2010/12/30

Intercalary Days



It's a time I look forward to, these days between Christmas and New Year's Day.  I have always labeled them the intercalary days, though where I got that I am not sure.  It's nothing to do with the Christian liturgical calendar.  Liturgically we are in the 12 days of Christmas, although the 12 days this year will be only 8 days, with the Feast of the Epiphany, (when the Wise Men showed up), disappointingly moved to Sunday the 2nd in the U.S., instead of the traditional date of January 6th.

Top Google results identify the term as a Baha'i concept, but I have some idea that I got it from the Egyptians or the Mayans.  Still, the Baha'is have pretty much the same idea that I do, though their intercalary days precede the Spring equinox, not New Year's Day.

The intercalary days of Ayyami-i-Ha “stand apart from the ordinary cycle of weeks and months and the human measure of time... Thus Ayyam-i-Ha can be thought of as days outside of time, days that symbolize eternity, infinity and the mystery and unknowable Essence of God Himself.” 
 We sense the stillness of the pole, around which the great world revolves, that does not itself move.  It's a time for silence, recollection, rest.  Dreamtime.

Libraries do a kind of "stand-down" during the Winter break, largely because the schools are closed.  University libraries typically suspend interlibrary loan during this time.  Public library bookmobiles are often off the road for a couple of weeks.  Program rooms are mostly unscheduled and empty.  Many librarians, of course, are mothers with children out of school or home from college, so libraries tend to have "skeleton crews" during the break.  As a recognition of this, these are dress-down days.  Many of us are in jeans and sneakers.

2010/12/24

In the Wake of the Flood

Off Monday and Tuesday, after working the weekend, then at work Wednesday and Thursday.  Picking up the pieces after the New Carpet Laying.  We spent Wednesday and Thursday getting our equipment reconnected and functioning.  Tonight MC and I reshelved special reference collections:  Small Business, Consumer, Investing, Florida, local directories.  We won't get everything back in place until the new year; many staff members are on holiday.

I've been thinking all week about what to bring to confession for Advent.  I've been a Christian for thirty years, and a Catholic for twenty-one, and I find myself at a loss just now to accuse myself of anything very damning.  But then I think, "What does the Pope confess?"   What do the legion of devoted and faithful churchwomen confess?  What did St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila confess?

I remember my first talks with Father George Kontos, the Rector of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, when I began to seek baptism.  He talked to me a lot about brokenness.  Sin is about being broken, about your life not working.  It is a lot more helpful to think about how I am broken than it is to work up a list of sins; about hidden wounds so painful that I don't want anyone to touch them.

2010/12/21

Reading Around East Anglia

Following my nose, as I so often do picking books to read, I've been taking a tour of East Anglia.  I started with Jim Kelly's Philip Dryden crime novels set around the Norfolk town of Ely.  Now, with Esther Freud's The Sea House, I am a stone's throw away, Google Maps-wise, in Suffolk.

The story is set in a fictional coastal village, "Steerborough", (probably in the Minsmere area), which is near the fictional once-great wool-trade town of "Eastknoll", (clearly Dunwich), on the Suffolk coast.

East Anglia oozes history.  Kelly and Freud both write about its Anglo-Saxon past and archaeological finds.  It appears to be the produce capital of the UK.

2010/12/18

Blogging Reference



10:12  A misty, sodden morning.  It was raining when I woke up.  Tender shrubs ruined by the freeze.  Lantana like dark wet paper on sticks.  Working with CD today.



Power outlet to security gate has gone dead.  Report and run extension cord to next hot outlet.

Dad & son want books on the pirate Henry Morgan.  Show them Empire of Blue Water : Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catas by Stephan Talty, and others.

The movers and carpet-layers have moved on to the fiction wing, from which I can hear the floor scraper whining.



Phone:  Is the library open?  Do the public computers have printers?

The ranges in non-fiction and reference look like they've been shaken by a tremor.  The books have fallen sideways, and there are gaps where the movers took shelves out to fit their machinery.  The catalog PC's sit inert, their cables piled in tangles.  I straightened the new books shelves before opening, will do more when our volunteer gets here at noon.



11:15  Been putting shelves back.  Now one of the moving guys has started doing it, so I'm taking a break.  It's pretty quiet.  Still, as tables and carrels are again available, their regular inhabitants are soon installed at them.

The Stamp Man wonders where the 2010 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps is.  He didn't see it on the shelf.  Find on shelving cart.

Man asks CD for help with his "Wahoo" mail.

12:05  Waiting for L. to show.  It's raining again.  Patrons are starting to roll in.

MC appears w samosas!  Says L. won't be here today.  No L.

