Sunday, July 31, 2011

Things 8 and 9

Things 8 and 9 are both organizational tools.

Google Calendar


I've been using the calendar on my phone for personal appointments (which I have few of) and at work I have a paper calendar on my desk. I've always liked having my paper calendar visible at all times so I don't have to be on the correct screen on my computer to see what's going on. Generally I have very little scheduled so I don't have a need for an elaborate calendar.

Google Calendar is ok. I tried adding a few things to it but realized the only reminder that works for me is the email version. I'd prefer a pop-up but it ONLY works if you are logged in at the exact time of the reminder. I don't stay logged into gmail all day long because it's distracting and also it's my personal email and I do try to focus on work when I'm there. My phone calendar works better for me for now. It's portable and the reminders are more helpful.

Evernote


Described by the cpd23 people as a way to make comments about websites, I almost didn't try Evernote because I don't really need to store comments about websites. It sounded like the useless Pushnote (which is already gone from my browser as the last Firefox update wasn't compatible with it). But I decided to try it out anyhow and found that it's actually a system to organize your notes and you can also store web content if you'd like, and photos and voice notes. The example used on the Evernote tutorial was someone doing projects on his house and creating a task list but also storing photos for house projects ideas that he found on the web, etc. It's kind of like scrapbooking.

There's a desktop version, a web version, and a phone app, all of which I've been using this week. They all sync together well. They don't all work as well though. I tried dragging a photo from my computer into a note in the web version and it wouldn't save it. It works fine in the desktop version though, which I prefer anyhow because it has a better layout and functionality.

I've started using Evernote personally to work on blog posts (like this one), and for to-do lists. I used to write drafts of blog posts in Word and then paste them into Blogger. I've noticed the format is sometimes a little screwy when I paste from Evernote but I can keep my drafts more organized while I'm still working on them. I created another notebook for work and transferred my paper notes to it in hopes of keeping my desk area more neat and having everything in one place. It's weird to have work and personal stuff all in the same place though, as I like to keep separate parts of my life separate.

I'm not sure if there's much added value in adding Evernote for which I had to register, install, etc for the same functions I was already using Word for but may be able to organize my stuff in a more meaningful way. I can't see needing the picture and website functions for anything I currently do, but maybe some use will become apparent. However, I do think I need a cleaner, more organized replacement for my elaborate system of lists and post-it notes and maybe this is it. I've noticed that I still add things to my lists that I've already done so I can check them off. I don't think any software will change that.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fly like an eagle

Amelia Lost: the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (2011)

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart was supposed to touch down on tiny Howland Island in the Pacific, one of the last stops on her flight around the world. But she never arrived. For days afterward many people claim to have heard her cries for help on their shortwave radios, but Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were never found. Amelia Lost recounts Earhart's early life, her training as a pilot, and her career, with chapters alternating between the biographical and those describing her disappearance and its aftermath.

I thought Fleming did a great job of conveying the complexities of Earhart's life and made her more three-dimensional than is usual in books written for children and teens. Amelia's headstrong personality and drive to become a pilot were evident early on, and given the fact that she didn't conform to contemporary expectations for girls, it wasn't a surprise that she developed a friendship with early feminist Eleanor Roosevelt. Fleming did not gloss over the more unpleasant but important formative aspects of Earhart's young life either, including a chapter on her father's alcoholism, nor did she leave out criticisms of how Earhart used her fame to make money.

The comprehensive book also included a lot of contextual information about the early days of flying, which I found fascinating. Apparently, in early planes sometimes the engines would just stop in mid-air! During 1920, the first year that the postal service used planes, they hired 40 pilots in May and 15 of them were killed by the end of the year. The risks of flying at the time when Amelia Earhart decided to become a pilot really puts her efforts into perspective.

But there were also fun details about less scary aspects of life. Some of the extras included a brief introduction to Morse code, a description and photo of the bloomers Amelia and her sister wore for active play, and even a photo of one of Amelia's report cards. This was all packed into just 110 pages, but in a surprisingly easy-to-read layout with plenty of pictures and sidebars.

Amelia Lost was fascinating and engaging, detailed enough to make me feel like I've gotten to know what Amelia Earhart was really like. The easily digestible format makes it accessible to young people as well as those of us with short attention spans. I really enjoyed how Fleming captured the excitement of the search for Earhart and her plane, though I thought the childrens' reports of hearing Amelia's calls for help were incredibly creepy! Altogether I found it very well done and thoroughly enjoyable and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this slice of U.S. history.

