Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I Love a Library Mystery

Library work is so detailed, and yet there are so many people that work in a biggish library, that it's hard to get everyone doing things exactly the same way. Occasionally, this means that a non-library-approved process develops, silently, bureaucratically, over many months or years. And when it's finally discovered, it's like a tangled ball of wool, waiting to be unravelled and rewound.

We sign out books in other languages here at my library, and because we borrow them in blocks from the Provincial Library, they are not catalogued permanently in our collection. We have a snappy little system to handle checking them out, where a blue card with a library barcode is put in the book's pocket. If a patron wants to borrow the book, we zap the barcode that's on the blue card. In the past (2 years ago), the cards used to be green, but we did a massive overhaul.

In the process of mundane statistic-gathering, we have discovered that somewhere in our seven-branch system, we are still using the green cards! Oh heavens!! The sky is falling!

I am running around, being a library sleuth. Who checks out multilingual books? Who might have green cards? Were the green card barcodes recycled and used on the blue cards? Are there green cards left in any books somewhere? Does a patron have his own stash of green cards? How would he get them wanded without us replacing them? Were the barcodes recycled onto paperback books by accident? All this running in circles for a few little stats. It's lots of fun trying to unravel these mysteries, but it sure can eat up the day.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Gag me with a Trinity

Okay, just for fun, am browsing popular Saskatchewan baby names for the last year. Can you believe that 34 people named their girls "Trinity" last year?

I am a Catholic, but the Trinity still has me mystified after all these years. In fact, the other day I realized that when I pray, I never pray to Jesus. I don't know what to do with Jesus. Isn't God the Big Guy?? Shouldn't you go to the top, if you want something?

I got a funny issue of the Watchtower a few years ago from some JoHo's who came to the door. The main article was about what Jesus really looked like. In the image that they had of him, he had short, groomed hair and a nice little well-trimmed beard. He looked more like Norm from This Old House than he looked like Jesus. He certainly didn't look like an unwashed prophet. And he certainly didn't look Jewish.

Anyway, back to me (isn't it all about me??). I have some sort of prayer-Jesus disconnect. Will have to read the tales of Narnia again. Perhaps a little C. S. Lewis fantastical theology will give me a kick-start. Have heard recently that someone is thinking of republishing Narnia without the Christian undertones. How stupid is that?? What is Narnia without the theology? Clive Staples would roll over in his grave, it's a certainty.

Tales from Small-Town Saskatchewan: Liebenthal

Leader (Found this hilariously optimistic website the other day)(Love those giant kangaroo rat sculptures! How lifelike!) is smack-dab in the middle of where a bunch of Germans from Russia homesteaded in the early 20th Century.

My grandparents settled south of Leader, on a farm near the hamlet of Liebenthal. Or "love valley" for those Deutschophiles among you. I have a lot of cousins who grew up in Liebenthal, and although it is a mere 15 miles from Leader, boy do they talk funny! Everyone speaks English, but with German syntax, or pluralization, or direct translations.

In Liebenthal, you don't turn off the light, you "make off the light". When you need a haircut, you say, "My hair, they're so long!" I was at a wedding with my cousin Pete a few years ago, and we were looking for a great aunt's house where everyone was visiting. We drove around and around the neighbourhood, and then suddenly spotting something familiar, Pete cried, "There Bobby's car is!" I hadn't heard syntax like that in years.

If you go south from Liebenthal, you come to Fox Valley. My father grew up in Liebenthal, and he always pronounced the town's name something like "FuxFallee". Fox Valley has fewer of my relatives and its dialect takes the German influence even a bit further.

I remember a Fox Valley guy talking about his clothing to me once, and he said, "I got my chean chagget on, and my new cowpoy poots." My pal was at a field day (weekend-long baseball tournament) there once , and he reported this conversation between two elderley gentlemen sitting on the bleachers in front of him:

Old Guy #1: Hey der Bop! What's da score, der?
Old Guy #2: It's ten-sipp!


Most of my Liebenthal relatives don't speak any German at all these days, but the spirit of the language is still hanging in der.

Squirrel in a Haze

It's another beautiful Saturday in Saskatoon, and I'm again stuck on the reference desk. Very busy in the library today, though, so someone has to tough it out and answer the questions.

