Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reference Observations Regarding the “Problem Patron”


Every librarian you talk to will have a story about a “problem patron” or two, or seven. These are the patrons who, for whatever reason, want to argue with you, act inappropriately or generally cause trouble. They are present in every library, and every librarian will have a different strategy for dealing with them. Just as we employ different tactics for answering the reference questions of children, “problem patrons” often require special treatment as well.

To clarify, when we refer to a “problem patron”, we do not generally mean someone who is physically threatening to other patrons or staff. Those types (and they are out there, believe me), are actually fairly easy to deal with. As Georgia Ann Clark tells us in her piece in the Law Library Journal “There is only one way to cope with a violent, dangerous, psychotic person: call the police” (52).

She goes on to explain that: “More difficult to handle is the demanding, overbearing, unreasonable user who can wreak havoc among staff with his only weapon - a sharp, vicious tongue and extremely troublesome manner” (52). This is what we generally mean when we talk about “problem patrons”. Now the next question is what to do with them? As I said, every library will have their own strategy, and during my 8 hours of observation at my chosen library, I saw quite a few in action.

While “problem patrons” are in issue in every department of a library, my focus was on the reference desk, and the particular challenges that they face. Over my hours of observation, I saw several different “problem patrons” approach the reference desk with a large variety of questions and complaints. One specific issue that arises when dealing with a “problem patron” is that you don’t know that they’re a “problem patron” right away. The best strategy for this is simply to treat every patron who approaches the desk with respect and courtesy.

A librarian might not know at first that someone is going to be a “problem patron”, but when treating a person with respect and courtesy only draws anger from them, you might have a difficult case on your hands. One of the most common interactions I observed at the reference desk (with regard to “problem patrons”) was a librarian having to deal with a patron wanting to complain about something.

Now, we all complain about things in our lives, but the people that we refer to as “problem patrons” tend to have irrational, illogical or just plain absurd complains. A few that I witnessed at the reference desk include: “the guy next to me is typing too loudly”, “I don’t like something that this website is telling me”, and “I can’t remember my e-mail password, why don’t you know it?” Clearly, these are not issues that the reference librarian can actually do anything about, but the patron still needs to be dealt with in a polite and respectful manner.

So how do we deal with these patrons? In The Customer is Always Right, author Rebecca Jackson tells us that “Sometimes a thank-you is enough. Sometimes just having a listening ear helps dissipate the frustration” (213). Her piece uses the world of business to provide valuable insights into customer service for librarians. I found that many of the librarians I observed used these techniques, sometimes to great effect. A patron who came in upset that his home computer didn’t work found a sympathetic librarian to talk to, and even though she was unable to help him with his problem, just having someone to talk to calmed him down.

There are always grey areas when we talk about “problem patrons”. There are patrons who are not necessarily rude or demanding, but simply take up a disproportionate amount of the staff’s time. While I was at the library, I observed one particular patron coming up to the desk time and time again to have conversations with the staff on a wide variety of topics. He seemed like a nice gentleman, and was always polite, but never actually had any reference-related questions. Instead, he wanted to tell jokes and stories about anything and everything.

This type of patron can be difficult to deal with, as we don’t want to be rude, but might actually need that down-time between reference questions to get other work done. Our job is to be there for our patrons, but a 20 minute conversation about Buddhism and Godzilla (a conversation I actually overheard) might be stretching that ideal a bit. Most of the time, the librarians just humored this patron, and went along with his rambling conversations. Once in a while though, the librarian on duty would politely explain that he/she actually needed to work on a project and he/she would be happy to chat with the patron next time.

I thought this was a great strategy for dealing with this particular type of patron. He was polite and courteous, and responded well to honesty. Many librarians will have to deal with a patron like this gentleman at one point or another. The best strategy here? I think David Issacson puts it best in his article No Problem with Problem Patrons, “The reference librarians were simply treating a lonely man with dignity” (68). Respect is always the best approach, even if you think that, as Issacson also puts it “some very weird people are found in libraries” (68).

Another type of “problem patron” that many public librarians have a lot of experience with is the young adult “problem patron”. In her paper The “Problem Patron” Libraries Created, Mary K. Chelton argues that libraries contribute to this problem by insisting on treating young adults like children (25). She argues that many reference librarians assume that all questions young adults ask are homework related (28), and thus do not always take the same time with the young adults that they would with their adult patrons. I did not witness this at the library I was observing, but I have witnessed it many times throughout my life, and especially my own adolescence.

When teenagers (and other young adults) are treated with respect by adults, they are more likely to respect adults in turn. The library I sat-in at is across the street from a middle-school, so young adults make up a significant number of their afternoon patrons. The reference librarians under my observation took the young adults seriously, and treated their questions with the same respect and courtesy that they showed toward the adults.

As a result, I did not see many young adult “problem patrons” while I was observing. This shows us that one of the best reference strategies in this case is to be preemptive, and help prevent a problem before it starts, just by treating a 13 year old the same way you would treat a 30 year old. Chelton concludes that “viewing teenagers as problems does not need to continue (30-31)” and I agree with her completely. We adults tend to treat young adults and teenagers very dismissively, and then wonder why they treat us with so little respect in return.

There’s one other type of “problem patron” that I observed at the reference desk, and those are the patrons who could be called ‘chronically unhappy’. Nothing you can do will please these patrons, and not only that, but they delight in making you unhappy as well. There really isn’t a simple way to deal with this type of person, as almost anything you say or do will be wrong.

