Thursday, May 31, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #33

Purple Mountains
Because the sun doesn't ever completely go down in May, ten o'clock at night there's this very cool glow that comes over everything, making the mountains turn purple. I live in a very mountainy area, so I've seen purple mountains before, but this was PURPLE. The photo above really doesn't do it justice AT ALL. That particular hue was one of the most beautiful things I saw during the trip and I was never able to quite capture it.

Postcards from Alaska #32

Soloman's Gulch, the lower
Solomon's Gulch is a scenic area across the bay from Valdez, very near the shore end of the AK pipeline. The gulch itself is beautiful, but the Soloman Gulch trail boasts what our guidebook called a steep trail leading to a lake. I thought this sounded challenging so I and the wife hoofed it up a very steep and rocky trail, through a wooded area filled with strange plants, including skunk weed (which did indeed smell like a skunk) and devil's broomstick (which is a long flowering plant with thick spiky vines that looks like it would really ruin your day were you to, say, roll down a steep hill into them).
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We eventually reached a crossroads between two even steeper trails, which was where the wife said she was headed back to the RV and I could decide if I wanted to walk further. The above picture is taken from atop the next ridge, looking back toward the bay. Nearly killed me to reach this point.

Once I reached it, I had this to look at: a valley leading, I hoped, to the top of the gulch and more very steep hills beyond, presumably leading to the lake. I stumbled on toward the bridge and gulch top, cursing the journey and declaring that someone would be made to pay if the view from down there wasn't pretty damn spectacular.
Gulch topside

I don't know if the topside view was all that great, but it was pretty enough. I decided, though, that the lake would have to be pretty for someone else to see, because I wasn't walking up any more hills beyond the one that would lead me back down the trail.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #31

Harbor shot
Down by the shore in Valdez. We considered going out fishing while visiting the area, but decided that $260 per person, not to mention addtional equipment rental costs and license fees, was a bit steep, particularly considering it isn't even salmon season yet. We'd have to catch a loooooot of fish to justify that kind of expendature, and I'm not that great a fisherman. Instead, we settled for a more practical solution and simply went down to the local seafood distributor, who send out hundreds of their own commerical fishing boats, and bought a bunch of salmon, halibut and halibut cheeks from them. (We bought that last item simply so we can invite people over to eat "`but cheeks.")

Old Valdez
Valdez is a twice built town. The original was wiped out in an earthquake, and then relocated down the road a ways. The original town's footprint can still be found among the plants along the western shore of the bay. I thought it might be creepy to visit it, but instead it's just mostly this flat place occasionally broken up by concrete slabs.

Postcards from Alaska #30

Liberries, other
The Valdez Public Library was one of three such institutions I visited during our time in AK. As using the internet was the only reason I was visiting, I found it very odd to find myself forced into the role of an "innanet" crowder. I also found it odd to have to figure out the internet useage protocol for each of the libraries. Each of them was different from one another and from my own. One (Fairbanks' Wein library) issued me a temporary library card with which I could use their sign in computer to reserve a system for either 50 minutes or 15 minutes. Valdez had a sign in sheet, but one prebroken into time blocks of the day, offering only one half hour's credit for the entire day. Anchorage also had a temporary login card, but conducted a bit more of a personal interview with me, typing some personal information up before handing it over.

I must give the staff members credit for being patient with me as I gave them confused looks when asking such questions as "Uhhh, which computer is Stacks #5?" and "Where do I print?" and "So, I don't have to have any sort of login to use your wireless?" To a person, they were nice and helpful. And if any of the Fairbanks staff is reading this, I was the guy in two different Superman T-shirts on two consecutive days.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #29

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Young bald eagles don't get their white heads until they're a couple years old. They're still scary huge, though. This was a morning shot on an overcast day (Valdez is known for its overcast days).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #28

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls, near Thompson's Pass. Some jerk at the bottom.

Postcards from Alaska #27

Abandoned tunnel
This partially finished train tunnel, near Thompson Pass, was hand dug and nearing completion, sometime in the nineteenth century, when a dispute broke out over it resulting in a gun battle and an abandoned tunnel project.

