Monday, June 30, 2008

Farmer's Markets

I don't know if you all have hit the Farmer's Markets yet, but in spite of the tornados and floods and every other calamity that has been hitting agriculture in the United States, the produce right now is absolutely fabulous.


My father, not particularly useful in the kitchen, once taught be something very important:

After shopping, cut up your fruits and vegetables immediately once you are home. That way you are more likely to munch on the healthy food while it is still fresh.

Yesterday, I cut the watermelon, peaches and canteloupe and pitted an entire bag of cherries. My fingernails still appear bloody. But the fruit is great. Go get some!

Friday, June 27, 2008

How We Read

A customer at the Library Book Store asked me last night whether I read more than one book at a time. "Absolutely," I told her.

"Just different books for different moods," she commented.

Not really. I have a book in my bedroom (and three-half finished books that I put down and think I might pick up again. Someday.), a book in my family room and a book in my bag to carry around. I read whichever book is nearest at the time.

There is little rhyme or reason to the order, or the genre. It happens that the book in my bag is non-fiction and the book in my bedroom is a biography. But one has nothing to do with the other and when I finish one, I will replace it by whatever whim strikes me at that second.

Wait, there is some reason. The book I carry around with me has to actually fit in my bag. But otherwise, my To Be Read pile (which is actually a bookcase) has plenty of options and I generally read quickly enough that I don't feel stuck with anything.

I don't imagine that my reading habits are normal. But I'm also not sure what "normal" reading is.

At the Library - Foreign Languages and Making It Up as We Go Along


Last night, in between arguing with an 11 year old about Tom Clancy’s alleged autograph and confirming that we will not discount a book because the title is objectionable, I did a lot of Amazon listing.

A bunch of them were German language titles and still others were related to eastern religions. Both groups tend to lack in the ISBN department.

Having an ISBN prominently displayed makes the process of researching books go much faster. If there isn’t a good number, we are forced to look up a book by title and then search through to confirm the correct edition. It takes forever - and that is before factoring in a foreign language!

With these more rare books, sometimes there are no other listings on Amazon. In such cases, I have no idea of the estimated value and I have shied away from making it up.

Last night I went for it. Two trade paperbacks: one on Gayatri and one post WWII German language history book (pictured). I listed them at $15.00 each. Then there was an older, hard cover German language book with no other listing to give me an idea of the value. It was actually illustrated and had a dust cover, so I listed it for $20.00.

I went to the website first thing this morning, afraid that they had all been snapped right up because they were really worth hundreds of dollars.

Nope.

But a book on Borderline Personality Disorder sold.


In other news, tomorrow we are branching out again with a table at the Street Sale. I will not be there, but I can't wait to hear how it goes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

At the Refuge - Kasper

I believe I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Peachie the Mollucan Cockatoo had laid an egg. My African Grey, Kiwi, was at the vet last week for her annual exam. I reminded Dr. Sakas that Kiwi likes to celebrate the 4th of July by laying eggs and trying to kill me. I should really post those pictures. He examined her and said that she seems to be in "early reproductive cycle". Which sounds like "there aren't any eggs in there right now, but she's thinking about it".

Parrots generally lay eggs when they feel all safe an secure and make the nest all homey. So among the tricks to stop them from laying is to mix it up. Move their toys around, or even the cage itself. Change the routine a bit. Six months ago I brought another bird into the house. Three months ago I bought her a whole new cage. And still she is thinking about laying eggs.

At the Refuge tonight, the cockatoos were so loud I couldn't think straight. And all aggressive, too. The feather picking birds are particularly picky - all signs of raging hormones. I opened the cage door tonight for Kasper, the Lesser Sulfer Crested Cockatoo, so I could clean her cage and she came out very nicely. She took her almond and went to work on it while I removed her paper.

There was an egg.

She hadn't been aggressive. She hadn't been sitting on it, or defending it. Just laid an egg and went on with her happy day. It was remarkable.

Kasper doesn't much like me, but she tolerates my presence in the Universe. She loves Megan and Erica and is all kisses and cuddles for them. So once you really win her over, you have a friend for life!

Kasper is available for adoption and you can read more about her here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Death of the Semicolon

Random articles like this one by Paul Collins in Slate are the reason I spend so much time online when I could be reading a book.

