Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There are two kinds of people ...

As the joke goes, there are two kinds of people: those who divide up the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

Well, I have a number of ways to divide up people into either of two buckets. Here's my first pairing:

Those who want to engage people they interact with on a person-to-person human basis, and ... those who don't.

In the first category, I remember a clerk at a lunch spot who just made my day: I was juggling several purchases (sandwich, fruitcup) along with my briefcase, and she suggested I park my purchases at her register while I got my drink. It was such a small thing! She was just so sunny and good-natured. I couldn't help smiling about it, and I made it a point to compliment her to her manager.

Related to this one are people who look for opportunities to do more, to go a little further, to help someone a little bit more, to make something better, and ... those who want to do the job, and only that. They do the least they have to, and that with a minimum of grace.

You know your own reactions to people in the latter categories.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting out of ruts

It's good to take advantage of opportunities for something new every now and then.

I had occasion the other day to visit an area of the city I don't know well. The city is Washington, DC, and there are huge hunks of it I've either never visited or visited only briefly.

I had to take care of an administrative task in connection with my volunteer work with the National Park Service. Since this task could be done at any number of sites around Washington, I looked for a site near Metro (parking is a bear in downtown DC) and away from my usual haunts. I chose a federal government agency near Union Station solely on the basis of those two criteria.

It was odd how merely going around Union Station to the east side instead of the west took me to an area I had never been before. Just a small change. Yeah, OK, it's an area full of office buildings. Big deal. But ...

The added bonus was the agency building -- innovative architecture with an interesting curved window wall. The individual chunks of glass appeared to be suspended on cables. Great return on a small change from the familiar.

So, use a different bank branch, grocery store, restaurant. Read a different kind of book. It doesn't have to be a huge departure from the usual. And open your mind to something new.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Boomerang kid

We've got a boomerang kid, and his cat, at home these days. It's been interesting to reconnect with my stepson on a more adult level. Even when he was in college, my relationship with my stepson was definitely parent/child -- OK, parent/almost-grown-up-child, but still.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Airplane jitters and earbuds

I was flying to Maine Sunday. The plane was full, as they so often are these days. A young man had the middle seat -- he appeared to be of college age. We're doing all the usual stuff: finding our seatbelts, getting stuff pushed all the way under the seat, and so on. I start to notice this guy could NOT sit still. He joggled his knees, drummed his fingers on his thighs, shifted in the seat. Nervous flyer? Needing a smoke (of one sort or another)? I'm working the crosswords and sudokus in the airline magazine, then pull out my novel. This guy jitters on.

Well, we take off and climb away from the airport. The captain turns off the seat-belt sign. My neighbor whips out a smart-phone thing and can barely get the ear buds in fast enough. Right away he goes still.

I couldn't help but wonder if we are becoming unable to entertain ourselves. We need constant passive input. (Or not-so-passive input -- we've all seen a pedestrian step off the curb, oblivious to traffic, cellphone hand to ear.) But it's the need for constant music/podcasts/whatever, in every situation: while jogging or biking, when it can be very dangerous on city streets or deserted ones for that matter; driving, when distraction can cause bad things happen fast, and to lots of people; in the supermarket; sunbathing.

I hear birds, the wind in trees, children laughing. I people-watch and have casual conversations with some of them or exchange ordinary courtesies. I read, and the batteries never go dead on my paperback, although they might on the light.

Oh, well, at least I didn't have to listen to his music, or that tinny buzz when it leaks out of headphones.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Home" landscapes

With this post, I am shifting the focus of my blog from SLA's "23 Things" initiative to "my random thoughts about stuff," starting with why certain places, in particular in Maine, have such a strong pull for me.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, probably because my husband and I are starting to plan our move back to Maine with his retirement from his federal government job. My guess is it has to do with where one grew up; you either love similar places or hate them. I am drawn to landscapes and climates similar to those where I grew up. Central Maine has mixed woods and fields, humpy roads, hills and dales with short horizons for the most part, and a particular set of plants and animals in it. There are four very distinct seasons -- well, three anyway: winter, mudseason, and the 4th of July, as the joke goes.

Not to say I don't enjoy visiting other sorts of places. The southwest is great, but I'd have to live in the mountains to feel comfortable (need those trees!). There's too much open space in the desert areas, and I think it would take a lot of time for me to adjust to such a hot arid climate. So I'm probably not going to be comfortable long-term in a desert environment. Southern California holds not appeal. The South? forget it -- too hot and humid, among other reasons. Cities? Love to visit.

For my big adventure right after college, I went to Alaska and loved it, so you know for sure I'm a cold-weather gal who doesn't need hordes of people around me. (Also the social and cultural enviroments in Alaska are endlessly fascinating.)

I used to refer to where I grew up as "home with a capital H" -- as opposed to wherever I was living at the time (merely "home"). Mind you, I don't want to live in the town I grew up in, which I have no great affection for, just somewhere in the state.

Here's a question for you: when you daydream of chucking it all and going off to start a new life somewhere else, where is that place? What are the candidates? What do they have in common? Are they where you grew up, or similar to it? Or are they as far from where you grew up as is possible on the earth, whether in a geographic, climatic, or social sense? My candidates: anywhere in Maine and Alaska, northern Arizona or New Mexico in the mountains.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Interesting! I could see using this tool for business research and so on -- no wonder Mary Ellen Bates finds it worth her while to know about and use. I could also see its use in a library/information center setting for patrons.

I'm sure many offerors of products and services have figured out how to tap the marketing potential of a tool like this, as well. I was paying some attention to the ads that appeared on various pages as I went through the exercise in the "23 Things" wiki page.

Authority and reliability are the crux of the question about these tools and about many of the technologies we are exploring in "23 Things." I would apply all the same criteria I use for evaluating anything I find, whether it is on the Web or elsewhere -- what can I tell or what do I know about who's supplying it? are they known? reputable? and so on.

And let's not forget the common sense factor -- known in my family as the "squint" test: when you hold it at arm's length (literally or figuratively) and look at it from a different perspective or with a different lens, does it still make sense?

De.licio.us etc

My reaction to social bookmarking: eh.

I don't like the fact that I automatically ended up with another bar of "things" across the top of my browser (which I have hidden, along with Google's and everyone else's). Before we know it, we'll have so many of 'em that we'll be reduced to a screen height of 1" for viewing actual content or e-mails or whatever. My screen real estate is precious -- no, I don't have a low-res or teensy screen! -- and will only get more so as my peepers age.

Other than that, I really don't see the utility. User-defined tags mean missing connections to items tagged with synonyms. It's just a new version of the old controlled vocabulary vs. natural language debate.