March 14, 2006

The rumors of my demise have been only slightly exaggerated

So, yeah, Shades has been quiet for a long time. A really long time, like 5 months. Almost half a year. I did contemplate abandoning this blog, maybe starting over again somewhere else where I can be more or less anonymous. But after lots of thought, I've decided to resurrect Shades and continue the project I started here -- whatever that project actually is. I'm still not sure, but I want to figure it out. So I'm back, I guess.

I will continue to write about the topics that interest me most: education, libraries, music, literature, film, and of course, lots of hopelessly trivial pop culture nonsense. There will of course be lots of navel-gazing; what else is a blog for, after all? I'm hoping to post an essay of some length at least once a week. I may post more often than that, but then again, I might not. We'll just have to see how it goes. I never had many readers, and I'm sure I have even fewer now, but just in case there's anyone out there: welcome back! Come on in and be my friend. It'll be fun, I promise.

Posted by at 8:53 PM

March 19, 2005

I'm still standing...

Just a note to say that I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. As you can surmise from my last post (lo these many weeks ago), I've been sick with a nasty virus, and I just haven't been up to blogging the last couple of weeks. I'm finally recovering and will be posting regularly again soon.

In the meantime, a question:

Do you like background music? Do you typically play music when you're engaged in other activities? Do you ever just sit down and listen to music without doing anything else?

More on this topic later...

Posted by at 9:22 AM

February 28, 2005

A new attitude

One of the reasons I started Shades of Mediocrity last July was to give myself a reason to write every day (or almost every day). I've fallen down badly on that score lately, but I need to conquer my laziness. I felt like I had an excuse during the long, draining, haul through December, January, and February, when I wrote and thought constantly at work (and usually worked far too many hours) -- not that anyone would actually want to read my work writing, unless they had to. Well, I can't let it go any more. I need to remind myself that I'm doing this not primarily to entertain my many readers, but to keep the cobwebs off the thought processes, and to keep the prose flowing through the fingers onto the screen.

So I'm determined now to write about something, no matter how trivial, banal, or navel-gazing, almost every day. I'd warn you all that the Shades are about to get a lot more mediocre, but I hardly think that's possible.

Today, because it's late, and because I've just anesthetized my brain with a couple of hours' immersion in Summerland, Michael Chabon's fantasy novel for children, I'm too scattered to write about anything other than my resolution to write more often. (I highly recommend Summerland, by the way, though I haven't finished it yet. But if you're over 16 and you haven't already done so, you should probably read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay first.) So watch this space -- or don't, it's your choice -- for more tomorrow. I mean that!

Posted by at 10:24 PM

January 15, 2005

I don't like spam...


Arrgh. Stupid comment spam. I just spent 20 minutes deleting an assortment. Yes, it's a nuisance, it's annoying, and it clutters up my blog. For all of those reasons, I hate it. But I have to wonder: is comment spam ever successful in selling anything? I just don't get it. For the record:

  • I am not interested in generic or cheap drugs of any kind. This includes Cialis, Propecia, and Viagra, since I am neither balding nor in need of, um, arousal assistance. While I can't speak for my handful of readers, I have to assume that if any of you wanted these fine pharmaceuticals, you would not seek to acquire them through comment spam on my blog or anyone else's.
  • I have no idea what or who PHENTERMINE is, and now that you've spammed my blog, I plan to avoid ever finding out.
  • I have any number of far more satisfying ways to waste my money than online gambling. (or should I put that in all caps?)
  • I have to admit to some curiosity regarding the offerings of ONLINE UNIVERSITY: certificates in direct spam marketing? Bachelor's degrees in pyramid schemes? Whatever they are, I'm sure they can't compete with the offerings of my fine institution, apparently ranked 33rd in the world according to someone's methodology.

So I say, knowing full well what a futile gesture it is, leave me alone, comment spammers!


Posted by at 6:03 PM

September 29, 2004

O Canada

I'm off to Montreal for the biennial OLAC conference, so there probably won't be any new Shades until next week.

Have a grand weekend without me...

