Monday, 7 November 2016

ORD--On the Reference Desk

Here are a few highlights from the Reference Desk recently:

Older gentleman with a gray mustache walks up, holds up an empty bottle and spits his tobacco juice into it.
Do you have a San Antonio phone book?
No, but I can look something up for you.
The ladies over there said you have one.
We have some phone books but not for San Antonio but I can look something up for you.
--exchange about what he wants--
(spits again into bottle)
(leans waaa-aay over to look at the computer screen and breathes tobacco breath all over me)
Well, I guess that's the number I need.  Do I owe you anything?
Nope, just have a nice day. (Leaves to sanitize hands)

Helping a lady find some audiobooks on CD.
Ooh, there's an author we like. Have you read this one?
No, ma'am.
You hadn't read a good book the last time I was in, what do you do with your time?
I read a lot of nonfiction (internally ranting, out of the tens of thousands of books in this library, you're criticizing me for not having read the 1 or 2 you have?!).

Man having trouble logging into the computer after having just gotten his library card.
(me, walking over to ask if he's having trouble and dodging the chair he just pushed back)
Are you having trouble logging--?
Here, you can have this (shoving his new library card in my direction).  Do you have a shredder?
You can turn in your card at the front desk.
(Striding away, angrily mumbling) You can have this back, it's no good to me.
(Throws library card across the circulation counter and on the floor and strides out).

Terms of endearment lately: honey, sweetheart, darling.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book Review--Tales of the Peculiar

Riggs has done it again!  

Tales of the Peculiar is a singular achievement in that it supports the Miss Peregrine's series (you can read my previous reviews of  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls) but can also stand alone as a set of fairy tales that can be enjoyed in their own right, independent of the Peregrine epoch.
Each tale introduces a character, many of them the first peculiar of their respective homes. It records their awakening to their own abilities as well as the realization that a mark of distinction such as this is not always understood, valued or even tolerated by the broader world.  While some are heartbreaking others show a glimmer of hope and even acceptance.

There are several footnotes by the 'author' Millard Nullings and a few of his notes at the ends of the fables to lend credence to the fictional author's knowledge and authority. The stories themselves have an ominous, creepy feel to them but, like the rest of the series, do not glory in the grotesque just for the sake of fright (anybody read Goosebumps?  Those are gross just to be scary with no other intention or redeeming intellectual value). Additionally, the wood engraved illustrations are wonderful and match the tone of the stories.  Andrew Davidson's precision and delicacy with the medium is awe-inspiring.

I knew it was going to be a good book when I perused the publication data page and saw that it was "Printed in a nomad's tent in the desert of Lop, known to some as the Great Lop Depression..." and "Bound at great expense in a facility deep underground, the entrance to which ... you should not attempt to locate, for your own safety."  And the final plea, "Please don't read the third story in this collection aloud backward. The publisher cannot be held responsible for what may occur."

If you enjoyed the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, you will find this a satisfying addition.  If you haven't read it (and you should) but enjoy fables and fairy tales, you will also find this enjoyable!

p.s. since I was a loyal library patron, I borrowed all of these from my local public library but if anyone wants to know what a good Christmas gift might be for me... (hint hint hint)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Non-Book Review--Magnificent 7

Magnificent 7 is the best cowboy movie I've seen in ages!

The cinematography is excellent, the scenery is fantastic (a little biased here since some of it was shot here in New Mexico) and the action is paced incredibly well.

The actors were superb and it blended the old spaghetti westerns with modern Hollywood action. Very, very satisfying!

I admit, I wasn't expecting much from Chris Pratt, he just seemed too comic an actor but I was surprised, they wrote him well as a bit of a jokester but with enough depth to avoid ridiculousness. Denzel Washington was spectacular in his role, intense but not unfeeling; sympathetic but not pitiable. Vincent D'Onofrio was a revelation.  I've loved him since I saw him as a 'god' in Adventures in Babysitting and this role showed his range.

Ethan Hawke was fabulous.  I've seen several of his films and admired his ability but I have since begun to respect him even more after reading his newest book Indeh.  I didn't realize I'd seen several of Byung-hun Lee's movies until I check IMDb which explained why he looked so familiar.  His character here was a good contrast with Hawke's and they complemented each other very well.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo  was both charming and unmannered; attractive and oddly repulsive (mainly while eating) which made him fascinating to watch. I adored Martin Sensmeier's taciturn character especially because he's a dead-ringer for one of my good friends (celebrity look alikes are fun to find!).

