Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wisdom from the Fathers - Cyprian & Chrysostom

Saint Cyprian of Carthage, on how to be spiritual: 
"It entails being humble in our life-style, steadfast in our faith, modest in our words, just in our actions, merciful in our dealings, disciplined in our conduct, incapable of inflicting a wrong but able to bear one inflicted on us; keeping peace with our brothers; loving God with all our heart; cherishing Christ...[and] clinging tenaciously to His love; standing brave and confident by His Cross; and whenever His Name and honor are involved, displaying in our speech the constancy to confess Him, or under torture the courage to fight for Him, and in death the patience for which we shall be crowned."

Saint John Chrysostom, on Jesus' parable in Matthew 21: 28-31:
"It is an evil thing not to choose the good from the start, but it is a heavier charge not even to be brought around....Let no one be like this, but though he might be sunk down to an extremity of wickedness, let him not despair of being able to change for the better."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

     As we observe Memorial Day today, I will share here two stories of gallant men who served our country in time of war. One you may have heard of, but both are fully deserving of honor and respect. Their stories come straight from their Medal of Honor citations, found here with all 3400 of their brothers: Army Historical Center, Medal of Honor Roll

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 1 5th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, 26 January 1945. Entered service at: Dallas, Tex. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Tex. G.O. No.. 65, 9 August 1945. 
Citation 2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective. 
     The citation doesn't mention that Murphy was all of 5' 5" tall and weighed 110 lbs. Or that he was awarded more medals than any one other person in all of WWII. He later starred in a feature film that told the story of his MOH exploit. He asked the directors and writers to 'tone down' the action, as he thought no one would believe he'd done all that. Check out the film here: To Hell and Back.

Rank and organization: Technician 4th Grade, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 161st Infantry, 25th Infantry Division . Place and date: Binalonan, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 18-24 January 1945. Entered service at: Ronan, Mont. Birth: Knox City, Mo. G.O. No.: 55, 13 July 1945.
Citation: He was medical aid man with Company C during the fighting in Binalonan, Luzon, Philippine Islands. On the 18th, he observed 2 wounded men under enemy fire and immediately went to their rescue. After moving 1 to cover, he crossed 25 yards of open ground to administer aid to the second. In the early hours of the 24th, his company, crossing an open field near San Manuel, encountered intense enemy fire and was ordered to withdraw to the cover of a ditch. While treating the casualties, Technician Parrish observed 2 wounded still in the field. Without hesitation he left the ditch, crawled forward under enemy fire, and in 2 successive trips brought both men to safety. He next administered aid to 12 casualties in the same field, crossing and re-crossing the open area raked by hostile fire. Making successive trips, he then brought 3 wounded in to cover. After treating nearly all of the 37 casualties suffered by his company, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire, and shortly after was killed. The indomitable spirit, intrepidity, and gallantry of Technician Parrish saved many lives at the cost of his own. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, hats off and say a prayer. That is all.

Library Bob
former Corpsman Bob
US Army Reserve 1988-1996
322nd General Hospital

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Report from the library - Copyright!

     Mark Twain was once quoted as saying "There is only one thing impossible for God - to find any sense in any copyright law on this planet." (Notebook, 1902-1903) Since then, I can't see how anything has gotten any better with respect to copyright. But this is not a rant, but a report of recent copyright activity where I work.
     For the last several years I've been the library's designated "go-to guy" when faculty have questions concerning copyright. Usually my answer is "no, you can't do that. Sorry" because someone wants to use something for free or make and distribute copies of someone else's work. 
     Copyright was intended to secure author's/creator's rights to control their work, and be able to make some dough from their efforts.  In short, if you want to use it, you have to ask the copyright holder for permission. Fail to do this, and the copyright holder can sue you, and sue you big time.  However, as education is (or was, anyway) a valued public good in this country, educational institutions are granted some exemptions from the normal requirements.

