Monday, February 28, 2005

The Value of Information

I was fascinated the other day, while helping a patron at the reference desk, because he was trying to track down a book from the 70s on solar heating. We have the book in the Library, but he wanted to buy a copy of his own. "It's THE book on solar heating," he said. We checked a few online bookstore sources, and it's available to buy used - but for $150.00!! Whoa!

Who would have thought that we all have little goldmines in our basements, of rare books from the 70s, that we might get big cash for. They're sure not what I think of as 'rare books'. Especially with those 1970s graphic design covers.

I, myself, tried to find a used copy of Ceri Hadda's coffee cakes recipe book the other day (this is THE book on coffee cakes, by the way). It's out of print, but you can get it used starting at $50.00. And she seems to have published a (similarly out of print) book on cupcakes, too, that I've never seen. I bet that's gotta be good. Hmm. Time for a bit of interlibrary loan, I think.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Orange Lego

Orange is my favourite colour, and so imagine my pleasure at discovering that they now make orange Lego! We bought a big tub of Lego (Duplo, actually) for Sprout's birthday this week. When we opened it, all the classic colours were there, plus new-leaf green, sky blue, and a lovely carrot orange.

The elusive Loch Ness Chicken Pox Monster emerges from the oatmeal swamp just long enough for a photo. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Internet Searching Eludes Me

I like to know the rules about things, and like to be able to expect them to work. Jim says that I am a person who "looks to authority", which can be a good thing and a bad thing. I like to think of myself as someone who can think outside the box, once I understand what the box is and how it works.

Internet searching is one of the most inexact sciences that I can think of. I've recently been learning a few tricks to do advanced searching, but they only work sometimes.

This for example. I learned that if you want to limit your searching to a particular website and its subsidiary pages, you can add site:[url snippet] to your search. I've just tried using this technique in Google to find all the Aunt Frieda stories that are on Library Squirrel, using the following search string:

"aunt frieda"

According to my chosen authority this should have worked, but instead it only gave me one hit. I've found in reference work that site: works really well for finding something like admissions information at a particular university (admissions, or finding information that you know will be found on a federal government site ("compassionate care leave" So why won't it work for Library Squirrel?

Hmm. Maybe because each blog post on blogger has its own url? Each url contains the string "", but then the date and the post title are added too. Squirrel brain in a whirl.

Chip chip chrrrrr. Bzzzt.

Even this search below only gets one hit (getting only one hit in Google is supposedly a victory, by the way, and is called "Google whacking" - according to a speaker I heard at a conference recently):

"library squirrel" +"aunt frieda"

Dis squirrel is stumpt. Perhaps Aunt Frieda's malicious power extends to the Internet? Scary business.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mish Mash

An assortment of things to report. I think I have a good story in here somewhere too, but I can't think what it is right now.

I worked the weekend, and so today is my day off. Sprout and I spent the morning getting groceries and hanging out at the swimming pool. Lawson has a 10-4 Parents and Tots swim on Mondays, which is great. I had to drag him away at 12:30 so we could have lunch, and in a rare move, he fell asleep in the car on the way home. He never does that any more, so I'm having a nice quiet lunch all by myself.

At the risk of sounding extremely dull, I must report that the City is digging up the street again. This makes once this week, twice last week, and twice the week before. The Pollyanna side: it wasn't an emergency this time, so they were able to warn us and we could fill up some pots.

Tomorrow, a colleague and I are doing a computer program in the lab on 'Searching the Invisible Web'. I'm excited (the spots in this program filled up in 3 hours, so we've hit our target!), but cautious at the prospect of doing a new program for the first time.

The grandchild has a name, finally: Elliot. I may have spelled that wrong, since his parents ARE from Vancouver. Perhaps it is Eliot, or Ellioteh ('eh' silent), or Helioaghthhhg!r (most letters silent). Just kidding. We're going out to see them in March, and that's going to be great. Sprout will really like travelling on the airplane. Whether we can get him to sit in his seat for two hours straight is another question.

He's doing really great on the potty these days. There was a week where he was doing great at daycare but absolutely refusing to go here, but that was the few days before his chicken pox emerged. Jim was right: he was just all-over cranky.

Sprout is also just ebbing out of three solid weeks of "I don't wanna". You name it. "I don't wanna go potty." "I don't wanna eat Cheerios." "I don't wanna have a bath." "I don't wanna get out of the bathtub." "I don't wanna put on my coat." "I don't wanna go in the house."

This three-week stint was preceded by the "I am a water buffalo" phase. Anything you asked him, he would say "Yes." "Are you hungry?" "Yes." "Do you want to wear the green shirt or the red shirt?" "Yes." "Can you fly?" "Yes." "Are you a water buffalo?" "Yes."

