and very much looking forward to spending their lives together.

Despite the awkwardness of the situation described, the prose is very pleasing and the characters endearing. Privy to what's going on inside their heads, the reader knows that their relationship could have worked, but is destroyed because they can't communicate. The story sadly illustrates that love alone is not enough, and lives can be changed simply by misunderstanding and stubbornness. Beautiful and tragic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To read: a list

Well, this should be amusing. Folks over at the Knittyboard have been posting their "to read" lists. It makes me chuckle, their four or five books each. But then again, they probably all don't spend their workdays reading book reviews either.

Now I'm not kidding myself that I'll actually read all of these. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was daunted enough by Gary Shteyngart's first book (which I couldn't finish) that I probably won't even attempt his latest. But this list is more of a memory aid than an assignment. If I didn't keep a list, I'd putting all these books on hold so I wouldn't forget about them and then would end up with 12 at a time (ask me how I know this). I do pare down this list now and then, but I also just recently read the new Library Journal AND Booklist, so it's a bit out of control again. Such is life.

In addition to the books below, I'm on hold for the new Ian McEwan book, On Chesil Beach, and A Thousand Splended Suns by Khaled Hosseini.


1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
2. The Sparrow. Mary Doria Russell
3. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
5. Jinn by Matthew B.J. Delaney
6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
7. A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
8. Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
9. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
10. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
11. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
12. Adverbs by Daniel Handler
13. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus
14. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
15. Special Topics in Calamity Physics
16. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
17. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
18. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
19. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
20. Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
21. Life as we knew it. Pfeffer
22. Walden by Thoreau
23. The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
24. More from the Thursday Next series
25. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
26. Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile by Verlyn Klinkenborg
27. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
28. Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
29. Time Capsule: Short stories about teenagers through the 20th century
30. Little Stalker by Jennifer Belle
31. Peony in Love by Lisa See
32. Sheer Abandon by Penny Vincenzi
33. Mr. Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom
34. Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
35. The Worst Thing I’ve Done by Ursula Hegi
36. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
37. The Eight by Katherine Neville
38. We Go Liquid by Christian TeBordo
39. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
40. Not Yet Drown’d by Pet Kingman
41. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
42. Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore


1. People’s History of the United States
2. The Fasting Girl 336p
3. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Carson 289p
4. Animals in Translation 356p
5. 1776 by David McCullough
6. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
7. The Family that Couldn’t Sleep by D.T. Max 299p
8. The Heartless stone: a journey through the world of diamonds, deceit and desire
9. Devil’s Picnic by Tara Grescoe
10. Better: a surgeon’s notes on performance by Atul Gawande
11. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
12. Mindless Eating: why we eat more than we think
13. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat by Charles Clover
14. Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity
15. The Braindead Megaphone: Essays by George Saunders
16. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
17. Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph; Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw
18. Best American Crime Reporting 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

FO: Haiku Baby Sweater

This was a gift for a friend who is expecting a baby in October. I finished it about a week ago but couldn't post until after yesterday's baby shower. It was only one of several handmade gifts including an afghan and another two very adorable hand-knit sweaters.

Aren't those buttons adorable? Windsor Button had SO many fantastic kid-themed buttons, but most were too brightly colored and cartoonish to work with this pattern. But these were perfect!

The pattern for this sweater is here at Knitty. I used Bernat Cottontots, which is 100% cotton and is soft, lovely, and machine washable and dryable. I refuse to knit baby items out of yarns that must be hand washed and dried flat. I know a lot of people do, claiming that it will be an heirloom or whatnot, but really, isn't that a mean thing to do to a new mother? Give her baby clothes that need labor-intensive and time-consuming care?