Am a squirrel in a haze these days, due to severe sleep deprivation. The Bobo is sleeping not too badly, but I'm staying up late visiting with the white trash, or staying up late to do minor renovations.

Perhaps it's time for another story about small-town Saskatchewan...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Pookas. Also known as Pucas.

Pookas are animal spirits. The Random House Dictionary says "an Irish spirit, mischievious but not malevolent, corresponding to the English Puck." I always think of Harvey the giant invisible rabbit. Jimmy Stewart's martini-drinking, fun-loving, invisible best friend.

In our house, 'pooka' has come to mean old friends of Jimbo. Or people he used to know, at any rate.

Since Jim is an older, more worldly squirrel, he has lived a number of lives before meeting me. He is one of those guys, though, that makes strong connections with people and then easily loses touch due to geography. This results in the fact that he has many stories about his friends, but he doesn't know where they live now and I have never met them.

I am coming to accept that I may never meet the legendary Charlie, son of Gus and Son of Perdition. I may never meet Timothy, the Winnipeg 'Stand By Me' boyhood friend. I may never meet any of the art school crowd. Sigh.

All of this was not very disturbing until I watched the movie "A Beautiful Mind", in which you slowly realize that the man's best friends don't really exist. They are all in his mind. THEY ARE ALL POOKAS.

Jimbo's daughter is suddenly getting married in Vancouver, and because we spent all our money on the kitchen and I've used all my holidays, Sprout and I are not going to go to the wedding. Instead, we will all go in the spring when their baby arrives. I am sad to miss the wedding because it's Shmally's wedding, and I am also sad to miss the wedding because I think pookas will be at it! Damn, damn, damn.

(If the pookas actually exist.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Squirrel on Wheels

I usually like my walk to and from work, but the Thailand Tourists are back and staying chez nous - and they're coming to give me a ride home!!

We've always had a white trash backyard, but it's been raised to a level of art these days. My sister is allergic to my cats, and so she and her husband can't sleep in our house. Thus, we have Mo's tent-trailer installed in the middle of the backyard, among the heaps of renovation trash, with two ex-tourists snoring away inside. And an acid orange bikini draped across the chair outside to top things off.

It's great to have them back. Sprout's having a blast with Uncle Cow and An'Sleen around too. Oops, gotta go catch my ride.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Marge and Gwen and the Dandelions

Is that how you spell 'dandelion'? There are words that I think I know how to spell until I see them. I am a good speller, but definitely not a "Desk Set" librarian. Those chicks in that movie could spell like nobody's business.

Anyway, I've wanted to write about Marge and Gwen and the dandelions for weeks. Marge lives across from me, and Gwen (there are so many Gwens in the world, suddenly!) lives two doors down from her. They are both spry, elderly ladies, with PERFECT lawns. Marge has the herbicide truck come by every two weeks, and I think Gwen wrestles the broadleaf culprits with her bare hands. I like both ladies, and I envy having the perfect lawn, but I'm mildly scared of them, and this is why...

In between Marge and Gwen there is a little yellow house, owned by a guy who works in the art world in some capacity. A nice fellow who mows, but like me, a guy who does not use weed killer. The dandelions spring up like a mountain meadow across his lawn, and then drift blowsily onto the green velvet on either side. Does this make him a bad person? Evidently, yes.

It's too funny. About 3 times a day, Marge and Gwen hang over their fences and chat to each other across his yard. They walk over and show each other their geraniums and irises (this is why I like them, it's so cute). But occasionally, when the wind is up, I see them standing in front of art-man's lawn with their hands on their hips, and I hear the words "damn dandelions" waft over the wind. The tone is bitter and outraged, like the man eats babies.

Marge and Gwen have come over to visit me while I dig up my flowerbeds, to welcome me to the neighbourhood. I like them, but I'm always worried that I'm going to become dandelion trash like poor bobo in the yellow house. Who knows what may tip the scales against you? Beware the septuagenarian with the green thumb, who doesn't smile with her eyes...

Kitchen Renovations - Week 6

I've had writer's block for weeks, it seems, but I think the exhausted fog of renovating is clearing.