Speaking of which, this counts towards my goal of learning more about American history this year. A goal at which I have been failing, but I haven't given up yet!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nobody likes a goody two-shoes

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian (2010)

Natalie Sterling’s best friend Autumn once trusted a boy and was publicly humiliated for it, and Natalie is determined not to ever let this happen to her. She concentrates on her studies, dresses age-appropriately, and constantly reminds Autumn to stay away from the dangers of boys. Then Spencer Biddle, who Natalie used to babysit, starts at the same high school and stirs up controversy with her sexy outfits and attention-getting stunts. When Natalie tries to get her to tone down, the two clash over their very different ideas of what girl power means. Further complicating the situation, a very cute boy named Connor starts paying attention to Natalie, completely throwing her off her game.

This novel started off dubiously but I had high hopes when it started exploring feminist themes, like the ways young women express their sexuality and whether dressing sexy is oppressing or empowering. Natalie planned a girl empowerment summit/slumber party that was supposed to involve workshops on self-esteem and discussions about valuing their own accomplishments rather than what boys thought of them. It was actually kind of a cool idea, and although it ultimately failed I was briefly proud of her for putting it together.

But I couldn’t get past Natalie’s irrating personality. She is the most uptight, goody-goody, preachy, self-righteous, prudish control freak ever. She’s constantly putting her hands on her hips and telling people what to do, or why they shouldn’t do what they are doing. It’s maddening. She also has a very low opinion of all the other girls at school, dismissing them all as sluts. She’s a terrible friend, and won’t ever let Autumn forget the embarrassment she suffered so long ago. And her treatment of Connor, it pained me! She absolutely refused to publicly date him, instead sneaking around and hooking up with him at his family’s Christmas tree farm. I couldn’t understand her motivations, or how she had so much self-control she wasn’t even tempted to let loose and have fun. She can’t be human.

The only time I sympathatized with Natalie at all was on Halloween. You know, the holiday where guys dress up as scary monsters and girls dress up as hookers? Natalie went as Amelia Earhart, which is completely fabulous and more creative than Sexy Witch or Sexy Construction Worker or Sexy Sherlock Holmes. Now, I understand WHY girls use Halloween the way they do – it’s the only time this kind of outfit is sanctioned, and it’s fun to look sexy – but na├»ve Natalie is simply confused. She thinks the other, lesser, girls look stupid, while she is so superior walking around with a cardboard airplane strapped to her waist.

The only reason I made it through this book was Spencer Biddle. She injected a bit of perspective and humanity with her laid back sexy ways. Sure, she attracted the wrong kind of attention from boys and got herself into trouble, but the point is that she realized it wasn’t the end of the world. Her views on female sexuality were a breath of fresh air next to Natalie’s repression. I mean, I wouldn’t parade around dressed the way she did, but at least she wasn’t AFRAID of her sexuality. (Seriously, Natalie has perfected the art of changing out of her bathing suit without ever being naked. Need I say more?)

I wanted to love this book. It had such great potential, as there aren’t nearly enough young adult books that take on feminist issues so directly and Vivian’s treatment of these issues was really well done most of the time. I really liked Spencer and Autumn and Connor – and despite Natalie’s treatment of him their romance was pretty great - but Natalie was just too over the top to be real and too unlikeable of a person for me to sympathize with.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thing 6 and Thing 7

Just when I got caught up, there were two Things posted this week, so I’m going to tackle them both together. Thing 6 is online networks and Thing 7 is face-to-face networks and professional organizations.

Online networking

There aren’t really any online networks just for librarians (the ones mentioned in this Thing are UK-oriented) so my experiences are primarily with LinkedIn and Facebook.

I’ve been on both Facebook and LinkedIn for a while. Although I’ve always thought of Facebook as being personal and fun and LinkedIn as professional, there’s a lot of crossover. A couple of years ago I attended Library Leadership Massachusetts and made a whole slew of professional contacts. It seems that few librarians are on LinkedIn and we all ended up friending each other on Facebook. I always wished I could make some of those contacts “professional” and only show them certain things, but that’s not possible on Facebook. (It seems to be possible on Google + which I’ve just started using, but I haven't spent much time there yet.) Via Facebook I’ve been invited to many social librarian events, where I’ve met even more librarians, so it’s been useful in that way. It certainly can’t hurt to know more librarians.

