Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Miss Information spends some time with her family

Miss Information has taken a couple of days off. So today, instead of bonding with the weirdo library patrons who clearly don't have lives and almost certainly don't have jobs that will allow them to support her in her old age, she had some quality time with her adorable, doll-like 4 (and a half) year old niece.

They did the usual stuff. All was going according to plan. Then over a Happy Meal, the sweet little moppet suddenly looked up--her face shiny and angelic and said, "Those 6 year olds think they're so great now, but wait'll they get a load of me!"

Oh, ok. Miss Information can't vouch for the 6 year old population but she herself is terrified.

Miss Information's sister carefully monitors the entertainment of her offspring so most likely the child has never seen any Jack Nicholson movies. In fact there was almost bloodshed when Miss Information allowed the little one to watch 5 minutes of The Simpsons. Yes. It probably was a bad influence.

Did the McDonald's counter person swap the Happy Meal for a Megalomania Meal? Has the child been secretly watching the Saddam Hussein trial for tips on creating your own dictatorship?

At any rate, Miss Information is working overtime to figure out exactly what kind of Christmas present the little maniac wants. Anything to keep the future leader of the world happy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's all Greek to Miss Information

A patron in his early 20s came to the Reference Desk. He wanted materials to learn to speak German and Dutch. Miss Information took him to the shelves. Miracle of miracles, the library actually had some material for both languages. The customer looked at Miss Information.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked the customer.

“Uhmm, er, they’re different languages,” said Miss Information. “They’re similar, though.”

“Well, which language do they speak? I mean like right now,” he asked.

“Who?” asked Miss Information, now completely baffled by the conversation. (It is Friday.)

“You know, the people in Germany?”

Oh, right. Them. Miss Information suggested he direct his efforts towards learning German and sent him on his way, wishing him luck.

Miss Information is annoyed by the bank

...or is it the grocery store? Naw, definitely the bank.

Once upon a time, Miss Information used to go into the bank, wait in a line, be served by an actual human being who would give her money, process her payments and tell her to "have a nice day". A few years ago she began to notice that some of the thousands of branches of her bank were either closing or reducing their hours. Still she resisted the ATM option. She enjoyed the bank; it smells like money, after all and sometimes there were cookies.

She remembers the exact moment it all changed. She took her cheque (this was when they still paid her by cheque) on her lunch-hour (this was when a lunch hour actually lasted, you know, an hour) to a bank branch near the library. She waited in a stupidly long line for one of the two tellers to serve her. Finally it was her turn. She told the teller what she wanted--some cash, a VISA payment and to deposit the rest of the money into the Junior Millionaire savings account she got when she was eight.

Now, suddenly Miss Information found herself surrounded by tellers. The teller serving her insisted that she give the bank machine a try. The other teller at the counter actually abandoned her customer (ignoring the now even longer line up) and began to share stories of the convenience and many wonders of getting money from a little machine. Other bank staff members, who had been non-existent up to this point, magically appeared to urge Miss Information to join the modern world and stop coming into the bank and bothering them. One of them offered to give her a pen as incentive to try the ATM.

(Miss Information must point out that although she is prone to exaggeration at times, the above story is absolutely accurate. It was astonishing.)

At the time, Miss Information thought she was actually helping these people hold on to their jobs, by allowing them to do the hard bank stuff, but apparently they had better things to do and she started using the machines.

She got into a nice habit of visiting the branch in person exactly once a year--the last day she could make a deposit into her retirement fund and still get a tax credit. Then one year, Bank Guy took pity on her. He told her that if she made tiny little deposits over the course of a year the total amount would be the same, however Miss Information would be about a billion dollars richer at retirement time than she would be making one bulk deposit. She doesn't understand it--some kind of wizard related magic she assumes. Still, she wants that billion--think of the shoes that would buy. In addition, Bank Guy promised her that he would automatically take those funds out of her account so she would never have to think about it.

As a result, Miss Information never goes to the bank anymore. She never even uses the bank machine at the bank. Her bank had a lovely, convenient ATM in the local grocery store. At this machine, Miss Information could take care of almost all her banking--mostly withdrawals and bill paying, what else is there? On those rare occasions when she had to pay a parking ticket or deposit a cheque she had to go to a machine that was attached to an actual bank, but it wasn't that inconvenient.

It was a good system. It worked. Miss Information bought food, did her bank stuff. Very handy.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she went to do the buying-food-getting-money thing and noticed that the ATM had been replaced by a new machine, which, although identical to the old one, was now some generic one that was going to charge her a gigantic service fee and would no longer let her pay her VISA bill. Well, fine. Miss Information decided not to use the new machine. Her Scottish ancestors' thrifty DNA courses through her veins and will not allow her to pay service fees. So, basically, Miss Information has been wandering around with no cash at all for most of the past month. Suddenly she realizes all the bank branches have closed, except for the stupidly designed ones where you have to park miles away and walk up to the building. Plus it hasn't helped that everytime she planned to go to the bank God decided to send a torrent of rain, snow or icy wind. On top of that, it is the big charity fundraising time at work, and everytime Miss Information pokes her head into the staff room, somebody asks for money--raffles, bingo tickets, whatever.

And then there's her usual expenses--you know, expensive coffee, yoga classes--and she's been reduced to scrounging around for small change under the couch cushions. She found herself counting out nickels and dimes for her Wednesday night yoga class--the parks and rec people now think she's homeless or a street musician or something.

She's really tempted to find an ATM that won't charge a service fee, withdraw all her money and put it in her sock drawer where at least she'll be able to get it when she needs it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Miss Information attempts to fill a literary void

Miss Information is once again frustrated by a patron's stubborn refusal to accept reality. Yes, she does understand that you would like to know everything about the element GE32. She even believes you when you tell her that it's a "very important isotope". This, however, does not mean that people should devote entire books to the subject. Think of the poor trees.

But what the hell, Miss Information isn't busy. She'll give it a shot.

The Old Isotope and the Sea

It was a dark and stormy night. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was 1886 and German chemist Clemens Winkler made a startling discovery.

"Eureka!" he exclaimed. "I have discovered a new element. Its physical and chemical properties closely resemble those of silicon!"

The element was a dark grey solid with a metallic sheen. It blinked sleepily.

"Call me Ishmael," said the element. "No, wait, that's stupid, call me Germanium."

"Um, ok," said Clemens. "You shall be positioned on the periodic table halfway between the metals and nonmetals!"

"Wow, cool," said Germanium. "I just want to say one word to you--plastics."

"In fact, you belong to the class of compounds known as metalloids," replied Clemens.

"I am a relatively poor conductor of electricity," cried Germanium. "The horror! The horror!"

"Oh, settle down," said Clemens. "You are what is known as a semi-conductor. We can increase your ability to conduct electricity by adding certain impurities such as arsenic, gallium or antimony. It is a technique known as doping."

"This is going to get me in trouble with Major League Baseball," wept Germanium.

"Stop that! There's no crying in chemistry!" said Clemens. "Just tell them you didn't inhale!"

"But I love the smell of gallium in the morning! Woe is me!" replied Germanium

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate," said Clemens.

"You talkin' to me?" asked Germanium.

"Yes, listen closely. You see doped germanium can be used to make transistors. The solid state industry will owe their success to you."

"Show me the money!" shouted Germanium.

"An element's got to know its limitations," said Clemens gently.

"I'm king of the world!" said Germanium

"Germanium, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

The End