Friday, July 29, 2011

Growing pains

A patron came up to me yesterday, a girl who was maybe sixteen or seventeen years old.  The first thing I noticed about her was her glaringly white shorter-than-hot-pants.  Startled, and trying to avert my eyes, I asked her what she needed.

Girl: "There's a book that came in on hold for me."

Me: "Oh, did you get an email or an automated message about it?"

Girl, now glaring at me: "An automated message."

This meant that her book was on our hold wall, and we will usually walk first-time patrons over and show them where it is and how to find their book.  That is, patrons that are nice.  Not sassy patrons who glare at me, especially when wearing underwear-for-pants.

Me: "Great! All you need to do is just head right over there and the books are shelved alphabetically by your last name." (friendly smile)

The girl then jutted one hip out and let her head drop to one side while saying, "Ugh.  I hate doing that.  Can't you get it for me?"

(I'm not exaggerating.  If I was exaggerating I would tell you.  I just wanted to make that clear.)

After weighing some options (telling her she has to grow up and do it herself, giving in and teaching her that she IS entitled and can make people do anything she wants, or punching her in the face), I said, "Okay, why don't you come with me?" and headed over to the shelf.

On the way there I tried to gain some perspective.  "So, what's the problem?  Do you feel overwhelmed by how many books there are and having to look through all of them?"

Girl: "Yeah, well, every time I look myself I can never find it and I end up having to come ask you guys for help anyway."

Alright.  That's understandable... she's frustrated from that, I can get that.  So I found her book (took approx. 4 seconds), and as I hand it to her I'm noticing that she's... rather energetically eating some candy.  Candy that looks an awful lot like the kind we give out to people who turn in Summer Reading reviews.  I decided to turn a blind eye until she said, "Oh, by the way, can I get some more candy from you guys?"

Me: "Sorry, we can only give you candy for turning in book reviews."

Girl, looking at me incredulously: "What reviews?"

Me: "Book reviews for the Summer Reading Program..."  - blank stare from girl - "Did you sign up for the Summer Reading Program?"

Girl: "No."

Me: "Then I can't give you any candy, sorry."

Maybe that sounds stingy?  Grabbling over candy?  But we librarians are a bit protective of our dwindling candy resources... it's a public library for pete's sake.  We're not made of skittles and kit kats.  And it's not just me, each summer we usually get a threatening "keep your grubby hands out of the patron's candy bucket" email (AJ, I'm saying 'threatening' in the nicest, most sweetest possible way *friendly smile*).  We've countered this problem by having staff members bring in their own candy which we keep in a separate bucket to avoid temptation.  And we have a large, ill-tempered woman standing nearby with a firm ruler in hand in case there are any wandering eyes.

Anyway, the girl relented and went on her way, and after I got back to the desk I asked my co-worker if that was, indeed, our book review candy.  She said, "Yes, actually, I had just given a patron their piece of candy for turning in a review, and before I could take it off the desk that girl came up and grabbed a whole handful, even as I was sliding it back across the desk towards me."


Dear teen patrons: Learn from this cautionary tale.  There will be people in your life that want to help you, but we won't if you act like you're entitled to it.  Earn the things you want.  Be gracious for the things you get.  Try to keep the glares to a minimum.

All other patrons: I know it's summer and it's hot, but could you keep your shoes on?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In case you needed to laugh your head off today

There's several more episodes on Youtube if you want to see more.  Enjoy =)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Albums: the good, the rad, and the complete mistakes

I know, you're all shocked that this isn't a wheat-related post.  Sorry.  I have to mix it up with boring posts every once in awhile.

Here I am writing about music, which I have done before, but I think it's dangerous territory.  It's pretty hard to convey how you feel about a piece of music even though it may be something that you love and want to share with people.  Getting people to spend three minutes to listen to something is even harder.  And then you're really hit and miss because everyone has such different tastes that most of the time they're not really going to be impressed with something what you're sharing anyway.

Despite how discouraging that is, there is one aspect of music that I want to talk about: the album.  How do you feel about albums?  Because I have had a rocky past with them.