If you had asked me cold to define the purpose of the semicolon, I would have said something like:

It's when you want to pause for more than a comma, but keep two thoughts in the same sentence. This article says:

"The 1737 guide Bibliotheca Technologica recognizes "The comma (,) which stops the voice while you tell [count] one. The Semicolon (;) pauseth while you tell two. The Colon (:) while you tell three; and then period, or full stop (.) while you tell four." Lacking standards for how punctuation shades the meaning of sentences—and not just their oration—18th-century writers went berserk with the catchall mark."

If you had asked me cold why the semicolon is dying, I would have said something like:

"It's my fault. I got lazy and started using dashes all the time. And the word 'got'."

Collins says this:

"As Coleridge hints, semicolons hit a speed bump with Romanticism's craze for dashes, for words that practically spasmed off the page. Take this sample from the 1814 poem The Orphans: "Dead—dead—quite dead—and pale—oh!—oh!""

I don't know about "spasmed off the page", but there it is.

Friday, June 20, 2008

At the Library - Paperback Surprises


I pulled out a box of donations to sort and, hopefully, list at our Amazon Store. The box had some promising looking hardcover books and a whole bunch of paperbacks. The paperbacks are welcome right now (we don't normally have enough space to keep them all around) because next weekend we will have a table at the Glenview Street Sale , and we plan to bring the paperback for sale.

Paperback books are generally not worth enough to sell online, but these books were not familiar to me in any Danielle Steele/Oprah's Book Club/John Grisham way so I looked one up on Amazon. $12.00. I sift through the rest of the pile. There is a theme - mystery novels set in ancient Rome.

The Mysteries of Ancient Rome. Wasn't that a TimeLife Book? Is that a real genre?

There were three authors: Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor and Wilbur Smith. I think Smith was ancient Egyptian mysteries, though. I listed four from Davis.

It is sometimes hard to justify spending the time looking up the value of every last paperback novel. But the moral of the story is that sometimes you stumble onto a gem. And I'm thinking that someone living in Oregon or Montana that likes the Mysteries of Ancient Rome will be very happy.
Edit: And by dinner time on Friday, someone in California had bought one.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

At the Refuge - Luna



There are some birds that I know, if I could just spend some quality time, they would warm up to people. Luna, a Congo African Grey Parrot, is such a case.

She does not want people to touch her. She would rather stay in her cage than to risk being touched. However. One day last year I could tell she wanted something. She wanted to play with Prince, the Resident Grey. And Prince is a big tease.

One night, I let her out and she was on top of her cage with Prince. Prince flew away - he is extremely steady. And Luna started to follow. She landed on the floor on the other side of the room.

I slowly walked over, knelt down and offered a hand. She stepped right up and I carried her back to her cage. No fuss.

She is motivated by almonds, which always helps in training. She is not afraid of people. Not afraid of other birds. She just isn't entirely comfortable. She needs some quality time.

Luna is available for adoption and you can read more about her here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This is Why I Watch PBS

video

Last night, on PBS, they were running a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Even the lamest history of the Roosevelts will include some mention of how in 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let the great Marian Anderson sing in their ivory tower or whatever because they didn't like the shade of her complexion. Mrs. Roosevelt resigned her membership and suddenly Ms. Anderson is singing at the Lincoln Memorial before the biggest crowd ever.

What this piece had, that I had not seen before, was video. They showed Ms. Anderson singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee", and had some interviewees talking. Then she started singing "Ave Maria". My limited reading on the subject suggests that she owns that piece, and the program gave me just enough to see that it was positively majestic.

Even factoring in that any media footage (including Forrest Gump), that involves the Lincoln Memorial is likely to make me all misty, this was bloody brilliant. So I jump onto bn.com to find it. Nothing. Google sent me to YouTube which has a one minute, poor quality video of "My Country 'Tis of Thee", but no video of "Ave Maria". But I found this, which I just had to post if only so that I can have it handy all the time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Survey Says

I participate with a survey company called Zoom Panel. It does online marketing research on behalf of corporate clients. They e-mail you a survey and if you complete it, they give you so many “points” that can be traded in for rewards. I don’t know how many points I have and I have never cashed in my points, but I support the concept. I can do it or not do it, and on my own time. Not over the phone and not on paper, having to mail something back.

As often as not, after three questions or so, the survey says that I am not in the demographic they want to survey. So I collect 5 points and go on my merry way. They average complete survey is about 50 points.

I don’t remember how I first became involved, but I started actively participating after taking that Marketing class in school. Generally, the surveys are about things in the grocery store – yogurt or frozen foods or something. And for those surveys that are prior to product launch, I am required to click on a Non-disclosure agreement.