 Going to lunch.  Leftover lamb vindaloo goes fine w M's samosas.  Reading The Sea House by Esther Freud, a book that has whispered to me in the stacks over the years.

12:45  Back
Today's paper.

CD gone to lunch.

Phone:  Mr. L. wants a string of addresses for hotel chains that takes me about 25 min., during which I put him on hold to: show a man Ann Rule crime books, show mom & daughter Kennedy assassination books, show another man how turn on his numpad, assign PC's to Sean and Bryan, return ID for newspaper, tell another man about JD's handmade books display.

1:24  PC's for Willie and Christy.

Phone: SB at branch wants MC.  I think she's left, but see her browsing new fiction.

Bespectacled woman w brown bob & pink blouse is helping Ethiopian law student here on break from Miami to find financial aid.  Show them school money books.  Seeing 2010 on one of them she says to me, "In Ethiopia it's 2003." I say that they must be using the Julian calendar.  Her eyes widen, the Ethiopian nods, she gives him an I-told-you-so look, says "He's a reference librarian!"

He wants his ID back, but doesn't have the newspaper to return.  Says he already brought it.  I don't see it w our papers.  He goes back to the reading area, returns with it, says "Sorry."

Big crew cut man in black cowboy shirt w red panels on breast wants book on house wiring, preferably something recent.  Give him Black & Decker's The Complete Guide to Wiring, (2008), from new non-fiction.  It's perfect, says he, he'll look there some more, didn't know we had new books.

Returns USA Today.

PC for Kaya.

Man from Facilities here to look at dead security gate outlet.

New York Times.

Woman w list of "ancient astronauts" titles she copied down from the History Channel:  Andean Awakening, The Gate of the Gods, The Knowledge Apocalypse, The Gods of Eden, The Egypt Code, Markawasi: Peru's Inexplicable Stone Forest.  Also books by David Sedaris and Florida Panhandle mystery writer Glyn Marsh Alam.  Don't have any of her History Channel books, tell her about interlibrary loan.  Show her "ancient astronaut" readalikes:  Zachariah Sitchen, Graham Hancock, et al.  She seems happy with a couple of them.  Then show her Sedaris and Alam.

Returns NYT, takes WSJ.

NYT goes right back out.

NYT in.

Where is a working catalog computer?  First floor only right now, sorry.

2:33  Today's Democrat.

WSJ returned.

Security gate outlet is fixed.  I thank him, say I'll put the extension cord away.

Dad & daughter.  Can she donate math textbooks?  Have them complete donation receipt form, make copy.  Thank them, send copy to admin.

CD wishes they had donated Furry Freak Brothers, tells me about shamanistic eco-tours you can go on.

NYT out.

It's quiet, so I take a cart and hand truck down to store in the Media workroom in preparation for the carpeting of the Adult Services workroom in the coming week.

I escort a very frail old couple down on the staff elevator.  (The public elevator is being overhauled.)  Did they find something to read?  She exclaims that she did not know what an excellent library this was.  He says he is running out of westerns.

Today's paper.

Phone:  It's Chattahoochee Man.  Addresses for Dillard's headquarters and for the Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Where are books on writing poetry?  Take to shelf.

KP, a shelver, says her back hurts, is going home.

Phone:  Number for Lowe's of N.E. Tallahassee.

3:33  Still cold, wet, heavily overcast and misty out.  It will probably start raining again when I leave.  [It did.]

Very little printing at the public PC's today, a sign that the universities are closed.  Patrons have thinned out.  No wait for a PC.

Where can they sit and talk?  She is practicing Vietnamese with a young Vietnamese man in preparation for a trip.

Times Crossword Woman wants City of Night.  John Rechy, I think?  Surely not.  No, Dean Koontz.

Talk about food w CD.  We both like to get Phö at Far East Cuisine.

Help w copier.

Take my framed print off the wall above my desk and store in Media w my other stuff.  Take some pictures of desk & carpet laying progress.



Attractive older couple.  Do they live in the Kleman Plaza condo?  (See photo at top.)  She's new to the library, can't find anything.  I apologize for the mess, fetch her books:  A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, First Do No Harm by Lisa Belkin, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is out, she'll wait on that one.

4:42  Time to wrap it up.

2010/12/17

New Carpet: Day Two.

They were about half done with the east wing today.  I added new photos to my Facebook album here.

2010/12/16

New Carpet in Adult Services

This is pretty boring.  I put it up on Facebook, but if you are not my FB "friend" you can see the first photos here.

