Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The sea monsters, the sea monsters!

You know, I'm really, really enjoying Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I know even less about the actual story of this than I did about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I really son't think it matters. I seriously doubt that homicidal sea creatures, massive domed submarine living quarters, mysterious island-dwelling, mountain-worshipping semi-humans, and regular battles with sealife featured in the original book!
And you know what? I don't care! On its own, this is a fun, and funny book! I have no idea how the in depth conversations on who feels what for who fit into the original, and whether polite society included women who had been stolen form their native lands in burlap sacks, and forced to be wives to seafaring adventurers were in there (I have a sneaking suspicion not...), but to read about two ladies maintaining the niceties of conversation while being attacked in a canoe by the Fang-Beast certainly amused me!
About half-way through now...oh, who will win the hearts of these lovely ladies? What man will be theirs? And will he have the facial appendages of a squid? Who can tell!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I PROMISE I'm not stalking her!

It just so happens that Woodsiegirl has been blogging lots of things recently that catch my attention, and interest! So, I'm copying her Q and A!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Depends where I am when reading. Usually, it's on the bus to / from work, or in bed, neither of which are snacking hot-spots for me. If I'm spending a few hours on the couch reading, then yup, usually crisps....but those crisp-smeared hands never touch the book until they've been cleaned!

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

No writing in books! I have enough trouble removing the underlined passages in books at work (which at least tend to be historic, and in pencil...current users know I'd gut them if they inked up the library books!). I didn't write in books while studying either - I remember things better if I've written them myself, so I'd write notes on lined paper instead.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Bookmark or laying it open carefully, without cracking the spine. Having bought a lot of old, charity shop books, I know pages tend to fall out at the points where the spine's broken first...and I have a liking for smooth spines, if it's a new book. If I've read a book, it can be hard to tell, as the spine's usually still perfect.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Fiction. I have to read enough non-fiction information in daily life to not want to deal with it in my free time. Unless it's about murders of course. Yes, I am morbid, and love forensic science.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard copy. Not sure that I've ever listened to an audio book. I read really fast, so to have to sit and listen to someone reading out what I could read for myself in a quarter of the time would drive me mad.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

End of chapter if possible. If not, I'll just put the book down where ever I feel like I can't read any more for (evenings) or when my stop's coming up (commute).

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it

up right away?

Nope. I can usually work it out from the context, and if I can't, I'll just ignore it. One word's not usually critical to understanding things. If I remember, I may check it out later, but usually, I just forget!

What are you currently reading?

"Arthur and George", "The Shadow of the Wind", and "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters"

What is the last book you bought?

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, new. I tend to bulk buy from charity shops though, so often it's hard to tell what I bought last as it's just a bagful, but SSSM I really wanted to read, so pre-ordered from Amazon.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

As you can see from my current reading list above, I can have anything from 1 to 4 books on the go at once.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Afternoons, or evenings. If I have nothing else to do (cue hysterical laughter here) I love an autumn afternoon or evening on the sofa, lost in a book, with a cosy blanket.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

I like stand alones. As my usual book sources are charity shops, finding the parts of a series is a rare event, so books that stand alone suit me better. Although, if I like a series, I'll buy the books new, to ensure I can read the whole lot.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

I love the Time Travelers Wife, but haven't read Audrey Niffenneger's new book, so I don't know if I can recommend the author. I'd recommend the book (I'm ignoring the misspelling of the title!), and tell anyone who's seen the film to forget that pile of pants and read the book! I also have a weakness for David Eddings fantasy books - brings back my teenage years :)

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

Organise? Books? Nah, that's for work! My books go on the shelves according to...erm...no rules. See? It's all higgledy piggledy - books I've bought, gift books, read books, unread books, toys, photographs, scrapbooks, craft stuff...my bookshelves are a glorious mess :) And to be honest, there's not even all that much room for books!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why do I do this?

By "this", I mean the whole librarian thaaaaang.

Woodsiegirl recently blogged on why she became a librarian, and after conversations in the comments section, I thought I'd join in with my own blog post on the topic.

As I said on Woodsiegirl's blog, I am one of those odd people who always wanted to be a librarian. My Mum and careers adviser both said it was a daft idea as 1) there'd be no jobs as computers would be doing everything by then (careers advisor) and 2) there's no money in it (Mums advice, herself a lifelong librarian). I actually was surrounded by librarians: Mum worked in libraries her whole career from the local branch library (when I say local, I mean local: 100 yards from my parents house) to the secondary school I went to (although years before I went there). My Aunt worked alongside my Mum for a while before emigrating, and has worked various shifts as cover in the local library since coming back home. So, I kinda grew up in libraries: I would go to the library after primary school and wait for Mum to finish work, while reading my way through the junior section, and into the adult. Cheaper than a baby sitter, and more educational! To me, libraries have always been friendly, fun places, where people come in not to just look for books, but to socialise and find out what's going on in the community.

