How does an Amputee Librarian Celebrate the Holiday Season?

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Win a Book!

Building the book tree at the Fairhope Public Library was a team effort. Cheers to Rosalie, our nonfiction book club member, for suggesting the contest idea to us during our discussion of This Town. Guess the number of items in the tree the next time you visit the library. Even Cheryl the Builder doesn’t know how many items were used. I’ll be counting them after the new year, and the winner will be announced January 5. The winner picks one popular title that was used in the book tree.

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A Christmas Story Display.                                                                                      (Donated to the Fairhope Public Library by Pat Herndon)

The 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, is based on Jean Shepherd’s 1966 short story collection, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Shepherd helped write the screenplay and it is his voice narrating the movie.

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Stump’s Merry Mash-Up.

The photo was inspired by Josh Sundquist and Leo Bonten. Sundquist’s Halloween photos are leg-endary and Bonten actually turned his amputated leg into a lamp. Last year, with the help of an app, I was Grinched.

Next Week: Stump: the Librarian’s 2014 list of books, movies, TV, and Music. Until then, Read the 2013 list.

Are people dying to (Not) read this book?

I never should have checked the book out. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Other Lessons from the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty is about death. There are lessons to be learned from this book and yet it is graphically detailed and not for the faint of heart. Doughty, in offering an insider’s look into death and funeral rites in America, attempts to “put the ‘fun’ back in funeral.” A few days after I started reading the book, someone died.

Dr. Hollis Wiseman

He was the godfather of the new, now nearly eight-year-old, Fairhope Public Library. My place of employment would not exist today without Hollis and his wife Teko’s efforts. I did not know Hollis well, but we always exchanged hellos and a little small talk whenever our paths crossed. I’m pleased to be a public servant in the house of books that Hollis built. I will also remember the couple whenever I ride on the Eastern Shore Trail, a 32 mile pedestrian and bike path the couple advocated for and funded.

In a rather winding yet conversational way, Doughty uses pornography to introduce the more serious subject of dealing with death as a child. Our first experience with death is often our childhood pet. As a child Doughty witnessed a little girl fall to her death in a mall which profoundly changed how she dealt with death. Weaving childhood memories into a book about funerals is not easy, but Doughty insists that we simply cannot ignore death. Doughty tells us the way to figure out your porn-star name is to combine the name of your first childhood pet with the name of the street you grew up on. Doughty’s porn-star name is Superfly Punalei and mine is Smokey Nanumet.

Gennaro D’Addio

I justified his death, saying, ‘well, he was 98.’ Jerry was a model library patron. He was a seeker of knowledge, a spry optimist, strategically sharp, ethical, faithful, and philosophical. Mere Google searches did not produce answers to Jerry’s questions. He made you think, and learn, and form your own opinions on a subject. In short, he sought information, I researched it for him and gave him the answer. In the process it taught me something about myself. Jerry was the most self-aware person I knew. More importantly, he insisted others be the same, especially librarians.

Jerry just happened to die on Halloween, Megan McRae’s birthday, my dad’s day of death, and Hollis Wiseman’s funeral. On Halloween, I was reading Doughty’s book when she’s in the crematory pressing the button on the retort to get the fire started and the body moving toward cremation. It was comforting to learn that anyone can request to witness a cremation. Family and friends gather, and someone, most likely the family member who presses every button in the toy store, would say goodbye with the press of a red button.

Media Vita In Morte Sumus, In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

‘Okay, it’s just a coincidence’ I told myself of the latest patron passing, and kept on reading. I learned about what goes on behind the black curtain. Not in Oz, where the wizard grants wishes, but in funeral homes throughout America. Many are owned by Service Corporation International. It was Jessica Mitford who first wrote about dying, the funeral industry, and cremation in The American Way of Death. Doughty blames and credits the 1962 bestseller for taking away the corpses from funerals.

As Men, We Are All Equal in the Presence of Death. Publilius Syrus

During the visitation for Jerry, I met his family including Matt, Chris, Becky and a few of his friends. Reverend Thack Dyson gave the service for Jerry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Daphne.

Next to the guest book, were copies of a poem, “One-Hoss Shay,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

This is the handwritten note from his family.

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Below is where the poem turns for me.

In fact, there’s nothing that keeps its youth,

So far as I know, but a tree and truth.

(This is a moral that runs at large;

Take it. — Your Welcome. — No extra Charge)

Charles McInnis

Charles too, loved the library, and volunteered with the reference department teaching a variety of classes. Charles’ memorial service, “Requiem for an Old Mule,” was held at the library. Many friends and family spoke fondly of Charles, whose family called him “Chock.” There is some tradition of funerals at the Fairhope Library. Marie Howland, founder of the Fairhope Library died in 1921. Howland’s service was held in the old library on Magnolia and Summit and Fairhope’s founding father E.B. Gaston stood over the body and delivered the eulogy.

During Charles’ service, P.T. Paul, a local poet, read William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to the many friends and family in attendance. P.T. said she and Charles believed that “everything is cyclical.” P.T. read a poem by Charles that reflected this belief. His daughter reminded us, a somber group, that her dad was a practical joker too.

