Tag Archives: library

A stranger’s “advice”

“Dtjscjnfrgjvxwf juggnjrxcbhhuhb gghu” said the woman seated two computers away from me at the public library. At least that’s more or less what I heard. I had a wicked cold all week and the resultant congestion had muted my usually normal hearing. Although I felt sure I was past being contagious, I’d made a point to sit at a wholly unoccupied circular array of computers so as to not get too close to anyone or to be alarming or annoying with the residual sniffling and throat clearing. This stranger had subsequently taken a seat two away from me at the round table.

Immediately before she’d spoken, I felt what was sure to be a involuntary coughing jag coming on so I’d prepared to temporarily vacate my computer and go hack and choke in private.

On hearing her incomprehensible-to-me words I turned to her and asked, “What?”

You’re missing minerals.

There was no “Excuse me” or “Could I offer you advice?” or ” Could I tell you something ” or “I don’t mean to bother you but…” None of the typical or possibly expected statements were proffered before the unusual non sequitur was uttered.

The immediate response that came to my mind was “I’M SICK!” but rather than say that I said nothing. For one, I sensed that replying would be a tacit agreement to enter into a conversation I was probably not going to want. For another, as I mentioned, I felt that unpleasant “tickle” in my throat and watering in one eye that announced a coughing fit was imminent. I hopped up and hustled to the lower floor of the building to the ladies restroom where I coughed and weezed till the jag passed.

While there I considered the encounter. Now, I’ve lived a number of years. I’ve had all sorts of interactions with strangers. People have said oh-so-many things to me. I’ve learned that a certain degree of restraint and internal skepticism is a good idea when dealing with strangers. Far more often than not, when a stranger says something to me, they want something and have an agenda. As a rule I am really not a fan of agendas.

All that being said, I considered the woman and her words. I am not so cynical and jaded that I unequivocally believe that a stranger could never have something of value to tell me. Secretly, the idea of a soothsayer appearing with wise and insightful tidbits to offer is kind of appealing. That is, a random encounter with a magical person, or a person with magical qualities, seems interesting! No one has ever come along who could see into me, immediately penetrate my very being, but would I say it could never happen? No, I wouldn’t BUT the odds say “not likely.”

Still, I considered the subject at hand. Minerals? Gee, I’d been taking a multivitamin regularly. Granted, it’s a men’s multivitamin that I’ve purchased a few times from Amazon because the price was substantially lower than the women’s version, but I take Calcium to compensate for its absence plus I haven’t grown a beard or anything so I figure it’s okay. In fact I had wanted to blog – but hadn’t – that to my happy surprise, I never got sick this past winter. No colds, no flu. I don’t remember the last winter I escaped unscathed by sickness of some stripe. Despite the current sickness I felt reasonably sure that between the multivitamin and my vitamin/mineral rich diet, I was doing well by myself.

I knew that on return to the computers, I could take up the conversation, perhaps ask the woman to clarify, but I hadn’t been wild about her approach and in part due to my weakened state, I wasn’t really in the mood. I might start something and quickly be sorry. Minimally, any further discussion would be distracting. No, this was one to let go. I was careful not to make eye contact and resumed what I’d been doing at the computer. The woman did not say anything more. After a time she got up and left. I took a look at her retreating figure. Nah, she didn’t look like an oracle.

Update on my New Year’s “kinda, sorta resolutions”

At the start of the year I set a few¬†kinda, sorta New Year’s resolutions. Basically I had simple goals for 2018: to make 10 new recipes, to read 20 books, and to visit my local lake/park 10 times. I have already revisited my¬†progress¬†in March. I’m back to say I’VE READ 20 BOOKS!! Go Colette, go Colette! Fifteen were nonfiction; five fiction. I like memoirs and read several. My favorite book of the twenty was a very funny memoir,¬†You’ll Grow Out of It by Jesse Klein. I also was very impressed with Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. My page-turner novel was¬†The Girl on the Train¬†by Paula Hawkins (I subsequently watched the movie; it lacked something as compared with the book).

What reading twenty books in seven months has made very clear to me is how little I’ve been reading – in any kind of depth or quantity – for years. The internet, and life to some lesser extent, totally screwed up my ability to read (a book) and I had to get it back. Reading requires a different gear, one that had become somewhat unfamiliar. It’s like meeting up with an old friend and falling back into step together, ultimately wondering why you ever drifted in the first place.

