Thursday, October 28, 2004

Patience Testing

We had a kid come in yesterday who needed to use the on-line practice-test service we subscribe to. I don't even know what test he was there to take, but I was sent back to show him how to log in from our home page. No prob.

There wasn't much competition for any of our three computers at the time, but that soon changed as the usual afternoon internet crowd began filing in. Chief among them was Parka, who entered clad in his namesake big white puffy Michelin Man parka despite the fact that it was only in the upper 50's outside and hardly warranted such heavy winter gear. Still, it did mark the first appearance of his coat this season, so those of you playing the official Tales from the "Liberry" drinking game may now have a swig of the adult beverage of your choice.

After about 45 minutes, someone came in for a computer and it was Parka's turn to get busted off. It's our policy to give on-line test-takers as much time as they need to complete their test, so the kid was immune from busting, as was the patron on the third computer who had come in after Parka.

I went back and told Parka we had someone in to use a computer, which is my usual code for "Get off!" I returned to the circ desk where a full four minutes crawled by with no movement from Parka. I can understand giving him a minute to wrap up his conversation with his e-skank chatroom buddy, but two minutes would be pushing it and four minutes shoves me right into pissed off mode. I grabbed up his timer and headed back. As I reached his computer, I pressed the reset button of the timer a few times, causing a shrill repetitive beeping.

"No, really. Someone is waiting," I told him. Then I stood there and waited for him to log off. After his computer was in reboot mode, I started to head back up front to alert the new computer patron when Parka stopped me in the children's room.

"That guy in the middle was there a lot longer than me," he complained. His near monotone "Officer Barbrady" voice was, as usual, unnecessarily loud and I have no doubt that the testing kid in the very next room heard him loud and clear.

"He's taking a test," I said, then turned away, feeling the matter had been adequately explained.

"He gets more time than me?"

"Yes," I said, still walking away.

"So some people get more computer time than others?"

I stopped and turned around, glaring at him. "He's... taking... a... test," I said. This didn't seem to compute for Parka. "We give people taking a test more time so they can finish their test." This still didn't seem to work for him, but he decided not to argue the point any further.

"Well, when's his time up?"

"I don't know."

"Well when can I have a computer?"

"I don't know."

This seemed to throw him long enough for me to start back to the circulation desk, where the rightful user of the computer was still waiting. Parka followed along behind me.

"You guys close at seven, right?"

"Yes," I said.

Oooh, Parka asked about our hours for the 327th time. Take another drink.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Patty Cornhole and the Brimstone Clue

Mrs. A and Mrs. C were both out today, so Mrs. B and I split the day up between us with me opening. I must say, it was one of the easier shifts I've ever done. Even Mr. Kreskin failed to call despite the absence of Mrses. A & C. (I have no doubt he probably called to plague Mrs. B at some point today, though.)

I spent much of the time cross-checking our book database with the printed report concerning books of ours that are allegedly lost to the sands of time... (BEGIN BORING TECHNICAL LIBRARY BIT THAT YOU MAY FEEL FREE TO SKIP IN CASE YOU JUST WANT TO READ ABOUT MY MOST RECENT ENCOUNTER WITH MRS. CAROL SATAN) These are books that were checked out on our old VTLS system, before we moved to the new Millennium system, and may or may not have been returned to us in the intervening time. If they were returned, they've likely been checked out again in the last five months. If not, they will likely be missing from the shelves. Regardless, we have to look in the record for each book in question to find evidence of their status. If they've circulated in the last five months, we check them off the list as books we probably still have. If they haven't circulated we go look on the shelf for them and if they're not there we delete them. Fortunately, our paper record also contains the names of the patrons who last had each book, so maybe we can find them in the new system and put the hurt on them. I'd be happy to undertake such a lengthy and potentially fruitless task, just cause I have an overdeveloped sense of library justice. (END BORING TECHNICAL LIBRARY BIT)

So I'm searching away when a female patron approaches the circ counter. I'm so engrossed that I don't even look up at her right away. I just notice her peripherally and say, "Can I help you?"

"Could you put me down for the new Patricia Cornwell?" the patron said, sliding a book across the counter for return.

Ahh, Patty Cornhole, I thought. We meet again.

Having never actually read any of her fiction, I can't say that I really have anything against Patricia Cornwell. (I do kind of question her logic in blindly rejecting all previous research as to the identity of the real Jack the Ripper in favor of her somewhat forced view of it in her big non-fiction Jack the Ripper expose book from a couple years back. I didn't read much of that book either, but read enough to see that she didn't agree with the major points raised by Alan Moore in his graphic novel FROM HELL, nor with the research of other prominent Ripper-ologists. The New York Times book review of her tome was pretty scathing on this point.) However, despite having no real animosity toward her, I do think it's terribly funny to call her Patty Cornhole all the same. And it's especially fun to call her Patty Cornhole in a cheesy overly enunciated announcer voice, just like the guy who does I LOVE THE 90'S. Of course, I don't do this around the patrons.

Naturally, this particular as yet unseen female patron didn't know the title of Patty Cornhole's book, and since I haven't bothered to pay enough attention to Patty Cornhole's recent releases to know off hand, I had to look it up. It's called Trace. I mentally noted this, then scanned the barcode of the patron's returned book to bring up her account from which I could access the hold screen. At the same time that I scanned the book, my nose finally clued in that I'd been smelling something smoky and awful for the past half minute. It seemed familiar and in a bad way, but I didn't place it right away. I brought up the hold screen and added Trace to her list of books there.

"Do you need my card?" she asked.

Technically, I'm supposed to ask for it, but it's just as easy to bring up her record if she's already returning a book I can scan anyway. I explained this to the patron, still not looking at her. Then my eyes happened to fall on the Patron Name field of her record. It read: Mrs. Carol Satan. Only then did I finally look up at the woman herself and see that, yes, indeed it was her, standing there like the kiss of death. Actually, she wasn't quite as bad as the Kiss of Death. The Kiss of Something Foul to be certain, but not Death. In fact, Mrs. Carol Satan looked downright nice. Her hair was stylishly cut and she was dressed in a very pleasant ensemble and looked for all the world as though she were headed out to a nice restaurant or perhaps even to church. Sure, she wasn't actively smiling, but she was also not actively breathing fire and gnawing the heads off of infants, so it was a toss up as to her actual mood. I might not have even recognized her if she hadn't brought in a thick cloud of her usual stench of Brimstone and cigarettes. (They say smell is the sense tied closest to memory, but some memories are just too horrible and must be suppressed, so it's no wonder I didn't pick her up on radar earlier.)

What really burned me about this situation, though, is that by not paying attention to who she was in the first place, I had inadvertently been far nicer to her than I might otherwise have been. If I'd realized this was Mrs. Carol Satan in the first place, I would never have been so kind as to put her book on hold sans her "liberry" card. I'd have made her search through all the cigarette butts I imagine are clogging her purse and dig that sucker out. What's worse, now I've set a precedent in her head that she doesn't need her card for all transactions, which will surely come back to bite us in the ass in the future. My only real comfort is that she doesn't usually come in on days that I work, and it's only because I was filling in on this particular Tuesday that I saw her at all. When she bites in the future, she'll bite someone else. (Course, she'll likely bite Mrs. A or Mrs. C, who will then in turn bite me back later.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

New Old Music

I don't do a lot of music yammering here, but it's about time I started.

