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June 13, 2003: Books and other happy things

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Richard is taking a class this summer on books for children. Naturally this means he has to read lots of children's books, and write reviews and come up with educational activities, and so on. He can keep the reviews and activities, however, as long as he hands the children's' books over when he's done with them. Because sometimes there's nothing like grabbing a book you know you can read in less than a minute that also comes with really cute pictures.

We have learned one very important fact from this class so far. There are a lot of crappy children's books out there. The pictures might be nice, but the story goes nowhere or the plot makes no sense or the book cannot decide exactly what it wants to be. It's a little disconcerting to know this, considering just how many children's books there are out there. But then I suppose this is a good thing to learn if one is going to be a librarian (like Richard), or even if one is simply pondering buying books for ones nieces and nephews (like me). After all, why should children be left out of all the fun of trying to sort through the mounds of junk to find the random gem of good writing?

We've got a pretty decent collection of children's books already, between the two of us. Anyone else remember reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, or all the stories by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, like Egypt Game, and The Headless Cupid? In fact lately I've been trying to find some of my favorites from when I was younger. I finally own the entire Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, which was probably one of my favorite sets of books when I was a kid, and was also most likely one of the reasons I dove headfirst into science fiction and fantasy somewhere around the end of elementary school, and never really left.

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As time progresses my job is starting to divide into two separate categories. There is the computer side of things, which has evolved from just two puny databases into what will eventually be a fairly large and complex database that is keeping me busy wrestling with data relationships the more I learn about how they've stored their information in the past. And then there is the research side of things which involves actual research (of the journalistic variety), composing all the research into comprehensible documents and reviews, and collecting and analyzing data.

It's the last bit the data analysis that has been keeping me busy the past two days (after spending the rest of the week heads down in database code). All along my boss has made vague mumblings about how we need to get some better software for creating graphs and charts because Excel just doesn't cut it. So yesterday he started poking around and today we actually bought something.

Here's the cool thing about being the research department. Some days my job gets to consist of huddling in front of my computer with my boss, poking around a new piece of software and going "ooh! Wonder what this does? Ooh pretty!" for hours on end. Granted shortly after that it became me huddled in front of my computer poring through FAQ's and online manuals trying to figure out just how the heck to *make* some of those pretty little things we were looking at, but it was still rather fun. Of course I have a feeling I may live to occasionally regret these words, since now that we've got a much more powerful program to play with, the expectations for what we can produce will increase. But for now I'll just focus on the fact that I know how to make spider charts and box-and-whisker graphs and surface charts with or without ribbons in lots of pretty colors. Whee!

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The DVD arrived on Wednesday but because of my dad's birthday dinner, we didn't get a chance to open the package until Thursday. We had to wait 24 hours before we actually got to start watching season 4 of Buffy! I'm not exactly sure how we survived.

I have heard mixed reviews about this season mainly that while it has a few shining moments ("Hush" being one of them, since it is arguably one of the best episodes of Buffy ever produced, along with "The Body" and "Once More With Feeling"), that overall, it ranks fairly low on the list for best season ever. I'm not too concerned, however. Once we're done with this set we've only got one more season to catch up on before we finally have seen the entire storyline.

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