Living my best academic life: 2018 resolutions for getting that PhD done

I didn’t feel very optimistic going into 2017. I had recently lost my father and grandfather in the same week, and I was feeling anxious and depressed about what seemed like a pretty disastrous outcome to the 2016 elections. I don’t think I made any resolutions that year because I was so disheartened by the whole situation that I figured, who cares? My focus in 2017 was basically, do what it takes to get through it, eat some good food and drink some good wine because possibly the world will end pretty soon, etc.

But I feel different going into 2018, more motivated and invigorated. Yeah, 2017 was pretty shitty in some ways, but there were also some good things about it, actually some really great things! I know it’s very silly, but it also feels like there’s something to wiping the slate clean and starting over. At this point, I’ve worked out 100% of the days in 2018! I’ve eaten healthy, and put my shoes away and all those other things I aim to do EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THIS YEAR.

More importantly to my motivation, there’s a chance that this year could be when I finish my PhD, if I can manage to do my dissertation work in three semesters (i.e. 12 months). Maybe this is a ridiculous goal, but I’m kind of a ridiculous person, and it sure would be nice to finish. To that end, I’m deciding to make the goal for this year to live my best academic life. What does that mean?

  • read (something academic, that is) every day. My former advisor, who I still keep in touch with on Twitter, very usefully recommended #365papers – i.e. read a scholarly paper every day of the year. I probably need to read around that much for my dissertation anyway, and I do also have a huge backlog of interesting articles I’ve filed away to read “one day.” So far I’m one down, 364 to go! (But again, I’ve read an academic paper 100% of the days this year)
  • write every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A blog post (this counts for today!), a bit of a paper, part of my dissertation, something for work, even an academic related tweet. I know that doing a dissertation will involve way more writing than I’d been doing for the other parts of my PhD work, so I want to get into the habit now.
  • keep working on open science. I’m finally getting to the point in my coding skills that I don’t feel horrendously embarrassed for other people to see my code, but I still often think, eh, who’s going to want to see this? That’s totally the wrong idea, especially for someone whose scholarly research focuses on data sharing and reuse! I’m going to try to make a lot more commits to GitHub, even if it’s just silly stuff that I’m working on for my own entertainment, because who knows how someone else might find it useful.

So there you go! I’ll be tweeting out the papers I read on my Twitter account (@lisafederer) using #365papers, putting stuff up on my GitHub account, and I’ll probably (hopefully?) be writing more here, so watch this space!

Librarian in a New City: A Dispatch From North Bethesda

tree

I haven’t blogged in a long time, and quite a lot has happened since my last posting here.  I’ve sold my scooter and my surfboard, packed up all my stuff, and traded one coast for another.  I’m no longer a Los Angeleno, but a North Bethesdian?  Marylander?  I’m not really sure what the right word is, but I’m living in North Bethesda, MD, a suburb of Washington DC, and working at that National Institutes of Health (I’ve had to go through a lot of ethics training in the last few days, so I feel obligated at this point to say emphatically that all the nonsense I write here is my own thoughts and should not in any way be taken to represent the US government, etc).  In any case, here are some observations about the highlights of my new life after my first couple weeks here.

– seasons are pretty awesome so far.  Look at that tree up there in the picture and all the leaves!  You don’t get that in LA. Plus, I get to accessorize with things like cute hats and gloves and scarves.  I’ll admit that I thought I might die out there when I went for a 30 minute run in 48 degree weather today, but I’m sure I’ll get acclimated.  Either that or use the very nice gym in the lovely building where I live.

– being a Metro commuter is kind of nice.  Granted, it’s not as fun as aggressively racing around the city on a scooter, but it’s a lot less stressful than having to deal with traffic.  I live only two stops away from my work, so the ride is almost short enough to make it pointless to even bother bringing a book to read.  My metro stop is outdoors, with a little hilly grassy area on the other side of the tracks, and the first time I ever took the metro, I was standing there waiting for the train and saw something that looked like a beaver running on the grass along the railing.  I was staring at it with apparently a rather dumbfounded look on my face, because a guy who was also waiting for the train said to me “there goes one of the four-legged commuters.”  I asked him if it was a beaver, and he told me it was a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, and then laughed at me like I was an idiot.  I told him I was from LA and had only been in town for two days, and he seemed satisfied with this explanation.

