Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Death of a Library

The title should actually read The Death of Two Libraries, but the actual title is more dramatic. For the last two years I have been at the University of Michigan in the Schools of Social Work (SSW) and Public Health (SPH) and this week the library at each school is closing. SPH library closure is quite sudden and is because the school received stimulus funds for lab space. I am not too torn up about it because that library was kind of a hole anyway; although it was a quiet, if gloomy place to study.

I've known about the SSW library closure since the end of summer and as I work at the circulation desk, all semester I have been answering the question, why is the library closing? My answers have varied from the real reasons like: to reduce duplication of services, economic downturn, accese to online resources, the new head of libraries is an economist, blah, blah blah to other more Jessica-like responses like, we hate books. Regardless of the reasons I am particularly saddened by the SSW library closure.

It is such a nice space (please see pictures below). It is one of the most naturally lighted libraries I have ever been in and that is saying something considering it is located in the basement. There is just something special about having a space where one can quietly sit and be physically surrounded by millions of words. While one can perhaps browse for something on the internet more easily than a library, I love to browse actual library shelves. One of the first things I do when I enter someone's house or apartment is browse their bookshelves. Books can tell you so much about a person while also leaving you wanting to know more about them. Why do they have this book? How many times have they read it? Do they have a favorite.

Didn't the ability to write down our thoughts and keep physical records set humans apart from other species and is a criterion for civilization? Now when someone enters what will then be the space of the former SSW library they will see some computers and perhaps a student lounge. What they won't see are decades of work of social pioneers and theorists that have worked to improve the world as they saw it. They may see little that helps them understand social work.

I am sad about these libraries for all the reasons I have mentioned, but especially because the SSW library has been my like a second home. It was the first and will be the last place I worked in Michigan. So when I walk out the doors today for the last time I am not just leaving a job, I am a leaving a home and a family.
Look at the public art and great lighting!

Moving stuff.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nights like this

This is a picture I took from my window last night of the first real snow I've seen this season. Night's like this make me so happy/thankful/comforted that I can curl up in my warm bed and dream of snow blanketed landscapes instead of actually being out on one.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Before anyone breezes through this post thinking it is some feminist rant let me assure you it is not. Although I probably could go off on one of those for a few paragraphs. However, I did feel objectified today and in the most unlikely of places, a salon. Usually when you go to a salon the person cutting your hair chats it up with you a bit, not today.

I went to get a hair cut because it seems when one has short hair that is all one does with dispensable income, or in my case non-existent dispensable income. Nevertheless, vanity won out and I went to the salon to get, I am ashamed to say, my 5th haircut of the year. I use to be an every 6 months or so girl and the change to every other month is disheartening.

Back to feeling objectified. I went the the Above Ground Salon, perhaps named for it's singular distinguishing characteristic of being above ground? I actually like my hair cut on one hand I was struck by the stylists perfect melding of hair science and art. She really knew what she was doing. But the hour and a half process, the number of people watching and running their fingers through my hair and the fact that my stylist stated that she could "conquer my hair" left me feeling a little subhuman.

At one time there were four people standing around watching my hair... not me, my hair. When I made a joke about it they either looked at me like I was an alien or ignored me. Most of the time my hair was in front of my eyes so there was no connection between them and me. I felt a little like a model, not the kind that gets lots of attention and gets to tell people they make bad clothes, but the kind who has to sit in art class in their underwear or in the nude so people can sketch.

Here's a bad self-take of the end result. It is probably the only day it will look as shiny and straight as she did it. The hair cut wasn't enough so I had to jazz it up by wearing this hoodie:)

Public Bathrooms

This post involves some bathroom humor, literally. I just went to the bathroom to tinkle and the only other person in the restroom was a girl pacing back and forth talking on her cell phone. This bothers me for many reasons:

1- I think it is disgusting to talk on a device that you hold to your mouth in a room used by the public to urinate and defecate. I won't go into leaving toothbrushes in the bathroom but in your own house you have some control.

2-I think it's an invasion of privacy, my privacy. If I wanted someone in a remote location to be privy to my bodily processes I would have peed in the street.

3-Finally, I think it is awkward. What do you say as you come out of the stall? "Tell your mom Hi for me!"

Am I wrong to assume some level of privacy even in a public bathroom?