I’ve exceeded my recipes goal, doing most of my cooking in winter. I haven’t made any new recipes lately.

After knocking out several in winter, I have slacked on lake visits. I got busy in the spring and it slid off my priorities. Which is kinda odd, considering lake visits are actually the easiest of the trio, requiring nothing, per my goals, other than merely going there. I have a few more to make my goal of ten.¬† I went this past Saturday and took a few photos for the blog. I can only take credit for¬†framing these shots; my tablet has a bunch of “filters” and I opted to use the¬†litho one on these for an interesting effect.

 

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Check out the Litho Squirrel!

 

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Dragonfly dead center on top of the blade of grass

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Colette, Somewhat Improved

At the start of the year I set a few concrete, albeit simple goals for 2018, nothing too whacky, involving essentially: cooking, reading, and being in nature. I visited my progress already in March.

I’m back again to talk about it some more. I have read 15 books. Because I am horribly prone to being exacting and forthcoming, I have to say three of them were short. Two were what you’d call novellas and the other was Roz Chast’s “graphic novel” tribute to New York city, easily read in a sitting.¬†Still…. am I proud of this accomplishment? Oh hell yes I am proud!

As I wrote back in January my ability to read had pretty much gone to shit. It was worse than I realized. I still thought of myself as a “reader” as I’d been throughout my life.¬† But how much was I really reading, that is,¬†books? Not as many as I thought. I couldn’t tell you how many books I read in 2017 or 2016 or 2015 for that matter, but it damn sure was not 15 in a year, let alone four months

I’ve been thinking about how this happened. When I was preschool age I could not WAIT to get to start first grade because I knew it meant I’d learn to read (these were days long ago when, for me at least, kindergarten was mainly for playing and having stories read to you not learning to read). In gradeschool my class once had a contest for who could write the most book reports. Not only did I win, I blew the rest of the kids away. (Sadly the prize was some¬† kind of religious¬† trinket, a holy medal or such, I’ve forgotten what exactly but as you see, several decades later, I haven’t forgot I¬†won.) Reading always excited me. In the years I went to college, it bothered me that my personal reading, as in nontext books, had to be cut back. When I did office work and spent long days staring at computer screens, my eyes were too red and tired after to read much at¬† home. This too disturbed me.

Once upon a time, books were the main thing and¬†movies, another big love, were the occasional treat. This was when it wasn’t so easy to watch movies, when they weren’t so available. I read more books than watched movies. But in recent years that flip-flopped. I love movies but realizing I was doing more passive watching than engaging (more) of my mind by reading didn’t sit right. I also couldn’t tell you¬†how many movies I typically view in a year, no idea. (I also don’t know how I’d quantify whole series like¬†The Walking Dead or¬†Game of Thrones; every two hours equals one movie??)

More than movies, the internet screwed up my ability to read. I am certain internet use has changed my wiring and not for the best. Your brain gets some sort of endorphin payoff every so often¬†while being on online. The payoff is inconsistent and unpredictable so gaining it necessitates perpetual activity and vigilance. You go online and basically wait for something good to happen. Trouble is there is a whole lot of crap and wasted time inbetween those “payoff” moments, at least for me and I¬† imagine for many people. There are times when I’m bored or tired and just fool around online hoping magic strikes, or at least something interesting catches my attention.¬† It was¬†easier to get online & read various (quick) stuff than to read a book.

I wanted to change, I wanted to recapture something I’d lost. And I have. It feels REALLY GOOD to have found my way back to books. My rule is I don’t have to read anything I don’t want to, even if it means quitting a book halfway through.¬†This isn’t supposed to be punishment. I didn’t plan it this way but of the 15 books, only four have been fiction. The funniest was¬†You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, a woman I’d never heard of. The page-turner was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, which I knocked out in two days. I was back!

 

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I’m also doing crossword puzzles; I got a little book of them from Dollar Tree and a second volume for when the first is done. Doing the puzzles has made me sharper (I now can say with conviction there were nine Muses and “Clio” was one. This has come up a few times, despite t the puzzles being written by various makers.) I find myself saying¬† repeatedly, “I¬†know this” or “I¬†should know this” when trying to figure out clues. I know things I don’t realize I know; it’s often an issue of¬†retrieval. I find real satisfaction in realizing what an answer is, particularly when it doesn’t come to me immediately. However, I¬† doubt myself because a voice inside me often says at the start of a puzzle when there are too many open spaces, “I’ll never finish this.”¬† I’ve done 40 (of 88) puzzles so you’d think I’d be a little more trusting by now.

