Rantoramadingdong’s Weblog

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Hooray!  I managed to stumble through all eight great adventures! 

Googling is one of my favorite pastimes, actually.  When random curiosity strikes, I always know where to go – or at least where to start.  I think I have already used most of the functions on Google at one time or another, like to figure out what time it is where one of my pals lives… California, Hawaii, Germany, Dubai… or the latitude and longitude of where they are, compared to lat and long of Wilmette (and there are even sites that will calculate the ditance in nautical miles or statute miles between the points).  I use it to find local sunrise and sunset times during my month of fasting in the spring.  I’ve used it not only to map out a place I need to find, but also the satellite photos of the environs so I’ll recognize the place when I get there.  Today, just for grins, I searched for an found a lovely satellite shot of my apartment complex obviously taken during warm weather!  I usually use the back entrance and tend to forget what a nice courtyard we have here!  Also, just for grins, I went to the photo section and googled my own name… what popped up was a website crediting my music direction for a production of Miss Saigon in 2006, and several photos of stage action (I’m not in any of those shots).  How fun is that!

The MOST fun thing that has come out of these adventures for me, though, has been my tracking down a couple of relatives, cousins of my mother and now long deceased, who were sort of  “family legends”.  One was her cousin Mark Shull, who was reputed to have been a Big Band leader in New York in the 30s or so.  The other cousin, Mark’s sister, Bula Ray Shull, was supposedly an opera singer who married a French Count somewhere along the line.  By using the Library Resources in Adventure #4, Heritage Quest, to be specific, I was able to find these names on census documents and figure out their ages, birthdates, when they were living at home and when they were out on their own, and in Bula Ray’s case, the accurate spelling of her name.    

Mark Shull had a stage name:  Michael Tree (I had actually gotten from my mother many years ago).  When I googled the stage name, I found a number of Michael Trees, but not my cousin.  Finally, somehow, apparently in the google shopping mode, I found a vintage sheet music store which had a copy of a song called “I Saw Stars”, published in 1934.  On the cover, it says “Featured by Michael Tree” with a picture of my cousin!   Well, of course I ordered the thing… I think I’ll frame it.  I managed to scan it – here it is!




Our delightful Karen Miller did some legwork – make that finger-work – on Ancestry Library Edition and helped me find more info on my cousin Bula Ray.  She found a passport application, border crossing documentation, even a passport mug-shot.  Cousin Bula Ray was, indeed, an opera singer, and performed internationally.  Once I had the correct spelling (I had been trying a more common spelling, Beulah Rae) I found her name via google on a site published by a young lady in Barcelona who is trying to find info on one of her relatives, one Vicent Ballester.  I contacted her and she said Bula Ray and Vicent were both part of the San Carlo Opera Company during 1919-1920 and toured the US, Canada, and Mexico, and will send me copies of any news articles she finds on them!   I’m still trying to hunt down the French Count, but this little adventure has been SUCH fun for me!  I’m excited to know that our family legends are actually true.  And now I know which side of the family I get my musical ability from!

Many thanks to our librarians who thought up the whole Great 8 adventure idea and held our hands through each step.  It was great fun!


Adventure #7

I actually completed this adventure a month ago, but forgot to blog it.  I left a review of the movie “Idiocracy” in the movie folder.  As for wikis – I LOLed at the little snippet of song left by our intrepid instructor… too cute!  – I can see how this format is really useful and a great way to get lots of people communicating in one spot.  However, I found PBwiki confusing to use.  I found it difficult to follow their instructions, which somehow didn’t seem to match up with what I was seeing on the screen.  It may be more of an eye-brain connection in me than a problem with PBwiki.  I asked a friend of mine about her experience with wikis, and her response was that she didn’t see a huge difference between the way a wiki was set up and the way a blog is set up, and she prefers the blog format.  Hmmm…  obviously I need to work more with wikis.  I use Wikipedia a lot, as a jumping off point for research;  I’ve never tried to add anything to it.

So anyway, seven adventures down and one more to go!

Oh what fun it is to ask on the online Ask Away

Ok, I’m done with adventure #6.  Being a determined illiterate, I probably missed something in the explanation/instruction segment… Anyway, I dutifully signed in to Ask Away, and asked my question.  I got a librarian in Peoria.  PEORIA?  I was sitting maybe 50 feet away from some very able librarians and just sort of thought I would be connected to one of them.  Silly me!  I got connected to PEORIA!  So, this lovely Peorian librarian dutifully answered my question by directing me to a website.  Now, if I have the brights to figure out how to use a computer, get to my home library’s website and sign onto an IM, what are the chances I’m bright enough to Google what I’m looking for and find a relevant website on my own?  I refined the question to try to get the title of a BOOK or MAGAZINE out of this librarian, and when nothing was forthcoming but ANOTHER website, I thanked her (him?  the person gave me an androgynous name) for her time and told her she was part of a training program I was doing at my library. 

While this was going on, another window popped open, which I dutifully signed into, and this time got a librarian….in KANSAS… who, in response to the same question, dutifully directed me to, guess what, ANOTHER WEBSITE.  Again, I refined the question, told her I’d rather find it in book form, and she asked if I’d like for HER to search MY library catalogue.  I said no, thank you, I can do that, and I can seach the worldcat if there’s something I want that our library doesn’t have.  (There’s a point here to my complaint – this out of state librarian is not about to send me something from her library without a formal request from ours, and she most certainly isn’t going to request something from a third library to send out of state to me!)  I thanked her for her time and told her she was part of a training program I was doing at my library.  Then I walked across the hall and talked to one of our very own librarians 🙂  Lots mo’ bettah!