Peter Sarsgaard played the bad guy well, never over-done.  And Haley Bennett was both strong and sensitive exhibiting an authentic blend of what a woman of that time may have felt over the sequence of events.  And she did her best to overcome the classic Hollywood trope of having everyone else dressed accurately in period except for her swooping bodice which would have relegated her to the ranks of the saloon girls in the real world.

As I said, the sweeping landscapes were fantastic, they captured the wild beauty of New Mexico and, as an adopted local to the state, I appreciated it. The music was a great accompaniment with an energetic and majestic score.

All-in-all this was a wonderful story of good vs. evil, and how heroism can rise in even the most unlikely of individuals.

I'll stop fangirling now; it's just that it was such a great movie. And now I have to re-watch the original; it's just been a few decades.

Monday, 10 October 2016

ORD--On the Reference Desk

Sometimes the patrons are I are both talking in English but we are not speaking the same language.

Consider this interaction, which is not isolated.  I've had the same difficulty with others.

"How do I get these papers scanned?"
"Let me check your library card and I can put you on the computer with the scanner and talk you through it."
--we walk to the scanning computer and I ask her the same questions I ask everyone.--
"How many pages to you have to scan?  If it's more than one do you want them in one file?  Are you going to email the file or save it to a flash drive?"
"No, I don't need to email it or anything."
"Oh, so you have a flash drive with you?"
"No.  I just need to scan them."
"What are you going to do with the file once you've scanned them to take with you?"
"Just the papers.  You know, the extra ones, the copies."
"Oh.  You need to copy the papers, not scan them"
"Oh.  Then I guess I just need to make copies.  Can I do that here?"
"Yes, right this way, that's a different machine."

How about this dialog which is also not unique.

A flustered patron angrily asked me,
"Why can't I get to My Documents?  I don't see any of my stuff!"
"Did you download anything onto this computer?"
"No, I thought if I logged into my email it would see everything from my computer at home."
"No, I'm sorry, computers don't talk to each other like that."

Or trying to make sense out of nonsense.

I need a book about atoms. I've read a lot of books about how alcohol works and distilling and I don't believe what I've read.  I need a book about atoms.
Let's look at organic chemistry and see if that helps.
Well, I want to know why water is H20 and not something else.  And do atoms have a base they can sit on?
We might need to take a look at quantum mechanics for that one.
But what about books on alcohol?  The structure of the atoms.
Here are books on organic chemistry, quantum physics and home distilling.  I can't help you beyond that.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review--The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler is a tale about finding yourself through your history and overcoming the distant past.  It was thoughtful, well-rounded and excellently written.

The characters take on depth as the story unfolds and the reader is drawn into the history as the scenes flash back to previous generations, intertwining the past and the present.  The writing has just enough flowery detail to live in the moment but not so overdone as to be distasteful.  The historical portions are rendered with an eye to the details of the reality of living and don't romanticize the age of wagons and traveling shows. It delves into a little-understood lifestyle of traveling carnivals complete with tarot readers, mermaids and a wild boy.

I was drawn to check out this book because the main character is a librarian and so I felt some kinship and share his stated love of books and all things printed.  There are some twists and turns along the road before the characters end up at their ultimate destination. There is just enough question as to whether or not the incidences in the book are mere coincidence and superstition or actual mysticism that it kept me guessing.

The only fault I found with the writing was actually in the plot resolution/epilogue (I was listening to this on audio and Ari Fliakos once again does a nice job presenting the story but sometimes I miss if I'm in a chapter or the prologue/epilogue).  The entire present-tense aspect of the story is told from Simon's viewpoint but the last points are made through Alice which was a bit jarring but not enough to detract from the essence of the story.

Unfortunately, I didn't like it but that is a matter of personal taste and not due to the strong writing.   I know the darkness and despair of the characters is what gave it depth and moved the story along but it was just a bit too much for me to let myself be free to coast with the story; I was ever-tense for the next bout of darkness. 

As always, though, you read and you decide!

Monday, 26 September 2016

ORD--Success Story

ORD (On the Reference Desk)

There are quite a few websites, books and authors dedicated to the seeing the humorous aspects of working the reference desk.  Sometimes you have to poke fun at the ridiculous to maintain your sanity. But not everything that happens in the library is sarcasm-inducing.