The strategy I have seen employed most often in this situation is for the librarian to simply give the patron whatever they want to make them happy and calm them down.This might be tempting in the short-run, but won’t solve any problems and is in fact setting a bad precedent. For example, let’s say a patron wants to argue about fines on their account. This type of patron will argue with you endlessly over a very small fine, and eventually, most staff members will simply waive the fine. The problem with this is that then the patron learns that the easiest way to get what they want is yell and scream at the staff until they give into the patron’s demands.

In her essay Who Says There’s a Problem? A New Way to Approach the Issue of “Problem Patrons” Shelley Ferrell suggests that “staff might effectively de-escalate the situation through the use of skills such as listening, awareness of nonverbal cues, seeing the issue from the patron's perspective, displaying empathy, and focusing on the library-specific issues” (149) and certainly, this is the best possible approach in this situation. Realistically though, there are some patrons who are never going to be satisfied, no matter how empathetically we listen to their problems.

The last type of “problem patron” is the rare patron who verbally or physically threatens and abuses others. In this situation, there is actually nothing for the librarian to do except to call in local law enforcement, and let them handle it. This (luckily) did not happen during my observation period, but I did hear about an incident from more than one librarian on staff. A few months ago the police were called to escort a patron from the premises. He had verbally threatened and then physically assaulted another patron. His mental condition, and the fact that he didn’t actually hurt the other patron were taken into account in this case, and he would be allowed to come back to the library, after meeting with the director. He had however, not chosen to return at this time.

It is important for us as librarians (and people) to remember that public libraries are open to the public. As Calmer Chattoo suggests in his piece The Problem Patron we might see patrons who “talk to themselves, gesture non-threateningly at other patrons or staff, hum, wear bizarre clothes or speak in tongues” (16). Anyone who has worked with the public in any capacity will recognize a lot of these “types” of patrons, as most of them aren’t specific to libraries. But how they are dealt with can be.

Librarians occupy a unique position as both customer service agents, and keepers of the library’s resources and knowledge. When a patron chooses not to use our library because of something that we have said or done, everyone loses. It is our job to make sure that this does not happen, while balancing our own safety and sanity. I watched the staff at this library interact with a wide variety of patrons, in a wide variety of situations, and I think I’ve learned a few good tricks and strategies to handle (almost) any situation.

First, remain calm, courteous and respectful. You do not know if someone is going to be a “problem patron” and we can often prevent issue before they happen just by being polite. Treat everyone with respect, even if they are “speaking in tongues”, or happen to be younger than you. All of our patrons deserve respect, and if you show it to them, they will show you respect in return. And finally, know when to step away from the situation and get help. You are not going to help anyone by getting involved with a violent patron. Just as you wouldn’t expect the police to answer reference questions, so too they do not want you doing their job. Know when the situation is out of your hands, and act accordingly.

There are always going to be “problem patrons”, and they will always be a part of our lives as librarians. There is nothing we can ultimately do except learn to except these people the way they are, and try our best to accommodate them. It is our job, after all, to provide services to all those who seek them, without judgment and with respect.













References:


Calmer D. Chattoo (2002) The Problem Patron, The Reference Librarian, 36:75-76, 11-22.

Chelton, Mary K. (2002) The “Problem Patron” Public Libraries Created, The Reference Librarian, 36:75-76, 23-32.

Clark, Georgia (1979). The Problem Patron. Law Library Journal, 72, 52-52.

Ferrell, S. (2010). Who says there's a problem? A new way to approach the issue of "problem patrons". Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 141-151.

Isaacson, D. (2006). No problem with problem patrons. Library Journal, 131(1), 68.

Jackson, Rebecca (2002) The Customer Is Always Right, The Reference Librarian, 36:75-76, 205-216.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Belated Happy Turkey-Day!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to take a minute out of what I'm assuming is a busy Black Friday to share some pictures of our Thanksgiving meal! (pictures of food on the internet, what? Is that a thing?)

Let me give you a brief over-view of the menu:
  • Two different kinds of salad
  • Salmon patties 
  • Two different kinds of wine (1 homemade)
  • Split-pea soup
  • Homemade bread
  • Turkey (of course)
  • Gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Roasted white potatoes
  • Honey cupcakes
  • Ginger-apple cake
  • Chocolate bumpy cake
  • Pumpkin pie
A feast I tell you! We did it all kind-of pot-luck style, where everyone brought something. And by everything, I mean the woman. It's not a sexist thing, but the men in our family just don't cook for whatever reason, although my Father-in-Law did bring us homemade wine!

And now for some pictures:

Yours truly, putting the finishing touches on my bird.

And it was a beautiful bird, if I do say so myself.



My family and I usually head out to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving, so this was actually only the second time I've ever had to put the Thanksgiving meal together. I think the turkey came out pretty damned good! I was really proud of myself and what I was able to accomplish. Would I do it again? In a heart-beat. It was fun, and the turkey was actually easy (and tasty!).

And these are just the leftovers!

Okay, so I know that Thanksgiving isn't just about food, so I want to take a minute to talk about all of the things that I'm thankful for this year.

  • I'm thankful for my job.
    • I work in am amazing library, where they treat the staff like family. My coworkers are fun and amazing people, and my boss is one of the sweetest people I know.
  • I'm thankful for my family.
    • My parents and In-Laws both live about 15 minutes away from us (okay, 20 with traffic), and I love that we're close enough to pop over whenever we want and spend time with our families.
  • I'm thankful for my education.
    • I'm working on my Master's in Library and Information Science, and I'm just about done with my second semester. That's 1/3 of the way!
  • I'm thankful for my health.
    • While I'm not always the healthiest person (I could eat less and exercise more), I don't have any big health issues, and that's a blessing.
  • I'm thankful for a great place to live.
    • Our apartment might not be much (though we're slowly improving it), but it's ours, and I love it.

