Sunday, March 29, 2009


I enjoy cooking and trying new tastes and flavors, but I don't like to cook just for me--I find that boring and often opt for a bowl of cereal over going through the fuss of actually putting together a meal. Last week I tried a new soup recipe. I went to Bristol Farms--upscale boutique supermarket that has just opened in the area--and bought a fennel bulb. I remember eating fennel in a restaurant in San Jose with Cam that I really liked. I don't remember how it was prepared just that I liked it. So I found a fennel, leek and potato soup recipe. It was so very good and so very easy that I plan to make it again tonight.
Sometimes my recipes turn out quite good and sometimes not so good. Except for baked goods, I have never really followed a recipe to the letter so this means that end up with mixed results. I hate measuring and feel that most things are better if I throw in a few of my favorite ingredients like garlic, onions, sambal olek (phillipino hotsauce), etc.
I can't wait until my neice comes for the summer because then I will have a reason to try lots of things. She is somewhat picky as an eater so there is the possiblity that she will not like my cooking and we will be stuck with eating out. I hope not.
Tonight I will also have potstickers along with sauted mushrooms and wilted spinich. I have no problem mixing cultures with my food. A little Asian and a little Western discribes the way most of my food turns out. I have very few straight up American recipes, everything has a little twist. For example, I really like my blue cheese, minced olives and mushroom potstickers served with a soy sauce balasmic vinegar sauce. Potstickers are so easy and fun to make and you can experiment with almost anything.
OK enough random thoughts about cooking.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Random Stuff

Good news--if I wanted to run a 10K tomorrow--well maybe not tomorrow--but I could do it. I just go back from the gym where I ran 5 very slow miles on the treadmill. I tell myself that it is less impact on the treadmill and therefore OK to run. I feel good. Yeah!!!
I just finished The Cairo Dairy by Maxim Chattam. This title is the next selection for my book club. I usually have about 7 people come to book club. This title had 12 copies in our system so I requested them all. Next thing I know, I don't have any copies left on my book club shelf and I hadn't read the book yet. It seems that more people are interested in the book club--good news--and a few of the copies turned up missing when people looked for them in their library to send to mine. So I had to send up a distress call to my book club and ask people to return copies early if they had finished them. Thursday a copy showed up so I snagged it. I have to write the questions after all and I try to get them out to everyone a few weeks early.
At first I thought I wouldn't be able to get into the book but then it suddenly took off. There or two stories woven in one--Cairo in the 1920's and Mont-Saint-Michelle (which is off the coast of Normandy) in 2005. Curiously enough there is a pretty good recapping of my thoughts about good and evil. The main suspect asks the detective if he knows about the "rift of evil". "Is evil and entity or a corruption of our society...The rift of evil is a question that has been haunting our race since the dawn of civilization...are the worst criminals all that way because they have experienced the worst torments in their development to manhood, or is it because they wore born with this inclination toward violence?" (p.204) Good and Evil still seems to be the theme.
The book is well written and Chattam uses interesting descriptive similes: "Then the wind came and flattened itself against the glass behind her...pressing its face close so that it too could read the fabulous tale." And the ending is rather unexpected leaving the reader--or at least me--to ponder what really happened in the end--but the book ends with [Our truth] after all, concerns only us. And I guess it does.
I guess I enjoy ending that are someone ambiguous. One of my favorite stories is Rashamon where the detective is trying to sort out how a man was murdered. The detective interviews first the wife who tells a believable story and then the husband who has a different but equally rational story. The detective then has the opportunity to interview the ghost of the dead man. The ghost tells an alternate story not quite agreeing with neither the husband nor wife. Who is telling the truth? The point of Rashamon, much like the ending of The Cairo Diary, is that truth is not universal and may depend on whose point of view we are seeing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Library Programming