– speaking of wildlife, Ophelia is enjoying herself tremendously here, especially all the opportunities to encounter new animals.  At first, this little urban dog was highly skeptical of all the beautiful walking trails that go through these great wooded areas.  We would start down a nice tree-lined trail, and she would get visibly freaked out and refuse to continue.  I’m sure she was asking herself, where are all the buildings?  Why aren’t there any homeless people throwing pizza or screaming at me here?  Why are there so many trees, and why do they have leaves instead of palms on them, and more importantly, why are these leaves falling on my head?  However, when she realized there were things like rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels of many different colors hanging out in the woods, she became much more interested.  Now when we walk down trails, she’s running from side to side, sniffing excitedly, trying to drag me into the trees to chase small wildlife.

– this is probably going to sound ridiculous, but by far the best thing that has happened to me here, the biggest and most significant change in my life, is that I have a dishwasher now.  After three years without one, I’d gotten very tired of washing dishes by hand, and very lazy.  I would think about cooking something, and calculate the number of dishes I’d have to wash by hand, and then I’d shake my head and order a pizza.  If by some miracle I did motivate myself to cook something, I’d often eat it straight out of the pot just to save myself the trouble of having to wash a plate or bowl.  The pizza delivery guy and I literally knew each other’s names because we saw each other every week, and one time he said “I brought you some extra ranch dressing this week because I forgot it last week,” which was nice, but kind of an embarrassing reminder of how often I had junk food delivered directly to my door so I could avoid washing a dish or two.  I’ve lived here for almost a month now, and you know how many times I’ve ordered pizza?  ZERO.  In fact, I don’t even know where to order pizza from in this neighborhood.  If I want pizza now, I whip up my own made-from-scratch crust and make my own pizza, and I don’t care if it dirties one dish or twenty, cause I’m throwing all of it in the dishwasher and it’s emerging sparkly clean and sanitized.

There are lots of things I have to say about my new life here, as well as waxing poetic about science and data and librarianship in my typically nerdy fashion, but I’ll save that for later.  For now, good night from Maryland!

we meet again, my blog

Hello again, world.  It’s been a very long time since I last wrote here – what a terrible blogger I’ve been!  I’ve got some excuses – namely a very busy work schedule and way too many really interesting books to distract me.  However, I’m back and I hope some of my old readers are with me.  And perhaps some new.

I was thinking recently about some things I wanted to blog about.  I was also thinking how I really admire those people who commit to doing something artistic or creative on a regular schedule.  I have a couple of friends who have done the photo-a-day for a year thing, one of whom (Jonathan Wilson – he’s quite talented) is now in the midst of his 6th year of doing so.  Of course there’s the Julie and Julia movie based on the blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child’s cookbook.  I briefly followed a blog called A Dress A Day by a woman who is literally making a dress every single day, then photographing it, then blogging about it.  Here I am, sitting here wasting time on the internet and doing crossword puzzles when I could have hundreds of new dresses in my closet if I just applied myself!

Since my closet isn’t really big enough to accommodate that many dresses, I thought maybe I should undertake something slightly different if I were going to attempt a year-long creative challenge.  And then I thought about how I hadn’t written in my blog for so long, and I put two and two together… could I write a blog post every day for a year?  Why not give it a try?  I figured the worst that could happen would be that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and it’ll be like that time I said I wasn’t going to buy anymore new books until I read the ones I already had (that lasted about two weeks, I think).

So, I say, here goes.  Let’s see if, starting now, I can write a blog post every day for a year.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be long.  It can be about anything I find that interesting that day, whether it’s a librarian thing, an incredibly nerdy science thing, a cooking thing, a knitting thing, an Ophelia thing, or whatever.  Or maybe just a funny joke or a picture I happen to like that day.  I’m sure not every person will find all the posts interesting, but hopefully many people will like at least some of them. 🙂

The Love of a Dog for Her Bag

Yeah, I know I said I was going to blog every day this week about what an informationist does, but to be honest, I started reading a really good book and the blogging just didn’t happen.  I will certainly regale the internet with more tales of the research informationist life at some point, but right now I’d like to tell you about Ophelia and her bag.