     I bring this up because the other day I got a phone call from a staffer in the department that oversees our Distance Learning program. She hoped that I could resolve a disagreement between the dept. and a professor who wanted to use a chart in a set of assigned readings. 
     The chart appears in an article in a published journal. The professor is not interested in the article, just the chart. He really wants the students to read the chart, so much so that he's asking the DL department to pay the Copyright Clearance license for 40+ copies of the chart, to be added to a course pack. This would end up being several thousands of dollars, every semester. 
      I asked what journal the article appears in, and sure enough it's a journal that we already can access electronically through one of the subscription databases to which our library subscribes. Problem solved, I thought. But just when I thought I was being wonderfully clever and helpful, the DL staffer tells me that she's checked that already, and even suggested to the professor that linking to the article (hurrah for durable URL's) would be simpler and far cheaper. The professor didn't like this idea, thinking it would be too complicated for the students to get to the chart that way, and it's really important that the students read this chart. 
     Well, since I'm not a lawyer, and I have no authority with either the professor's department, or the DL department, I sort of feel like I weaseled out of giving an answer. I agreed in theory and practice with the DL people, the simplest answer is usually the best. But I can't make the professors do anything, so all I could do was word my opinion as strongly as possible. I haven't heard back from the DL office, so I assume they got it worked out. Maybe it's time to offer another faculty workshop on what copyright is and what you can and can't do with it. 

Commercial Space Ship takes flight

     This morning a privately owned spacecraft took off from Florida, to deliver a payload to the International Space Station.   Here's the full article from CNN:
     As an American, I think it's great that the private sector is getting involved in space travel. As a Traveller, I think it's even more cool. We are taking another step forward in the long journey to the stars.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Sign of the Cross

     One of the distinctive features of Orthodox Christianity that is almost entirely missing in the West (with the exception of the Church of Rome) is the making of the Sign of the Cross. It is really a very simple action, so simple a child of three can be taught to do it. Touch the thumb of the right hand to the first two fingers, then with those three digits touch in succession the forehead, the chest, the right shoulder and the left. There are many variances in how this is done, which are left to preference. Some make very broad, slow, expansive movements, others do it quickly and very close to the body. Some will come back and touch the chest again at the end, while others do not. Some bow the head while making the sign, others do not. We make the Sign on many occasions - upon entering a church, when we approach an icon, or the Eucharist, when we pray, when the Name of the Holy Trinity is invoked. When I tuck my children into bed, I bless them with a kiss and the Sign of the Cross. Priests bless their parishioners with the Sign, both corporately and individually.

     Given that in American churches, particularly in Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic settings, hand gestures of all kinds are common and unremarkable, it seems odd to me that this one is so conspicuously absent. Perhaps it is because most of these gestures (raising or waving of hands, clapping) are symbolic, whereas the sign of the Cross goes deeper - it is an invocation. By the sign of the Cross we invite the Lord to be present with us, to manifest himself in our midst. This is why the Sign can drive away the demons - they don't want to be in the presence of the One who has defeated them. Another reason may be that Western Christianity seems to have relegated God to the purely spiritual realm. In contrast, Orthodoxy is incarnational, that is, we believe that Christ came not only to save and heal our souls, but also our bodies, and all of creation. So the physical world is significant, and physical actions, like making the sign of the Cross, can be a conduit for God's grace. 
     The other significance of the Sign, and this is my view, not formal doctrine, is that it self-identifies one as a Christian. The point is not to draw attention to one's self -  "Hey, look how spiritual I am, I make the sign of the Cross!"  - but to remind one's self that we are bought with a price, and we are not our own any more. It is an action of reverence.
     This article shares some of the sayings of the Church Fathers on the appropriateness and importance of making the Sign of the Cross.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Short Published Article - Against the Grain

     I am very pleased to announce, for all the legion of librarians who read my blog, that I've gotten my first piece of professional writing published. The Charleston Conference on Issues in Book and Serials Acquisition publishes a journal, Against the Grain. In the current issue (24:2, April 2012) there is a short entry in the section "And They Were There", where I describe a conference session I attended called 'Free is the Best Price: Building Your Collection of Primary Sources with Free, Online, Digital Collections'. Joan Petit was the presenter. (Sorry, I can't link to the article, Against the Grain is not open access.)  I am oddly excited about this, the article is no ground-breaking stuff and not a lead article, but it' my name in print. That's kind of cool.

      As if that isn't exciting enough, this announcement makes my 100th post on my blog.  This has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to continuing to blog, and hitting more milestones like one year, 200 posts, 2000 hits, etc. I didn't have many expectations for what would happen with Deep in the Stacks, but it has been and continues to be a very satisfying experience. Thank you to everyone who has ever read my blog, and especially to my small band of followers. Maybe their ranks will grow, maybe not, but whatever happens, I'm happy to have gotten as far as I have. Glory to God!

