Poindextrix in Philadelphia

January 15, 2014

So here I am in Philadelphia.

I realized over the summer That those extra classes I was taking would enable me to graduate from my library science program a semester ahead of schedule. Since my lease was ending and i didn’t want to incur a semester’s worth of unnecessary student loan debt, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I picked Philly for a number of reasons. There are some that I’m not quite ready to share here, but I’ll let you in on the others: Philly has tons of cultural heritage institutions where I could potentially find work and there are fewer library schools in the area with graduates all vying for positions. Philly is also a bit closer to home, so I can see family and friends in the DC area more often. And finally, I think New York and I just needed a break for a while. Living there by myself was certainly an experience, but New York is intense and I think I need to dial it down a bit. Also, with no job and no student loans, I couldn’t really afford to live there, now could I?

But Philly! Philly is great. It’s a city, but it isn’t quite as crazy as New York (or maybe it is, just in a different way). I’m still getting used to things (I’m using tokens for the train/bus, guys. Tokens.), but my apartment is cute and I’ve gotten my library card, so I’m settling in.

I don’t think much will change here. It’ll be the same old Poindextrix ramblings, just from my new locale.

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I have been MIA for a while, but hey, it’s the end of the semester. I have finished a number of books and will review them… eventually.

My last class is Monday, and then I’m free. Until summer classes start. In any case, I’m eagerly awaiting the end of the semester. I see lots of reading in my future.

Anywho, in the recent days I have taken a turn for the domestic. Perhaps it’s the Spring Cleaning bug, or maybe I’m just using cleaning my apartment and cooking as modes of procrastination.

But seriously, this is the best procrastination ever. Now I have risotto. Risotto, people! Forget ambrosia, this is the food of the gods.

And now I will show you how I made it:

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One day I will master chopping onions into evenly-sized pieces. One day…

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Then you throw the onions and olive oil into a hot pan. Add some chopped garlic and some herbs (I used oregano and rosemary because that’s what I have in my pantry).

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Then throw in the arborio rice and mix it around so everything is coated with the oil.

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Stock time! I use vegetable stock, but I hear using beef broth gives a good flavor too, if you eat meat.

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Let the rice soak up the liquid, while stirring frequently. When you can pull the spoon through and there’s a bit of a delay as it all comes back together, add more stock. Repeat until the rice is cooked.

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Then it’s all nice and creamy and delectable!

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Flavor to taste with salt and pepper.

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And add cheese if you so wish (I definitely wish). Last time I made risotto I had shaved asiago, but this time it’s plain ol’ shredded mozzarella.

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Then pour yourself a glass of wine (or other beverage, I suppose) and enjoy!

This was a lovely little interlude in my weekend, but now it’s back to reality. At least until Monday night.

Back to Work

January 15, 2013

Alas, my break from classes has come to an end and I shall be busy as ever this semester. I think it should be good though. I’ve only had one of my classes so far, so can’t comment on what I think my academic life will be like, but I like my new job and I think my internship at the museum will be a great experience (that orientation is tomorrow).

I will try to keep reading and reviewing. Or, rather, I assume I will keep reading and I will try to start actually posting reviews again.

Anyway, moving on to reviews:

I recently finished the Archivist by Martha Cooley. It’s supposed to be all about an archivist and a scholar who clash (intellectually) over the library’s collection of letters written by T.S. Eliot to a woman named Emily Hale. This conflict and the intellectual sparring figure prominently, but there are all these other narrative threads that distract from the main arc of the book.

An entire section in the middle of the book is essentially an excerpt of Judith’s (the archivist’s wife) journal. It is interesting and does inform a bit on Matthias’ (the archivist) character, but it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the book until the last little bit when everything is all tied up in a neat little bow.

And the main conflict — the thing with the scholar — seems to be in the background a lot of the time. I am critical because I think that this story could still have been character driven without being so confused and divergent.

All in all, I enjoyed The Archivist while reading it, but it didn’t leave a great lasting impression.