Some of you reading the blog may be viewers of Ophelia Cam, which is essentially a live webcam of my dog sleeping soundly for nearly the entire 9-10 hours I’m at work every day.  Those of you who view Ophelia Cam may have noticed that my floor is littered with dog bones, toys, and what looks like a large pile of material.  That is actually Ophelia’s bag, and she loves it.

Ophelia and her bag.

Ophelia and her bag.  She normally doesn’t like being in photos, but she was happy to pose with her bag.

Ophelia’s bag is a large tote bag that I sewed for myself before I went to yoga school in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado.  I needed something that was large enough to hold a yoga mat and various other stuff that I would need to carry around with me, and since I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill to purchase, I designed and made my own.  A few weeks ago I had the bag out to carry something in, and in the middle of cleaning up the house, I set the bag on the floor in the living room.  In that time, Ophelia found the bag and adopted it as her own.

The bag has multiple purposes. One, it is useful as a place to bury things.  Because we are urban, apartment-dwelling folk, Ophelia and I lack a yard.  For a dog with a strong urge to bury things, this has been rough.  Ophelia has destroyed several dog beds and also ripped up a very nice set of sheets in an attempt to bury her bones, evidently not realizing that a bed does not functionally work the same way as, say, a pile of dirt.  However, the bag has proven to be an ideal hiding spot for various and sundry treasures that Ophelia inexplicably feels the need to hide.

Secondly, the bag is like home base for Ophelia during games of catch.  Ophelia is a very smart dog, but I have tried and failed on multiple occasions to teach her how to return a ball to me after I throw it.  She will sit across the room and stare at her ball, barking and chomping at it in frustration, while I implore her to bring it over, yet she just can’t quite get the concept.  However, she has a natural instinct to return the ball to the bag.  Realizing this, I now simply place the bag near me when I went to play catch with her, and our problems are solved.  She drops the ball on the bag, and I can reach down and grab it and our game continues uninterrupted.

The other nice thing about the bag is that when I have to take trips and Ophelia goes to stay with someone else, I can put all her stuff (food, food bowl, toys, blankie, etc) in the bag and take it with us.  We have only traveled once since Ophelia fell in love with her bag, and I was too embarrassed to explain what the bag was for and that it should be laid out on the floor for Ophelia to interact with. 🙂

Ophelia, Before and After

I’ve been reading about Batman the Awesome Wheelchair Dog going to his new family.  He, like my dog Ophelia, is a Formosan Mountain Dog who came from Taiwan.  He broke his spine and lost the use of his back legs when he was hit by a car.  The driver left him for dead and he dragged himself into an alley until some people came by and helped him.  I don’t know for sure, because I’ve heard different versions of the story from different people, but I believe Ophelia was also hit by a car.  Compared to Batman, Ophelia was much luckier – she broke her femur and has a metal plate in her bone now, but she does great, and you’d never know.

Being with Ophelia every day, I don’t notice how far she’s come until I think back to what she was like when I first got her.  I will warn you, the image below is sort of graphic if you’re a dog lover.  Maybe it’s just because I’m her mom, that picture of poor Ophelia with her ribs sticking out and her tail between her legs and her ears in an unhappy, scared position just breaks my heart.