He turns two this week. I can't believe it. He's so big and yet so little. And so sticky! We have this great book about Arnie the Doughnut. At some point, Arnie has convinced his owner not to eat him, but to keep him around instead. He has to have something to do and they hit on the idea that he can be the man's Doughnut Dog. So Arnie the Doughnut Dog runs around the yard keeping watch, barking, etc., and the neighbours come by, pet him, and say things like, "You're so sticky, yes you are!" Whenever I croon, "Sprout, you're so sticky!", he says, "I not so sticky!" And we laugh. It's our little thing we do.

Aunt Frieda is coming in for Sprout's birthday, which always puts a dangerous edge on things. Auntie F likes to document everything with photography, including 'pose Sprout with the toy I bought him', so she can go home and pretend to her coffee buddies, with accompanying pictures, that we're a big happy family. Hmm.

Ooh, remind me to tell you the 'Ass Wednesday' story. Since Lent is upon us. Now that's small-town Saskatchewan at its finest, boy howdy.

I had one of those alternate universe conversations with a guy at the reference desk the other day. He wanted help finding information on stem cell research and human tissue regeneration. He made sense for the first ten minutes, but then it drifted the moment he started to get chatty. "This ties right into genealogy," he said. "Do you really think so," I queried, with a severe nose crinkle. "Yeah, stem cell research and the study of genes go hand in hand," he said. I corrected him on that one, but started to give up when the "Maybe we should look for 'immunology' too, since tissue regeneration would work better if your body is strong." "Perhaps 'immune system' is closer to what you mean, instead of the study of vaccines?" I squeaked gently. He was a nice fellow, but the vocabulary was hard to follow.

Enough of that. Patrons. What would we do without them.

I am desperate to rearrange all the furniture in the house, but we need to build some sort of Sprout-proof television cabinet first. We have a long-term plan to build a set of fir shelves for books and the T.V., but we need a current workaround. I need a change. Spring fever, I suppose. I'm thinking of taking up the Flylady's schedule, since housework and household beauty is starting to escape me altogether. She has some really good ideas. I've never embraced the schedule altogether, but even a bit of it might help.

I'm stopping now. I haven't even one more small disjointed bit of news to report.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hard to Spell

I am trying to track down some T-shirts that I heard about recently, with this great slogan: "Saskatchewan. Hard to spell. Easy to draw." I'm on the right track with this toque, but might have to make a few phone calls.

Near Miss

I was tidying up the Library Catalogue PCs the other day, and came across an abandoned search. Within the alphabetical listing of authors, the phrase 'your search for PASTERNUK would have appeared here' popped out at me. If the patron had spent a moment analysing the screen, s/he would have seen 'Pasternak' as an option. Alas, it seems that did not happen.

I'm just hoping that the person didn't leave thinking that our library doesn't have Russian classics in its collection. "Can you BELIEVE it?? The Library doesn't have any books by Pasternuk!!"

Monday, February 14, 2005

The one good thing about having a water break in front of your house is that the big machines come and dig up the street. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Stupidest Thing I Did in England

I was in England with a boyfriend for a month (December) about 10 years ago. His parents lived there, so our plan was to stay with them most of the time and take day trips out to see things, and occasionally stay over in this town or that one.

At one point, we were in Edinburgh (Scotland) for a day, and we decided to go to Penzance. Penzance is at the southern tip of England, and is fascinating because the Gulf Stream flows past there, resulting in mild weather and palm trees(!). I understand that English people think it's nuts to travel on the train for 6-8 hours at a time to get somewhere that you might stay for only a day. But hey, we're from Canada. People from Saskatoon drive 6 hours each way on a long weekend to go to IKEA in Calgary. A long trip is no big deal if you have a book.

So we got on the train and had a great trip south through the countryside. Twenty minutes before we got to Penzance, the odyssey started.

I picked up a discarded newspaper from a table on the train, and glanced through it, discovering that Billy Bragg would be playing on New Year's Eve, in London, at the Hackney Empire. New Year's Eve was the next day. I really like Billy Bragg's music, and he's great live, so I got wildly excited. Gwen, with a mission, is a scary, scary thing. I can be very resolute when I want something (unfortunately, my two-year-old has inherited this trait).

We got off the train in Penzance, found a gorgeous little B&B, and had a potentially-fabulous steak dinner at a local pub. I say 'potentially-fabulous' because I spent half an hour on the phone in the lobby trying to get more information about the Billy Bragg concert. The phone recording that I got for the Hackney Empire sounded promising - some tickets might be available at the door if you line up early (God, I'm stupid), and so I was resolved.

