Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Noted (In Passing)

  1. In many ways dealing with the library makes me feel like an undergraduate. I can never tell what to do or how to find what I'm looking for, and after I follow what I think are the rules, I get a snarky reply that I'm WRONG. Apparently searching both the library catalog and our full-text databases for an article (and coming up empty) is not enough to entitle one to ask for something via inter-library loan. Fortunately, one of the items I was looking for could actually be provided by the library if I would just go pick it up at the main circulation desk. While the circulation staff spent several minutes figuring out how to tell the computer that yes, this item really does circulate, and yes, I really was entitled to check it out, the security guards were talking about chess. One of them was studying openings. He's going to be playing in a tournament this weekend, and he wanted to be prepared for the standard strategy of one of his opponents.

  2. Several people have been telling family stories in response to the NYT series on class. My great-grandparents emigrated from Galicia in the early 20th century. On my mother's side, they ended up in Schenectady which was, as they tell it, a rather booming small city at the time. (If you can imagine.) They tell charming anecdotes, like how everyone threw all sorts of junk into the former Erie canal channel so that it could be filled in, paved, and turned into Erie Boulevard. This side of the family did pretty well and was very well assimilated; they always spoke nothing but English. My father's side of the family ended up in central New York (near Utica), a region that probably reached its economic peak when the Oneida were practicing hunter-gatherer subsistence. While Dziadek and Babka* had some success running a speakeasy during Prohibition, my grandparents ended up working in factories. I always imagined that had my grandfather had the opportunity he would have become some sort of engineer. Most of what I know about fixing stuff I learned from my dad who learned from my grandfather. My grandfather always had a clever way to solve any mechanical problem. And he was just amazing at making things out of wood. He made this for me when I was eight years old. (He died when I was nine.)

  3. Turns out that the person who I thought was someone famous is not. This I learned when one of his advisees -- who is someone I know -- turned up in my office to say hi. We may do lunch tomorrow. If I can brush up on my two-letter words, I might suggest a game of Scrabble. Since I am woefully out of practice (and he is a hard-core Scrabble player), I would probably suggest playing without time control.

*Babka, my great-grandmother, died when I was 10 and she was some unknown age between 95 and 100. I never once heard her speak English. When I was a small child (and she was nearly 90 years old), she sewed, beaded, sequined, and embroidered (by hand!) a Krakowiak costume for me. I had it framed, and it hangs over my sewing machine.