Postcards from Alaska #26

Ooooohh oooooooh, witchy woman, she's got...
A different eagle feeding on a different frozen lake, later in the day. A few hours after we saw this, we witnessed a bald eagle feeding on something completely different. As we neared Thompson's Pass, we spied some turns attacking a bald eagle in mid-air. They swooped and soared around him, pecking at him and then manuevering away before he could snap them out of the air. They were trying to distract him from their nearby nest. They were unsuccessful. Just after we stopped to take photos of their attack, the eagle landed in their nest and gobbled up the baby turns. The parent birds continued to swoop down, angrilly pecking him on the head. Perhaps fortunately, all of the pictures and mpeg footage I took of the event disappeared from my camera.

Postcards from Alaska #25

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This was a scenic little creek near Paxon, AK, where Ash and her family built their first cabin. They were homesteaders, which meant if they developed a given patch of Alaska owned land, stayed on it and kept it up for three years, they could claim it as their own property. They found one atop a mound of springy tundra located by a running creek and with a fantastic view of the mountains nearby. In fact, Ashley's dad refused to put a door on his outhouse on the grounds that it would block his view.

Just shy of three years later, some locals who didn't like Ashley's father decided they wanted him out. They found a loophole in the state code that said you couldn't build within three miles of the oil pipeline and because Ash's family cabin was barely within that boundary, her dad was forced to tear the cabin down. After that, Ash's family left the area. The only thing remaining of the cabin today are the footers, an overgrown road, a few weathered boards and that fantastic view.

Ash's family cabin site

Postcards from Alaska #24

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Tracking the wily moose. We'd seen an actual moose earlier that morning, which seemed to jog parallel to the highway as we drove. I was just happy to see a moose, but Ashley nearly had a heart attack at the thought that it could dash in front of us at any moment. When a girl in her early 20s, Ashley barely survived such a moose strike. The moose did too. Her car, not so much.

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Found his poop, though.

Postcards from Alaska #23

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A bald eagle feeding on a frozen lake. Originally, he was much closer to the road. So much so that when we saw him we both said, "What the hell is that big ass thing out there?" before realizing it was an eagle. I don't know if you've seen one live, before, but they're imposingly huge creatures. By the time we got the RV parked and Ashley had dashed barefooted through mud and snow melt to photograph it, the eagle took off and flew further out onto the lake to finish his meal.

Postcards from Alaska #22

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Springtime in Alaska, (taken at Summit Lake, May 28, 2007, midmorning). Soon after this was taken, it began to snow.

Icy Lake

Postcards from Alaska #21

This was my first real glimpse of the famous oil pipeline, this section near Grand Junction. Ashley's dad helped build this sucker.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #20

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Ashley grew up in the Sa1cha area, near North Pole, AK. As a kid, she used to climb the Sa1cha bluff with her friends and sister and swore she would do so again before we left the area. We were late getting out, though, and it was around 11 p.m. that night when we started to leave the area. I knew she wouldn't get another chance, this trip, and asked if she was still up for it.

"Well, do you want to climb the bluff at 11 at night?" she asked.

"Hell, I'll do it just to say I climbed the bluff at 11 at night," I said.

By the time we made it to the top it was 11:30 p.m. It was still twilight.

Salchaket graves
Mid way up the bluff is the location for a graveyard for the Sa1chacket indians. I can't find them in Google, so the rumors of how small they are in number may be true. In fact, according to local Sa1cha tradition, there is one surviving member of the tribe left in the area and she will be the last person allowed to be buried on the bluff when she dies.

Salcha bluff
Another look from the Sa1cha bluff, including the Sa1chaket river for which the area is named.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #19

The State Bird
Here we find the Unofficial State Bird of Alaska, the mosquito. Yep, they grow em big here. Locals drink their whiskey with a deet chaser.

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Oh, yeah. You might have heard that Santa lives in North Pole, AK, too. He has an RV park. He charges too much, though, so we stayed in a friends driveway instead.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #18

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I want a log cabin with a turret.

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And a cool door.

We saw this place while seeking fried halibut at a place called Ester's Gold Camp, a former gold mining camp turned seafood buffet. Unfortunately, the buffet did not offer the halibut I assumed it would. Also unfortunately, their crab was not particularly impressive. I mean, it wasn't bad, or anything. It WAS tasty enough, being Dungeness crab and all. And I did eat an awful lot of it to be complaining. However, so far in my life, I've not yet tasted crab that explains why those guys on Deadliest Catch risk their lives. Maybe I just don't get it.

Postcards from Alaska #17

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I used to hear people say that halibut have both eyes on the same side of their head, but I never believed it. Now that's one #$%&ed up looking fish, but damn if he ain't tasty.

