Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Poisoned Pen Having Writ...

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher taught our class how to write a business letter. We practiced again in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. In my freshman year of high school, we wrote model letters and notes of all types: casual correspondence, notes of thanks, letters of condolence, and business letters. We were taught the form and also the content. I can remember our teachers stressing to us throughout, at every level, that a business letter should always be professional in tone and that if you can't say something nice about someone in a letter of reference, you should say nothing at all, e.g.: "My personal familiarity with this individual is limited, so I cannot provide a reference," or simply, "I do not feel that I can evaluate this person".

Over the years, I have read everything from the aforementioned statements of inability to evaluate to "damned by faint praise" all the way up through "poison-pen letters". So often when one devolves to vitriol, the point is lost in subjectivity- in other words, the axe is being so thoroughly ground that the original purpose of the letter is altogether obscured by hatred and bad manners. Why can't the authors of the lattermost understand that?

If one gains a reputation for submitting nasty missives on a routine basis, it's not the person about whom the letter was written who will be questioned- it's the writer. People will wonder: "Is (s)he always so unprofessional? Can I trust him or her?" The answers to that are, in order, 'yes' and 'no'. You've got to wonder after a while why the writer is jealous, angry, or unhappy- these are the three things that typically engender this sort of elegiac hatred. Regard for them, and their opinions or expertise, becomes diminished.

Letters of reference should never furnish a canvas for one's polemics. They should not reflect a lack of professionalism, backbiting departmental politics, or childishness. Using them for this is tasteless, or in the finest Southern tradition, just plain tacky. Civility may be dying, but letters of reference are not a gladiatorial arena for its death.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Little Girls' Subversive Training Society

This is the centennial year of Girl Scouting.

It's amusing and really quite sickening to me that this is also the year that the Far Right has decided to attack and openly vilify Girl Scouting. This week brought the latest insane assault on a a really great, valuable program for girls and young women by an ignorant and ill-informed member of the Indiana state legislature, Bob Morris. He sent a letter to his Republican legislative brethren declaiming a resolution passing through the legislature to recognize the Girl Scout Centennial, calling the organization "radicalized" and claiming that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood, promotes homosexuality, and encourages abortion.


Here is the Michiana Girl Scout Council's official response.

I was a Girl Scout up through Cadettes. My mother was our Service Unit Manager (sort of a head district leader) for Smalltownland and the surrounding county. When I returned to Smalltownland, for three of the five years that I worked for the Baptist college, I was first a leader and then became Service Unit Manager myself. At no time were we doing any of the aforementioned. I was more focused, as a Scout, on selling cookies, hanging out with my friends at meetings, whether my uniform met the standard, and earning my badges. As an adult Girl Scout, I was worried about recruitment, promoting the program's values, scheduling meetings, getting my cookies organized and distributed, and having interesting badge-earning activities every time we met...oh, yeah, and making sure that we had snacks for the meetings.

My absolutely least favorite job was enforcing the standards laid down in SafetyWise. Anybody who's ever been a leader, particularly at a management level, knows and just looooves that part of it. Ever tried telling a leader whose husband built a float for a parade that the girls have to be seatbelted to fixed stands or seated on the float? No? Good luck with that. You'll want to kill yourself later. Trust me. I was too busy trying to keep everybody else from strangling that particular leader (myself included, because it took ENORMOUS restraint) to worry about indoctrinating the girls into lesbianism. Besides, being straight, I'm not sure I'd know how...and I don't think it's covered in the handbooks. I'll have to dig those out and check.

The co-leader for my troop was a classmate of my sister's, and was a Brownie in my mom's troop. We were really excited when I found Mom's Girl Scout basket o'stuff and along with it, the pattern for the felt Christmas tree mitts that the Brownies wore every year as they walked in the local Christmas parade. Yes, we made the green felt tree mitts, and the girls wore them, proudly waving to the crowd- Tracy's and my hands were stained green and gummy with glue for weeks afterward, but we were SO happy. We'd loved those Christmas trees when we were little. We wanted our girls to have the same experience.