I also just finished We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It’s an epistolary novel, which I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s an interesting concept given where Shriver went with things, but it played out in a strange way. In epistolary novels, the revelation of information is key, and I think it was kind of sloppy and poorly executed in some places.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is, at the most basic level, about a school shooting, and even with that benchmark in place, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

I finished Ender’s Game a while ago, but I’ve been having trouble formulating a solid opinion of it because I don’t think I really liked the ending, but I also acknowledge that it couldn’t really have ended any other way without being entirely unsatisfactory. I’m not sure if I can discuss my thoughts on this book without spoilers, so consider this your Spoiler Alert.

Perhaps reading the following books in the series will help me better discern my feelings about this book, but I think the most gripping part is really the child soldiers/battle school. With the end of the Bugger war and the peace after the League war, that becomes somewhat of a non-issue and childhood becomes just that again. Obviously there’s the hibernating queen arc that could complicate things, but the goal is still not to start another war. I think I should read at least the next book in the series before making a decision.

I have some more books that I’m nearly through with, so hopefully those reviews will be up soon. I’m also really excited about my classes this semester and my internship, so maybe you’ll see more library-related posts in the future. Only time will tell.

Words of Wisdom and a Cat

November 10, 2012

Hello again. Today I’m going to share with you a piece of hard-earned wisdom: Do not attempt to move during a hurricane. Furthermore, always check the weather before booking anything that involves transporting all your worldly possessions from one point to another. Even if those points are only a few blocks away from each other.

In case any of you were wondering how I fared during Sandy, I came out physically unscathed. Emotionally… well, that’s another thing entirely.

I live in Harlem, which is kind of on a hill, so did not experience any of the dreadful flooding. Power lines in New York are underground, (which is generally a good idea except in cases of sever flooding as water and electricity tend to not get along) and so my power remained intact as well. I was supposed to move into my new apartment the day before Sandy made landfall. Clearly, that did not happen. The leasing office was closed so I couldn’t pick up my keys and even if I could have, the movers might not have been able to get to my place to help move everything over. Once the storm had passed, the movers had to reschedule everyone and could no longer fit me in before the day I had to be out of my new apartment, so we were on to Plan B (or C… we’d lost track at that point) — rent a UHaul and hire movers without a truck to help us lug the boxes and take apart my shoddily constructed Ikea bed. It worked. I moved. Huzzah. But I spent the entire hurricane in a whirlwind of anxiety trying to make sure I would be able to move.

Obviously my tale of anxiety is nothing compared to the huge number of people who lost their homes, possessions, and loved ones as a direct result of the hurricane. I was incredibly lucky that I was merely inconvenienced by this storm and lost a week of school in the deal, but two weeks after the fact there are still people who are suffering and homeless. A woman’s two young sons were out of her arms in the flood waters and no one would stop to help her look for them for hours. In times like this we should be coming together to reconcile our differences. It’s not about politics. It’s about humanity.

In that week-long gap where everything seemed to be in limbo — lower-Manhattan looked like a post-apocalyptic world — and school was still closed due to lack of power, I got a cat.

The plan has always been move to New York, go to library school, get a cat. Well, that’s the simplified plan. So far, things are falling nicely into place. Yes, I realize I am a stereotype. At this point, I’m kind of OK with it.

I know I owe you reviews. Right now I’m going to pull the “hurricane” and “I had no internet in my new apartment until today” cards. It’ll happen eventually. Or I’ll distract you with cute cat photos until you forget I’m supposed to be writing book reviews. Either way…

Belle da Costa Greene, the first-ever director of the Morgan Library (and total badass, not to mention my library idol) famously said “Just because I’m a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one.”

Truer words were never spoken, Belle.

And in this age when tattoos and piercings are becoming more socially acceptable, society will soon need to reevaluate just what they think a librarian looks like.

Rewinding a few months back to orientation, I approached the 6th floor of our Manhattan building — the floor dedicated to library science classes — with excitement and some trepidation. How would I find my future classmates? I need not have worried.

