28 February 2013

Woven books

I was reading a blog post the other day (I do that a lot don't I?) about woven books. It is a short video about a book of hours that was woven for the 1889 world's fair in Lyon, France. It's really kind of fascinating. Imagine something like a tapestry in the form of a book.

It's a short video, only about 4 minutes.

27 February 2013

Ariana Restaurant

Last weekend I went with some friends to check out an Afghan restaurant in Allston. I took the bus to Allston and had the realization that I really stick pretty well to my regular routine. I had kind of forgotten how much bigger the diesel busses are than the electric ones and I had forgotten how the demographics of Allston are radically different than the part of town I live in. I don't think I remember the last time I rode a bus that was crowded with people all about my own age and felt so old. Since I live in the 'burbs with more regular, gainfully employed adults I forget how much of a difference there is from the undergraduate days. wow.

But semi-drunk undergrads aside the outing was superb. We went to Ariana Restaurant. It was fantastic. I had a lamb dish. The lamb was tender and juicy and just fell apart in your mouth. I do love lamb. Maybe someday I'll learn to cook it. And the rice was just like I remember my mom's Afghan friend used to make us. So good! And we had baklava for dessert for which there are no words to describe. I'm already looking forward to the next time I can go...

26 February 2013

The shortest month

I've been catching up on my Google Reader today and was impressed (or maybe anti-impressed) with the number of blog posts from the last three or four days that feature as the subject how awful February is. For the fact that February has the fewest number of hours in it of all the months it sure does seem to go on forever. I'm not sure what it is about February that makes people want to tear their hair out (though I am certainly about ready to tear my own out). I guess after having survived one month of winter it just seems too hard to be asked to survive another (snowier) one. And while I heartily agree that February is a cruel month (though perhaps not the cruelest, I reserve that for April) it did have some nice redeeming qualities.
  • We had a nice snowstorm that while shutting down the city for two and a half days did leave the lawn nicely blanketed in snowy whiteness. 
  • I watched a pretty awesome movie today (more about that another time). 
  • I got to train at another desk in the library.
  • I got to work at one of the branches. That was fun.
  • I spent some quality time (and meals) with good friends. 
I'm sure there were more good things that came out of February, but those five I think will suffice for now. Who wants to count things on more than one hand anyway...

21 February 2013

A mission call

Yesterday afternoon my mom texted me (which is pretty unusual) to let me know that my little brother had received his mission call. While this is very exciting news it made for a bit of an anticlimactic story when I got home, since he hadn't opened it yet.

Today, I had lunch with a close friend and she told me a story about when she had gotten her mission call. She was very excited to tell everyone that her call had come, but she didn't want to tell them where she was serving. Se wanted to focus on the fact that she was going to do the Lord's work, and not so much on where she would be doing that work. Few people accepted that. Everyone wants to know where you're going, and that is exciting, but that's not really the point.

While it's very cool to know where my little brother will be serving his mission what is more important is that he chose to dedicate two years of his life to the Lord.  For that I am very proud of him.

19 February 2013


You know what's cool? Libraries. They are a place where you can borrow books and movies and it doesn't cost you anything. That's pretty cool. Just saying.

18 February 2013

Happy Washington's Birthday to you!

Happy Washington's Birthday! Did you know that Washington's birthday never actually falls on the day that we celebrate it on? George Washington's birthday is actually on 11 February (or 22 February depending on whose calendar you're using...), but since the holiday got moved to the 3rd Monday in February in the 70s, when they rearranged all the Monday holidays, it never actually falls on the 11th (or the 22nd). Also, despite the fact that everyone calls this day President's day and assumes that we are celebrating both Washington's and Lincoln's birthday, the name was never officially changed. And because the name was never changed you can spell it Presidents' day or Presidents day, and no one can correct you.

If you don't believe me, you can check Wikipedia for yourself (though believe me, when I learned all this information last semester for my Reference class, I had a solid citable source for it.)

14 February 2013

Susan Cain in Boston (or more correctly, in Cambridge)

About a week ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take half an hour and attend part of an author event at the Harvard Book Store. Susan Cain came and did a Q&A and book signing. Of course, she came to a bookstore two blocks from where I work, while I was working. But I managed to convince the library to give me an hour off in the middle of my shift, and so I went for the first 40 minutes or so of her talk. It was a good talk. Most of what she talked about came from her book and so very little was brand new information for me, but it was still really neat to get to see Susan Cain in person. The bookstore was packed, standing room only, and so I didn't have a very good view, but I did get one fuzzy cell phone picture of her.

