Friday, May 30, 2008

Parrot Video

Check out this video of a parrot that can beat any human at solving a chain link puzzle.

New Library Link

I have included a new link on the sidebar to the Storefront of the Library's Used Book Store. I don't think Amazon customers are likely to have "Favorite Sellers" the way they do on eBay, but I am hoping to at least post it where local people might see it and remember that we are around.

Also, for those local, these books are available onsite at the Library Used Book Store. So we can avoid the shipping.

I think the best part about this is being able to see the covers. Unfortunately, not all covers have been loaded to Amazon's web site and we are left with the standard filler. I have the same problem with LibraryThing, another of my favorite web sites.

But use the tools we are given, I think. So please check it out!

At the Refuge - Babe

Babe is a bird with a reputation. For biting. Sometimes she would take a swing at people (women) just for walking by.

Babe is one of several birds at the Refuge with whom I have fostered a respectful “don’t touch me and I won’t touch you” relationship. I would let her out of her cage to hang out of awhile, and she would go back in very nicely once her dinner was ready. And she ate her vegetables – lima beans were a hit, if I remember correctly. But Babe didn’t get on with a couple of volunteers that I work with, so she didn’t get as much time out as I would like.

When the construction started at the Refuge (finally back on track, yay!), Nikki and Jerry, two of our very experienced volunteers took Babe home. Jerry is great with birds that I generally find impossible and Nikki is always ready to offer time and patience to a bird learning to trust. Someday I should tell you about Curli.

Well. Sometimes all a bird needs is time and patience. This is part of a write up that Nikki wrote for Babe’s page on the Refuge site:

“She never gets off her cage, so she is allowed total freedom to be in or on top as she wishes. She never bites and LOVES to cuddle and play. She steps up willingly and enjoys one-on-one time with me. She regularly spends time on my shoulder, a privilege only granted to birds that I completely trust.”

Babe is available for adoption and you can read the rest of Nikki’s story here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Best Friends Puppies

If you look down my side bar, you will find a "widget" for Best Friends Animal Society. They are raising funds to build a Puppy Care Center to help all of the dogs being rescued from puppy mills.

As a member of Best Friends, I received an e-mail about the project. Clicking into their site, there was an extremely easy link to post the widget on my own blog.

I don't volunteer directly with Best Friends, but if they are going to make it that easy to spread the word, I really have to support it.

Now I wonder how we can make that work from the Refuge site.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


American Airlines, you may have heard, has begun charging for any bags passengers check for a flight.

In case you think this is an outraged consumer rant, please let me establish that I was perfectly in favor of dropping complimentary meals and adding snacks for the $5 fee.

The airlines, quite rightly, went to some lengths to encourage passengers to check baggage more and carry on less. After delays, before even security, the most annoying part of air travel for me is the other passengers that insist on pushing the limits of the carry on rules so they won’t be required to check any bags. This leads to:

Running out of overhead space - I have seen the competition lead to shoving
Big hassles in boarding and disembarking (read as: delays)
Slower through security – even assuming the offending passenger is prepared and knowledgeable about the “liquids” rules
Absolute fire hazards at the gate area

With this one fee, American Airlines has taken a major step backward.

Perhaps this is not much trouble for the frequent business traveler. Already the worst offender in the carry on game, the business traveler is least likely to be bothered by a $15 fee that the employer will be paying. I imagine that since the business traveler is the meat and potatoes of the industry, American thinks it can get away with this stunt.

Think about the family of four headed to Disney World. Four plane tickets. Hotel room. Park tickets. Disney cost of food and everything else. As you are making your budget, you have to build in $90 - $120 roundtrip for checking luggage. I’m thinking that driving is starting to look more attractive.

My hometown airline, United, has not implemented this fee yet. But when one airline increased the “changed flight” fee, the others followed. When one did the “second bag” fee, the others followed. So I am not optimistic.

Lucky for me, I like a good road trip.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More about Reusable Bags and Half Price Books

I went to Half Price Books today, which will not make my friends at the Library very happy. Can't help it - I love that store. But I never buy anything at HPB that I think I might be able to pick up at the Library Used Book Store. For example:

After reading Atonement last year, I saw a copy of Ian McEwan's Saturday in the Clearance Section of HPB. I said to myself, "No. I am sure that will show up at the Library eventually." And I was right. I found it last week in with the Trade Paperbacks and bought it. Now ask if I've read it yet.

Anyway. HPB was doing a holiday weekend sale and my mother has been saying that she wants to read the Civil War books of Shelby Foote. See how I rationalize going book shopping. I'm only doing it for my dear mother. As if she needs more Civil War books. My rule about HPB is that unless it is a sale day or I have a coupon of some sort, I only buy from the Clearance section. Shelby Foote is not showing up in the Clearance Section.

