Monday, July 16, 2018

M is for Mess

Hooray! I've finally finished through the letter L in my alphabetic list of possible duplicate bibliographic records in the MassCat catalog.

Last week I began on the letter M. Believe it or not, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, was not that bad. Yes, there are lots of versions of the Scottish play and lots of copies of each, but I found no duplicate records. I must have cleaned that section out while working on something else.

The bad news, however, is that I did a search on the single word "Macmillan" and got nearly 5,000 hits. Since the software only sorts the first 1,000, titles, that means I'll have to use a different strategy to get to the title Macmillan encyclopedia of ... 

And as I perused those first 1,000 titles, I began to wonder what I've been doing these last five years. I found several duplicates beginning with the letters A and B. And lots of incomplete records (though some of them were new). And lots of other stuff that needed fixing.

I can see it's going to take a while to get through this section.

On a related notes, M and I spent the weekend in Lenox seeing Shakepeare plays, including Macbeth. I've seen lots of Shakespeare. There's a company here in Hampshire County that puts on two performances each summer - a comedy and a tragedy - and does a great job with both. M and I saw Twelfth Night on the 4th of July. We're planning to see Othello later this week. But this was my first performance of Macbeth.

Shakespeare & Co. always does an amazing job. The staging is often unique (like the comedy - I forget which one - set in 1950s New Jersey complete with women with big hair and boobs and men with lots of gold chains) and always very professional. It's such a pleasure to watch their productions and Macbeth was no exception.

There was one minor disappointment, though. I kept waiting for the witches; they were not there. :-(

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Serious Reading

Interspersed among LOTS and LOTS of mysteries, I read other stuff, too. As an exercise instructor, I'm always interested in health and nutrition. I guess this might be called my "professional reading".

When I saw the title Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Mark Hyman, I requested it. It is an eye-opening book in many ways. Dr. Hyman considers his program "Pegan". That's a cross between the
Paleo and Vegan diets. Very briefly (because his book includes a lot of detail), he says our bodies need the nutrients that can only be found in meat, fish and eggs (this is qualified in the next paragraph) and we should eat primarily fresh vegetables and some fresh fruit. He also says our bodies do not need grains, and that some people cannot eat them (e.g. celiac disease and gluten sensitivity).

The meat that is best for us comes from pastured beef. The way cattle are raised in this country, the massive operations, are cruel to the animals and result in meat that may be tender, but lacks much nutrition because of the way they are fed. Same for poultry, and therefore eggs.

He strongly recommends locally raised, organic foods whether meat, vegetables or fruit. He also says that our bodies cannot absorb much of the benefits of vegetables without fat and he's very much against low-fat diets. He makes a good case for high-carbohydrate diets being the cause of much of today's obesity. In his opinion, the culprits are sugar and starch.

What makes this book so compelling (and depressing at times) is his very broad view of our diets: not only the food itself, but how it's raised and the toll that raising has on our environment.

I know the name Barbara Ehrenreich from Ms Magazine. I also saw the play Nickel and Dimed - On (Not) Getting by in America which was based on her book of the same name. I always thought she was a sociologist. Turns out she has a Ph.D. in cellular immunology. The book I read was Natural causes: an epidemic of wellness, the certainty of dying, and killing ourselves to live longer. In it, she talks about the high cost of medical care and blames some of it on all of the testing that's done. She questions if annual physicals are really necessary for healthy people, feels that some testing (x-
rays, for example) create problems, and when a problem is found and a person goes through treatment, the treatment is often painful and the person dies anyway. What greater good is served by someone going through chemotherapy to lengthen their life by a few months?

There is a lot of anger in this book, some of which sounds justified. Ms Ehrenreich resents all of the medical intervention that happened while she was pregnant and delivering her children, most of which was unnecessary. Of course, it all cost money.

She has some chapters on human physiology, mostly at the cellular level, to describe how our bodies work. In many cases, those cells do what they want to do regardless of what we do. And therefore, despite our paying minute attention to diet and exercise, our longevity is somewhat predetermined by our genes and those cells doing what they want. We have a lot less control over our lives than we think.

There is a quality of life issue, though. Even if my age of death has to do with my DNA, I want to feel as strong and energetic as I can until then. So I watch what I eat (most of the time) and go to exercise class regularly.

And I'll keep reading books like this to try to learn as much as I can so that I can form my own educated opinion.

Friday, June 8, 2018


Most of the last 6 weeks of my time has been spent outside working in the yard.