The next morning, the weather was perfect. The sun was sparkling off the ocean, and Penzance had lovely little shops, but I rushed my poor fellow around taking it all in in under two hours. And then we caught the train again, destination: London. We arrived in London in the afternoon, and spent 2-3 hours trying to stow our stuff, eat, and find the venue. Our plan was to go to the concert and then get back on the train and go back to A's parents' house (near Manchester). When we finally got to the theatre, it was dark out and there were wild long line-ups. While we were staring at all the lines and trying to figure out what to do, someone hollered out, "I've got one ticket that I'm not using! Does someone want to buy it?" Instead of snapping it up, we started to argue with each other: "You should go." "No, you should go - you've never seen him play." "No, you like him so much, you should go." And so, someone else bought the ticket while we bickered sweetly.

After a while, we realized that the whole thing was fruitless (how many tickets will be left if there are 100 people waiting in front of you), and we decided to go back to the train station. There was one train leaving for Manchester at 11:45 p.m. or something, and it was 9:00 o'clock. We spent a long hour nursing pints in a grubby little pub full of silent, sullen men, and then we got on the train.

We arrived in Manchester at 3:00 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning, and there was no train to W until 7:00ish. To deter homeless people, the train station in Manchester had no doors on it. This did not deter the homeless people, who just curled up in corners covered with newspapers. So, freezing and exhausted, we moped around, dozed, and tried to bide our time without bed, or food, or coffee.

The stupidest thing was not going to a concert without tickets on New Year's Eve, or sleeping in the freezing train station in Manchester, or greeting the new year with 3 drunks on the train. The stupidest thing was turning my back on the ocean at Penzance.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Glimpses of Pioneer Life

My Grandmother Kate emigrated to Canada from Poland as a young woman, and her family settled in Saskatchewan. She soon got a job as a housekeeper for a widower with a farm and 10 children. After two weeks, she quit because the job was too hard (and likely the pay was not enough). The farmer came to see her a few days later and asked her to marry him - she said 'yes', married him, and went back to work in the same job for free. She and the farmer, my Grandfather, went on to have three more children...

I remember her as a workhorse. She was the little old lady that was always hauling water, firewood, and groceries for all the other little old ladies in town. She was very charming. We still have a tape recording of her singing Polish songs and telling stories of her youth. "She sounds like she has dirt under her fingernails," Jim always says, with admiration. Grandma Kate was a peach.

I Love Seniors

The other day, I crashed a 'Saskatoon Seniors for Continued Learning' meeting that was being held at the Library, to try to get more people to register for my beginners computer class for seniors that was being held the next day. I used to work in the Library's department that serves seniors, and seniors are the most hilarious people you'll ever meet. They're funny, spunky, busy, and smart. Here's what I heard after the meeting the other day, while I was trying to register people:

"Friday morning? A Friday morning class doesn't work for me. Friday's my skating day. Can't miss skating."

"Don't ever let my children know that I had the opportunity to learn about computers, and I passed it up."

"I know the beginning stuff about computers. Why doesn't the Library run advanced classes?"

"You guys only do programs about using PCs. Can you run some programs on Macs, since I have a Mac at home?"

I got five recruits, which made me happy, and there are no better students than people attending a 'continued learning' meeting. They're solid. They're determined. And they laugh at my jokes. It's all good.


Jim said I really shouldn't use the metaphor "smells like bum" out of context, without explaining it (otherwise it sounds like 'too much information').

My friends Karen and Bill live in Lotus Land, but both grew up in Saskatchewan. Bill is one of those engineers who works 60 hours a week just to keep on top of his projects. One time a few years ago, Karen was able to come home for a holiday but Bill had to stay and work. A few days into the holiday, Karen talked to Bill on the phone and asked him how it was going. He was sad that he wasn't able to come and have fun, and he was overloaded with work. How he expressed that was by saying, "This place smells like bum."

I love that story. A charming, competent, grown man making a comment like that just cracks me right up.

Blogging Bottleneck

I have a bunch of stories floating around in my head, but not enough time to blog about them all. Watch for a jumble of stuff coming in the next few days.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


There is some sort of celestial endurance test going on at our house.

We had two days without water at the beginning of the week, while the street crews dug up the water main. After that, three days of snow dump, resulting in the car being completely snowed under, etc. On Friday night at 9:00 p.m., lo and behold, the street was full of water again.

Jim happened to glance out the window, and seeing the flood, immediately hollered for me to call the City, fill the bathtub, fill all the pots in the house, etc. (he was reading books to the sleepy Sprout). Uh oh, we thought. The crews don't work at night, so people can sleep, and so they turned off the water and then showed up early on Saturday to start. Between Saturday and Sunday, they dug FIVE holes in the street, trying to find the latest leak.

If we lived like pioneers on a regular basis, this wouldn't be such a hardship. We would have the tools we need. We would have buckets and basins; we would be used to three days without a bath.