Just recently, I had a regular patron let me know that he was unable to attend the monthly writer's group because he was meeting with the actresses for the play he wrote that is being performed in town the upcoming weekend!  How exciting! I wish him the best and hope that his writing is not only fulfilling personally but that it takes off and he finds success flowing from his pen.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Book Review--Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans is a fun children's book I have had the pleasure of reading.  It was a surprise gift from a friend that arrived in the mail one afternoon with the inscription, "This just seems like your kind of book".  It was (grin).  The main character is about 10 years old so the ages of interest would probably range a few years above and below that (quite a few years above, in my case) and I have passed it to my 11 year old daughter to enjoy.

This was a fun adventure, racing around town with Stuart Horten (a boy of small stature with the misfortune to have his name be S. Horten) as he discovers his great-uncle's legacy of mechanical magic-show mechanisms.

I loved April, May, and June... not the time span but the triplets who both vex and befriend our intrepid hero. I especially felt sympathetic with April and her fight with her vision and glasses--that's been a pain for me since I was 7!

There is a satisfying 'bad guy' who is actually a lady. And just enough action to keep the story moving along but not so scary that you don't want to read what's coming next.  I also think this would do well as a read-aloud for a wide variety of ages.  Super fun! Now I'm ready to read the next one, Horten's Incredible Illusions.

p.s. you know you've got the right kind of friends when a surprise book shows up just after you mailed one off to them for their birthday.  I got a book for my friend's birthday and that's just awesome!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Book Review--Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Lest you think I only review books I'm thrilled about...

My 13 year-old son put it perfectly when I was trying to describe how this book, a fantasy book, is still very ordinary and expected.  He asked, "Oh, it stayed within the parameters of every fantasy trope?"  Yes!  That's it!  (In explanation, E is a word-lover and began compiling his lexicon at a very early age)

It's not that the book was boring, exactly, it's just that it seemed to take every current trend in tween/teen pop culture and jam it into to the target time period.  I have dabbled in the steampunk fashion but not too much more into the realm.  I understand the pull I just think the characters and their attitudes were too anachronistic and too "teenage dream" to really consider this great writing.  I'll give the sequel series a try (The Mortal Instruments) and see if this latter-written prequel is just vying for more publicity and money and the original is more inspired.  But, it's not going to be too high on my reading priority list.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

New Book Review--Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I am... bipolar over this book. It took me awhile to get around to reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because I am such a HP fan (see previous posts about the HP party we threw at the library this summer) that I didn't want to be disappointed.

My initial reaction as I read was that it was very well-written fan fiction.  Which it essentially is.

I started to get sucked in toward the middle and then... well, I vacillated between enjoying the plot (and trying to keep up with it) and being turned off because the characters seemed flat.

There were a few conversations that can only be described as "sappy" and some overlap with "out of character" and there was at least one instance of modern comedic one-liner-and-close-the-scene dialogue which was very out of the style of the original.

If this had been a stand-alone story with other characters and one not aligned with such a beloved icon of literature, I'd say it was pretty good.  As an attempt at an addition to the original canon, I say.


But, as always, you need to read it to decide for yourself!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The digital divide is real

... and in your neighborhood

A woman hovers uncomfortably next to the reference desk.  "I need help printing something out but I don't know how to use a computer." While the request is quite common, the age of the questioner was a bit startling as she appeared to be in her mid-20's.

"I'm just down for my monthly visit and need to check my email.  There's no internet in the mountains where I live," says a gray-haired lady.

"I just got out of prison after 10 years; I'm not sure how the computers work anymore." A menacing, tattooed man says sheepishly.

"My grandkids got me this tablet-thing for Christmas but I don't know how to set it up and use it", a stoop-shouldered man complains.

"I need to apply for a job, I'm just back from the oil fields but I don't know how these online applications work." Says a despondent man in his 40's.

"I don't know how to get an email address."

"It's asking for a cell phone and I don't have one."

These are situations that happen daily at the public library. It may come as a shock to you, reading this as you are on the internet but, not everyone knows how to use a computer or even has access to one.

I have to admit... even though I keep a smile on my face, there are times when comments by some of my patrons, strangers who discover my profession, or even well-meaning friends offer this question (in some form or another) it makes me grit my teeth:

"How long do you think it will be until everything is digital?"

Other variations include
"Doesn't everybody have/know how to use a computer?"
"What are you going to do when there are no print books?"
"Why do you guys buy so many books anymore Nobody reads in print anymore"

I could go on but you get the point.