I really hated spending money on albums in high school and getting home and hating 80% of what was on there.  Back then, there wasn't iTunes to preview songs ahead of time, although I did use Amazon from time to time which only had 5 or 6 songs to preview.  And sometimes 30 seconds is not enough, right?  When iTunes finally did come into my life, it was heaven!  99 cents and I could just get the one dang song that I wanted and I stopped wasting money on albums that ended up being 3 hits and 9 duds.  Suddenly my music library flowered into a stellar collection whose "shuffle" setting could only be marred by those unfortunate album songs that I bought in high school.

So, basically, I'm not a fan of albums.  I've heard cases made FOR them, and I can understand how artists are exploring different things musically and artistically and they're putting everything out there for you and sort of have a specific direction and purpose to the whole arc of an album.  My response is: it doesn't really matter, I will still think it was a waste of money if I don't like it (Squirrel Nut Zippers' Perennial Favorites, I'm looking at you).

Having said all this, there are a few albums out there, a few golden tickets where I love most if not all of the songs, albums that I'm happy to pay full price for, and I wanted to list my favorites here.  Not just so I have a handy place to remember them, but also because I usually relinquish musical selections to what I think other people will like, and as a result I don't think that people really know what I like.

I have to add a disclaimer that I'm not going to put any Beatles albums on here, because they are in a whole class of their own and I don't want to hurt any of my other albums' feelings.  So here are my top 7 favorite albums:

7. Gimme Fiction by Spoon

This album is dark and gritty and sexy and I love it.  I really have to be in the mood for it but even when I'm not I still have to admit that this is cool stuff.

6. Hot by Squirrel Nut Zippers
I know this isn't topping any "most awesome albums of all time" lists, but I still like almost every single song and that's something not every album can say.

5. Oh No by Ok Go
Love, love this album.  Fun, sexy, and SO much style.  Flying around on synchronized treadmills was just the beginning, these guys have serious chops.

4. Once.  The only movie soundtrack in my top 7, although there are plenty of good soundtracks out there.  This one, however, leaves them all behind.  Partly because the actual music is so central to the movie itself, and partly because it's just wonderful music.  The friend who introduced me to this movie said, "I just rented it from the store and watched it over and over again, it was just so breathtaking."  I started watching it skeptically and wasn't really paying attention until suddenly, Glen Hansard's voice cried out, "This is what you've waited for" and I stopped everything I was doing - even breathing - and watched.  Absolutely beautiful.

3. Viva La Vida by Coldplay, including the bonus album Prospekt's March.  I'd actually say that I like the bonus album a bit better.  What can I say?  This album actually provides the music for my little Happy Place video from a few years ago, and a few of the songs give me nearly out-of-body experiences.  Haunting, beautiful, joyful, melancholy, etc, etc.  This album packs so much in and it's all good.  Well done.

2. Discovery by Daft Punk.  Adam, thank you for introducing this to me.  I never thought I could like techno before this, and here it is my #2 album.  And my #1 aspiration is to go to one of their concerts before I die.  Or before they stop touring.  Whichever comes first.  Do I love this album because it's so funky?  Is it because I love sci-fi?  Or is there a secret subliminal message in their electronic rhythms that is controlling my brain?  Maybe it's just good stuff.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

1. Life Left To Go by SafetySuit.  This is not a well-known album, I think, which is a shame.  When I think about this album I think of words like, "redemptive, liberating, release."  This music just makes me feel free.  I don't think they were doing anything particularly new or ground-breaking, but I absolutely love each and every song on here.  It just all works.

So tell me what you think about albums?  Have you ever bought one that was one great song and the rest were duds?  Or do you like the variety and artistry of a complete album?  What are your favorite albums?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harvest Time

I looked at my wheat today and noticed that most of the heads were bending down.  So I tested a grain and it was firm and crunchy, and I figured that it was time to harvest.

I figured that harvesting was definitely a two-man job, so Michael obligingly stepped in as my helper to get everything cut and tied.  I was telling him earlier today about needing help with the project, and I sang, "Will you help me harvest my grain?  Will you help me harvest my grain?" Then I said, "See?  You have to help me because if you don't I'll have to sing that song from the Disney cartoon and then you won't get to eat any bread when I'm done."