It’s possible that being in New York has somewhat skewed this data, but a large cross-section of my program is tattooed and/or pierced. We have discarded the prim and proper visage of the librarians of yesteryear in favor of self-expression. I believe some of this has to do with society’s growing acceptance of tattoos and piercings, but I’m curious about how those within the profession view the change in appearance.

Libraries are funny when it comes to change. By virtue of our purpose we must be some of the first to adopt it, but historically the underlying structure is incredibly resistant to change. Would older librarians, those that fit the stereotype, be scandalized by my and my classmates’ appearances? Or could this be a good thing– a way to further connect to those whom we serve?

I’m not dead (yet)

October 16, 2012

My dearest readers, I have not forsaken you! I’m still here. I’ve just been drowning under a tidal wave of schoolwork and — for reasons that I’ll go into when I have more time — I’m looking for a new apartment. New York real estate is insane and makes me question my will to live, but I think my search might soon be over, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.

My program doesn’t have midterms, but I am in the midst of a bunch of projects, all of which seem to be due now or in the very near future, so working on those has taken up much of my time.

I am still reading though! And you will (eventually) have reviews. I finished In One Person and am reading 11/22/63 right now.

Once I move and get settled and clean you might even get pictures of my new place!

I have some planned posts that are in various stages, so they might appear at some point as well. In short: I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been busy.

I’d say follow me on Twitter, but I’m often too busy even for that (though you should follow me —shamelessplug shamelessplug), so in order to truly get the effect you’d probably just have to stalk me for a day and see how much time I spend on the train/doing schoolwork… I probably wouldn’t be that interesting of a stalkee (yes, that’s a word now, I just made it up).

YA and Feminism

October 4, 2012

I was on the subway this morning and happened to see a young girl reading Twilight. Though I cringed inwardly, I did think, “well, at least she’s reading.”

But then I stopped and thought about that. The “at least they’re reading” argument is a good one, but if ‘reluctant readers’ are reading less to begin with, they aren’t being exposed to as wide a variety of characterizations, so wouldn’t we want them to be exposed to more positive messages?

I don’t know if this girl actually is a ‘reluctant reader,’ but if she is then she’s being exposed to a female protagonist who lets herself be entirely defined and controlled by a man. The “team Edward” or “team Jacob” phenomena is baffling to me as both characters attempt to control Bella and she lets her entire being get swallowed up by their worlds. Even were she given the opportunity to think for herself, she wouldn’t take it.

Look at this in contrast with Hermione in Harry Potter. I’m not trying to make Hermione out to be the feminist model in modern YA literature, but to prove a point, she thinks for herself (and often for others) and isn’t afraid to hide who or what she is. She even ends up with a date — with a celebrity no less (remember Krum?) — because she’s smart, not despite the fact.

Today’s girls need empowering reminders that it’s OK to be smart and know and be who you are.

It’s also OK to want to feel pretty though. Putting aside any issues I might have with the beauty and fashion industries, a tube of lipstick or a pair of heels can also be fun as long as they’re not dictated by someone else’s expectations.

Yes. This is what I think about on my way to school.

O lovely readers, I promise I have not forsaken thee! I’ve just been easing (read: sinking) into my graduate studies. I know it hasn’t been that long, but I’m still working on re-learning how to be a student again… weird.

I’m in an Information Technologies class, and while my professor is beyond amazing, our most recent assignment involved designing a (albeit incredibly simple) webpage using HTML and CSS. In case you cannot accurately call to mind my fear of all things Technology, I will direct you back to this post.

And now I must dive back into my reading. Here’s a tidbit: antelopes are documents. But only some of them (the antelopes), and only in certain situations. Gotta love information theorists.

I do have things to review, but for now I leave you with an old one recycled from my now-defunct previous blog. Enjoy?