Filla_xray

Poor Ophelia.  (BTW, anyone read Chinese?  I’d love to know what the caption says.)  But even though looking at that makes me really sad, I’m less sad when I think of how far she’s come.  She’s just the coolest, smartest, most awesome dog I’ve ever met (okay, maybe I’m biased).  She may have lived on the street and gone through terrible stuff before, but now she sleeps in bed with me, gets cheese on her kibble, and lounges about when she’s not busy chasing a ball or her Squirrelly.  So I will leave you with a happier picture of Ophelia now – this was taken when we were visiting my parents’ house at the holidays.  Isn’t that quite a difference in a year and a half?

ophelia on the bed

Holiday Traditions for the Librarian in the City

As most readers will know (or will probably have surmised from the many, many posts about my dog), the Librarian in the City is a solitary city dweller.  With the holidays approaching, I’ve been trying to get into the spirit, but it’s not the same when it’s just you and your dog.  Back in my early 20s, when I got my first solo apartment, I was very excited because I was going to get my very own, REAL Christmas tree.  As a child, we’d had real trees when I was young, and I just adored the smell of the Christmas tree in the house.  But later, we stopped having a real tree and switched to a realistic, but fake tree.  I know that’s probably better than cutting down trees, plus my brother had asthma, so he couldn’t take the real thing, but as a little girl I was so disappointed that we wouldn’t have that awesome pine tree scent ever again.  So from that time, I became bound and determined to have a real tree the first time I had my own apartment.

I did just that the first Christmas I had my own apartment when I was 20 years old, during my first year of grad school.  On a blusteringly cold evening when I didn’t have class, I went to the only place I knew to buy trees in that small college town.  It was starting to snow, and I got myself the tiniest, ugliest little tree.  It was probably about 6′ tall, but I didn’t have a very big apartment, and also, I was going to have to carry it up two flights of stairs by myself.  So I got the tree into my Honda Civic, carried it up the two flights of stairs, and put it in my apartment.  It smelled very pine-y and I was extremely happy with it.  I covered it with lights and ornaments in purple and silver.  For a couple weeks, things went well with the tree.  I didn’t have many guests, so it wasn’t like anyone really saw the tree but me, but I was so happy when I walked in the door coming from class, and there was my Christmas tree!

However, I watered it dutifully, but within a week or two it had started to drop needles.  I vacuumed.  I vacuumed some more. Finally Christmas came and went and it was time to get rid of the tree.  I’d purchased a huge bag that went under the tree, so in theory, when it was time to dispose of the tree, all I had to do was take all the ornaments off and then just pull this bag up around it.  Well, that didn’t go so well.  Needles ended up everywhere.  There were so many needles on the floor that I don’t even know how any were even left on the tree.  I swear, I was still vacuuming up pine needles in May.

So needless to say, I didn’t get a Christmas tree again after that.  However, I do want to feel like I’m in the holiday spirit!  It’s especially difficult living in Southern California, where the average temperature in December is 68 degrees F.  Not exactly the kind of weather that makes me think “holiday” for a girl who grew up in Dallas, where I even once had snow on Christmas!  I don’t really watch TV, so I’m not seeing all the holiday commercials, and I don’t really go out shopping, so I don’t see all the holiday stuff in stores.  It would be easy to overlook the fact that it’s the holidays up until the moment that I get to my parents’ house for Christmas.  So, in the absence of the usual holiday rituals – group celebrations, meaningful decorations like trees or menorahs, and what have you – here are some of the holiday rituals of this nerdy little librarian:

  •  “holiday” movie marathons.  I put “holiday” in quotation marks because the movies I associate with the holidays are probably not even remotely like what most people would consider holiday movies.  Some of them include:
    • The Lord of the Ring trilogy: because these came out around Christmas, I’ll always think of these as holiday movies, even though there is nothing remotely holiday about them
    • The Harry Potter….hepatology?  series? ouevre?  Whatever.  Same reason as the above, at least for the first couple movies.
    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: yup, same reason.  Saw it last year at the holidays.
    • Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: this does take place not only around Christmas, but also in LA!  It’s a totally demented dark comedy, but I love it.
  • painting my fingernails with extremely glittery nail polish.  I used to work at Crate and Barrel, and like 90% of the Christmas ornaments we stocked had glitter, so I spent the months of November – December perpetually covered in glitter for the 5 years I worked there.  So when I think holidays, I think glitter!  Plus, December means the end of the quarter at work, and thus not much interaction with students, faculty, or anyone that I need to think of me as a Highly Professional Research Librarian Type, so I feel like glitter nail polish is more acceptable. 🙂
  • burning my Evergreen candle from Bath and Body Works.  This is a $10 candle that smells even better than any real tree ever did, and it can be carried into the apartment in my purse, rather than having to be hauled up the stairs like a dead body as I did with a real tree.
  • listen to holiday music, but I’m picky.  Since I’ve worked in retail for a total of almost 10 years, and in restaurants for 2, I’ve heard enough traditional holiday music that I would rather strangle someone with my bare hands than listen to some of that stuff again voluntarily.  For that reason, last year I devised a holiday music playlist on Spotify that I called “Holiday music that doesn’t make me want to kill someone.”  It’s a lot of really cool indie artists doing some decent Christmas/holiday music, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • drink eggnog!  I usually just have it straight out of the carton.  That is to say, straight without any alcohol added – I am putting it in a glass and not drinking it straight from the carton.  I like it in coffee.  And every once in awhile, I do add a little bit of alcohol to it, usually in the form of 44.  I’ve not had any yet this year, so I must get some next time I go shopping.
  • buy my dog Christmas-themed toys that she will disdain and totally ignore.  This is because she disdains every toy that she is ever given, with the exception of this exact squirrel.  It is first toy I had for her when I got her, and it’s the only toy she will recognize.  I call it Squirrelly, and after just over a year, we’re on Squirrelly Number 6, with Number 7 waiting in my closet (yes, I buy more than one at a time now).  She plays HARD with Squirrelly.  So if you ever feel inclined to get Ophelia a gift, I advise that it either be a.) made of meat or b.) Squirrelly.

This is how rough Squirrelly looks when you buy him, right off the shelf. Imagine how he looks after three months with Ophelia.

 

So those are my holiday traditions!  How about you, my dear readers?  What kind of nonsense are you getting up to this holiday season?

 

On Singing, Showers, and the Politics of Neighborly Relations (Plus Music and Movies!)

The title of this blog is of course Librarian in the City, so tonight I’m going to deal more with the “city” aspect of that moniker. 🙂  Since 2009, I’ve lived in LA.  I’ve been in three different apartments, but each has always meant living in very close proximity to people.  Often loud people.  Frequently drunk people.  I think several mentally ill people.  At least it was always interesting.  But my frustration with my neighbors has perhaps made me hypersensitive to being loud in my own apartment.  Apartments in LA are very close together, and since most of us lack air conditioning, and the weather is perfect nearly year-round, windows are always open.  So sometimes it feels like your neighbors’ party is happening in your bedroom.  Or your neighbor’s awkwardly personal conversations is right at your kitchen table.  So I assume if I can hear them so easily, they can probably hear me, too.

One of the things I would totally do if I didn’t have to worry about neighbors overhearing: sing in the shower.  I’m thinking of this after watching the latest Woody Allen film, To Rome with Love on my last flight from Dallas to LA.  I’m sorry to say that even in such a captive situation, it didn’t hold my interest and I didn’t watch to the end.  It may well be that Allen can never do anything that will surpass Midnight in Paris for me, because it is honestly one of my favorite films of all time, about my favorite city, and I would SO love to have the plot of that movie happen to me. 🙂  However, one part of To Rome that I did really like – the character who is a fantastically talented opera singer, but only when he’s in the shower.  As Woody Allen’s character points out in the film, it’s true that we all do seem to sound better in the shower.

I do love to sing – I used to sing in the Women’s Chorus of Dallas before moving to LA, but never found something like that in LA.  If I didn’t have to worry about it, I’d sing in the shower all day long, but in an apartment, I don’t feel like that would be very polite.  I had some crazy neighbors at my old apartment who would sing a lot – well, sing is putting it very politely.  It was more like…moderately tonal screaming, I guess?  I would hate to be that neighbor, so I have thus far refrained from singing in the shower (especially since I think I am one of the earliest up in this whole building).  However, sometimes you need to sing a little, so I have been doing it (quietly) while I work on stuff tonight.  In case you’d like to hear some good music and sing along with me, here’s my (in progress) Spotify playlist.  Some of it might surprise you, and it’s not all very good quality music artistically speaking, but it’s all stuff I like to sing along with.