I was just reading Tangonat's blog and she mentioned Camper Van Beethoven has a new album out. Coulda knocked me over with a Dixie Cup fulla spit. Camper Van Beethoven?! I had no idea they were even back together, let alone releasing an album. In fact, the very idea that they might get back together was such a non-possibility to me that I'd never even had cause to hope it might happen. But it has come to pass. Their new album is called NEW ROMAN TIMES and was released last Tuesday.

Camper Van Beethoven was one of my favorite bands from late high-school through college, though not from the start. I bought their album KEY LIME PIE based on the cover art and the fact that the writers for the "alternate music" section of the Columbia House Record and Tape Club's monthly catalog were treating them like the second coming.  After a once through listen, I declared they were absolute crap and sank into a hateful rage that I'd shelled out good money for it. Buncha whiney outta tune garbage as far as I was concerned. What the hell, Columbia House!?!  Morons!  In fact, I hated it so much that I began playing it for friends just so they could see how horrible a band could truly be. Only, after playing it a few more times, I could feel my hatred softening even as I ranted aloud.

"Boy, isn't this just the shittiest band ever? Just goddawful. I really really can't stand this... whiney.... awful... garage country-soundin'... layered... quirky.... kinda catchy... sorta intriguing rock music. Boy, it's just.... starting to sink its teeth into my head. Here let me rewind `All Her Favorite Fruit' to hear that crap again.... Yeah... fourth time through, I'm really starting to feel the hate... um, lessening. Oh, and their version of `Pictures of Matchstick Men' is just so much... better... than the original... Dammit, I like them!"

Before I knew it, I was a Camper Van convert and played the album non-stop for months.

Unfortunately, around the time I decided I really liked them, they broke up. However, I was completely unaware of this fact until lead singer David Lowry's new band Cracker came along four years later. (By then I had started DJing in college radio, WMSV outta Mississippi State. This was the only time in my life I can truly say I was fairly well-informed about new music, since every record label in the country, from the mighty to the lowly, was actively trying to cram their wares down our throats. Heard an awful lot of shitty music during those years, but found a huge amount of great music I would otherwise never have been exposed to. Folks like Moxy Fruvous, The Waltons, Jason Falkner, Alex Lumelsky, Richard Barone, Ben Folds Five, the Subdudes, Jeff Buckley, Ben Harper, Southern Culture on the Skids, October Project, Sonia Dada and even the Dave Matthews band, back before they were DAVE MATTHEWS BAND!!!!)

This is very similar to the way I was completely unaware that Crowded House had broken up even after their core members, Neil and Tim Finn, released their first Finn Brothers album in 1995. Or how I had no idea Peter Gabriel had released a new album in 2002 until I heard a song from it on my old college radio station while visiting back home in late 2003. Or how I had no clue that the Finn Brothers had released a SECOND CD two months ago until I heard it playing as background music in a local gallery.

I'm so out of the music loop. I faithfully read Rolling Stone every two weeks and where does it get me? Apparently, nowhere.

So I've recently purchased a lot of new/old music. I bought Peter Gabriel's UP, Finn Brothers' EVERYONE IS HERE, and Neil Finn's ONE NIL which I had to buy a used import of since the original wasn't released in this country. (Yes, I do realize that ONE NIL was essentially released here in 2002 in the form of ONE ALL, but even that I only recently learned while researching what I wanted to buy.) All three are fantastic CDs, with the Finn Brothers new one earning top spot among my current favorite albums. I almost need to curse in order to convey how great this album is to me... though, again, not right away.

ME UPON 1ST LISTEN: I can't believe "Luckiest Man Alive" is the big single from this album. It's okay and all, but nothing great.

ME UPON 2ND LISTEN: Wow. I'm kinda liking the rhythm of this "Luckiest Man Alive" tune. Turkish Banjo, huh? That's kinda nice.

ME UPON 3RD LISTEN: Shit yeah, this is the single!

So now I gotta go get in line for Camper Van's new one. All the reviews I've now found say it's worth waiting 15 years for. Most of the song snippits I've heard are pretty Camper Van Beethoveny too.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Return of Paranoid Rick James

I'd just returned from break, yesterday, when I spied Paranoid Rick James walking through on his way to the books on tape. (This is the same Superfreak patron who raised holy hell at having to supply a drivers license and physical address in order to get a new library card, who screamed at us claiming we were in cahoots with Homeland Security, who then stormed out, sans card, only to sheepishly crawl back a week later and apply for one, handing over all the information he'd raised such hell about before.)

Now, Rick's been pretty scarce since receiving his card. His girlfriend, Gladys Knight, has been in regularly, though, so we've been assuming that many of the books on tape she was choosing were likely for Rick too. Whatever. No crime there.  However, from the moment I saw him yesterday, I knew exactly how things were about to play out and this time my skills of prophecy were right on the money.

Rick made a few selections from the books on tape section and moseyed on up toward the circ desk. I saw him coming and suddenly became preoccupied with shelving books in an effort to appear too busy to help him, forcing Mrs. C to do it instead. Mrs. C, who was already behind the circulation desk, trumped me, though, by suddenly becoming too preoccupied in talking on the phone to deal with Rick, so I was forced to come over to do it anyway.

I picked up the barcode scanner and stood there waiting for Rick to produce his card. Here's where my prediction came to fruition.

"Oh, um. I'm in there already under RICK JAMES," Rick said, pointing at our circulation computer.

"Do you have your library card?" I asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.

"Uh, no. Not on me," he said, patting his pockets.

"Well, we do need your card."

Rick tried for a moment to look surprised at this, then seemed to think better of it. After all, Mrs. C, a witness to his original tantrum, was standing right there. Plus I'm the guy who issued him his card a week after his tantrum and he knows good and well that I told him he would need it every time he checked something out. He wasn't giving up yet, though.

"I, uh. I guess I left it at home," he said. Then Rick stood there and stared at me trying to look innocent, probably expecting I would relent and let him check his tapes out after all. Now, it is so completely against policy to do that, but we have given ourselves the option of checking books out on our own personal cards and allowing patrons to take them, provided we make a note in our own record as to who took what. We've also been known to confirm the drivers license number between their physical license and their patron record and proceed from there. Those were my options. However, I was not about to use either option for the benefit of this tantrum-throwing dickweed. (Nor anyone else, for that matter, cause I think checking stuff out on my card for other people is just a bad idea.) I just stared right back at him.

"Yep. Don't have it," he said, patting his pockets down once again.

"If you like, we can hold your books here at the desk and you can pick them up when you bring your card," I told him.

"Uh, no. No, I don't want to do that," he said, still remaining nice and polite.

"We could issue you a replacement card," I said. "We would charge $1 for it, though."

"I don't think I have a dollar," he said, now thrusting hands into pockets in a search. He eventually brought out 35 cents and held it out in his hand for me to see. "Looks like all I have."

"Well, like I said," I told him, not even looking at his sympathy bait, "we can hold your books here for you at the desk."