All right, I am done with that rant.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Al v. George

I find myself playing two roles of late and I bet you can never guess what roles they are if I didn't tell you. Those of Al Gore and George W. Bush. I was just reading The Partly Cloudy Patriot which would lead one to conclude that I have been playing the role of Al Gore more frequently. However, the past few days I have felt more like the intellectual iconoclast, George Bush, who disdains erudition in general. To boot I have been dreadfully over-using the word pretentious. I blame that on my room mate Katherine because it is so easy to use it to make jokes about her and all English PhD students- love you Katherine:).

The inspiration for this post and my dual roles has been trying to find a balance between being knowledgeable in my field and taking myself too seriously. The climax of this occurred last Sunday at ward choir practice. I have sung in a few choirs and performed in duets and such in my life, none that would be considered "serious" by music types but nice ditties that helped a 10th-grade-orchestra drop out still feel like she has some ambition. I have also been a participant in the Hill Street Choir for the last two years, but have not attended since returning this summer. In all my second class music ventures I have never flailed my arm so as to project my voice nor buzzed through my lips to warm up in the way we did last Sunday. As a result I couldn't stop laughing. I think my voice warmed up more from my ill suppressed laughter as it did from the warm-ups.

You may be wondering at this point how did we get from Al Gore and George W. Bush to a recounting of Jessica's B-side musical adventures. The point is I hope I never get so caught up in what I am doing that I can't appreciate the humor of arm flailing and lip buzzing in my own profession no matter how seriously I take myself. As to the Al and George, ever since Al had a cameo on 30-rock I think I will lean his way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Sunday I had what I can only describe as a bout of vertigo. It was very uncomfortable and even a little frightening. However now I feel like I can better relate to two stars that don't have vertigo but play like they do on TV or in the movies, Jimmy Stewart and Liza Minelli. I hope this condition doesn't turn chronic and debilitating like so many of my other chronic conditions that are not recognized by the medical world.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I heard an interview on NPR this week with author Zadie Smith. The interviewer asked about a few essays Zadie wrote about her deceased father. She seemed torn about writing about her father saying it is a betrayal, "once you write about someone that's died, what remains is what is written." She goes on to say it is a dangerous act as words replace memories just as photographs replace real things.

I understood that to mean once you put down into words your thoughts about someone those words influence forever your memories and thoughts of that person and events. I have been thinking about this concept lately, as my little brother has asked for stories about our mom, who died when he was 6.

I talked to him a few days ago about how we might go about recording the stories. I have mixed feelings. On one hand I'm excited to learn more about her, on the other part of me is afraid. I know it is important for historical reasons and probably for proper mourning etc. Hearing other's stories may also crystalize what "really" happened in certain cases. Nonetheless, I have very specific memories that I am afraid giving voice to may change forever.

Sometimes I think I treasure the "crafted" memories I construct in my head more than reality. I hope reality in this case doesn't bite. Here are some very cute, cool , classic pics of the lady herself:

Mom's the one in the red dress.
Mom with Mike and Kirsten
One on the far right.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween Hair

Last week it was that time of year again, you know the time of year when kids dress up in cute costumes and adults dress up in inappropriate ones. I think they call is Halloween. I am admittedly not a huge fan of Halloween. It does have some nostalgic value but since I hate scary movies and am without small people to dress up in cute clothes I have to live it vicariously through friends and family who do have small people to dress up. Thanks to all of you who posted pictures of your terribly cute children.

Nonetheless despite my general apathy for the holiday I am not a total scrooge. When my roommate Kara requested to do my hair up in rag curlers, I was game. I think the idea intrigued me more for familial reasons than a desire to dress up. You see there are two kinds of hair in my family- stick straight and outrageously curly. Actually maybe three kinds because Mike doesn't have much hair at all but that's because he shaves it. However, two of my older siblings, Matt and Kirsten have very curly hair which at times I have envied, that is until I remember how long it takes my sister to straighten hers, then I am content with my own straight hair.

Thanks to Kara I was able to live, if just for a day, the life of a curly haired person. I noticed people weren't as nice to me, I was served smaller portions of food and lots of stuff got caught in my hair:) Overall I'm not sure it's worth it. The process to get it curly was painful enough for tender headed person like me. All the teasing was a little much for a head that is lucky if a brush even touches it once a day. On the bright side in the three hours it took to put in the rags I finished watching season two of Arrested Development. Below are pictures of the process, end result and family members who pull off the curly hair much better than I do.

And a special thanks to Kara for the experience and may I also add she has fabulous curly hair.

Brother Matt with baby Evan
Curly haired Kirsten with Rowan

The rag curls. It was a bit of a restless night with these in.