The Night Circus

     Most of the people I’ve spoken to about this book have very strong feelings about it. Love it or hate it, there are no feelings in the middle. I can kind of understand how it inspires those feelings, yet I am irrevocably indecisive, so I still find myself mostly in the middle of the road.
     I enjoyed reading the book. It held my interest and I didn’t really feel that the story lagged or the plot fell apart. That being said, I do take issue with some aspects of the book.
     Most of the story is supposed to be set in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Other than women wearing gowns instead of dresses and the characters speaking with fewer contractions there is really no sense of this whatsoever. I understand that this is a different side of that era and Morgenstern is trying to show us a bit of the fantastic, but if you’re going to go through the trouble to set that sort of scene, there needs to be more follow-through.
     The challenge concept was a good idea, but there wasn’t really the right balance of conflict throughout. At times there was so much focus on the challenge that there was a complete halt to the rest of the story, at others, the challenge seemed entirely forgotten. There was just a bit of a balance issue.
     I also wanted to know more about Poppet, Widget, and Bailey and more about Marco’s charms. These were the most interesting parts for me and I wish they had been developed more. It just felt like Poppet, Widget, and Bailey should have been played much bigger parts in the story. They were interesting and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it was like for Poppet and Widget growing up in the circus. And the magic: Celia’s is innate, but Marco’s is learned. I understood this to be at least partially the basis of the challenge, so I wanted to know more about Marco’s magic. I also wanted to learn more about the magic that held the circus together: what magic belonged to whom?
     All in all, Morgenstern has a flair for description, I’ll give her that, but at times I wondered at the things she chose to describe. It almost seems like everything I wanted might have been in there at some point, and then someone told her to edit for length and she took out all the wrong parts.

My first week back at school was uneventful in the way that every first week back at school always is: introductions to syllabi, professors insisting that we go around the room and introduce ourselves, trying to figure out what the professor prefers to be called, etc. It was also entirely different because it’s grad school. Not only is this grad school, this is library school. Everyone in that classroom wants to be a librarian. Sure, there are different specialties and concentrations, but at the center of it all is information. Every person in that room wants to learn how to take that information and make it more accessible.

Classes have technically started, but now that this first week of introductions is over, I’m excited for classes to really begin. I’m also still kind of terrified.

Book People

August 26, 2012

I am incredibly jittery right now. Classes officially start tomorrow, but I won’t officially have my first grad school class until Wednesday evening. Even so, it’s right around the corner. I’m excited and ridiculously nervous. What if I’ve forgotten how to be a student? What will my professors be like? Will I make friends in my classes? What should I wear?

While I’m thinking about all this, it’s interesting to go back and look at something I wrote soon after I was accepted into the program. I call it Book People:

Dream program? Check. Dream city? Check. Now I just need to figure out how to make them a reality. I’m confident that I can make it work though. I’ve decided that I’m willing to put myself into a certain amount of debt to pursue my passion for books. I’m already in debt for college, what’s a bit more to get me to a place where I can do something that I love?

So there we go. Yours Truly is moving to the Big Apple. And yes, I am aware that Step 1 is to never again call it the Big Apple. I am really excited about the prospect of living and working in New York, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, but I also can’t wait to be around fellow book lovers.

As one of my friends said when I told her about all this, “you’ll finally be with your people!” I told my mom about this exclamation and she laughed and agreed, but then said that wasn’t I already with “my people” working at a publishing company? Sadly, no. A friend and I discussed this over drinks — in our chosen fields where so many English and literature majors flock, “our people” — the book dorks and grammarians — are a rarity.

In a group of ESL teachers she mentioned reading Pride and Prejudice and was met with surprise and near-disdain. The counter in my office kitchen which for most is a place to drop off old books that were cluttering up the closet or to pick up a book that looks interesting was a magical fairy book counter for me, producing a number of books on my ever-growing to-be-read list.

I went to the library the other day and returned 2 books. I checked out 5. I have at least 4 boxes of books I brought home from college sitting in a closet because we don’t have any more shelf space in my house (yes, the fact that they’re in the closet and not out in the open haunts me). It’s a sickness, but one I wouldn’t try to treat.

I can’t wait to move to New York, but I’m kind of dreading it at the same time. If I had to guess, I’d say at least 80% of my possessions are books. And books are heavy.

I suppose there could still be people who are not “my people” in the program. That’s fine, you don’t have to be a prolific reader to be my friend. But it would be nice if you’d help me carry my books.