Girl Scouting, if you follow the rules and do it correctly from the adult end, is a lot of hard work. It's a great program. It's not about tea parties and learning to sew; it's about practical skills and common sense, being ready for the challenges of life and facing them calmly. My cousin Jessica is currently a Brownie leader in Indiana for her daughter Akasha's troop- I think it speaks volumes that so many girls were interested that they had to split the troop in half (which happens if you end up with a huge troop of thirty-plus and need extra adults to facilitate things and meet the adult-to-child ratios dictated by SafetyWise). Akasha has dutifully been out selling cookies with Jessica close on her heels, due again to safety concerns and regulations. She enjoys Scouting, and I'm proud that her mother represents another generation in my family who have chosen to take a leadership position to perpetuate the program and keep it available to girls and young women worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, Brian Bosma, purchased and distributed 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies to other members of the legislature in silent protest of Rep. Morris' attack on Girl Scouting.

Juliette Gordon Low did not found this organization to promote anything other than good sense and self-sufficiency for girls and women. It was not radical. It was not feminist. It was patriotic; it prepared girls to grow into capable, rational women, and still does. That's an admirable goal, especially in today's climate of uninformed demagoguery and empty-headed anti-intellectualism. What's the matter, Rep. Morris? Does that frighten you? It must, or you wouldn't be attacking us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cell Phone Follies, part deux

In an addendum to the SB135 issue, I tried to call my mother's cell phone this weekend and what I heard on her end sounded a lot like the demonic hexed-telephone voices in "Bell, Book, and Candle".

When I did finally get her on the landline, my phone (AT&T, fewest dropped calls, my hind leg!~) kept cutting in and out. In the end, I had to borrow The Boyfriend's little prepaid phone, that uses AT&T and T-Mobile networks, to call her back. This issue with my service is ongoing.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, The Boyfriend's mother was hospitalized with pneumonia last week and we didn't know about it until after she was released and back home...because her gentleman friend is functionally illiterate (not entirely uncommon in their generation in Kentucky) and cannot manage dialing a long-distance telephone call. In light of this information, I sat down, made a list of what needed to be addressed, since I've been through this situation repeatedly with my own mother, and packed The Boyfriend off to the Holler with instructions to program his mother's cellphone speed-dial to contact him. He has also contacted his aunt and left the numbers with her.

My mother's heart attack followed a bout of pneumonia four and a half years ago. The medical issues that we've experienced with her are subsequent to and a product of that 'cardiac event'. I know where this road leads; I've lost someone in my direct supervision at work to a pulmonary embolus, and my best friend's mother died very suddenly last spring due to cor pulmonale, or catastrophic failure of the right side of the heart brought on by pulmonary issues. I've had pneumonia twice myself, been in respiratory failure, and had a couple of rounds of bronchitis that were not a whole lot of fun in elementary and high school. Don't kid yourself, folks; pneumonia can kill you. If your lungs go, it's a trip up the bridle path to heart failure...

The Boyfriend was kind of okay until it hit him a day later how serious the situation had been, and nobody had contacted him. Did I mention that he's an only child, too? I had no choice but to sit there and watch him crumple as the gravity of it sank in. She'd been hospitalized once before for a fall the previous year, to similar result- he didn't know about it until the crisis had passed. Given the history of cell service spottiness in the Holler, I'm not sure the cellphone was the best choice, but it's his family and none of my business. It's better than nothing, though, and surely his aunt will call us if nothing else. One can hope.

At the end of the day, unless you're living in an urban setting where there's a tower or transmitter every ten feet and the cell phone signal is absolutely stable (there is no such thing; 'as stable as possible' perhaps?), landline phones are a must. That said, I need to call AT&T and take them to task over their specious "fewest dropped calls" claim...

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Cell Phone Follies

When you have elderly parents, you learn the importance of maintaining your landline. There are going to be periods of time when your cell phone is not receiving signal, and when the parental health is spotty, it's good to have a fallback.

The Chez sits on a high cliff overlooking the Smalltownland city park. It's a beautiful view clean to the next county on a clear day, but it presents some technological issues. My parents' ISP insists that they can't provide their ultra high-speed DSL service in that exact spot in the county because of signal problems. Seriously? Cell signal goes in and out; the house overlooks the timeline between the Central and Eastern time zones, and it truly depends on where you are at any given moment which one registers on a phone that adjusts based on location. Oh, and I have AT&T, so if I'm in the driveway and the wind is blowing the correct direction, I have a digital signal. If I'm inside on one end of the house, I have analog signal. If I'm on the other end of the house, I have, you guessed it, NO SIGNAL.

