Monthly Archives: December 2009

Santa Claus

Another gem from DBF.  Merry Christmas, everyone….and may each of us play Santa this season.

I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.  I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were  world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus?” she snorted …. “Ridiculous! Don’t believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad,  plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

“Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school,  the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.  Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement.. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.”Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any  change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.” I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open.  Finally it did, and there stood  Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.  That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team. I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share,

HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…

And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

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Scholar Ladies

DBF sent this link my way. Fabulous.

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Unbelievable.

Circle of hell, party of two?

The infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the entrance to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland has been stolen.

The wrought iron sign, whose words mean “Work Sets You Free”, was unscrewed and pulled down from its position above the gate in the early hours of Friday.

Polish authorities denounced the theft, while Israel’s Holocaust museum branded it an “act of war”.

More than a million people – 90% of them Jews – were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz during World War II.

Investigators say at least two people would have been needed to steal the five-metre-long (16ft), 40kg (90lb) sign.

The theft occurred between 0330 and 0500 local time on Friday, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo told AP news agency.

What the hell is wrong with people?  The Auschwitz sign?? Seriously???

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Technology

This morning a student needed help opening a document.  I needed to search through the computer’s programs to find the right one, and then take a guess since the offending document didn’t have any identifying suffix.  Got it in one try.

I look like a Rock Star, which is always a good thing.

It got me to thinking, though.  While I would prefer that my day was spent helping students craft their search strings in pursuit of some deep academic goal, the reality is that most of the time, I’m an IT tech.  I help students print, I help them open documents, I help them save documents, I help them format the header in Word.  When I actually do get an inquiry on research, I’m giddy with excitement.

So my thoughts this morning are pondering those librarians that aren’t tech savvy. How do they do their jobs?  I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way; I truly am wondering how someone that doesn’t know how to wander through the computer to find a program is able to function in today’s library world.  I’m lucky: I’m naturally drawn to tech stuff and rather enjoy playing around with it.  There are a lot of folks that don’t feel that way, however, and I wonder how they’re surviving.

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Snow Day

We’re winding down the Blizzard of the Century (or whatever superlative you’d care to use.)  Classes were canceled at MPOW, though faculty and staff were to try to make it in.

I tried.  I followed DH (who is equipped with a 4WD vehicle) in my Camry.  It did not go well.  The neighborhood hadn’t been plowed, and I got well and truly stuck. In the spirit of snowstorms since time immemorial, neighbors jumped in to help push my car back to the house.   I called the attempt good and hunkered down with the dogs in front of the fireplace.  I’ve actually been able to get quite a bit done from home – have worked on the webpage with our web developer, have answered a student reference question, and have participated in a committee meeting via phone. I could get used to this.

My high school alma mater has also canceled school.  The principal has this blog post on the subject:

OK, so the students have the day off. Here are the rules —

1. Finish your homework.
2. Help shovel at your house, and then at a neighbor’s who needs the help.
3. Make at least one snow angel.
4. DON’T go to the mall!

I love this.  We should all have Snow Day Rules.

Mine would include:

1. Sit by the fire and pet the dogs.

2. Look out the window and view the wondrous beauty of a snowstorm.

3. Appreciate the camaraderie that storms bring.

4. Marvel in the ease of communication with peers.  Being able to work effectively from home is a wonder, indeed.

5. Appreciate the DH that got up early to clear the driveway.

What are your snow day rules?

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Red Balloons

DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) recently launched a contest wherein participants have up to nine days to identify the location of ten red balloons.  The large weather balloons were launched in secret locations around the United States. The winners are awarded $40,000.

The rules are relatively loose: the balloons, which each measure eight feet in diameter, will be placed at fixed locations that are easily accessible and visible from nearby roads but will only be visible for one day. More than 300 teams have already signed up to take part and officials expect a number – from offering a reward online to sifting through various social networking sites to scan for sightings of the balloons.

So.  The balloons are pretty large, but they’re only visible for a day.

Competitors were asked to use the internet and social networking sites to discover the whereabouts of the balloons, in what Darpa – the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – said was an experiment to discover how the internet could help with rapid problem solving.

The contest was launched this past Saturday, so we’ll have to wait and see how long it will take…….oh, wait.  It’s done.

MIT won the challenge in hours.

The MIT team leveraged social networks to find the balloons, and promised all of the prize money to the people that joined their challenge team.