LinkedIn is something I don’t think about often. It’s worth signing up for because there’s very little upkeep (especially since it’s completely professional) so it’s not as time-consuming as Facebook is. It hasn’t helped me professionally, but I’ve been a go-between for contacts who were trying to get in touch with other people so I guess it has its uses, and there are also discussions that I occasionally look at. I’ve heard of people getting jobs through LinkedIn, but not in the library world. Maybe we just haven’t started using it properly yet.

In person networking

I have always enjoyed library conferences and I try to attend NELA every year. I’ve also attended MLA, and PLA one year when it was in Boston. Last year I was on the NELA conference committee, which was a lot of fun and I got to work with some great people. I hope to be involved committee work again in the future. In addition to working with other librarians, I like having the opportunity to have influence on a higher level, like organization conference programs on topics that interest me.

Two years ago, as I mentioned, I attended Library Leadership Massachusetts, which was a fantastic experience. I’m very sad to hear it won’t be continuing. I wish I could go every single year. In addition to learning and making connections, I find in-person professional gatherings to be incredibly motivating, energizing, and inspiring. Although I’d love to attend the ALA conference someday it’s cost-prohibitive, and the local conferences seem more relevant so that’s where I’ve kept my focus.

Most of my networking is social. I’ve worked at enough libraries that I’ve collected many librarian friends. Hell, we gravitate to each other in any situation. I met one librarian friend at a party (not librarian-sponsored) and another at a knitting group. Through those friends and those I’ve worked with, I meet other librarian friends. I’ve hosted a couple of librarian cocktail parties, attended a librarian dinner out, and will soon attend a librarian book group. Sometimes it seems like we’re everywhere!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It beats flipping burgers for minimum wage...

Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl (2010)

It is 1836 and Liza Hastings’ parents have just been killed, forcing her to leave her luxurious apartments at an upscale hotel and take a position as lady’s maid to the young Princess Victoria. Little did she know the scandal and intrigue that awaited her, nor did she expect to play such an important role in Victoria’s ascension to the throne. Kensington palace is shabby and run-down, and Victoria is completely sheltered and treated like a child though she is 17. Victoria’s mother and Sir John are trying to prevent Victoria from becoming Queen when her uncle the King dies. Liza is also chagrined to find out that Victoria’s last maid was forced out for secret scandalous reasons.

This novel is richly detailed, including fashion, social mores, and conversational expressions of the time. It includes different classes of people, each with their own conventions and social expectations. MacColl even includes flash patter, a difficult-to-decipher dialect spoken by thieves and street people but which ultimately saves Liza from a dangerous situation. There’s also a passage in which Will, a publisher of broadsheet newspapers, tells Liza about a new serial called The Pickwick Papers by the writer Boz, who Will explains is actually a court reporter named Charles Dickens. All of these elements contributed to the realistic feel of the story, and made it more fun to read too.

The pacing is slower than in many young adult novels, but it didn’t detract from the appeal at all. I was swept into the intrigue and worried for Liza and Victoria as they tried to circumvent the machinations of the Duchess and Sir John. The two young women had been raised very differently, and I enjoyed watching their complicated relationship develop.

I had only a couple of minor quibbles with the novel. When Liza first began her job, she made sure not to risk her position in fear of a life on the streets, but as time went on she became more brazen and did things that I thought were out of character. For instance, she stole one of Victoria’s gowns to attend a ball to which she wasn’t invited, a rather unimportant thing to risk one’s position over. This was especially surprising considering what she had learned about the fate of her predecessor. In addition, Victoria's mother did not seem very real to me. I had a hard time with her apparent indifference/hatred towards her own daughter. She was under the influence of the underhanded Sir John, but I still thought her character could have been more developed, perhaps portrayed her as torn between Sir John and Victoria.