So what’s your take on neighborly relations, my dear readers?  Would you sing in the shower with neighbors in close quarters?

The Librarian’s Strange Bedfellows

Strange bedfellows

When it comes to books, I’m afraid I must confess to be non-monogamous.  I usually like to be reading some combination of a variety of types of books: fiction, non-fiction, some sort of self-improvement (yoga or philosophy or something), and some sort of textbook.  And now that I have a nice queen size bed as a result of a very nice Christmas gift from my parents last year, the side I don’t sleep on is often full of books (and dog!)  Especially since I’d been sick recently and spent essentially two days in bed, a lot of books piled up there.  So in case you’ve ever wondered who a librarian shares her bed with, they are:

1. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich: despite its salacious title, this is actually the true tale of the theft of moon rocks, evidently “the most audacious heist in history.”  Haven’t started this one yet.

2.  When She Woke by Hillary Jordan: only just started this one too, but it takes place in a dystopian future in which people’s skin is dyed a color to match the crime they’ve committed.  Bought this one at the Tattered Cover when I was in Denver – love that place!

3.  The third book in the stack is actually my journal, but it was in the bed so I tossed it in the stack so it wouldn’t feel left out. 😉

4.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche: a good friend is always quoting Nietzsche to me so I decided to give it a try, and so far I love it.  Going all former-English major and highlighting my favorite passages.  This is why I can’t generally check out library books!

5.  Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd: this is very science-y and probably wouldn’t appeal to your average foodie, but for the nerdiest of foodies, it is quite fascinating.  It’s very complicated, but the way I’d very briefly summarize it is to say that flavor is actually mostly neurologically occurring in the nose, though we perceive taste as being in the mouth.  It’s complicated but very interesting.

6.  Basic Neurochemistry by Siegel et al: well, you know, a girl needs a little light reading too. 🙂  In my work as a medical librarian I’ve become very interested in neurotransmitters and am learning all sorts of interesting things about research going on in this area, so I figured why not see what I can find out for myself.  So far some of it is over my head and I skip it, but I’ve learned some interesting things about how neurotransmitters work.

So that’s what I’m reading!  What are you Internet folks enjoying these days?  I’m always looking for a good book to add to the list!

Who Rescued Who: Bad Grammar, True Sentiment

A little more than a year ago, I met the girl of my dreams. That’s her in the picture above, my very sweet dog Ophelia.  In this picture, she’d been in this spot for almost two days straight while I was sick in bed, just staying by my side.  The last year of my life has been pretty big, with lots of things going on at work and in other aspects of my life, but I think the most significant thing to happen to me was the journey that Ophelia and I went on together.

I’ll start by saying I’m partly writing this post to encourage people to get rescue dogs, when it’s feasible.  Having a rescue dog is not always easy.  There’s a lot of unpredictable behavior, some apologizing to people, many hours spent training.  All the dogs in my family right now (3 in total) are rescues, each with their own crazy little quirks, and I’m pretty sure all of us have wondered at times if we had made a mistake in adopting these dogs.  But I think we would all agree that these three little beasties, as troublesome as they can be at times, are really the best things that have happened to us.

When I was looking for a dog, I really wanted a hard case.  I started my search looking for a black dog, because I knew of “Black Dog Syndrome” – for various reasons, black dogs are way less likely to be adopted (plus I wear mostly black, so hey, black fur works! ;)) .  I knew I had found a very interesting dog when I stumbled on Ophelia’s listing on Petfinder.  I watched her videos and I could immediately tell she was super smart, cute, and playful.  The first time I met her in person was when her very awesome foster mom brought her to my apartment.  Ophelia jumped up on the counter to check out my kitchen reference books (yes, I’m a librarian, so I do have a reference section in my kitchen).  Then she rolled over for a belly rub.  Then she chomped at me!  I was in love.