But...I'd been told by two reliable sources that chosing to be a librarian was silly. So I went with science, because it's what I was best at. I ended up studying an Environmental Biology degree (a combination of Biology and Environmental Scince / Geography / Geology) and looking at my future with gloom. I can follow instructions to do an experiment, but not devise it myself. I'm too easily distracted to do the rigourous thinking and planning that's needed in science, so really, I was looking at a future of working as a lab technician. Not a bad job, but not particularly well paid either...so why not go for a not-well-paid-job that I wanted to do...be a librarian! A year and a half into my course, I was busily trying to figure out how to escape...and found that to get onto a Masters in Information and Library Science at Strathclyde University, I only needed a General degree, not an Honours. Woo-hoo: a year of my life saved!

Cue me volunteering in a local secondary school to get experience. My time there was great, and being able to help point the kids in the right direction to find good sources for their projects and work made me think that I'd like to work in a school, or a public library when I got a job. After being accepted onto the course, it was a long slog of travelling over from Edinburgh to Glasgow for classes, and making flying visit to the Uni library to get articles on...libraries before running back to Edinburgh. A lot of my coursemates were re-training or changing careers, so were really focussed, soit wasn't a very 'fun' or sociable group. Meanwhile, I'd just continued in the student vein...and I'm not a good student. I can do a lot better than I do, but I leave things to the last minute and throw stuff together! So, the Masters option was never going to work out for me...I got my Postgraduate Diploma and scampered back to Edinburgh to begin the job hunt. The first position that came up was a part time job at a legal library within the court complex on the Royal Mile. I knew absolutely nothing about law, but through that job, and the others that followed (and the knowledgable people I worked with who pretty much gave me an apprenticeship in law librarianing), I've learned a LOT about it! Luckily, I love law, and having a job that encompasses so much learning and development. I have a friend who refers to me (despite my threats of serious personal pain if he keeps it up) as The Oracle, because he knows that if I don't know the answer to something already, I'll make it my mission to find it out. Or it'll really, really annoy me for aaaaaaaaages :)

So, in the end Mum was right, and the careers advisor was wrong (but the dot matrix career guidance printout I still have was right - it said librarian too) - there is no real money in librarianship, but there's a satisfying career if, like me, you like answering questions and solving problems. Cos that's what being a librarian is, really, regardless of what tools, techie or otherwise, you have at your disposal. And the computers still haven't taken over the world!

And no, I don't fit the "everything's organised and sorted" stereotype either. My bookshelves and CD shelves are tidy, but not catalogued or in any order (other than books of a series go together). It's pot luck finding things in my flat! I do read fast, which means I never buy books new, and once they're read, they go back to the charity shop to be resold, so only unread books, or books I really like stay on my bookshelves.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seamonster time!

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters arrived on Thursday, so I shall be launching into that at some point soon. Have read the first few pages, and am already enjoying it: the final message of a man mauled by a tiger shark, written on a beach with a bit of driftwood while his face is held in place...that's my sorta Regency romance! :)

Oh, and Quirk Books (the publisher) posted a comment on an earlier post, and say they're announcing the third in this series of mashups at the end of the month...will be keen to see what they have in store next!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Mr Darcy, you disappoint me!

Well, I finished "Mr Darcy, Vampyre" a few days ago, and I have to say, my initial impressions of it didn't improve much.

*Spoilers below*

I'm no writer myself, or book critic, but I really didn't think much of this. It seemed a bit of an awkward attempt to shoehorn in phrases that would have suited at the time when Pride and Prejudice was written, but don't quite sit properly in with the rest of the writing.

There are a LOT of sections where everything's rushed through with very basic description, eg. they unexpectedly have to cross the Alps, by mule, after an escape from a mob, wearing only what they had on. This would take a fair chunk of time, and be difficult, but what you get is a page and a half of "we went past glaciers...in a valley..up steep slopes, oh, it's really pretty' etc, with no information on timescale or how they made it over.

When they get to the other side there's a bit about Elizabeth looking so wild and dirty that if Darcy hadn't been known there they'd have been driven away from the Inn as vagrants. So she didn't wash? Were they months crossing these mountains? Weeks? Days? It's frustrating that this bit (which in itself should have been a massive adventure)

is skipped merrily over.