Other than that it was pretty fantastic. Usually I don't like novels based on historical figures as it only confuses my already muddled sense of history, but I took a chance on this and I'm very glad. Luckily, it turns out that many of the details of this novel are accurate so I'm not becoming more misinformed. Throughout the novel were excerpts from the young Victoria's diary, which turned out to be authentic. Apparently Victoria kept extensive journals throughout her life, and I thought it was a nice touch that the author included some passages. I also don’t want to overlook one of the nicest aspects of the book – the art on the cover and interior of the book. It only adds to the fancy royal feel. If you enjoy historial fiction, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Liar by Justine Larbalestier (2009)

“My father is a liar and so am I. But I’m going to stop. I have to stop.”

We are introduced to Micah when her boyfriend doesn’t show up at school one Monday…or Tuesday…or Wednesday. On Thursday the principal comes into her classroom to tell them that Zach’s body has been found. Nobody asks Micah how she is doing because they don’t know she was Zach’s girlfriend. Sarah was Zach’s real girlfriend, Micah was just for after hours. She continues to pretend that she barely knew Zach at all, and mourns alone.

The story flips back and forth between “Before” and “After” as Micah shares bits and pieces of her life. She relates that when she first started at this school she pretended to be a boy until she was eventually exposed. She reveals a bit about a family illness from which she suffers. She shares stories from her relationship from Zach. Meanwhile she is trying to cope with Zach’s death, reaching out to his girlfriend and his best friend. She also struggles with family problems as her parents try to convince her to go live with relatives on their farm.

And then we find that much of what she is sharing are lies. Clearly, Micah is having a hard time telling the truth, and possibly even distinguishing for herself what is truth and what is a lie. There is a twist about halfway through the book that is a complete game-changer and puts this book firmly in a genre that I didn’t realize it was. Had I known about this I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, but I’m glad I did.

There are some fun and unusual aspects to the book that added to its appeal. First, and most notably, the characters aren’t all white. Most young adult books are about white kids, so it was refreshing that Micah was of mixed race (her father is black and her mother white) and her boyfriend Zach was hispanic. It’s not integral to the story but she does mention some of the racial aspects of her high school, and it does make this novel stand out a bit from most YA fare.

I really enjoyed the settings as well. Micah’s family live in a TINY apartment in New York, so small that they store their bicycles suspended over the kitchen table. Micah’s escape was to go running with Zach in Central Park. In the summers Micah went to her family’s farm out in the country where they didn’t even have electricity, a big change from her life in New York. The way each of the settings was described gave the novel an unusual feel.

Micah was a difficult character to like. It’s hard to even get to know her because of her extensive web of lies about herself. Usually I like stories with an unreliable narrator, but as this book went on that aspect of it became a bit wearying, and there is so much that you never really know for sure. Ultimately, I didn’t love it but I liked it and I’d certainly try out another book by this author. If you are in the mood for an unusual book with many surprises, Liar might be right up your alley.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thing 5: Reflective practice

Reflective practice is basically looking at an event or experience, evaluating it, and learning from it. This was an especially appropriate, and especially difficult, week for this because it was my first week at a new job.

I have a lot of responsibilities, and a lot to learn. Right now I don’t have an immediate supervisor (that position is open) so there is nobody to direct my training. I’m happy to oversee it myself as I have a pretty good idea of what I need to know and who I need to help me. But I do have to keep myself in check and make sure I’m not focusing completely on the more appealing job tasks at the expense of the others. My hope is that every day I will take a few minutes to reflect on what I’ve done and what I need to do, so I can continue to make sure my priorities are in order and I’m learning and getting better at my job.

Of course this is a good practice in real life as well as at work. Learning from and building on our experiences can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life. Writing is a good tool for reflection, and many people keep journals for this reason. I don’t, and I wish I did, but I haven’t yet been able to work that practice into my day. Hopefully I’ll reap some of the same benefits just by thinking, evaluating and learning from my experiences even if I’m not writing it all down.

Do you consciously build time into your day for reflective practice? Do you have any tools to help you?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

House of the Seven Gables : a review

House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851)

The Pyncheon family house in Salem MA was built after essentially stealing the land from a family of witches, and consequently the Pyncheons are said to be cursed. Our story begins with one of the descendents, Hepzibah, an old spinster who has fallen on hard times and must open a shop in the house. A young vivacious relative, Phoebe, suddenly arrives from the country in time to be a great help in the shop. Hepzibah’s brother Clifford also arrives around this time after spending much of his life in prison. Their relative Judge Pyncheon, the one responsible for Clifford going to prison, arrives eventually to try and get information from Clifford regarding a land claim in Maine. Hepzibah doesn’t want him to confront Clifford, and it all ends rather badly for the Judge. The other characters apparently live happily ever after.