It began on April 28 when we drained the pond and cleaned it. That sounds a lot simpler than it was, which was a grueling day. It meant renting a sump pump and power washer, draining the water, catching the 30 or so fish and putting them in temporary buckets (they were not happy), vacuuming out leaves, removing lots of leaves by hand, power washing the algae off of the rocks, removing all of the plants in pots (heavy!), cleaning and dividing them, then putting everything back (especially the fish). I was very sore for 2-3 days.

The rest of the gardening work has been a lot easier, but there is still much to do.

There are LOTS of geraniums, most of which I bring in for the winter. They get leggy and need to be trimmed before going back outside. Some need repotting and I usually re-root several more.

Then I need to buy and plant annuals so that I'll have lots of color. The back yard is very sunny and that's where the geraniums spend their time. The front, the north side of the house, gets far less sun. I usually put begonias and/or impatiens in pots scattered around.

And then there are the house plants which periodically need repotting or re-rooting.

The back of the house
I also have a container herb garden on the east side of the house on the screened-in porch. I started an herb garden in the sunny back yard, but it meant going down a flight of stairs every time I wanted a bit of basil or parsley. Having herbs in pots on the porch just outside the kitchen works much better. The screened-in porch has a glass roof, so it's like a greenhouse. Geraniums and herbs do very well there, though they need a lot of watering.

I still need to buy a few more plants. Many of the water lilies did not survive the winter and have to be replaced. There are also some bare spots that I want to fill with something interesting.

The view from my bed
Many years ago, I had a vegetable garden. Then I realized I spent most of my summer tending it and getting far more vegetables than I could possibly use. Now I visit the plethora of near-by farm stands every few days. That's much easier.

I've decided I don't really enjoy gardening that much. I don't mind a little bit of it, but day after day it loses its charm. I do like the results, though, and I'm willing to put some time in so that I can sit back and enjoy the yard, the pond, and all of the color.

Soon, I'll be able to spend some time visiting art museums and lunching with my retired friends.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Long Journey

In my alphabetical list of possible duplicate records, I've reached titles beginning with the word "long". The titles begin specifically with "long" - not "a long" which were listed in the beginning after the numbers. And not "the long" which will come much later. The sorting program does not recognize initial articles.

In the process of finding and merging duplicates in the MassCat catalog, I'm also finding and reporting duplicates in other catalogs. As I've written before, I key in a word, sort by title A-Z and then begin looking for problems.

One of those problems is CIP (Cataloging in Publication) records. Generally, they are pretty good, but because the record was created while the book was in the process of publication, they lack information such as the number of pages, the height, and whether or not there are illustrations.

When I find such a record, I go to the C/W MARS catalog and look at their bib record to find the missing information. Sometimes I find 2 exact records, which I then report to the cataloging staff at C/W MARS. Given the size of their catalog, they have very few duplicates. I find maybe one or two in a month. Compare that with MassCat where I find 20 in a day. Well, that's what I'm there for.

When C/W MARS started, it had one catalog for all of its members. Then, it moved to different software that couldn't handle the size, so it was split between CMARS and WMARS. When they moved to yet different software, the catalogs were once again combined. But not all the duplicates were automatically merged. Human intervention is needed for those last few stragglers.

The other place I find duplicate records is in OCLC. That is such a HUGE catalog, there are bound to be "issues". And so much of the information is loaded automatically, there are bound to be even more "issues". I think I find a duplicate record nearly every time I search the catalog. It is not unusual to find 2 or 3 of the exact same thing. Those I report to the cataloging staff at OCLC.

Sometimes I get the feeling my purpose in this world is to find and merge (or report) the duplicate bib records in every catalog on Earth.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Woody Allen Movies

I've seen just about all of Woody Allen's movies, if not in the theater, then on DVD.

When a person writes and directs one feature film every year, some are bound to be duds, but others will be great and worth watching more than once.

My very favorite Woody Allen movie is Hannah and Her Sisters. Someone suggested that may be because I have sisters. It's possible, though not an overt feeling on my part. I just think the characters are realistic, have such depth, and their relationships are multi-faceted. There's so much going on in their lives from a variety of perspectives.

A close second in terms of favorite movie is Midnight in Paris. I saw it when it was first released and recently watched it again. While this movie is clearly a fantasy, it's just SO enjoyable. And the music is great. I actually bought the CD of the soundtrack which I have been playing regularly for the last few weeks. It doesn't hurt that I love Cole Porter's songs. My favorite is You Do Something to Me, though Let's Do It has been running through my head for the last several days.

Another favorite is Blue Jasmine. This is a serious movie, very unlike most of Woody Allen's. It's somewhat reminiscent of Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire which I also view every few years. The definitive version, of course, is the one with Marlon Brando.

Allen's most recent movie is Wonder Wheel. While it is narrated by Justin Timberlake and might give the impression of a comedy, this film is very much in the genre of Blue Jasmine. It involves a moral dilemma, which is a theme in several of his movies.

This idea of a moral dilemma plays a big part in Irrational Man. However, the movie, which tries to be a thriller, just doesn't make it. I love both Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix, but I doubt I'd ever bother to see the movie again.

Another film that began with a good premise but wasn't able to follow through is To Rome With Love. Three amusing stories that take place in Rome, flip back and forth from one to the other. I found that the stories sounded a lot funnier when I was describing them later to a friend. On the screen, they somehow didn't quite work.

And then there is Melinda and Melinda. What a great idea! A group of playwrights is arguing about whether people prefer to watch comedy (to forget their tragic lives) or tragedy (to make their lives look better). The men begin with the same scene and develop two different stories. In the film, the stories go back and forth and I found trying to keep the characters straight was totally confusing. Another one to add to the "don't bother to see again" pile.

Most of Woody Allen's other movies fall somewhere in between, though Annie Hall is often listed as one of his best and I do like it.

I've been borrowing DVDs of Allen's movies on a regular basis for the last few months. Given how many he's made, there are still lots to come.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

What Bennie Rosato and I have in Common

Bennie Rosato (real name Benedetta) is a character in Lisa Scottoline's legal thrillers. Bennie lives in Philadelphia, is a Civil Liberties lawyer, stands six feet tall, has curly blonde hair and blue eyes. None of that describes me, though I identify with her in other ways.

I just finished (for the second time, I think) Dead Ringer, the 10th book in the "Rosato and Associates" series.  As usual, Bennie and her associates face myriad problems, some of which could be fatal. This all-woman law firm is pretty resourceful, though, and is willing to take risks when needed. I always enjoy Lisa Scottoline's books.

As I was reading this one, a particular paragraph stood out. Bennie is preparing a class action suit and has filed a motion that brings the judge, other attorneys, and the clients to court for a preliminary hearing. She arrives early.

"The flag, the dais, the seal, and the jury box - all of these fixtures reassured and thrilled Bennie. They were the stuff of the law, the emblems, accoutrements, and tools used every day to hammer out justice, case by case, verdict after verdict. Bennie wasn't so naive that she thought justice was always perfect, blind, or evenly administered; she knew from bitter experience that judges and juries made mistakes, were bamboozled, or simply went the wrong way, every day. But she also believed that in the main, judges, juries, and lawyers strove together for justice, and that the courthouse remained a citzen's best hope for a truly level playing field."

Wow! That's just how I feel about libraries. The catalog, the databases, the reference desk are all emblems, accoutrements used by librarians to provide information every day. The instruments are not always perfect. I certainly know the MassCat catalog could be better, but it is useful even in its not-quite-perfect state.

And talk about "level playing field". What could be more level than the public library? Anyone can use it regardless of how much money they have or don't have. Anyone can find the information they need. Yes, librarians might make mistakes, but every one I've ever known works hard and does their best.

Thank you, Lisa Scottoline, for that paragraph and for reminding me how much libraries reassure and thrill me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The calendar says it's spring, but there's still a little snow on the ground and more is predicted for this afternoon. Well, it is New England.

A couple of days ago, I looked outside and even though there was ice on the pond, there were fish swimming around underneath the ice. And there are daffodil sprouts in the garden. Clearly the fish and the flowers are ready for spring and so am I. I even heard the song Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most last night during Jazz à la Mode.

I'm getting tired of my winter clothes; I want to switch to shorter sleeves and fewer layers. I want to paint my toenails and wear sandals. I want to pack away those warm scarves and gloves till next year.

I know it will all happen soon, but waiting can be hard.

On the work front, I've reached the title Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I've pretty much cleared out those duplicates and problems already because I dealt with  Little Men a couple of weeks ago. Little Women is a wonderful book that every girl should read. About ten years ago, I read it again and was surprised to realize I was reading at that level when I was in elementary school. It is a great read, but not an easy one. The vocabulary is quite sophisticated.

I've never seen any of the movies that have been made. One fan of the book told me the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder was terrible.

I tried reading Little Men, but didn't get very far. I'm not certain why. I had planned to read the entire series that Louisa May wrote. I guess I got distracted by murder mysteries. I know I read Eight Cousins when I was younger.

I was a voracious reader as a child. Come to think of it, I read a lot of mysteries then, too.