Friday, March 28, 2008

At a Conference

I am running about a day and a half of meeting stuff for 25 people before a larger conference begins on Sunday. My boxes are not here, my body does not like Pacific Time and I just paid $15 for a yogurt parfait and a bottle of water.

It costs $14 per day for the Internet access I require to keep up with school. It is almost 10am and there is no sign of housekeeping on my floor. Caesar's Palace is no palace.

I do not gamble. I do not hang out by the pool. I might be interested in sitting in the sun but seriously, I have to get some work done.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This is New

I leave for a conference in the morning - Las Vegas. It will be the first time I have had to travel since I started school again. I have to take the laptop with me in order to keep up. I am a light traveler. I am the person standing behind the laptop people reading a book at the Security line. I'm not even sure I have a computer bag anymore. I'm not sure I know about getting online in a hotel.

The good news - going to Hoover Dam. That's just the kind of nerd I am.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Used Books Online

I was just lamenting that my travel schedule is picking up and I will be leaving both the Library and the Refuge short-handed while I do my real job. Then I happened to log in to the Used Book store's Amazon account and saw that one of the books I listed sold for $125.

And I feel better now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

At the Refuge - Fred

This is Fred, an Umbrella Cockatoo. He is very friendly and not much trouble, relative to other cockatoos I know. Just about every Wednesday, I let Fred out of his cage straight away. He likes to come out and climb on his roof and have a snack and see everyone. He is so easy-going that the only reason I can think of that he has not been adopted is that he is a feather picker. Proves to me that people are dumb (says she with the most beautifully feathered African Grey in all the land).

I have never had to worry about him going to bother other birds, so I don't always watch him very closely while I am going about my business taking care of the cages.

Last week, when I went to check on him, he was on another cage. Papua's. Papua is a sulfer crested cockatoo and has a reputation. For being an attempted man-killer, I believe. She and I have always gotten along fine, but I panicked to see Fred on her cage. I very calmly ordered him down. He got down - unheard of for a bird, but that's Fred.

I looked over and saw that Papua was right where Fred had been. No one was bleeding, so I wondered if they had made friends. I picked Fred up and went back over to Papua. They started birdie kissing through the bars.

Huh. So Fred is a ladies' bird. He is available for adoption and you can find more information about him here.

The Internet

You know what is really dangerous about the Internet? How easily it can take you off task.

Assignment for the E-commerce class is to sign up at , hang around for awhile and then be able to talk like an informed and intelligent person about it in our class discussion. We are graded on this.

So I go to the site to make my person that will run around this virtual world. Make up a name, and appearance and an outfit. This took an hour, people. An hour. I could have completed the entire assignment in an hour. But I wanted to make my virtual character have a cute pair of shoes. And now I am wasting more time by writing about it.

Damn Internet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

About Those Reusable Shopping Bags

Some stores are really into it, and some are just giving it lip services.

Whole Foods is doing a great job. They give you 10 cents off your total purchase for every bag they don't have to give you. In addition, they have both paper and plastic and don't appear all judgy if you use them. They are, however, pretty smug in their eco-whateverness.

Half Price Books, as I mentioned, has the reusable bags, with logo, for sale at their store for 98 cents. When they don't have to give you a bag, they donate a nickel to some Earth-friendly charitable organizations. Not sure I like that because the green fanatics scare me, but points for putting your money where your mouth is.

I took my bags to the Jewel today. Standard grocery store. Have you noticed that you can't buy real food at Whole Foods? Coke, for example. So I do not accept that one can live on Whole Foods alone. Anyway.

I hand my bags to the cashier, asking that they be used first. She looked at them like she didn't know what they were. Once she figured out that I had the nerve to use NotJewel Reusable Bags at the Jewel, we got on with it. When they were full (over-full if you ask me), she asked whether I wanted paper or plastic for the rest of my purchases. Paper. I used paper bags for my recycling at home, anyway. As I am walking out, I see that the paper bag was placed inside a white plastic bag.

I realize this isn't "mission critical" for the grocery store, but really. If you are going to get on board, get your people on board, too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Let's Discuss the Weather

My classmate, Dave, is my new favorite person. He put together the complete list of our section's blogs to make it easier for everyone to complete the assignment. Then on his own page, he put up the link to our text book. I had just been wondering if there was one.
His most recent post had a picture of what I think is his own street and he talked about the gray slushy day he was having.
This is the view out my back door. Right now. March 21, 2008. Enjoy.