There are a lot of assumptions in that one statement. What makes me grit my teeth is the unintended insult buried in the thought.  It also shows a lack of understanding of the world outside one's comfortable little bubble.

Let's look at the reality of living in New Mexico.  We are ranked as one of the 10 poorest states in the U.S.. While the exact position varies depending on the source, the Land of Enchantment (a.k.a. the Land of Entrapment) measures high on the poverty scale and low on the average income scale.  Combine this with a wide geographical area with many topographical variations which make some areas almost inaccessible and you have a state where a few people in "big" cities ("big" is relative when you're talking about our population distribution) make a good living but many more are struggling to make ends meet.

If a single mother (all too often starting as a teenage mom) is struggling to provide food, housing and clothing for her children, what are the chances she is able to afford the luxury of internet at her house?

"But they have computers at the schools" is the argument I've most often heard.

Have you been in the schools lately?  Some lucky classrooms have 3-5 computers for 20-30 (or more) students have to share.  Computer labs provide about 30 computers for an entire slew of classes and scheduling is tight.  Teachers have to schedule their time with the computers accommodating the other hundreds of students who need time on the units.  And with the state-mandated testing schedule, much of that screen time is not used to provide instruction in basic computer skills and critical evaluation skills to teach students how to safely navigate the internet, it is used to teach the kids how to click the answer to take the test.  (This is another completely different issue--standardized tests and the instruction time they steal from teachers doing their best to teach in spite of the restrictive, unhelpful and onerous unprofessional restrictions placed upon them every year.)

Even when teachers fight to give their students enough educational screen time, they are doing so on computers that are out of date.

Which means, the kids aren't getting enough computer skills to teach them the current software much less the skills to keep up with the fast pace of the digital world.  Seniors citizens who may have started out trying to learn the ropes are often outstripped by the rapid changes and updates. I sat with a sweet older couple one day a week for almost 2 months to teach them how to access their Facebook from their iPad so when the day came, they could post a memorial picture and article to commemorate the anniversary of their grandson's death.

From devices to phones to the internet to basic computing skills and typing/keyboarding functions (yes, we've had to explain how to get the @ symbol, the difference between the delete and the backspace key, and to specify that you have to press the keys for anything to happen), the public library helps everyone.

As I've said before, the public library is a great equalizer.  Not bringing down the mighty to a lower level or vice versa but offering a level playing field for citizens of all ages to learn, increase and sharpen their skills so that they can become productive citizens.  Job applications are almost exclusively online for many businesses.  School research needs access to reputable resources that just aren't "on the internet".  Disenfranchised citizens of all walks of life can find a helping hand and training here.

In essence, the library is the bridge to cross the digital divide.

  Keep building the bridge and make it strong!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review--Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

 Where has this story been all my life?  It's not new (1996), how have I never discovered it before now?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is the most satisfying story I have read in a long time.  It so completely immerses in a world that melds seamlessly with reality that you're not sure where one begins and the other ends.

This feeling was absolutely reinforced by the fact that I listened to this story on audio (through OverDrive) and it was read by the author.  Fantastic!

I'm not even sure where to begin...

Just read it!

And now that I've discovered Neil Gaiman, I now have to read Good Omens as he has co-authored it with my favorite fantasy/satirical writer, the late and mourned Sir Terry Pratchett

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review--Just a Guy by Bill Engvall

I have always considered myself average.

Average height, average coloring, average upbringing... actually I'm probably the only "average" person on the bell curve which, in and of itself, makes me unique.

But I haven't achieved super stardom.  In fact, I get excited when one of my old students recognizes me in the store.  There's no way that someone with such a mundane existence could ever be a household name. It takes special circumstances from birth to achieve that... right?

Not according to Bill Engvall.  This fantastic comedian who has made so many people laugh and learn to take life as it comes and revel in the ridiculous, had just a childhood.  With just parents (and stepmom, who sounds great, by the way) and just sisters and was just a kid.  And a high school student and a "kind of" college student.  And, Just a Guy.

