Win some, lose some...again

I'm okay with judging myself harshly (been doing it all my life, after all) but am not okay with others deciding to lay into me because of X, Y or Z. A sampling from this week of both...

I thought I should have known
that Larry McMurtry is the author of Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment.

A patron told me he likes books by this author, who I had never heard of, of course. I took his recommendation, though, started listening to Telegraph Days, and when I went to add this to my GoodReads account, discovered who Larry McMurtry is. I felt better when I learned that there are managers in my library system who didn't recognize Twilight... and that's hot right now. Larry -- not so hot right now.

Somebody else thought I should have known where to get a bike license. This was over Instant Messaging service. Went something like this...

Me: Motorcycle?
That person: No.
Me: To register it so you can claim it if it's stolen?
That person: No.
Me: A license to ride your bike?
That person: Yes.
Me: Looking at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, I don't see that you need a license. Can you tell me more about what you heard? Or where you heard it?
That person: This is taking too long. They need to find someone who knows what they're doing. Thanks for nothing. Choice Words.

Turns out, Minneapolis used to require bike licenses, and Anoka (not in my service area, but...) currently does require a license for bicyclists. He had disconnected by then, and before I asked where he lived.


Those squiggly marks

When I consider my DH's incredible skill with languages, I sometimes think he was meant to be a linguist. He remembers a LOT of German without using it daily (and when he does speak, his diction is very impressive). He has a thorough understanding of and appreciation for our English language - he speaks well, and he talks about speaking well. And he likes to talk about English and other languages.

This is a snippet of our conversation tonight while waiting for our reubens.

Him: How far do you go to pronounce foreign or imported words authentically?
Me: Well, I don't say hah WAH (stop) ee because my throat gets exhausted.
Him: Glottal stops hurt your throat? That's weird. Well, in English we don't pronounce the glottal stop often the way they do in Austronesian languages, so that makes sense.
(BTW, the apostrophe in Hawai'i is called an okina.)

Me: I don't say ca FAY la TAY because I think it's pretentious that they use the mark over the 'e.'
Him: Definitely. It's a grave accent anyway, which just means that you should pronounce a letter that is typically silent. If it were an acute accent, you would pronounce it differently. Like resumé.
(The accent mark in the restaurant Cafe Latté is an acute accent. It is still considered nonstandard, and IMHO, pretentious. I guess they have the goods to back up their pretense, though).

We then went on to list all kinds of other diacritical marks and how they affect our pronunciation (the circumflex-not-the-caret, the cedilla, the tilde, the umlaut) as well as naming the different stops in our speech (glottal, labial, etc.). I stumped him when I asked if there was such a thing as an epiglottal stop, like when we make the 'ng' sound with our epiglottis, but I'm not going to answer that.

(Hint: If there are any speech therapists -- any at all -- out there, now would be a good time to try posting a comment!)

Anyway. While I was reading a little bit about diacritical marks, I learned the the keystrokes to make accent marks. ¡Quiero escribir en español ahora! Pero, no recuerdo muchas palabras. ¿Cómo estás? Y ¿Qué tiempo hace hoy? Y Deseo que tenía un otro amigo español. Practicaría español otra vez. Oh well.


Forget something?

Today was one of those rare and dreamy days. I spent the entire day IN. MY. OFFICE. Oh, I got so much done. I was in such a groove that I forgot to leave work on time...I didn't notice it was 5:30 until the first closing announcement was made.

It doesn't happen very often that I forget to leave work on time -- but I've had my fair share of embarrassing "what did I come here to do?" moments. You know the ones -- where you walk into a room and by the time you get there, you forget what your purpose was. Also, as documented in this blog, there are quite a few facts that I've managed to forget throughout my life. I'm not that stressed about it, but it is pretty annoying to forget things. A feeling that others share...

Don't fret. There are options, people. You could try...

a backup for your brain!