Part of the reason I chose this pattern (aside from the cuteness) is that it is knit sideways, starting at a sleeve cuff and ending at the other sleeve cuff. I've seen adult sweaters knit this way but haven't really liked any of them enough to knit. This, though, was definitely worth the experiment. It was very easy. I finished the main part rather quickly, and was only held up by the buttonholes, which I reinforced - an easy enough job, but still a bit daunting as they had to end up the right size. Sewing on buttons is a pain too, as they have to match up with the holes. But all in all, it was a fun and easy project

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On patrons asking the right questions

I mentioned in this post about using Zamzar that I don't often apply my knowledge. It is true - most patron interactions on the Reference desk are of the "Can I use a computer?" variety, with a few "Do you have this book?" questions thrown in. It's difficult to keep one's reference skills sharp without practice, and it's also easy to just get lazy and Google everything. Throw in the fact that many patrons would rather have a less-than-authoritative quick answer than an authoritative but time-consuming answer, and you have an idea of what Reference service can be like.

On the other hand, there is ample opportunity to apply computer skills, which indicates a need to shift away from extensive and unapplied knowledge on using print reference resources and towards computer problem-solving and internet reference. Every librarian should have a thorough knowledge of good online information and tools, as well as a working knowledge of how to use anything on the library's computers.

One day a co-worker who was working on the Reference desk called me during my break in the staff room because a patron, who I had helped earlier with a Powerpoint problem, had another question. Although I haven't used Powerpoint in around 6 years, I can certainly find a book about it with which to answer questions, which is what I had done previously (and what any librarian should be able to do). When I firmly reminded my co-worker that I was on break, she said "Well, we don't have time for this stuff either!"

The beauty of reference, the reason why it is so interesting and exciting, is that pretty much any question is fair game (and certainly ones about programs installed on the library's computers!) After all, we are information professionals and computers have become the primary way of accessing, manipulating, and sharing information. How can we say "I'm sorry - we aren't computer experts" and just go back to surfing the web and waiting for "real" reference questions? We cannot tell patrons that we don't answer certain questions just because they aren't the questions that we want them to ask.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Short sleeved cardigan progress

Remember this project I mentioned a while back? I've started and have been making fantastic progress!

Isn't it cute? So far, I love it!

I cast on for this over Labor Day weekend, and in just over a week this is how far I've gotten. Pretty amazing, especially considering that I didn't just spend that weekend lounging around the house, but went outside and participated in activities with other humans.

I did not wash and block my gauge swatch (boo! hiss!) for the following reasons:

a) Laziness and impatience

b) I'm making a size equal to my bust size and may want to block it slightly larger depending on how the fit seems, which I can't really tell until it's finished. It seems to fit really well now, but I won't be able to tell for sure until I add the button bands.

c) Swatches lie. Don't gasp in horror - you know it's true.

The ribbing at the bottom seems to be taking forever, but I don't have far to go. Here's hoping this sweater will be done before that brief window of time in which it makes sense to wear a short-sleeved wool sweater. Mind you, I'm not sure when that time is - I'm hoping there IS such a time. But if so, I suspect it will be soon.

I'm off to wind more yarn!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm sorry, Stargirl

Jerry Spinelli's new novel Love, Stargirl was a disappointing sequal to Stargirl. I've read the first book twice, and for someone with a "To Read" list as long as mine, that is a compliment. That combined with the fact that the cover of the new book is the same color as my living room, I had high hopes. Alas, the new novel didn't hold my interest enough to finish it. I stopped halfway through, frustrated by the plotlessness and the title character's new friend, the much younger and unfortunately named Dootsie.

The Stargirl of the original was an enigma, a delightfully eccentric high school student described in third person by that book's narrator. Here, Stargirl is the narrator, and either she has changed, or the magic is lost just because we are inside her head and can see that she's a pretty normal teenage girl. I like that this book featured Cinnamon the rat more prominently, but even that wasn't enough to hold my interest.

The old me would have plodded through anyhow, in the naive hope that something wonderful would suddenly happen to make the book worthwhile. The new me, who doesn't want to waste time reading books I don't enjoy, just flipped to the end and scanned through the last few pages to find that I didn't really miss much.