So that's it for right now. How did you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? And if you don't celebrate, did you do anything fun/cool on Thursday? What are you thankful for this year? 
Stay tuned for another post in the next few days, I'm going to be talking about the end of NaNoWriMo, and my plans for next year (yes, I plan ahead. no, I don't always stick to those plans), and of course, what I learned from NaNo this year and what I love about the event!
Also, look for a new Librarian's Corner next month (on-time, I hope), and some year-end recaps!

Happy Friday, and enjoy your leftovers, I know I will!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Librarian's Corner: Preacher

Preacher

by: Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon 

We're doing things a little bit differently on this month's Librarian's Corner. Normally, I like to spend a while telling you about a book that I recently read and enjoyed. This month though, I'm going to be talking about an entire series!
Now for those of you who don't know, I work in a library (gasp, really?), and my library has an amazing collection of graphic novels. One of those (or really, 9 of them, this is a series, remember) is Preacher. Now, don't go jumping to conclusion, this isn't a religious comic. Well, I guess it is, but it's not that kind of religious comic.

Preacher is about the Reverend Jessie Custer, who's starting to become disillusioned with his position (and his flock) when something... supernatural happens. Before he knows it Jessie, his girlfriend Tulip and their friend Cassidy (who just happens to be a vampire) are on a mission to find God (who's missing) and hold him accountable for the state in which He's left humanity. So yeah, I guess it is about religion, but I told you, not in that way. Along the way they run into a whole cast of characters who want to stop Jessie. From the Saint of Killers (who's mission is to collect the souls of anyone who dies a violent death) to an organization called The Grail (bent on bringing about Armageddon, for the good of humanity, of course), and even an unfortunate young man who goes by the moniker Arseface. 
 
I picked up Preacher: Gone to Texas last November without a single clue what it was about, because I had heard that one of the main characters was a vampire. I'm a total sucker for vampires and will read just about anything that has 'em. I ran to the library to see if we had a copy, and was thrilled to discover that we actually had the whole series! I grabbed Gone to Texas, and started reading. It took me a year to work my way through the series. Partially because I knew that there were only 9 books (technically "trade paperbacks" collecting issues 1-66 of the comic books), and I wanted to space them out nicely.

I love the series, and once I got into the last few books, I couldn't help myself. I was picking up one every few days and powering through them. I just had to know what was going to happen to these characters I had grown to love (and hate, I hated some of the by the end). Who would I recommend this story to? Anyone who has questions about God. No, seriously, this isn't a series for those who might be offended by some slight (haha!) blaspheming. And before I go any further into my recommendations, I should mention that this series is for mature readers only. Seriously, I don't like to tell kids not to read things, but this really isn't for the littles, grown-ups only please.

So, to summarize: Preacher is about a gun-toating hard drinking, Texas preacher named Jessie Custer, who is on a mission to find God. He teams up with his tough-as-nails girlfriend Tulip and an alcoholic fun-loving, Irish vampire names Cassidy and they travel across the country (and to France, that one time) to find God and hold Him accountable for abandoning humanity. Sh*ts about to get real here folks. So if you like sharp-shooting Texas cowboys, and hard-drinking Irish vampires, and chicks who are not about to take cr*p from anyone, then Preacher might be the series for you. Plus, there are lots of pretty pictures!


That about wraps things up for this month's Librarian's Corner. Sorry for the 2-day delay. I meant to have this post up by the 22nd, at the latest, but... I've mentioned that I work in a library, and sadly, one of my co-workers passed away yesterday. She was an integral part of our tech-services department, and will be dearly missed. 
Anyway, thanks for being patient and sticking with me. I promise that December's Librarian's Corner will be more prompt! Speaking of, I'm always looking for suggestions, so if you have anything you'd like me to read and talk about, let me know! You can leave a message here in the comments! And, if you've read/want to talk about Preacher, leave a comment! We'll have a discussion, it'll be fun, I promise! So that's it for now folks. See you in December!

Stay tuned! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

In case you have been living under a rock (or another similarly rock-like object), today is November 1st! Yay! So what? you say. November 1st, big deal. you add sarcastically. Yes big deal, for November 1st marks the beginning of

NaNoWriMo

What's that? You don't know what NaNoWriMo is? Oh you poor soul, let me educate you. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November tens of thousands (possibly millions) of people around the world (yes, I know I said National, but stick with me here, okay?) gather together to write a novel in one month. For the sake of the event a novel is defined as 50,000 words of a new and original story. And no, it doesn't actually have to be a novel! You can write five 10,000 word short stories that all focus on a similar theme, or a 50,000 word memoir about your life in the Philippines or you can just go ahead and be a NaNo Rebel!

You might think that it's impossible to write 50,000 words in just 30 days, but it is possible. I've done it! Tens of thousands of others have done it too! You can do it! All you have to do is commit to writing 1,667 words a day. And really, that's not a lot. It's only about 2-3 pages, depending on your writing software and your font size. A few pages, I bet you have a few pages of a novel sitting around in your head, just waiting to be put down on screen, or paper!

So how do you do it? The first step is to sign up! Head on over to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up for an account today. It's 100% free, and I promise you won't regret it. Then you can go ahead and start writing! Today is Day 1, and there's plenty of time left to write. Grab a snack (and some caffeine, trust me on this one, you're going to want to caffeinate), and get to writing. Open up Word, or your notebook and start putting words down. And don't worry, it doesn't have to be any good. We're writing novels in 30 days folks, but no one said anything about writing good novels. Trust me, just get it all down, and you can spent December, January and February editing. Oh, that's another thing, your Inner Editor is going to want to pipe up and make changes. Before you start writing, grab some rope and tie him up, okay? You're on your own for this one!