Evernote allows you to capture information (pictures, voice, data) in a number of different places (your desktop, internet browser, cell phone or PDA), and then search and retrieve that information from any of those devices. (Really, the video does a better job of explaining it.) They're saying you can remember everything. My initial reaction to this was "this is over the top! it's still a crutch for your brain! it's no different than pen and paper and what's wrong with pen and paper anyway?" But, then I remembered the message I Jotted to myself earlier today because I never have pen and paper with me on the go. Then I thought about how happy I am that I can access my Google Docs anywhere with Internet access. The list goes on.

There is apparently a rapidly growing brain fitness software market. I'm not sure that Evernote qualifies as brain fitness software, but he's tapping into a real desire, I'm guessing.

a prosthetic for your brain!

Today's Future Tense had to do with memory, too. Gary Marcus, psychology professor and author of Kluge: the haphazard construction of the human mind, says "implanting chips in human brains would help us overcome evolutionary limitations on memory." I get where our brains are not computers, and it would be cool to organize our memories the way we organize our email inbox or feed readers for easy search and retrieval, but seriously. Would you really want to index your own memory? Really?? There are things that I'm trying to forget, and I don't want any tags on those memories. At all.

a bike for your brain!

The StarTribune reported yesterday that the Mayo Clinic's Study on Aging finds that (drum roll, please) physical exercise is good for the brain. I haven't been on a bike for several years (mainly because I hate biking), but I'm tempted to check out the bike auction this spring. I love the trails near my house.

Betty Botter bought a bit of butter

As he's doing a lot more baking lately, my DH asked about the difference between salted and unsalted butter. He didn't appreciate my "one has salt, the other doesn't" response, but that really is the difference. Chefs prefer unsalted butter because it allows them to control the amount of salt in, and thus, the flavor of the dish. The Joy of Baking says that the shelf life of unsalted butter is about 3 months, while the shelf life of the salted (preserved) butter is about 5 months.

Given that butter never lasts that long in my house, I think we should give the sweet butter a try.

And, for more than you could ever want to know about the history of butter, read on.


Not just a video game

Guitar Hero is just a step towards new ways of engaging or interfacing with music, and there is more to come from the MIT Media Lab.


A crossword puzzler

I helped someone with a crossword puzzle question yesterday.

Q: What is the function whose domain is between -1 and 1?
A: Um...

I haven't had a math class since high school, and although I was good with the maths and enjoyed them, it's been over 10 years (gulp, wimper, waaaa) since I thought about what a function, domain, value, sine, cosine, or a tangent was. Luckily for me someone blogged the answer, so I was able to cross-reference pretty quickly and give the caller the answer. Made sure it fit the clue in her crossword before getting off the phone, etc., but sheesh! That would have taken quite a bit of digging otherwise. And, really, isn't the point of the NYT crossword puzzle that they are impossible to solve?

The funny part was that a mathematician, who I am almost certain would know something like this off the top of his head, was sitting about 6' away from me, probably listening to the whole thing. I'm not a favorite of his. So if he did happen to overhear, I'm wondering what he made of my stumbling through inverse trigonometric functions.


Cats and coasters

The girl cat knows the rules, and lately has been testing her boundaries. The most important rule is "no kitty on the keyboard." She usually sits right next to the keyboard, or quickly struts across, rather than walk around the computer. Tonight, she saw her chance and blatantly defied the rule.

This is Tiki looking all innocent and cute when she knows she's doing something wrong. She really has a talent for this.

How quickly she changes tactics. Here is Tiki looking at me with disdain after I tried to gently nudge her off the computer.

I originally had the camera out to take pictures of the quilted coasters I made with the leftover fabric. This is how they turned out.

Incidentally, if you saw them in person you would see cat hair all over them. Not only does Tiki love the computer, she also likes to help me quilt. She will oftentimes crawl right up on my chest and stick her butt in my face while I'm sewing the edge of a quilt. That's my girl.