According to my calculations, we are at the beginning of Week 6 of kitchen renovations. All in all, it hasn't been a bad process. We took 3 weeks off to renovate, and got a lot done in that time. Last time Jim and I took 2 weeks off for major renovations (to paint the exterior of the house), it was wild. I thought we'd do the whole paint job in 2-3 weeks. Then we found out that we needed to heat-strip the entire exterior... At the end of two weeks, we had decided to cedar shingle the sides of the house so we never needed to paint again - and so at the end of two weeks, we had the front of the house primed, there were stacks of cedar shingles everywhere, and I was pregnant. "Wait, this isn't what I had in mind!" I remember thinking.

Anyway, this time there was actually a realistic time-frame, and we got a lot done. Our kitchen now has cupboards without doors or shelves, but all the woodwork in there has been varnished. It also has a working dishwasher (thing of wonder! thing of beauty!), and a working sink! Yay! The sink was a teaser for days. First we had to wait for the countertops to arrive and be installed. Then the sink was put in, but we couldn't hook it up lest water spoil all the unfinished woodwork. Then, we were ready to hook it up but the Italian drains that come with it (la dee dah) needed uncommon pipe hookups which we couldn't get on Sunday... Anyway, after many ups and downs, we now have a sparkling set of taps that gush the finest water that city services can provide. The stove has been ensconced in its place, as has the fridge. And the stove vent we bought two years ago is wired in, and work likes a damn.

We ordered cabinet hardware from Lee Valley (LOVE Lee Valley), and it arrived in four days flat. We're installing pewter-coloured shell pulls and square pewter knobs. Jimbo, who is always inspired by beauty to act, is busy at home varnishing the drawers so John can install those.

I have spent a week washing walls and shaking out rugs, to reclaim the rest of the house from the chaos into which it had descended. We are now eating in the dining room (yay), and so my college days are over again (or living like I'm in college is over again). All the baby gates have been swinging wide for a few days, and Sprout is happy as a clam. He runs from the front of the house to the back, and then from the back to the front, and occasionally sits in the door-less cupboards looking smug.

It all looks so fantastic, and the kitchen feels really spacious. There is always a worry when you design a reno yourself, that it won't work out. But in fact, it's perfect. I promised photos weeks ago, and didn't do it yet. I am determined, though, to at least put up a pic of the finished product. I promise.


I have arrived bright and early at work (bright and early for me is 9:00 a.m) only to discover that I have the 10:00-6:00 shift today. Hate being early for anything. Oh well, this way I can play on Blogger for 45 minutes - ooh, but must run next door and get a coffee to assist me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


My Michigan correspondent recently told me that the comments feature was disabled for a while on Library Squirrel. I had no idea, and so was feeling all droopy alone on my tree branch, because no one was commenting. Not even the Thailand tourist, who is always good for a choice phrase! Now that comments is working again, I'm a happy squirrel.

This got me thinking about how blogging is a little like fishing. You put your line out there, hoping you'll get a bite. Fishing for comments is like fishing for com/pli/ments? Do I write to write, or do I write to start a conversation?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Patron Whispering

I am not a shushing librarian, but my colleague the other day gave me a nice compliment: she called me "The Patron Whisperer", as in I can calm the frothing, angry library client, with soothing tones and patient understanding. It's too funny.

Sh-sh-sh little patron, it's okay.
Let's make that bad Internet connection go away.
Close your eyes and dream of pies,
And ice cream sundaes, burgers, and fries.

Hey, gimme a break. She never said "Poet Laureate".

Monday, July 12, 2004

My Frozen Tongue

This story is for Liz from Michigan, who just had her gums frozen for some dental cleaning. I must warn that it's not as charming a story as I am wont to tell, but it's truth about the squirrel. Minutiae.

I have never liked needles much, including dental work needles. About 8 years ago (my first year on the job at the reference desk), I had a filling done to repair some old dental work. Routine job, right? When the dentist put in the needle and pushed the syringe down, it felt totally weird. We had just been making jokes, and so I said lightly, "Wow, that froze my mouth instantly!" He looked at me in a funny way, but didn't say anything. And I thought nothing more of it.