I don't want to bore you with a lot of text, and besides, you've got some writing to do, so I'm going to let you get to it. Go sign up for an account, and add me as a friend if you'd like! Writing is easier with buddies! (I'm CarynSKA on the site too) There are all kinds of local writing events that you can track down and participate in, and if there's nothing close to you, there are WordSprints and virtual write-ins on twitter (follow @NaNoWriMo, @NaNoWordSprints and check out the hash-tag #amwriting for more goodness).

So that's it! Go write! Have fun and give in to 30 days of literary abandon! I'm going to add a word-count widget to the site for the rest of November, so you guys can check in on my progress, and hassle me if I fall too far behind. After all, what are friends for?


Happy Writing and remember: 1,667 words per day, and you'll hit 50K on November 30th!



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado of Death

The Snarkout Boys 

and the Avocado of Death

by: Daniel Pinkwater

First of all, I have to say that this is the strangest book that I've read in a very long time. But then again, its a Daniel Pinkwater book, what do you expect? Oh, you're not familiar with Daniel Pinkwater? Let me introduce you. Pinkwater writes absolutely ridiculous books (mostly for children) about such every day occurrences as talking lizards (Lizard Music), giant chickens (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency) and a moose who works as a waiter (the Blue Moose series). Sounds interesting, right? It is, and The Snarkout Boys are sort-of the culmination of all of this weirdness in one delicious book.

 

The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death is about well, exactly what you think its about. Walter Galt and Vincent Bongo have refined the fine art of "snarking out", or sneaking out of the house after your parents are asleep. While out one night at the all-night movie theater that the boys frequent, they run into a young lady named Rat, who brings them home to meet her crazy family. Thus begins the strangest adventure that young Walt and Vincent have ever endured, and certainly the strangest one; involving mad scientists, all-night restaurants, stump-speeches and of course, avocados. 


My love-affair with Mr. Pinkwater started while my husband and I were on our honeymoon last summer. He was appalled to discover that I had never heard of the masterpiece that is Lizard Music. He promptly downloaded it to his talking books player, and we spent a lovely weekend sitting out on the deck of the country house we were staying at, listening to Lizard Music and laughing our butts off. After that, it was on to The Hoboken Chicken Emergency and The Last Guru. I've been reading Pinkwater avidly for over a year now, and I've yet to come across a book that I didn't love.


The Snarkout Boys is just everything that I love about Daniel Pinkwater's books. It's ridiculous, and it's fun, it's silly and it makes you laugh. Yes, it's a kid's book, but it's also for adults! Don't let anyone out there tell you that as a so-called "grown-up" you are not allowed to read and enjoy literature aimed at kids. Although there is something beautiful about its childlike silliness. There's a sense of whimsy that you don't get very often in traditional "adult" books, and Pinkwater is the master of whimsy. Seriously, he wrote a book about a giant chicken, remember?


This is a short book, so I'm going to keep this short. I loved The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, and if you have a healthy appreciation of the weird, you will too. Where you can you get your paws on a copy? At your local library of course! But wait! There's more! You can actually listen to this amazing novel for free, narrated by the author himself! Head on over to www.pinkwater.com and check out all of his free audiobooks!


So that's it for this month. Are you going to run out and read/listen to The Snarkout Boys? Yes, yes you are! It's well worth the price. You know, free. Enjoy! And come back next month for another installment of Librarian's Corner. I'm hoping to do something a little special next month, so please check back for it! In the mean time, tell me what you're reading these days, I'm always looking for some new recommendations (as if my reading list isn't long enough...)! TL;DR? More next month, tell me what you're reading, and have fun!

 See you next month!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures in Grape-Squishing

Hey, remember last time, when I mentioned that we'd been grape-squishing? Well, now I'm going to tell you guys all about it.

It all started a few Fridays ago, when my in-laws went to a pick-your-own-vineyard and came home with 165 lbs. of grapes. Yes, 1-6-5. That's... a lot of grapes. So what were we to do with all of those grapes? Make wine, of course.
My in-laws have been making wine longer than I've been a part of the family (which, admittedly isn't that long, but still, it's traditional at this point). Every fall they acquire grapes, squish the juice out, and let it ferment into something alcoholic and delicious.

For the last several years, this squishing has taken place in their basement. The set-up was... precarious at best. There was a car-jack involved, and a cross-beam named Roderick that butted up against the ceiling... and yeah, it wasn't good.
So last year, my husband and I built them a wine-press. A real wine-press. Based off of the design of a commercial wine-press that a friend of theirs had purchased for lots of $$.

okay... so we're still using a car-jack.
The basic design is simple. There's a wooden frame that supports a car-jack, that holds the actual press. Inside the big green bucket is another (Home Depot) bucket with lots of holes drilled into it. Grapes go in the inside bucket, pressure is applied and juice comes out the bottom. The big green bucket has a spigot installed in the side so that the juice can be moved to yet another bucket. You can't make wine without a lot of buckets, apparently.

Okay, so once you've got your press all set up, you add grapes. 165 lbs. of them if you've got!

All the classiest vintners use kitchen pots.

Then, like I said, it's time to squeeze. We made a set of inter-locking pegs that would fit between the car-jack and the grapes so that we could continue to add pressure even as the grapes got squished down. Once your pegs are in place, you squeeze.

Here you can see our peg system in action.

I wanted to cut dovetails on the pegs but... meh, you can't always get what you want. What comes next? Well, uh, more squeezing. And then? Even more squeezing. If you've got a lot of grapes (and we do), you're going to have to do a lot of squeezing. We did about 2 batches of white grapes, and another 2-3 batches of red grapes. If you've got a spigot installed into the side of your big green bucket (which I highly recommend), your grape-juice can pour right out into its permanent home. In our case, some fancy food-grade buckets which will house the grape-juice while it ferments.