Going on staycation?

I want to get OUT OF TOWN! I am still not sure if that is going to happen this year, but I really want to go to the Amish quilt auction in Ohio, and I want to take trips to Portland and Chicago to visit friends and family. I know my first problem is that I need to be more deliberate in making that happen. However, in April, which is when I intended to go on my first vacation, I'm facing the prospect of a staycation. If, like me, you aren't going anywhere soon, I'm here to say I feel your pain.

So, what can I do here? How can I create a little mini-vacation in my own hometown?

It shouldn't be so hard to enjoy my city. Frommer's ranked it among the top ten destinations for 2007, and the city's website boasts landmarks, architecture and tours, and MEET Minneapolis created a list of 150 Things to Do in Mpls in honor of the state's sesquicentennial. Yet, exploring Mpls has never been on my list of top-10 things to do on any given weekend. Maybe I'll cross the river and head to (gasp) Saint Paul next weekend! Or, sit down and actually formulate a plan to go on a real vacation soon.

The corpse flower

Oh, drat. I missed a rare opportunity to smell a flower whose scent is reminiscent of a day-old dirty diaper pail. Yes, I'm writing of the corpse flower that bloomed at the Como Conservatory yesterday. The Amorphophallus titanum, which roughly translates as "giant misshapen penis," blooms 2-3 times in its life span, so flower people got excited about it. Me? I'm fine looking at pictures.


Makes sense to me

In a meeting with other librarians today, and one of them said "yeah, my kids use acid all the time, and they love it." And we all said "cool!"

Out of context, that sounds disturbing, alarming, and frightening. Fear not. Librarians aren't hiding anything. Acid is a music production software created by Sony that allows you to create original music and remix other music.

A few other terms have crept into my lexicon over the last few years that might sound strange. Here are some examples:

I'll just Jott my Gubb list so I don't lose that thought.
I have Scratch on Tuesday.
I'll just tweet my twits to let them know I'm at Starbucks.
I think I'll throw a fish at Amy, or at least write on her wall.

Any other phrases that you thought you'd never say? Or that sound bizarre when you hear them?


World language learning

A friend of mine is a Spanish teacher, and she told me today that her school district requires a 3.0 GPA for high school students to enroll Spanish I. I had never heard of such a requirement, but I checked the Minnesota Department of Education, and sure enough, there are no statewide standards for world language study. Both the University of MN and the MN State Colleges expect graduates of Minnesota High Schools to have had 2 years of a single foreign language study for admission. (They don't indicate a minimum or a target grade point average, but don't "C" students get into college anymore?).

It's nice for my friend to have the go-getter students in her classes, but (and she agrees) it is sad that many students who wish to enroll in Spanish are not able to.


Internet roundup: how do I...

I've been noticing a number of how-to sites lately. Especially within the last few weeks, how-to sites have been spotlighted in various blogs and resource lists. Given that this blog is about all that common knowledge that people seem to have collected, I thought that how-to sites fit the scope of Oranges and Peaches.

WonderHowTo claims to have collected every how-to video that exists on the internet today. Anyone can submit a video's URL, but membership is required to create playlists and leave comments and grades for the videos. Didn't dig around too much, but today I learned how to escape from handcuffs and watched a new recipe for stuffed mushrooms.

World Hum is all about "exploring travel in all its facets: how it changes us, how it changes the way we see the world, and finally, how travel itself is changing the world." To them, travel is a state of mind. I love it. Two editors and several contributors have written various articles about different aspects of travel -- much more than where to go and what to see. They also maintain a blog -- I stumbled across this entry on how to use a squat toilet. It is a very humorous how-to, but given that this is the third day in a row that this taboo subject has presented itself to me, I had an extra laugh.

Rules of Thumb, which strives to collect all rules of thumb in one place, employs a user-rating system to determine the accuracy of the vignettes of wisdom that are submitted. "When planting seed, don't cover it deeper than three times its diameter," and "your thumb and index finger will encircle four modest servings of uncooked spaghetti" are just a few of the rules of thumb you can find here.