The brain surgeons in our state legislature have introduced a bill to completely deregulate landline service so that the carriers can effectively strand the areas that aren't profitable. These carriers have gone so far as to suggest that cellular and Internet service will pick up the slack. Well, that's just fine and damn dandy, but what about occluded hollers where snow stays on well into May because the hills shade it so effectively? What about the house in the middle of my home county where my best friend's grandparents lived and she got NO service while visiting? Well, it's a business, certain of our elected officials tell us, and we shouldn't infringe on their right to run it as they see fit.

If I'm not getting signal with an iPhone, you'd better believe that there are a lot of people back home who aren't getting any signal with a cell phone. Far be it from the telecom companies to take into consideration the elderly and sick who rely on the stability of landlines to reach police, firefighters, emergency medical services, and their relatives when something goes awry. The irony of this is that we're from the center of the state, where it's neither too hilly nor too flat, but rather something kind of median. If it's that bad in the middle, what's it like at the extremes?

After spending all this money on 9-1-1 enhancements, too, how many times have you called from a cell phone and heard, "9-1-1, what city or county please?" because your cell signal is deflecting off God knows how many towers before it reaches a 9-1-1 operator? That doesn't happen with a landline, especially in an area that has enhanced 9-1-1- the address is pinpointed, even if the caller can't speak. Emergency services are dispatched to the address. What happens if residents in an area are stuck with relying only on cellular service? In short, people will die. I'm paying taxes on my cellular bill to fund this. Hmmm.

I thought about discontinuing my landline service several times over the last few years, but after being unable to reach my sister (who only has cellular service) at critical moments, I've scratched that idea until now. This is a turf war waged by an industry that's upset because its slice of the pie is ever-decreasing in size- and they can take it somewhere else. These are my parents; these are my friends, their parents, grandparents, and children. They shouldn't be dismissed as insignificant.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Baby Banshees

Last night, The Boyfriend and I were having dinner at the local Pizza Hut. Yes, on Valentine's Day, we were dining at Pizza Hut- largely because I was too tired to cook and because my paycheck doesn't post until around midnight. That $10 large pizza was calling my name when I got out of work.

Unfortunately, they'd been swamped. There were only two servers working, one of whom had been there since they opened and was in none too good of a mood (keep in mind that I put myself through grad school while waiting tables). Ahead of us, waiting to be seated, was a family of six, including a toddler- whose mother I recognized as one of our library dilletantes. We ended up in a booth right behind them.

About ten seconds later, a straw wrapper ended up in my hair. The toddler, a child of about two, gurgled happily to signify how pleased she was with herself. None of the adults apologized for the projectile or corrected the child for throwing it.

I am not one of those who believes that young children should be kept at home all the time. I also recognize that they are human beings and therefore prone to random behavioral 'moments' for which young children should be excused. I don't have children so I don't have to experience this firsthand from the parental perspective and I'm a pretty reasonable person, but this flew all over me because nobody bothered to apologize. Nobody said to the little girl, "It's not nice to throw things at people." They all laughed and chattered about how "cute" it was that she'd lobbed a wad of paper into a stranger's hair.

It's not cute. It's not funny. It shouldn't be encouraged. That's what a small child perceives when you laugh at that kind of behavior. I'm not advocating snapping her out of the high chair and busting her behind, but saying, "You shouldn't do that," and not effectively praising that behavior would be nice. She's learning that it's okay to be disrespectful of others. Just because you might behave like a redneck heathen doesn't mean that your relatively pretty little daughter should, too. It just makes all of you look like a bunch of boors.

The Boyfriend began timing the intervals in the child's screaming bouts. He's a social worker, so he observes behavior pretty closely; at one point, he leaned over and asked me for the time, then predicted that she'd go off again in about ten minutes. He'd discovered that whenever the adults at the table turned their attention to their own conversation and away from doting on the child, the toddler would begin to pound the table and shriek. Sure enough, nine minutes later, the wailing resumed.

I'd had a long day, and her shrill cries cut through my brain like a knife. The mother finally got tired of it herself and bribed the child into silence with soda crackers. By then, I was about to claw my eyes out. Have you ever knocked the alarm clock off in the floor and had to listen to the piercing sound of it for far too long? It was that kind of sound.