Happy little grape-juice
All there is left to do is ferment your grape-juice and make it into delicious delicious wine. But that, boys and girls, is another show.

What do you do with the left-over grape mash? It composts really really well, so go ahead and dump it into your compost heap... if that is, you don't mind a massive fruit-fly infestation. If you're not a fan of fruit flies, then you're probably going to want to throw the mash out. Sorry.
And speaking of flying pests, if you're squishing grapes outside over the summer (or even in the early fall), be prepared to entertain some of these guys:

Yes, that's a yellow-jacket, and yes, there were a lot of them.



I think that about wraps things up for today. We had a lot of fun grape-squishing, and in about a year (give or take a few months) we'll have some wine! Hey, I never said this was a quick process. Alright, stay tuned next time for our October installment of Librarian's Corner. What am I going to be reading/reviewing this month? Who knows! I sure don't! So come back on the 21st and find out!

Happy Squishing!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Follow Up - What to Do About That Boring Bathroom?

Remember way back when, when I was complaining about our boring apartment? Well, more than half a year later, we're finally making some progress.

Now, we've being adding little things around the apartment to spruce things up. Like our night-stands, which added some much needed space in our bedroom. We finished our kitchen table, and can now eat breakfast like grown-ups (instead of sitting on the couch to do so). And we've been putting various art-works up around the apartment. But today, we took a big step toward de-borifying our apartment. We hung a shelf in the bathroom!

Okay, now I know that doesn't sound like much, but it made a big difference and really pulled the space together. Let's take a look at some before and after pictures, shall we?


Here's the Before picture. We've got a toilet, a trash-can, and uh, that's about it. Boring right? I mean, it's not like a bathroom needs a lot of stuff in it to be functional, but it's not exactly pretty like this. What to do? Decorate! And here's what I did:

I hate that stupid sliding door that you can see in the right of the picture. It really doesn't slide well, and we just always keep it shut. So I added some posters that I found in an old anatomy book.

Somehow, these seemed appropriate for the bathroom

These have been up for several months, and have added a lot of fun to the bathroom. We get a lot of compliments on them from guests.

A month ago, there was a lot of flooding in South-East Michigan. The sewer system in the Metro-Detroit area got overwhelmed one day when we had a lot of rain, and many many basements flooded. Why am I telling you this? Because my in-law's had a flood in their basement and ended up having to throw out a book-case that had water damaged (and mold growing on it). Why am I telling you this? Because the shelves inside the book-case were perfectly fine, and we snagged two of them!

A little warped, but they work fine
We decided to hang the shelves in the bathroom, so we went out and bought a bunch of really pretty shelf-brackets to hang them with.

We went to 2 different hardware stores to find brackets this pretty!

And then we went ahead and got to hanging our shelf! We have two of these shelves, and we were originally planning on hanging both of them in the bathroom, one on top of the other. But after we hung the first shelf, we just liked the way it looked, and decided to just go with the one.
Once it was hung, the only thing left to do was to decorate, so we did.

I've got a carefully curated collection of books, my crocheted uterus and a Rubik's Cube. Of course.We finished everything off with a gorgeous framed picture that we got last year as a wedding present.

I need to get a copy of Mary Roach's Gulp to finish out my bathroom collection.

So there you have it. We finally fixed up our boring bathroom, and you know what? It's not so boring any more. Here's the official After picture, check it out:

Scroll back to the top to compare the Before picture

So what do you think? Do you like our choice of decor? I know it's not everyone's style, but we like it. I feel like we're slowly making our apartment into a home. Our kitchen is almost done, and we're working on the bedroom. Next up is the den (still the worst area in the house), and the living room/TV area. Sigh. There's always so much more to do. Back to Pinterest!




That's it for today. Stay tuned for next time when we'll... Well, I don't actually know. But I'm sure it'll be something interesting. Like when we went grape-squishing. That was interesting wasn't it? Oh wait, I didn't write about that yet! Stay tuned next time for when we go grape-squishing!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: Like No Other

Like No Other

by: Una LaMarche 

Like No Other is a novel that had me hooked from the very first chapter.  I read an early excerpt online, and I had to track down a copy to read the whole thing. Luckily, my library was getting on in, and I was able to place my name on the list.

The story is about a Hasidic girl named Devorah who falls in love with an African-American boy named Jaxon (with an X) after the end up stuck in an elevator together during a hurricane. A pretty auspicious start to a relationship, right? And things just get more and more complicated from there. The story is a bit Romeo & Juliet-esque, in that Devorah and Jaxon are not only from two very different communities, but practically from different worlds.

I picked this book for my Librarian's Corner because I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I read the whole thing in just a few days, and could hardly put it down. My favorite thing about the book is how accurate it is. Many people who read this book will probably think that Devorah's family is an extreme example of religious Jewish culture, but families like them are actually pretty common.

Being Jewish myself, this is a culture that I am very familiar with, and it was fun to see it portrayed so accurately in a popular novel. I'm used to seeing my culture in print only in books and novels written by and for various Jewish communities. It was so nice to get to read a wonderfully written 
(and very compelling) love story that portrays the Jewish community in a very positive light.

And the story is beautiful. Devorah and Jaxon are passionately in love the way only teenagers experiencing their first real love can be. Their love may be forbidden, but it draws them both into their own little world, where nothing matter except for being together. It might sound cheesy, but the story is anything but. There were times when I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what was going to happen to Jax and Devorah, especially during that one scene that I don't want to tell you about, because it'll give too much away, but OMG, I was on the edge of my seat! 