I'm not the only one with good and evil on the mind. While at the gym I saw a TV commercial for Nightline or some other news show asking Does Satan Exist? But enough of this line of thinking. I'm talking about library programming tonight.
With the sagging economy and a hiring freeze we will have to do more with less. But at the same time, I think that libraries need to do step up to the plate and do more for their customer base. So recently I have been planning monthly programs for our adults. I am lucky because I have a generous Friends of the Library group--FOL--that help pay for things that the County can't. This includes refreshments, prizes, and supplies and expenses.
In February, I asked on of my Aide's mom to do a jewelry making workshop. She did one last summer for the teens, so I was confident that she would do a good job. I had almost 30 people--29 women and one young man who wanted to make his girlfriend a gift for Valentine's. How sweet. Success.
Tonight I had a Fashion Swap Party at the library. It was a small turnout but everyone wants to do another one again so that they can convince their friends to come next time. One person picked up a silver frog ring for her sister's birthday.
I had three tables out where people could place their items depending on how nice they were. The participates could pick up tickets for each item they brought and then could choose from the same value table or a lesser value table. I served refreshments, had a CD on for background noise, mirrors stationed and a game. Everyone left happy. Yeah! Total cost for this program was about $30 ten of which went for the two Cold Stone Creamery gift cards I gave out. The other $20 was roughly for refreshments, but since, I drew from our refreshment supplies maybe that is exaggerating the budget.
Next month I have a free program which is a traveling art exhibit of the Santa Clara river valley--includes vintage photos and maps. The opening night reception will include live animals--bob cat, owls, etc from the valley with a professional talking about them. Then I asked a magician to come in for a show. I have passed out tickets. Several people have told me that it will be Mommy and Daddy's night out.
Then in May, I am doing a Luau out on our patio--that is seriously under utilized--for the family. I will have a limbo contest, several craft projects, photo opportunities, and some light snacks like pineapple, mango, and etc.
Anyway, that is what is happening in my library.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good vs Evil redux

During my weekly conversation with my mom, we talked about good vs evil. I wondered how people could be cruel and mean to animals and other people when I feel guilty killing a cockroach. Mind you I do kill them, but it really takes me screwing up my courage to do that. C can attest to the travails we had in killing a roach that flew into our 11th floor apartment in Hawaii. I believe she ended up doing the dirty deed. Although, I was the one that seemed to kill the centipedes and dispose of them into the toilet with the the centipede tongs that we kept under the bathroom sink. I digress but the point is that a regular pair of kitchen tongs could no longer be used because they were defiled with the centipede's death.
How is it that some of us can kill, maim or hurt a living being without compulsion and often remorse. Then I thought of myself, I am not a vegetarian. I eat living being that have died almost daily. Mind you, I don't find a big steak very appetizing but I did enjoy my smoked salmon yesterday for lunch and plan to have chicken potstickers this afternoon. So what does this mean. Somehow when we are able to distance ourselves from the death of an animal it is more palatable. Perhaps people who are able to harm others sometimes with obvious sadistic delight have a distance inside them. I heard once that people with leprosy are maimed not because the disease but rather because they lack feeling and are constantly trying to feel so they bump themselves sometime unaware but often on purpose. Just trying to feel something they do serious harm to themselves. Is there a connection? I wonder.
Why is it that I seem to be pretty sensitive--perhaps my empathy levels are higher than others. If I had to actually kill an animal, I would most definitely be a vegetarian. When I was twelve and botched cutting up a chicken and ended up breaking bones and tearing muscles, I was unable to each chicken on the bone for almost 20 years. But I would and do kill if I feel that I need to. That is the bottom line, but I do feel that a piece of my soul is pierced when I do.
So how can I reconcile abortion and the death penalty with all this? We are a complicated species are we? I believe in the quality of life over the quantity of life. I believe that a mother is the best gauge of whether she can care for a child or not. I have never been faced with the dilemma but I do know that for most of my life I have barely been able to care for myself, much less a child and I worry about my genetic legacy--all it takes is a look at my questionable family tree to understand.
With the death penalty I believe that there are people who cannot abide by our social compact to do no intentional harm. Some switch has been turned off so that they cannot feel or empathize. I believe that it is more humane to let them get on with what comes after this life than it is to cage them up like a rabid dog. I would hope if I did something egregious enough to warrant life in prison that I would not be made to live my life in a cage feeding on the negative energy that prisons emit. But here is the problem? Are we as fallible as we are able to decide who dies or doesn't? I am torn. But this much I am certain. When Ted Bundy was put to death in Florida, I remember seeing images of people dancing and singing that he was killed at the hands of the state. Although I had no problem with him being put to death, I was sickened that people were rejoicing in this. A life, a precious life had to be destroyed, there is no joy in this and people that feel happiness are reveling in the evil 20% of our split natures.
Conclusion: I have decided to thank any animal for its life to nourish me and not eat my food mindlessly. That is the least that I can do.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Good vs Evil