The puzzles show me where my knowledge is decent and where there’s weakness; I don’t know sports or the Bible, and world geography isn’t too promising either. Greek mythology is iffy but improving!¬† The puzzles force me to consider things from different angles (like when an answer I filled in confidently subsequently messes up other answers and I’m compelled to rethink it). I’ve noticed that this skill is carrying over into other areas of my life; it’s as if my brain is deviating from overworn paths and checking out new trails.¬† It’s subtle but I¬†can tell.

One of my goals was to make 10 new recipes. I’ve made 14. Also, my diet, already good, is a bit better. I’m eating less cheese and more vegetables for one. And I’m enjoying it. Food is pleasure to me. Tweaking my diet and nutrition makes me pay more attention,¬† be more conscious, which is a good thing. I really think my little goals this year are doing exactly that:¬† making me more conscious of how I spend my time, how I relax, how I eat, how I live. Solidly in middle age, I find it is entirely up to me not to become mired in ruts, or lazy and if not full-on lazy, maybe just complacent. I must challenge myself. I don’t want to be coasting along, I want to be alert.

 

 

 

 

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Little Free Library

Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? Individuals volunteer to build and maintain them where they live. Anyone can take or deposit books. They can be found all over the world. The¬†website has all the details as well as a map of locations. Locally, within a mile of where I live, there are three. I see that two of them are not listed on the official map. (If you know me in “real life” and want the addresses of our little free libraries, feel free to contact me.) I thought it would be fun to show you “mine.”

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Taken two days ago (we had a little snow, since melted)

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Love the red

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Looks like repurposed cupboards

I haven’t visited these too frequently (I also have a public library just about a mile from home and I’m there often). Now that I am committed to¬†reading more, like I used to, maybe I’ll increase my visits. Mostly, I’ve returned books I’ve taken to where I found them but here are two I kept (I just found the vegan book and already made the creamy lentil soup).

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When I stopped to take photos today I found the current issue of Martha Stewart Living so I snapped it up.

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125 ways to energize your life, hot-diggity!

It has never occurred to me to start my OWN Little Free Library but this¬†section on doing one inexpensively has got me thinking…

Oil can for the my rusty brain

A short while ago, I wrote a post about feeling my life was lacking in intellectual stimulation.

My formal education ended long ago with a Bachelor’s degree, and while I remain a reader as well as intellectually curious, I could see that in recent times, I was looking more for entertainment than education. I don’t think that was entirely wrong – there are times in my life that I just don’t have it in me for whatever reason, to keep challenging myself. Times when just basically taking care of myself – and dealing with problems du jour or problems l’ann√©e – is enough.

I had slowly moved away from self-education. I no longer knew what I knew and what I didn’t. I was aware that math and science were pretty much gone, but overall I had no measuring stick. Was I losing my edge?

I started with taking two online IQ tests. The results of each were very similar – and let’s say I was happy with the number. My wits were still about me. I was going to take a third test to seal the deal, but never quite got to it. Perhaps my gray matter was taxed from all the exertion.

As a book and movie buff, I’m a regular at the library, but I now had a specific mission, and that was to ramp up the difficulty/challenge level of the material.

One of the places I began was a huge SAT book, complete with practice tests. I focused on the tests only – no ” brushing up” or “studying” for me – beginning with the language related tests, which are divided into two areas: Critical Reading and Writing. My scores were fine; Writing was good and Critical Reading was very good. Here’s my “cold test” answer sheet.
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I wasn’t going to even bother with the math, but ultimately tried the math test too, and it was laughable. It’s not that I never did well in math – I did B-student okay – it’s that I quickly saw that the math SAT test was almost entirely based on knowing formulas, and those, save one, are now lost to me. Whereas the math on IQ tests, I realized, is more about reasoning and recognizing patterns – that I can do.