As it is, though, we were both totally pathetic sucks yesterday (Sprout is too little to be a pathetic suck, yet). We whined and sighed. We expostulated loudly. We stared, bleary eyed, out the windows at the frozen work crews (who probably hate that part of their job - having spoiled-brat people without water staring at them all day). Jim is a genius cook, and managed to make a delicious meal despite the unpleasantries last night, but that was the highlight of a smells-like-bum (literally) day.

This morning, I phoned a neighbour and was able to walk a block over and have a great shower. It's amazing how a hot shower and feeling clean can completely change your perspective. Suddenly, I decided that this water shortage could go on forever and maybe I should embrace it. Maybe I should fill all the pots again, boil water, and tackle the dishes. I even had the brilliant plan of finding all the paper plates and cups leftover from our kitchen renovation. Didn't even think of that yesterday. So by noon, the kitchen was in great shape, and I was feeling much more sane.

Bliss of blisses, the water came on at about 5:00 p.m. Jim immediately had a bath (in case he missed his chance), and we've been peeking out the front window every half-hour since then to see if the trucks are still gone or not. The tiny part of me that is the conspiracy theory part thinks that this water break stuff is somehow related to Saskatchewan's centennial. In 2005, the province of Saskatchewan is 100 years old, and we're celebrating our centennial left and right. Sure, I want to remember our humble beginnings. But really, I don't want to live them.

Gimme my dishwasher, bathtub, flush toilet, and double-rinse washer, thank you very much.

Friday, February 04, 2005

There's a Baby!

Jim's daughter A had her baby last night, which makes Jim a grandfather and makes me a 'something'. I'm a very pleased 'something', but can't quite grasp the idea of me being a grandmother (especially with my own toddler at my feet).

Uncle Sprout doesn't really get the whole concept of 'your sister A who lives very far away just had a new baby', and so just stares at us non-committally. He'll understand better when we make the trek to Lotus Land in March to visit the new sproutling.

I can't wait.

It's a boy, by the way, and they hadn't named it yet by the time they called us at 3:00 a.m. We had a little party here, and then went back to bed (although Sprout really didn't want to go back to bed after being up for a while).

It's an exciting time.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Glub glub glub

Just a short post...

The water was back on when I got home from work last night, and Jim had cleaned up the shipwrecked kitchen! Yay!!

Sprout has chicken pox everywhere, along with his own version of my head cold, so we had a really bad night of getting up, lying down, scratching, nursing, whining, wailing, rolling, thrashing, etc. It's over and I'm starting to feel surprisingly well, all things considered, but I'm going to keep this short so I can go lie IN THE BATHTUB for a while before work this afternoon. Yay!

Note to self: must never forget to appreciate modern plumbing. Hot water that comes out of the wall at my bidding is GENIUS.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

This is How the Week is Shaping Up So Far

Sprout has chicken pox.

I have a kick-in-the-head head cold.

For the fifth time since we moved into this house, 3 1/2 years ago, they are digging up the street directly in front of our house.

Because they are digging up the street in front of our house, we have no water.

Because we have no water, we cannot give the Sprout a soothing baking soda/oatmeal bath.

I am sick enough to stay home and sleep all day, but because they are digging up the street in front of our house (crash, vibrate, bang, beep, beep, beep), there would be no sleeping anyway. So I might as well go to work.

Sprout has been peeing his pants all over the house; Jim thinks it's because he's sick, and I'm convinced it's because I'm a bad mother. Oh that irrational maternal guilt is strong. Happily, this morning, I asked him if he needed to go potty, and it all went very smoothly. Perhaps Jim is right.

Seemingly unrelated, but a segue all the same: every time I cross Sprout now (e.g. "No, I'm sorry, but you may not watch movies in the morning on a work day."), he says, "Bad Mommy! Go away!!" which makes me laugh and feel like a pile of poop, all at the same time. What can I say: he's almost two.

The water came back on at six last night, and I promptly rejoiced and started the dishwasher. Half an hour later, they turned the water off again, which means that all the dishes were washed but not rinsed and are stuck in there until we return to the 21st century.

The snowman that I built in the front yard two days ago is just the right height that every time I walk through the living room at night, I think someone is standing right outside the house and staring in the window.

That's the way the week is going.

NEWS FLASH: Well. Obviously the water is back on. I just heard a gushing trickle of water hit the basement floor as I wrote that last bit, and realized that

1. the water must be back on,
2. the water must be running in the bathroom and overflowing the partially-plugged sink and leaking into the basement, and
3. I'm in trubba...

Luckily, the water covered the tile floor but didn't flood the hardwood in the hall before it started leaking into the basement. Even luckier that they didn't wait until I had gone to work this afternoon to turn the water on... Sigh.

That's the way the week is going.