Saturday, October 30, 2010

Madelinetosh Socks

According to Ravelry, I began these socks in August. But it has really been a much longer road than that. August was when I finally settled on making them all stockinette stitch and started them for, I think, the fourth time.

But they are done, and that is what matters. Upon finishing the second sock and weaving in the ends, my first instinct was to burn them. That would have been a lot of work gone to waste though, and the fact is, they are rather pretty and extremely comfy.

So I'll keep them and just try to forget all the trauma associated with their creation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Main Street : a review

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1920)

Young and idealistic, Carol Milford graduates from college and after working as a librarian for a while in St. Paul meets and marries Dr. Will Kennicott. They move to his hometown of Gopher Prairie, a small town that Carol is determined to remake into a cultural mecca. But the townspeople don’t see why they should change and after a few false starts, Carol gives up her efforts and subsides into a stifling and unhappy existence. The judgemental, moralistic, and gossipy nature of Gopher Prairie are oppressive to Carol, and she has many doubts about her marriage as well. Occasionally someone interesting will come to town and Carol will start up a friendship, but usually they are driven away by some overblown scandal. At a few different points it looked like she might escape to a better life, but each time I was disappointed when she remained in – or returned to – Gopher Prairie and her marriage.

Although I don’t think this book needed to be quite as long, I did enjoy it. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business and in a way I could relate to Carol’s predicament. My solution, of course, is not to live in such a town, but 100 years ago women didn’t necessarily feel like they had the same choice. I sympathized with her in terms of the townspeople being so judgemental, but I also thought she was a bit hard on them. She wanted to remake the town into St. Paul but not only is that not possible, I can understand why the townspeople liked their town the way it was. Perhaps it was a bit dingy and unexciting, but it’s their hometown and who is this outsider to say it isn’t good enough?

I found a lot of humorous passages in this book and actually dog-eared quite a few pages (a terrible habit I have picked up recently). One of my favorite quotes illustrates the dark humor in Carol’s character that I found appealing. During an unbearable dinner party:

“Carol reflected that the carving-knife would make an excellent dagger with which to kill Uncle Whittier. It would slide in easily. The headlines would be terrible.”

Another quote, from local Raymie Wutherspoon, is a good example of the general way of thinking in Gopher Prairie:

“One trouble with books is that they’re not so thoroughly safeguarded by intelligent censors as the movies are, and when you drop into the library and take out a book you never know what you’re wasting your time on.”

In summary, I enjoyed visiting Gopher Prairie but I’m quite certain I wouldn’t want to live there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Socks

For Eric’s birthday, I knit him a pair of Hiking Socks from the Knitting Man(ual) by Kristen Spurkland. Ages ago when I bought the book he mentioned liking these socks, though I’m sure he’s forgotten ever even seeing them.

I wanted a project quick enough that I could complete it by his birthday while working in secret. Knit in worsted weight yarn, these socks worked up very quickly. I used Lamb's Pride worsted in Sandy Heather and Red Hot Passion. I began the project in August to ensure plenty of time.

The leg of the sock is knit in twisted rib, but I would have preferred the look of a traditional rib. However, when one is on a deadline it's not a good idea to restart mid-project if it's not necessary. It isn't very noticeable anyhow, just a slightly bumpier rib than normal. I think they turned out quite well!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NELA 2010

I have had a very busy week! I do have a knitting project to share but haven’t had a chance to take pictures, so for now I will regale you with tales of a library conference.

This past weekend I attended the NELA Annual Conference, which I always enjoy, but now I’m on the conference planning committee so it's a rather different experience. Happily, I still had a great time! Here are a few of the highlights:

Joe Raiola from Mad Magazine was the Sunday night banquet speaker. His talk, The Joy of Censorship, was hilarious, inspiring and full of swear words. Apparently a few people walked out, but most of the reviews seemed favorable. I thought he was a riot!

Reader’s Advisory 101:
Ok, I’ll admit that this program was my idea, but it was a damn good idea. Librarians hardly ever learn about this anymore, and I think it’s a good balance to all our programs on technology, marketing, and other non-book topics. The presenter was from the Wake County Public Library in NC where they do not purchase music or movies; their mission statement is to foster the love of reading and they take that seriously. They have an awesome Book-a-Day blog.

Paddling Her Own Canoe: Louisa May Alcott in Literary History. I love any program about books or authors, so this was right up my alley. The Alcott family was fascinating and eccentric! I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read Little Women, but I will now.

Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book is Overdue, spoke at a luncheon and was really fantastic. I haven’t read her book yet either, but I plan to. She’s a great speaker and an enthusiastic supporter of libraries. She’s passionate, funny, and kind of adorable.

There were also two programs that I was responsible for planning. One was a panel session on job interview strategies, which went very well and actually went overtime because there were so many questions. The other was a more general session on job hunting, presented by the instructors of an online class I took from Simmons GSLIS last fall. It was great to finally meet them in person, and they clearly put a lot of time and effort into their presentation. The turnout was low, probably because of the time slot, but I feel it was a success.

I also enjoyed programs on team-building, outreach to foster teens, marketing, and I got to play with some ebook readers which is resulting in some nook-related fantasies.