Just a Guy: Notes from a Blue Collar Life by [Engvall, Bill, Eisenstock, Alan]

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mr. Engvall's routines over Pandora and on YouTube and through his DVD recordings but hearing this book (audio from OverDrive) I saw the stories behind those stories.  There are several incidents that I remember hearing from his show, embroidered for emphasis, but here is the backstory.  There are some episodes that he recounts from his childhood that make me laugh because I recognize things that my sons would do or have done.  There are some heart wrenching episodes such as his parents' divorce that hit home because of my own situation but gives me hope that my children can succeed even with that difficulty in their upbringing.  It really was a wonderful warm look at the real man behind the laughter.  I enjoyed it.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to see him when he came to the Inn of the Mountain Gods this summer.  The timing and finances weren't right but if he comes back, I'll be right up there, laughing and shaking my head and remembering that even though he's up on that stage he's still, just a guy.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review--The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Imagine a story that is like a quilt; each piece can stand on its own and tell a simple story but an artist can piece them together to make a new, cohesive, spectacular whole.

That's what Charlie Lovett has done in The Bookman's Tale.

At first it was a gentle story about a man trying to recover from the loss of his wife.  And it is.

But then it was account of the legacy of a literary treasure.  And it is.

And then it was an adventure tale complete with murders and escapes.  And it is.

Then again, it was the legend of a family feud handed down through generations.  And it is.

After that it was a narrative of a tragic love affair, and another.  And another.  And it is.

How can one book be all that and still be a cohesive story?  You'll have to read it to find out!

Paired with some quiet time and a cup of tea or hot chocolate, the Bookman's Tale makes for a delicious afternoon.

p.s. for you bibliophiles, there are lots of details regarding antiquarian books as well as book repair--I don't mind saying, I found these just as compelling as the rest of the story because they were interwoven with the meaningfulness of the person performing the repairs.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I'm sick of judgmental memes

Enough is enough.

I've spent countless hours over the years talking with my kids about how one incident doesn't define your life.  How we need to remember that everything we do adds up and we want to try to be better today than we were yesterday.  That God doesn't judge us by one bad day but we also shouldn't wallow and abuse his grace by knowingly doing what is wrong.  We take life as a whole and one suspended moment in time does not define the wholeness of our being and spirit.

Unless, apparently, you are a world-renowned athlete competing against (literally) the best of the best of the whole world.  Then one momentary snapshot will define you as a "loser".

I don't care if these two remarkable athletes have a "history" or a friendly rivalry or not.  What I care about is that one candid shot, of which we really don't know what happened, is defining a person in a negative way.  Not the moment, not the action, the person.

Do you really want to be judged by one solitary instant that someone happens to glimpse?  I don't know about you but I have moments of each day that I'm not proud of. I have snarky comments that I sometimes can't hold back.  I am the one who gave my children their epic eye-roll capabilities.  I'm not a perfect person and, I'm taking a wild guess here, neither are you.  So, please think twice about demeaning someone for an instant in time that they may have lost focus.  Please take a moment to think that maybe you are misinterpreting what you're seeing.  Ponder the possibility that you don't know the backstory.

Because, in the end, you might be indicating that someone else's best isn't valuable.

You might be denigrating one of the top athlete's in the world for your own enjoyment.  And, in turn, you might be teaching someone impressionable that the best in the world still isn't good enough.

I really, really don't ever want my kids to think that trying their best doesn't matter if they can't be number 1.  That's a recipe for discontent and a disastrous life.  I don't want my kids to think they have to label someone who is an expert at something as a "loser" to make themselves feel better.

Bringing someone down does not make you any better.  Ever.  It makes you petty.

Instead try, "Focus helps you finish strong."  Or, "Ignore distractions and do your best".  Even better, "If today isn't your day, maybe it's tomorrow."

When you get to be in the top 99.99% of anything, then you can look at this picture and call one of them a "loser".  Until then, work on being your best and not defining a person by a single action.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

New Book Review--Indeh by Ethan Hawk

by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth

That's the first word that came to mind when I closed the cover of this book.  In colloquial internet-speak, it hit me right in the feels.  Oof.

What makes that more meaningful to me is that it is a different format than I typically enjoy.  This powerful historical story is presented as a graphic novel.*

In general, I have a hard time with graphic novels.  Not that I dislike them because of the principle of passing a story through illustrations, there are many readers who were first introduced to the tricky concept of reading through graphic novels, historically referred to as "comic books". I am just a very linear reader that is wholly entrenched in the up-to-down, left-to-right rhythm of reading.  Sometimes the varying shape and sequence of the graphic frames confuses me.  And any switch in the timeline, like flashbacks, is hard for me to catch.

Considering all that, for this book to impact me the way it did, speaks volumes.

I already pity my son's New Mexico History teacher spring semester.  I'm going to make him take it in for her to see; I think this is a valuable asset in any history classroom.