Time is totally odd...they start their wedding tour, and seem to spend months either travelling to locations, or living there, but it's an eternal summer...even in Italy in November things are flowering and the weather is lovely. I have no idea what timescale this book is supposed to cover: 6 months, 9 months a year? More? We get 'time passed in a swirl of soirees' etc sort of statements, but never anything more detailed.

I was also driven nuts by all the brooding expressions, flickers of 'darkness' and tortured moments Darcy seemed to go through. Look - your book says he's a vampire / vampyre in the title...we KNOW what he is, only Elizabeth doesn't, and I'm pretty sure that by the time Darcy's 150 years old he's well able to control his facial expressions.

Elizabeth acts strangely - she randomly decides on complete strangers to 'confide' in, at points where the author must have decided that she needed to have Elizabeth 'reassured', so she won't blow the plot too early, before she can be taken through some more nice stereotypes - the isolated, scary castle, the attack of the baying mob...

There is of course a looming menace in the form of the Old One, who is apparently the oldest vampire, and nobody knows where he came from or anything more about him. As expected, Darcy must fight him to save Elizabeth...and guess what? He doesn't win, but the Old One is injured, enough that they can escape. And what gave Darcy the strength to battle this hugely powerful fiend? Oh yes: love. *yawn*. And that's the last we hear of the Old One - the threat that's been following them around Europe, trying to steal Elizabeth, is bested in a small fight in the forest and they escaped easily. Oh. That was it then?

And ageing. Darcy and his sister (and, it would appear, most of the world) are vampires. Darcy was 14 when turned, his sister much younger. Yet they're both now either adult or thereabouts. Did they just decide to age to a certain point that they liked the feel of, then stop. But they state that part of the vampire curse is that they don't age, so they couldn't do that.

And the finale? Oh. Dear. God. We've entered cliché-ville: a ruined monastery / hidden Roman temple at an unknown location, marked by a distinctive tree and view (of course unknown to the aged and fragile teller of this tale (on his own a whole special cliché), but it just so happens Darcy fell into it while playing there as a child...dear God, did Darcy live everywhere in the world as a child?!? And was this as a vampire child, or a human child? Cos as a human child he lived in London, not Italy...oh, I give in), the chance to lift the curse Darcy's under, an ancient cave, a fight with unseen monsters (which Darcy and another do, off screen as it were, and arrive back dishevelled but won't speak about it..so WHY even put that in!!), petrified forests, unearthly glows, earthquakes, separation from the faithful guide / helper, a split second choice to be made, and in the end, of course, love triumphing over all.

Yadda yadda.

A new recession indicator in law firms?

Missing books.
You know the Library bought them.
You know they were on the shelf.
Now they're missing.
And they ain't been signed out on the system.
But someone out there has them.

So...first, you do a shelf check in the areas surrounding where it should be. People have a tendancy to see a gap in the approximate area where the book they borrowed came from, and just shove it back in there. Apparently, an alphabetical system of spine letters, and shelf edge guides stating the topic books in that area cover is too taxing on the brain. Obviously employment law books are just as at home nestled in with planning law as they would be with their other employment law book friends.

Then...you do the desk check of the likely culprits, all of whom deny ever having seen any book at all, let alone that specific one, or god forbid, that they actually used it. Sometimes they'll even deny knowledge of its existence, and demand that it be passed to them when it's found, as I've let them down by not reading their mind that they wanted it, and personally placing it in their hands the moment it arrived. It would appear that my mission in life is merely to falsely accuse innocent people of using books, and hide the books that come in from them so they can never use them. I am a bad librarian.

Then...you do the office-wide email, putting the author and title in the email headline so peeps can skim and delete the email without opening if it's not relevant to them, to save them time. Now you sit back and wait for the flood out out-of-office emails to calm down before you can get on with anything.

Then...you get the "hilarious" email responses. Top replies include: I'm using it as a doorstop; I'm using it as a pillow; I took it home cos it's my favourite; I took it home cos I have insomnia and it'll help me sleep; I sold it on eBay; My dog ate it.
All of these are new and fresh, every time.

Then...you trawl around the local area via email, seeing if any nearby, friendly librarians would let you borrow their copy for a short time. This involves making winsome faces and partial begging. The things we do for our users...

Then...you go to an institutional, membership library, and borrow their copy...if they have it in. You may have to go and collect it personally, or it may be posted out to you. Either way, it's not going to be with the requester instantly.