Slow and plodding, there is little action but much background and description. I enjoyed parts of it, such as Hepzibah’s first day at her new shop, which was amusing and a humorous in a melodramatic way. Other parts were a bit overdone for my taste, specifically the part where a certain characters sits dead in a chair and an entire chapter is devoted to an obtuse narration of his countenance, the appointments he is missing, gosh it is really unlike him to dawdle, why does he still not rise and what is that crimson bib upon his suit? I mean really now, we get the point. But that is the only part I didn’t really like. Because the action all took place in the house, I kept picturing this like a play with the entire outside world off-stage and invisible.

The characters were really fun and the best part of the book. I love a good spinster rattling around an old house, and young Phoebe was a nice fresh-faced counterpoint to her character. Clifford and Uncle Venner both provided comic relief, as did young Ned whose primary role was to dash into the shop and buy more cookies. Judge Pyncheon was an imposing villain. The only character who was presumably not actually associated with the family was the dageurrotypist Holgrave, who boarded with Hepzibah. Despite his radical ideas she liked having him around, and he eventually began a romance with Phoebe. We eventually learn that he does in fact have some interest with the Pyncheon family.

In high school I read the Scarlet Letter and I remember finding it really difficult to read but still liked it a lot. Although House of the Seven Gables was good, I’m not sure whether it was worth the effort of reading it. But I feel like a virtuous New Englander for doing so. Maybe soon I’ll finally take a trip to Salem to see the house that inspired the novel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fall socks

I’m sure as soon as you saw my finished Sweetheart Socks you knew I would immediately cast on for another pair of socks, and you would be right.

This pattern is no joke, everyone. Each row takes a long time (not as long as the Sweethearts, mind you) and it’s not really pleasant. But I have admired the Herringbone Rib Socks pattern since I bought my copy of Knitting Socks in Handpainted Yarn. I even started them once before with the troublesome Madelinetosh yarn that pooled like crazycakes (see “This Yarn is Cursed.”) And knowing how unpleasant it was to knit, I started another pair. That is how much I love this pattern.

Doesn’t it look fantastic in this yarn? It’s Zwerger Garn Opal Handpainted which I got for free from boringknitter who was destashing a while back.

I’m not kidding myself here- these socks won’t be done until fall. Expect an update in a month or so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thing 4: Current Awareness

For Thing 4, the organizers chose a few tools which are supposed to help us keep informed about what’s going on in the library world.

RSS
I’ve been subscribed to RSS feeds since the last 23 Things in which I participated, and find it very useful as I wouldn’t remember to visit most of these blogs if I wasn’t subscribed. Being a fickle gal, there are few that I follow consistantly, but I’m fine with subscribing and unsubscribing and resubscribing based on my changing moods. Right now the only library related blog I subscribe to is LISNews because it links to posts from so many sources that I feel like I’m getting the most important stuff out there. I have an on-again off-again relationship with Librarian in Black as well and it may be time to revisit that one.

When I first began subscribing to RSS feeds I used Bloglines (link) which I really liked because it’s so simple and easy to use. For a while it shut down which caused a bit of strife as I was forced to move all my feeds to Google Reader. I hated Google Reader for reasons I can no longer even remember, and my friend Kevin and I proceeded to complain about over beer for the next month or so (because that is how exciting our lives are). Bloglines is back but I’m not about to move all my feeds again.

I recently subscribed to a bundle of book blogs called Read About Reading. A bundle is a group of RSS feeds, usually on a particular topic, that someone has compiled and that you can subscribe to with one click. You can then unsubscribe to indvidual feeds within that bundle if you’d like. This is the first bundle I’ve subscribed to and it’s is a big change because I’ve kept my number of feeds comparatively low and this means I just added dozens at one time. I’m already way behind in reading them. I’d link to the Read About Reading bundle if I knew how or could remember where I found it. Bundles are something I clearly haven’t explored enough but I’m glad I know about them now!

Twitter
Twitter, our second tool up for discussion, is another matter entirely. I have an account, I follow people, I post things occasionally, but honestly I am just not a 140-character-or-less kind of person. These short posts are referred to as “microblogging” but they are more like Facebook status updates. The only meaningful information you can share in so few characters is a link to something else, which is fine but limited.