Despite being a lifelong reader, I can’t read as I once did. I’m restless, physically active, and often in motion. When I sit down to read, I’m often distracted; something on the page will start me to thinking, and soon I’m either lost in thought (no longer reading) or hopping up to to go do something. Because of this, I opted to focus more heavily on educational DVDs, choosing topics I knew something about or was genuinely intrigued by. There weren’t going to be no forcing myself into watching The Complete History of Calculus or Nuclear Fission and You (No, these titles don’t exist, at least I don’t think so).

Here’s where I began:P_20150215_151900

I got lucky; there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. I didn’t get around to the LSAT review before it had to be returned (and it’s not like I’m headed to law school; I was just curious what’s on the test), but otherwise I watched them. Some were better than others and I count titles I’d watch again.

I can only gush about the multi-part nine-hour America the Story of Us. The series, had it been on TV when I was a kid, struck me as the sort we’d gather around the TV set to watch. It’s beautiful-looking to start with – what they can do now with film and animation just blows me away. If history had been taught more like this in my time, I might have actually cared. The film relies heavily on riveting reenactments, and highlights historical tidbits I never knew. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the film since my credentials are slim but since it was produced by the History Channel, I generally trusted that they knew their stuff.

Throughout the film, there’s an emphasis on what WE did and how clever and forward-thinking WE were, but I knew they weren’t talking about me. I felt a little guilty sitting in my comfortable chair watching those people take on the British, or lay those ridiculous miles of train tracks linking East to West, or producing goods out the wazoo during WWII, or bringing water to CA through building the seemingly impossible California aqueduct. And all the people who died doing these things, not to mention so much loss of life in so many other ways – loss which would make things better not for those people, but for others to follow. Watching the film, I was struck by how much was accomplished in growing this country in such a short time. It’s boggling.

By the time the film moved to the waves of immigration, it was well along, and it was then, when they specifically mentioned and showed Northern Italians as among those arriving at Ellis Island, that I got emotional. My people had arrived; only now, in however tiny a way, could I feel part of the story.

The film packs a lot in, and can’t cover it all, but my criticism is that it’s too self-praising at the cost of passing over serious problems. The current state of crime, drugs, and race are left out. The issues immigrants and nonwhites face in this supposedly equal and class-less society are short-shrifted. Nonetheless, this is a film I’d watch again.

Memory of the Camps, a PBS film, initially begun but never finished by, surprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock, showed what are likely the most hideous, heinous footage I’ve ever see of the concentration camps. The footage was taken immediately after liberation. It’s shocking, even if you think you’ve seen all this before. I watched because I think it’s important and the discomfort – although that seems too weak a word – it causes me seems small a price. The thing is, this just wasn’t all that long ago, historically speaking. We can’t call it “ancient history” or say “that will never happen again.” Especially when we’ve already got a movement saying it never happened.

I could go on about the various DVDs, but I should probably curb myself for purposes of this post. Let me leave you with the next round I checked out, and the current one:
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I have to say, lastly, two things. One is that I’m feeling a lot sharper, I’m thinking about things. And the second is I’ve noticed WWII comes up frequently, or at least regularly, in my selections; it’s like I keep coming at it from different directions. I think I’ve underestimated its role or place in modern culture/history. I really didn’t know a whole lot about it but I’m paying more attention now that it’s been turning up on the radar. I’m not about to become ANY kind of war buff, but it’s good to fill in blanks in my knowledge.

You know what? This has been kind of exciting for me. It’s good to be back in learning gear.

Now for your viewing pleasure: My MAD¬© Magazine cover rejection

In a recent post I shared an old cartoon I’d done years ago as part of a submission to MAD¬© magazine which ultimately went nowhere. This got me to thinking about MAD¬© which I haven’t even looked at in ages. I never subscribed but the library used to have it. (Maybe 10 years ago I asked a librarian about the possibility of the branch carrying it again and was more or less blown off, so I dropped it.)

My former brother-in-law introduced me and my closest-in-age siblings to the magazine when we were in grade school. A bright, observant man, he must have noticed that his wife’s youngest siblings were kind of sheltered and was good enough to hand us a small supply of MAD¬© back issues and another similar (knock-off?) magazine. We were thrilled! They were just our kind of humor. We had no idea such a wondrous magazine existed.

One of the submissions I sent to MAD¬© was a cover idea. I didn’t think I could share it here because of potential copyright infringement, but it occurred to me it’ll be okay if I don’t show their mascot or logo. As was true of cartoons, they weren’t interested in the art so much as seeing the concept.

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