Typical Night at the Library

I pulled into the parking lot at the library last night, and had a hard time finding a space. That’s good – mean’s they’re busy and more likely to generate sales for the Used Book Store.

I walked in and looked at our downstairs shelves. We keep the children’s books closer to the circulation desk with an assortment of books for adults. The people traffic is better down there, but we can’t keep an eye on the space so it gets messy sometimes. Also, people have to go back upstairs to pay for any books they choose to purchase. I spent a minute straightening up the shelves and then went upstairs.

The first things I do upon arriving at the desk are booting up the computer and getting a box of new donations from the back closet. There are always two or three piles of boxes, each about four feet high, filled with books.

When I logged in to our Amazon account, I saw that two books had sold online. I listed one myself and knew right where to find it. The other was in the closet. We have had trouble in the past with listed books disappearing, so I set them aside for our director to mail on Friday.

Going through donations is like Christmas for me. A couple of weeks ago, I found a hardcover copy of The Poe Shadow, written by Matthew Pearl, the guy who wrote The Dante Club. A book that I wanted to read, but not enough to pay retail for it. So when we had a copy that Amazon vendors are selling for a penny, I bought it straight away. I mentioned that last week I listed a strange book for $125 – that was exciting. And sometimes a “classic” from my childhood comes by – you know, like Miss Nelson is Missing.

Here was the odd thing about last night – I had actual in-store customers interrupting me! If I do $10 in sales on a 3-hour Thursday night shift, I consider it a good day. Last night was $14.25. And I didn’t buy anything!

I went through three boxes of donations and five books were worth listing. Not bad. I wonder what the Friday morning shift thinks each day when they see these huge piles of books on the floor that say “To be shelved”. Do they hate me?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adventure at the Refuge

I was at the Refuge last night for my regular weekly round of getting everyone clean and fed and medicated and to sleep after work. In addition to the 50 or 60 parrots in the house, we have a resident red-tailed hawk named Pierce in the backyard aviary. She has an amputated wing and cannot survive in the wild. The picture is Pierce with Rich, our director.

Pierce eats quail. And sometimes small mammals, but I don't want to talk about that. Pierce was sitting on her lowest perch, by her door. I don't know her really well, but I think this means she is hungry. The daily notes said she was fed this morning, but I think she is still hungry.

I am squeamish about feeding her. First, because once when she was really hungry, she literally came out of the aviary to grab a quail from me. Rich told me that he was working on hand feeding her so that wouldn't happen so much. But my real problem is that I think touching dead quail is icky.

I checked with the other volunteers, because some people think feeding the hawk is the coolest thing ever. No luck. I am glad no one was watching as I picked up the bag of quail, dropped one into a paper towel and picked up the towel to take to Pierce.

I made sure that Pierce couldn't see that I was bringing her food. She very politely jumped up to a higher perch so that I could leave my offering and back away slowly. I closed up the aviary and she went right for it.


Hard Lesson in ECommerce

I allowed advertisements on this site to see if it might be used as a small fundraising tool for the two organizations with which I volunteer. AdSense places "relevant ads" in the two places I dedicated to them - one down the side and at the bottom.

Today, I saw an ad that said "Puppies for Sale". I am mortified. I volunteer at an animal shelter. I am very against the sale of .. I can't even type it again, for fear of generating more "relevant ads" to that effect. Maybe I should have typed it backward in the firstplace.

I clicked around Google and couldn't figure out how to block such ads. I figure that by the time I work it out, the ad will be gone anyway. If the problem recurs, I will get serious. In the meantime, to balance my karma, here is my official position:

There are so many homeless pets in the world. If you are ready for one of your own, please visit Petfinder. This is an online network of shelters where you can search for the perfect pet for you. Here is the post of my foster parrot, Manu.

Now I have to go think of something else to write about...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March Madness

While reading my classmates' posts, I found several mentioning their alma maters in the basketball tournament. So I don't mind telling you that mine, The American University, has made it in for the first time. Ever. Number 15 going up against Tennessee.

Chicagoland Pet Expo

This weekend the Chicagoland Pet Expo was held at Arlington Race Track. The picture was the winner of the photo contest.

The Refuge has a booth there each year and I went to visit Friday after work. Can't stand the weekend crowd.

I made sure that I had plenty of single dollar bills, because practically every animal shelter in the state is there. One has taught the dogs a trick - to take the donations from the people and place them in the bucket.