The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team is interested in studying information flow in social networks, so if we win, we’re giving all the money away to the people who help us find the balloons! […]

Have all your friends sign up using your personalized invitation. If anyone you invite, or anyone they invite, or anyone they invite (…and so on) win money, then so will you!

We’re giving $2000 per balloon to the first person to send us the correct coordinates, but that’s not all — we’re also giving $1000 to the person who invited them. Then we’re giving $500 whoever invited the inviter, and $250 to whoever invited them, and so on..

Brilliant.  And, apparently, effective.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around this, because I’ve got this niggling feeling that this is an important exercise.  A group has been mobilized throughout the world, based only on loose connections.  As a result, the group was able to solve a problem in hours rather than days.  All of this using Facebook, and Twitter, and other social networks.

The implications of this are far-reaching. And it makes me wonder – how else might we use this?

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Fines

A little notice appeared in a newspaper yesterday, noting that patrons can exchange food for fines at the library.

Have you been avoiding the library because of those overdue fines? This month is the time to go back.

Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County libraries all are collecting food for fines through December.

One can of food will erase a fine, and there is no limit on donations. The only guideline is no glass, dented or outdated items.

This bothers me.  Bringing food in is a lovely idea, and that’s not what bothers me.  What I’m having trouble with is the first line of the article: “Have you been avoiding the library because of those overdue fines?”

Are your patrons avoiding your libraries because they owe a few bucks in fines?  Are the children in your community not visiting the library because they – or their parents – have fines?

I know that larger libraries have gotten to the point where the fines they collect are a significant part of their revenue stream.  Smaller libraries, however, probably don’t have that issue.  My former library had an annual $300 in fines.  That $300 wasn’t worth the hassle of arguing over and collecting fines.  We also had a philosophical issue with children that were unable to use the library because their parents hadn’t (or couldn’t) pay fines.  So the library decided not to have overdue fines.  At. All.  (This was decided before I got there, so I can’t take credit for the decision.)

We did charge a patron for the cost of a book if it was out a long time.  Usually, being sent a bill for the replacement of the book got them in the door pretty quickly.  We were concerned with getting our materials back in the library, not with punishing someone because they brought something back a day late.

In conversations with other libraries in the region, many would be envious of our fine policy.  Some were planning to remove fines for their libraries.  Others wished they could, but feared their boards wouldn’t allow it.

If you can do this, please do.  Our collective mission is to offer access to information, to education, and to enjoyment. Let’s not forbid access to the wonders of the library for a quarter.

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Phone box as library

We keep hearing that libraries are obsolete, that we need to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant.  I would posit that libraries have become an integral part of society, and we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss our value to our respective communities.

Case in point, the village of Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset.  Having lost their mobile library (which I assume was akin to our bookmobiles) they created a new lending library…..in a phone booth.

Villagers from Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset can use the library around the clock, selecting books, DVDs and CDs.

Users simply stock it with a book they have read, swapping it for one they have not.

“It’s really taken off. The books are constantly changing,” said parish councillor Bob Dolby.

He added: “It is completely full at the moment with books. Anyone is free to come and take a book and leave one that you have already read.

“This facility has turned a piece of street furniture into a community service in constant use.”

A resident dreamed up the idea when the village lost its phone box and mobile library in quick succession.

Westbury-sub-Mendip Parish Council bought the phone box from BT in a national scheme for a token £1.

BT has received 770 applications for communities to ‘adopt a kiosk’, and so far 350 boxes have been handed over to parish councils.

Phone boxes have been turned into art installations, a shower and even a public toilet.

Fabulous. Great photo, too, if you wander over to the BBC News.

 

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Library Joke of the Day

Courtesy of DH:

These chickens want books
A pair of chickens walk up to the circulation desk at a public library and say, ‘Buk Buk BUK.’ The librarian decides that the chickens desire three books, and gives it to them…and the chickens leave shortly thereafter.

Around midday, the two chickens return to the circulation desk quite vexed and say,’ Buk Buk BuKKOOK!’ The librarian decides that the chickens desire another three books and gives it to them. The chickens leave as before.

The two chickens return to the library in the early afternoon, approach the librarian, looking very annoyed and say, ‘Buk Buk Buk Buk Bukkooook!’ The librarian is now a little suspicious of these chickens. She gives them what they request, and decides to follow them.

She followed them out of the library, out of the town, and to a park. At this point, she hid behind a tree, not wanting to be seen. She saw the two chickens throwing the books at a frog in a pond, to which the frog was saying, “Rrredit Rrredit Rrredit…”

Feel free to groan.

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