2010/12/15

Cobra Mole Pod

Browsing a toy display at the discount outlet, T. J. Max, while my wife looked at clothes, I found Hasbro's G.I. Joe figures.  Joe has been through many mutations since I owned the original Vietnam era version of him in the '60's.  Nowadays "G. I. Joe" is the code name for an elite operations team fighting Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization.

I was drawn to the Cobra Mole Pod, because it looked so much like old illustrations of the "iron mole" from Edgar Rice Burroughs's first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth's Core.


Sean Long has an amusing demo of the Cobra Mole Pod:



Sean Long likens the Terra-Viper action figure to Darth Vader.  I am at a disadvantage, not having seen the film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), but I have to wonder why the Rise of Cobra's bad guys have such an odd, fantasy-rpg/Star Wars/Ninja provenance.  Oh G. I. Joe, how thou art fallen!

I didn't much care for Burroughs's most famous creation, Tarzan, but I loved his Martian Barsoom novels.  The "hollow earth" Pellucidar books I mostly remember for their gorgeous Ace paperback covers by Roy Krenkle.  The "iron mole" has been rendered by several artists:





From the 1976 film with Peter Cushing:



Moles are technically named Tunnel Boring Machines, (TBM's), but in real life these are unmanned.  I'd rather call the Cobra and Pellucidar machines Subterrenes.

The oddest result I got searching for this was a man who built a "giant steampunk drill" in his yard for Halloween this year.

Stories featuring TBM's are a small subset of Hollow Earth fiction.

2010/12/11

Bring Back the CD-ROM Station?

I suppose I must have noticed that our 2007 copy of the Florida Statistical Abstract was out-of-date before now.  It is seldom used, but when you need it, nothing else will do.  It's not available free online, as the United States Statistical Abstract is.  By November of this year, now two editions behind, I made a fuss.  The 2008 and 2009 editions were duly ordered.  The 2010 was available on CD or as a download, but not yet as a printed book.  Were we interested?

I thought we should wait for the book.  It needs to be available for use by patrons, not only librarians.  The only way a CD or download would work would be to have it on a dedicated public-access PC, like the pre-Web CD-ROM stations of yore.

Back in the 1990's, the library made a number of programs available on offline CD-ROM stations:  Car Shop, American Business Disc, Phone Disc, Family Tree Maker, Bible Explorer, Discovery encyclopedias of Native American and American History, a job-search app.

As the Web grew, the CD-ROM stations were used less and less, and they were converted to additional public-access Internet PC's, for which there was a greater need.  All the vendors wanted to migrate to a web-based, online format, and to sell libraries on providing their products remotely to users at home.

InfoUSA combined American Business Disc and Phone Disc into a single, web-based app, ReferenceUSA, designed for remote access through libraries at a breathtaking higher price than the CD-ROM products, many thousands of dollars.  The web-based Ancestry for Libraries replaced Family Tree Maker, also at a steep price.  When times got tight, these pricier web-based resources got axed from the budget.  Now the library doesn't have them at all, in any format, and is the poorer for it.

The Foundation Grants Index disappeared as a fat, printed volume and went web-based only, which the library declined to subscribe to.  For a while we were able to refer people to the State Library down the street to use it, but then they dropped it.  There is presently no place in the Tallahassee area for people starting a non-profit to do free grant research that could bring money and tangible benefits to the community.

I think a case could be made for dedicating a few PC's to provide single-seat licensed, in-library access to worthwhile information resources which the library can't afford otherwise.

2010/12/08

Hail Holy Queen






The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

2010/12/06

The Ghost of Internet Future

The Searls quote below, with its link to an article from last June, The TV in the Snake of Time, was from a more recent article, Rethinking network neutrality.  It put me in mind of of an old, (in Internet years, 1999!), piece by Andy Oram, The Ghosts of Internet Time, which was the inspiration for a paper I wrote in graduate school, Paradise Lost?:  Geeks and the Opening of the Internet.  It's a take-off on the prophetic visions of Scrooge in Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

Andy Oram is one of the Old Guard, much like Howard Rheingold, from the days before the WorldWide Web gave the Internet mass appeal.  Even now, Ghosts retains the simple text look of a Gopher page.  The pioneers who built the Internet had high hopes for it as a force for good, but they worried, as it began to take off with the Web, about whether it would remain free and open, and this is what Searls is talking about, eleven years after Ghosts.