The Refuge was right next to Heartland Animal Shelter, which is very near my home and they had a darling German Shepard puppy that I played with before handing them my money. Won a new bed for my cat there, too.
While the Expo is always fun, and great exposure for the Refuge, it also highlights for me how many, many homeless pets there are. So do me a favor and give your dog (or cat or bird or iguana) a kiss today.


The last line item in our blog assignment was "Decide if you want to add advertisements and if appropriate do so".

After reading about it in the lecture material, and finding the Google Ad information in the content layout, I gave it serious consideration.

My independent spirit-whatever was against it. But the theme of the blog is about how I am fitting the volunteer gigs into the rest of my life. And the two organizations with which I work are in constant need of funds. So shouldn't I use the assignment as an opportunity?
In my own market plan for UBS, I said that we should be getting creative and using the technology vehicles that are all around us. So I am getting in the spirit of "practice what you preach".

So if you will please click the links, I will promise that whatever pennies Google sends to me will be divided equally between a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife and Friends of the Glenview Library.

Thanks for your participation.

...was that too preachy?

Paper vs. Plastic vs. Trying to Sell Me Shopping Bags

MSN had a thing on Paper vs Plastic the other day.
It was some interactive stuff and some survey stuff and some consumer response after San Francisco banned grocery stores from distributing disposable plastic bags. Most people said, "I reuse those bags" whether they were talking about paper or plastic, which is kind of where I have been.

When Whole Foods invaded Chicago, the reusable bag frenzy hit, too. I shop at Whole Foods occassionally. Not for actual grocery shopping, but the "what's for dinner tonight"? The soup is good. Whatever.

I find the organization very smug. I am the Whole Foods shopper that searches the produce section for "conventional" because the "organic" label irritates me. It's pretty hard.

My point was about the bags. Whole Foods did a pretty smooth thing in offering up 10 cents for each bag they did not have to give you at check out. 10 cents is a joke on a Whole Foods order, but I appreciate the concept. I still refuse to buy the Whole Foods reusable bags. I bought mine a Half Price Books. I have two and they were a dollar each. When you are only shopping for two, those two bags go a long way. And a dollar is not much of a commitment, which is really good for me.

I don't know from what the bags are made. To papery to be cotton, to fabric-y to be paper. What is that stuff?

I have been using these for a couple of months, and while I am by no means a fanatic of the cause, I am impressed that these companies got an inherently careless shopper like me to participate.

Of course, I forgot to bring them with me to the regular grocery store this week...

Globe of Blogs

I listed this site on Globe of Blogs, but am having a hard time with how the linking actually works. So I am trying it in a post, rather than in the layout.

Edit: It seems the answer is forget the fancy buttons and just link it!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Do you have a "to be read" pile of books?

Mine is a seven shelf bookcase. And yesterday it was full up. Well - full up except for the small corner where I keep a small portrait that a friend painted of one of my dogs. But still - seven freakin' shelves.

I looked at the shelf and asked myself, of all of these books, which am I still excited about reading? I pulled 10-ish off the shelf and took them to the Library to donate to Friends.

Another volunteer, a really nice lady, was at the desk. She lists books online, too. She said my books were in terrific condition and was happy to look them up to see if they were worth anything on Amazon. I told her they were in great condition because I hadn't read them yet. Then I had to explain that between our Used Book Store and the clearance section of Half Price Books, I hardly ever pay more than a dollar for a book. So it was probably worth it to have the shelf space back.

So I spend money unnecessarily. Sue me.

She mentioned that our director had called a meeting to talk about "Marketing". I am not sure, but she might have meant a meeting of the Friends board, and that might be to present some of the material from the marketing plan I did last term. And now I am nervous.

Fostering Manu

The Refuge is undergoing some construction to add more room for residents, have more space to play, and a quarantine room. But until it is complete, space is very tight.

Several of us decided to foster parrots for the duration of construction.

I share a house with my mother, a dog, a cat and Kiwi the Grey. I also travel pretty regularly. So I gave as much consideration to this decision as if I were going to permanently adopt. And brought home Manu.

It is kind of a weird choice because I can't really handle him. He is not friendly and apparently prefers men. He and I have had a "don't touch me and I won't touch you" relationship. So this isn't the most fun creature I could have brought home. But he is unbelievably low maintenance.