I found a lovely copy of the 40th Anniversary Edition of the first book in Foote's series for $6.98. And a few things in Clearance for myself. Here is my point:

Half Price Books has their reusable bag program, and I love their bags so much that I didn't even bring mine to their store because I wanted to buy more. I'm thinking two more and I will never require another plastic bag again - even at the grocery store.
They were sold out.
My mother says it is my own fault, because I have told the whole world that their reusable bags are the best for the money. Oh, well. Good on them for starting the program. I wonder if they will report statistics on its success.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Vacation

Once the semester ended, I had two business trips to take before I managed a vacation. I had already switched the day I volunteer at the Refuge (so they won't really miss me when I'm gone) and a substitute was found for me at the Library. I hit the road by myself first thing on a Saturday morning.
I had absolutely no trouble being alone for six days.

I was telling a (young) co-worker about taking the long way from Hot Springs, where I was staying, to Mt. Rushmore. The route was through Custer State Park. I had to stop my car for buffalo crossing the street. (Ask anyone in my family. I cannot get over the fact that my car has seen real live buffalo.) But it took 2 1/2 hours, so I decided to take a shorter way home. "I was pretty sure," I said, "That highway 40 would take me back to 79, which was the road I took into town in the first place."

"Did you have a map?" she asked.

"I did," I replied. "But it was on the floor. I was pretty sure I knew where I was."

"Pretty sure? You don't even have a GPS."

I have a brain. And a sense of adventure. My car has a compass and really... It is pretty hard to get lost in this country.

How do kids ever have any fun?

I never even opened my atlas on this trip - I-90 takes you from Chicago all the way across South Dakota. So I took the atlas to my brother today. He has been talking about taking a road trip through Pennsylvania this summer.

He just bought a GPS.

Friday, May 23, 2008

At the Refuge - Marty

Marty's name was Martha when he came to the Refuge. Except that he is a boy. He is pretty rambunctious, which can be intimidating with a cockatoo, but of all of the cockatoos I have met, he is the best at finding ways to entertain himself. He loves to shred paper.

We have been buying cardboard boxes for the birds. Some like to play inside them. Some like to shred them to pieces. Marty likes to play inside and shred them. You bird people out there know that is a pretty execellent, inexpensive toy. We have also found a source for expired and unwanted telephone books. Lots of pages to shred!

So sometimes when I go to Marty's cage to clean and feed him, he doesn't even know I am there. His head is in the box!

The other great thing about Marty is that he loves to be in a towel. So many birds are terrified of being towelled, but Marty associates it with Cuddle Time. So even if he is having a "high-energy" day, there is a nearly fool-proof solution!

Marty is available for adoption. Information about the process can be found here.

At the Library - Autographed Books

On Thursday nights, Library traffic is pretty low. Last night I logged in $3 in sales - and one of those was my own. So spending my time listing books for sale online makes a lot of sense.

I may have mentioned that we use Amazon's web site. And they are starting to bother me.

The trouble is in what are labeled "collectible" books. For example:

I had a hard cover copy of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears. First edition, 1991. When you look that book up on Amazon, there are over a thousand copies available, and some are listed for $.01 (plus shipping).

I had in my hands an autographed copy. In order to list a book as "collectible", Amazon will not let you list the book at anything less than the full publisher's price - in this case, $26.95.

If you could get a book you wanted for $.01, how much would you reasonably pay for an autographed copy? I'm thinking not $26.95.

I listed it, and several others autographed books, including Madeleine Albright's autobiography, and that biography of Roberto Clemente that David Maraniss did. I could list them as regular used books for $10 or $15, and put "autographed" in the description, but I am afraid they will get lost in the shuffle of all of the books that are selling for pennies.

I do not have a good answer for this yet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Two months ago I was a victim of credit card fraud on the Internet. Chase Bank was fabulous in spotting it and shutting the card down before anything bad happened. They recommended that I check my credit report.

It hadn’t been much more than a year since I last checked it, but 12 months were certainly up. I went to

I filled out their online form and it asked for a credit card number. That made me suspicious, but it specifically said that it was for identification purposes only and the card would not be charged.

I got my report instantly and there were no surprises.