Halibut, for my money, is some good fish. I like it much better than crab, but then again I didn't eat any king crab on the trip so maybe I don't know from good crab.

My quest, during my trip, was to find perfect beer battered, deep fried halibut. Now, most halibut is good anyway, but I sometimes paid out the ass for fish that wasn't all that impressive. I eventually succeeded in finding two fine fine examples, though. The second best I found was at Mike's Restaurant in Valdez, where they offer a $15 halibut fingers plate that was mighty nice. The hands down best, however, was at the Glacier Brewhouse in downtown Anchorage. I'm sure their $27 halibut plate with all its herbs and spices and alder smoke is quite nice, but I recommend just getting the beer battered halibut appetizer. For around $12, you get five massive chunks of beer battered deep fried halibut. For a few bucks more, you can get it with Parmesan and garlic encrusted fries.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #16

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Sleepy Sled Dog

Postcards from Alaska #15

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Sled dog demonstration at Denali National Park. It was funny that all the sled dog's had the ranger's sled dog introduction speech memorized as well as he did. Just when it got to the part where he was about to go over and help hook the dogs up before racing around a gravel track, they all went nuts. He hadn't moved an inch, but they knew he was about to and wanted to be picked for demo duty.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #14

Holy crap, don't look down!
On the bus tour at Denali Park, you ride along these tiny little one lane dirt roads that, during part of the journey, wind along the side of a mountain. Its during that side of the mountain part, when two or more tour busses are coming the opposite direction, around blind curves, that your sphincter really gets a good clenching workout. Fortunately, we were the inside bus and didn't have an immediate right hand window-side view of potential rocky death.

McKinley was too cloudy to see on this particular day and our tour only went half way to it before turning back. It would probably have been worth an additional 6 hours to reach it, had we been able to see it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #13

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This was actually our second moose sighting. I'd been hoping to see one since I arrived, but they were irritatingly thin on the ground. Actually, they were pretty thick on the ground, but so were the trees. My first moose was spotted while driving. He or she was standing in a clearing down an embankment by the side of the road and I only got a brief glimpse. This one, however, ambled across our path as we were on the way up to Denali park.

Postcards from Alaska #12


Postcards from Alaska #11

Alyeska Ground Squirrel
Alyeska also has a small population of ground squirrels, such as this guy. Moments after this picture was taken, he rushed us. I don't know if he was trying to scare us or if he was just curious as to what we were all about, but he gave up with that tactic and scurried away where I and my camera couldn't get at him.

Postcards from Alaska #10

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Alyeska is a ski resort and hotel, located at the bottom of a mountain, with a five star restaurant near the top. They also offer tourists the chance to ride up in the cable car for around $15 a pop and get a good look at the view. Nice, huh?

Postcards from Alaska #9

Alyeska Resort
We saw Alyeska Resort on the Travel Channel and thought it might be nice to visit. We forgot to write down where it was located, however, but stumbled upon it all the same. (Doesn't hurt that, for the largest state in the union, Alaska only really has about 8 highways to its name.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #8

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I actually ate a very small chunk of this glacier. Quite smooth, but with hint of whale ass.

Postcards from Alaska #7

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"You've been a whale of an audience, ladies and gentlemen! Have a good evening and don't forget to tip the tourboat staff. G'night!"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Postcards from Alaska #6

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Exit Glacier, near Seward, is a glacier you can walk to. If you're dumb you'll go stand next to it and possibly get calved on. Or, you can take the vanilla wussy way and stay behind the rope, like me.

Postcards from Alaska #5

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Resurrection Bay, near our first major stop in Seward, AK. An all around gorgeous place.

Postcards from Alaska #4

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Memo to self: Next time I come to Alaska, bring a camera with a stronger zoom.

Postcards from Alaska #3

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See what I mean?

Postcards from Alaska #2

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Little known facts about Alaska: No sign in this state is without at least one bullet hole.

Postcards from Alaska #1

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Home sweet home. This is the Winnebago we rented for our two week Alaskan adventure. Even with gas prices soaring, this was still cheaper than staying in $150 per night hotels (tourist season prices, dontchaknow) and eating out at expensive restaurants every meal (during tourist season all restaurants in AK are expensive). We rented this one from Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. A fantastic company and a great all around experience.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I've never been to Alaska before, but later this afternoon I'm headed up there. Yes indeedy, I'm finally off to visit the homeland, or at least the growing up land, of my wife Ashley.

