Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome, 2012!

I am excited about this year. This year, I'll really be hitting my Saturn return (a concept I don't really believe in astrologically but have fun blaming big life changes on). Basically, it's a period in a person's life where large, life-altering changes can happen -- sometimes many at once! A Saturn return is a transition into a new stage of life. It's a opportunity to redirect yourself if you're paying attention -- kind of like a new year can be.

So, in 2012, I get to:

Turn 28

Get married

Continue graduate school

Start an internship

Make some big steps toward future financial stability

And... ???

The rest is yet to be seen! I hope I'll be blogging about a lot of my 2012 experiences here. Please comment if you're reading -- even if you don't have a blog of your own, I'd like to know more about you and what you think. :)

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Preventing Gender Bullying with Lessons of Diversity

I loved reading this article by a grade school teacher who found herself conducting lessons about gender equality for first graders.

I taped up two large pieces of paper and wrote “Boys” on one and “Girls” on the other. “Students,” I said, “what are some toys that are for boys?” Eagerly, the students began to shout out their answers: “Legos!” “Hot Wheels!” “Skateboards!” “Bikes!” The list grew quite long. “OK,” I said, “now tell me some toys that are for girls.” “Baby dolls!” “Nail polish!” “Barbies!” “Makeup!”
Her lesson goes on to discuss whether girls can play with Legos, or boys with dolls -- leading to examples of people the students know personally who blur the gender divide. The teacher mentions, among other tools and tips, two classic books that I'd selected to be part of the collection for younger grades in the Read Aloud program.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And now the New Year's Haul!

I wrote already about what I brought home for Christmas... but I need to make room for those presents! So it's an excellent time of year to remove stuff from the house -- by tossing, donating, or repurposing it. Remember that I have a 2012 goal to get rid of 80 things? I'm inclined to count this closet purge as part of that goal to give me a head start... but maybe that wouldn't be strictly fair. What do you think?

Here are some of my tips for thinning out possessions in preparation for the new year:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Xmas: The Haul

So, did you get something nice in your stocking?

My sweetie and I spent the weekend with my family about an hour away. (Well, I stayed there and she drove back up to work overnighters at her second job. After her recent bike-car accident and missed shifts, we can't really afford to turn down holiday pay.) We all had two massive dinners (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) and opened a TON of presents -- I thought this was going to be a small Christmas, but with my sister out of the country and away for the first year ever, it seems like some of her gifts found their way into my pile.

Excellent presents I received:

-FitBit fitness tracker that doubles as a pedometer and a sleep monitor
Along with the usual goal of 10,000 steps/day, I can keep an eye on how long it takes me to fall asleep and how many times I waken. This info is wirelessly transmitted to my computer and updates my FitBit account, so I have records of my sleep and activity.

-Laptop Lunchbox Bento 2.0 system
This purple beauty will promote bringing lunches to work during the week instead of buying food. It includes a drink bottle and silverware as well as a space for a chillpack if necessary (I usually park my lunchbox in the office fridge).

-Scrabble Slam
Santa produced this card game, which combines my love of words and -- I THOUGHT -- my competitive spirit, as it was packaged using words like "slam" and "slap". I figured it would be like slapjack, and I'd get to hit people if I were quick. No such thing, I found out. But it's still a fun game.

I got super-excited about a set of Eggies that my sweetie got for me (so she doesn't have to peel soft-boiled eggs when my Vitamin D-deficient demands for them come in rapid succession), and she was equally enthusiastic about a set of magnetic spice containers that I got her. I also received a gift certificate for a scrub and massage at a local Korean spa I frequent -- or try to, when I have the time and the funds -- and a gift card from Pasta Pomodoro for a dinner out with my sweetie. From my godmother, a woman more frugal than I can ever aspire to be, I got a calendar from 1984 (the year I was born) that can also be used in 2012 and 2040!

Monday, December 19, 2011


After a week of much finger-tapping and refreshing of webpages, I have my grades!

Information and Society: A (97%)
Information and Retrieval: A- (95.2%)
Online Social Networking: Pass (100%)
Information Organizations and Management: A (97.55%)

*cheers and prepares to enjoy winter break*

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping wedding costs down... for EVERYONE.

I stumbled across this old post by Shawanda at You Have More Than You Think:

Friends Don’t Make Friends Overspend: Wedding Edition
Instead of responding with, “Ain’t nobody got no money!” when you’re asked to be a member of the wedding party, stay calm.

With our tiny wedding on a budget, my sweetie and I are trying to make everything affordable for our guests and our wedding party -- not just affordable for us. So we've done what we can to minimize costs for our close friends and family who have been invited to attend.

Every happy couple should consider their guests' side of things. You may have only the One Special Day(TM), but think of the number of wedding invitations circulated through your group. With 3 or 4 weddings in a year (or a "season")... travel, special attire, and gifts add up! Sit down before you choose your attendants and estimate their responsibilities and possible costs, then make that information available to them when you ask them to stand up with you. If it's just not practical, you'll either have to change your list of "necessary" items or graciously accept that your dear one may not be able to do the honors. No one should be bullied into spending more than they can afford -- and no one should be blindsided by expenses, either!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Round 1, complete!

Woo-hoo! I'm officially done with work for my first semester in the MLIS program.

There were definitely some late stressful nights in there -- working full-time while taking 10 course units lends itself to midnight madness -- but I've turned in my last assignments for the term and I look forward to receiving my grades.

Here's the grading scale for SLIS courses at SJSU:
97-100 A
94-96 A-
91-93 B+
88-90 B
85-87 B-
82-84 C+
79-81 C
76-78 C-
73-75 D+
70-72 D
67-69 D-
Below 67 F

The core classes I took this semester -- LIBR 200, 202, and 204 -- have to be completed with a grade of B or higher. As we've been reminded eighty-bajillion times, that's a B, NOT a B-. So 88% and up to scrape through. The grading scale (stricter than my undergraduate experience, where 90-93 was an A-, 94-97 was an A, and 98 and up was an A+ in many classes) has been making me nervous all term. There's much less margin for error if I want to pass (to say nothing of being eligible for scholarships) -- for example, I missed one question on the midterm in 202, and it knocked my exam grade down from a 96.6% to an 80%!

I'm fairly certain I've got two As and two A-s for the semester, based on assignments graded up to this point, but there's a little bit of leeway. And so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And! I am unplugging -- at least, while I'm at home. The browser tabs that have remained on my screen for three months are closed. (I'll check in for grades in a week or so, and keep an eye on my email.) I'm REALLY going to enjoy not pulling out the laptop first thing when I get home from work. Yes, I'm still working 40 hours a week -- but I can leave that at the office. Bliss!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why save? 'cause I'm stubborn.

Over at Squirrelers, the main reason for saving is so you don't end up "old and broke". Reasonable! Not knowing where your next mortgage or rent payment is coming from, worrying that an illness or injury will overwhelm your savings, becoming the stereotypical fixed-income senior facing a meal of cat food -- these things are scary! Fear is a big motivator for lots of things, like making healthier lifestyle choices after a medical scare, or over-preparing for a presentation so you don't embarrass yourself in front of your boss. Fear is what keeps many of us heading to the office each morning for many years.

Fear, though, is the mind-killer. (Thank you, Frank Herbert, and many who have repeated his words.) Having fear as a primary motivator causes you to think small, to avoid risks in order to be safe. Some fear is healthy, but fear alone is not enough.

Why ELSE should you save? Or do anything, for that matter? You should have a goal. You need something positive to reach for, as well as something negative to run from. Many comments on the Squirrelers post mentioned a desire for freedom at the top of their list. Freedom to travel, freedom to not work for others, freedom to buy what they want and not just what they need -- all of these are motivators as well.

Personally, I save for a number of reasons:

-It's next on the list.
I've got my basic needs taken care of. (It took a couple of years after college to sort that all out... I don't recommend doing it that way.) I don't have any debt. What's next? Emergency and retirement savings! This hierarchy of personal finance needs says it should be a priority. My expenses are small right now, and I'm still pretty young, so I know I'd better start saving ASAP before life circumstances cost more.

-I hate owing anyone money.
Being beholden is an icky feeling. Even when it's to a company and not an individual, debt is something I don't want held over my head. If I have money saved up, I am my own person.

-I don't want to pay any more than I have to.
This is why I buy stuff on sale -- and also why I save up first. Paying cash for things -- or paying off my card in full at the end of the month -- is my rude gesture to banks and other big-business types. They're not getting more money out of me!

-Freedom to stay home.
I don't want to travel. I'm a homebody. I'm kinda boring, actually. My idea of an excellent vacation is sleeping in, getting laundry done, maybe finishing up a storage project. Getting a little sunshine on my face, walking around the park to the farmers' market, stopping by the library on the way home and picking up a DVD to watch with my sweetie while we cuddle up with the cats. (With mugs of herbal tea. So there.) But I want to be able to do that when I feel like it! I want to be able to take some time off work without worrying about the bills. I don't want to have to rush off to a second job instead of having dinner with a friend or taking a Saturday afternoon nap. (I do that now, what with combining work, school, and choir practice. I know I can manage it for a few more years. I don't want to HAVE to do it in order to live.)

-Options for the future.
I'm saving for a nice wedding and a career that I enjoy. I'm saving for vet bills and legal fees and medical bills. I'm saving for FLEXIBILITY, for choice, for power over my life. If we raise kids, I want to spend time with them. Maybe work a four-day week while they're little. Make sure they have everything they need and a few things they want. I want to be able to retire from the full-time workforce at some point and spend daytime hours volunteering at things I love that don't pay -- snuggling babies, petting cats, reading to kids, feeding people, encouraging young readers and writers, and supporting libraries. I want to do that before I'm old.

Savings enable me to dream about not being shackled to a 40-hour-a-week job and still being able to afford a quality life. So I'm starting now. What about you? Why do you save?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Hack Library Blog addresses the groupwork issue that many of us in the MLIS program were concerned about at the beginning of the semester: Playing Nicely With Others: Doing Group Work

As I posted earlier as part of an assignment, I have many of the same qualms. When reading that the changes "can be really off-putting for someone who is... a) shy b) used to studying alone c) new to the program, thus not knowing anyone and d) a control freak", I really did LOL as I checked them off. I am all of those!

One of my group projects this semester was a great experience: I learned a lot about a new subject from my fellow students' personal history and research; we planned and executed two quality papers; I think we communicated expectations well and were flexible when possible. The other was less rewarding, although I did gain some experience. I found that I was less willing to work with people who didn't consider my schedule when planning meetings (although the same group met in the evenings and weekends during Part 1 of the project, group meetings for Part 2 were repeatedly held on weekday mornings despite my objections and requests for alternate time slots). I discussed that briefly with the professor, so that it would be taken into consideration during grading. I didn't want to skate on my classmates' work, but I also wanted to receive appropriate credit for the work I had done. It was harder to feel connected to the group's goals when editing a paper that I didn't contribute to in the early stages -- I was unsure as to the intended purpose of some sections and didn't have the same sense of ownership and authority over the collaborative work. However, my negative experience underscores the conviction that expectations for process should be set out at the beginning of the project, openly discussed, and revisited as necessary during the course of the assignment (even when that's uncomfortable).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

101 Things in 1001 Days

Apparently I'm in a goal-setting mood! I just finished my list of 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days.

In 1001 days, I will be 30 (and a few months). I plan to be married, employed, and purple-haired. I should have earned my MLIS degree and have a little discretionary income on top of some savings.

And I will hopefully have done these things, among others:

-Get a passport.
-Sing the national anthem for an event.
-Spend a week with no computer or cell phone.
-Go vegetarian for a month.
-Participate in a flash mob.
-Register as a potential bone marrow donor.
-Take a self-defense class.
-Watch TV/movies in Spanish with Spanish subtitles.
-Attend a women's roller derby bout.
-Go on a cruise.
-Register with an adoption agency.

What are some of the things you have on your list?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

End-of-semester evaluations

Here's a post from the Hack Library School blog about evaluating your professors and courses at the end of the term.

Professors want specific feedback on the negative AND positive elements of their class. If you didn’t like the syllabus—tell them exactly why. If a paper led to an epiphany about your career goals—say so.

If you're a SLIS student at SJSU, here are the instructions for filling out the Student Opinion of Teacher Effectiveness Survey (SOTES):
1. Log into
2. Look under Self Service or SJSU Campus Solutions in the left-hand taskbar.
3. Click on OnLine SOTE Ratings.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ahead of Schedule on Cyber Monday

Continuing in my tradition of finishing things long before they are due (why can't I apply this to school papers?), I am now 100% done with Christmas shopping.

First, like Santa, I made a list. Last year I used this spreadsheet from Lifehacker, and it worked so well that I added a new sheet (copying over the formulas from Gift List, and then changing the name of the sheet referenced for the Gift Info formulas) and brought it back this year. I wrote down all the people that I wanted to give gifts to (and also tossed in the three birthdays during December and January -- I refuse to make a holiday gift do double duty) and ideas for what to get them.

I also set a budget. Your budget is up to you -- what you can afford and what you think is appropriate. As a student with many savings goals, I found it best to minimize spending, so I discussed having a small Christmas with my sweetie a couple months ago. We'll still travel to see my family, but we skipped decorating our place this year. (The apartment really doesn't have room for a tree, anyway.) It's also understood that we'll give each other one or two smaller gifts, and nothing extravagant. This is a tradeoff for having the wedding we want next year -- and living debt-free in general.

The next step was to select gifts for each person. There are two basic approaches -- knowing exactly what to get someone and searching for the best price, or seeing what is out there and deciding whether a good deal would also make a good gift. I looked at my family's gift lists, which was easy because my cousin created a database that catalogues each person's wishes and who (if anyone) has signed up to give that gift, and keeps that information hidden from the recipient (but visible to others so there's no overlap) until after delivery. As I come across things I covet during the year, I add them to my eGiveIt list (making sure to update before my birthday and before the holidays). Others on my list had Amazon wishlists (like this one I'm shamelessly plugging for my Read Aloud program). I subtly (and not so subtly -- some of them were tough to hint to!) quizzed friends who don't have such a list. And I looked at a lot of the holiday promotional emails -- more than I usually would -- to see what was on sale. Although I'm in the demographic that doesn't take kindly to stores pushing Christmas decorations and carols before Thanksgiving, I'm up for a deep discount any time of year!

You've still got time, and the sales have just begun. Next weekend is actually a great time to shop, because retailers will have an excess of stock that wasn't sold on Black Friday. Why not make a plan and get your own list out of the way?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Year's Resolution Equivalent

Yes, I'm already thinking about this sort of thing. Around Thanksgiving, I start taking stock of the year and "cleaning house". I think it helps to spend the holiday season thinking about change -- I use it as a period of adjustment.

So here are some new goals for 2012:

Read 100 books in 2012.
The reading isn't the challenge so much as finding new titles, recording my progress, and reviewing each book. I'll be keeping up some lists with LibraryThing.

Exercise for 90 minutes per week.
Step away from the computer! Strength training, stretching, and cardio apply.

Get rid of (sell, donate, recycle) 80 items from the house by the end of the year.
Some people have enough stuff that they do a 365 challenge. I think I'm pretty light on stuff already, but my wardrobe could use some thinning.

Write 70 posts for this blog in 2012.
I'm going to be more active over here!

Volunteer 60 hours in 2012.
With work, school, and church, I don't have a lot of free time. But I can take an afternoon a month to help out.

Save or donate 50 percent of my take-home income.
Between emergency savings, our wedding, a house fund, Xmas club, grad school, 401(k), church pledge, and assorted charitable giving throughout the year, I'm already pretty close on this one. Two goals are to be able to pay off all school loans during the 6-month interest-free period after graduation and to have a debt-free wedding, so any payments to the school or for the wedding/honeymoon count even if I don't have the cash on hand at the end of the year.

Distribute 40 business cards by the end of the year.
Most of my networking is done online (especially through LinkedIn), so this will encourage me to get out and meet people in real life -- perhaps at SJSU events. Business cards will be ordered soon.

Spend 30 minutes per day in meditation.
Life is busy! I need to remember to sit back and contemplate things quietly.

Be able to do 20 pushups at once by the end of the year.
When I was working with a personal trainer last week, I think I got up to a dozen. I'm thinking of doing the one hundred pushups plan.

Write 10 recommendations on LinkedIn in 2012.
People have been very generous with me! I hope I'll be able to pass the favor on to fellow students and coworkers.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, everyone -- and a break from homework if you're in school. See you next week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Read Aloud Roundup: November 2011

This month's questions are brought to you by my sweetie, who saw how buried in schoolwork I was yesterday and rattled off discussion questions as a favor while I went off to choir rehearsal. Themes include Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving.

All Families Are Special! by Norma Simon
-Did you see a family that looked like yours in the story? Which one?
-Do all families enjoy all of the things we heard in the story? What things does your family like to do together?
-Do all families love the same?

Namaste! by Diana Cohn
-Nima greets everyone by putting her hands together, bowing and saying Namaste. What do we do?
-How does her greeting make other people’s day a little brighter?
-What can you do to brighten people’s day?

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
-What was the hardest part for her parents?
-Why do you think they wanted to learn how the other one ate?
-Are there special things you do regarding food in your house?

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams
-Why does Bidemmi tell so many stories?
-Do you think her cherry pit idea is a good one?
-What do you think will happen after she has cherry trees on her whole block?

Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
-Who makes things hard for Molly at her new school?
-Why does her Mama make the dolly to look like her?
-What did the other kids learn about Thanksgiving from Miss Stickley?

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous! by Leslea Newman
-Why does Roger get in trouble the first time?
-What do his parents learn about him as they visit the town?
-Do you think more people should have this ability to see things as fabulously as Roger does?

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
-How many different uses did the quilt have?
-Why was it so important to stitch the quilt with the old clothes?
-How did they keep the traditions going?

Nobody Knew What To Do by Becky Ray McCain
-Why was it hard for the kids to say that bullying was NOT okay?
-What would you do in that situation?
-How would you help a kid like Ray if you saw him being bullied?

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven
-Why did Katie's mother make sure to explain the importance of the White Table?
-How did that make her Uncle John feel?
-What would you put on the table?

The Wall by Eve Bunting
-Why was it important to find his Grandpa’s name?
-How would you feel if you had a relative’s name on that wall?
-How would you honor a relative who was a soldier?

Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
Why do you think it was important to Jake to make sure he was the best at everything?
Do you think it’s important to be proud of your accomplishments?
What are some ways that you can share what you’re good at with others without bragging or boasting and putting others down?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First grade field trip!

On Saturday, I volunteered as a chaperone for my partner's after-school program's weekend field trip to the local library. The instructors, students, and parents were to meet up at the school and then walk over together -- maybe a 20-minute walk. Unfortunately, though 12 students (out of 19) in my partner's class turned in signed permission slips for the field trip, only 2 actually turned up. (And they were mistaken about the time, arrived an hour early, and then met us at the library -- so we didn't know that they were coming until the end of the walk!) The program's site supervisor had estimated that 30 students would be involved... and we ended up with 3. Added to the 2 who met us at the library and someone's little sister (not in the program), that made a total of only 6 children, which was very disappointing.

The children's librarian gave our group a brief tour of the stacks in the children's section. She had pulled a selection of books appropriate for pre-readers, first-, and second-graders, which the students perused after storytime. The librarian read two stories: Beto and the Bone Dance and The Little Old
Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
. Beto was the story of a little boy who celebrates Dia de los Muertos with his family in Mexico; the librarian explained briefly about the holiday and its traditions during the reading. The second story was an interactive one: children and adults both joined in with the sounds of the scary objects that confront the little old lady: boots that go clomp, clomp, hands that go clap, clap, and so forth. Storytime was enjoyable even with so few children. Afterward, parents and instructors helped the students find two books apiece, and then they checked them out using their new library cards. (The library had requested a list of the students' names beforehand, and issued cards for any student that wasn't yet in the system. Kindergarteners have their cards kept behind the desk by default, but can request to take them home. First- and second-graders are given their cards on a string to wear around their necks, and need to remember to bring them along when they visit the library.) I filled out my own application for a card in this district and checked out two children's books in Spanish to practice my language comprehension.

While children were checking out books and heading outside for snack, I chatted with the children's librarian, who said she'd been in her position for 15 years. Hearing that I was a library student, she warmed to her topic. She was discouraged by recent budget cuts, and concerned about a strange trend in management. Apparently, newly-hired children's librarians have been assigned branch manager duties as well in this district. Either focus would be sufficient for a full-time position, even for a seasoned librarian, but trying to juggle both seems like a tough situation to be in! She hoped that the public library would be sufficiently funded to hire new graduates in a few years. (So do I!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Substitute reader: 2nd grade

This past Read Aloud, I visited the school to pass out books and meet this year's crop of reader volunteers (there were a few new ones, but many have been doing this for years). As it happened, our predicted photo opportunity was co-opted by an earthquake drill, so I may have to join them another time for that purpose.

As it also happened, one of the volunteers had forgotten the appointment, and I was engaged as a substitute for his class (it was only the second Read Aloud of the school year, so I don't think the kids much registered the change). With about 30 seconds of prep (and aren't I glad that *I* was the one who'd read all the books beforehand?), I was propelled to a second-grade classroom across the hall and introduced to the class by the principal.

We read In Our Mothers' House, by Patricia Polacco, which is about a Berkeley family with two moms and three children. The story is narrated by the eldest child, and the first question a student had was, "Why is the baby black?" (We established that the baby was born that way, and the baby was a different color than the mothers because she was adopted.)

The main conflict in the book is that, although the family is very popular with most of their neighbors (holding block parties and the like), one neighbor is disapproving and tries to spoil their fun. At one juncture, she hisses at the mothers, "I don't appreciate what you are." However, just "what they are" is not explicitly addressed by the author, and I think the specific point about homosexuality or non-traditional families may have passed by the kids. I stopped the book at that point and asked the kids what they thought she meant, and got a variety of answers like "She doesn't like that they are happy," and "It looks like she isn't having fun, so maybe she is mad about being lonely". Although many families in the school have two moms or two dads (it's in a historically gay neighborhood), I'm not sure that difference would come to mind unless a child had recently been through a similar experience of discrimination.

The book, I realized in the reading, was awfully wordy for the available time. I don't know how long the volunteers usually have, but we had about 20 minutes before the earthquake drill, which was just enough time to conclude with a few generic questions (most of the children wanted to tell me what they were going to be for Halloween -- a holiday mentioned in the story). Polacco's watercolors, though, are always lovely. After we finished, the teacher mentioned that she had been planning already on getting the book for the class -- so I guess it was a good choice!

I very much enjoyed my impromptu Read Aloud! I look forward to doing more of that sort of thing in my graduate classes and internships. My partner's first-graders are going on a library field trip Saturday, and I'll get to join them and help her out. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Read Aloud Roundup: October 2011

William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow
- Why did William’s brother make fun of him? How do you think William felt?
- Why do you think William’s dad didn’t want to get him a doll?
- What are some games and toys that both boys and girls can play with?

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- What’s your favorite animal at the zoo? Do you know how it makes a family?
- How do penguins take care of their eggs differently than other birds?
- What are some of the different ways that humans make families?

Saturday, September 24, 2011 has some sweet apartments

Normally, when I go apartment-hunting -- and I moved three times last year, so I have some recent experience! -- I hang around on Craigslist. What do I find there? Professional listings that say they don't allow pets but have the "cats are okay -- purrr" box ticked off, students who "need a roomate (sic)" but haven't bothered to spell it correctly, lots of party houses, listings that try to cram every amenity possible into the title ("$2900 / 2br - 1095ft² - HighRise*CourtyardView*GolfCourseView*RentControl*LakeView*Brigh*Cozy*"), open houses in the middle of my workday, and duplicate listings with slightly different titles to get past CL's moderation.

And when there IS a listing that looks like it might be a match -- in your price range, pet-friendly, located close to public transportation -- it's a mad scramble at the end of the month. When I found the apartment I currently rent, I emailed the owner minutes after the listing went up, got an appointment to view the apartment with the onsite manager that night (9 PM!), and turned in my application and deposit before work the next morning. Turns out there was another applicant scheduled to see the place after me, and at least one more the next day. My application went in first, though, and so I got the place -- approved 2 days before my lease was up on the old apartment. That's nerve-wracking!

So one of the draws of is that its listings are for apartments in larger complexes, where the managers know when a tenant is about to move out and can list their units in advance. There are lists of amenities and lots of photos (often lacking on Craigslist), so you have an idea of what will or won't work for you. Each listing even has a floor layout! (When negotiating with roommates, it's important to know where the door to the bathroom is located and whether you'll have to walk through anyone's sleeping space to get there.) There's also a section for ratings and reviews (sparsely populated as the site's still in beta), so you might be able to get a feel for the other tenants and how management treats them.

On, where I can search by location (city or zip code) or even by school, I've found a lovely East Bay apartment -- appropriately in Library Gardens! The interactive map shows me that it's only a couple blocks from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, which is important because -- while I'm attending online classes at SJSU and don't need to go to campus -- I do need to get to my job in San Francisco Monday through Friday. From the apartment complex to my partner's current work location, it's a 30-minute straight shot by bus (no transfers), or even less than that if she takes her bike. The area is full of Berkeley culture, food, entertainment, and parks -- and the apartment is literally RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Berkeley Public Library. How awesome is THAT for an MLIS student??

Here are some more details that make a two-bedroom unit here an excellent choice for me, my partner, and our housemate:

There's a City CarShare on site. Snag an appointment for a couple of hours, pick up your roomy Mazda 5 "compact minivan", and make an IKEA run! Or maybe you want a MINI Cooper Convertible for surprising your sweetie with a romantic daytrip or overnighter in Napa wine country. Can do! Just book an Extended Freedom Trip and keep the car for up to 24 hours. Own your own car? That's unusual in bike-friendly Berkeley, where it's often hard to find parking, but the complex has a private garage.

This open layout in the living area is great for having a few friends over to dinner. (And there's parking for them!) My sweetie has requested that our next place allow her to socialize while she's busy in the kitchen... voila!

There's plenty of cabinet space, too, along with high-end amenities I haven't had in my last three apartments: a dishwasher AND a garbage disposal.

The only room for improvement I see is the floor -- hardwood would be much friendlier toward my allergies than carpet. Our two cats would really like curling up on the couch in this living room, though -- I can already see it with our furniture.

They'd be looking down into a courtyard like this:

The complex seems like a busy semi-private community -- and that says "safe" to me. It's a place where you might invite your neighbors to a picnic in one of the grassy common areas, or at least feel comfortable running into them in the laundry facility on your floor. (That's right, one on every floor! Open 24/7!) I could sit out on a bench or blanket and enjoy the Berkeley sunshine while doing my coursework aided by the shared wireless connection.

And check out that artwork!

Yes, that's quite the place to live during my grad school years. My lease is up in a month... I think I'll look at this time around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Read Aloud Roundup: September 2011

I've decided to start posting each month about the books I choose for the Read Aloud program.

Some background:
I select books for the Read Aloud​ program run by Metropolit​an Community Foundation​, the social justice organizati​on at my church. Volunteers​ visit Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy each month and read to each classroom,​ then lead a discussion​ about the books. The books are then donated to the classroom libraries.​ Our message centers around themes of Diversity and Inclusion.​ Using granted funds and individual donations to the program, I purchase about 100 picture books each year and provide some simple questions to get the discussion started.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Control Freaks in (Cyber)Spaaaaaaace!

I picked an online program rather than a face-to-face program for a few important reasons. First, simple logistics prevent me from attending daytime classes because of my full-time day job. Similarly, because I don't drive, many night classes are out of range or wouldn't fit into a tight schedule. I'd be tied to my geographical location and might not be able to take vacations, participate in regular rehearsals or performances, or visit family, if I had to attend classes at prescheduled times and places. I also considered my personal working and studying style, which involves several intense, head-down sprints over the course of a project. Ideally I'd be able to work on school assignments when I felt like working -- whether that be 7 PM or 3 AM -- and not inconvenience others. My score on the Online Learning Readiness Assessment was "over 45", so it appears that an online program was the right choice. For something as important as a postgraduate degree, I wished to begin with an environment advantageous to myself.

I didn't, however, consider the factor of teamwork in graduate classes! I'm very glad to realize that -- according to the two presentations assigned to the 203 class -- many others in the program are leery about teamwork, too. I'm also surprised to hear my own prejudices and objections expressed so freely. It seems like all of the folks who were used to doing all the work in their undergraduate groups ended up here!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I have my own circulation assistant.

I am a lucky reader. The public library branches in my area are closed by the time I get home from work, but my girlfriend is available to make book runs. And, boy, is that awesome! Not only do I not have to remember due dates, but I have conversations like this:

Her: I'm taking back the second Carey book since you won't finish that series. :P
Me: Yes. It sucked.
Her: Arrow's Fall if they have it. And would you consider a different Lackey series with a coauthor?
Me: Nah; I've been through a bunch, and I've read the ones I wanted to.
Her: k
Me: Anything in the last 2 years from Lackey alone.
Her: k. The new King book, Under the Dome?
Me: Ooh! Okay.

It's like having a librarian Pandora, or Jango. (And now you know my taste in literary popcorn. No shame!)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Revving up...

The semester officially starts at the end of August, but my first course is one on using the tools and systems available to distance learners, so it opens up before other classes begin. As part of the course (LIBR 203: Online Social Networking: Technology and Tools), I get to update my blog! (Hi, howyabeen?)

Right now I'm awash in information, and I'm hoping I haven't jumped into the deep end by registering for a full course load in my first semester. I'm taking LIBR 200, 202, and 204 (and 203, but that's a one-unit introductory course, and it only takes a couple of weeks) as well as working full-time. I'm really glad I quit my second choir! And that the church committee (that was supposed to have finished its work by now, but has been extended indefinitely) so rarely meets nowadays.

And how did I forget about textbooks? I guess while I was thinking "online curriculum", I was planning for online text resources and databases, not hard copy. Oops. Starting a new Amazon list for those and looking for used copies. I ought to check out one of the secondhand textbook exchanges online, too. Any suggestions?

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm in! (the saga)

Catching up...

I got my transcript ordered and mailed, got access to my old college account so I could check things like my GPA and date of graduation on the unofficial transcript, estimated my 2010 income, and got my online application submitted December 28th. (I finished paying off my undergraduate student loan on the 15th, so that fell into place quite nicely.)

I then entered the anxiety-ridden doldrums of WAITING for a response. The informational email I got reminded me to check my email frequently for a status update, and then qualified
"frequently" as "as often as once a week, but not as often as every 5 minutes". How did they KNOW??