I saw the pictures of her injuries later – the metal plate in her femur, the way she stood looking at the camera in the utmost despair, pain, and fear.  I cried when I saw that picture.  I’m still not quite clear on exactly Ophelia’s past is, but I know it was very awful, so I’ve tried my hardest to give her the best life I can. And I’ve been rewarded with the most cuddly, adorable, sweet little dog anyone could ever ask for.  What makes me feel even more honored is that she rarely shows this side to people.  There are many people who’ve known her for a long time who are still even afraid of her.  She didn’t trust me at first either, but now, she sleeps with her body stretched along my legs, or her chin resting over my ankles.  Right now we’re in the chin-over-ankle position.  And to think, two years ago at this time she was living on the street with no one to love her.  I can’t think of a better way to have spent the last year of my life than on Ophelia.

It wasn’t always easy to come this far with her, but every challenge has been worth it.  So again, I urge you, if you can, to get a rescue dog!  There is nothing like the love you will get from such a dog.  I’ve had many dogs, so I can say this with authority – you will never feel love more truly or deeply than from a rescue dog once you earn its trust.

On Mavens and Simple Pleasures

I’ve been trying to be better about blogging more regularly lately, though I’ve been very busy.  Part of that has included thinking about the raison d’être of the blog.  At first I intended it to be a librarian blog, but I also really enjoy blogging about other things that I think people might find interesting.  Given that I’m pretty eccentric, those “other things” include pretty diverse topics.

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s intriguing book The Tipping Point, a recommendation from my best friend.  The book basically discusses how ideas go viral, from a couple people doing something to it becoming a major fad.  Part of his thesis is that ideas spread via a small number of people who play specialized roles:

  • connectors, who know many people across multiple diverse groups and thus are able to spread ideas from one subculture to another;
  • mavens, or “information specialists,” who gather knowledge and take great pleasure in sharing it with other people;
  • and salesmen with strong powers of persuasion and negotiation.

As soon as I read this, I immediately identified with the role of the maven.  This, of course, is why I became a teacher, and then a librarian.  It’s why I write reviews on Yelp and blog about things I find interesting and pin pictures of things I like on Pinterest.  People who meet me even in passing flock to me for information, which I have to admit I kind of like.  I once met a girl at a party and we started talking about how she could never figure out where she was in Dallas, and how I had driven all over and really knew my way around.  From that day forward, I don’t think I ever saw her again, but every once in awhile I’d get a call or a text message from her when she was lost or wondered if I maybe knew a way around a bad traffic jam (and I could almost always help).  So in the spirit of being a maven, I’ve decided that I am going to talk about library stuff, but I’m also going to blog about whatever random things I find interesting and hope that some people get something out of it.  (I’m also planning on redesigning the page to make it a little easier to see just certain parts of the content.)

The thing that’s on my mind at the moment is simple pleasures in life on a budget.  One of my friends recently commented that he envied the sense of peace and calm I seem to enjoy.  In truth, I’m pretty high-strung when it comes to a lot of things, but I consider it very important to take time out to enjoy the simple things on a regular basis.  Living in Los Angeles is expensive, so since I can’t afford to go all out, I try to find little things that I really enjoy, which I shall share here from time to time.

Tonight I’ll mention Cristalino Brut Cava.  Usually when I say I’m drinking champagne, I’m actually drinking this (since I don’t think most people really know or care what the distinction between a cava and a champagne is anyway).  I’ve been able to find it for between $6 and $8 a bottle.  Pop a $7 champagne stopper on it and it’ll last for a week in the fridge, so even if you live alone you can enjoy just a single glass a night and not waste any.  And a glass of champagne only has 80 calories, if you worry about that kind of thing.  Cristalino is tasty enough to drink by itself, but I also like adding a dash of amaretto or creme de cassis.  The latter is called a kir royale, and is one of my favorite drinks.

Whenever I pop the cork on anything sparkling, whether I’m alone or in a group, I always say “woohoo!”  I do the same if I am out somewhere and hear someone else opening a bottle (although in that case I do it quietly to avoid having people think I’m insane).  It makes every bottle feel like a celebration.  A glass of it is cheap, and it doesn’t have that many calories or that much alcohol, so it’s a simple pleasure that you don’t have to feel bad about and can enjoy even on a budget.