Rick decided he still didn't want that, sighed and made one last attempt to look pitiful as he trudged slowly back toward the books on tape section to put them away. It was all I could do to hold back the torrent of compassionate tears straining at the corners of my eyes.

A minute later, his gambit an obvious failure, Rick returned to the circ desk with his tapes and said he'd changed his mind and we could hold them for him after all.

I will now make a further prediction: If Rick does return for his tapes himself, he will not return with HIS card but with Gladys Knight's card. More likely, he'll just send Gladys Knight for them, all to avoid actually using his own card, further preventing the government from knowing the titles of all the chick novels he likes to read.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Not lumber

After laughing with Mrs. C about her recent groping, I went back to my work. Then the phone rang. The phone had scarcely stopped ringing since I arrived. In fact, it took Mrs. C nearly 10 minutes to tell me the original groping story because she kept being interrupted by the phone. It's like all the people who failed to call and pester us during my recent heavenly Sunday shift were making up for it.

This time the call was from my wife. She had arrived in Princeton and got word from a classmate of hers that their Board Exam scores were in. Her classmate was hesitant to call in to hear if she'd passed, but my wife had to know right away. She phoned up the school.

As she was telling me this, I was trying to gauge her tone of voice to see if I could detect sorrow in it. I figured things were good, cause if she'd failed her boards she would have just called me in tears to begin with rather than build up the suspense about it all. (Kind of like I'm doing now.)

She passed!  And she did much better on this set of exams than she had on her first round of boards last year. (Her classmate also passed.) It's yet another milestone in her quest to become a doctor behind her. I think after the week she's had, she needed the boost.

Honk if you're horny

We had crazy computer traffic this afternoon. Not even the regular Internet Crowd, either, (though I did have to run Parka off at one point before the real competition for computers began). Just patron after patron coming in the door for a computer until we were three deep waiting. Mrs. C said it had been a strange day, with sudden bursts of business and then equal stretches of down time.

"You need to hear what happened to me on Monday, though," Mrs. C said with a grin. "You can add it to your collection of stories."

(What the hell did that mean, anyway? As far as I know, she is unaware of this blog.)

Mrs. C related the following: On Monday, she was working the desk by herself when a gentleman wearing extremely dark sunglasses came in being led by a woman. From the look of them, Mrs. C assumed he must be blind. His guide led him into the children's room and sat him on the sponge kiddie chair for a while before eventually leading the man back into the front room and to the circ desk. Standing at the desk, the man reached out and began feeling along the top of our new flatscreen monitor while his guide and Mrs. C spoke. Shortly after this, the man asked his guide something in a low voice that Mrs. C couldn't hear.

"Well, you can ask her yourself," the guide said. The man seemed reluctant to speak, though, so his guide eventually had to voice his question for him.

"He wants to know if he can feel your face to see what you look like," the guide told Mrs. C.

"Oh. Okay, sure," Mrs. C said. She leaned forward at the desk as the guide reached the blind man's hands out to rest on Mrs. C's chin and jaw. The man felt her chin for a moment. Then, instead of moving upward to feel the rest of her face, his hands immediately reached down and honked onto her breasts. And not just a quick, Oopsie, wrong direction honk, but a good solid double-handed grope.

Now this is the point where, in an ideal world, Mrs. C should have shouted, "All right, Helen Keller, just back the hell off the cans there!" However, Mrs. C was far too shocked to say anything and instead reached her arm across, blocking further access to her rack as she picked up the barcode scanner.

What's truly outrageous about this, though, is that the man's guide said nothing. Didn't seem to notice it, didn't reference it, didn't apologize for it, didn't even try to come up with a polite fiction excuse for it. Nothing. Far from being offended, Mrs. C thinks this is terribly funny and hasn't stopped telling people about it yet. After she told me, she told another regular patron and friend of the library and we all sat around rehashing the details just to laugh about it.

My theory, which I expressed, is that the minute dude got in the car, those glasses came right off and he told his guide, "Well, that was fun. Where you wanna try it next?"

Rogue Sighting

The wife and I slept late and got an even later start preparing to leave for breakfast. Before we could depart, Mrs. C phoned me and asked if I would stop at the Town-C branch to check on their computers. We had a huge electrical storm last night and none of the computers were working there, including circulation. Complicating matters further, Town-C's librarian, Mrs. S, was out of town at a meeting with Mrs. A accompanying. A volunteer had been left to man the desk and nothing her instruction sheet was telling her to do was working.

Town-C's library branch isn't nearly as busy as my own in Town-A. It's not nearly as nice either, but is also 150 years younger and is of the prefab octagonal cookie cutter library design that was popular in the state some decades back, when getting cheap libraries into smaller communities was all the rage.

Sure enough, none of the computers seemed to be doing much. The patron computers wouldn't connect to the internet and the circulation computer wouldn't even let me into Win XP. The volunteer who was working thought for sure it was somehow her fault. It wasn't.

While I was trying to convince the circulation computer to load, who should walk in the door but Mr. B-Natural and his dog Bubba. We've not actually seen Mr. B at our branch since we banned Bubba from coming in due to the flea infestation that he allegedly caused. I thought, mistakenly it seems, that we were the only area library that would tolerate dogs, so I didn't see why Mr. B was so upset by it that he would refuse to come back to our branch at all. But we've certainly not seen any of him for over an entire month. There was a time when we would have paid good money to achieve that effect, but as it's being achieved at Bubba's expense, I'm not so happy about it. Neither is my wife. She thinks its a crime that we won't let Bubba in. She immediately began petting Bubba and telling Mr. B-Natural what a charmer his dog was. He beamed.

When Mr. B-Natural saw me at the desk, he smiled and said, "What are you doing down here?"

"Just trying to whip this computer into shape."

I finally did get that computer whipped into shape, but couldn't convince it to connect to the internet. Even after 10 minutes on the phone with one of our techs and some time spent turning the router, server computer, and battery backup on and off, we couldn't get it to come up. We finally chalked it up to being Verizon's problem and I was able to leave for lunch with my woman.

Intruders are not for fun, they are for learning and instruction.

The past 24 hours have been a cornucopia of both "liberry" goodness and real life drama. Far too much stuff for a single entry, so I'll just split it up as it happened.

Let's start with last night.

I went to bed around midnight and fell right asleep. Slept pretty hard too. Imagine my confusion when my sleep was disturbed at 1 a.m. by a sudden noise from elsewhere in the house. My sleeping mind registered it and began trying to wake me up, but it was having trouble. By the time I roused enough to know something was up, the noise itself had already passed, but I somehow knew it had occurred. Also troubling was the fact that my cat—the usual source of sudden noises in the night—was sleeping on my chest.

Before I could even calculate the ramifications of this realization, I heard a voice. It was a woman's voice, though I couldn't make out what she was saying. It sounded like it was coming from somewhere inside the house. Normally I would be alarmed to know I had an intruder, but my brain was still not quite awake enough to even register any emotion other than confusion. Was it the TV? No, I'd turned it off. I'd turned everything off. The image of some crazy woman wandering around in the basement popped into my mind, but I couldn't even work up any fear over it.

Then, I heard the voice again, this time more clearly. It said, "Hoo hoo."