Posted by at 10:55 PM

September 27, 2004

Since he's obviously trying to be all sneaky about it...

Many of you know Scott -- often entertaining, and sometimes just a little bit frightening. He has finally caved in to group pressure and started a blog. It's not really clear yet what Tismo will be, but I'll eat the dust bunnies underneath my desk if it turns out to be boring. Welcome to the blogosphere, Scott.

Posted by at 11:18 PM

August 23, 2004

Teaching an old blog new tricks

As you've surely noticed if you're one of my five or so regular readers, I'm experimenting a bit with the colors. I may also decide to experiment with the layout, so don't be alarmed -- and let me know if you like the new look, or if it makes you want to run away from your monitor gagging. Thanks!

Posted by at 1:40 PM

July 27, 2004

While I was out...

The City of Minneapolis passed a smoking ban for bars and restaurants. The ban will be effective next April, and completely bans smoking in all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and billiard halls.

This is very exciting news for me personally, as I often avoid going out to bars solely because I can't handle the smoke. The smoking ban will give me a new freedom to go where I want to, when I want to go there. I won't have to feel like I must leave after a single drink in order to spare my lungs further damage. I won't have to immediately chuck whatever clothing I wore out into the washing machine because it stinks of cigarette smoke. John and I won't have to avoid dining at The Chatterbox during prime time anymore because we can't stand choking smoke even though we love the tasty sandwiches and beer.

But I understand that neighborhood bar owners are deeply concerned about the impact this will have on their business. And that makes me wonder...has someone done a study that proves that people buy more drinks if they're allowed to smoke in bars? Or is it that smokers simply won't go out if they can't smoke while they're enjoying their adult beverage of choice? But there must be a multitude of other people like John and me, who would like to go out more but have avoided doing so because of smoke. Are we the only ones likely to spend more time in bars because they're smoke-free? I don't get it, but then, I've never so much as touched a cigarette to my lips. Your insights on this topic are welcome.

Posted by at 3:12 PM

July 6, 2004

Line art? Light rail both efficient and beautiful!

John and I rode the Hiawatha Line again today, and we had a very agreeable journey down to Fort Snelling. We walked to the 38th street station this time, which as it turns out is a pleasant 15 minutes away on foot. Granted, the walk will not be so pleasant in January (except for those of you who may enjoy the loss of sensation in various extremities, possibly resulting in the loss of actual extremities). But for three out of four seasons, the trek will be tolerable to lovely.

As we waited on the platform, we noticed some of the art at the station. Most clever are the miniature houses suspended from the station roof. According to this pdf (which includes pictures of each station), "the roof reflects nearby neighborhoods where bungalow homes are predominant. Sears catalog bungalows are cast in bronze and suspended from the roof to create a sense of discovery." That whole "sense of discovery" thing is a turn of phrase I would most certainly have found mockworthy before today, but damned if we didn't experience a sense of discovery when we noticed the little bungalows over our heads. This is some neat stuff.

So it was serendipity that I happened upon an article in today's Strib outlining some of the issues there have been with many of the public art installations commissioned for the Hiawatha Line. I'm sure these issues arise with almost any public art installation, but the variety of circumstances causing delay provides a neat summary of both the complexity and the ambitions of the whole Hiawatha Line project. We're trying to do something really cool here, people!

Still not convinced? Just wait until Janet Zweig's "Small Kindnesses, Weather Permitting" is finally installed: at 11 of the 12 stations, passenger-activated LCD screens "will feature audio and video shorts by Minnesota filmmakers, singers and storytellers." Rock on! This kind of thing reminds me why I'm still proud to live in Minnesota.

Posted by at 12:39 AM

July 1, 2004

When you hear the whistle blowin' eight to the bar, then you know the Metrodome is not very far

I tried the Hiawatha Line yesterday afternoon for the first time. I took the train from the 38th Street Station to the Metrodome, and then caught a 16 bus to the West Bank. John and Phil dropped me off at the station, where I waited about 5 minutes for a northbound train. The train seemed to be about half full, not bad for 1:30 on a weekday afternoon. The ride was smooth and fast. It took less than 10 minutes for the rail portion of the trip, which included an unscheduled stop at the yards to switch drivers. I stepped off the train at the Metrodome, walked over to the bus stop, waited for a minute or so, and a 16 pulled up. 3 minutes later, I was on the West Bank.

