Friday, April 29, 2011

Variations on a Theme: Make Em Laugh

This is my "aaaaaaaah run away!" time of the year. By which I mean, high stress time of the year. When I get this busy, all I want to do is go home, veg out, and chill. The best way to do that is to watch or read something that makes me smile or laugh. This month's Variations on a Theme are dedicated to those books that make the reader giggle.

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It ComingHow I Killed Pluto (and Why It Had it Coming)
Mike Brown

This is a book about astronomy, but it made me giggle lots. Brown has a personable writing style that makes the death of a planet enjoyable. Beyond the planet killing, Brown also shares stories of his life which are incredibly humorous. You can read my full review here.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (Caldecott Honor Book)King Bidgood's In The Bathtub
Audrey Wood

This was one of my favorite books as a kid. The King refuses to get out of the bathtub so he makes all of his daily activities (including a massive feast) come to him. The art is gorgeous and the story hilarious. My full review from my most recent re-read is here.

I Am America (And So Can You!)I Am America (And So Can You!)
Stephen Colbert

Essentially, this book lets you read The Colbert Report. The contents are inane, pompous, overtop, and incredibly entertaining. Colbert never breaks character and, if you've ever watched the show, you can imagine Colbert's facial expression and vocal delivery in your mind. My review is here.

David Sedaris

Sedaris is a well-known humor writer. I could have thrown any of his books (minus Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk) on this list, but this one made me laugh the most. Sedaris chronicles parts of this life that any reader could relate to and laugh at. The review is here.

Sh*t My Dad SaysSh*t My Dad Says
Justin Halpern

I follow the writer on twitter, and his postings always make me smile. Most people have a person in their life who drops pearls of wisdom that happen to be hilarious and/or jarring. For Halpern, that person is his dad and this book is a collection of his sayings.

Tina Fey

This book just came out so I cannot give a personal review, but most reviews are positive. C'mon, the author is Tina Fey. How could it be bad? To quote the Amazon review, "Bossypants gets to the heart of why Tina Fey remains universally adored: she embodies the hectic, too-many-things-to-juggle lifestyle we all have, but instead of complaining about it, she can just laugh it off."

Other Humorous Titles
5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) - The Oatmeal
America (The Book) - John Stewart
Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination - Hugh MacLeod
Graph Out Load: Music. Movies. Graphs. Awesome. - GraphJam
Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris
I Know I Am But What Are You - Samantha Bee
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections - Nora Ephron
Indexed - Jessica Hagy
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
My Point... And I Do Have One - Ellen Degeneres
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Greene
This is a Book - Demetri Martin

BOOLEAN: Friday Fashion Find - White Wedding

I am one of those girls who gets all giddy when it comes to the royal wedding. While I did not get up early (having to be at work at 7am put a kibosh on those plans), I will be catching a repeat of the event this weekend... and seeing lots of pictures... and reading lots of stories. Essentially, spending the weekend minorly obsessed with the nuptials. At least I admit it.

In honor of Catherine's gorgeous wedding dress, this week's Friday Fashion Find is a pair of white lace tights.

These tights may be purchased at Fig Leaves.

Send your BOOLEAN links and images to

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Links and Stuff: April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Useful Things: Jobs

Some of my staff are beginning to hyperventilate. Graduation is in two(ish) weeks and not everyone has a job lined up. Instead of reviewing a single site, I've decided to post a list of job searching websites I've found to be useful.

You're "go to" generic job search site. Bonus - You get to upload a resume and have employers search for you.
This website searches TONS of listings. It also allows you to narrow your search by numerous means including location, salary, job type, etc.

Simply Hired
Like Indeed, this is a massive job listing search tool. I like that it allows you to search by experience level.

This is where you go for government work. Now if only they made applying easier.

If you want to work in/around Washington, DC, you're best job positing website is this one. Go here first.

In your URL bar, type in your desired city and add ".jobs" You'll be surprised what you may find.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Skillz

We stay open late during finals season. Ninjas work best under cloak of darkness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On the Job: be Prepared

I'm a planner. I like things organized, and I like to know what's going to happen, when, and where. The more prepared I can be, the better. Spontaneity is great and all, but when it comes to work, it's best to have control or understanding of your projects.

For example, I'm about to be hit with an avalanche of books. This happens at the end of every semester. Since I know what's coming, I can prepare for the onslaught. That means getting the usual end/beginning of the months project out of the way early, tracking down my borrowed book carts, photocopying shelving slips, etc. I do whatever I can do to prepare for this time of year because it makes my life a lot less stressful.

No matter your position, being prepared can go a long way to keeping you organized and focused. When you know you can handle the project, you can get it done more efficiently and accurately. Being prepared for the everyday things also allows you to adapt more readily for the unexpected situations. If you know how to handle the typical projects, you'll be able to jump right back on track after the interruption has been handled. Additionally, being prepared goes a long way when it comes to working with coworkers and supervisors. People will have more faith and trust in you, if you take pro-active steps to show that you can handle your position's requirements.

