Yes, I am about to use the words 'vocabulary' and 'fun' in the same sentence....

What a fun vocabulary list!

The girl cat keeps chewing on my aglets.
Ikea keeps putting up new bollards.
Dingbats and censorship go hand in hand.
You're obviously having ferrule issues, so use this eraser.
The keeper broke, but luckily, I can just use my pants.
I can't think of a time that I would ever need to know what a kerf is.
I was told the bigger the punt the better the wine.
My husband and I have matching scars on our philtrums.
As the day gets longer/more frustrating, I see more and more phosphenes.
Whatever you do, don't pierce your tragus.


Tea time

The DH and I popped into a tea room at the Chinese Gardens in Portland, and were met with the most amazing aromas from all the different teas that were brewing. We had the option of ordering a traditional ceremonial presentation with our tea (and I still wish we'd splurged a bit!) but we were happy with the gaiwan teas that we did drink.

Gaiwan refers to both a traditional Chinese method of brewing tea, and the cup/lid/saucer used to brew the tea. The leaves are brewed in the cup, and the lid is used to strain the tea by holding the leaves in. We just drank our tea directly from the cup, but if you're worried about the stray leaf working its way into your mouth, it could be poured into a separate cup.


They have a name for it

The idea that maintaining a city's cleanliness and quality of life helps to keep the crime rate low is called the broken windows theory. And! It's apparently been called this since the 80s, when George Kelling and James Wilson wrote an article called Broken Windows for The Atlantic in 1982.

I've been mildly curious about cities that build their policies around this principle to reduce crime since I first heard about about the transit authority cleaning up the graffiti in New York subways in the 90s, among the many additional efforts made thereafter. There has been some experimentation and a lot of debate about its effectiveness (pro and con) over the years, as well as alternative explanations for the drop in crime in NYC. The same types of questions are being asked in Minneapolis, where the theory has been put into practice.

There are probably multiple factors that go into the crime rate, and I for one don't think anything can be attributed to one factor or practice alone. But, that's more than I want to write about today. Today, I'm just glad to have a name for it.

Except to add that I stumbled across this great discussion starter about how the theory applies to social networking sites. I hadn't ever really thought about it, but as much time as I spend online, I don't use a huge variety of sites, and my personal experience with online vandalism is limited to comment spam.


Not a black and white issue

On election day, 2008, we held our own election at the reference desk for a library mascot. It was our way to a) harness election day energy for ourselves, b) have something fun for kids to participate in (and it turned out, fun for the adults) and c) to deflect any political discussion that patrons might have wanted to engage in. (As much as I had to say that day, I could not and did not want to engage in discussion at work).

Panda won by one vote.

The display in the lobby has prompted occasional discussion about pandas at the reference desk during the last month.
  • Pandas are part of the Ursidae (bear) family, not the Procyonidae (raccoon) family. This is the subject of much debate, but DNA and molecular makeup put Giant Pandas closer to bears. However, scientists have not yet agreed on which family the red panda belongs to.

  • Pandas are not marsupials, and koalas are not technically bears.

  • Explanations for the unique black and white markings offered over the years include camouflage and extreme sorrow, and the reason why pandas in the wild and the zoo don't appear black and white is that they are not natural self-groomers, and they get dirty!

  • Bamboo (the main staple in a panda's diet) flooring isn't necessarily the most 'green' option available.


Tiresome woes

I work with the public. And, for the most part, I really love it.

The oddities and neediness of people can try my patience from time to time, and I have had to develop strategies for dealing with those...quirks. One of my strategies, for example when people get particularly worked up over not knowing how to use a web browser or a computer mouse and take it out on me, is to remember that I hate having to deal with car problems. Hate. I'm completely at the mercy of others.

Last month, on a particularly snowy morning, we were all driving to breakfast and I was noticing (oh, okay...whining) that my car seemed to be slipping and sliding more than the others. I don't know who said that maybe it was time for new tires, but the rest of the conversation went like this:
Mom: How many miles do you have on your tires, anyway?
Me: Ummm...let me see...92,500
Mom: KAT! You should have had new tires 50,000 miles ago!!!
Me: Oh. (Instant stress. Convinced we were going to be stranded downtown forever. Completely mute. Oh, okay. Fine. Every other sentence was something about the tires. Possibly every sentence.)
So. The general rule is that tires should be replaced every 40,000 miles or six years, but since tires can wear out before that, inspect them regularly.

A few years ago I picked up a free tread depth gauge at an expo, but came to realize that a) I only used it once which did little good, and b) I used it incorrectly anyway. Consumer Reports says that treads should cover George Washington's hairline on a quarter, and Car Bibles: The Wheel and Tire has a great visual on how to check the treads of the tire, along with advice on tire pressure gauges, rotation schedules, mileage warranties, explanations of the markings along the side of the tire, and all sorts of things that...just...made my eyes glaze over.