But just recently I was sent one regarding the financial services industry. I have an awful lot to say about the financial services industry. I pay my bills online. I track my credit cards online. My mortgage, my retirement account, all of my savings I manage online. I am the person that goes out of her way not to talk to a human being in my banking – which is what the banks really want. So when I call, it is because I have a serious problem and I require immediate human intervention.

Now the survey was more “what does this brand mean to you”, rather than any detailed analysis of particular products or services. But they did ask questions about cost vs. loyalty to one institution, which I find fascinating. I once told a bank that they would never have my “primary checking account” business because I have my current account number memorized and I wasn’t about to start over again.

The disappointing part is that I do not have the opportunity to see the full results. I would love to see statistics on cost vs. loyalty (or what may, in my case, just be laziness). How many people even know the difference between WaMu and Wachovia? And how does the mortgage crisis change perceptions? It has knocked on mine a bit.

In the interest of being a more informed consumer, I think I will keep an eye out. Maybe some statistics will leak.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wal-Mart Classifieds

I pretty much think that Wal-Mart is the Evil Empire. But Best Friends Animal Society noted Wal-mart doing something worth mentioning:

"Last week, Wal-Mart launched a free online classifieds website, walmart.oodle.com. Suddenly, thirty million ads, reaching five million consumers each month were available through Wal-Mart. This included tens of thousands of ads offering puppies, kittens, birds, horses, and every other animal imaginable for sale. Wal-Mart is not alone in offering pets for sale through classified ads; pick up any newspaper in any city, and there will likely be a full page of classified ads for pets. It is one of the most frustrating indications of our culture’s overzealous back yard pet breeding, despite the 12-13,000 animals euthanized every single day in shelters. But, it turns out, Wal-Mart is different than the thousands of print and web outlets that help people sell their pets. Just days after the Wal-Mart Classifieds launched, people began contacting the corporate office with their concerns about the “pet for sale” ads. By last Friday, just days after the site launched, Wal-Mart had removed all the pet ads from their website."

You can read the entire piece here. It includes a link to contact Wal-Mart and thank them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

At the Library - On the Web Site

Our Used Book Store is both dependent on and for the benefit of the Library. We don’t want to be troublesome to the Library staff, so we try to be careful not to ask for too much.

I wrote a page on the Used Book Store for inclusion on the Library’s web site and the Web Guy, Richard, was nice enough to put it up for us. He asked for any changes and I asked for a correction to the link for the Amazon Bookstore, which he did very quickly.

Then I saw a grammatical error. It wasn’t anything terrible, like “there, their, they’re”. It was a simple prepositional inconsistency and the average web site reader will not even notice. I noticed. My mother would notice. My boss would notice. I do not want to ask this nice man to update the page again for a mistake that I made – that is bothering no one but me. It wouldn't even bother me if it were on my own blog, but this is for the Library.

Would you believe that I already have a strategy for fixing this? The copy notes the next semi-annual sale, which is July 12-13. On July 14, I have an excuse to edit. I will be doing so.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

At the Refuge - Mikki


I have taken a whole lot of bites from birds at the Refuge. Sometimes I even deserve it. Mikki once bit me while I was feeding him. Badly. When I would try to clean his cage he would try to bite me. I would try to give him a walnut and he would try to bite me. I avoided Mikki.

My friend Jose swore that it was only because he was cage-agressive and that if I got him away from the cage he would be nothing but kisses.

Great, Dude. You take him out.

Last week, Jose brought Mikki out and nobody died. I didn't hang out over there, but Mikki seemed very pleased to be out and about and having the attention.

Tonight, I went to the Refuge to put the birds to bed. Check in on everyone, cover them up, turn off the lights. I do a round first, giving each bird a nut of some kind. I got to Mikki. He was on the floor of his cage looking menacing.

(sigh)

I knelt down and slooowly offered him a walnut.

He took it from me. Didn't try to lunge past it and bite. Didn't throw it on the floor and try to bite me. Took it and opened it up to eat it. I told him he was a good bird and moved on. When I got back to his cage to cover him up, he was dancing around on the floor, like: "Look at me! I took the nut! And ate it! I'm a good bird!"

I gave him another one.

Mikki the Good Bird is available for adoption and you can read more about him here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Public Service Announcement - HHS Web Site

I was reading an article in one of my trade magazines that made a link between issues with our physical health and issues with our financial health (Ever use your credit card at McDonald’s?). The main idea is that these problems – like gaining weight and growing debt – sneak up on us. And there is no quick fix.

