Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: A Fish Story

Our task for this week was another simple one: eat fish twice a week. Well, it was supposed to be easy, but, of course, the task did not take into account the evil machinations of Emily and Pam. Upon hearing the assignment, their first thought was to go on all-you-can-eat-fried-fish spree at Cap’n D’s.  Yes, these are the crafty minds I work with. Still, they both like fish and eat it on a regular basis.

Here is Emily’s report: I haven’t had seafood this week. However, I normally eat fish once or twice a week and I do have some fish ready to cook tonight.  

Emily’s Debbie Downer Side note: I was reading about fisheries/fishing last night and it made me feel guilty about eating fish at all. 

Jolly Librarian’s Note: For those of you who also want to feel guilty about eating fish, here’s a link.

Pam’s report: I had shrimp at Shoney’s last night and today several bites of my pumpkin seeds tasted fishy.

Jolly Librarian: I am opposed to eating anything that has eyes staring at me as I take a bite. Still, I have listened to the innumerable nutrition books and blogs that state that fish is good for me. So I’ve added tuna sandwiches to my weekly lunch rotation.

Well, if these stories don’t make you want to eat some fish, nothing will 🙂

Our grades for the week:

Emily Bush– B (No fish this week, but is usually a fish eater.)

Pam– D – (Fried shrimp doesn’t quite count!)

Jolly Librarian– A (Who would think eating canned tuna would put me at the top of the class?)

Research for the Shortened Semester: Let’s Find Some Sources!

If you have your thesis, you are now ready to find sources to defend it. So off we go to the library (either in person or virtually).

Now, in my own process, it’s at this point that I sit down and write a rough draft of my paper without sources, just to get down on paper what I think about the topic. It may work for you as well.

More than likely, your sources will be one of the following:

Books (either print or ebooks)

Articles (from magazines or journals in print or electronic form)


Your instructor may have told you what sources are acceptable, so always follow the rules of the assignment. NSCC Information Literacy LibGuide can also help you judge your sources.

One of the reasons why you want to establish your thesis first is to provide you with a guide when looking for sources. Let’s say that your topic is treatments for depression in the elderly. You can now narrow your search accordingly. In most cases, you want your source material to back up your arguments, not to provide background information.

So your search terms would look something like this: depression AND elderly AND treatment.

And if your search doesn’t come up with useful items, then visit us in the library. We’re always ready and willing to help.



Monday Motivator: The Zipped Lip is Often the Better Part of Valor

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.– Mark Twain

About two years ago, I decided to give up celebrity gossip. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Unfortunately, I’m now so old that I don’t even know who half these folks are. I actually had to ask a young colleague what a Kardashian was. Furthermore, I needed more free time to continue my battle with Ticketmaster. (Yes, I’m still not over my bad seats at the Snow Patrol concert!)

But last Friday, I was removing the Italian lessons from my iPod and adding the French ones when Nightline came on. The first segment was about the woman who had an affair with John Edwards. At some point, she acknowledged that she had put some unflattering things about Elizabeth Edwards in her about-to-be-published book and defended herself by saying that no one was all good and all bad in their story.

And she may be right. Still, if anyone deserves a free pass from posthumous analysis, I’ve got to think Elizabeth Edwards has to be a top candidate. After all, a son died in a car accident. She fought breast cancer. While suffering from the disease, her husband not only had an affair and a child, but denied it publicly and made himself the poster boy for deluded, selfish politicians. She died, leaving two children who are now without a mom and whom she’ll never see turn into adults. Even if she had kicked a kitten in the street, Elizabeth Edwards deserved a better final year and a peaceful death. Her children certainly deserve better.

The desire to defend ourselves is strong, perhaps never so strong as when we suspect (or know) that we’ve done wrong. And one of the easiest ways to defend ourselves is by making the victim look as if he/she deserved some of the pain. It is a nasty strategy, always beneath us.

I hate to say that I’ve not always been above this sort of strategy, and some of the things I’ve said and done still haunt me.  Take my word for it. In matters like this, even if you have to go to Target and buy Superglue to glue your lips together, don’t speak ill of others to make yourself look better. It never works.


The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Give Us Strength

Last week, the Jolly Librarian was on vacation, and her self-improvement colleagues also took the week off. So we’ll pretend last week never happened and start again. Our assignment was to start 20-30 minutes of strength training two-three times a week.

Every book, website, and trainer that promotes health will recommend strength training, and there are many good reasons why. This article from the Mayo Clinic sums up the advantages quite nicely.

But none of our team looked upon this assignment with much favor. I love to walk and run, but put weights in my hand, and I am completely bored.  A twenty-minute period seems like twenty hours. Ugh. However, I have started doing triceps dips at the end of my YMCA workout.

Here are the other reports:

When I asked Emily for her report, her response was, “I don’t have the strength for it.”

Pam’s take was unique, as usual: “If one considers hoisting my entire body weight (let’s just say it is more than 140 lbs and less than 144 lbs) up on one lumpy leg as weight-bearing, then I am quite the athlete! Away we go, week by week (in between consuming an entire bag of Vanilla wafers in 2 days) thinning down to become sculpted and svelte. It hasn’t happened yet, grant it, but that is surely the outcome of this hoisting, right??”

And to show that she was still enthusiastic about the process, she started doing exercises at the circulation desk.


Our grades for this week:

Pam:   C (a bit late with the work, but she did it)

Emily:  F

Jolly Librarian: B (I don’t get out the weights, but I’m pretty consistent with my push-ups (girl ones) and dips.)