The aspect of this book that I disliked the most was Stargirl's friendship with Dootsie, which resulted in a great many childish conversations and adventures which made the book feel more appropriate for a younger audience than it is intended for. The friendship between Stargirl and Dootsie would probably be appealing to those who find children cute and amusing, but I do not find children particularly cute and amusing. (I know, some of you are snickering at that understatement.)

Sorry, Stargirl, but you were much more interesting before I got to know you.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Baudelaire socks: one down

I'm pleased with my sock. My plan was to immediately cast on for the second sock before losing momentum, but alas, Satan intervened and instead I cast on for a cardigan. Who knows when - or, I shudder to think, if - the second sock will materialize.

This is my first toe-up sock. I like to learn something new with most projects, and though I hate to admit it, it seems like this is how all the cool kids knit their socks. Thus, my toe-up sock.

I have discovered that I do not like knitting socks from the toe up. The figure eight cast-on is messy and imprecise, unlike the lovely neatness of the kitchener cast-off for cuff down socks. There are other ways to cast on for toe-ups of course, and perhaps I will try them, but this method has still another strike against it.

When beginning from the toe, you start with the toe shaping, then move on to the foot increases, then the always-interesting heel, after which - just when you are getting a little burned out with this tiny-needled project - you are faced with the straight, boring neverending leg of darkness and misery. I think I prefer the boring part at the beginning and more complicated parts later on to hold my interest.

I'm not sure how to reconcile this with my newfound love of the top-down sweater, however. Those also start with the more interesting parts, end with the long body and then the sleeves which are boring and unpleasant no matter when you make them. Why do I enjoy this method so much more than the traditional bottom up sweater? I just don't know. As the scientists are fond of saying, additional studies are needed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to school: a sinister booklist

Because it's not just clean white notebooks and pep rallies.

Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty.
After her mother's death, Gemma must leave India and the only home she's ever known to attend Spence Academy, a girls' boarding school in England. There she begins having strange visions and discovers a mysterious place known as the realms. She blackmails her way in a clique of friends and brings them with her to explore the realms, where they enjoy freedoms they will never have in their futures as Victorian wives. Meanwhile, they try to unlock the secrets of the burned-out East Wing of the school and the mysteries surrounding the class of 1871.

Handler, Daniel. The Basic Eight.
A group of eight surreally pretentious high school students are the focus of this satirical novel about dating, absinthe, murder, and the media. Written in the style of a highly-edited journal, the dark humor is reminiscent of the author's acclaimed children's series A Series of Unfortunate Events. But don't be fooled – this is definitely not a children's book.

Perrotta, Tom. Election.
Darkly comic satire about a high school election for student body president. Tracy Flick, popular, ambitious and hiding a scandalous secret, is the clear front-runner until an idealist teacher encourages jock Paul Warren to enter the race and give Tracy a run for her money.

Pullman, Phillip. His Dark Materials series.
Young, orphaned Lyra Belacqua lives among scholars at Oxford's Jordan College in a world just a little different from ours. Her sheltered life is abruptly changed when her uncle Lord Asriel arrives with news of mystery and danger in the far North, and soon Lyra is drawn into a search for her missing friend Roger, leading to even larger and more dangerous adventures.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series.
Obviously. And let's skip the synopsis on this one, shall we?

Sittenfeld, Curtis. Prep.
Indiana student Lee Fiora wins a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in New England, where she finds herself an outsider among the wealthy students. After carefully ascending the school's social ladder she learns how precarious popularity can be.

Tartt, Donna. The Secret History.
A small group of students in a strangely isolated Classical Greek program are involved in a murder. Richard Papen is the newcomer of this group and struggles to hide his humble origins while trying to understand the complex and secretive relationships between his classmates, including how they drew him in and involved him in a second murder.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments!