One of Those Perfect Meals

It's not exactly a summertime meal, but oh, it was so good! This weekend, we enjoyed lamb shanks with a heavenly sauce, pureed white beans and roasted carrots. At this very moment, we're lolling on the couch, patting our happy tummies. Wal-Mart, not exactly my favorite place, does offer up some incredibly meaty, reasonably priced shanks.
The recipe can be found here - we made the following (good) changes:
  • Browned lamb shanks first, then removed and sauteed veggies in same oil (don't waste the tasty brown bits!)
  • Made a day ahead and chilled sauce, in order to skim maximum fat (left a couple Tbsp for flavor)
  • Instead of discarding veggies, pureed and added to sauce (absolutely crucial for a to-die for sauce)
  • Added extra veggies (garlic, celery, carrots, etc.). More is always better!



ALA Anaheim

What a great ALA conference! Mom came along and hung out at the pool, and we managed to sneak in a bit of fun in between conference sessions (a couple of nice meals, and a bus tour of the California beach scene).

I focused on attending sessions related to business librarianship, but came away with many great ideas for the library as a whole, including:
  • Story arcs for more engaging bibliographic instruction sessions
  • Web 2.0 for libraries, including social bookmarking, libguide subject pages, and blogging.
  • A resource page devoted to demographics
  • New, low-cost, user-friendly GIS options for libraries
We'll see how many ideas JCKL can implement!


Conquering the (Bottom of) the Matterhorn

Joe and I just returned from a wonderful hiking trip in the Valaisian Alps of Switzerland. We partied with Euro 2008 soccer fans, chowed down on bratwurst in Zurich with knock-your-head-back mustard, and wore out our socks with 8 days of fabulous trekking. The high point was our last day of hiking, a challenging day that took us to a high vantage point overlooking the mighty Matterhorn.

Swiss hiking is so civilized! Mountain inns and snack bars ("buvettes") can be found in the highest, most remote locations, rendering backpacks pointless. We hope to hike in Switzerland again someday, but are aiming for South America next. Patagonia for Christmas, 2009!

PS - everything they say about Swiss trains is true.

PPS - for photos of our trip, click here.



Madame Bovary - A Second Reading

Madame Bovary kept me company on our Swiss hiking trip. I'd met her long ago, somewhere during my childhood rampage through the classics. I recall enjoying the novel greatly, if being a bit perplexed by an unhappy ending that carried no moral message, a la George Eliot (I'm thinking Mill on the Floss).

This second reading of Bovary, as an adult, was a treat. I've discovered Flaubert as a meticulous wordsmith. Obsessed by the perennial gap between words and the concepts they represent, he struggled to find the perfect words for every line, sometimes working for weeks on perfecting just a few passages. The results of his tortuous efforts are delicious line after line, perfect for reading aloud. Flaubert once noted in a letter when writing Bovary, it wouldn't have "a single flabby sentence". And it doesn't.

I have devised two new Flaubert-related goals:
  • Read Flaubert's Sentimental Education, considered by some to be his best work, while simultaneously reading Paulson's critical analysis of the novel.
  • Read Bovary again, this time in French. Not sure if I can pull this one off, and if I can, it would certainly take a long while. But even though I read the recommended translation (Lowell Blair), Flaubert's meticulousness with language means that it is a novel best read in the original language.
Worth the effort, I think.


24 Hours in Philly

Arrived yesterday in Philadelphia, for the ALA (American Libraries Association) Midwinter Conference. 24 hours later, I've managed to:
  • Visit Independence Hall (for the third time in my life, I believe - not counting early 2002 when it was barricaded with concrete bunkers and closed to the public)
  • Visit the observation deck at the top of Town Hall (up close to the 37-foot statue of William Penn that adorns the top)
  • Ate my first Philly cheese steak sandwich in Reading Terminal Market
There are an astonishing number of homeless and/or street beggars in Philly, at least downtown. Reminds me greatly of 1980's pre-Giuliani New York. One never knows, though, whether absence of a homeless population reflects a city's prosperity, or the fact that they've cleared them away through legislation and general harrassment by safety officers.


Bird Math

One more post about The World Without Us. Weisman devotes a full chapter to how man is impacting bird populations. The numbers are so astonishingly bad that one begins to wonder how any birds have made it to 2008:
  • Nearly 500 million birds die each year colliding with radio towers (2,500 per tower x 175,000 towers) - they're drawn toward the red lights in bad weather
  • 60-80 million birds in US lose it to windshields and radiator grilles.
  • 1 billion birds in US break their necks against plate glass windows (including mine)
  • 219 million birds in just Wisconsin are caught by the common house cat (U.S. number likely in the billions)
  • 120 million game birds per year are taken in the U.S. by hunting
  • Power lines: who knows? Some get zapped, but many more collide with them.
  • ...and he doesn't even mention wind farms or airplanes or habitat loss.
Weisman says there are about 20 billion total birds in North America. If I add up the above numbers, we're talking about 1.6 billion kills each year, about 8% of the total bird population. Can that be possible? Especially when he notes that of the more than 10,000 modern-day bird species, "only" 130 have disappeared, less than 1 percent. How is that possible?

Author Envy

Just finished The World Without US last night. Depressing at times, but ultimately uplifting. The last emotion I felt was jealousy, as I read the author's acknowledgments. I realized that he had traveled to all the places he wrote about in the book.

And then I cracked open my next read, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War / Graham Robb, to learn in his intro that he rode his bicycle for 14,000 miles around France in order to learn about her. Again - that twinge of envy!

Where does one sign up for these globetrotting jobs?