After I got off work later I hurried back to the bookstore  to see if maybe she was still there (I had a couple books I wanted to get signed). She was definitely still there, but was in the middle of giving an interview. I skulked around in the stacks for a few minutes trying to figure out my next step. Did I wait till her interview was done and then see if she'd sign my books? Or did I interrupt her? Or did I just go home? I figured that interrupting her was out of the question since that's pretty rude. And in the end I decided that I didn't want to be that crazy fan who hangs around a bookstore waiting who knows how long to see if Susan Cain would maybe sign my books. So I went home. And I feel good about that decision. Sure my copy of Quiet is unsigned, but I feel good knowing that I'm not a creeper.

13 February 2013

Happy Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent. Last year, I thought it would be a fun and interesting experiment to participate in Lent and I decided to give up meat. I know, crazy huh? I figured it wouldn't be that difficult because I don't eat a ton of meat anyways, and financially I wasn't in a position to be able to really buy much meat--so I figured it would be an easy thing to give up for my first Lent. It turned out to be much more difficult than I expected and I wasn't perfect at it. Turns out there are a number of meat things that I do enjoy quite regularly that I hadn't been aware of. But I do think that overall it was a good experience. I learned a lot more about the kinds of foods that I eat and where I eat them.

Since my experiment went well last year I decided that this year I would give up something for Lent again. This time around I've decided to give up Facebook. You may remember when I took a holiday from Facebook back in August. It was pretty awesome. And lately I've been noticing myself slip back into old habits, so I think another Facebook fast will be good for me.

I think I'm also going to use the Lenten season as a way to make some other goals too. At this point in the month making a "month long" goal is becoming questionable, but with Lent being about six weeks long that's a pretty reasonable time frame to work with. I noticed in re-reading the two posts I linked to above that some of the things that I was having trouble finding a home for when I first moved to my new apartment in September still don't have a home and so that is one of my goals--find homes for those leftover things. I also have a stack of magazines on my floor that I need to take care of. .

So to recap. My goals for Lent this year include:
1. Being Facebook-free for all of Lent.
2. Finding homes for homeless items in my room.
3. Taking care of the stack of magazines in my room (which is sort of a subset of #2). 

12 February 2013

Articles in the Atlantic

Before you think that I'm going to talk today about the debris people leave in the oceans...

I was reading a blog today and it mentioned this article that appeared in The Atlantic a few days ago and then this response from Susan Cain that appeared today.

The first is an interesting article written by a teacher about the difficulties of teaching introverted and shy students. Most teachers factor participation into their grading and so it becomes something of a quandary when trying to figure out how to help introverted students participate more. She said (and Susan Cain agreed) that introverted students need to participate in class just like extroverted ones do. But the challenge is how to effect that. Susan Cain in her article provided a few good suggestions, like waiting a little longer after asking a question to give time for introverted students to ruminate or trying a method called "think, pair, share"--where you ask students to answer some question on their own first, then to pair up and share with one other person and then to share as a larger group or a whole class. This is supposed to make sharing a little less daunting.

Susan Cain also mentioned an idea that one education professor at Montclair State University came up with, and that was to divide participation grades from grades based on subject knowledge. So you'd get a grade for knowing math or history or reading and you'd get a grade based on character qualities like listening skills, persistence, behavior, participation, etc. I think that sounds like an interesting idea. In some ways it kind of reminds me of Susan Cain's "culture of character," which I think is sadly lacking in our society today. I wonder too if something like this could be used to help close the gender gap in academia.

These two articles are interesting ones, definitely worth taking a few minutes to glance over.

11 February 2013

We had a few flurries over the weekend

When I got a text from school on Thursday afternoon saying that the college would be closed Friday and Saturday because of the impending blizzard I was a little skeptical. I had seen the weather reports and understood that snow was coming, but it was sunny, clear blue skies, and relatively warm (I think above freezing) at the time and it seemed a little weird to be cancelling my class on Saturday when it hadn't even started snowing yet. And since I didn't have class, I also had no motivation to do any homework over the weekend. Why should I do homework if I don't have classes?? Friday dawned, and while it did start to flurry in the morning I still took the opportunity to run to Target and the library (my neighborhood branch was open for one hour on Friday). And then I settled in for a lazy weekend. or not. I came home and cleaned the bathroom and fridge. (yay, no more fridge-smell!). Friday night I introduced my roommates to the amazingness that is What's Up Doc?. Sadly, they had never seen it before.

Not long after we finished our movie the lights went out. We definitely got the best end of the losing power deal. We lost electricity (but not heat) for only about 2 hours, most of which I spent in bed reading a book by flashlight (and I didn't get in trouble for it!). When I woke up on Saturday this is what greeted me:
Drifts on our back porch

We spent the majority of Saturday digging ourselves out. And I have the sore muscles to prove it. We ended up getting about two feet of snow. So most of our drifts were only about knee deep, but it was windy enough that in places the snow came up to my hips.