From age five, when her dad moved the family up there, looking to and eventually taking a job as an industrial mechanic on the oil pipeline project in the mid 1970s, to age 25, Alaska was where Ashley called home. She and her family lived in a variety of places—often Little House on the Prairie style, with no running water and an outhouse, sometimes in the middle of the wilderness with no roads of any sort leading to them and supplies air-dropped every two weeks—but eventually settled down in a little community called Salcha. I'll get to see that area and lots more.

Unfortunately, I've been operating under the mistaken impression that I was supposed to fly out Saturday instead of today despite the fact that my itenerary clearly says May 18. So I'm about to pile the cat in the car to zoom down to North Carolina where I'm ditching her with the in-laws and then flying out of Charlotte at 5:20. I guess the countdown still works, as it's a 10 hour flight, so I won't get there until the wee hours of Saturday. Well, the wee hours for me, it'll only be midnight when I get there.

Oy, I should have left yesterday.

I'll drop in from time to time, posting from libraries across Alaska, uploading snapshots and no doubt sitting next to the Alaskan equivallent of Mr. B-Natural.

A-MINUS: 1 or 0 depending on your point of view

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Unprecedented




I'm simply astounded!

Awestruck, even!

I'm amazed, taken of breath and at a near complete loss for words (except for, well, these).

How come? Lemme tells ya.

A computer patron came up to the circ desk and asked me how she might print information from a website but only print a select amount of it and not print the entire site. Can you believe that shit?


No, listen to what I'm saying, here, because I don't think you understand the full gravity of the situation.

This patron asked this question IN ADVANCE of attempting it. This beautiful, compassionate, caring soul didn't just print out the entire damn website and THEN come complain about how she only wanted a sentence. No, she actually sought out our assistance IN ADVANCE in order to accomplish the goal she had set before her.


I nearly cried with joy and amazement! It was like a religious experience. I tell you, if I wasn't already married and if she hadn't been kind of a hag, I would have kissed her full on the lips and slipped her some tongue. Instead, I joyfully supplied her with my, until that moment unused, pre-printing lecture on the finer points of internet printing and how she might highlight the one sentence she wanted, go to the print menu, select "SELECTED TEXT" and then print.

It made my millennium.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #81


ME— Tri-Metro County Library?

BIRTHDAY LADY— Yes, could you tell me what year Jerry Falwell was born?

ME— Oh, did he pass?

BIRTHDAY LADY— Yes he... Ohhh, no. You hadn't heard.

I failed to mention to Birthday Lady that the only deaths of famous people I EVER hear about come from either her or Entertainment Weekly. Instead, I fired up Google, looked up Mr. Falwell's birthday of August 11, 1933, and passed the information on. Birthday Lady explained that Mr. Falwell had died of an apparent heart attack. She then apologized to me for being the bearer of such tragic news, but she'd only just heard about it herself.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mr. B-Notary?

Speaking of dogs in the building, one of our favorite neighbors of the "liberry" is a lady named Carrie, who bought the house of our former "liberry" neighbor Mona, when Mona moved away a few months back. Carrie visits us frequently and is a considerable "liberry" donor. Unfortunately, she owns a small yap dog which she insists on bringing with her where ever she goes and almost always brings it into the library when she visits. Mrs. A has been concerned that Mr. B-Natural would catch sight of the dog and then throw a big, righteous, Grumpiest Old Man in all the World hissy that someone else's dog was allowed to come in the building but his was banned. She's not been so worried, though, that she's asked Carrie not to bring her pooch. (Did I mention she's a major donor?) So far, Mr. B-Natural hasn't seen the dog, but there have been some close calls.

In the middle of last week's story hour, Mr. B-Natural came up to the desk clutching a fistful of papers.

"I need to get these notarized," he said. "You a notary?"

"No, I'm not and both of our others are busy at the moment," I said. Then I recalled that Mrs. A was actually in the building and is a notary. I told Mr. B-Natural that I might have one for him after all and went upstairs to find Mrs. A.

Upon returning to the desk, I told him, "She'll be down in a couple minutes." I then tried to find something productive to do while we both stood there waiting.

"I already signed these papers," Mr. B-Natural offered.

I gave him the long, slow burn look. "You're not supposed to sign them until the notary can witness it," I said. "MRS. A won't be able to notarize that unless she witnesses you sign it." THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF A NOTARY!