Parents, I know that you love your little child. I know that children will be children. When your child deliberately engages in attention-seeking behavior that disrupts everyone else's experience in a public space, though, would it be so hard to make an effort to quiet and/or correct him or her? Please. Pretty, pretty please...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Save the Airedales- Vote in the Shelter Challenge!

Folks in Airedale Rescue are geared up and voting for North Carolina Airedale Rescue (NCAR). If you have a few minutes to visit the Animal Rescue Site, we'd appreciate your vote. The prize money goes toward rehabilitation and veterinary expenses associated with rescuing Airedales across the southeastern United States. I'm with another regional Airedale group that previously won a Shelter Challenge grant, so we're trying to help out our sister Airedale rescues by voting so they can also receive the Shelter Challenge grant.

To vote, please go to The Animal Rescue Site Shelter Challenge Page and vote for NCAR. If the form doesn't automatically populate using that link, search "Airedale" in shelter name with North Carolina for the state. Each vote helps, and you can vote daily. If you have access to multiple devices using different IP addresses, you can also vote from each device daily.

Thanks for being an AireSupporter!

Captain Quirk

It seems that Hopkins is scorching all the little darlings in his classes at the moment. Old and decrepit, my butt...which has always been my take on it. He just needs a little WD-40 on the hinges and the rest will take care of itself.

I'm happy about this, primarily because I knew he could do it and I also like being right about this kind of stuff.

The one thing that's bugging him is something I'd forgotten until he raised the point; our old frenemy Nemesis used it against him with relish. On math homework and tests, he always made one minor mistake, just enough to cost a point or two, keeping him from perfect math scores. Nemesis would slither up and hiss in his ear, "I see that you missed the third step on the fourth problem...", et cetera. He'd shoot her a dirty look and try to formulate a retort as she slithered off down the hall. I'd silently plot her death, then show him the ink-bloodied mess that was my math homework to draw out the venom of the barb.

It always bothered me immensely that he was hung up on something between one and five points in math. It bothered me because I knew a) the source of the anxiety and b) the penalty for one to five points and didn't dare contemplate what would happen should the average descend below that. In that regard, our lives were agonizingly similar...

He's still doing it, albeit with a whole lot more self-awareness these days. I swear that I could hear a little good-natured self-mockery in the tone of that e-mail, and I'm starting to think that Success May Spoil Rock Hunter. He was an academic star in our day. That's not my imagination, or exaggeration on my part. He was- and it's been my contention in this little debate that he still is. This was always his comfort zone, and he just needed to prove to himself that he could still do it.
Dean's list? Maybe. Success? Definitely. Failure? Not an option. Not then, not now, not ever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blue Roses

Any theatre nerd will get that one right off the bat- it's a Tennessee Williams reference from The Glass Menagerie. Laura, poor, pathetic little Laura, has no life, her existence centering around her collection of glass animal figurines. Her brother sets her up on a fake date with one of his coworkers, a boy who used to know her in school, and they genuinely seem to hit it off for a bit. In the end, though, Laura is betrayed, and left utterly alone with her shrewish mother. I always identified a little with Laura.

I ran into my bully yesterday while I was out shopping with my mother. Perfect timing...because the girl made Valentine's Day of our senior year an absolute miserable hell for me. I saw her from behind and balked, refusing to follow my mother to the charging station for power scooters. Despite the many years over which I've consistently received roses or other cut flowers for Valentine's Day, it can't remove the permanent stain on the holiday made by that one fateful February 14th. Roomsful of roses can't erase it- and I've received dozens of beautiful ones since: red, chrome orange (with purple statice, very striking), mixed pinks with red and white, sunny yellow...but I would've sold my soul to Satan to have had just one crummy, motheaten little rose that day in 1987.

