Reader's Exchange

August 2011 - Posts

1G mindsets in a 4G world

Good Night Irene signAmid last Friday's speculations about Hurricane Irene's intentions, a library customer and I applauded the spirit of those valiant New Yorkers.  We chuckled at one homeowner's "Good Night, Irene" signboard.

I've since wondered how many younger folks got the reference.  Though "Goodnight, Irene" predates my generation, we had ample exposure to the song.  But then, we also mastered vertical hold adjustment (not a yoga position) and party lines (and I don't mean the queue outside a popular club).  No wonder our children sometimes appear mystified by our cultural references, and we by theirs.  As the Beloit College Mindset List annually reminds us, today's young adults have acquired a very different frame of reference, rich in digital jargon and expertise but devoid of some experiences that the rest of us take for granted. 

Reflecting as it does "the world view of entering first year students", the 2015 list depicts the rarified landscape of entering freshmen who've never lived in a world without two women on the Supreme Court, who are more likely to identify Arnold Palmer as a drink than a golfer, and who have never known the Communist Party as the official political party in Russia.  

Generational experience, especially as it pertains to the workplace and marketing, makes for some fascinating reading.  Our library offers these and other titles:

The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose

The Boomer Century, 1946-2046: How America's Most Influential Generation Changed Everything by Richard Croker

Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America by Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger

Our Masterfile Premier database also directed me to this hopeful research:  "Generation Gap Narrows, and Beatles are a Bridge", by Sam Roberts, originally published in The New York Times in 2009.

Reporting a Pew Research Center survey of older adults, Roberts observes that "while 19 percent of older adults recalls that as teenagers they had major disagreements with their parents, only 10 percent say they have similar arguments with their own teenage or young adult children."  There's considerably more to the survey, and you'll enjoy all of it.  For now I'll highlight this facet: mutual appreciation of rock music, particularly the Beatles, may actually be facilitating intergenerational understanding.

We can benefit from lessons of history.  Many Boomers recall their parents' wholesale disapproval of any music produced after the 1950s, and they've consequently vowed to keep an open mind about their offsprings' preferences. 

Of course, we're still allowed private opinions that no other songs equal the quality of those produced during our formative years.  Such compositions represent unsurpassed levels of significance and lyricism--for example, when in his tribute to the Roller Derby Queen, Jim Croce described her as "built like a 'fridgerator with a head."

Can you take a hint?

Recently, I read that Heloise will be appearing in Austin in November.

From the sound of it--she's a columnist, author, speaker, contributing editor, etc.--Heloise doesn't have much time for novel reading, yet she would be perfectly at home in the library.  She's our sort of person, offering an endless store of life-enhancing solutions and apparently never considering any question ridiculous.  

Were she to visit us, however, Heloise might discover competition among our library staff.   While I have consulted Heloise's tips both online and in print on occasion, it's more likely that, faced with an issue of everyday best practices, I'll turn to one of my co-workers first. 

Elaine, for example, is a genius at entertainment and excursion planning.  For anyone expecting out of town visitors and needing amusement options (especially if kids are involved), Elaine is a terrific resource.  We all depend on Eric for the latest info about green lifestyles and ecological wisdom; Chris is the go-to guy for online tools, etc.

We know who's lived in other places, acquired specialized knowledge from previous jobs or studies, raised children, nurtured pets (both exotic and otherwise) and pursued skills that could benefit the rest of us.  Along with books and databases, the library staff represents a significant repository of practical intelligence.

Here's proof: when I surveyed library staffers for "a tried and true tip on something practical", they responded with too many wonderfully useful tips for one blog post.  Thanks go out to Pat M, Pat B, Eric, Regina, Chris, Chip, Tricia, and Elaine for their handy hints.  Heloise would be proud.Vintage suitcase

  • Stain removal: Peanut butter gets out gum. Ice and a knife will remove wax from carpet. To get gum off clothes, place clothes in freezer for a while.
  • Laundry:  A cup of vinegar eliminates funky odors from clothes left in the washer too long.
  • Choosing an internet service provider:  Try http://www.dslreports.com/.  You can search for reviews by zip code and check discussion forums, news, and speed tests.
  • Conserving resources:  To aid you in choosing the healthiest, greenest, most ethical products, check out  http://www.goodguide.com.  Ratings are based on scientific research.
  • Versatile hair spray:  Coat the end of your thread with it before threading a needle.
  • Tackling sticky residue, e.g., price tags:  Use rubbing alcohol (but not on plastics, and test the area first) OR try Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion.
  • It's for the birds:  When cleaning up after birds, placing a dryer sheet on the floor will prevent the feathers from floating all around and make sweeping up easier.
  • A second life for pantyhose:  Buff your shoes with them to achieve a high shine.
  • Relief from bug bites:  Try a paste made with baking soda or rub a damp/sticky bar of soap on the bite.
  • DIYers, take note:  Put a small piece of tape on the wall before hammering in a nail.
  • Kitchen wisdom:  Keep your knives sharp;  dull knives are accidents waiting to happen.   A little vinegar will bring slightly wilted lettuce back to life.  Add a small pinch of salt to your hot cocoa to enhance the chocolate flavor.  Marinate game meat (venison, rabbit, etc.) in buttermilk to alleviate the "gamey" flavor.   Put a cup of vinegar down your drains once a week to clean and deodorize.  (If you haven't done this and your garbage disposal doesn't smell lovely, freeze small ice cubes made of lemon juice and "dispose" those; this also cleans your disposer's blades.)
  • Travel tips:  When parking at the airport, put some cash in your glove compartment so you can pay your way out of the lot when you return!  If you're traveling in ice/snowy terrain, carry a large bag of kitty litter in your trunk.  (It adds needed weight to the rear of vehicle and you can scatter the product on the ice to provide traction.)  For space-saving, wrinkle-preventing luggage packing:  layer similar garments together (example: stack all your shirts and tops, fold the entire stack over, then fold all the sleeves at once across the top).  For suits and dresses, leave garments on the hanger, encase in a plastic bag, fold the bag over once.   This really works!
Please have a doughnut and take me to your leader