As you can imagine, all of this eats up time. So...while I'm happy that things are picking up, judging by the volume of books constantly being asked for...I WISH THEY'D SIGN THEM OUT!

;)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Darcy's here...and he's a vampyre

I received my copy of Mr Darcy, Vampyre on Wednesday, so made a start on it last night. So far, I'm not overly impressed: the writer seems to rush through things, hardly any description of what's going on, more "he said, she said, they did", but I don't know if that's just because they're trying to hurry to get to the vampire bit, or if this is how it's going to be throughout. And there's all sorts of tortured expressions being displayed for fleeting moments, and brooding. I hate brooding, I do.

Also, there's a LOT of familiarity assumed with Pride and Prejudice - it starts pretty soon after Pride and Prejudice finishes, so you're assumed to know all the characters and names that are thrown in. I'm glad I had read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not too long ago, so who most people were came back to me, and those characters are left behind by the end of the first chapter, but I did slow me down a fair bit: racking my memory to work out who people were!

Only 36 or so pages in though, and now they're en route to Paris, so we'll see if it improves.

Hmmm: should I join my public library now?

So I can borrow an energy meter!
I've said before that I'm not a member of my local public library, because as a working adult with good computer skills and a computer / internet access at home, no need to read specific books for pleasure (I buy what catches my eye from charity shops, then give them back to resell when I've read them) or research (I'm not studying anything at the moment) , I don't see what they can really offer me just now.
And I don't know whether, for their statistics, it's better to have an adult registered that doesn't use them, or not be registered and therefore not appear on their radar at all....anyone know?

Anyhoo, regardless of the lack of my lovely presence (!), Edinburgh City Libraries are definitely doing well - catching the headlines, in a time when their budget is also under the same pressure as everyone elses finances! And of course, they have a presence on pretty much anywhere online you can think of looking: Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo...if you're there, they are too, under their "Tales of One City" brand and blog. I don't know how they find the time!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Remembering we have a different legal system

The lovely Scots Law News blog has pointed out a few teensy issues on the website of the new UK Supreme Court.

I particularly like the thought of judges being tried in their very own court...wonder if there's specific crimes for judges? Other than the usual crossdressing (only a fashion crime) and frequenting "saunas" (sometimes a crime, depending on the activity indulged in...).

Any suggestions for judge-specific crimes?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Edinburgh International Book Festival - Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer



So, on Monday afternoon, it was time for the now-annual Scottish Law Librarians Group jaunt to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Every year, the Committee try and decide on an event that's as relevant to the members as possible (law related, Scottish issues, publishers with a Scottish interest), and at as convenient a time as possible...and that we can get enough tickets for. As you can imagine, that's not always an easy trick, but I think we did well this year, and even managed to get a day when the mud was minimal, despite the signs warning us about it!

The event chosen was Michael Mansfield. The info's gone from the site now, but it was:

Michael Mansfield Mon 31/08/2009
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
From Ruth Ellis to Jean Charles de Menezes, Bloody Sunday to the
Marchioness disaster, Michael Mansfield has taken on many of the most
difficult cases of our times. The Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer recalls a
career defending the innocent (and sometimes the guilty), infuriating
the establishment and championing human rights, with wit, passion and
honesty.

He's hit the headlines lately with his claims in his book that Princess Diana's death was not an accident, but on Monday he was more concerned, as were the audience, with the implications of the recent release of Abedelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, or the Lockerbie Bomber. Michael Mansfield was in attendance at much of the original trial, and indeed, his book begins there, and he read to us a small sample to illustrate, so he has a wealth of knowledge about the case.

In advance of the release of the related documents on Tuesday, and the Parliamentary debate / motion today, he made various points about unanswered questions which he hoped would be raised in the debate:
Why was Megrahis appeal not expedited when it became clear that his condition was terminal, as it would have been in England. He waited 2 years for his appeal to go through, and in the end it was dropped. Who or what stopped the case being reviewed as a priority?
What was the evidence the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission on which based the referral of his case to appeal?
Why was he not returned to Libya on the Prisoner Transfer Agreement?

He also read from trial transcripts of the Maltese shopkeeper identification of Megrahi as the man who had made purchases in his shop. The shopkeeper seemed very unsure of himself, as is understandable. His initial identification of Megrahi was made 9 months after the alleged purchases, and the trial was 10 years after that event. As Mr Mansfield said, this is an incredbile timescale to be able to identify a man you served for 5 minutes. There was also confusion over when he saw photos of Megrahi, and the fact he identifed another individual, and changed his description of the suspect from interview to interview.