My sister, who is still widely considered one of the most beautiful girls to ever attend our high school, was literally swamped with flowers that day; such was the extent that our mother had to come and fetch us in the car and there almost wasn't room for me in the back seat. I would've been okay- since my boyfriend at the time attended a school sixty miles away and I knew he was sending me something in the mail- if my bully hadn't pulled me to the side and rammed the knife home. "Those are your sister's, and those, and those, oh, and aren't those hers, too?" she pointed out the various cards with her name on them. "Isn't your 'boyfriend' going to send you anything? Are you even still dating? What about Hopkins? Oh, wait, you never hear anything from him, do you? So sad." She cackled and slithered off toward the band room, leaving me standing there in front of the Altar to Popular Girls, mortified. Normally I didn't let her get to me like that, but something in my mind just clicked, and...I was just devastated.

I did the only logical thing that a brokenhearted seventeen year-old girl can do when confronted with this grim reality: I ran to the pay phone and called my mother.

By the end of the day, a small, weedy bouquet of carnations arrived bearing my name. They were pretty enough and I was sort of grateful, but my suspicions were aroused when I read the card: "from your secret admirer". I knew then in my heart-of-hearts that my parents had taken pity on me, but I would have rather died than admitted it. The Bully wasn't finished with me, though. "Oh, some carnations. Isn't that sweet. Are those from your parents?" I rounded on her and spat: "They're not signed, and personally, I think that they might be from Hopkins," I lied. I knew better.

Later that night, as my sister smirked and preened, fluffing the greenery and baby's breath in her various bouquets, she said casually, "You know Mom and Dad sent you those carnations, right?" Stubbornly, I repeated the lie I'd used on the Bully. She smiled sadly and patted my arm, adding, patronizingly, "Well, you just keep telling yourself that." I went down to the garage and for a single moment contemplated taking my father's pruning shears to her little rose parade.

Of course, they were both correct. My father's secretaries routinely opened his mail before sending it home with him, and when a bill arrived from the florist a few days later, I wasn't too surprised to learn that yes, our parents had sent me the carnations. Besides, if I'd really been dying to know, I temped for the florist in delivery from time to time. I could've checked the file while I was working Valentine's evening.

I know that it's a fake commercial holiday promoted by restaurants, and card, candy, and floral companies, but I also know what it's like to be let down on it and annually embarrassed in front of everybody you know. From the day that you first realize that yours is the only empty Valentine collection box in the third grade right up to being stood up from a Valentine's dance in high school, you learn to hate it. A lifetime of reparations can't make that bitterness ever go completely away.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm Getting Older, Too

My sister has scheduled a cardiologist's appointment for our mother a hundred and fifty miles away from me, on day when I was supposed to teach two library classes. As it now stands, I'm doing the early class and leaving immediately to pick Mom up for the appointment. I'll be driving for three hours, pretty much straight through.

Over the last year and a half, I've neglected my own health. My LapBand fill was evacuated a little over a year ago because I'd developed a small hiatal hernia, and as a result, I've regained about fifty pounds. There's been some fallout. I'm not sleeping well, and the dark purple in my nailbeds suggests that I'm not oxygenating well enough in my sleep, i.e., my apneas have probably returned. I'm tired all the time. My clothes don't fit, and...well...the newest developments are the most disturbing.

I need to see the cardiologist myself. I finally told my sister and boyfriend last night. A while back, I noticed a weird, occasional little flip-flop by my heart. By forcibly regulating my breathing and slowing my pulse, I can bring myself back into rhythm; it doesn't happen often, but it's happened more than a few times. The scary part was one night about a week ago when I felt the arteries in my neck begin rapidly fluttering. It's exactly the type of arrhythmia that put my mother in the hospital last year- problem is, I'm thirty-three years younger than Mom.

Ever since my teens, I've largely internalized my stress. This results in a few obvious things: by the time I was sixteen, I suffered from peptic ulcers (which return for a little visit every few years), I get nosebleeds and stress acne, and I had a nervous breakdown while I was in college. Now it's evolving into more serious issues.

I remember my P.E. teacher, Miss Rose, as rather a sage person. I spent some time in her office- the ever-open office door- because she was the first to clue into the problems I was having at home. Unfortunately, it was she who realized that my aunt, who was staying with us while my mother was tending my sick grandmother, had given me 'homemade cough syrup' and sent me to school drunk as a skunk. She discreetly summoned the vice principal, Ivan, who called my aunt and then drove me home.

She also cornered me after I started putting on extra weight around my sophomore year and said, "Your heart won't be able to take all that strain forever. I'm not saying this because of looks. I am worried about your health." Be assured your sins will find you out...however, she's a patient with Mom's cardiologist, too. It would be pretty embarrassing to run into her there.