Recently, my husband was startled to witness our phone announcing "call from City of Urrrr".  A co-worker was attempting to reach me, thus the voice phonetically pronounced "City of RR".

We agreed that City of Urr would be a great science fiction novel title.  I'm not a frequent sci-fi reader--I know, my loss--but since I'm hoping to gear up and enter National Novel Writing Month this year, suddenly every concept is potentially My Novel.

I wonder, though.  Could a tale inspired by our town offer enough world-building concepts?  Sure, we have high school football, Dell Diamond, The Rock, exponential growth, Ikea, and Round Rock Donuts, but could those attributes translate into an alternative view of society?  

Perhaps the story would open this way:

Cadres of adolescent humanoids portraying fire-breathing mythological beasts battle in contention with fierce adversaries.  Vociferous crowds of citizenry expressing their support from the perimeter of the arena would lend drama.  The object whose possession is sought, a leathery ovoid object, might symbolize the synergy between man and nature.

Elsewhere in this city, thousands more residents happily render the required tribute to acquire a small rectangle entitling them to enter a grandiose and revered public venue modeled after an immense brilliant gem. Space-time donut

The scene now shifts to identify an ancient boulder with a distinctive shape resembling both an anvil and a promontory.  Mysteriously, the name and reputation of this city are tied to this monument.  Legend has it that this stone marker was once consulted by citizens of an earlier era requiring prognostication on the advisability of travel.

Not long before, the city signified only as a rural hamlet, yet within an inconsequential span of time, it has magically evolved into a mushrooming expanse of settled territory now encroaching upon a municipality renowned for strange cattle bearing antler-like defensive apparatus (also Weirdness).

Across the cityscape looms a colossal structure so labyrinthine that visitors require treasure maps and are offered free nutritional rations in order to sustain sufficient energy to complete their transactions and depart.  Inhabitants of other settlements, undeterred by accounts of the vastness of the territory, are lured by their predecessors' epic accounts of Scandinavian ingenuity and value.

Here's another facet unique to this setting: ring-shaped comestibles so pleasing to the senses that they inspired the production of magnified versions of themselves.  These delicacies are not only highly esteemed by the locals and explorers from other regions; they are even glorified on a communication channel dedicated to studying the consumption of edible substances.

Hmmm, are we really dealing with sci-fi here--or is this fantasy?

Name calling at its best

To counter envy of acquaintances employed by for-profit companies (and thus eligible for glamorous productivity incentives like Hawaiian vacations and cars) let's reflect on unique perks of working at a nonprofit institution--say, a library.

Besides the priceless benefit of learning intriguing facts every day (people ask about everything), there's the proximity advantage.  Once the new reference books are cataloged and prepared for shelving, they're delivered straight to the Reference Assistance desk on second floor for review by the librarians there.  Even fiction aficionados like me succumb to the lure of gleaming new trivia troves.  This week's star attraction:  America's Top Rated Cities: A Statistical Handbook

Plano made the list; Round Rock didn't.  However, as the Introduction advises us, a population of 100,000 represents the minimum for "city" designation.  Round Rock was detailed in the 2008-9 edition of the corresponding America's Top-Rated Smaller CitiesIts new edition is on order, and when it arrives we of course expect to view a repeat appearance there.

Inclusion in either publication speaks volumes.  Top 100 status is earned by "high marks for business and living from prominent publications" such as Places Rated Almanac, Forbes, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal, as well as "first-hand visits, interviews, and reports". 

Violet crown skyWho else would consider this 4-volume set a page-turner?  Trivia fans, anyone considering a strategic relocation, marketers, entrepreneurs, and the soon-to-retire immediately spring to mind.  Of course, citizens of these favored municipalities would enjoy all the documentation justifying their loyalty.  One can investigate all sorts of comparative statistics:  educational attainment, housing vacancy rate, travel time to work, etc.  Or, the resident can simply peruse the background notes and pages of rankings to, as Romeo put it, "rejoice in splendour of mine own".

Do I even need to verify that Austin qualified?  Along with the distinctions that you would anticipate--kudos for for innovation, heart health, boating, creativity, telecommuting, favorable impressions from visitors, green-ness--Austin also ranked high in gift card purchases, spring and fall allergies, credit card debt, and vulnerability to cybercrime.  No Lake Woebegon effect here: every city will reveal a few unflattering facets.

Austin's background notes on page 59 even recount my favorite bit of Austin lore--that the pre-Weirdness moniker/slogan "City of the Violet Crown" was coined by writer (and resident) O. Henry.   

Did you know that Plano initially applied to the federal government to be named "Fillmore"?