"Hoo hoo," I said, responding to my wife. She had snuck home from her ER rotation and was creeping through the house quietly calling out our standard lovey-dovey greeting of "Hoo hoo" in an effort to prevent me from being startled awake and accidentally whacking her with the stout "brainin' stick" I keep under the bed. Good plan. She's a smart cookie.

Turns out, she'd had had a very bad evening in the ER.

At some point, one of her superiors on the floor had told her to go have a look at a dead fetus in a plastic bag. They said it was the sort of thing medical students should see. She didn't know how it had died, but she went and saw it and was unsettled by it. More unsettling than the fetus itself, though, was the way her superiors were so flippant about it. ER docs tend to build up some serious mental callouses when it comes to unsettling matters, like death. They see enough of it every day that they can't afford to come unglued about it no matter how affected they might otherwise be as a human being. She recognizes that and knows that it comes with the territory. We've both talked to plenty of docs who went into their careers thinking they were going to be the all-caring all-compassionate doctor who would never become jaded. Then about three months into their internship, they just realized that Shields Up was the only way not to go insane over the kinds of things they were seeing.

My wife is not a thin-skinned person. Last night, though, she wasn't prepared to be so calloused. It made her sad that here was this little fully-formed little baby lying in a plastic bag, reduced from the level of a formerly viable human being to that of a display item, a curiosity, something "medical students should see."

Knowing she was helpless to do anything else for the child, she instead shed a tear and said a prayer for it. (And this is every bit why I love her.)

Soon after that, she decided she needed to go home and sleep in her own bed with her own sweety. I was glad to have her home, though not for the circumstances that caused it. We snuggled up in our comfy bed and soon snoozed together.

She and I both knew that the ER rotation would not be an easy one and that she was going to see some disturbing things while on it. Sometimes those things can sneak up on you, though.

Sorry. I promise the rest of my entries will be far cheerier than this. And there's huge good news on the way...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oranges and Lemons

Some weeks back a high school-aged kid came in looking for A Clockwork Orange. Amazingly, he wasn't looking for the movie, but the original book. Too bad we don't own it. I offered to interlibrary loan it for him, which took some explaining as his expression clearly said "I know not this Enter-Liberry Lone process of which you speak." I guess everyone has to start their knowledge base somewhere, though, so I explained, Well, we don't own the book. This other library does. We're gonna get them to loan it to us and we'll then loan it to you. See?

"Oh, sure."

He was still a bit frustrated that we didn't have anything on hand for him that met the criteria of literature he was searching for, which was, "Books that have crazy dialogue like that and stuff."

Ah, so he HAD seen the movie.

Of course, my brain farted about that time and nothing crazy came to mind, outside of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was out. I tried to find him a Mark Leyner book, as I'd attempted to read one of those once and found it pretty EFFing' crazy. Unfortunately, we'd weeded the only one we have and it probably vanished in the book sale. Kid eventually left, empty-handed.

A week later, kid popped back in to see if we had his book yet. Oddly, it had just arrived in the mail. He signed for it and immediately slipped off the blue ILL cover wrap, which clearly has "DO NOT REMOVE THIS!" printed on it in bold type. While still standing at the circ-desk, he began a careful study the cover of the book.

"Anthony Burgess?" he said in a borderline disdainful tone. "I thought Stanley Kubrick did Clockwork Orange."

"Stanley Kubrick directed the film of A Clockwork Orange," I said. "Burgess wrote the original book, though."



"So, this guy," he said, pointing to Burgess's name, "wrote it up as the movie too?"

"Well, I don't know if Burgess had anything to do with writing the screenplay. He probably just sold the movie rights to a film studio who then hired Kubrick to direct it."

Kid gave me a dubious look. Was I really going to have to explain to him how movies get made too? Come to think of it, though, I was starting to feel a little deficient in my Nerdness. After all, what kind of true film-nerd am I if I don't know every last detail about any given Kubrick film? Was Burgess the screenwriter? I didn't know off hand.

"Are you sure this is the real book?" the kid asked, as though I were playing a trick on him. "There aren't any others?"

"No. That's the only one," I said. Reluctantly, he took it.

Now that I've IMDBed it, I see that Kubrick himself actually wrote the screenplay as well as directed it, but he wasn't attached to it from the start. Seems Mick Jagger originally bought the rights from Burgess, very cheaply, and intended to let the Rolling Stones play the Droogs. Eventually, the rights were repurchased for more money and Kubrick was brought in. Some of the trivia about this movie is indeed fascinating.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Battered... Chapped... Patton

During my recent drive to see my woman in Princeton, WV, I kept my mind occupied by listening to the debut comedy CD of my favorite stand-up comedian working today, Mr. Patton Oswalt. It's called "Feelin' Kinda Patton" and let me tell you it's outstanding. Then again, I'm a huge Patton Oswalt fan.

If you're a fan of edgy, crass stand-up with lots of creatively-constructed cursing, I highly recommend this album. (Don't get it if you just like him from his role as Kevin's buddy on The King of Queens and think this is gonna be nice and wholesome fun for the family.)

Patton is my favorite comedian currently working. I first saw him on an HBO special back in `98 or so and could scarcely believe someone so attuned to my sense of humor could be working in standup. Mind you, I still love the classics like Cosby, Pryor, Bruce, Carlin, Murphy, Hicks, etc. and have profound respect for such current greats as Bernie Mac, Jon Stewart, Dave Attell, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, David Cross and others, but Oswalt just so completely presses my HA HAH buttons it borders on symbiotic. In fact, I've often said that if my pal Joe and I were in some kind of horrible transporter accident in which our molecules got scrambled, combined and put back together, Patton Oswalt would be the result. (Although, you'd still have to account for a serious loss of mass, but I'll leave that to the mathematicians.)

Oswalt works pretty blue for the most part. I appreciate that, being something of a connoisseur of vulgarity myself. Don't get me wrong, I truly appreciate it when a comedian can cause me to become dehydrated from crying my eyes out with laughter and not say a single curse word. That shows true talent and skill at their craft. However, there is also something to be said for a comedian who not only has a fantastic point of view to their act but can season it with creatively constructed vulgarities in addition to intelligence and a fine vocabulary to boot. Patton Oswalt, I'm happy to say, can do both. I've seen him do curse-free comedy in appearances on Comedy Central, Conan O'Brien and one of his basic cable standup specials and he was just as funny to me as when he curses. So while he doesn't need the cursing to be funny, I think he prefers to give it to us anyway as added bonus value. (According to his blog, he has another relatively curse-free comedy special in the can for broadcast on Comedy Central within the next year, so I'm looking forward to savoring that.)

"Feelin' Kinda Patton" is just great stuff, though. There were parts so funny I thought I was going to run off the road because I couldn't see through the laughter-spawned tears pouring out of my eyes. (He does screaming outrage every bit as good as Sam Kinneson did, only without the underlying menace.)

The album itself is wonderful for just what it is, but there are some Easter Egg extra tracks (one of which is actually called Easter Eggs) which are different recordings of some of his older material from his `98 HBO special, including his choice observations on public television painters like Bob Ross and William Alexander, Ice Cream Magnate Tom Carvel and Pissdrinker's Magazine. I'm a little critical of these, as I think his delivery on the originals was far superior to these cuts, but they're bonus cuts and are great for folks who haven't heard them before.