And, finally, ReadWriteWeb pulled many sites that teach you how to do stuff. The sites include some techie how-tos (it's a tech blog, after all) and some general all-purpose sites from amateurs and professionals.


Colicky babies

I simply thought that colic meant that a baby screamed and cried for no apparent reason. Turns out, people have been walking around with the knowledge that colic has to do with the baby's digestion. News to me.

In my defense, though, M-W's second definition for colic is "a condition marked by recurrent episodes of prolonged and uncontrollable crying and irritability in an otherwise healthy infant that is of unknown cause." The Mayo Clinic starts its article on colic off by saying that it is defined as "crying for more than three hours a day" in an otherwise well-fed and healthy baby. They go on to say that no one really knows what causes colic. Plus, I'm not a parent so this topic doesn't really come up in conversation, or in the books I read.

But, yes. I heard more stories about my DH's infancy over the weekend. Some very funny stories, one of them being how colicky and crabby and unhappy he was for the first few months. (Not funny for his parents at the time, of course, but the way my mother- and father-in-law tell stories is awesome). On the way home, D said that he would rather not have heard about how his colic manifested itself with bouts of explosive diarrhea. So, don't tell him I blogged about it. :)

Sanguine stress

Common knowledge item: blood stains are difficult to get out.

If you treat the stain while it is still fresh, there are things you can do.

HowStuffWorks breaks stain removal down by material, describing how different fibers will react to various substances. Water and ammonia are mentioned the most, but a quick google search will give other options (like dishwashing soap, salt, peroxide, etc.,) if cold water doesn't do the trick. The most important thing to keep in mind is that blood is a protein stain, which means that hot or warm water will set the stain even more. So, use cold water immediately and all should be well.


Since when?

You mean to tell me that Luke and Leia are TWINS?!

I learned this tonight while watching a bit of Star Wars with A&C. C was patient in giving A & I a brief reintroduction to the characters we thought we knew (even though I've never made it through an entire StarWars movie in my life) when he pointed out that Luke and Leia were actually twins.

It went like this...

Us: WHAT?! When did that happen?!?! Since when?!
Him: Ummmm....since the 80s.

Well, this just confirms that I'm a different brand of geek from most geeks.


Cocktail hour: solving the world's problems one glass at a time

I just love the conversations that come up with the in-laws. Even when the conversation steers towards politics. It seems we can all agree that we genuinely trying to figure things out -- even if we disagree on the specifics. In addition to politics, the conversation last night ranged from No Child Left Behind to imitation foods, from president Abraham Lincoln to photo processing in the 1950s and 1960s.

Everyone (even me) in the grouping seemed to know that...
  • Abraham Lincoln was a political outsider (thanks to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals), but we didn't know that his name was not even on the ballot in southern states;*
  • Imitation pork is usually made out of sietan;
  • Students in many other countries are placed on different educational or vocational tracks at a certain age, but we lack specifics on how placement is determined (Eurydice and EuroEducation provide profiles of European educational structures, and if you can read other languages, UNESCO profiles educational system structures around the world.); and that
  • Cecil's still makes the Best. Reubens. Ever.
The question of whether cats will scratch leather came up. Basically, yes. They will. And not necessarily intentionally -- just by jumping on and off the furniture, their claw marks will show up more. Soft fabrics fare the best, according to various forums on a range of home design sites, but the best solution is to provide more appealing alternatives for the cats. Luckily, our boy cat likes his sisal rope scratching post, and the girl cat likes her variegated cardboard.

And finally, "how is *the merger* going?" All I can say is it's huge. It's a huge thing that will take a lot of time.

*Whenever I get disgusted with the division within the Democratic Party, I just try to remember that the Democrats actually split into northern and southern wings at one point in our history, and that we aren't there now.