This book addresses a huge part of our history, especially here in New Mexico and the southwest that is misunderstood and largely ignored.  But the story of the Apache Nation and the process of the progress of the "white eyes" across the continent is dramatic and affects many people.

The challenge of writing an excellent graphic novel, especially one that is not intended to entertain with a fictional story but one to underscore the impact of an historical turning point, is balancing the text (minimal) with the illustrations (maximized).  The story has to be carried along on the twin streams of both, running in conjunction and both supporting and compelling each, in turn.

This fantastic work of literature and art does just that. Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth have worked in tandem to bring to life this snapshot of early American history.  I found the afterword emphasized the compelling nature of the text and commend Mr. Hawk for not leaving this when his first avenue of presentation was deemed nonviable.  This was well worth waiting for.

 *A nod to those who misunderstand the use of "graphic" in this sense. It is not used to refer to something explicit or unsavory.  It is instead using the term to describe something depicted through pictures or graphics (those of you who scoff at this, be warned there are more people out there who have this misunderstanding than you know, do not discount them).

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Harry Potter Extravaganza!

My case of Potter-itis has been cured!

I'm all Pottered out.

I'm still tired... but so happy!!  The Harry Potter Release Party Extravaganza was a hit!!!  It was spectacular, it was... CROWDED!!!! (o.k. I'll stop with the exclamation points just read everything from this point on with lots of excited enthusiasm).

As I volunteered to run the Potions class and had 3 different things the participants could choose from, I had no time to take pictures.  Therefore I am shamelessly borrowing from my partner-in-crime for this (and future because we haven't learned our lesson, yet) event.  Ami, the Youth Services librarian you've heard me mention before has a spectacular blog post on this that you won't want to miss.  She managed to collect pictures from every area we had activities. You can also click the link to her blog from the top right corner here (A Mom's Spare Time) any time to read or follow her.

So, back to Potions class.  I wanted the kids (I say kids throughout but it was also for adults--anyone who wanted to participate--and I did have a few of those) to mix something and be able to take it home to use/play with later. We had Slug Slime made with powdered newt bone and pixie essence (a.k.a. corn starch and dish soap) and Lethargio Crystals (a.k.a. scented epsom salts) to soothe tired hands after a long day of wand work.  I also had ink to mix up, with parental permission.  The reason for the regulation was that the base was rubbing alcohol and the ink was permanent.  Although, I did have one parent concerned that when I said "permanent ink" I was talking about tattoos.  No, tattooing is not a service provided by this library.

Miniature ink bottle with corks along with small parchment papers and a quill!

The table got very messy, very fast.  Powdered newt bone gets everywhere!

This is my assistant Potions Master.  He was an excellent asset to the Potions class and took his job very seriously.
He was also selected as the costume contest winner for his handmade wand and explanation of his "generic Ravenclaw Student" costume. He gets his sense of character from me, I've got strong genes ;)

Everyone went home with a potion of their choice!

Beyond Potions class, there were more than a dozen other activities and areas to visit.  There were other Hogwarts classes and friendly shops from Diagon Alley.  Ollivander's was fun and we did what I wasn't sure would happen and that's give out all 150 wands my crafting crew (conscripted effort from my kids, nieces and nephews) started building.  We hot glued what seemed like a million pencils, and got some blisters to remind us that hot glue is hot.  Then Ami finished up and painted them brown to create the stock for Ollivander's Shop: "The Wand Chooses the Wizard"!

Participants were then able to practice their wand work with spells, charms, hexes and curses!

For those of an athletic nature, there was a water quidditch match on the front lawn.  In the words of Mrs. Weasley (my counterpart at the reference desk) who was refereeing the game, "It all kind of disintegrated into chaos but everyone had a good time".  That's all we can ever ask.

Party goers were able to refresh themselves with Butter Beer and then visit Honeydukes.

Here is the awesome Ms. Ami and life-saving library assistant Mr. Cliff!
I was excited to get some cool spots to visit in other rooms of the library, as well.  I put together a Horcrux Hunt with clues to lead you to various areas of the collection to gather stickers.  We had visitors to the lovely Mirror of Erised (made by yours truly--too bad I didn't have more time but it turned out well enough).

I love this picture!

But the mirror looks more rocking in this black and white photo by Lucid Dreams Photography

The Pensieve was a popular station for people to jot down their favorite book or scene or even their favorite part of the library! (Bring on the compliments!)
I had fun with concrete to make the Pensieve.