I know a lot of people love Twitter, and maybe someday I will understand that love. But for me, right now, I have enough other useful things to spend time with (like reading those 60 book blogs I just subscribed to). However, I think Twitter is a great tool for organizations such as libraries! The short format is great for mini PR items like “We just received 10 copies of the new Jennifer Weiner book today!” or “Don’t forget about our knitting workshop tomorrow at 7pm” or “Did you know that the library has books in Portuguese?” Plus, I think the library should use as many readily available means of outreach as possible, from flyers in coffee shops to the latest social networking tools.

Pushnote
The third tool we are exploring this week (or last week, as I am still behind) is Pushnote. I hadn’t even heard of it before because I’ve just spent two years looking for a job instead of learning anything new, but after trying it out for a few minutes early this morning I am not convinced of its usefulness. Basically, you create an account and then you can comment on websites and share these comments with friends in your network. Except we all already do this on something called Facebook which has many other important uses like playing Scrabble and stalking ex-boyfriends, so I don’t know why we’d bother to sign up for a single-function service like Pushnote.

After creating an account you must download an add-on for your browser (unless you use IE, which is not compatible with Pushnote at all.) The way it is supposed to work is that when you visit a site on which others have commented the little Pushnote star on your browser turns green (red if your friends have commented) but my star doesn’t do anything. So every time I go to a site, I have to click on the star to see if anyone has commented, which is a pain and several major sites I checked have no comments, which suggests that few people are using this. Also, I haven’t found ANY value whatsoever in the comments I’ve seen so far. “The Telegraph is great – I read it every day!” “Pushnote is great!” Yeah, most comments are from people experimenting with Pushnote and are about the tool, not the site on which they are allegedly commenting. Even if the comments were thoughtful or relevant, I’m not sure how it would improve my current awareness as much as the sites they are commenting about. Thumbs down to Pushnote.


What about you? Do you subscribe to RSS feeds? Do you find Twitter useful? Is there some value to Pushnote that I’ve overlooked? Are there other current awareness tools that you like?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer lovin', had me a blast

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (2011)

This is the third in a series, so there are spoilers from the first two books. And also this one, but believe me when I say it doesn’t matter.

Isabel/Belly has grown up with Jeremith and Conrad, and though she has always been in love with Conrad, it is Jeremiah whose feelings for her have always been apparent. After a couple of books of angst, she hooks up with Jeremiah at the end of It’s Not Summer Without You.

Book three skips ahead and starts right off by saying that Belly and Jeremiah have been together for two years and are super serious. Almost immediately we find out that he has cheated on her. Jeremiah’s betrayal is a big drama so of course the solution is to get married right away. The bulk of the book is all about planning their wedding, and Belly’s unresolved feelings towards Conrad who is the one she’s actually been in love with for her whole life. I think we all know how this will end.

Sadly, the ending is unsatisfying as it skipped ahead a year or so in the future, leaving out the part that would have actually been exciting to experience and would have made the whole book worth it. This seems to be a common book ending trend - skipping ahead and leaving out the actual ending - and it is a trend I do not like. I want to experience the protagonist getting together with her love interest, not join them later on when they’ve settled into their relationship.

There were so many things wrong with the plot of this book, not the least of which is a 19-year-old planning to marry a guy who has just cheated on her. I didn’t even care about the cheating since I had JUST found they were allegedly such a serious couple. Also! Just after we learn about the cheating, we find out that Belly and Jeremiah have never had sex. Wtf! We are supposed to believe they are seriously in love, and they haven’t even had sex? You are in college now! You even sleep in the same bed sometimes! This bizarre situation isn’t even really addressed except to say that Belly wanted to wait to make it “special” (gag). Apparently these kids are untouched by the hormonal urges that plagued the rest of us during our teenage years. Their ability to so easily stick to chaste kisses should have clued them in to the doomed future of their so-called relationship.

I can’t think of many specific positive things to say about the book, although I did give it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. What can I say? Like the first two books in this series, it is filled with the sights, smells, and tastes of summer. So although it left me unsatisfied, I did kind of enjoy the brief time we had together. But I may just go back and re-read the first book in hopes of erasing the stupidity of this one from my brain and replacing it with the fond memories of previous summers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when...