Mr Mansfield explained the concerns about where exactly the bomb had got onto the plane, and how it had got through security, wherever it had got on.

He believes no issues will be cleared up until there's a proper, judicial enquiry, something which he feels the current Brown/Blair government will try to block.

Woven amongst these discussions (and often linking to his belief the Megrahi was failed by the system) were other interesting snippets. He spoke of the Oscar Slater case, a Scottish miscarriage of justice which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was heavily involved in righting, and which helped lead to the founding of the Scottish Appeal Court in the 1920s(apparently the English one had been founded earlier in response to a similar miscarriage of justice there in the 1900s - I've not got time to fact check either of these statements).

He was heavily involved in the Stephen Lawrence case, representing the family in the private prosecution, and wearing a ribbon during his appearance at the event. He again raised the issue of being able to identify properly a suspect, not only in Stephen Lawrence's case, but also Megrahis. In both cases, idenitfication was based on one witness identification, and in Lawrences case, this was not enough.

Mr Mansfield then took questions from the audience.

The first asked about the Bloody Sunday enquiry, sitting for 10 years and not yet reporting, and whether this was why the Government tries to discourage public enquiries. His response was that that was a massive, historical enquiry involving thousands of witnesses, all of whom needed to be treated as being as important as each other. It was set up to fix what was seen as the whitewashing response of the first enquiry, so must be totally wide ranging. It's now almost ready to report, and has acted almost like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and other countries, to allow those hurt to face those who inficted the hurt, and let their voice be heard.

Another (slightly odd - there's always one) questioner pointed out the discrepancy in the height between Megrahi and the description given by his Maltese shopkeeper identifier. Mr Mansfield said that the height difference was understandable, few people are experts on height estimation, but his other descriptions were more seriously flawed.

Finally, he was asked about who's in charge of security, and where does "the buck stop" when it goes wrong. Mr Mansfield agreed there were serious questons needing answered about who knows what, and when. He gave the example of the London bombings, when initially all the security services denied knowing anything about the lead bomber...and it's since leaked out that at least some agencies did know about him...so why did't they tell the others? And if it was true that they didn't know anything...then what was the point of having these agencies at all?

So, despite the attempts of various police and ambulance sirens to drown him out at least three times (one of the joys of being in a marquee), Michael Mansfield treated us to an interesting discussion on the ins and outs of the legal process, and the innocent victims it can sometimes create.

And Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, supervised it all from above...I think his horse was a bit tired by this point...it's been a long Festival.

Customer service - a dying art?

Or really, any sort of service at all, since offering a 'free' issue of a newsletter for assessment doesn't really make me a customer, since I've not bought a product yet....

Ah, the joys of LexisNexis! They must be getting desperate for business indeed, if their new tactics are anything to go by.

I was called up a few weeks ago by a woman. I don't know who, she never gave her name. She asked me if I would like a free sample issue of their relaunched "Tolley's Employment Law Newsletter". As thats an area we cover, I said yes, but also that it was hugely unlikely we'd take out a subscription of any sort. She said that was fine, but went on to make a HUGE point of the fact that, I HAD to reply to the email she would be sending me within 30 days. I had no idea what the email content would be, it would be made clear in the email, but I HAD to reply to it. I said no problem, and calendared it in as I was talking to her. She had me spell out my email address, letter by letter, so there was no confusion over it.
Then she said that I "might" get an invoice, but it was ok, I could ignore it, as long as I replied to the email to confirm whatever this mystical email wanted me to confirm, I assume my refusal of a subscription, since she was now mentioning invoices.
She said was going to email me right that second, and remember, it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that I reply to that email.

Needless to say, the email didn't arrive...but days later, the Newsletter did. Now, without this email I can't cancel this non-subscription that I don't have...yet also, they have no evidence of any sort of request from me to receive this sample issue...I wonder how this is all going to work out?

I contacted the customer service email on the website as soon as the issue arrived on the 24th August (which reminded me the email from Phonecall Woman had never arrived), and told them I had received a sample copy, had no intention of taking out a subscription, had been left with no contact details for the woman who called and no email to reply to to confirm I didn't want a subscription, they could regard this as my statement that I did not want a subscription to the Newsletter, and forward this to the appropriate department to deal with.

I got no reply or acknowledgement from customer service, no contact of any sort. Now, the date I put in the calendar for reply (at the very latest) to that non-existent email is the 17th September...lets see what happens, shall we? Invoicing for a non-requested, non-existent subscription?

Fun and games with publishers. *sigh*

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