"Ahhhhh, I can just sign it again," he grumped.

Mrs. A came down from her office, saw that he'd already signed the papers and reiterated the purpose of a notary to him. Mr. B-Natural told her he could just sign it again over his previous signature and she reluctantly agreed to witness that. While he was doing so, the door opened and in came Carrie and her pooch. Carrie was dropping something off and came right up to the desk, within a foot of Mr. B-Natural, and passed it over the desk to Mrs. A. Fortunately, Carrie had somewhere else she needed to be and departed before Mr. B-Natural had a chance to look up. As Carrie left, Mrs. A turned and gave me a horrified look at the bullet we'd just dodged. It's not that she's afraid of Mr. B-Natural's wrath, but that doesn't mean she wants to listen to it either. Plus, he would have a point. We're playing favorites with dogs. Granted, Carrie's pooch is far less likely to be riddled with the kind of fleas Bubba has delivered to us in the past, but it's still not being completely fair.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Mr. B-Wireless?

Mr. B-Natural has let it be known that he just ordered a laptop computer and will soon be taking advantage of the "liberry's" wireless access. No more will he have to wait in line in order to get right to his "innanet" crossword puzzle. No more will he be busted off the computer in the middle of a very important game of solitaire in favor of a child who only wishes to spend hours on MySpace. He will be footloose and fancy free... provided he remains within the as yet undetermined confines of our wireless signal.

"Hey, will I be able to use it outside, so I can sit there with my dog?" he asked last week.

"Not sure," I said. "Probably. Some people have used it in their cars, out front."

"What about at the picnic table?"

The picnic table is a bit far away for what I imagine are our signal reach limits. However, I'd be willing to drag it closer to the building if only for the sake of his dog, Bubba—a wonderful animal who we like far more than we do its owner.

Eventually, he will realize that with a wireless connection he can use outside, we'll no longer be able to prevent him from drinking his coffee as he uses the internet. And when he spills that cup of coffee in his own keyboard, he will have to live with the consequences.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Bite my ass, lady! And I mean that only in the kindest possible way.

Mrs. B told me about this one.

Early last week, Mrs. B received a phone call from an irate patron. This patron said that she had requested an inter"liberry" loan two weeks ago and it still hadn't arrived for her. She was furious that this was the case because she really needed that book. Mrs. B looked up the title in our consortium's directory and found that one library in the entire consortium owned the book and it was currently checked out. She explained this to the woman on the phone, pointing out that if a given book is not currently on the shelves of the library that owns it, that book can't exactly be loaned out until it is first returned.

The woman didn't care to hear this, of course, and insisted that she had been assured the book was available and would be in her hands within 10 days. Furthermore, if the book wasn't in her hands by the end of the day, she was going to phone the library commission to complain about us. Mrs. B told her that she was welcome to do so, but that we had no control over when or whether the book would arrive, nor did the library commission.

The lady then backtracked a bit and said that she might instead call the library commission to complain about the library that actually owned the book. Mrs. B tried to point out that the book might have been checked out from the other library between the time the ILL request was originally taken and the time we actually processed it, a day or so later. It might not even be overdue and could therefore not be recalled by the library that owned it to loan to us. The woman angrilly insisted that no one wanted to read that book, it wasn't popular and so no one would have checked it out. If she didn't have it by the end of the day, she was phoning the library commission to tattle on someone. She HAD to have that book.

When Mrs. C returned, Mrs. B asked her about the ILL. Mrs. C looked the book up and found that it was actually checked out to us by the library that owned it as part of the interlibrary loan and it had already been mailed but had not yet arrived. Mrs. C phoned the patron back and told her this. The patron was suddenly all nice and happy and said she was sorry she had gotten so angry with us over it before, but that she really needed that book for a paper she was writing for a class and had to have it immediately.

Mid afternoon, the mail arrived and so did this lady's requested book. Mrs. B phoned her up immediately and told her the book was waiting for her. The patron was overjoyed.

Four days later, she actually came to pick it up.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

And the password is... (2007)

When it comes to the New Devil Twins and their Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, we rarely encounter any of their parents. The most we usually see from the parents is when they pop their heads in the front door to ask if their kids are on the premesis, almost as if they are afraid of setting actual foot in the building.

Last week, though, the mom of two of the primary League members stopped by, with her kids in tow, to sign up for computers. We only had one available at that point, which I knew because I'd gone back to reboot it some minutes earlier. The other two computers were occupied by a no-name patron and Mr. B-Natural, respectively. I told the mom she and her kids were welcome to use the computer we had.