My baby was the Weasley clock in the Burrow.  My sous-crafters (if chefs can have assistants with cool titles and still take credit for the work, I can, too.) helped with the base work and decoupaging and I added the details.
Here's a closer picture.  It's so cool!!!
We also had the memorabilia on display so people could buy last-minute raffle tickets.
We sold raffle tickets to pay for the party and future programs.
And if displays weren't enough, we had some fun interactive stations... you could interact with a Dementor!
Scary, huh?  I guess I kinda made this display, too, since it's my oldest son :D
But not so scary that people ran away.
Although it appears that I was the one in imminent danger of getting my soul sucked out while I interpreted at the costume contest. (no we weren't dancing and he dipped me, although that could be a cool new show, "Dancing with Dementors"!
Even if we didn't everything done that we wanted (our to-do/to-want list was actually pretty intimidating), it was a wonderful, fun, exhilarating and exhausting day.  We celebrated the world-wide, generation-crossing, best-selling world of Harry Potter!!

I still need a nap.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Harry Potter on the Brain

I've got Potter-itis.

It's all I can think about.

How did it come back to this?

Why, you may ask?  Harry Potter has been out for ages.  The movies (most of which I haven't seen) are completed and done.  The franchise has been taken over by large corporations--it's come to full fruition.  Or has it?

I have found that many people think the Harry Potter craze our library is currently in is due to the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an extension of the Harry Potter realm (essentially the EU for HP [Star Wars fans will understand the Expanded Universe reference, all others can skip this aside])

I am actually a little surprise at how many people are unaware that an 8th installment of Harry Potter, The Cursed Child, is coming out July 31st!!  Now, this isn't exactly in the same vein as the original series.  This is actually a script based on a short story by J.K. Rowling and is in production in the UK to be performed on stage!  So, while this kind of an epilogue from years down the road after all our heroes left Hogwarts, it's in a different format to keep it fresh, new and interesting.

So, with all of this magic in the air, is it any wonder that the Alamogordo Public Library is hopping on our brooms and waving our wands to conjure up a Harry Potter Extravaganza?!

This is particularly exciting because just as Harry Potter captured the hearts of people of all ages, crossing age boundaries, so is our party!  We are going to have games, crafts, activities, a quidditch match (water quidditch which is going to be a blast in our desert heat), a costume contest and activities for several of the Hogwargs classes.  (I'm doing potions!)

Even my poor family and friends have been shanghaied into helping.  My day off last week was filled with wrangling my daughter, niece, nephew and pretend-nephew into working on wands and a Weasley clockface.  Beyond that my sons were press-ganged into helping with the mirror of Erised and parchment paper-making. My house is a creative wreck, jumbled with crafting areas and scraps and we've been having to eat on the back porch at the patio table because the dining room table is covered with craft detritus.  But, it's all going to be worth it in the end.

Harry Potter Party, here we come!!! (pictures to come)

**Update:  We made the local iNews!  We start at the 7 minute mark for 7-21-16**

Monday, 4 July 2016

Happy 4th of July

Our church has a 4th of July party just about every year and in the past few, we've added a talent show.  This year I was asked to do something.  In years past I've done some poetry readings (don't think I'm too pretentious, most of them were my favorite Shel Silverstein poems--gotta love 'em) but this year I thought I'd do something a little different.

Having traveled quite a bit out of this country, I've seen how different countries and different cultures live and, despite of the hardships and controversies the U.S. is facing, I still believe the foundations of our government are solid and strong.

So, with less than 5 minutes of your time, you can reflect on two great historical moments, both written after times of trial and war; years apart but still powerful and meaningful today.

*disclaimer--I'm an amateur and this is my simple salute as a citizen of our nation, the United States of America.

**also note that there is not a lot a background noise because this is a recording of my practice session in case I punked out from nerves at the talent show (this is my first solo a cappella performance)

*** update:  I did it and it was well-received by my church family :)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Book Review--Compost

Today we're gonna get low-down and dirty... with compost.

I have a great imagination.  And in my imaginary world, I grow beautiful plants and flowers and have a fantastic garden.  I have plants with leaves of all colors, flowers that range in size from miniscule dots of color to huge splashes of pigmentation that fill the view.  I have red tomatoes and strawberries, lovely cucumbers and green beans and even grand heads of lettuce, nodding in approval.

Yeah, my garden is lush Wonderland.