I'm now delighted to learn that Patton will soon be releasing a 2.5 hour 2 CD concert called "Patton Oswalt: 222" that shall be a required purchase for me.

In the meantime, my new .sigfile quote shall be...

"Every time you eat a steak, a hippie's hackysack goes into the sewer. Always remember that."
--Patton Oswalt, 2004.

Sunday, October 10, 2004



I could not have been more wrong in my earlier prediction of the suckage level of today's Sunday shift. In fact, I'd have to say that today didn't suck at all. I'd classify this as one of the most perfect "liberry" shifts I've ever had. Certainly in the Top10.

First off, when I rolled in and prepared to start my day without internet and circulation software, I discovered that neither the internet nor the circulation software were at all disabled. Sweet, I thought. Furthermore, the patron traffic was so exquisitely low I was able to sit on the floor and do quite a bit of work on the auction website for ten minutes at at stretch without interruption.

Well, that's not entirely true. Eventually, the net did start working a bit more intermittently than I usually care for, but we had been warned of this. The circulation program continued to function unimpeded, though, so no worries there. By 2:30, the internet had completely healed itself and worked just fine.

Also, my fears of the Internet Addict crowd storming the place and making my life miserable proved unfounded. Evidently, they'd all read the signs I put up and knew to stay away. Oh, sure occasionally, a patron would wander in and ask to use the internet. I would then check it on the circ computer to see if it was working and A) log them on if it was; or B) send them away. The one exception to this came when the Sweatiest Woman in All the Land came in to use a computer and I told her that that she couldn't have one because the internet was down for the whole day. Mind you, at the time I told her this I was seated on the floor at the webserver actively using the internet. How I can claim this was anything other than a dirty blatant lie I'm not sure. My only excuse is that I didn't want her overpowering stench to viciously maul my otherwise perfect day.

I got the auction page squared away and managed to finally move all the images for it off my own personal website and onto our webserver itself. (Our Win 95 equipped webserver computer is so old that it's damn near impossible to move mass amounts of data onto it in any kind of efficient manner. It has rejected CD's, USB cables, my portable USB based zip disk card reader, installation of Win Zip and while with a great deal of effort it finally allowed me to install and execute WS FTP, it refused to allow me to actually FTP out of the building thanks to the stringent security measures taken by home office techies. So I was forced to simply load each of the 62 images stored on my page and save them directly to the webserver.) I had time to make and print a binder page for each auction item in case non-computer users would like to bid on the items in person and make signs about the auction to tape up at all our computer stations. Largely, these activities went uninterrupted.

Only got one "What time do you close?" call the whole day and only a couple of other calls, one of which was a most welcome call from my sweet woman.

Meanwhile, outside, the sun was shining, the leaves were yellow, crinkly and fragrant and the world was just a joy to behold.

How good it is to be wrong.


I predict that my Sunday shift will contain more than the usual suckage. How do I know this? Oh, maybe it's that the state office techs are taking their servers offline to do some work, so we will have no internet access and will be unable to use our internet-reliant circulation system. (Allegedly there's a mode to set it to that allows us to continue circulating without the net, but we've not really explored how to do any of that.)

What does this mean for me? Well, normally it would mean having to write out patron barcode numbers along with those on their books, on paper. And with the 14 digit barcodes we're using, that would be a royal pain. However, I came up with the novel idea of just using our barcode scanner to put the numbers directly into a Word document, saving them for later cutting and pasting.  Nice.

The big worry, though, will be that our internet addict patrons are going to be royally pissed off at me that they can't get their fix. I tried to head this off by putting up signs to this effect several days ago. I've even confirmed that Parka's already read one, cause he commented on it Saturday before asking about our hours.

"Are you going to be open on Monday?" he asked.


"Are you sure? It's a holiday."


"You're sure?"

I glared at him. "Well, we don't have any signs up that say otherwise. So, Yes, we're sure we'll be open on Monday."

Probably won't see much of him, but he's hardly the only net-addict who'll drop by.

Maybe it would be more fun to just take down all the signs and watch the flames shoot out of their ears as they try and try and try and try to get the net to work for them. I could keep moving them from computer to computer to let them try again, then shrug and scratch my ass when it doesn't work. If I were a real bastard, that's what I'd do. I probably won't do that, though. Not unless Chester comes in. Frankly, though, I'm not sure if he'd notice any difference.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Ministry of Bread Part II: It's Carbin' Time

Our downtown festival event went very well today. My diet, not so good. But what are ya gonna do when you're selling nothing but loaves of raw empty carbs?

I bought several loaves of bread, including one of Mrs. C's pecan pie bread loaves and a lemon ginger bread Mrs. A baked that the wife had requested. Still, I didn't eat any of it. Not right away, at least. I remained admirably faithful to the philosophy of low-carb dieting, until about 1p, when I told Mrs. A I was going into the depths of the festival in search of food. I was trying to be good in my search too, but I accidentally walked by a fried apple pie booth and the sugary little dough pockets of piping hot apples in syrup cried out to be devoured. I burned the hell out of the roof of my mouth as penance for eating it. It was great.

After that, I figured what the hell, I may as well eat what I want. I finally settled on the German-themed booth, where the sign declared that I could get bratwurst on a hoagie roll, sauerkraut and German potato salad for $5. Sign me up! Only after the man in the line handed me my plate with the bratwurst and bun and a second man slapped some sauerkraut next to it did I learn THERE WAS NO GERMAN POTATO SALAD TO BE HAD AFTER ALL!!!!

"Um, where's the potato salad?" I asked the man.

"There is none. So we dropped the price by a dollar."

Well poop on me! That was why I went in there in the first place. After all, if I'm gonna stuff carbs in my gob, they should at least be in tasty potato form. It had all been a clever ruse! Bastards! (I will say, the brat and sauerkraut was very good--and I don't even like sauerkraut.)

While I was in the downtown area, I did get a chance to check out the location of Garin the Comic Shop Guy's new shop. He's been in business for just about one year as a kiosk shop in the local "mall" but even from the first day I walked in there I thought it had potential. (Heck, just check my commentary on it from back then.) He did some great things with the kiosk shop and really showed how much could be done with one, but I figured that he would trade up to better digs before long. He definitely has. This shop is downtown central in a prime shopping location and next door to my favorite coffee house no less. He's also sharing floor space with the local paintball/ski/scuba guy, in a store that has plenty of room for both. And the Billy-Mayes-Screaming-Oxy-Powered Added Bonus to this is that the shop is located a mere two minute walk from the "liberry" itself. This means I get to cruise on down during my break without having to fight traffic to race across town to the "mall." I could even go in and hang out before heading on in to work.

At the moment, only a portion of his inventory was on display, the decorations weren't complete and the store won't open full time until the first of next month, but damn it's nice to have a full fledged comic shop to walk into.

I spent the rest of my time there working the festival booth, hockin' bread to the masses. The masses were hungry, too. Much bread was sold.

