Monday, June 28, 2010

worldcat to the rescue

I may not be working, but I'm under a very important self-imposed deadline to post my 2009 book roundup and finish a few more books before my midterm book review comes due in a few days. Of course none of those things wanted to happen tonight. This post wanted to happen instead.

Since I quit stockpiling used books I've been reading more and actually keeping up with some contemporary titles again. I won't be sporting a kindle anytime soon, but my reading is heavily assisted by technology these days. Observe the beauty that is goodreads + worldcat + your library.

Scenario. Everyone you've ever met is raving about The Help.

1. I mosey on over to goodreads to see what the fuss is all about. Holy crap, a 4.5 average rating! OK OK, I'll get my grubby paws on it already, even if it's to prove the masses wrong. Looks like there's one book to swap, I can find a new copy or Amazon or.... I can use WorldCat.

2. What is WorldCat? Only the big brother of all libraries! With one clickthrough from goodreads I can immediately see all local libraries that have this book! It remembers my location and everything. This is especially awesome in my neck of the woods where you can easily have multiple library cards for neighboring towns.

3. Now it's just a second click to my oakland library page and a third to request The Help.

4. Fast forward: I head back to goodreads to post my review and complete the circle of life.

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 24, 2010

and they called it summer

I finally emerged from my vacation lethargy and did some semi-productive wholesome things. Two farmers markets - whoa is summer here. Berries are peaking and I had a delectable Carine nectarine from Blossom Bluff. Singing has been awesome the last couple weeks, partly thanks to some recent transplants we've stolen away from western mass. Also planted dill in the pickle patch, read a local history book, thrifted, cleaned my room and car and bathroom.

Oh, and finally FINALLY got my bike back in order. Fixing my flat was supposed to be easier this time around! I'll spare you the drama of false fixes and wrong tubes. I finally sorted out that original tube was the wrong size to begin with and that's probably why I was getting so many flats. Well, at least I've had plenty of opportunity to improve my repair efficiency. Not to mention the hours of entertainment I provided for Joe, my young apprentice.

Now my dad is in town with A in tow, I picked them up at the airport and we headed straight for pho to ward off the June gloom. We were revived enough for a walk around Lake Merritt. Now I've convinced them to check out the Oakland Museum and then we'll meet up for dinner at Encuentro. Next to hit town tonight in Inder's mom, newly a granny for the second time! I predict that I will continue to eat well over the next week.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Dammit, we have fleas! AGAIN!!! At least they don't appear to be bionic and unkillable like the ones we cohabitated with in Juneau, but they're still not the kind of roommates you're hoping for when you put up that ad on Craigslist. We're hoping that with enough loads of laundry and various crackpot naturopathic remedies (essential oil, borax, dishes of soapy water) they'll get bored enough to leave our bed and migrate back to our landlord's dogs. In the meantime, R has forbidden me to hang our sheets out to dry anymore, since we're pretty sure that's how they came in. Ugh. No one, I repeat with capslock for emphasis, NO ONE wants to run their dryer in Texas summer. I have crankily agreed, but only because they now seem to be equal-opportunity fleas who are biting me as much as they're biting him. If they were still only plaguing R and not me like they did in Juneau, it would be a different story. I'm just that kind of compassionate helpmeet.

On the up side, getting reinfested gave me an excuse to hunt down those old flea posts, which provided a nice bout of nostalgia for the blog's early glory days. 12 comments! (Okay to be fair most of them are from me, Rebecca, Linda, Matt, Ellen and Jenna, which still pretty accurately describes our commentorship. But still!) I had also forgotten how I used to call R's dozens of painful, blistering flea bites his leprosy. In retrospect that was probably much funnier for me than for him. And our marathon, weeks-long game of Nertz! That's pretty much all we did for the entire 3-day ferry trip up to Alaska. Five years ago. Wow.

Since last we spoke I have been to opposite coasts and am now enjoying a brief period of respite before L&R's wedding in Minnesota next month! Before my conference in DC a couple of weekends ago I stole two days with Carly in Baltimore which was utterly delightful. Then R&I jetted off to Seattle for our annual family visit, including lots of quality time with The Nephs and New Neph (who, as you'll recall, is in fact a girl. Sorry, kid. It was the best nickname we could come up with). More on that to come, but in the meantime R has put up some select photos (R's sexyface in the mandated-for-entry chocolate factory hairnet is a highlight, but feel free to check them all out). (Please also note that I just tripled our blog traffic by writing the word "sexyface.")

Here in Austin things are about the same... it may be June 21st but summer has already been in full swing here for at least a month, with heat indexes in the high 90s and free-flowing margaritas. Saturday night we went out into the country for another one of our patented BBQ and dancehall adventures, this time in celebration of Quincy's 40th, which as usual involved copious amounts of meat and two-stepping. Just another weekend here in Texas.

Happy summer y'all!

"the book of American heritage"

U.S. Census Bureau NRFU Update: As of Sunday, 6/20, 97 percent of census forms checked in to local census offices.

(Yes, I am a fan of the census bureau on facebook. Is anyone surprised?)

That's it, folks, most of the forms are in! If you didn't mail yours back I hope you were gracious to your non response enumerator. We actually got one at our door, inquiring about our neighbor... I think he was a little put off by my enthusiasm. Or maybe it was just our obnoxious dogs.

Anyway, I haven't forgotten about my census in american culture project. Now's the time to turn from enumeration to the amazing things we can do with those census results. When you hear that the census is a cornerstone of our democracy, it's not just about equal representation in Congress and equal funding. It's also about all American people having access to their own history.