I would recommend this book to anyone who believes in young love. To anyone who believes that our cultural differences aren't as big as they can sometimes seem. And to anyone who loves a good story. So go, get a copy at your local library and start reading! You won't regret it!



That's all for today folks. I hope you enjoyed this month's installment of Librarian's Corner. I knew I wanted to write about this book as soon as I finished reading it, but I'm not always so decisive. How can you help? Leave a comment with a book-suggestion! If I can, I'll track down a copy and read it, and I might even write about it here on Librarian's Corner. Or, you can leave a comment telling me what you thought of this month's book, or last month's book, I'm not picky!
Stay tuned for more awesome stuff on the blog, and I'll see you again on October 21st! And who knows, maybe I'll find a nice Halloween-themed book to read and review!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We (finally) Made a Table!

So, remember waaaay back in April, when I said that we were going to be making ourselves a kitchen table? Well, we finally finished it! And yes, it's really taken us 5 months to finish it... But you don't want to hear a lot of excuses about how we're both super busy (two jobs, blah blah blah, grad-school, blah blah blah), or how we don't have our own space to do wood-working, or anything like that. You guys just want to see pictures, am I right? So, let's get to it.

We made Ana White's Sewing Table to be used as a kitchen table in our tiny apartment kitchen. We thought it would be perfect because the table has two leaves that can be folded down (if we need more floor space), or popped open to eat at (if we need more surface area). Considering we have a fairly small kitchen, I figured this would be the perfect multi-use table. And I was right.



 Here you can see the table open and shut. See how much space I have/save?





 The whole project started with one full-sheet of plywood that we had cut down at the lumber yard.

Yes, I know our plywood isn't the best quality. I'm okay with that.

We then cut it down further to make the pieces that would make up the center frame of the table. Once those pieces were cut, we assembled them.

This is half of the middle of the table...
And that's where we ran into some problems. Things didn't quite... come together the right way. I blame our crappy table-saw. We measured carefully and sanded well, but we were off a bit, and nothing was quite square when we put it all together. Grr. No worries though, we fixed it up with our super-sophisticated clamping system.

A come-along and 2 50lbs bags of flour.

Once we had everything squared away (ha, see what I did there?), it was time to paint. We had gone back and forth on the paint color a few times, but finally settled on a deep, rich, TARDIS-like blue that made us both happy.


For the painting, we were able to bring our table home and paint out-side on our balcony, so things progressed a little more quickly. Once all of the pieces were painted, we attached the leaves with cheap hinges we picked up at the local big-box hardware store.

I have to admit that it did take us about a month between assembling and painting the table until we got around to making the legs. I don't know why, because this turned out to be the simplest step in the whole process, but we took our time getting to it.
Once we finally did make the legs though, we just attached them to the leaves with more cheap hinges and we were pretty much done.

Oh, except for attaching castors to the bottom of the table so that it can easily be rolled around our kitchen (we've got linoleum).

At that point, all that was left to do was to put some of our bowls and cook-books into the storage compartments, and have breakfast!

Okay, that might have been dinner, but you know what I mean.

I love my kitchen table! It's got storage, so I can keep all of my cook-books right in the kitchen, and I can also store some of my smaller kitchen appliances that I don't use very often (like the ice-cream maker and the crock-pot), so that they don't take up much needed counter space.
I also love that it's blue, which is my favorite color.
And most of all, I love that we made it ourselves! And it was easy.

If I could start the whole project again, would I do anything differently?
    Yes, I would invest in a better quality plywood. We picked up a sheet of construction plywood for $25. With a lot of sanding and a coat of paint, it looks beautiful. But for $25 more, I would get Oak or Maple plywood next time and save myself a lot of sanding.




So that's it, our much awaited kitchen-table (at least, I've been waiting for it for a long time). What's next, you ask? That's a good question, I say. I don't know what's next. Right now we're shopping for some nice kitchen chairs, but I don't think we're going to make them.
I'm not sure what our next wood-working project will be, but I'm open to suggestions. Leave your ideas in the comments, and let me know what you think we should make!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: Unmarketable

http://www.shelfari.com/books/1014823/Unmarketable-Brandalism-Copyfighting-Mocketing-and-the-Erosion-o
by: Anne Elizabeth Moore
I first heard about Unmarketable on the feminist podcast: Popaganda, produced by Bitch Media. This is the first non-fiction book that I've written about for Librarian's Corner, and I couldn't think of a better book to start with.
Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity is about just that, marketing and how it manages to creep its way into not only our everyday lives, but our underground, DIY and punk communities, that we normally try to keep so carefully anti-consumerist.

The book takes the question of selling-out to a whole new level by showing us that people don't always realize that they've sold out to companies like Nike, LucasFilm, or even Big Pharma. Whole genuinely underground art movements have sprung up (seemingly 'organically') to promote Tylenol or the release of the last (up until then) Star Wars movie. I picked this book up because I was interested in how it was possible for artists to sell-out without even realizing that they were being bought.

Living in the culture that we live in, we are constantly being marketed to. Just driving to work I'm bombarded by ads, on billboards and on the radio (seriously, doesn't anyone play music on the radio anymore?). You can't turn on a TV at home without seeing endless hours of commercials, even YouTube has been over-run by ads. And don't even get me started on corporate sponsorships. "This sunset brought to you by... Taco Bell, live mas!" Ugh. But this is all of stuff that we're aware of, what Unmarketable touches on is some of the marketing we experience on a daily basis that we might not have noticed.

The book is full of stories of marketing in unusual places and in odd campaigns. My favorite (or rather, the one I found most interesting) was the story of how Sony (of PlayStation fame) used graffiti, and yes, you read that correctly, to market its newest gaming console to the public. They took over an underground art form in order to sell a product, and to be honest, that kind of makes my skin crawl.

Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who wants to read more about artistic integrity, and this insidious ways that corporations will try to pay for it. Anyone who's interested in marketing, and the ways in which we are all vulnerable to it. Anyone who wonders how the puck movement, of all things, could be co-opted by Big Pharma. Do you fit any of these descriptions? Than pick up a copy of Unmarketable today! You can't afford NOT to! (See what I did there? Marketing.)


So that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed this month's Librarian's Corner. We'll meet here again on September 21st! Pick up a copy of Unmarketable if you'd like, and if you guys do read it, I would love to hear what you thought! Leave a comment here and share your thoughts about the book (or any book for that matter, I'm always looking for recommendations for what to read next!). Stay tuned for more of what I'm doing (there may be a cloths-making post coming in the near future).

Happy Reading!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Pennsic 43 - Recap

Whew, what a week we've had. Or really, what an intense last 3 weeks it's been! I wanted to throw together a quick post to let you all know what I've been up to all this time, and well, here it is.

Let's start with the last week in July. It was the last week of my first semester of Graduate School, and I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But with a final due on Wednesday and a final due on Thursday (both reflective papers), it was a busy week indeed. I finally got everything turned in on time, and I was done. Nothing left to do except wait for the grades to come in. Oh, and start packing for the week-long insance camping event that we were leaving for on Sunday. Finals = done, packing, not so much.

I went to a party that Thursday night that one of my co-workers threw at her (beautiful little) house, and we all played a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. Let's just say I heard a few things I never thought I would hear coming our of my coworkers mouths! (It's a fun game, for terrible people)

Friday I worked, and then we took the day on Saturday to get ready for our week-long camping trip. I know, packing for a week's vacation in one day is really smart... Anyway, we got everything packed up and ready to go for an early departure on Sunday morning.

Okay so, before we continue, I should take a minute to tell you where we went. Remember like a million years ago, when I posted about going to some crazy event called Pennsic? Yup, we did it again! Actually, my husband's only missed 1 year in the last 10, but this was only my second time going. And we both had an absolute blast!

We got to spend time with old friends and (to me at least) new friends. I got to meet a lot of the people that I've been hearing my husband talk about for years, and they were all exactly as I had imagined them. Wonderful, fun, funny and charming people.

I could go through a day-by-day re-cap of everything that we did at Pennsic, but I don't want to bore you. I've already put my family and friends through that kind of torture, and I don't want you nice folks to have to suffer through it as well. So let me give you the condensed version.

Sunday: Un-packing, setting up the tent (which leaked the whole time, greeting people, then a night of amazing performances.

Monday: Field battle, then our first classes of the week (including one by a teacher who I remembered well from 5 years ago). Then we actually got up to the archery range to shoot our War-Points.

Tuesday: It was a fast day, so we planned ourselves a long schedule of classes, which we more or less stuck to.

Wednesday: We went to a bit of East Kingdom Court (it ended up lasting 4 hours) and then: two words, Midnight Madness! Shopping at all of the merchants! We had a blast wandering around all of the different stalls and buying way more stuff than we needed.

Thursday: More classes, then cooking all the things back in camp (including Creme Brulee on the open fire). We ended up staying up until 2 in the morning learning how to make a bow-string.

Friday: Our last day in camp. We went to a class, then packed up and helped take down the camp site. Drove home, and that was all she wrote.

We had an amazing time, hung out with friends, attended some very interesting classes (Like: Historical Uses of Poisons, for one), and made some cool things.

Not to mention got some cool things. Check it out:

A bunny fur and some beautiful hand-spun yarn

All these leather scraps for only $2!

And some lovely linen to make a few nice projects out of!
Pennsic was a blast (I think I've said that before!), and I honestly can't wait to go back next year. But in the mean time, life moves on. Back to the grind!



I'll be back next week with another Librarian's Corner, so stay tuned!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: Xenocide

Xenocide

by: Orson Scott Card 

So far the theme of "Librarian's Corner" seems to be: books I've been meaning to read for a very long time. This month's pick was a graduation present from my best friend, 8 years ago. I read Ender's Game in middle school (several times, in fact) and had read both of its sequels (Ender's Shadow and Speaker for the Dead) in high school. Ender's Game is the first book in two separate series: Ender's Saga and the Shadow Series. Xenocide is the third book in the Ender's Saga (following Speaker). I suppose that I should put in a disclaimer here, that since this book is the third in a series, there will be some spoilers for the first two books.

Xenocide picks up where Speaker for the Dead leaves off, with the humans and the piggies reaching a tentative peace, Ender/Andrew marrying Novinha, Miro heading out to space to meet Valentine and her husband Jakt, the Hive Queen comfortably settled and the entire planet of Lusitania in rebellion against Starways Congress. But Xenocide doesn't take us immediately back to Lusitania, instead we are taken to the world of Path where we meet Han Fei-tzu and his godspoken family.

It's hard to describe exactly what exactly I love about this book. Besides the fact that it follows brilliantly on the heels of a novel that is at its heart about humanity and how we treat one another. Ender's Game is ostentiably about Ender and his struggles to discover himself when he is being groomed to be the next great military leader. Speaker for the Dead also follows the journey of Ender, now Andrew, as he re-invents himself as a Speaker, telling the lives of others in order to avoid the truth of his own past.
In Xenocide Card has managed to weave together so many different stories into one remarkable narrative. We learn the stories of the piggies and the buggers. We learn about how Novinha and her family have both changed and remained much the same over the course of 30 years. And we have the story of Han Fei-tzu, his daughter Qing-jao, her secret-main Wang-mu and their own struggle for self-actualization in the face of the grand plans of Starways Congress.