On Friday a patron asked for a book of essays on Good and Evil. Once again I was quite surprised that my initial search did not net good results. I tried various other searches and then went to search the philosophy and religious areas. I came up with a couple of books--none very satisfactory--and the focus was mostly on evil. In the end, I found several articles that people had written on evil in some of our databases.
This of course set the hamsters to work in my brain. I am positive there are books out there on good vs evil. I am sure that theological libraries would have more success with the search than I did in my public library system. But still this question intrigued me. Why couldn't I find a book that deals with good and evil together? Why was there a heavy emphasis on evil? With the wheels turning I made the following conclusions.
Evil is focused on more than good because we actually have to wrap our head around evil and expect good. This is heartening to me because it means that humans are basically good. But I know from experience that we are not always good--or at least I'm not. So I have placed a percentage to this. I think that people in general are about 80% good. We have to struggle with the other 20% to do the right thing. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't and sometimes when we don't the good in the end wins out and we try to make amends. I am encouraged.
Evil, really bad people who have no moral compass are perhaps reversed with the 80/20 formula. Their 20% of goodness is often swallowed up by the 80% of misdeeds. And I believe that some people have a more sliding scale of morality rather than a compass. But it seems that most people are still 80/20 in favor of the good guys. My brain has decided not to engage in the question as to why some people are more evil and other--most--are more good. Religions have been tussling with this question for thousands of years and science has been after an answer for hundreds. I will leave this up to the big boys. I am just happy I had the chance to realize that people really are mostly good and will more than 50% of the time do the right thing. That makes be feel good with being human, I hope it does you, too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reference Questions I Love

I like those questions that make me think--hmmm...I don't know, let me see if I can find out. For example last year someone asked for a book on the Grim Reaper--you know, Death, right. I thought that there would be no problem and that there would probably be several books in our system about the Grim Reaper at least. A quick search determined that there actually wasn't. What?!? How can that be. He's a pretty important guy right. Someone had to write something about THE GRIM REAPer some where. So I went out into cyberspace to see what books might show up. By this point, I am completely psyched to figure out this mystery. I couldn't find any non-fiction books that dealt with the grim reaper. I would think that there would have been at least a book of collected stories or something. I did find out that the Grim Reaper is known as a Psychopomp--I love the sound of this word--apparently a psycopomp is a spirit, angel or demon whose role is to guide the deceased soul to the afterlife. Pretty cool, Huh?
OK, so I wasn't able to give the guy much more than some copies from Wikipedia but hey why hasn't there been a load of books written on the Grim Reaper. I mean seriously, if any subject deserves some attention, I would think that our hooded, scythe carrying friend would rank up there. Don't you?
I also enjoy questions where people express, thanks and end the interaction with--You save me a lot of time or I would never have been able to find this on my own or thanks so much for taking the time to show me how to find stuff on my own. Or you can get them to fax that information here for me, really? That is so cool! or How did you find that? I have been looking for hours. Even a simple Thank you, works. It is nice to be appreciated and it builds good karma.
Thankfully, I get a lot more questions that I like or questions that generate no emotional response than I get questions that I hate.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reference Questions I hate

1) Children's science project questions. OK, not too bad if they are just looking for a science project but when they are looking for the supporting books--and they must be books--I just want to run out of the library screaming. Here are the questions that I got this past week in this category:
"I need a book on how tap water, distilled water and bottle water effects the growth of plants." My my head "Uhmm, I don't think anyone has written a book on that...EVER!" My response..."Well, why don't we find you a book on water...maybe that will help you."
"I need a book on the burning points of different kinds of woods." Internal--"Do we have a future pyromaniac on our hands or what?" Response..."Hmmm, let's go look in the wood working section and see if we can get some descriptions of different kinds of wood."
"I need a book on the nutritional value of gummy worms" Internal--"You have got to be joking, you look on the back on the package." External--"It sounds like a book on sugar or junk food might help you out with this project, why don't I find a couple of those for you?"