The eldest son, Mark, signed up and headed on back leaving mom and little brother at the desk. Mom said that her younger son (points to younger son) had told her about some permission form we needed to have her sign in order for him to use the internet on his own and asked for one of those. I forked it over and waited while she started in on it.

"He's not going to be able to look at anything bad, is he?" she asked.

"Well, he'll have access to pretty much anything that's on the internet," I said. "Well, anything that can get past our filter."

"But nothing gets past the filters, right?"

I shrugged. "You'd be surprised. It's pretty good, as filters go, but it's not foolproof."

She gave the boy a long appraising look.

"MooooOOOOoommm! I'm not gonna look at anything bad."

"You better not."

While they were filling out the form, I went back to log on the computer for Mark. Only, when I came around the corner into the computer hall, I saw Mark was already using it to load a webpage. Mark looked up at me and I saw guilt cross his face.

"Now, how exactly did you do that?" I asked him, knowing full well that I had rebooted that computer earlier and that it had returned to our login screen where a password is required to proceed. "You're not supposed to know the password."

"No... I didn't," he said. "I just hit this button, but I didn't know it." He pointed to the single letter that has served as our password for the past few months. Granted, it's no great feat to have paid attention to our hands during the 200 times we've logged him onto a computer in that time, so it's not exactly surprising that he knew it and he's certainly not the first to have mastered that trick. His brazen use of it, however, was a bit off-putting.

"I'm sorry," Mark added.

"Let him tell me what it is," Mr. B-Natural said in a hopeful tone.

I gave Mark a stern yet forgiving look and told him it was okay. Then I left a note to the staff that we need to change the passwords again.

We've now changed the passwords, yet again. At my suggestion, we're going to use a password of multiple letters. Mrs. A then suggested and instantly approved a choice: my three initials.

Immortality is mine!

(Now if we can only convince Mrs. J to stop saying the letters aloud as she types them.)


Monday, May 07, 2007

Actual Semi-Paraphrased Second-Hand Information Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #80

SETTING— My "liberry" shortly after Eternal Newbie Greenhorn, Ms. S, arrives for her afternoon shift. UberBoss Mrs. A and Next-in-Command Uber Boss Mrs. C are present at the circ desk when Ms. S appears.

MRS. C— (To Ms. S) As soon as you get clocked in, you can go upstairs and read the shelves.

MS. S— No. I'm going to go read the YAs.

(She actually said that, "No. I'm going to go read the YA's." Said it not merely to a fellow employee but to her superior and in front of her Uber Superior. Not, "I'd PREFER to go and read the YA's," but "NO, I'm GOING to go read the YA's.")

(There followed a pause)

MRS. A— (To Ms. S) Mrs. C just told you to go upstairs and read the shelves in non-fiction. That's what you're going to do.

MRS. C— You can read the YA's (which are downstairs) when we're gone. You can only read upstairs while there are other people here to watch the desk.

MS. S— (Grunts loudly in irritation as she shuffles off to do as she was told.)

Shortly after this, Mrs. A followed, taking Ms. S into her office for a more private meeting, the contents of which I can only speculate about. Unfortunately, the end result was merely a verbal reprimand and not an actual firing.


Friday, May 04, 2007


Instead of my usual shift at my own "liberry," yesterday I did some subbing at Town-C's branch. They were in the throes of their annual salad lunche0n and were short-staffed to begin with, so I agreed to come over and run the desk, provided they fed me. (They did, and quite well.)

It's been a few years since I subbed at Town-C's branch. It's a much smaller "liberry" than ours, essentially one large, meandering room. And while its librarian, Mrs. S (no relation to Ms. S) and our own Mrs. A are friends, there's still something of a rivalry between our two branches--much as there is between our two towns. I don't think the rivalry exists so much on our part, at Town-A, since we pretty much view ourselves as top dog of the whole area, and rightfully so. From what I'm told, though, Town-C's board of directors speaks ill of us every chance they get and encourages their branch to be as free-spirited and different from us as it can. I have to admit, in many ways, they are far more progressive than we are; they do a lot to serve their small community by offering lots of literacy training (we offer it too, but rarely do people take us up on it), and other public service style classes. There are other differences, too.