My father's best friend, who died on Christmas Eve, was my primary care physician. That leaves me sort of 'without country' at the moment, so without anyone who can refer me. The cardiologist did the EKG and echocardiogram for my lapband surgery, but that's the only time I've ever seen him as a patient. It's been so long ago that I doubt they'd still take me without a referral. In the meantime, I just hope nothing goes seriously wrong.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of the worst things a woman can do when she's upset is radically change her hairstyle. I think Britney Spears' little head-shaving episode is an excellent case-in-point; it takes a while to recover from that kind of spur of the moment decision. With the exception of the time that my friends and I decided that Sun-In was the band camp accessory of choice, leaving many of us with a headful of fried Ronald McDonald-hued hair for several months, the haircolors-not-found-in-nature period of my adolescence was fueled largely by temporary and washable coloring agents.

This kind of popped into my mind a minute or two ago because my "dignified greys" and I are about to have a showdown. I color my own hair and have done so for approximately twelve years, although I've been going grey pretty much since I was sixteen; such is the nature of being a brunette. In the last year or so, though, the grey has proliferated and I feel as if I'm having to color more often. Since my hair has been donated to Locks of Love twice in the last five years, I haven't had professional color, highlights, or lowlights for a while. It's also been stick straight and long. Now we're back up to the shoulder and I've been wondering if I ought to try anything different...well, I'm not as adventurous as I used to be about this kind of thing. Pink, blue, green, etc., and strong reds require double processing to come out correctly, and I don't want to go Harlow platinum in order to overdye with a strong color. I'm really afraid that I'd end up bald.

My best friend decided to go dark back before Christmas, and it's been an adjustment. She's a natural light redhead; over the years, like both her mother and mine, her hair gradually took on more blonde and lost the majority of its red hue. The base color that she chose was darker than mine, with a strong auburn tone. I think if I saw it on a regular basis (she lives almost five hundred miles away in another state), I'd be more used to it, but it's a source of cognitive dissonance for me. We've known each other since I was about thirteen, so almost thirty years...I caught myself not being able to find her in stores over the holidays because I wasn't looking for the new haircolor. Her color, unlike mine, is professionally done, and she is blessed with incredibly thick, strong hair.

It's not an entirely irrational fear, this concern that I may go bald. My paternal grandmother, a former Miss Arizona, believed in chemical intervention back in the days when permanent waves involved electricity and color involved a lot of ammonia. She was also always on some kind of crazy weight-loss plan, which probably contributed to her follicular challenges. By the time I was a child, she'd lost most of her hair and constantly wore a wig. While wigs give one the option of radically changing looks from day to day (one of my favorites was a Lucille Ball-red beehive affair), they're hot, uncomfortable, and can fall off at the worst possible moment. As they wheeled her into the operating room near the end of her life, the orderly tried to remove her wig- she snatched it back and told him she was not going to meet Jesus without her hair. True story. (Granny was born in Texas; ask any lady from Texas if she'd go out in public without her face on and her hair done, and she'd tell you she'd just as soon march into church naked.)

I've had a pretty stressful week so far, so I should probably just go with the root touch-up color kit that matches my natural haircolor for now. If I were to do something that accurately reflected my week so far, I'd probably come out looking like either Rhianna or Pink- or possibly Sinead O'Connor. Since I'm not young or thin or a performing artist, that would be bad. Very bad.

Pyrrhic Victories

I'm good at this sort of thing...winning the battle and then spectacularly losing the's been one of those weeks, and I think I'll just blame the full moon. That's convenient, anyway.

We got off to a great start when I received the daily crime report from the state police post back home on Monday morning- there was a murder, and I recognized the victim's name. He was one of exactly six boys who ever openly expressed any interest in me, five of them prior to high school (before they were promptly shamed out of it by the arbiters of taste, a.k.a the popular clique). By the time we were older, he'd moved to the neighboring county and fallen in with a bad crowd; I was told very emphatically by his relatives to avoid him. In discussing this with his cousin after I realized it was he who was killed, I found out that he'd been spiraling ever-downward pretty much from that day to this. It was depressing.