Around 2p, I began trying to find ways to speed the eventual teardown of the booth cause I wanted to hit the road ASAP. The wife is doing an Emergency Room rotation in Princeton, WV and I had a bit of a drive to get there. She's living in student housing there, since her 12 hour shifts are so close together that she has no practical amount of time to come home.  If we're to see one another at all this month I need to drive to her, and I wanted to get over there to spend as much time with her as possible before her 7:30 p shift began. So I started consolidating the remaining bread onto as few tables as possible just to speed things along. I must have also looked pitiful, rushing to cart boxes and chairs and tables back up the hill, because Mrs. A let me go at 2:30.

The wife is doing pretty good in Princeton. I think we miss each other even more now that she's a little closer to home than Clarksburg.  She's at least sharing the student house with one of our friends from school, so she's not as lonely as she was last time she did rotations in Princeton.

We put away quite a few more carbs of brown food down at Ryan's. (For the record, the Princeton Ryan's is the best Ryan's we've ever been to. The service is great, the place is consistently cleaner than most others of its kind, the food is excellent and there's lots of it.) She told me about some of the cool things that have happened to her in the ER.

It was sad, though. We had very little time to spend with each other--even less than we thought, it turns out. She thought she was supposed to go in at 7:30p, but as we looked at her schedule to plan our next rendezvous she noticed she was supposed to be there at 7, a mere 10 minutes away. It was awful to have that half hour snatched away from us like that. So I walked her over to the hospital and said goodbye. Then I drove all the way back home again, with my Patton Oswalt CD for company.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Ministry of Bread & Fury

You ever have that feeling where you just can't seem to get your job done because of your job? Had one of those days today.

I thought my stress level would have ebbed after my Hitchhiker's speech was past me, cause that thing's been hanging over my head all month. However, now that it's gone, I can clearly see all the other giant weighty responsibilities that had been hanging there too.

A while back I mentioned here that I was putting together an online auction to benefit the local literacy group. Well, that got postponed twice because we didn't have any publicity arranged and is now due to start next week. Have we got the publicity arranged? Not before today, we didn't. (Competely my fault. I have to own that one.) So yesterday I wrote a piece about it for the library's newspaper column, which Mrs. A put in the column along with two other items she was already going to talk about and told me to edit the whole thing as I saw fit. She then fled the building never to be seen again.

Happy with the column, I took the disk on which the column was saved and used the information in it to write a press release. Only I managed to overwrite the newspaper column with the press release, closed it and reopened it so I couldn't undo any of my damage. Shortly after this, I noticed a huge glaring error in the supposedly camera-ready newspaper column I'd already printed, which had been my only backup saving grace. In order to fix my mess, I had to track down all of the additional material Mrs. A had gathered to reconstruct the column from the ground up.

That wasn't so hard.

What was so hard was not shitting out a monkey in my fury at all the interruptions to the task. Every time my butt hit the chair in front of the computer, someone came in or the phone rang. Who was calling? People who wanted to talk to Mrs. C, of course, who was also unavailable.

Why was Mrs. C unavailable? Well, see, tomorrow brings a big annual festival in Town-A. Area restaurants and civic groups line main street selling food items as a fund-raiser for themselves and a portion of the proceeds from each booth goes to benefit a local historic performance hall. We always have a booth and sell quick breads, which our loving patrons bake and donate to us to sell. We also bake quite a lot of the bread ourselves. Even me. However, quite a lot of the bread from the patrons does not come wrapped properly or labeled so Mrs. C had to go over to our activities room to see to that chore for a couple of hours, leaving me to run the desk alone.

So while I'm trying to get my shit together for the auction I was constantly interrupted by patrons coming in to bring us bread, or the phone ringing with people asking for Mrs. C, or asking what time we closed, or patrons with unholy thirsts for a computer, or books to check in or books to check out. (And on this front, I noticed today that, to a person, our patrons could pace the room for twenty minutes with an armload of books, but they would NOT make a move for the desk to check out until I gave up waiting on them and went to sit back down at the computer to work. Then it was suddenly a stampede to get out. And this happened EVERY time those circumstances occurred.)

I also had to work on the auction website during all this, trying to get it whipped into shape enough to deserve publicity. Working on the website when I'm alone at the desk is often infuriating and the cause of more monkey shitting. Our webserver is located at the circ desk, but is on the floor in the bottom of a small cabinet beneath the desk itself. To use it, you have to sit on the floor with the keyboard resting on your lap and the world's dirtiest mouse suckin' up the dust bunnies every time you move it. It's nearly useless to try and get anything done with it when you're alone, though, because as soon as you sit down the door opens and needy patrons start pouring through it, or the phone rings, etc., and you have to get up to take care of it. I hate it, and I long for the day when we can have a REAL computer in a REAL office dedicated to the task with a damn lock on the door and no phone!

Of course, you can't have Mrs. A and Mrs. C both effectively gone without an appearance from Mr. Kreskin, our board president. He rolled in around 3 with a goodly number of pages he wanted me to photocopy for him. Oddly, he didn't even ask about Mrs. A or Mrs. C or their whereabouts. And he insisted on paying for his copies.

Finally, around 4 p.m., Mrs. C returned, saw the demented gleam in my eye and the fact that I was air-stabbing patrons behind their backs and told me to go on break. I grabbed the finished press release and column and walked `em down to the paper.

When I came back a half hour later, Mrs. C left for good, failing to alert me that Wal-Mart Jesus was in the building. He didn't have a lot of time to hang around, though, so I didn't have to teach him how to use the internet again. He only had me photocopy four pages from the encyclopedia for him before he gathered up his cudgel and bag and left.

The FAFSA Conundrum!

We thought Chester the (potential) Molester might be taking a class at the local community college across the way, because he's been parking his Ford Fugly in our half hour parking for over an hour every Wednesday around 4 p.m. I was determined to call the cops on him after he'd overstayed his time this Wednesday, but Mrs. C was hogging the phone for most of the day and it was nearly 5 by the time she got off. I know full well the meter-maid leaves work at 4:30, and after 5 it's legal to park there as long as you like, so I didn't call.

Yesterday, however, he was back and this time at least had the indecency to only get three of his tires in the parallel space. He wasn't exactly blocking the road, but I figured I might be able to use his poor parking job as grounds to get him towed. Unfortunately, Mrs. A saw Chester's parking job and decided to go leave him a threatening note instead. It said something to the tune of: "This is half hour parking. If you continue parking here for over an hour at a time, as you have been, our next call will be to the meter maid."

Of course, if Chester's Fugly had been towed, I would just have to deal with him coming in to borrow the phone to try to get a lift back to his own home county. Then he'd have all the excuse in the world to hang around until that ride arrived. Probably best he wasn't towed.

About the time the rest of the staff left, in Chester walked. I don't think he'd seen the note yet. More likely, he was looking for an excuse to come in since two early-teen girls had entered ahead of him, (one of whom was the same one he'd been staring at before I invited him outside to give him "the speech" this summer). As soon as he was through the door, though, he saw me at the desk and stopped still.

"Um, do you have any FAFSA forms?" he said with a worried glance at our floor shelf where we keep such forms and local free publications.

"No," I told him. Which is true. We don't have any FAFSA forms because he had already taken them all.

"Um, do you think there might be any, um, upstairs by the newspapers?"

"No," I told him. Again, it's because HE TOOK THEM ALL as an excuse to be near the magazine racks where all he really wanted to do was steal a copy of Teen People.

Chester gave me a doubtful look.