Reality is more like:


To HOPELESS (thanks pups)

But, I do persevere.  Which has led me to read several things about gardening and growing things.  I'm always willing to try to green up my thumb (currently it appears to be hairy--I can keep mammals alive; the kids and dogs are thriving).  So, while it may appear to be a random choice, my pursuit of gardening excellence got me interested in all aspects, including:

Composting is not a necessary component of successful gardening but I do find it interesting. Maybe that's the scientist in me coming out again.

Successful composting can be beneficial to your garden by introducing wonderful nutrients and weed-fighting capabilities. I had no idea of the range of types of compost that you can cultivate all with differing times of completion.  Compost: The natural way to make food for your garden by Ken Thompson laid all of the details out in an understandable way.

As we've established, I'm a bit of a geek in more than one area so it won't surprise you to note that I got excited over two different and distinct aspects of this book.

One was the technical information which was thoroughly accurate and based on sound scientific principles and research but was absolutely understandable and readable.  This did not read like a dry, intellectual tome--it was easy to read but I felt confident in the accuracy of the information presented.

The other thing I enjoyed was the visual layout of the book.  I found the page and font colors and the photographs very appealing.  It please my sense of aesthetic as I delved into the depths of a compost pile.  Odd dichotomy but it worked well.

If you are an avid gardener, ecology enthusiast or even just a curious amateur scientist you'll enjoy digging into the details of composting.

Monday, 20 June 2016

It's all in the follow-through

I spent a recent Saturday doing something to expand my sense of adventure.  While a large part of the motivation is because I want my kids to be more adventurous than I am (lead by example, right?), I've started to enjoy this particular aspect.

I've been learning to shoot a gun!  Guns were not a norm in our household growing up and I had only ever really seen one up close when my brother got issued his.  I was incredibly nervous about the whole idea but I had some good friends who were trained, confident, and very patient while they taught me.  Given the extent of my hesitation and my penchant for researching, however, you won't be surprised to hear that I wanted a bit more formal instruction.  Enter in that Saturday.

Friend, sister and me!
My sister, friend and I attended the NRA-sponsored "Women on Target" class at the local gun range.  This was a wonderful class and I was very happy about the format, the information given and the instructors present.  Thanks to all who participated!

But it was during a portion of the classroom time that made me think.  To ponder.  To muse... (o.k. I'll stop) about an aspect of life that is critically important but often overlooked or marginalized.

The follow-through.

Our instructor was pointing out the importance of following through with each shot so that your anticipation of the next shot doesn't interfere with your aim.  A slow, steady trigger pull and keeping your hands and arms steady throughout the whole motion.  This, in turn, reminded me of all the years Dad spent coaching me in softball (just slow pitch recreational but fun, nonetheless).  My throwing needed a follow-through to make sure it went where I wanted it to go.  My hitting needed a follow-through so the ball wouldn't end up in the dugout.

You can have the best aim but you need the follow-through to carry it out.

The same went for my sporadic tennis lessons over the years.  Forehand, backhand, serve, everything needed the plan, the execution and the all-important follow-through.  Could I tell if I wasn't following through correctly?  I did make many trips outside the fence to pick up the ball I'd launched, that's for sure.

But sitting there, in the classroom in a completely unrelated activity at a very different time of my life, it occurred to me that so many activities require a follow-through motion because it's vital for anything.  Everything!  Not just sports and activities but in any area and stage of life.  Business plans need follow-through to stay afloat and be successful.  Parents need follow-through so make sure their kids know the importance of repercussions (not the same thing as punishment).

 Have you ever tried to work or live with someone who had no follow-through?  Plans that don't come to fruition are frustrating with no execution.  Apologies are eventually hollow with no change in action.  Promises made that are never kept.  All of these things require follow-through to keep life progressing in a healthy manner.

These days, I only have to worry about my own follow-through and teaching my kids the importance of it, too.  I try to temper my enthusiasm and optimism for plans with the reality of my time, energy level and finances.  That's not to say I never do anything or promise anything it's just that I do it with much consideration and the personal requirement that I follow-through.  I don't think there's an objective way to measure success in life but for me it's knowing that what I mean what I say and I do what I promise so that my kids are rarely disappointed by things within my control.

As for this point in my life I, to be re-evaluated periodically, my follow-through is to be consistent, honest with myself, and content with my decisions. For the next stage my follow-through may look different but I will make sure I know what it is and stick with it.