Final product

Kara and me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Today was stake conference, meaning church ended at noon, leaving the rest of a beautiful fall afternoon open for adventure. My adventure took the form of a jaunt through the Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor with my roommate Katherine. I love cemeteries. Generally, they are peaceful, well-kempt places. I never understood trying to frame cemeteries as spooky, eery places. I think this is disrespectful of the dead.

When I lived in Cheyenne there was a cemetery down the road where I liked to jog and take walks. I love to walk around and read head stones. Where else can you carve words like Love and Wild into stones and no one thinks twice. I also found someone named Chlorene and the grave of John Lennon's wife, although i wasn't aware Yoko Ono was deceased. The little lambs on top of children's graves break my heart but are a darling tribute. Below are some of my favorite shots.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flee to the Cleve

Last weekend I went to taste of the gloriousness that is Cleveland. Friends, Stephanie and Kate were brave enough to accompany me. Saturday was filled with delicious food and amazing music. We started the day off at the Western Market where I ate the most amazing crepe ever and bought what I think will be the most amazing sausages ever. I can only guess since I haven't cooked them up yet. Then it was off to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We walked around the main exhibit for more then 3 hours before realizing we still had about 4 more stories to check out. I am afraid the exhibit for "The Boss" and Les Paul did not get due attention. We continued the rock and roll theme with a late lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Sunday was church history day at Kirtland. It was a bit chilly but really beautiful. The pictures demonstrate better than my feeble words. I should confess we watched the 30 Rock Cleveland clip no fewer than 3 times while in Cleveland:)

Yummy crepe being made!

Sausage I can't wait to eat.

Enviro Art?

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Kirtland Ashery. I was amazed to learn that 65 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received in Kirtland

A great picture of Stephanie that she probably doesn't want posted:)

The three of us in the 'School of the Prophets'

Really cool books

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Friday night I attended the concert of what was probably one of the most entertaining, talented groups I've ever seen. The Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCD) are an old time string band from Durham, NC. My friend Katie, also from NC, raved about them and I was not disappointed. There are clearly very talented, each of them playing various instruments. But, I think what really appealed to me is that they play instruments I can relate to; there was a lot of violin and banjo throughout the sets.

They inspired me so much that the next day I removed my violin from the case while there were other people in the house that would be exposed to my scratchy discord. I wanted to try the bow hold I saw the female violinist use. You can see in the video below that she doesn't hold it at the frog like a traditional classical violinist; perhaps that is unique to fiddling? I gave it a whirl and am still unsure about the advantages but I played a rather slow song so I will have to try it on some songs with greater tempo to gauge the advantages.

The point of the story is that the CCD have inspired me not only to practice my banjo (which I do pretty often) but also to try my hand at fiddling. The downside to this all... well, you'll have to ask my roommates about that. Maybe I'll buy them ear plugs:)

I love this video mainly because of the bones player!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Life on Hold

I have been slogging lately with exception of the awesome 80s party update. I felt like I have been holding my breath for the last month, not committing myself to anything. Last week though I was able to exhale again when I learned that I got the fellowship position that I had interviewed for in mid-August! I am excited for the opportunity and the move to 'Hotlanta' as my brother puts it. Now I can post some of the activities over the last month.

Dinner at the Flying Biscuit. Delish!

Fried Green Tomatoes in Atlanta. Yum Yum!

Donkey at the Saline Fair

Demolition derby at the Saline fair. I felt like I had a concussion and lower back pain just watching these cars crash into each other. This was to say the least a cultural experience.

Itzhak Perlman Concert. Sorry I didn't get a picture of Itzhak just the funky stage decor.

Little Joy, a band I love, opened for Regina Spektor

Regina! She's amazing

Detroit Tour

Snuck into a free screening of "Whip It." Sorry about the bleary picture of the film's director and producer Drew Barrymore

Update finished- Life no longer on hold!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Drunken Frivolity

Drunken frivolity is not a term that can actually describe me because I don't drink, but I have an inkling of what it might feel like after an intoxicated evening of partying--minus the hangover-- to wonder what I did the evening before. My roommate Kara is famous for throwing themed parties and this year the theme was the '80s, the 1980s to be exact, a party that would have had a much different theme had it been in the 1880s or any other centuries '80s. As I told one roommate who was weary of dressing up "This is the one time of year that we humor Kara." While I secretly love to dress up, publicly I reluctantly rummage through my clothes to find something suitable (or borrow something) and apply make-up that will inevitably make me look like a woman of the night.