"We haven't had any for a couple of months," I told him. "Other people have asked too."

"Oh," he said. "Do you know when... *mumble mumble mumble* "


"Do you know when you'll have any more?"


Chester didn't leave immediately. He went back and had a wee in our toilet, probably ogled the girls at the computers on his way back through, and then left.

Only after he was gone did it occur to me that I should have just said, "No, we don't have any FAFSA forms, cause you took `em all! Have you tried looking at HOME?"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Hitchhiker's Guide to Tri-Metro

My Douglas Adams Retrospective talk went far better than I could have hoped today. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, cause I did prepare for it; I just kept thinking that I could have somehow prepared for it better. In the end, it still worked out terribly well, so I should shut up complaining.

I agreed to do the talk a month and a half ago as part of a book discussion course for a local seniors center that offers classes to their members every Thursday. Judy, the group's organizer, a friend of mine from church, had approached my boss Mrs. A to see if anyone from the "liberry" would be interested. Mrs. B and I were the only ones who agreed to do it.

I asked Judy what sort of books might be appropriate for the seniors, but she didn't want to limit me. She said they were a very receptive audience and would appreciate whatever I wanted to talk about. She did suggest I choose something I was passionate about. Trouble is, I've not been passionate about a book since Life of Pi and I didn't want to do that one because I would almost have to spoil it to stretch it into a 40 minute talk. Instead, I looked back at books I'd been passionate about in the past and decided that the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series was probably the spot on choice as far as my life's book passions go.

When I was trying to think of how exactly I'd come to read the book in the first place, I realized that my love for it had actually spun out of a love for a different British science fiction institution: Doctor Who. See, I came to Hitchhiker's by way of its TV series in the early `80s. I'd been flipping channels at a friends house one night and stumbled on it. At first I mistook it for Doctor Who itself, my then all time favorite show ever (and still in the top ten for me now). It had the same BBC video look to it, with a big robot that looked like a windup toy. Had to be Doctor Who, right? It wasn't til the end credits that I knew what it really was, recognizing it from a book in the sci-fi section of a local bookstore. It was still around 5 years before I actually sought out the first book in the series, but once I read it I was a whole hog convert.

Now, not only did I discover Hitchhiker's by way of Doctor Who, but I discovered another favorite writer, Neil Gaiman, by way of Hitchhiker's. I bought Neil's Hitchhiker's biography, Don't Panic, in a bookstore soon after it was published. A year or two later, I began reading press about a new comic series called Black Orchid written by Neil Gaiman. Only I couldn't remember where I knew his name from, only that I owned something by him. I went through my entire comic book collection (considerable even back then) trying to find a book he'd written and came up blank. Finally I gave up, allowing my head to flop back in frustration. From that flopped position, I spied Don't Panic by Neil Gaiman on my bookshelf. Ahh, mystery solved. Needless to say, after reading Black Orchid, I was a Neil convert for life too.

As usual, I didn't start preparing for my talk in until last Sunday. I then spent three days writing out verbatim what I was going to say and choosing excerpts from Adams's work to read for the group. (My theory is, the less of me yammering on about the books and the more of me giving the audience a taste of the material itself, the better off everyone will be.)

This morning, at three minutes before I was supposed to start my speech, I was still the only soul in the room. A little old lady had wandered in briefly, but decided it wasn't the class she was looking for after all and left. Then, about one minute til, the flood gates opened and between 15 and 20 middle-aged to little-old ladies came on in.

While they were getting seated, I heard one say, "I can't believe we're doing Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

At first I thought she was unhappy about it, but it turned out she and her family were big fans of the radio series and used to listen to tapes of it whenever they went on family trips.

For a visual aid, I brought every Douglas Adams related thing I own, including my dog-eared paperback copies of the Hitchhiker's books, my pleather-bound collected edition of them, the radio series, the TV series, the unabridged books on tape as read by the author, the Hitchhiker's radio scripts book, the Hitchhiker's comic books, the Dirk Gently books, Neil's Don't Panic, Adams's non-fiction Last Chance to See and the posthumous Adams's essay and fiction collection The Salmon of Doubt.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the talk. I have no illusions that I produced 15 octogenarian Adams converts by the end, but one or two may seek these out.

Fortunately, I've made sure we have them all at the "liberry."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #8

ME: Can I help you?


ME: (Raises eyebrow, preparing for worst)

CIPWGLOSIP: I'm looking for a book on a variety of artists. I'm looking for information about Jackson Pollack.

ME: Ah, okay. (Types "Jackson Pollack" as a keyword search. Nothing comes up.) Hmm. (Types "Pollack, Jackson" as a subject search. Still nothing comes up.) Errr.

CIPWGLOSIP: (As though explaining something to a small child) He was a painter who used to splatter paint on his canvas in order to...

ME: (Interrupting and adopting an irritable tone myself ) Yes. I'm familiar with Jackson Pollack. But we don't seem to have any books specifically about him.

CIPWGLOSIP: I know. The other lady already told me that.

ME: Oh? (I then realize I've been operating on a mistaken assumption, and that CIPWGLOSIP did indeed ask me on a book of various artists and not for one about Pollack specifically, so I should probably not be quite so pissy.) Okay. I see. (Do subject search on Artists. Lots of vague and unhelpful records come up.) Er. (I search under Painters, Art History and a few other things to little avail.) Well, searching under artists and painters seems to be too broad a category and we don't have a lot of books on painters themselves. I'm trying to think of a way to narrow my search down. Wasn't he impressionist? (I meant to say expressionist, but couldn't remember the word.)

CIPWGLOSIP: No. He didn't live during the impressionist period. He was modern.

ME: Ah ha! Modern. (I search for Modern Artists. Three unhelpful records come up, including a book called 19th Century Painters.)

CIPWGLOSIP: There, what's that? 19th Century Painters.

ME: No, that wouldn't be him. He didn't live then either. (I toggle back to my original search screen)

CIPWGLOSIP: No, wait. What was that one at the bottom?

ME: What one at the bottom?


(I go back to the Modern Artists Search Results)

CIPWGLOSIP: Yeah. 19th Century Artists.

ME: No, that wouldn't be him. He didn't live then.

CIPWGLOSIP: But he was big in the 1960s.

ME: Which occurred during the 20th century.

CIPWGLOSIP: But the 1960's...

ME: Were in the 20th Century. Not the 19th.

CIPWGLOSIP: Oh... (Looks confused. Blinks for a bit. Still doesn't seem to believe me. Finally seems to do the math.) Oh, yeah.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Baby Got Back

My lovely wife returned home to me on Thursday afternoon, after having spent three months away on medical rotations in Clarksburg. That's the longest we've been apart since our wedding day, though in truth the longest time we ever went without seeing one another during that three month stretch was for 3 weeks back in August.

She popped into the "liberry" on her way back in Thursday afternoon to surprise me and laugh at my hair, or the lack thereof. It was great to see her. It felt strange, though, because she smelled different to me than I'm used to. Not bad at all, but definitely something different. I thought maybe it was residual 60's Smell from having lived in that Brady Bunch house for that long. Turns out, though, it was because she'd switched to Gain laundry detergent and my nose is used to Surf.

As an added bonus to my Thursday, my copy of the Firefly DVD box set FINALLY came in, so we spent our weekend watching episodes of that show, among other activities.