Yeah, I know they are kids and they don't know that there is a difference. However, every single one of these kids were accompanied by an adult and they are just as likely to ask very similar if actually not the same question.

2) Do you have the xth edition of x textbook? Internal: You do not want to buy the textbook because it costs $150 and you won't be able to sell it back at the end of the semester because the next edition is going to be out. The library doesn't have a lot of funds to buy 15 copies for you and your classmates for the same reason X 15 X 150 for the number of classes that we get asked about. External: You might want to check with your college library to see if they have a copy in the library--textbooks are expensive, change editions frequently, and our funds are limited, so it is difficult for us to collect them. But I will check my catalog just in case someone donated the edition that you need."

3)A string of reference questions that makes me feel that I have just had information vomited on me. They come one after the other. I barely have time to finish an answer before the next question comes. Totally different topics, totally random associations. I just wait for the onslaught to stop. I am left feeling like I need a shower.

4) The teacher says that I need a book, periodical, and an encyclopedia article on x with X inevitably being and obscure subject that even Wikipedia has only compiled two sentences on. Internal: "What was this teacher thinking...I know she has this nifty little book that is probably out of print and has all the information that she wants them to find but has failed to inform the library or anyone else of the title. I could just strangle her." External.." looks like I can't really find much on this subject except for a few sentences in Wikipedia...what I can do is fill out this card for you to give to your teacher letting her know that you (and your 30 classmates) have come to the library looking for the information but we can't locate anything more than what I have for you here."

Tomorrow, questions that I love to get...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Watchmen

The price of a movie ticket on debit Mastercard...$11, a bucket of popcorn...$6, seeing Dr. Manhattan's glowing blue penis...priceless. Billy Crudup aka Mastercard voice is Dr. Manhattan, a nuclear physicist who establishes super powers in an accident. In The Watchmen, when not wearing a loin cloth we see a full frontal. Yes, I know women have been waiting years to see a full frontal in film that doesn't carry one more equis than the beer in the rating. Thanks to The Watchmen we now have equality in film. Men get full frontals of a variety of hot actresses, we get glowing blue penis and a lot of it. Shocking! I was not expecting this, the New Yorker did not warn me the level of nudity and even some pretty graphic bump and grind action--of two non-blue, non-glowing although sweaty characters.

The New Yorker panned the movie in a major way--as the New Yorker is often wont to do. It is very violent it says, don't take the kids, it continues. And yeah, OK it did say that Billy Crudup is "buff, buck naked, and blue like a porn star left overnight in a meat locker" But it does not say anywhere in the article, get ready for multiple scenes that feature the blue penis. Seriously, I would have like to have been prepared for that. I need it spelled out for me. I have watched years of strategically placed fruit bowls, heads, and a gazillion other things. I was expecting the same. But not this time. Nope there it is, in its full sometimes quite massive glory. Let me just repeat that...Shocking!

Here is the story, due to Dr. Manhattan's interference or heroics--strictly a matter of opinion--the Vietnam War ends favorably for the US. Nixon is elected to a third term--the bastard, I knew he would rewrite the constitutional if given a chance. And superheroes have been outlawed and they have all hung up their capes, masks and whatnot or have they? The Watchmen is based on the graphic novel co-authored by Alan Moore, also the author of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta. Popular graphic novels recreated into less than mediocre films. Moore has become so disenchanted with Hollywood that you will not find his name anywhere on the current endeavor to produce a blockbuster. He has totally disassociated himself as the author of a well received graphic novel from the production of a film bearing the same title. I do wonder if he will receive any royalties or other payment--yeah probably so--sticking to your guns only goes so far after all.