I had new tires within two weeks of this discovery, and I was really glad to have them last night while driving home in the freezing rain. NOW, I have to figure out whether I should and how I go about getting new windshield wiper blades...Ugh.

So. The effort it takes me to figure out this basic car stuff helps me in the end. It helps me maintain patience when working with the public.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


A silver lining

I was reading through the feeds in my Google Reader account that I have tagged 'word nerds' and came across yesterday's OED Word of the Day: argentine.

That's right. Lower case a.

Lower case argentine, I came to learn, means silver, material simulating silver, or made or or containing silver. This is not to be confused with Argentine people of Argentina, even though Argentina got its name from the Latin argentum, meaning silver. And it's never to be confused with Argentinian, because Argentinian is not really the way to refer to people from Argentina.

I've always enjoyed saying Argentine out loud. Something about the soft 'g' coming after the r, perhaps. However, I will be saying argentine from now on.


Confession: I don't know everything I should

Obviously. But specifically, I don't know the American Girls very well.

In fact, I have gotten by with knowing very little about them* except that they are the highly merchandised dolls from different time periods of American history that each have their own series of six books (with additional shorter stories published along the way), clothes and, well, just lots of other accessories and paraphernalia.

But. I should know their names and when and where they're from. In particular, I should have recognized the references I've been hearing to Kit Kittredge, the depression-era girl now portrayed by Abigail Breslin in the movie. The movie that came out six months ago. And, I come to find out that television movies were made of Molly, Felicity and Samantha as well.

I need a cheat sheet.

Kaya (1764) is a Native American girl with an Appaloosa mare who learns the traditional ways of her people, the Nez Perce of the Pacific Northwest.

Felicity Merriman (1774) lives in Williamsburg, Virgina right before the American Revolution. She has both patriots and loyalists in her family, and has a good friend named Elizabeth. (This is tricky for me, when patrons ask about the Girls' counterparts). She also has a horse in her life, a copper-red mare.

Josephina Montoya (1824) is a Hispanic girl who lives on a ranch in (what is now) New Mexico (it wasn't part of the States at this point in history), and is influenced heavily by her aunt, Tia Dolores. .

Kirsten Larsen (1854) immigrates to a farm in Minnesota from Sweden and must learn the language, the customs and what have you.

Addy Walker (1864) and her family are slaves on a plantation in North Carolina just near the end of the Civil War. Desperate to be free, she and her mother escape to the free city of Philadelphia.

Samantha Parkington (1904) is an orphan with a wealthy grandmother who wants her to be a proper girl, and is paired with her friend Nellie, a servant girl.

Kit Kittregde (1934) lives in Cincinnati just as The Great Depression is affecting the lives of everyone around her, including her family.

Molly McIntire (1944) helps with the efforts of World War II, as do her parents (father a doctor sent to England, mother a volunteer with the Red Cross). She's paired with Emily, a refugee from England who stays with the family.

Julie Albright (1974) is a child of the 70s living near Chinatown in San Francisco struggling with her parents' divorce. Her best friend is Ivy, a Chinese girl.

Not to mention the Girl of the Year series that features girls in America today.

For more info that I (and most likely you) want, check out
KidsReads.com The American Girls Collection
The American Girl Historical Characters online store (with good visuals)
About.com's Women's History books for preteens

Well. This whole thing started when I was wondering who the heck Kit Kittredge was. Joan Freese at MinnPost aksed who knew Kit would be so hot right now? Well, not me. But now I do.

*In my defense, patrons tend to ask for the books by title, or by series name, and they tend to refer to the first name of the girl only. Also, the AG came along after the point in my childhood where I would have been interested, and the fever broke before I came on board as a librarian. I don't have kids in my life who are the age for the AG, and the times I would walk by the store in Chicago or the new store in the Mall of America I usually think to myself a) this is madness or b) I would have gone nuts over a Babysitters Club store when I was the age. But, knowing how interested I am in history now, I probably would have loved these girls when I was young.


Saving sand dollars

If you live in Minneapolis you probably knew this already...but there are actually snow shoveling rules. I knew it was against the law to shovel snow into the streets and alleyways, and I knew it was our responsibility to clear snow after a fall, but I guess I thought it the courteous and right thing to do to shovel as soon as possible. But, I just discovered that we residential folk have 24 hours after the snowfall to complete the snow and ice removal. Or else, I guess. (That's a long time. It's best to shovel sooner than that -- packed snow is hard to shovel and leads to ice buildup which is even worse to remove).

I don't even know how I came across that city site -- probably reading through MinnPost or MNSpeak -- but the cool thing I discovered, and the reason I'm even blogging about this at all, is that residents of Minneapolis can pick up free sand for their sidewalks. And, there's a pickup spot just blocks from our piece of sidewalk!

I'm feeling a bit too excited about this, in a free-sand-isn't-worthy-of-this-much-attention-so-get-over-it kind of way. But, we've had a snowy winter so far, and I always seem to run out of ice melt at the most inopportune moments.