“Oh Ghost of Internet Future,” I cried, “show me what glories the medium has still to offer!”
Someone grasped my arm and dragged me running through mazes of clattering streets under gray skies, where no creature tread and no breeze stirred. “Where is the Internet Future?” I yelled. “Where did everybody go?”
“The Internet is gone,” said my companion, stooped and hoary.
“How could that be—what could replace its bounty?”
“The international financial institutions have a proprietary satellite-based network, imposing and impenetrable. The entertainment companies put out 6500 programs a week, all strictly metered by kilobyte and filtered to isolate controversial content. The electric companies—which always controlled the ultimate pipe, and therefore ended up controlling the medium—run the network that activates devices in the home. Everything the vendors want is built into powerful circuits costing a thousandth of a penny, making software and the culture that accompanied it obsolete. So there are many separate networks, each specialized and tightly controlled.”
“But what about democracy? What about a public space? Is there no forum for the average citizen?”
The old Ghost’s wrinkled face cracked in a sputtering, hollow laugh. “Forum? You want a forum? I’ll give you a million of ’em. Every time Consolidated Services, Inc. or Skanditek puts up a new item on their media outlets, they leave a space for viewers to post reactions. And they post, and post, and post. Nobody can track the debates…”

And this years before the walled social networks of "Web 2.0".  Perceptive, no?  Look at the hundreds of comments to a single article on CNN or any major news or political web site.  All for naught, pointless sound and fury.  But Searls is optimistic in the long run.  Yes, now there are lots of people using the Internet to shop and watch videos and television.  But all the idealistic, non-commercial stuff is still going on.  It's there if you look for it.  You may not even realize that you are using it, (e.g. Wikipedia).

IMO web logs, (blogs), are a legitimate offspring of  Usenet.  If you really have something to say, and want it to persist online, create a blog and start linking to like-minded bloggers.  Blogging is the fulfillment of Rheingold's vision of cyberspace homesteading.

2010/12/03

Let All The Earth Keep Silence

Steerforth, at Age of Uncertainty, reports his son's words when they were snowed-in in Sussex, England, "This is Heaven. No traffic. I wish it was always like this."

When I came in to work Monday morning, after a week off, several librarians told me that the Internet had gone down last Wednesday afternoon from about 2:30 until closing, which had been early, at 6:00 p.m., on account of Thanksgiving the next day.  They all had the same joyful reaction, "It was like a library again!"

It's painful, and kind of heartbreaking, to get back for 3½ hours something that's gone forever.  When the Internet goes down, the library clears out quickly.  Only readers of printed books remain.  We try our best to regret the inconvenience to our users.  Public-access computing is a good thing, and people depend upon it.  But inwardly, we can't help feeling deeply relieved and grateful for the gift of a little while off the grid, an eclipse of the noise.

By "noise", I don't necessarily mean actual noise.  80 or 90 people working online generate "noise" even when quiet.  And then there is the actual noise:  people doubling up on a PC, people taking calls while online, people watching music videos with cheap headphones or earbuds that leak sound, people with unhappy babies and small children who wait and wait while their parents try to focus on their online tasks.

Steerforth's son, and my forlorn librarians, are on to something true.  Our souls are starved for silence.

2010/12/01

Reader Advisory

Another working day, doing what needs to be done.  A co-worker is out sick.  The departure of one of our best shelvers is beginning to tell:  the stacks need tidying badly.  Six of our aging public-access PC's on the second floor are out of commission due to a faulty switch in the network, making waits longer for a session. You shrug it off, put on a smile, and make yourself useful.

It was refreshing, then, when a man asked me to recommend some good "mysteries".  (There is a debate over what to call this genre.  Reviewers tend to use "crime fiction" nowadays.)  I asked him what he had read and enjoyed, crossing my fingers.  Would I know his "flavor"?  Would I have to resort to the print resource, Genreflecting?  I used to do a lot of reader advisory when I drove the bookmobile, because my collection was so small.  Here in Adult Services at the main library, I've gotten rusty.

He said he like mysteries with an international flavor and interesting locales.  He reeled off a string of authors,  all of whom I knew and liked:  Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mysteries set in Sicily, Ian Rankin's Edinburgh stories featuring John Rebus, Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri novels set in Laos,  Henning Mankell, whom I've not read, but whose television adaptations starring Kenneth Branagh I've seen.  He had read the old Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

I would not need Genreflecting after all.  I offered Marshall Browne's The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders and Michael Dibden's Aurelio Zen series, both set in Italy.  He might like Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series, set in Yorkshire, and John Harvey's Charlie Resnick Nottingham novels.  For Mankell "readalikes" I gave him the list of authors at Scandinavian Crime Fiction that I used for a very successful display last year.  I also suggested Chinatown Beat, by Henry Chang, but he'd read it, and Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel.

Returning from a browse in Fiction, he said he'd go with John Harvey for now.  He gave me a tip too. Camilleri's cop is named after a Spanish author, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, whose Barcelona-based Pepe Carvalho mysteries are not well-known here, but some of which have been published in English translation.