Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things that Go On in a Library - Stuff Found in Books

     I have recently begun a condition survey of a portion of our collection. A condition survey looks at the physical appearance of the books, and notes ones which are in disrepair or otherwise in need of 'cleaning up'. It is slow and laborious, but very worth it in that I get my hands on the books, instead of sitting in my office swilling metadata about the books.

       As part of this project, I am opening and inspecting a lot of books. It should come as no surprise that I occasionally come across an object that has been inadvertently left in the book. People use all  manner of expedient items to mark their place. In my own experience, I've used playing cards, business cards, paper clips and sheets from notepads to mark my place. Twice in my life I've found dollar bills in books; and many years ago, while working in a public library in North Carolina, I discovered a cashier's check in the 4-digit $$ range left stuck in a book. We were able to determine to whom the check belonged and it was returned. The owner was both embarrassed and grateful.

Things I've found in books in my library in the course of this project:

no money so far. Drat.
a rock
a paperclip
checkout slips (lots and lots of these)
a blank postcard
a sympathy card
interlibrary loan slips
a hairpin
a quality control card
a list of call numbers
a post-it with a comment on one of Nietzsche's works
an outline of a biography of Sigmund Freud
an iTunes gift card from Starbucks for a band I've never heard of
the pull-to-open portion of a tissue box top with "I love Jesus" inscribed on the reverse
a syllabus for an English Literature course
a bibliography on post-it notes
index card notes on the psychology of emotions

a boarding pass stub with an email address written on it
a receipt for overdue fines ($0.55) paid - but from another library in the area
an invoice for over $600 paid to a student - but from another library in the area
a note card with an encouraging message to the recipient

      I am not finished with my survey by any stretch, so I may be updating this list if I come upon anything else unusual or amusing. Check back every so often if you're interested. 

    What I haven't found yet is an actual bookmark - a paper or cloth slip designed for marking a place in a book. Our library, like most, prints out all manner of bookmarks and makes them available for our students to take. I think I'll be an optimist and say that they are being kept and used in the student's own personal books, instead of being returned to the library with our books. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life Lessons from Chess

     Over the weekend my younger son and I played a game of chess. It lasted two hours, which in itself is a testament to my son's improved concentration and focus. I started teaching my boys to play chess two years ago. I'm not a great player but I do all right if I can remember to always look down the board for the likely response to my move. I can't count the number of games that I've lost because of a hasty move that cost me a key piece, usually the queen. As I reflected on this defect in my own play, I got to thinking during a short break about the lessons about life one can learn from chess. Below are few things that came to mind. I can't really claim any special insight or wisdom, and probably better chess players could add a lot to this. All the same, this is my blog, so here's what I think one can learn about life and living from chess:

Be patient. Chess is not like arcade games. You have time to think, use it.

Consider the consequences before you make a move; and its' corollary: Everything you do will have consequences.

Cooperation is better than going it alone. Ask any Knight or Bishop that has been sent to die on the enemy's line all by itself.

Respect everyone, even the little guys. A lowly pawn can take down the King, and a pawn that sneaks to your back line is suddenly a very BIG problem.

Whether you win or lose any particular game, it is always an opportunity for you to learn something. It can be about your play, your opponents, or about life above the board. Every game can make you better.   

Planning is a good thing. Having no plan leaves you at the mercy of an opponent who does have one. 

You can wish for a perfect setup if you want, but the setup you have to deal with is the one on the board. Take life as it comes and make the best of it.

You will have to change your plans if your opponent doesn't cooperate. Which he probably won't.

You always have to make a move on your turn, so make the best one you can. Even if it is not an ideal move, do something. No one wins at anything by being frozen in place.

Opponent is not the same thing as Enemy. When you're playing for fun, play to win, but shake hands and be a good winner OR loser. No one should lose a friend over a chess game.

Expect some losses along the way. No one wins a chess game with their whole army intact. Everyone will face some defeats in life, but as long as you're alive you can keep playing. (Yes, I know there's the Fool's Mate, but seriously, how often does that happen?)

Abandon your plan as soon as it is clear that it won't work. Evil Overlords throughout history have lost it all by clinging to their Evil Plan that isn't working.

Skill and patience, not luck will get you to your goal. Sure, you will get lucky sometimes, but you have no control over when and how often. It is the same as not having a plan.

Every move entails some risk. You can manage it with good planning, but never eliminate it. Learn to live with uncertainty.

And let me conclude with what is our unofficial family motto:

Latin - “tardus stabilis laborque, finis obtineatur”  

English - By slow and steady labor the goal is achieved.

If you've got Chess advice for Life, please add it in the comments section.  

For the record, my son did not beat me (this time) but he did have me on the ropes once or twice. I expect that he will beat me in the not too distant future. If I've taught him to play chess, great. If I've taught him how to live life, even better

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just Across Town has been published

     My second work of short science fiction, Just Across Town, has been published in this month's issue of Gallery of Worlds, published by Lantern Hollow Press! The journal is available as a Kindle e-book, which you can purchase at Amazon.com.  I made up a book cover with the help of the Pulp-o-Mizer. The cover is not available with the Kindle edition, it is available only here on this blog. Enjoy.

     A while back I wrote up short descriptions of the main characters, which you can find here:

 an excerpt from Just Across Town:
      As Alex was speaking, Consul Tellis dashed out onto the balcony and crouched next to Alex and Eddie. “Captain Howard, I am going to need you and your crew to help me. I'm sure by now you've observed that we are under attack. I need you to . . . .” Several flashes of light played on the palace walls, followed a fraction later by a stutter of booms, mixed with cries of pain from below and frightened screams from the guests on the balcony, who fled in panic. Alex peered through the balcony railing to see squads of Jorabite guardsmen forming up on the hilltop to face the invaders. They were terribly outnumbered, but stood their ground  . . . as Alex watched, most of them fell before the flash-and-boom of the strange guns. The survivors retreated back to the palace through a side door, behind the cover of the cloud of gray smoke the guns produced. Somewhere above them, a bell rang out.
      Consul Tellis tried again, “I need you to get me to the military headquarters building. If we are to stop this invasion, I have to get there.” Alex looked at Eddie, who was looking out at the soldiers advancing towards the palace. The first of them had reached the doors, and had forced them open. As they began to file inside, Alex counted heads, and wished he had brought even his sidearm with him.

and later on . . . 

     Meanwhile, Eddie, Alex and the Consul had made a dash across the street to the shadow of another house. Eddie leaned against the wall, gasping for air. “Gehenna, I wish I could breathe,” He panted. “Yeah, that would be nice,” Alex nodded agreement and sank to the ground. Eddie managed a wry smile. “You know, I always said I wanted to see the universe, but this wasn't what I had in mind.”
      Consul Tellis gave a short laugh, “So why did you buy your ship, then, Captain Howard?” Eddie puffed a few more times and then answered. “I spent twenty years in the Space Patrol, right? Never once in that whole time did we ever leave the Kingdom. We just patrolled the same places over and over again. I wanted to get out and explore. That was what I thought I'd be doing when I joined the Patrol. I saved up all the money I could and got out and bought the Not Yet. I like the name, right? It reminds me there's still more to see. 'Have we seen everything?' 'Not Yet.'” “Well,” Alex remarked, “if we want to do any more exploring, we've got to get this business finished first. Let's get moving again as soon as Jake and Scott catch up.”