Being on the planning committee was a great way to influence the conference offerings and to meet other librarians. It was a great group to work with and because of the large size of the committee, each of our jobs was small enough to be quite manageable. I’ve signed on again for next year, which will be held in one of my favorite places, Burlington, VT!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Strategies for Successful Career Change : a review

Strategies for Successful Career Change: finding your very best next work life by Martha E. Mangelsdorf (2009)

This guide to finding a new career has 3 major sections:
  • Taking Stock: soul searching, what you want to do with your life, why you want to change careers, how you will handle money and health insurance during the transition
  • Charting a New Course: identifying growing markets, identifying your transferable skills, researching fields of interest, talking to people in those fields
  • Getting There From Here: the two-career approach, additional education, self-employment, pitfalls of career change.
This small book covers a lot of ground! I read some parts thoroughly and skimmed others that were less relevant to me. It was broken up into many short chapters and included some questions to ponder with a suggestion to write your answers in a career journal. It covers all stages of career transition, and I appreciated that it lacks the spiritual new-age vibe that some of these books have.

Here were my favorite aspects of this book:
  • The author acknowledged that you may be changing careers when you don’t want to (for financial reasons, lack of jobs in your field, etc).
  • No illusions like “do what you love and the money will come.” She talks about those kind of books and says it’s ridiculous to think that just because you love doing something, it will make you rich. Thank you! If that were the case, I could get rich by reading books and knitting sweaters while drinking wine on my couch, which clearly has not happened.
  • Along the same vein, she discusses career change within limitations (geographical, financial, etc) and talks about how this is useful and how it is not productive to ignore constraints. She says “look them in the eye and figure out how to work around them.”
  • She talks about “blended careers” – doing two different things part-time, either while making a career transition, or permanently – which I found very intriguing, and which she made sound quite feasible.
  • Many (but not an overwhelming number of) helpful references to other books and resources.
As long as there are still appealing library jobs being advertised and I continue to get interviews I won’t change careers, but it is comforting to know that I could if I want to. Even after reading this I don’t know what other career I would pursue, but I still found the questions very helpful in thinking about what direction to take, and also just ensuring that I’m in the right career now. But if you’re thinking of making a change, this book can help!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sock and a bit more sock

Sock season is in full force here in New England, and now that I've darned all my socks it's apparent that I still need more so I've tried to ramp up my efforts a bit.

Last weekend I traveled to New York and back by bus and I can't help but think I should have finished the second sock during that trip, or at least turned the heel. But mostly I just sat with my project in my lap and stared out the window. I'm tempted to start bringing it to work with me, but then it would just be competing with my lunchtime reading and I have a few hundred pages to read before book group next week, so that would just be trading one problem for another. Clearly, something needs to be done because this sock isn't going to knit itself.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'd Know You Anywhere : a review

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (2010)

Eliza Benedict is a wife and mother living a quiet life in the suburbs. But one day she receives a letter from someone who came across a picture of her in a magazine and recognized her instantly. Back when she was 15-year-old Elizabeth Lerner, this man kidnapped her for several weeks. Although he killed all his other victims, she was mysteriously spared. Now on death row, he wants to get back in touch with Eliza. Flashing back to the summer of the kidnapping, we learn more about the complicated relationship between Walter and Elizabeth, while in the present Eliza tries to finally resolve her unanswered questions about what happened so long ago.

In some ways Lippman tried to be a little too ambitious by bringing in Walter’s go-between Barbara Fortuny and washed-up journal Jared Garrett. They each certainly had a place in the story but I wasn’t interested enough for the chapters that were devoted to them. Or maybe I was just so engrossed by the main story and characters that I didn’t want to be sidelined.

Despite these minor shortcomings, I zipped through this book, enjoying both the present day story and the flashbacks to the kidnapping. It’s a complex story with equally complex characters. Based very loosely on a true story, it’s crafted with just the right level of creepiness to be believable.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My knitting life...

…is full of stockinette stitch right now. Talk about poor planning! Not only is it boring to knit but it isn’t even blog-worthy. The two major projects I’m working on are the pullover that I messed up and re-started, which you’ve already seen plenty of, and a pair of stockinette socks that you’ve also already seen. I finished the heel on the first sock, but that’s nothing to write home about.

Even the projects I’ve stalled on are kind of boring. The Whisper Cardigan too is stockinette. The shawl isn’t but it’s still a very simple pattern that, even had I made some progress, isn’t much to look at.

It’s almost enough to make me cast on for something cabled or fair isle. Almost. But I’m determined to finish at least one of my current projects before doing so.

One accomplishment is that I’ve finally darned all those holey socks that have been sitting around since spring waiting for repair. I’m getting pretty good at darning, if I do say so myself. It helps if you do it while the holes are still small.

Now, I need to finish up some of my current projects so I can start something more complicated and interesting!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Is Just Exactly Like You : a review

This Is Just Exactly Like You by Drew Perry (2010)

Jack Lang and his wife Beth live in the suburbs with their 6-year-old autistic son, Hendrick. On a whim, Jack buys the house across the street for no apparent reason. After years of household projects begun and never finished, this is the last straw for Beth, who leaves Jack and moves in with his best friend Terry. Somewhat shell-shocked, Jack carries on with his job at Patriot Tree & Mulch, bringing Hendrick to work with him, and eventually moving to the new house across the street and starting an affair with Terry’s ex-girlfriend Rena.

I found Jack an appealing, if flawed, protagonist. He is a guy to whom things happen, but who rarely takes the initiative himself. He has grandiose ideas, yet can’t ever quite get them off the ground. Hendrick, too, was a rather delightful character and together they were a colorful and eccentric duo. Though the reviews on this book were mixed, I rather liked it. It was quirky and humorous and Jack was so easy to sympathize with, even as you could see him getting himself in deeper and deeper into an already awkward situation.

My main quibble is with the cover. Though I chose this book based entirely on the title and cover art, after reading it I can’t figure out why the statue on the cover is a beaver. If it were a catfish it would make much more sense. Now isn’t that enough to make you want to read it?