Not every aspect of work can be planned for, but being prepared where possible is a smart idea. No one likes to be caught off-guard.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Links and Stuff: April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book 20: The Reader

The ReaderTITLE: The Reader
AUTHOR: Bernhard Schlink
STARTED: April 9, 2011
FINISHED: April 9, 2011
PAGES: 218
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. 

SUMMARY: [From] Set in postwar Germany, The Reader is a provocative, morally challenging, and deeply moving novel about a young boy's erotic awakening in a clandestine love affair with a mysterious older woman. Falling ill on his way home from school, 15-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. For a time, the two become passionate lovers. Then, one day, Hanna disappears without a word. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael recognizes his former lover on the stand, accused of a hideous crime. And as he watches Hanna refuse to defend herself against the charges, Michael gradually realizes that she may be guarding a secret more shameful than murder.

THOUGHTS: It's not often I can say this but... if you've seen the movie, don't bother reading the book. I am one who, except for the rare case, believes the book is always better than the movie. In this case, the movie was not better - it was exactly the same as the book. The Reader is the rare book that has been translated perfectly to the screen. I liked both equally because each medium gave me the same level of experience and enjoyment.

Schlink's writing style is very easy narrative. The Reader discusses dramatic and difficult issues, but the content does not influence the writing. The book, while very emotional, is not a hard slog of a novel. There is lyricism and an element of oral storytelling throughout the book. This makes sense to me because the book is about reading stories out loud. This is not your typical post-World War II work of fiction. The post-war narrative is merely an element of the story, not the story itself.

The drama in this book is incredibly subtle because the characters are subdued. Neither Hanna nor Michael feel like characters, they come across as real people. So often post-war novels turn their characters into stereotypes. Schlink avoids this. His characters have human insights and emotions; they react to changes in ways that show deep thought and consideration. I have never before experienced a book where I know what the characters are thinking without the author illustrating their actions. You don't need Schlink to show you the character's thought process because everything they do makes sense.

The reason this book is so poignant is not because of the post-war elements, but because of the book/story/reading elements. I won't give away the pivotal point of the book, but it's amazing how the crux of this story is not what the average reader would expect. I think the book is all the better for taking the unusual path.

This is a very touching work of fiction and one that will probably stay with me.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Copyright School

Here we have another copyright literacy video that has made its way around the interwebs. This video is geared toward YouTube users and is both informative and engaging.

Monday, April 18, 2011

BOOLEAN: Sartorialist Strikes Again

A pair of bright red tights on the streets of Milan. Original image from The Sartorialist.
I'm digging the shoes too.

Send your BOOLEAN pictures and links to

On the Job: Breathe

I am about to be buried under a mountain of book returns. You may think I'm kidding, but in the coming three weeks I will handle the amount of books we usually see over the course of three months. Needless to say, this is not by favorite time of year (and it happens twice). The end of the semester is why I have my job, but that doesn't make it any easier to handle.

I start dreading the incoming inundation a few weeks out, and my dread grows the closer we come to finals week. The avalanche is unavoidable. Instead of stressing, I have a mantra: "Just breathe." As long as I'm inhaling and exhaling oxygen, I know I can get through the coming onslaught.

Work can be incredibly stressful. We can plan, organize, and collaborate all we want, but sometimes work is just a hard slog we have to get through. Put one foot in front of the other, handle one task at a time, and we'll get through it. Breathing deeply, even for just a few moments, provides a calm in the storm. You get a few seconds or minutes to yourself to find a moment of rest. Deep breathing has also been shown to reduce stress and increase focus.

My "just breathe" mantra goes beyond the actually need to fill the lungs; "just breathe" means taking it all in as it comes and just going with the flow. There is not point in making difficult tasks harder by trying to force them to completetion. Sometimes you just have to let go, breathe, and work on things as they come in. Breathing will help you find a rhythm in the chaos.

Just breathe, and things will get better.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book 19: Deogratias

Deogratias, A Tale of RwandaTITLE: Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
AUTHOR: Jean-Philippe Stassen
STARTED: April 9, 2011
FINISHED: April 9, 2011
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the Introduction] Deogratias, a Tale of Rwanda is Jean-Philippe Stassen's beautiful, moving and at times harrowing account of an individual's descent into hell, caused by his country's plunge into madness and genocide.

SUMMARY: [From] his harrowing fictionalized account of the Rwandan genocide, readers meet Deogratias, a teenaged Hutu. His friends Benina and Apollinaria are Tutsi–a race that is being ethnically cleansed by Hutu extremists. As the conflict escalates, Deogratias witnesses murders and is forced to become involved in brutal acts of violence. He suffers a mental breakdown. The story is told through a series of flashbacks while he skates the line between rational and insane. Stassen spares his readers none of the brutality and visceral cruelties of this atrocity.