On the physical wellness side, the article offered up a website from the Department of Health and Human Services called “Small Step” that is meant to show that small changes in our habits can make a difference in our overall health. While this isn’t a new idea, I thought you might appreciate the resource.

Some of the tips include:

(# 56) Keep a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes in your car and office.
(# 97) Walk the beach instead of sunbathing.
(# 154) Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator for snacks. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider broccoli, cucumbers, or pepper strips.

You can find the web site at:

http://www.smallstep.gov/

Saturday, June 7, 2008

At the Library - The Street Sale

Friends of the Glenview Library will be at the street sale during the Glenview Summer Festival on June 28. The street sale is basically vendors with tables outside on the street, but it attracts a pretty big crowd. I hate crowds, so I haven't attended since about college.

This is new for the Used Book Store. The idea came out one day because several of us noted the number of customers that say, "I had no idea you were here!" Two years after we planted ourselves in the mezzanine.

We plan to bring a bunch of boxes of paperbacks, nothing extravagant. Just enough to let the average citizen on the street know that we exist. Let's just hope the weather holds up.

In other news, it looks we are finally getting approval for the plans on the new Library. There are several comments I would be making here, if I wasn't a Lady.

That was to make my mother laugh.

Shadow





I talk a lot about the birds, and as I wrote earlier about Spooky I decided the dog, Shadow, deserved some love.

About a month after I moved into my first apartment, I called my mother at work for some reason. Because she can't keep a secret to save her life, she blurted out that our 12 year old cocker spaniel, Max, hadn't been well and she was taking him to the vet that night. Depending on the response from the vet, she might not bring him home. If you understand my meaning. Max had heart trouble that we had been trying to manage for years, so I was not optimistic.

I raced to the house after work and my dad was sitting in his chair in the family room looking awfully twitchy. As the minutes ticked by, we decided that whether Max came home or not, we were going to adopt a puppy the next day. He sent me to the phone to call around the local shelters (this is before we discovered Petfinder ) and find him a mixed breed puppy.

Max came home, but we had already decided. We found shadow the next day. Six months later, my parents split up and my mother got Shadow.

Shadow is a great dog because he is totally unphased by the comings and goings of other animals in my house. And many are not too nice to him.

Old Man Max was not interested in puppies. Not long after I moved back to the house, we got a new roommate and his dog, Natasha, whom he adored. Natasha left when the roommate left. As I mentioned earlier, Spooky the Cat also came with the roommate. Shadow tried to make friends with Spooky and took a claw to the eye. Emergency room. And Spooky is the one that stayed.

When Natasha left, Dallas the German Shepard came. She was bigger, more energetic and sometimes pushed him around. I adored that dog, but sometimes you could just see Shadow rolling his eyes as she grabbed the scruff of his neck. We lost her to cancer. We have also babysat and fostered dogs - Shadow has been very patient with them, too.

Kiwi the African Grey is the bane of his existence. She will not sit still and is always touching his people. Sometimes he yells at her using his Big Dog voice, but mostly he just herds her back to her cage. And now we have Manu, if only temporarily. Shadow likes Manu because Manu stays in his own space and drops plenty of treats down to him.



Doesn't even look like the same dog, does he? Shadow does not have his own web site and is not available for adoption.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

At the Refuge - Website and Other Stuff


It seems my friend Susanna has the new design set up at the Refuge web site!

Tonight, it was crazy hormone night. I could hear the cockatoos screaming from outside. In my car. With the music on. My mother will tell you that is pretty bad.

Peachie the Moluccan Cockatoo, had actually laid an egg. It was already broken when Megan went to clean her cage tonight. Rocky, our poster bird, had three eggs in her cage. Addison, the African Grey about whom I posted recently has been over grooming his feathers. And Ninja, a permanent resident, attacked everyone that tried to walk by her. I don't know how they got her back in her cage.

I am exhausted, and I was barely there for two hours.
The good news is that our team is fully staffed and we are all working together very well. The construction seems to be moving along nicely (as we count down toward the day when I will have to finally decide if Manu should live with me or if he would be happier somewhere else. Where Kiwi the Grey is not).
The website looks great and the volunteers and members are using it - contributing their own stories. Seriously. Susanna Rocks.
Now if we could only do something about fundraising...