I have no idea whether the Hiawatha Line will succeed, but I know I will take it again, probably to evening events downtown (for example, seeing a movie at Block E). Of course, by the time John and I both pay our train fare, it won't be cheaper than Block E's validated parking, but I think it will be worth it to spare the hassle of driving downtown. I also look forward to taking the train to the Mall of America on those weekends when convenience or family obligation forces us to go there, as well as the airport, once the remainder of the line opens in December.

One disappointment: unlike the Disney World monorail, there is no disembodied voice kindly advising you to "please stand clear of the doors" in English and Spanish. Instead, there's a loud, shrilly dissonant electronic beep that sounds before the doors open and close. But it's a minor complaint. On the whole, riding the Hiawatha Line was pleasant and convenient. I just hope a lot of other people feel the same way.

Posted by at 8:29 AM

June 30, 2004

Welcome! Now let's lower those expectations!

I swore I'd never do this, but ... here I am, blogging. Well. When John was starting up Bitter Dregs, we had a pretty involved discussion about successful, interesting blogs and what made them that way. I maintained that the best blogs were about one thing -- and the more obsessed the blogger was with her topic, the more compelling her blog would be. I declared myself especially unsuited to successful blogging, because I'm such a dilettante: I'm a little bit interested in a whole lot of things, but I'm not really focused on anything in particular.

But when it comes right down to it, I'm far too weak to resist the lure of blogging. Or at least experimenting with a blog. Or something. So we'll try this for a while, and see how it goes. But first, a mini-manifesto (in list form) on what Shades of Mediocrity will and will not be.

  • Shades of Mediocrity will include my ramblings on whatever topics or ideas strike my fancy at any given time. Typical topics will probably include libraries, music, fiction, film, current events, and popular culture. On the tiny chance that something interesting happens in my life, I will probably write about that, as well. Posts might be very brief, or they might run to mini-essay length. It will depend on the topic and how ambitious I'm feeling.
  • Shades of Mediocrity will not include up-to-the-minute information on (or criticism of) new music, books, or films. The simple fact is, I'm usually well behind the curve in catching on to the next big thing. By the time I've discovered it, it's usually been examined from every possible angle in every possible venue, from the New York Times to your twelve-year-old cousin's blog. Nevertheless, there is a small chance that you will find my observations interesting. I suppose it's also possible that you'll be even further behind the curve than I am, in which case, you might discover something you didn't know about but will love. Hey, it could happen...
  • Shades of Mediocrity will not be side-splittingly funny. I'd like to be a funny person, but I'm just not. The occasional witty comment is about as much as I can manage.
  • Let's be honest. Shades of Mediocrity, like many (most?) blogs, is basically a vanity project. I'm writing this because I think someone out there might be vaguely interested in what I have to say. I expect that the interested parties will be my friends and family members. All of this is a complicated way of saying that this is a way for anyone who cares to keep up with me, what I'm doing, what I'm reading, and so on. Don't expect deep insights or revolutionary ideas. I don't have any.
  • I agree strongly with the notion that one of the advantages of the blog format is its ability to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas, filtered (of course) through the author's sensibility. So please, comment away. I really want to know what you think of my ideas (pedestrian though they are likely to be). Plus, it's nice just to know that somebody's reading the thing.
  • Finally, I make no guarantees about how frequently Shades will be updated. It might be daily, it might be weekly. Most likely, it will happen two or three times a week, but don't be surprised if I drop out of sight for a while. I will try to post a warning when I know that's going to happen.

So, after all of that, are any of you still with me? Well, if you are, welcome! I'll try to come up with my first non-meta blog post within the next day or so, so please come back. Heck, if you're feeling really wild and crazy, you could even bookmark this...

Posted by at 11:46 AM