It's been an ordeal getting that DVD set. I originally ordered it back on September 8, from Amazon's Marketplace. The seller, (Media For Less out of Gulf Shores, AL), described the set as brand new and unopened and the price was right so I ordered it and expected it would be in my hands within a few days. A few days turned into two weeks with still no Firefly. I finally went back to Amazon and looked at the seller's feedback rating, which I should have done in the first place. There were lots of complaints against them. Of course, there was also lots of high praise for them, so they seemed to be an intermittently bad seller at worst.

My theory on this was that Media For Less was the on-line outlet for a retail store. If their stock sold in their store, they might not remember to remove it from its Amazon listing and would subsequently ignore any inquiries about those items from the people who ordered them. Pretty crappy business ethic, but again it was only a theory based on the kind of negative feedback they were getting. Most of it spoke of receiving no merchandise and either no replies from the seller or rude replies from the seller. I figured I was going to have to file a grievance. Even so, I wanted to go ahead and try to contact them just so I'd have a paper trail. I sent them an e-mail asking the status of my order.

For a week I heard nothing from them, which made me just as mad as you'd expect. I wanted to just go ahead and order the set again, figuring there was no way Media For Less would actually send it. Then again, as soon as I ordered it from someone else, I knew what would magically appear in my mailbox. So I stewed for a week, irritated that according to Amazon I had to wait until October 3 before I could even file a claim. Then, on Sept 23, Media For Less wrote me back.

They wrote:

"we are closing this business . we are located in gulf shores alabama, and just took a direct hit from hurricane ivan , we are just now able to answer any emails, besides extensive damage we were without power until today and all our product has been lost - if you have not made an a-z claim at amazon on this yet go ahead and do that , we will be refunding all lost merchandise due to the hurricane from the a-z claim."

I was sorry to hear they'd lost their business, but was actually rather happy that they weren't sending the order cause now I could order it again. I checked all the Marketplace listings for the Firefly set, but most of the least expensive ones were located in Florida. Not willing to take another gamble on Ma' Nature, I just ordered it from Amazon directly.

The wife and I have only watched six of the 14 episodes so far, but I'm even more in love with this series than I was upon first seeing it at Dragon Con. The wife likes it a lot too. Unfortunately, we won't get to watch any more of it until she comes home again. See, even though she just spent three months away from home, she also scheduled a near month-long rotation in Princeton, WV, starting today, so she had to leave again. (That's okay, though, cause after she gets back she'll have at least 6 months of rotations here at home and has several weeks of vacation time scheduled in Nov, Dec and Jan.) She made me promise I wouldn't watch anymore episodes without her.

I did promise that.

I did not, however, promise not to watch the commentaries.

Friday, October 01, 2004


While making a new library card for a patron, last night, there came a sudden noise at the front door. It was the sound of the door handle being turned repeatedly in an effort to get it to open. The patron I was helping noticed it and turned to look toward the door, but the door did not open as one might have expected.

"I know who it is without even looking up," I told the patron at the desk. Just to prove it, I didn't even look up.

After nearly ten more seconds of struggled twisting, the door finally opened and Little Kevin Martin came tumbling into the "liberry" followed closely by his mother, Mary.

Little Kevin Martin is perhaps the most uncoordinated child I have ever met. Don't get me wrong, he's a terribly sweet boy and it's not like he's stupid or touched in the head or anything; he's just eight kinds of awkward. He can't even claim natural teenage awkwardness is responsible cause he's only about 9.

Every time Little Kevin and his mom come to visit, at least one of the following things happen, usually both:
A) Kevin stands on our front stoop and twists at the handle of the door for upwards of 30 seconds in an effort to open it. This actually happens EVERY time they visit. And it's not like it's a difficult handle to open. In fact, most of the time you don't even have to turn it, you just have to pull. Not Kevin, though. He twists that handle like it's gonna spout candy.

B) Kevin falls off the step stool in front of the circulation desk and busts his ass. It almost never fails to happen. He steps up on the stool, which is only two steps high and about a foot and a half wide, puts his books up on the desk to check out. Then at some point before the books are finished he loses his balance, falls off and busts his ass. Fortunately, Kevin is not one of these children who immediately bursts into tears and starts a wailin' at the first bruise. He just dusts himself off and steps back up, ready for round two. Often, he gets it.

Beyond those regular annoyances, Kevin is also not the most observant of children and seems to operate in his own little world for much of the time. For instance, last night I was going back to log someone on the computer and found that Kevin and his mom were standing directly in front of the door leading to the computer hall, entirely blocking it. They were looking at the Young Adult shelves, adjacent to the doorway. I said, "Excuse me," and Kevin's mom moved aside. Kevin remained in the way, engrossed in the book spines.

"Kevin, move out of the way," his mom said. Still Kevin remained.

"Um, excuse me," I said from directly next to him. Kid still didn't budge. After two more verbal attempts to get Kevin to move, his mom finally reached over and gently pulled him out of the way. Again, the kid's not stupid or anything, he's just a little spacey and one track. Or perhaps he's still suffering from the near concussion he gave himself by running headlong into our front door a while back.

I guess it was just over a year ago that it happened. I was on my own at the circ desk, round 5 in the evening, when I heard a tremendous BAMM!!!!!!! It sounded as though something large, say, a bowling ball, had struck the front door. I rushed to the door to see what had happened and found Kevin lying on the front stoop clutching at his head and crying. What had happened is that Kevin had been running full out from his car to the library door, probably in the hope of getting the full thirty seconds worth of handle-twisting before his mom could get there and stop him. However, being terribly uncoordinated, Kevin had tripped on the edge of the stoop and plowed his head into the door. Fortunately, he'd struck a wooden section of the door and not driven his head through one of the glass panes instead. His mother was instantly in a panic that her child had nearly brained himself and began frantically demanding ice from me. Trouble is, we don't really have a machine capable of producing ice cubes. Sure, we had a little dorm fridge in the activity room, but the freezer portion of it could only be set to Broken or Overzealous and had long since filled itself up with frost. So great was her demand for ice, though, that I figured I'd give it a try. I rushed to the `fridge and used a fork to chip some of the frost into a baggie which I then ran back and gave to Mrs. Martin.

Last night, while checking out their usual selection of 900 books, I noticed Kevin had some kind of dragon toy. Being a nerd, I'm a big fan of toys even to this day, though I will say I almost always refrain from buying them anymore just because I have enough useless plastic in my life as it is. Still, the dragon looked sort of cool.

"What kind of dragon is that?" I asked, hoping to learn the name of the toy-line. Kevin immediately began reciting a dissertation on dragons, their origins, habits, likes, dislikes, body measurements, mating rituals, common coloration, favorite foods, turn-ons, ideal evenings, etc. His mom gave me an embarrassed sort of look that also conveyed how unfortunate it was that I had opened this particular dragony can. She began trying to coax Kevin toward the door. Soon this turned into dragging Kevin toward the door. Kevin drug his feet the whole way out, so as to allow him enough time to spread his knowledge of dragon lore.

"Probably more information than you actually wanted?" his mom shouted over Kevin's continued soliloquy. I think the kid talked all the way to the car.

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.