He doesn't make a mess with his food. He doesn't have any apparent emotional issues. He doesn't fly (yet) so when he comes out to play, he just wants to hang out on top of his cage with some foot toys and a snack. He just refuses to be touched.

After two months in my house, he will step up if he has a really good reason. Like an almond. Or "get me away from that silly grey parrot". He lets me spray him with a mister so that he gets a bath. He is learning to use foraging toys.

I can't keep him, because he and Kiwi really don't get on. But I am so happy to know that he is extremely adoptable once the right family comes along.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Can't Even Come Up With a Title for This

I am a member of Best Friends Animal Society and their newletter had a link to this picture. I can convince Kiwi the Grey to go in the sink. But this is ridiculous - so I had to share.

Amazon Stalking

At the Library last night, I went through three boxes of books. Seven were worth listing, and one might be worth $125, which is huge.

On two occassions, a book I listed on a Thursday at the Library sold before I even got home. One was a Christian-themed sex manual and last week there was a style guide. But I keep stalking the web site and we aren't doing quite so well.

However, we have a notepad on the desk to leave each other notes, and the director left one saying that the in-store sales were up $100 last week from the week before. And that the week before was up $100 from the week before that.

Makes sense, with all of the snow. We were actually closed for three days that I can recall. So I am going to take this note as a sign of Spring.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Star Wars Stories

I added the Star Wars Videos down the side because I like the feature. Then I decided that it really isn’t part of my “juggling work, school and volunteering” theme.

I don’t care. But I guess I should include some Star Wars stories:

My family does not have the same taste in anything, but the Star Wars movies we all loved. (And Queen is the only band we all like, but that is a different story). I am not so geeky that I have read all of the novels, or go to conventions, or try to verify the scientific blahblahblah. But I am this geeky:

The picture above was drawn by the young son of a co-worker. He e-mailed it over with no explanation and said:

Him: Can you identify this?
Me: That is Yoda fighting the Emperor at the end of Episode III.
Him: Actually,, it is Yoda fighting Darth Vader, but that is close enough.
Me: Darth Vader never fought Yoda.
Him: I know.
Me: Oh. So you mean..he used his imagination or something?

Just to tell another story and out my brother, Scott - one summer when I was in college, John Williams was conducting the CSO at the Ravinia Festival. All of my friends were going and in a moment of extreme fraternal magnanimity, I invited Scott. He was 15 or 16 at the time, and tickets for student were free. We were sitting on our blanket playing cards when my friend Noah (and you have to picture it):

Turned a paper plate upside down and placed a marshmallow on it, randomly off-center. In his other hand, he had a pretzel stick. He said, “OK – what is this?” and dropped the pretzel stick onto the upside down paper plate. My brother did not blink:

Scott: It is Luke Skywalker falling from the bottom of Cloud city onto the Millennium Falcon at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Noah: OK, you’re in.

On My Way Home

I got an e-mail yesterday at work from Rich, the director of the Refuge. He is a cop and was on duty for 36 hours straight, so he asked me to stop by the Refuge – which is actually his house – to shut the place down for the night.

Mostly, this involves making sure everyone is in their place, no one is bleeding (which can happen if a feather breaks awkwardly, or the bird plucks its feathers) and cover them up for the night.

I have told Rich that he should ask for help more often. He is worried about asking to much of volunteers. So when he actually asks, I do my best to be responsive. But yesterday, I really wanted to do my homework. And it was my turn to make dinner. So I compromised and told him that I would stop by on my way home from work, which meant it would still be light out when the birds were put to “bed”. He said it was ok – he would be home by the time the sun came up. How does he ever get to sleep?

So I got there about 4:15. The last set of volunteers had managed to load the dishwasher once. Because water dishes are changed out each day, this means it had to be unloaded and reloaded, and clean dishes set up for the next day’s volunteers. I sometimes feel like the only person that cares about handling this properly - our adoptions director has called me the “dish nazi”. But she wasn’t around back in the day when one load of dirty dishes meant that we had to wait around for the dishwasher just to give a bird fresh water. At 9pm, because there were only two of us and the senior volunteer didn’t get there until 6:30 on a good night.

I did the dishes and set up the trays for the next day. I checked the medication chart and saw that the two birds that get evening medications didn’t get the morning dose until 11am. Too early. Then I gave each bird an almond and covered them up. I got home shortly after 5pm, started dinner and got straight to the homework.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dirty Secret

In addition to selling books in the Library, UBS sells some online at Amazon. I learned a lot about it while writing my marketing project and, in fact, made several recommendations on enhancing that part of the program.