Fictionalized or not, Alex Haley's Roots is our most influental and iconic story of geneologic discovery.
More than the sum of its historical and literary parts—some of which have been rigorously criticized and debunked—Haley’s quest for his roots changed the way black folk thought about themselves and how white America viewed them. No longer were we genealogical nomads with little hope of learning the names and identities of the people from whose loins and culture we sprang. Haley wrote black folk into the book of American heritage and gave us the confidence to believe that we could find our forebears even as he shared his own...
Haley’s Roots sparked curiosity among ordinary citizens by making the intricate relations between race, politics and culture eminently accessible. Long before demands for history from the bottom up became a rallying cry of progressive historians, Haley’s book practiced what it preached. And if he made missteps along the way, he nevertheless put millions of us on the right path to racial and historical knowledge that shaped our reckoning with the color line...
Each generation must make up its own mind about how it will navigate the treacherous waters of our nation’s racial sin. And each generation must overcome our social ills through greater knowledge and decisive action. Roots is a stirring reminder that we can achieve these goals only if we look history squarely in the face.
(From a new introduction to the book by Michael Eric Dyson, which you can read or listen to here.)

All made possible by the census!
Read the excerpt to see the beginning of Haley's journey. Yes, dusty old records are thrilling! (Click the page for a bigger image.)

And, just for fun. The theme music!

Next up, my own adventures with ancestry.

Stay out of my pickle patch!

My mom has turned into an avid gardener, with raised beds in her friend's backyard and containers on her balcony. When she was in town a couple weeks ago she graciously agreed to help me out in my own garden. (For a share of the harvest of course.) She turned the soil, helped me transplant the Parisian Gherkins and the Lemon cukes, and even organized our tools! Come back and garden with us soon!

Go girl!

Planting lemon cukes where our old meyer lemon tree used to be, may it rest in peace.

The high security fence. It's just screaming out for a hand lettered Pickle Patch sign.

One reason for the high security fence...

The other reason for the high security fence!

Next up: planting dill and adventures in trellising

Friday, June 18, 2010

Keep up the good work

I'm unemployed! Just til July, hopefully. Until then I'll be catching up on the blog and being slothful. And entertaining my dad when he comes to visit!

I know I'm supposed to be celebrating that school's out, but really my job is so easy and I miss my kids already! I always get too attached! My newcomers who started with zero english and ended up writing 5 paragraph essays! My wednesday after-school group for whom I got to plan fun extra projects like pretending to be paleontologists! My misunderstood dreamer boy! Sniff! OK, indulge me in some highlights of cuteness from the end of the year. I'll try to be brief.

At one of my wrap-up parties I asked for favorite memories of second grade, and the kids launched into talking about their feelings!
1: Well, when I started this year I was nervous because I wasn't sure I would pass second grade. But now I feel strong! (with accompanying muscleman posing)
2: At first I felt shy. But now I know all my friends in my class! (Please note that this boy also informed me very earnestly that the kindergarten class's interpretive dance was so pretty that it made him cry! Oh, sensitive boys! It hurts.)
3: Oh, I was really excited to meet new people! I learned a lot! (Dude. She had just moved to the US! She's fearless!)

I went back in to clean out my room today and also picked up some pictures and thank you notes.

See me being all teacher-like. This was from the Dr. Seuss day when I got strongarmed into reading to classes.

Thank yous from kids are endlessly entertaining - the ones with uniquely adorable grammar and spelling ("You are the beast!") and the ones who fixate on the weirdest things. ("I like you giving me foods when it is lunch, and your foods are very good." Obviously, there are worse things to be remembered for.) In this batch of notes my favorite are those that praise me like I'm the one being marked. For example:

And particularly the one from a student I spent lots of quality time with, one of those boys who literally can't contain his zest for life long enough to be bothered to sit down and do any work. He scrawled simply in pencil: "Keep up the good work!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

I find myself placed in a state of probation

Yesterday we sang up in Sonoma at this awesome abandoned church that is called, in all seriousness, The Church of Heaven on Probation. (Part of a 19th century communal village run by healer Madam Preston.) It was HOT and we sang loud and fast and we had a brilliant dinner on the grounds. Yay summer!!!

More pictures of singing and JR at the UCB blog, courtesy of Inder.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

May/June roundup

Hot damn, I can't even remember the last time Rebecca's posts booted me off the main page of the blog. I am properly chastened.

I am fried with travel-weariness and totally unable to come up with anything even remotely witty to share with you all. Sorry. I'm just back from a weekend conference in DC preceded by two lovely days with Carly in Baltimore, where I sang Sacred Harp in a pretty church and went to an ass-kickin Hazel Dickens show and just generally had a delightful mini-vacation. Even more vacation forthcoming: Seattle this month, Lauren & Ruth's wedding next month, and Ecuador in August! Oh my!

In retroactive vacation news, here are a few shots from our brief sojourn in El Paso/Las Cruces last month. I eagerly anticipate someday regaining the capacity to write about my life in a non-boring fashion.

Friday, June 04, 2010

out of order

You know it's bad when you have to shake your computer to get an internet connection. Things of mine that are currently broken/flat/defunct:

Wireless card
Car stereo (again)
Cell phone (again)
bike tire (again)
external hard drive with all my music (still)
doorknob (still/again)
GPS (still)

Sigh. Ice cream makes all better.

ETA: Congrats M and R (and big sis TG!)!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Most blogged about 30 minutes of gardening ever

OMG you guys! So there were even more photos from Saturday's groundbreaking that I couldn't fit into my spammy pickle patch post. But look what Inder made!! Moving pictures! With more Joe hijinx! Featuring a soundtrack by June Carter Cash! Love. Click through to read her commentary and check out our new clothesline. But the embedding... can't stop embedding...