Until. My credit card was charged $11.95. I suspected such a thing would happen, and I am angry. I sent this e-mail:


I have just noticed that your company has charged my credit card. Your website assured me that the card number was only being requested for identification purposes. I did not intentionally purchase any additional services. I wish to have a refund of the $11.95 posted back to my credit card and to have my information removed from any mailing lists that you maintain. I feel tricked and offended by your practices. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

I got this response:

Thank you for contacting

We apologize for any inconvenience you may be experiencing. In order for us to make any changes to your account or have questions regarding the website or services, we ask that you contact our customer service department at 866-365-6818. Our office hours are Monday -Friday 6:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. PST, Saturdays 8:00 a.m. -4:00 pm and Sundays 8:00 a.m. -4:00 pm PST.

Thank you,
Customer Service

O.K. – first? No freakin’ dot-com should be telling me to call customer service when I use the online contact information.

I call customer service. Someone whose first language is not English (sorry, but the outsourced call centers are starting to bother me) told me that I was enrolled in the monthly credit check service and I must not have read the web page carefully. And they have a “No refund” policy.

All I wanted was to make sure that no one had opened a new credit card in my name. I do not require monthly services. I realize that they are a business and have to make money somehow, but I feel deceived. Thank you, Internet, for your attention.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

At the Refuge - Addison

On my nights at the Refuge, I am generally working in the front room. The Permanent Residents are there, so I don't handle the Adoptables as often as other volunteers. Addison is available for adoption and happens to be in the front room these days.

Addison is a Congo African Grey parrot, like my bird Kiwi. Greys are not the cuddliest of the parrots, but they are the talkers. Addison had a pretty decent vocabulary when I first met him and it has expanded over the last couple of months. New tonight was an imitation of our Volunteer Director calling, "Honey?" The other new joke is that he and another Grey, Corky, have been teaching each other things. Tonight they were both clucking like chickens. They can also Meow. Thankfully there have been no swear words. That makes me crazy.

Addison is up for adoption and you can read more about him here.

In Chicago

I was at the annual meeting for an affiliate company - it was celebrating its 60th anniversary. We all stayed downtown at the Sheraton and did the cruise ship thing in the afternoon. The boat was docking at the hotel, but dropping us off at Navy Pier. Because the bridge would not go up for us twice. In fact, when we were given the "don't be late" speech, it started with "the bridge will go up at exactly (whatever time) and stay up for one minute and not one second longer, so don't be late. You know how much the drivers like the cruise ships".

Solemn nods all around from the townies. I mean, suburbanites.

It was supposed to rain quite a bit, but the weather was perfect until about 10 minutes after our return. Kinda makes me wonder what we paid for that. Someone's soul, I am sure.

I was reminded of how little time I have spent in my own city these days. And then I was stuck on the Edens Expressway for half a lifetime this morning and the feeling passed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In Washington

The Lincoln Memorial is easily my favorite place in Washington DC. Easily in my Top 10 Favorite Places on the planet. I try to make a pilgrimage every time I am in town. I read the Gettysburg Address and remember that there are still some things that are sacred.

I walked down from the hotel Wednesday night. It is about two miles. I am listening to the iPod and the weather is nice and I am very happy. I get to the steps:

It was swarming with children.

Taking the pictures and yammering or sitting 25 across on the stairs so that the actual people trying to pay their respects are tripping over their Chucks.

I was feeling cranky for a minute, but then I remembered that that 8th grade field trip was the reason that I went to college in Washington DC. I remembered that while I was one of those kids that wouldn't shut up and snapped a million pictures of nothing, I still made the Lincoln Memorial pilgrimage the very first weekend after I arrived at AU.

Never mind that it was 2am and I was drunk. I had never been there at night!

My point is that I walked back down the steps thinking that the place was so powerful that it seeps into even a 13-year old by osmosis and we are all better people for it. I hope the remember, too.

The Semester Ends

I felt liked I choked on that final exam. 70 questions and I am going confidently through the T/F and multiple choice when around question #45 I get a Fill in the Blank. Completely froze.

I was already out of study rhythm because the exam was on a Friday and I shoot for Mondays. Then I was at the Library Thursday night, thinking I would list books for sale online for two hours and then study for one and that didn't happen. I was still ok until the Fill in the Blank.

I kinda got my rhythm back and did a second run-through of each question. I changed half a dozen answers, which is not a good sign. This exam was 50% of the final grade and I left feeling terrible.

I got back on to our class site and at least one other person owned up to having a hard time so I had some hope that the curve would save me.

We were told grades would be posted by the end of the week and I flew to our Washington office on Monday. Exam grade posted Tuesday. A-. Final grade posted yesterday A-.


I am taking the summer off. In fact, I am going on vacation the week after next. Today, I was in the car with my mother - on my way to my brother's house for lunch. I asked her what the hell I did with my time before I started school again.

"You read books and watched movies."

Oh, yeah. That was fun.