Research for the Shortened Semester: It’s Time for the Thesis

In a perfect world, you would have time to investigate a multitude of topics until you found just the right one, a topic that held your interest, allowed you to say something new on the subject, and provided you with just enough resources to cover the material well.

But summer semester is not a perfect world. I hope you will find your topic interesting, relevant, and with enough source material. However, you will not have time to try several out. Time is short, and the process is long. So let’s get a thesis.

Now you may have your topic, but still not have a thesis. A topic is a subject, such as birth control for dogs or happiness. A thesis is the position you take on that subject. Therefore, it must be a sentence. It must be a statement, not a question. And it must be arguable. (That is, someone could take the opposite position on the topic from you.)


There are birth control options for dogs. (Not a thesis. All you have to do is see if there are any, and the paper is over.)

All dog food should contain ingredients that sterilize dogs. (Now, that is presents an argument.)

Self-help books often focus on achieving happiness. (Not a thesis statement.)

Self-help books that focus on happiness usually do more harm than good. (This is an argument.)

And you can focus your thesis even more. (Self-help books that focus on happiness usually do more harm than good by depicting a state that most people can’t achieve, by having people read about unhappiness instead of doing anything about it, and by assuming that being happy is something that can be manipulated.)

Once you have your thesis, working on your sources is much easier!


Monday Motivator: Roam!

Having spent the last week in Rome, I returned home with one question to myself: “Why don’t I travel more?” I had a wonderful time, exploring old churches, eating a lot of (but nowhere near enough) gelato, and meeting new people.  So why had it taken me more than a decade to get on a plane and go across the ocean?

I think there are two main reasons. One is fear. The other is a belief that there will be a more propitious time in the future when I’ll have more time and money.

Unfortunately, the past year has reminded us at my college that none of us gets  a guaranteed future. Losing two colleagues way too early has made me take a much more serious look at my own bucket list. And I’ve started turning those wishes to visit certain places into actual plans.

Still, the thought of traveling alone can be daunting for those of us without a partner or good friends with a yearn to wander. But those fears should not keep any of us from making trips. Even though I made my latest trip with a group, I ended up encountering several of my own fears about traveling:

How will I get about if I don’t know the language? I was supposed to meet my friends at the Rome airport. I was there; they were there. But somehow, we couldn’t find each other. After a hour of searching, I took a taxi. I spoke about ten words of Italian; he seemed to speak no English. Still, I showed him the address and away we went.

What if I get sick? I have to admit that I’m often afraid I’ll become ill away from home. What will I do? How will I cope? I know I sound like a Victorian penny-novel heroine, but that’s exactly the voice that loops in my head. And this time, I did get sick. I threw up on the street across from the Vatican Museum. And the world didn’t end. I was given some water, and slowly, I started to feel better. Now it turns out that I had taken some medicine on an empty stomach, medicine that should NEVER be taken on an empty stomach, and I improved once that medicine was out of my system. But what if I’d been really sick, I asked myself. Then I realized something. I would not be the first person in Italy to get sick. I would not even be the first tourist in Italy to get sick. It might not be how I wanted to spend my vacation, but if it happened, it could be dealt with.

What if I get lost? I indeed did get lost, both in Rome and Florence. Although I had managed to find my way to the Galleria Borghese, I took a wrong turn coming home and found myself in a totally unfamiliar neighborhood. But here’s the thing: It was a sunny afternoon. People were everywhere. And I knew that if I didn’t find the right street, there would be, soon enough,  a taxi, bus, or metro station that would get me back to my hotel.

What about eating alone? After taking the Metro home on the day I got lost, I arrived back at the hotel after everyone else had eaten. Since I had not eaten much lunch, I was hungry and knew a snack wouldn’t suffice. So I wandered out to one of the restaurants in the neighborhood. I took a seat outside and ordered. While I waited for my food, I noticed two things: One, nobody cared about me. People were so wrapped up in their own food, thoughts, or conversation that my being there (let alone being alone) didn’t even register. Two, I wasn’t the only person eating alone. So I relaxed and didn’t even pull out a book. I watched people walking by and leisurely ate a plate of pasta.

Travel is good for the soul and the mind. It expands our outlook and provides memories that even the nicest possessions can’t. And for every excuse you can come up with for not traveling, there is someone right now in that same condition who is on a trip.

Not every trip has to be extensive, but if it’s been too long since you’ve been out of town, make plans to do so. Laughter may be the best medicine, but traveling has to be a close second.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Good Friends, Toxic Friends, Any Friends?

Well, our report today just might confirm librarian stereotypes 😦 Our task was to cultivate our positive relationships and minimize our toxic ones.  Yes, this task was about people, yet two of our reports mentioned nary a human being.

Emily:  “The only relationships I cultivated this week were with my tomatoes and they’re not doing well, so that means I’m the toxin.”

Pam: “Good grief. Let me just say that I’ve been spending a lot of time with my cat, Ginny, who brought me a broken yet enriched heart to her last day on Monday. Other cleansing and healthy relationships have been nurturing my pepper plants, tomato plants, garlic, squash, green beans and pumpkins as they keep shooting up out of this dry dirt. As far as getting rid of toxic relationships, I have squished me many a potato bug – smearing it on the leaf as I go as a hopeful repellent to other such critters, as well as shooing off the raccoon who nightly comes to scavenge Timmy’s, my outside cat, food. Now there! ….that’s what this task meant, right?”

And the Jolly Librarian? In an effort to beef up our report, I went online and looked at questionnaire entitled “The Health of Your Relationships.” Based on the results, I have no relationships.

Grades for this week:  F’s all around.