The next fun moment came on Tuesday when I dared weigh in on a discussion regarding an animal hoarding situation in which I'm tangentially involved. Some man down in Knoxville decided that my last name was Guantanamo, as in waterboarding and illegal detainment- although he later mentioned, very much further down the thread, that his phone's spellcheck had done that. I don't quite think that's the truth, but I spent most of the day being righteously indignant about it. Riight. My father's near-death experience in a Navy seaplane going out to Guantanamo Bay to pick up his NROTC cruise in 1950 is my only association with Gitmo- except for the plethora of Marines in my family.

Later that evening, my cell phone rang. It caller-ID'd as one of the other Airedale rescue coordinators in Kentucky. I thought it was probably something routine, so I answered it. It was not routine. A dog that I'd placed- a healthy, young dog- had literally dropped dead at his adopters' feet while playing ball with them just a few minutes earlier.

I've been in rescue for six years. NONE of my dogs, including the ones infested with heartworm and mange, practically dead from starvation and abuse, or who developed chronic diseases like diabetes, have ever died. Aside from a few intestinal parasites from outdoor living, his health was excellent. Until we receive the results of the necroscopy (that's what an autopsy is called when the subject is not human) I can't say much more. Basically, I've been crying off and on since about five-thirty last night. I keep fighting the urge to lean over and vomit in my office wastebasket; our associate dean is out until Friday, so I have to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on until she comes back. I'd really just like to go hide somewhere instead.

Meanwhile, one of my friends is undergoing radioactive iodine therapy for thyroid cancer, my first cousin is facing particularly gruesome cancer surgery, and I've got this Airedale mix who was involved in the aforementioned hoarding situation to get healed up from hernia repair and shipped off to rescue in Pennsylvania. There are things in this world that are so much infinitely worse, I suppose, but I'm already pretty low.

It's only Wednesday. My tolerance for BS and nonsense is absolute zero at the moment. Stay out of my way, people, I'm a librarian with attitude, and I am not afraid to shelve your bad self.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The "L-word"

Now, I don't think it's going to be any of the words most people are expecting...the L-word for today is "library".

I'm on the local faculty senate. We meet a couple of weeks before the faculty meeting to set the agenda; elections are coming up, so there will be a faculty meeting in February. I'm next-to-last on the agenda because alphabetically, that's where our unit falls...right behind the Humanities, Fine Arts, and Social Sciences division, abbreviated as "HFASS". Pronounce that quietly to yourselves.

We representatives get dinged about once a year by those whom we serve with the admonition that 'you are not filters', i.e., read our complaints verbatim. Don't interpret- let them fly, regardless. In case you're wondering, I've been consigned to this gulag for eleven and a half years. I am the silverback, and I have an excellent memory. The same five things are destined to return, like the swallows to Capistrano, every single freaking year. I have a hit list of things about which I don't want to hear, parking and smoking being at the very top.

The reports were going fine of the HFASS reps prefaced his division's concerns by warning me that he was not a filter- translation: this is going to be a hit on the Learning Commons, as indeed it was.

Long story short, it was a florid, overblown work of passive-aggressive prosidy that mentioned not only the Great Library of Alexandria, it called upon the imagery of the Bodleian and the other great academic libraries of yore- and went on to imply that we had somehow damaged the academic integrity of the institution by changing the name of our functional unit to Learning Commons. We were accused of embracing fads, simple trendiness, and that they, the faculty, should've been asked permission before we thus damaged the college's reputation by dropping the term 'library'.

My initial response is unprintable. My official response began with, "First of all, the building in which we are housed is called a learning resource center, which embraces a fad current in about 1960. The library was a functional unit housed in the learning resource center. The library is a smaller functional unit within the Learning Commons, and may I also reinforce that libraries are not and have not been, for a great many years, about dusty tomes on the shelves. Furthermore, let me point out that in getting our minds around this evolution, that the University of Kentucky has a Learning Commons housed in the building called the W.T. Young Library; also, the Johns Hopkins University went completely virtual with its medical libraries this year, i.e., no books on the shelves, and Harvard just fired its entire library staff to break their union. The word "library" no longer means what it once did. Schools which train librarians are also dropping the word library, as Michigan did a number of years ago- it is now the School of Information Studies. The name change predates Margo (my current boss), but feel free to take the issue up with her- it occurred, however, during Shelley's time (my previous boss). There are still library people doing library things, but we are only one small unit within the Learning Commons, which includes tutoring and IT, and eventually other things if Bruce (my dean) keeps going."