Friday night I went through this whole process for Kara's '80s party, but this time had a duty beyond merely showing up in costume, I was also in charge of the play-list. As a result I have been rocking out to 80's music all week long trying to put together what I thought would be a decent play-list. The end result was a list that, if not everybody found representative of the '80s, at least inspired dancing. That is where my drunken frivolity claim comes in. I am not by nature a dancer. After practically being thrown out of tap class because I couldn't touch my toes I decided that I would be an intellectual instead; unfortunately that didn't really worked out either. Instead I find myself getting carried away, busting dance moves that incorporate little natural rhythm and are more likely to be found in an epileptic diagnostic book than at a dance party. The music overcomes me, and to put it as one friend said as she was leaving the party, and I lose all 'inhibition'. In the moment I have a really good time but the next day I find myself wondering exactly what I did and if I should regret it? Oh well:)

So here is the photographic evidence from the night.

Roommate picture

Jody and yours truly, I love the piano tie. Very '80s

Mini-skirt crew

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Golf Lessons

I was talking with some friend about golfing, reminiscing about the summer of my fourteenth year (or was it fifteenth) when I took golf lessons. I was not consistently good but I could hit a few drives in a mostly straight line. This conversation inspired me to try my hand at the game again. I wasn't ready for an actual course yet so I asked some golf-minded friends to go to the driving range with me. It was slow-going at first but I finally got off some great drives.

I learned most of what I do know about golf from my brothers, so I had Martha take a video so they can critique my swing and give me instruction (or anyone else with an informed opinion).

Here we are in all our golfing glory

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No Impact Canoeing

Right before I started this blog post about my canoe trip last week with some friends I read an article about the eco-movement and "No Impact Man". As such I thought I would explore how I might have made a seeming low-impact activity in to a no-impact activity. First of all, none of us should be wearing life jackets, those are made of lots of high impact materials. Also we shouldn't be in a canoe the materials of which were stripped from mothers earths' bosom. Instead, we should have floated down the river on logs that had naturally died or fallen from the original tree. Our paddles should have been smaller limbs fallen from a tree whittled into paddle shapes. Finally, we should have broken down the two dams that allowed us to take a leisurely float down the river because who knows how many fishes' yearly migrations were foiled and Herons that went hungry because of man-kinds impulses to tame the elements.
Alas, I did enjoy the canoe trip and kind of agree with the "Save Argo Pond" people who don't want the Argo dam to be removed; but purely for selfish reasons, as I jog around that pond multiple times a week.
Just for fun, here's a Colbert interview with No Impact man.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colin Beavan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Monday, August 24, 2009


I am a little obsessed with Pitchfork's videos right now and had to post this one. Back in March I saw Andrew Bird perform at Borders in Ann Arbor and then went to his concert. I tried to record a little bit of video to show his amazing talent but this video captures it all about 10 times better than my shoddy videos. Plus, he is playing one of my favorite songs. 
One day I will be his back-up whistler. His velvet whistles can't last forever, although I hope they do. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dan Deacon Video

Until I load pictures from my southern food extranvaganza I hope you enjoy this video:

Monday, August 17, 2009

5-K Glory

Enough of my not-so-scary-to-other-people-but-really-scary-to-me posts and back to self aggrandizing. I returned to AA at the beginning of August and the first weekend back ran a 5-K.  I enjoy running and at certain points in my life have even been termed "a runner" but I hurt my knee in the UK in May and the road to recovery was slow and arduous. I could barely run a mile without my knee starting to hurt and having to stop jogging and drag myself home like a person with a wooden leg (not that's there's anything wrong with wooden legs). Lucky for me in mid-July the higher powers of knee injuries smiled upon me and I had a break-through run exceeding 2 miles with no pain.  Since then I have had few problems with my knee (knock on wood). 
In celebration I signed up for the 5-K with some friends as motivation to keep jogging. The morning of the race was cold and wet. This was unusual for me as I am use to running in humid 80+ degree weather in Rockville. While the cooler weather may have helped me run faster-I heard cooler weather increases speed, from a if not reliable at least very confident source- I think it's safe to say the soaking wet shoes and puddle hopping counter-acted any gains from cooler temperature. Regardless, I must have had made some gains because I placed 3rd in my age group. This was a lovely surprise as I seldom win things. Here are some pictures offering evidence of my glorious day:)

All nice and dry before the race.

Hanging out by the finish line

My 3rd place medal. Please notice how it is exactly the same as the 1st place medal which Amy secured.

The whole gang after the race