The Patterns of Paper Monsters by Emma Rathbone (2010)

7:30 Lights on. 8:00 Breakfast. 9:30 Class. 11:30 Lunch. 5:30 Dinner. 6:30 Chores. 9:30 Lights out. It is always freezing and Jacob always has to pee at the worst possible time, when he surely won’t be granted permission. His bleak outlook on life isn’t improved by the conditions here at the juvenile detention center, nor does he respond to sessions with his therapist Lane. Only when he meets Andrea does he start to feel some hope, and eventually they kindle a bit of a romance, as much as they can in a place where boys and girls are almost always separated. When he meets the creepy new inmate David, Jacob must chose whether to remain indifferent or stop David’s violent plan from becoming reality.

Jacob could easily be an unlikeable character, what with his not caring and his dislike of most people around him. Luckily, he has a sarcastic and dry sense of humor that Rathbone has infused with colorful and unexpected language. Jake can be pretty raunchy, but he’s a teenager so that’s no surprise. I’m glad his language and thoughts weren’t sanitized and unrealistic the way they are in so many young adult novels.

His observations are apt and cutting. Describing a guest at a victim awareness session he says: “Meet Amy M. Masterson, Alumna Victim, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Having Been Raped. Majored in tired eyes with a concentration in unnerving vulnerability.” He knows what reactions adults are trying to get from him, and refuses to be manipulated.

Despite his withdrawal from social interactions he is clearly smart and thoughtful, which is displayed in the few instances in which he engages in conversation. When Pastor Todd asks Jacob what he thinks God’s plan is for him, Jacob points out the contradictions in Pastor Todd’s assertions that God has a plan for him, but that he has a choice. Pastor Todd changes the subject and abruptly leaves.

Although Jacob is cynical and hostile, it’s clear that the adults around him do care about him and want to help even if their efforts are sometimes misguided. It’s no wonder that he doesn’t trust people, given the disappointments in his life with his mother and her abusive boyfriend who Jacob has dubbed Refrigerator Man. Jacob is a guy on the verge, who could easily be pushed further into his dark hole of depression and anger. But it’s his brief moments of hope and happiness that make us root for him, and keep our fingers crossed that he’ll take a step towards making his life a better one.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thing 3 : Consider Your Personal Brand

For this activity, we are asked to Google ourselves and reflect on what sort of information came up, if we’d want colleagues to see it, and how to improve our personal brands. Personal branding is basically just a carefully cultivated reputation or persona, and it’s not something I honestly have thought much about. I also don’t think I’d base my opinions about someone on the google results I found about them. Does anyone think that’s an accurate or complete portrayal of a person? Perhaps more so now than in the past.

Successful branding requires compartmentalizing different parts of one’s personality and for me that is needlessly complicated. For instance, I know some people who have “Sally Smith, librarian” Facebook profiles in addition to their personal profiles. But I can’t easily separate the professional and nonprofessional aspects of myself. If I read a fantastic book I could post it on my profesional profile, but I’d want to share it personally with friends as well – would I end up posting it twice? And would I need to decide which “friends” are professional and which are personal? What about my librarian friend who I met at a knitting group but have never worked with - would I friend her with my personal profile or my librarian one?

For now I’m just not going to start creating multiple profiles, nor will I create separate blogs for professional versus personal topics. I’d need to be sure I had the time and energy to create enough fodder for each blog and that’s a lot of work! Perhaps it’s worth it for an independent businessperson trying to create a reputation, but I don’t know what the benefits would be for a public librarian. This doesn’t mean I’m not mindful of what I write on my blog and consider how potential employers would see it. But I’m not consciously trying to create a brand for myself, not at this point.

Although I understand the importance of branding for companies, the connotations of branding people are a bit unsettling. I don’t want to have a brand. I want to be genuine, with faults and quirks and layers of complexity, not a carefully cultivated commodity.

Then again, we do it all the time. Reading this article, How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand, I recognized each step as something I’ve done in all the job interviews I’ve had in the past two years. We frequently try to highlight certain aspects of ourselves and explain career changes, not only in interviews, but at professional conferences, committee meetings, networking events, and every day at work. The difference is that the internet, and social networking especially, is forcing the personal and professional aspects of our lives together in new ways.

Do you try to separate the personal and professional aspects of your life? How successful has it been?

If you intentionally brand yourself, do you then become self-conscious about fitting into your own brand?