La dee dah. The day progresses, and my mouth takes a long time to thaw. Later that evening, I called the dentist to say, "You know, the left half of my tongue is still frozen...?" and he says, "Oh, you'd better stop in and see me tomorrow." I saw him the next day (those were the days when I was less assertive than I am now), and the rat bastard would not admit that he had made a mistake. He kept saying "It's too bad that this has happened to you." Like I had been hit by lightning??? A few days later, I talked to someone from the College of Dental Surgeons etc, and he said "It's very rare that they hit a nerve when freezing the gums - it happens to about 1 in 2 million people." Sigh. I wish I had won the lottery instead.

The medical doctor I saw about it said that all nerves grow back except the spinal cord, and they grow back at a rate of one millimetre per day. It was a bleak four months. Example: I think I grind my teeth in my sleep, and so I would wake up with my tongue lacerated because I couldn't feel the damage. Blech. There were funny things about having a frozen tongue too, of course. I work on the "Information Services" desk, and so I used to answer the phone saying, "Information Services!". Once my tongue was frozen, I could barely strangle out, "Informathon Thervithes".

Most librarians know that the tone with which you speak is half of how you prove that you are an authority, when you answer a question. "Informathon Thervithes" does not suggest authority. I think it sounds more like the Hunthback of Notre Dame: "May I climb the tower and ring the bellth for you, Madam?"

I still have a bit of residual nerve damage in the tip of my tongue (so much for all nerves grow back in time), although I've dropped the lithp (lisp). Saying "Information Services" is still a tongue twister for me. Now I just say "Library Information!" instead.

You can't keep a perky squirrel down. But I do have a new dentist.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Ow, My Brain

Am on the reference desk today, on this sunny Saturday, but there are too many people with too many questions!! Have been trying to bend my brain around this question: "How much radiation does the average person get in a routine medical X-ray? (He wants a measureable amount)" This seems straightforward, right? Have been poring over science encyclopediae and medical encyclopediae, and browsing our health database. There are, first of all, too many different uses for x-rays. And the explanations, I think, are not actually written in English. Or in a dialect that this squirrel understands, anyway.

Finally, have found a nice little number in the Merck Manual: average dose from diagnostic x-rays for average person, 0.39 millisieverts. MILLISIEVERTS?? Qu'est-ce que c'est 'millisieverts'?

Merck also says (love Merck!), "Radiation dose is measured in...the roentgen (R), the gray (Gy), and the sievert (Sv)." Great. What is a sievert?

Random House Dictionary: sievert: "The SI unit of dose equivalent when the absorbed dose is measured in gray." Oh, come on. Sheesh.

Shorter Oxford (OED): sievert: "An SI unit of dose equivalent of ionizing radiation, defined as that which delivers one joule of energy per kilogram of recipient mass, and equal to 100 rem." Ah, of course. *cough*

This hurts my brain, but have just called the patron, and he already knows what a sievert is!!! Smart, clever, lovely patron.

Was planning to write for Liz a history of my frothzen tongue, but the dethk wath too buthy. Mutht wait for later.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

I Love Sleeping with my Child, a.k.a. I Hate Sleeping with my Child

We are a cosleeping family. In the world of new parenthood, there are the ardent lefties and the ardent righties, with many different styles in between. Living through sleepless nights with your child is really tough, and therefore the rights and the lefts really get going on this topic.

After much fretting and much thought, I really come down to the left of centre because it just feels right. Breastfeeding, babywearing (what a hilarious word), cosleeping, etc., etc. Card-carrying member of the La Leche League, that's me.

Anyway, if you had told me 2 years ago that I would be sleeping with my child, I would have said that you are crazy. It sounds rather barbaric in our culture to have children in your bed. But then we brought Bobo home from the hospital, and reality set in. Do you leave this tiny, vulnerable, immature animal alone in a dark room all night? How do you know he's breathing? What if he needs you but you can't hear him, even with a baby monitor? It was all decided when Jim said, "Well, really, they give a clock to a puppy who has to sleep alone. Why is it all right that this human baby has to sleep alone?"

So, from then on, there was a Sprout in the bed.

I have slept alone for most of my life, and I like to have lots of room to toss and turn, so it was quite an adjustment for me. Babies are BED PIGS, let me tell you. I have learned to sleep in a way that I no longer get kicked in the face or boob by a surprisingly strong tiny foot. I still wake up sometimes, though, wedged between Jimbo and Sprout, like 3 peas in a pod. Erg.