To which Michael replied, "I'm gonna need to see this cartoon before we go any further."

It turned out that he helped me even without seeing the video, so that was lucky.  Anyway, as we all probably know, the old-timey way of harvesting grain is with a scythe or a sickle, which basically just cut down the stalks and then you lay them together and bind them.  The reason I wanted Michael's help was so that he could do this:

He'd just grab a bunch of stalks and then I used long clippers and just clipped the bottoms of the stalks and we'd do an entire row like that.  Once we had clipped a whole row, Michael would hold all the stalks together while I tied a string around them to make sheaves.  Here's what my handy website says about that:

The next step is to bind the grain into sheaves, each about 12 to 14 inches in circumference — a bunch you can hold comfortably in your hands. Bind the same day you cut the wheat. It’s nice to have two people taking turns cutting and binding. You can bind with cord or baler’s twine or even with some of the wheat stems, twisting them in a way that holds the bundle firm.

So we just bound each row into one sheave and moved on, and the whole harvesting process took about 20 or 25 minutes.  Here's what all of my sheaves looked like when we were done, aren't they pretty?

And here's what my plot looked like when we were through, just a little bit sad:

The next step of the process, curing, sounds easy enough:

Curing the grain. Stack sheaves upright in a well-ventilated, dry location safe from grain-eating animals. Our ancestors stacked sheaves to make shocks in the field, but with small quantities, it’s easy to bring the sheaves in out of the weather. The grain has been cured when it is hard, shatters easily and cannot be dented with your thumbnail.

I have a little work shed in the backyard so I propped my sheaves up in there.  I really don't think they have far to go to get cured and once that's done it's time for threshing and winnowing.  Apart from preparing the plot last fall for the seeds to go in (pulling up weeds, pulling out roots, and digging rows), I'm afraid that threshing will be the most labor intensive part of this process so far.  I have a feeling that I will have to wait until I'm really frustrated and I just want to beat the hell out of something.  Because that's what it's going to take!  So if anyone has an bad news they've been waiting to give me, now's the time. =)

P.S. Now that things are harvested, there are a couple of things that I wish I would have done differently:
1. I wish I had made my rows farther apart.  I think I did them so close together because I had so much seed (and tons left over), and I was trying to get as much in as possible, but it really made weeding difficult.
2. I would lay down a layer of newspaper between each of the rows to discourage weeds from growing between them.  I did consider using some weed killer this year, but I just felt weird about putting down harmful chemicals adjacent to something that was going to potentially grow and possibly feed my baby.  I'm sure that a lot of foods we eat daily are grown in exactly this way, but when the power was in my hands to put those chemicals there or not, I chose not to.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My tribute to the 4th of July: Amber waves of grain!

Well,  in the last few weeks my wheat made the magical change from pale green to lovely amber... or at least pale yellow.

This little guy is still working on shedding that green color.
You can do it!

As beautiful as it looks, it's still not ready to harvest. I found a website that does a good job of describing when to harvest:

"As you admire your wheat stand, you’ll notice in midsummer that the color of the stalks turns from green to yellow or brown. The heads, heavy with grain, tip toward the earth. This means it’s time to test the grain. Choose a head, pick out a few grains, and pop them into your mouth. If they are soft and doughy, the grain is not yet ready. Keep testing. One day the grains will be firm and crunchy, and it will be time to harvest."

I "tested" a grain today, and it was soft and doughy.  Once it's finally ready I'll have these steps left: harvesting, binding, curing, threshing, and winnowing.  The only one that intimidates me is threshing.  I've read some suggestions as to how to do this on a small scale.  One suggestion I like is to stick the sheaves in a pillowcase and bash the heads against a brick wall.  The grains are supposed to fall out of the heads and then they're ready for winnowing.  I'll be taking photos of all of these steps as I do them...  I just sure hope those grains come out.

So my little wheat plot went from its humble beginnings last fall:

To today in early July:

I don't know about you, but I find that just amazing.  Mostly because I didn't expect it to work so well.  But everything has been going well so far, let's hope that it stays that way!