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Adopt a Cat Month


In honor of Adopt a Cat Month, I would like to talk about my cat Spooky.

He came to live with me at the age of 8 ½ when my roommate brought him from his parent’s house. Roommate had a dog that slept in his room. My mother had a dog that slept in her room. The cat chose me and my room. The roommate left; the cat stayed. That was 8 years ago. I have had to sleep with my bedroom door open for 8 years.

We are a dog family. I do not speak cat. But I am convinced the cat speaks English. He has a Meow that sounds like he is calling out “Hello”. And the other night I was awakened at 4am by what I could swear was Spooky talking in his sleep about his grand plan for managing the Apocalypse.

On Sunday afternoon I gave him a bath. This is required because he has some kind of skin allergy that makes him itch and lick the fur off his skin until he bleeds. Afterward, he skulked away to pout, so I decided to get to my real chores and changed the sheets on my bed.

Then I put him on a leash to take him into the backyard to dry off in the sun. At his former home he was allowed outside as he pleased. We do not allow this, which I imagine is #1 on his list of reasons to bother destroying the Earth. He sat in the shade for 10 minutes before going back to the door.

(sigh)

I let him back in the house.

Within the hour, he was asleep. On my clean pillow. He was still wet.

So I cut his nails. I have to be careful, though. If he gets mad he will take it out on the dog. Actually, that is pretty funny, too.

If it hadn’t been for wayward roommate, I would never have had any idea that a pet that can’t be bribed, doesn’t follow direction, thinks he is smarter than I am and requires two litter boxes could possibly be so cool.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Happy Hollisters

The other night at the Library, I spent a whole bunch of time individually listing a bunch of old children’s books for sale on Amazon. The Happy Hollisters was a mystery series and the books I saw were from about 1955 – 1965.

Great condition, including dust jackets, which is pretty rare.

There were eleven of them and I was listing them from $7.00 to $9.00. When I got home, I asked my mother if she had ever heard of them. She came out of her chair to squeal about how that series introduced her to mysteries and she loved, loved, loved them! I showed her the selection from our Amazon Storefront.

“Do you want them for your birthday?” Which is in August.

So as I go online to unlist them, I called our director to explain why I am doing all of this listing and unlisting and that I will pick up the books on Saturday.

She was very happy when I said, “So I showed her the books from the Storefront…”

Then I decided those books are really the kind that require covers for the dust jackets and I am starting to run low. So I went to my source on eBay and bought a new roll of adjustable, archive quality covers.

This is an expensive volunteer gig.

P.S. I went to Amazon to look up my favorite childhood book, The Little Witch. $100 for the 1987 hardcover. Lucky I still have my 1979 paperback.

P.P.S. Mom. That was not a hint to buy it for me. Do not buy it for me.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Digital Divide






We talked a lot about the "digital divide" in my e-commerce class last semester. I found this chart in an article on msn.com by Steven Musil who talks about the haves and have nots of technology. If you can't read the little numbers, it says that 30% of us have never used a computer to create a document, like in Word or Excel. 21% have never used e-mail, looked up a website or used the Internet to search for information. Toward the end of the article, Musil says that after we get past the economics and education we still won't have everyone online because people just don't understand how the Internet can help them in their every day lives.


Relatively speaking, I am not particularly tech-savvy. The only reason I have my own computer is that I went back to school and I needed my little brother to pick it out for me. I am on Blogger because it was a school assignment. Even so, I have no idea what I did before Mapquest was around to give me directions.


And I was just making fun of my brother for buying a GPS.


Rescue Dogs and Teens

Chicago has, more than once, been name the Most Dog Friendly City in the U.S. The Chicago Tribune is pretty good about indulging us with local stories. This article talks about a Keeshond Rescue Group that has partnered with a residential facility for teens. The kids work on training with the dogs, making them more likely to be adopted. The kids gain skills and insight and perhaps relate to animals in a way they may not be able to with people. A dog that lost its home to foreclosure, another that was bait for dogfighters, etc.

The article mentions a story about a program for inmates in a South Carolina prison. Inmates were paired with puppies for a similar purpose and the results were fabulous. I remember reading about it and thinking it was the best idea I had ever heard. In some college psychology class or another, we were taught that violent and anti-social behavior toward people is often preceded in youth by violent behavior toward animals. Part of the idea of these programs is the opportunity for the inmate or "troubled teen" to experience empathy with the animal.

I am pleased to see a local group has implemented such a program.