The big question is--is the movie actually any good? Well, I mostly enjoyed it--it was different and after reading the New Yorker article, I was more determined to like it than I might otherwise have been. The article starts like this..."The world of the graphic novel is a curious one. For every masterwork such as Persepolis or Maus there seems to be shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks."
OK, maybe, but given the same thought line, for every Great Gatsby and whatever else is considered quality fiction, there are bookstores filled with pulp-fiction. Does this mean that none of them cannot be made into an enjoyable movie--of course not. So, yeah, maybe most graphic novels do not get Pulitzer prizes like Maus, but of the thousands of books sitting on my library shelves only a few of them are actually notable.

In general, I like comic book movies. They are interesting and look at the world in a different way. I appreciate that. Maybe I would have preferred less violence, fewer blue penis scenes and quieter music, but on the whole I had two and a half hours of entertainment that gave me a few things to think about. The other option for the evening was to channel surf my gazillion channels watching nothing for more than 5 seconds because either I have seen it before, or I don't want to see it now. You are not getting any complaints from me. Go see The Watchmen, but I am spelling it out for you--there is not strategically placed anything, ever. So prepare yourself.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Joys of Management

I don't know why I enjoy managing but I do. I don't have any delusions of being a fantastic manager but I don't think I am the Pointy Haired Boss on Dilbert either but am willing to admit that some people may disagree. It isn't always easy to make those tough decisions. Here is the type of employee I want, I want someone that is on time, has creative ideas, works diligently, and does not call in sick.

I have never been one to call in sick unless I am physically unable to get out of bed. In all the years I taught, I only had to reschedule classes two times due to illness--food poisoning and a severe throat infection with a high fever. I used 12 hours of sick time last year when the doctor told me I couldn't go to work. So I don't really expect people to be exactly like me but it does mean that I don't quite have the sympathy that people might hope for. I am the one that is always having to cover the extra work that people leave when they are out. It is not easy to constantly rearrange schedules and adjust duties. I mean if you are sick, then stay home. But if you are often sick and can't come to work, go to the doctor to find out what is wrong with you.

Sometimes, as a manager you have to make the tough decisions to try to coach someone into a stronger performance. I mostly just want to hide and ignore performance problems. I hate confrontations. I just wish that everyone was a strong employee that had all the elements and didn't need a lot of coaching and directing. But, alas, that is not the case. Maybe it is just me and I expect too much. I don't know. That's enough today.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke, yeah, you remember him. The actor with a bad boy almost good looking tough looks and soulful talents that made everyone think Deniro or Paccino. Then 9 1/2 Weeks with Kim Bassinger and things started going south and later a movie with vanDam before he slipped into obscurity.

The Wrestler is Mickey Rourke's come back movie and what a good job he did. The movie is a tough one. Roughly made, it is a raw film about a raw subject. The story follows Randy the Ram, a washed up wrestler that is facing his mortality. Randy realizes that fame and fortune are as temporary as they are elusive; what he has in life now is a broken body and family. He tries to find something more than temporary comfort in the arms of a stripper before he realizes that he is a wrestler and the only whore that can comfort him is a sweating crowd yelling for blood. You can almost feel Mickey Rourke exorcising his own personal demons in this movie. And Rourke has more than his own fair share of personal demons.

Well worth your dollars and better to see on the big screen that it will be at home. In the darkened theater you are right there with Randy the Ram, feeling his pain and the raw cold of a New Jersey winter. His nomination for the Academy Award was well deserved. Although Rourke may have found redemption in the nomination, regrets of what could have been coat the surface making it a bittersweet recognition.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Abudance of Katherines

By John Green. Colin Singleton was a nerdy child prodigy that has only dated and been dumped by 19 consecutive Katherines. Was a child prodigy because he has recently graduated high school which means that he is no longer a prodigy but genius seems out of his reach. He embarks on a road trip with his best friend Hassan--not a terrorist. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee where Colin tries to come to grip with his Katherine past and his murky future. Hassan faces up to being a non-doer and Gutshot native Lindsey discovers that maybe there is more to life than staying in Gutshot as Colin and Lindsey try to work out the math involved in getting dumped by Katherines. This is a wonderful, quirky coming of age novel that teens and adults can find common ground in. Green captures those painful murky years between childhood and becoming an adult perfectly. Ride along on their journey, you won't regret it.