THOUGHTS: This book was disturbing. I've read a lot about genocide and the Rwanda genocide in particular(I wrote my thesis and senior papers on the subject), but this was the first book that made my uncomfortable. The reason for my unease can be tracked, I believe, to the fact that this book shows the emotional and psychological toll these atrocities played on one person. There was no compassion fatigue in this book because the story was about one person. And that one person is not shown in the way you may think from the outset. The stark, bold, and exaggerated art style helps to show how horrifying these events were. Of all the books I read in read-a-thon, this one has stuck with me the most. It had the most impact even if I didn't like how the book made me feel.

RATING: 4/10 [An "Okay" Book]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book 18: The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's ElephantTITLE: The Magician's Elephant
AUTHOR: Kate DiCamillo
STARTED: April 10, 2011
FINISHED: April 10, 2011
PAGES: 202
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand.

SUMMARY: [From] When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

THOUGHTS: This books was a little sad but still utterly charming. DiCamillo has a way of writing quaint fairy-tale like stories that make feel warm and fuzzy.

The plot of this book, as with most children's books, is simple - an orphaned boy seeks to be reunited with his sister. Along the way, the boy encounters several characters (and an elephant!) who help him on his quest. This story, through brief, is full realized and exceptionally told. No character feels superfluous or incomplete and each plays an important role in the story. This is a fairy tale world that feels right out of the past.

In this book, DiCamillo uses "old timey" language that is full of emotion to convey her story. The feel of this book is perfect. I would not have been nearly as good if she used modern language to tell a story that seems set in old world Europe. Her choice of vocabulary is a little challenging for young readers, but each word is carefully selected to add to the depth to the setting, characters, and story of the book. I would not change a thing about her writing.

DiCamillo's storytelling is a comforting,warm, and enjoyable read.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

BOOLEAN: Friday Fashion Find

A little sparkle is never a bad thing. These tights shine, which makes them exceedingly awesome. They are available (one sale as of today) at Bare Necessities.

Send your BOOLEAN pictures and links to

Useful Things: Bonus! - Tax Day(ish)

April 15th is typically the day Americans submit their annual tax filings.*

If you were ever curious where your personal tax dollars are spent, visit Where did my tax dollars go?

The tool asks you to put in your income and how you filed. Once it completes its fancy-shmancy calculations, you will see the general breakdown of your income taxes (social security, medicare, total taxes, and effective tax rate). The tool also allows you to explore a pie chart showing minutiae like how much of your money goes to NASA. (I sent the space program a whopping $7.)

Warning: May be addictive to those who are tax preparing procrastinators.

*Due to Emancipation Day in Washington DC, 2010 taxes are due on Monday, April 18th. Remember to file!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book 17: The American Revolution

The American Revolution: A Concise HistoryTITLE: The American Revolution: A Concise History
AUTHOR: Robert Allison
STARTED: March 24, 2011
FINISHED: April 5, 2011
PAGES: 128
GENRE: History

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the Preface] "The History of our Revolution will be one continued lye from one end to the other," John Adams predicted.

SUMMARY: [From] Between 1760 and 1800, the American people cast off British rule to create a new nation and a radically new form of government based on the idea that people have the right to govern themselves. In this lively account, Robert Allison provides a cohesive synthesis of the military, diplomatic, political, social, and intellectual aspects of the Revolution, paying special attention to the Revolution's causes and consequences. The book recreates the tumultuous events of the 1760s and 1770s that led to revolution, such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, as well as the role the Sons of Liberty played in turning resistance into full-scale revolt. Allison explains how and why Americans changed their ideas of government and society so profoundly in these years and how the War for Independence was fought and won. He highlights the major battles and commanders on both sides--with a particular focus on George Washington and the extraordinary strategies he developed to defeat Britain's superior forces--as well as the impact of French military support on the American cause. In the final chapter, Allison explores the aftermath of the American Revolution: how the newly independent states created governments based on the principles for which they had fought, and how those principles challenged their own institutions, such as slavery, in the new republic. He considers as well the Revolution's legacy, the many ways its essential ideals influenced other struggles against oppressive power or colonial systems in France, Latin America, and Asia.

THOUGHTS: If you need a brief primer on the American Revolution for any reason, this is your book. It's jam packed full of historical detail and facts. I found myself dreaming about my middle school history classes - I had a lot of "Oh yeah!" moments. Allison does a great job of incorporating all the important scenes of the Revolation and showing the impact the had on early U.S. history. Her writing style is very straight forward. There are very few scenes of narrative, it's mainly straight information and explanation. For those of use (myself included) who need a cheat sheet, the timeline in the front pages of the book is a great reference.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]