For instance, Town-C's shelving philosophy differs from our own in that its largely divided by subject, even beyond the Dewey nonfiction. There are separate sections for romance, westerns, inspirational, mystery, large print, classics, children's classics, children's award-winning classics (subdivided by award won), children's award-winning non classics (subdivided by award won), favorite children's authors (individually subdivided outside of the general shelves, by author), favorite classic children's authors who won awards, favorite non-classic children's authors who didn't win any awards and died of consumption, etc. In fact, the children's section is so subdivided that a newbie like me (or a patron, for that matter) can't find ANYTHING without three maps and a sherpa.

Much was the case when a lady came in looking for a copy of a juvenille book, today. The computer said Town-C owned a copy, said it was in, but we couldn't find it on the shelf where we thought it should live. She suggested it might be an award winner, so I looked at the computer again. Sure enough, there was the note "(AWARD)" out beside the call. We looked in the awards section and couldn't find it anywhere in the subdivisions, either. I decided to search the database of the entire county then and noted that that Town-C actually owned two copies, one of which did not show up in my earlier search. It was listed as being located in the Classics Section. Only I didn't know where the classics section was, as it didn't seem to be in the children's area or the general adult fiction area. The mom and I searched the library for a full six minutes before I found the classics section, located in the nonfiction area (not even the 823s) hidden in a floor shelf. There I found both copies of the book in question, both with the exact same call number even though the computer showed two different ones.

Who exactly is that helping?

The philosophical differences also extend to the public computers, of which Town-C has over twice as many as we do. Each patron is given an hour's worth of time, is not run off if no one is waiting, is not even timed and there are no passwords for staff to have to know. It's pretty much a self-serve operation. We had several computer patrons throughout the day, but never more then one at a time. They all knew the drill, came over, signed up on their own, logged off when they were finished and gave me no trouble.

The only rogueish patron was a kid I've long thought of as The Redneck Prince of Darkness. I've not seen this kid as a patron in my own library, but instead have seen him skulking along the streets of Town-C as I've driven through it on my commute to work. If its possible for there to be such a thing as a redneck goth metalhead, this guy is it. As should any true goth kid, he dresses exclusively in black, but in things like black flannel over black Carhartts and work boots. He's got the black knit-cap, too, and the whole thing covered by a long black trenchcoat. When you see him, your brain automatically starts playing NIN on a steel guitar with fiddle accompaniment. He does have the dark, vaguely angry thing down pretty good, but I just can't take him seriously, other than occasionally wondering if he's gonna start shooting. He came in, used the public computer furthest away from the circ desk, way in the back of the double row of them where prying eyes couldn't see his screen, then left.

Town-C also suffers from a similar ailment to my own branch in that it has a most unfortunate location for its public restroom. Town-C's is located directly across from the circ desk, has a paper thin door, no sound-proofing, loud echoey walls and anything that occurs within its confines is clearly audible to the entire library. Only three patrons used it while I was on shift, but I heard all their businesss. Particularly that of a mentally handicapped patron, who came in with many of the same Unobstructed Doors crowd who visit us. He went in the restroom, peed very loudly and cracked the loudest, longest fart on record. I had to retreat around a corner, least one of the aides catch sight of me giggling.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #79 (a.k.a. "The Founding Fathers Phone Us Up")


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

GRANDPA SAM— Yes. This is GRANDPA SAM. I have an excerise book out from your library that I’d like to have for a while longer.

ME— Sure thing. Can I have your library card number?

GRANDPA SAM— Oh... I didn’t know I’d need that. Let me go get it.

(Grandpa Sam is gone for around half a minute)

GRANDPA SAM— Sorry about that. I wasn’t prepared.

(Grandpa Sam reads me the number, minus a critical zero, but it was a zero I was able to figure out and I brought up his record and renewed his book.)

ME— Okay, I’ve got that renewed for you.

GRANDPA SAM— Say, listen. I’m really enjoying this book, but I see that it’s been out of print for a while.

ME— Yes?

GRANDPA SAM— Well, I was hoping maybe to find a used copy of it. I hear there’s something called Amazon?

ME— Yes, sir. That might be a good place to look for it.

GRANDPA SAM— Do you have that?

ME— Um... Nooo... Well, sort of. We have computers here with internet access and patrons can use them to shop at But it’s entirely up to the patron to make the purchases through Amazon. We have nothing to do with it ourselves. We just offer internet access.

GRANDPA SAM— (In something of a suspicious tone, as if I'm trying to get away with something) Why is that, now?