I was a little. bit. pissed. After all, it took them THREE years to figure it out and I don't appreciate the patronizing overture that led into the actual statement. I'm the one with two history degrees and archival training, so if you don't think I'm extraordinarily conversant about the Alexandrian library or any other historical library and its contents, think twice (I have viewed the Domesday BookMagna Carta and the Lindisfarne Gospel for the experience of assessing their relative condition). When they tried to defuse me with a joke about papyrus, I deadpanned, "Papyrus is an excellent storage medium in drier climates, however, we have a humdity problem in our building. The scrolls would separate from the damp." Don't screw with me, kids, I'm a repressed archivist and I will beat you to death with my arcane knowledge of preservation...

At the end of the day, it's semantics, and the charge that we have damaged the reputation or credibility of the school is ludicrous. By the way, it's a community college...I wasn't aware that we had such an august academic reputation to damage-and it puts me in mind of my father's favorite shaggy dog story:

A young man from Kentucky was admitted to Harvard. One day as he's strolling across the Quad, he asks a fellow student, "Where's the library at?" The other student replies frostily, "My good fellow, at Harvard we don't end our sentences with prepositions," to which the Kentuckian responds, "Oh, sorry. Where's the library at, a$$h***?"

I'll tell you where it is- part of the Learning Commons, inside the Learning Resource Center...a$$h***.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Last night, The Boyfriend called me at work to let me know that my cousin Lucifer, he of the jail and prison stays (he's been exonerated, but I look for it to catch up someday) and substance abuse issues, had turned up on my front porch. The bad part is that The Boyfriend let him in. Lucifer is kind of like a vampire in that once he gets across the threshold, he's not leaving until he's ready to go. In this case, it was 8:45 this morning. He was so blotto that he hardly knew where he was or who he was, yet by sheer instinct, he ended up at my house. The local police have poured him out into my custody more than once, too, when they didn't want him driving the thirty-five miles to his parents' home.

Lucifer doesn't pop up as much as he once did. Apparently he's recently lost his engineering job with a company manufacturing diesel engine components, and his stepfather (who raised him) is dying. His grandmother has been steadily losing her mind over the past few years, and his mother is confined to a wheelchair, having had a stroke while driving. She crashed her car into a tree; the combination left her paralyzed, and his stepfather and grandmother providing her care. He's an only child and now facing a lot of tough days ahead. His solution? Drink himself stupid and crash on AiredaleGirl's couch!

The best part is that he usually gets up about three a.m. and decides that he's sober enough to trail on home...flinging the front door open and not paying an iota of attention to my dogs. Given how drunk he was last night (which was VERY drunk, even by his standards), we couldn't pry him up off the couch and we also wouldn't go to sleep for fear of his releasing my Airedales in the middle of the night. So here I am, with a meeting in a few minutes and promotion folders to read afterward, and el zilcho sleep.


Oh, and an Airedale mix for whom I was arranging rescue from deepest, darkest Appalachia was "placed" by a "local rescue". She was found two hundred miles away near my hometown a few days ago, with her spay sutures still in place and a hernia, probably from a popped stitch...she was spayed on January 7th. It's definitely the same dog- found in the county where HSUS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are investigating the local shelter for heinous abuse and murder of animals in their care, including animals from my home county, which contracts to them for shelter services. I was e-mailing both of those organizations yesterday, and have been on the phone several times with the SPCA volunteer back home who has the dog in her custody.

In addition, a problem patron spoke to our new twentysomething year-old cataloger, Mrs. Expectant Young Wife and Mother, as if she is a very dense three year-old (I remember the days of being mistaken for a student and dressing like a sixty year-old church lady to try to make myself a little more 'official-looking'). She is young, but she's not a teenager, and this mean older lady is not a student, i.e., if she can't exhibit better manners, she's free to head on over to the very lovely public library...provided her sunny self has not already been banned. She waited until right after I left work to pull this nice stunt. How charming.

Yes, yesterday was a strange day. This one has just been hectic. Ah, well, onward to the meeting and then the folders await. Yuck.