During that time, I started listing books for UBS. There are only about six of us that list books online. It requires researching the value and being comfortable with the web site. There are so many donated books and so few listing volunteers that we have a closet full of boxed up books waiting for us at all times.

So I have the log in i.d. and password, and every day (sometimes more than once a day), I log in just to see if anything has sold. Almost once a day, we have. And today, it was one of mine, Year of the Hangman: George Washington's Campaign Against the Iroquois.

"Mine", I say. As if I wrote the book, as opposed of just picking it up from a pile and posting it on a web site. As if the next volunteer wouldn't have done exactly the same thing, and about the same way, with the same result.

OK - I am just slightly competitive. But it's all for a good cause, right?

Kiwi the Grey

This is Kiwi the Grey. She likes to fly, shred paper and, as mentioned earlier, talk to the dog. She also enjoys flying over the dog's head and dropping paper on him. He doesn't mind. My God, she is spoiled.

I took her back to the Refuge not long ago when I was having some housepainting done. I was afraid that she would be traumatized - smaller cage, much less time out and about, strangers in her space. But no. All of the volunteers were thrilled to have her back and she was Little Miss Popularity. Probably got more almonds in one day than I give her in a week.

The better news is that when she came back home, everything went right to normal. Perhaps that isn't so good.

The Library

I just started volunteering at my local library in July. Friends of the Glenview Public Library started a Used Book Store (UBS) to raise funds. Books are donated and volunteers staff the space in three hour shifts during all library working hours.

I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever heard. For a volunteer gig, I mean. I get to sit in the library for three hours, reading my own books and taking people's money once in awhile. Sign me right up.

When I started my first class at BU, Principles of Marketing, I found the final project was to write a complete marketing plan. I chose UBS. Our director was unbelievably supportive and I learned a lot. The project only earned a B, but when I sent it over to the UBS director, she said, "I only have scanned this (will read it thoughtfully this weekend), but already I would give you 100+++ ". This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I volunteer.

I wonder if I only managed a "B" because I worried more about being realistic for UBS and less about the actual outline of the assignment? Whatever. I can't wait to see if any of it can be of practical use.

The Refuge

I don't even remember when I started volunteering at a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, but it was several years ago. The Refuge is, among other things, a parrot rescue. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity anyway, and then I had adopted my father's cockatoo, Hawk.
Yes. Hawk is a stupid name for a cockatoo. I was six years old when he moved in and our favorite TV show was Buck Rogers. Hawk was the name of the birdman.

Cockatoos need an awful lot of attention and my dad was the only person in the house that could handle him. I grew up with this creature and was always afraid of him. Over the years, he was neglected. When I took him on, as an adult, I decided that I had to get over it and make a better life for him. Volunteering at the Refuge taught me how to meet my own parrot's needs. Eventually, even the cat could put up with him.

Hawk died almost three years ago. He had a heart ailment that I am convinced was aggravated by the poor seed diet we were taught was right for him. I'm sure it didn't help that my father was a chain smoker.

I kept my weekly gig at the Refuge - it was good therapy. I mulled over adopting for months before I brought home Kiwi, the African Grey. I don't know why anyone would name a grey parrot "Kiwi", but when you adopt, you don't really get to pick the name. Kiwi was five years old at the time.

Kiwi's favorite playmate is the dog, Shadow. Her favorite pasttime is talking to him. Right this second, she is preening on her playstand and he is lying on the floor underneath, waiting for her to drop him a snack. What the heck do people do that don't have pets?

Starting School

This past January, as the rest of the world was making New Year's Resolutions, I considered my goals for 2008. It went something like this:

  1. Complete at least two, preferably four courses toward my degree
  2. Spend one night a week volunteering at the Refuge
  3. Spend at least one night a week volunteering at the Library
  4. Complete 50 Book Challenge
  5. Exercise regularly (blah, blah, blah)

While I am working full time. This is as full as my plate has been since I was an undergrad. Maybe ever. It would make sense to cut back on the volunteering. Am I going to do that? Absolutely not.

I am not married and have no intention of ever being married. I do not plan to have children. I still want to be a well-rounded person. I want to make a contribution to my community. My intent here is to record some of the tales of the Volunteer Sphere, and perhaps help to maintain some perspective as I try to balance each of my roles.