What I don't like about sleeping with my baby: being kicked in the face; getting peed on or puked on, or having to sleep in the wet spot after the deed is done; being awoken from a deep sleep with a blood-curdling scream right in my ear because someone has gas; sleeping with covers on half my body because someone doesn't like to sleep under the covers and kicks them off; worrying that I would squish my baby (quickly realized, though, that like the books say, a nursing, attached mother does not sleep deeply with her child, and will awaken at the slightest baby noise); not sleeping deeply for many, many nights in a row; being asked for breastmilk six times in one night ("Mummy! Mook!")(this only happens when his teeth hurt); always keeping one brain cell tuned to preventing the child from rolling off the bed; being whacked in the face with the cherished stuffed monkey; being invited to kiss the soggy, slimy (snot boogers) cherished stuffed monkey.

What I like about sleeping with my baby: feeling certain that I always know he's breathing or can check by rolling over; being able to check for fever if I think he's sick, by rolling over; not having to get out of bed to get him a drink; never having to hang over the edge of a crib in the middle of the night because someone won't go back to sleep; having an additional someone to hug when it's cozy in bed; being able to comfort him so quickly when he's upset about something in his sleep; knowing that cosleeping babies statistically have fewer nightmares than babies who sleep alone; kissing his head whenever I want; squeezing his little feet while he sleeps; listening to him talk in his sleep ("Walk outside!"); watching him smile in his sleep; staring at him while he sleeps whenever I want (sleeping babies are so beautiful); watching him stretch, roll over, sit up, smile, and say, "Read da book!" (it's true - you have never seen someone go from Zero to Perky so fast).

Some days I think it's the best thing in the world, cosleeping, and other days I wake up thinking I hope I make it through the day, because I'm so tired. Occasionally, I go to bed at 8:30 p.m., just to be able to function the next day. Sometimes I don't even know why I do it, but then I remember when he was little and had such trouble sleeping. If I had had to try to get him to sleep alone in a crib, life would have been pure hell. I was awake a lot, but at least I was awake lying down!

As it is, we keep doing it. Sprout will sleep in his own bed someday, and even though I will likely sleep better, I know I will miss him and his chubby little feet.

Kitchen Renovations - Day 4052

Okay, so we haven't really been at it for 4000 days, but the mess is getting to me at moments. Renovations are so much fun that I can stay perky for quite a while, but if we start to use the kitchen soon it will be okay with me.

That being said, the renovations are coming along splendidly. John is doing a great job of the cabinets. He has the face frames (outsides of the cabinets) pretty much done, and I can probably start the first steps of the varnishing treatment tomorrow. Tomorrow is my day off, since I work next Saturday.

The countertops arrived late Wednesday, and John installed them on Friday. They look beautiful, and the neutral brown arborite that we chose has a greenish tinge when set in the kitchen with the red linoleum floor. It's not what we planned the colour to be, but it really works. Choosing wall paint will be tricky with a red floor and brown-green countertops though. Art Boy and I are up to it, though. We cruise a mean paint chip.

A few stressful moments Friday for John and Jimbo: the sink that we bought is supposed to fit a 24-inch countertop, but it really didn't look like it would. It was so close that J and J were afraid to cut the sink hole for most of the day, without a plumber consult. In the end, though, they read the schematics one more time, took a deep breath, and made the cut. The sink just fits with about a 1/4-inch to spare. Whew. We thought we'd need to buy another sink.

John also put together the final cabinet, which is a case for our spanky new dishwasher. The kitchen as a whole looks so great. We were nervous about doing our own design and ending up with something boxy or unbalanced, but it's very functional and at the same time spacious and elegant. The cabinets look like bookcases, they're so fabulous. I think the whole thing will look a bit different once the cabinet doors are on (that always makes cupboards more weighty), but I think it's going to be excellent. Thailand tourist will be green with envy. (If not already green with tourista.)

Our cats are still at Auntie Lauveen's house. God bless Auntie Lauveen. I think they're happier than they are here (they get spoiled), and they will be ticked at us for weeks when they have to submit to the cat diet regimen and to being chased by the Sproutlet once again.