Things like blizzards are a funny thing. I felt like somehow our neighborhood came together and bonded a little bit. I saw so many people I had never seen before out shoveling. I can't say that we were all helping each other, but people walking past had encouraging words, and just seeing that that there were people living in all the houses around me was kind of nice. And with the ban on driving it was kind of cool to get to walk down the middle of the roads and have it all to yourself.

The front walk
The snow we had was very light and powdery. I had hoped to build a snowman, but powdery snow just doesn't pack well (though it is certainly better for shoveling). In stead I made a snow angel. Or rather, I tried. When I jumped in the snow I sunk in more than I had planned on, and so I rather ruined the bottom part of my snow angel trying to get up.

Snow Angel
Part of our lengthy sidewalk

07 February 2013

Forbes--at it again

You may remember a while ago, I posted an article that Forbes published that said that a degree in librarianship was the biggest waste of everyone's time.

Today in class one of my classmates made a reference to another recent Forbes article that was hating on libraries. Some how I missed it when it came out back in January. This article is a listing of the 10 "least stressful" jobs. Luckily, unlike the last Forbes thing Librarian wasn't number 1, it was number 9. But still. Listen to this: "A peaceful atmosphere and unlimited access to literature makes librarian a welcoming career option for the bookish" (careercast).Umm, I don't know when the last time you walked into my library was, but peaceful isn't a word I'd usually use to describe it. Sure, being a librarian certainly isn't any where near as stressful as being enlisted military personnel, or a police officer, but it's still no walk in the park.

I realize that these lists and studies aren't done by Forbes, but it does make me wonder what Forbes has against libraries (and what the people doing these studies have against libraries). Come on, we provide excellent services for many, many people. I wonder how the librarians at Forbes feel about all this. I don't know for certain that they have their own librarians, but most big corporations do. There's a whole field of corporate librarianship.

Also, just to defend the university professors who apparently have the number one least stressful careers out there. I'm pretty sure they are all extremely stressed out.

05 February 2013

Ideas that become mainstream

Back when I read My Ideal Bookshelf last month I came across this quote by Chuck Klosterman:

"If a non-fiction book experienced a massive spike in popularity then the idea behind it becomes mainstream and then the book itself disappears" (p.110).

I can't remember now which book in particular he was talking about, but it was a book written some decades ago that had a revolutionary new idea in it and when he talked about the idea I thought "well, of course, I knew that." I was familiar with the idea, but had definitely never heard of the book (can I be any more vague about this?).

This made me wonder if a book like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, could be a book like this.  I both hope that it will, but hope that it won't at the same time. I would love for the ideas embodied in this book to become completely mainstream, but at the same time I think I would mourn the loss of the book. It's an excellent book.

04 February 2013

Educating our youth

You may remember how my roommate currently takes a subscription to the NY Times and how I enjoy reading it everyday (in fact, today I even did the crossword. It was only the Monday puzzle, but I'm still proud that I nearly finished it--my sports knowledge was less than adequate today).

Yesterday there was a fascinating article about the gender gap in education. For many, many years men have out-shined women in education but in recent years women have not only caught up to men but have surpassed them. According to the article women now account for about 60% of college degrees (excluding PhDs--though they are getting close to out-striping them there too). This is an interesting phenomenon. The author of the article (Christina Sommers) explores one of the contributing factors to why men are no longer top performers.

Sommers looked at test scores from a variety of ages of boys and girls and noted that in elementary school boys and girls test scores are very comparable, but despite that boys often received lower grades overall. What happens is that elementary school teachers (and others) take more than just test scores into account when assigning grades. They also take into account things like behavior. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that boys are typically more rambunctious than girls.

While some would say that it's "too bad for the boys. If they are inattentive, obstreperous and distracting to their teachers and peers, that’s their problem," Sommers suggests that we should make a "concerted effort to give them more support." That's what we did decades ago when girls were languishing in schools and it worked marvelously. She proposes that we follow the example of Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, who have all decided to focus on reigning in boys' "tendency to be inattentive" through more structure in schools and more boy-friendly curricula.

It's a very fascinating article. One thing in particular that stunned me was a quote from Judith Kleinfeld a professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who said that "almost one in four boys who have college-educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding." The boys she is talking about here are high school graduates. I definitely think that these kinds of issues in our education system need to be addressed. It seems like there are many solutions out there that can help close the gender gap. I agree with what Sommers said at the end that "the rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men." It is fabulous that women are performing to their full potential, but that shouldn't be any reason for men not to reach their full potential too.