Garbage in, garbage out:  Apparently one has to be VERY specific, from the get-go, with the questions one asks.  With all our other online services, online catalogue, Google, and the good, old-fashioned telephone ad walk-in services, this Ask Away thing seemed sort of pointless to me.  Responses were slow, though perhaps faster than email.  Personally, I would much rather have IM’d with one of our OWN librarians. There’s a comfort factor to conversing with a familiar name or face, plus, our own librarians will know what we have or can get ahold of for our patrons.  What are we paying for this Ask Away link?  Might it be possible, ro feasible, to set up a link via Yahoo Messenger, Live Chat, Skype, or something similar which will enable Wilmette patrons to IM directly with Wilmette librarians?  These IM programs can all be downloaded for free, after all.  Those of you in a position to make a decision about this… just something for you to think about.

Though Ask Away IM was not the most gratifying experience in my life, I have been using Instant Messenger services before with great success.  I have been using Yahoo Messenger for maybe a year and a half, and recently started using Skype as well.  These can IM, call PC to PC anywhere in the world and let you talk and see, real time, if you have a microphone and webcam (and your hair done and warpaint on).  They can also call PC to phone, PC to cell, send text messages, and a zillion other things I haven’t figured out yet. 

IMing is a wonderful thing.  Ask Away…. um…. not impressed so far.  Sorry 😦

POD Adventure

Adventure #5 WAS an adventure!  My first foray into podcasts produced nothing, mainly because of Vista’s predilection for randomly locking up and/or shutting itself down (if you have the opportunity to upgrade to Vista, pass it up).  But as the old saw goes, I tried, tried again, and listened to the delightful Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.  I also went to the NPR site and listened to The Grammar Grater’s explanation of “Lame Duck”.  The script itself was a little lame, but maybe that was one of the points its was making.  Anyway, it was a fun adventure, and now I understand that PODcasts have nothing to do with either iPODs or whales, but an easy way to catch up on a missed program.  My daughter will be horrified to learn that I’m finally entering the 21st century.  I’m SO pleased!  ;D

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Last Sunday, Nov. 16, I took off for Lansing, Michigan to visit a dear friend of mine, and to attend a talk and book signing by author Barbara Oakley.  I read her book, Evil Genes, and loved it.  I’ve never written a fan letter in my life (that I remember) but I wrote to Dr. Oakley and lo and behold, she wrote back!  We emailed several times and she was kind enough to ask me to join her for dinner and a chat if I could make it to one of her events – so I went to Lansing.  (You can find info on this book by searching her name in NoveList, and you can find articles reviewing the book on InfoTrac.) 

Dr. Oakley is a thoroughly lovely person, a real adventurer, and a new friend.  We found out that we have many things in common, including military service.  At one point she served as a translator aboard Russian fishing trawlers in the Bering sea, and chronicled her adventures in a book entitled Hair of the Dog (which I haven’t yet read).  During our conversations we discovered that she was aboard these trawlers at about the same time I was flying missions out of Alaska, refueling reconnaissance (spy) aircraft.  Our Intelligence folks (yes, I KNOW “military intelligence” is an oxymoron) used to let us know when the Russian trawlers were close to our flight path and always cautioned us to be extra vigilant in our radio chatter at those times.  Fun coincidence, huh? 

Dr. Oakley gives an entertaining and enlightening presentation – it would be a fun idea to have her present at our library…. (Betty, are you reading this?)

So anyway, I tried to come home Thursday (Nov.20) and ran into that lake effect snowstorm.  Somewhere between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo the flurries started, and just a little past Kalamazoo, ran into a white-out.  I got off the I-94 at the first exit I could see, which happened to be Paw Paw (fun name, huh?) and spent two nights waiting for the white mess to wear itself out and quit.  I had taken my laptop with me, so I worked on (guess what?) some of the Great 8 Adventures in between obsessing over the weather channel’s online doppler radar loop, NOAA online satellite photos, the local TV weather forecaster’s video clips, and begging Louise for forgiveness for not getting back to work by Friday.  I finally got home today (Nov. 22).  HOORAAAAYYYY!  My cat has been reading me the riot act all afternoon for going off and leaving her for so long!

And that’s how I spent my winter vacation!  ;D

Best of Both Worlds

Many of you know I’m a classically trained musician and an opera lover – I sing with the Da Corneto Opera chorus when my schedule permits and go to Lyric performances when I can afford it.  I’m also a closet rock’n’roller.  (Well, I guess I’m out of that closet now, huh?)  Anyway, I stumbled on this video while looking for something for one of my voice students and just SCREAMED when I saw it!  Screamed with laughter, that is… it’s one of the most hysterical versions of this famous aria I’ve ever heard.  You may think it’s the scariest version you’ve ever heard if you’re a purist.  Either way, enoy!

FallColorsOct2006 058a

FallColorsOct2006 058a

Originally uploaded by rap6650

Unless you have seen fall colors from up in the air, you have missed one of the great wonders of creation. During my flying days, I thoroughly detested what was called “transition” training, aka “crash and dash”, where pilots practice touch and go landings FOR HOURS. As the navigator, there was not much for me to do except watch the altimeter go up and down and make sure the pilots didn’t do something idiotic and kill me. One thing that made this brain-damagingly dull activity bearable was watching the fall colors below. Unbelievable. Like a huge quilt covering the earth.