Friday, May 4, 2012

American History Quotes, from TR

      As I've noted at the top of my home page, I'm reading Theodore Roosevelt's Naval War of 1812, which is still considered by historians to be a standard study of the subject.  As I was reading, I came across some remarkable statements made regarding the attitudes held by officers of the American and British navies towards one another.
     TR includes in his description of the encounter between the USS Enterprise (no, not that one) and HMS Boxer, the surprsing account of a toast offered at a dinner party for the officers of the Enterprise. Oh, by the way, the Enterprise won. "The crew of the Boxer; by law enemies, but by gallantry, brothers." 
        Where, oh where has our nobility of spirit gone?  Could we even concieve, in this day, of raising a toast to the crew of a captured enemy vessel, just because they fought like men to defend it, albeit unsuccessfully?

     In another chapter, TR includes an excerpt from a letter written by a British officer, who had led a successful boarding party from the frigate HMS Narcissus to capture the cutter USS Surveyor.  The letter was to the Master of the Surveyor (which was too small to rate a Lieutenant, let alone a Captain). It read in part, "your gallant and desperate attempt to defend your vessel against more than double your numbers  . . . excited such admiration on the part of your opponents [the British] . . .  has induced me to return you the sword you had so nobly used, in testimony of mine.  I am at a loss which to admire most, the [defensive preparations] aboard the Surveyor, or the determined manner in which her deck was disputed inch by inch."
     TR notes that the British lost 3 dead and 7 wounded in the taking of the Surveyor.  Yet here is the British officer, writing a letter of commendation to his opponent, who was primarily responsible for the British casualties.
     This is the kind of thing that makes me aspire to be a gentleman, and teach my sons to be gentlemen as well. Aren't we as Christians commanded to love even our enemies?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Orthodoxy and Fantasy - Roads from Emmaus

Fr. Andrew Damick, over at his blog, Roads from Emmaus, discusses the intersection of Orthodoxy and the writing of fantasy. As I am a long-time reader of fantasy and sci-fi and now a (very minor) writer of sci-fi, I naturally am interested in how faith can inform and shape one's writing.

Report from the Library - Reference Collection is on the Move!

     My current project, courtesy of the director of the library, is to move the Reference collection. We are re-designing the Reference Desk and the Circulation Desk (which stand in reasonable proximity to one another) and to make room for them, as well as to pump up our circulation, we are going to liberate our reference collection by reclassifying most of the books to the Main collection. So now many of our encyclopedias, dictionaries and almanacs will be circulating just like the rest of our books. Reference books that are being liberated will have the reference markings effaced and should look just like our main collection books. The ones that we want to keep in-house will get a new label to distinguish them from the others. Already, we have signs up in the reference and main stacks areas letting students know that a change is coming, and what the new stickers mean. Hopefully some of them will pay attention. 

     I think this is a good idea, and not just because the director said so. I've spent the last several days looking over our Reference holdings, and a great many of them don't really need to be kept in-house. A guide to terms used in Heraldry?  An interesting read, surely, but not of such critical value that it can't leave the library. A bibliography of works on composers that was compiled in the 1960's?  Also useful, but not current enough to mandate chaining it to the desk. Some things will of course remain as non-circulating. The Encyclopedia Britannica and the Oxford English Dictionary are not going anywhere. The 20+ volume set of the Birds of North America is staying put also. Some series of Biblical commentaries are staying put as well for the religion students.  But, at the director's instruction (with which I concur) the bulk of it is getting turned loose. What we're going to be left with is, in my words, "a lean, mean collection that is up-to-date and highly relevant to our course offerings."

     I haven't seen much in the professional literature about this idea, so maybe it hasn't caught on much yet. I hope that it will, as I think this will revitalize a part of our library that has long languished. Here are just two pieces discussing the idea of 'liberating reference'.

     This link points to a blog post discussing the merits of allowing Reference books to circulate.

For those librarians who can access Library Journal, take a look at this article: (sorry, no link available)
Shift happens - Moving Reference to Circulation. Joy Hansen. Library Journal. 134.12 (July 1, 2009) p126.