But most importantly is the theme of xenocide that runs throughout the entire book. The threat of xenocide looms in front of piggie and bugger alike, as well as the potential xenocide of the descolada virus, and the threat of Jane's extinction. Which species is on the brink of extinction seems to shift back ad forth throughout the novel, and things are never quite what we think they are.

Xenocide is the middle book in the "Speaker" trilogy, followed by Children of the Mind, which I'm in the middle of reading right now. I don't know what I waited 8-9 years between reading Speaker and its sequel, but I'm not wasting another minute finishing up the series. And when I'm done with the Speaker series, there's always the other books, the Shadow series, started off with Ender's Shadow. I know that I've got plenty of reading ahead of me (especially since Card is still producing books in both series), so I better get to it.


So that's it for this month's Librarian's Corner, stay tuned for another installment on August 21st! In the mean time, have you guys read Xenocide of any of the Ender books? I'd love to hear your thoughts about them, you can post here in the comments! And of course, I'd love to hear about whatever else you're reading! Keep checking back over the next month for more things I'm doing.


Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

10,000!


I'm just going to leave this here:


10,000 hits on the blog! I'm astonished, I'm amazed, I'm honored.

Thank you, you guys are the best!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Hornet Saga

Gather 'round children, and let me tell you a story. This is the story of the hornets that decided to make their home on our balcony, and the leasing office that wanted nothing to do with them.

Our story begins last Wednesday (July 2nd) when I was out on our balcony watering our container garden. I noticed a large swarm of (rather large) insects near the corner of the over-hang, and remarked on it to my mother, who was on the phone with me at the time.
She suggested that I call an exterminator. I shrugged it off. "Meh," I said. "There are some bugs, no big deal."
I changed  my mind fairly quickly when said insects began attacking me. I was hit a few times in the head and shoulders by dive-bombing maniacs, and I fled indoors. I took a look at the corner of the balcony from the vantage point of our window... And saw this:


I called the leasing office as soon as I got off the phone with my mother. I explained that there was an alarmingly large nest on the outside of our balcony. I was told that the exterminators were actually in the complex, and there was a good chance that someone would come out that day to take care of the nest.
I gave the office detailed directions to pass along to the exterminator, explaining clearly that the nest could not be seen from the balcony, and that if the exterminator would look at the roof from the window I indicated, he would be able to see the nest no problem.

My husband and I went out that night, to see a fire-works show, and by the time we came back it was late, and dark, and we were tired. But we saw that a service note had been left for us. The service note had a box checked off on it... The box read "treated". It was dark, and we couldn't see the nest, but we were happy to know that the bug problem was over.

We were not so happy the next morning, when we woke up to see that the nest was still there, and that there were bugs till flying in and out. I called the leasing office again before I had to leave for work. I was told that the exterminator had been there the evening before, and that he sprayed. When I asked why there were still bugs flying around, the lady at the leasing office said:
"I don't know, that's not my profession."
When I asked her if she could find out for me, I was told that it can take 24 to 48 hours for the bugs to all die, and that it was all perfectly normal. I asked if I could call again in a few days if the bugs were still there, and I was answered very dismissively.

That was Thursday (7-3), and we had a very busy weekend. We didn't get home until Saturday night, when we noticed that the nest was still there. Sunday morning there were more bugs swarming around, and by Monday morning (7-7), when I called the leasing office again, the nest looked like this:


Bigger and badder. Yuck. I called the leasing office and was initially given the run-around. Finally, I was told that they would call an exterminator. I was frustrated and expressed this by explaining that we had been dealing with this issue since Wednesday. The lady at the leasing office said:
"Okay, we'll order and exterminator for Wednesday." And then hung up on me.
Great, annoying, but at least we'd be getting this taken care of.

This time, I was home for the exterminator, and it was a lucky thing. I took him over to the window, and showed him exactly where the nest was. What was the first thing he said?
"Good thing you were here, I never would have spotted that."
He confirmed my suspicions that the nest had never been sprayed to begin with, and gave me a name for our intruders.

Bald-Faced Hornets, nasty little things, and nothing to mess around with, according to the exterminator. I asked him why the nest hadn't been sprayed last week, when I first called. He said that the guy probably walked out onto the balcony, didn't see the nest, sprayed a bit and went home. I explained that I left detailed instructions with the leasing office. But apparently, the leasing office didn't pass along any of those instructions.

TL;DR?

  • We had a hornet problem.
  • I called the leasing office - they promised to take care of it.
  • When the hornets persisted in being alive, I called them again
  • They continued to be dismissive with me - telling me it wasn't a problem
  • When the hornets were still there almost a week later, I called again
  • This time, they were rude, but did call an exterminator
  • He came and informed me that the nest had never been sprayed
  • This time, he sprayed and killed the hornets
How do I know. Because this time, the nest looks like this:


See all those gross yellow things? Those are eggs, ready to hatch into more hornets, like ~50 more of them! I'm so glad that I was able to get this hornet thing taken care of, but super annoyed that it took a week to do it!
I explained to the leasing office how they needed to handle this, and they were rude and dismissive, and as a result, I couldn't enjoy my balcony or take care of my plants the way I wanted to for the past week. I almost wouldn't mind so much, if we weren't paying quite so much for rent...

What's the moral of this story, dear readers? The moral is that this is not how you treat your leasers. The moral is that if you want people to continue renting you need to treat them with more respect, and respond more promptly to service calls. You need to take care of maintenance issues, rather than telling your renters to take care of it themselves.

For now, I'm upset yes, but I'm also relieved that this hornet problem is over and done with, and we'll just have to wait and see what the next issue will be...