ME— Errr. Well, is not some kind of subscription service that the library has. It’s an online retailer. We offer internet access and if patrons wish they can visit and buy stuff from them. We don’t have anything to do with it, otherwise, though. We just offer the access to the internet.

GRANDPA SAM— Okay, but, what I mean is, are they good?

ME— Sure. I buy from them all the time.

GRANDPA SAM— I mean, are they a moral company? I’m a Christian and I only want to buy from moral companies.

ME— Errrr... um. I guess they are. I haven’t heard of any protests against them, or anything.

GRANDPA SAM— Well, the book’s out of print anyway, so they won’t likely have it.

ME— Actually, while Amazon might not have it new, they offer a used book service where people sell their used books online and they probably would have it through there.

GRANDPA SAM— Oh? Well, if I was to come up there, could someone show me how to order from this Amazon?

ME— (I knew exactly how this was about to play out.) I suppose so. Keep in mind, though, is going to require a credit card for all transactions.

GRANDPA SAM— I don’t have a credit card. Maybe someone could show me the used books on there and I could call them up and order it by phone?

ME— Um, actually, Amazon is pretty strictly a credit card service.

GRANDPA SAM— So I couldn't call up one of the people with used books?

ME— (Barely supressing a massive urge to sigh loudly into the receiver) I can't tell you that it wouldn't be possible to do that, but most likely, no.

GRANDPA SAM— Okay then.

After we hang up, I began to think about Sam’s dilemma and decide to check Amazon out to see if I can find a used book seller through them. Sure enough, I find one offering Sam’s book of choice and send them an email explaining the situation and asking if Sam could phone them up and order it with a check or money order. They write back within hours and say "nope."


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jodi Picoult is Haunting my Every Step

I've never read a Jodi Picoult novel. I have no plans to do so at this point, either. Nothing against Jodi, or anything, I just have lots of other books on my list of priority reading ahead of her, most of which I probably won't get around to reading either. However, this hasn't stopped Jodi Picoult from haunting my every step.

It began a couple weeks ago when I spied an ad in a DC comic book for her run as writer on Wonder Woman.

Ah, Jodi Picoult, I thought. I've shelved many of her books in the past. Can't name a title off the top of my head, but the name is familiar.

For some reason, though, this bit of information stayed in my brain, bobbing up and down to the surface of my thoughts.

Picoult. Picoult. Picoult.

Last week, I happened to be shelving a Picoult tome when Mrs. C passed me.

"She's the new writer of Wonder Woman," I told Mrs. C, holding up the Picoult in question.

"Oh, really?"


"They're really getting some big names in as comic writers these days," she said.

"Well, for that matter, Brad Meltzer is the writer of Justice League," I offered.

Mrs. C seemed suitably impressed.

Days passed.

Picoult. Picoult. Picoult.

On Monday, at the gym, I was elliptical machining while listening to Wordballoon, a comics-based podcast, in which writer Greg Rucka (another novelist turned comics scribe) was being interviewed. He was lamenting his brief run on the title of Wonder Woman, last year, stating that he thought he had a pretty good take on the character but that DC doesn't seem to want to follow up on some of the threads he started. Not that he had anything against the fine work of Jodi Picoult, or anything.

Picoult. Picoult. Picoult.

Later in the day, during my "liberry" solo Monday shift, a patron turned in three or four Jodi Picoult books which I then had to shelve.

Picoult. Picoult. Picoult.

Toward the end of my shift, while calling patrons with books on hold, I phoned a lady to tell her about a Mary Higgins F ' ing Clark that we had for her.

PATRON— While I've got you on the line, there's this other author I want to see if you have.

ME— Okay.

PATRON— Oh, let me think. I can't remember her first name and I can't pronounce her last name. It's P-I-C-O-U-L-T?

ME— Jodi Picoult?

PATRON— Yeah, that's her! Do you know her? Have you read anything by her?

ME— No. But I've had several of her books circulate here today, though.


At this point, my only guess is that either the Synchronicity Fairy is on a serious Jodi Picoult bender or the universe is trying to tell me I should read some Jodi Picoult. If history is any teacher, I'll continue to ignore this cosmic message. I had a very similar synchronicity attack with Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe, a few years back, in which the book itself kept following me, turning up in the oddest places, whispering, siren-like, in an effort to get me to read it. I never did. Still too much priority reading ahead of it.


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.