Death Should be Known. Caitlin Doughty

My mom always says bad news comes in threes, like deaths, strikes in baseball, or Stooges. Having reached that number, I was comforted that patrons would stop dying, so I kept on reading the book.

This was around the time in the book that Doughty was honing her black humor skills among her coworkers. There was the story of “the leg in the cooler.” Apparently a woman, suffering from diabetes had her leg amputated and wanted it cremated. “A pre-cremation,” Doughty calls it. Having a leg cremated sounds downright normal when you compare it to my previous post about the guy who had his leg preserved, made into a lamp, and then tried to sell it on eBay.

Doughty is doing the “Dance of the Macabre” in her memoir, but she emphasizes both the cultural and personal connection to death, “as a mental physical, and emotional process,” that should be, “respected and feared for what it is.”

LaSonia Wintzell

I never met her personally. I only know her daughter, my brother Mark’s girlfriend Kim. The obituary Kim wrote was very personal and captured LaSonia’s essence. During the visitation on Tuesday, I sat in the pew quietly for a few moments thinking about Kim and her siblings, and how losing the matriarch often means losing the family center.

“First time in Bayou La Batre?” Kim asked.

“No,” I said, “Second,” though it had been nearly a decade since the last visit. This time, I noticed that we came into Bayou La Batre on Wintzell Ave.

St. Margaret’s Church is a beautiful brick and stained glass Catholic church. I glanced at the open casket. I decided I didn’t need to get any closer and admired the flowers, especially the sunflowers, regretting that I did not wear my sunflower tie fearing it would be too “upbeat” for a visitation.

This was the only body at all the services I attended. Sadly, Doughty pointed out that even dying is all online now. Yes, just like applying for a job, or renewing your auto tags, you can carry out the last wishes of a person with an internet connection and a credit card. Corpses are now optional.

The Meaning of Life is That it Ends. Franz Kafka

I finished reading the book, but I didn’t check it back in. The book was grotesque, dark, and funny, in a creepy and informative way. Doughty lets the light in to the dark corners of death. The places where no one dead or alive wants to go. So, I put the book down. For a while. I picked it back up and started rereading passages. Was I obsessed with death? Not obsessed, but interested in learning about what happens to our bodies after we are cold. I was planning on writing a blog about the book, so I renewed it.

“Human Beings are not nature’s favorites. We are merely one of a multitude of species upon which nature indiscriminately exerts its force.” Camille Paglia

In between the memorial services for Jerry and Charles early Saturday afternoon, I went to Knoll Park. I walked the small hill up to the top where the bay comes into view through a shadow box of Long Leaf Pine tree trunks. I thought about these two men.

Whenever I need to think, or reflect, I head outdoors. There is something comforting to me of being outside during a loss, or rather, a remembering.

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I see the purple flower. I call it a flower, but it could be a weed. It provides color in a brown and gray landscape. It feels fresh, alive, and youthful. I don’t feel that way on this day. Beneath that flower is a layer of decomposition and decay. I find myself walking over decay and wonder where my remains should rest. On a mantle, in the forest, or scattered at sea. At one time I wanted them scattered on the bluff of my old back yard in Falmouth, overlooking the cranberry bogs and Mill Pond. I live here now, and there’s no going back. I have no doubt that while wandering through the park, I was walking in Marie Howland’s footsteps.

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Carole Kaiser

When you first hear bad news it is always a shock. I’m still bewildered that my coworker of seven years died on Saturday. We often kiddingly called Carole “The Queen,” because she had style. She also liked to talk about a town in Scotland that sounded a lot like a swear. “All aboard for Muckle Flugga,” she’d say with her Scottish tongue, firmly planted in her cheek. it’s hard to believe that the Queen’s gone to the great library in the sky. Carole is now with the King of Kings.

It Won’t Help to Hear What I Think About Death. Carl Jung

I went to the library today and returned Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Not surprisingly, no one had a hold for a book about a mortician in a funeral home trying to change how we think about death in America. As I went through the library, we librarians held onto each other. I welled up a couple of times, but managed to choke down a few sobs. I learned that there will be a service for Carole Thursday at 4 PM at St. Paul’s in Daphne. The library will close at 3 PM so we can all attend the service.

Just like every book we read heightens our literary sensibilities, memorial services should heighten our awareness of our own mortality. I will be there. To think, meditate, and wonder what her death means to her family, her fellow librarians, and her many friends. How will her death shape my future. If you do not learn anything from reading books or death, are you really living? Doughty’s book uses humor to coax people not just into thinking about death, but in doing some actual planning to ensure what she calls a “good death.” (If you subscribe to this humor theory, please leave your porn-star name in the comments.)

I already know this service will be different than the others. I knew Carole. She was more than a patron, she was a trusted friend. I’m thankful that I’ll be surrounded, comforted, and consoled by my library family on Thursday. In between all the tears, sniffles, and sadness, I hope as we remember Carole over the next few days we can share a few funny memories too.

 

Is Every Halloween a Family Search for Life and Death?

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Carolyn Berga was born New Year’s Day, 1917. Mildred told me this over the phone a few days ago at work. Carolyn died just a few years later from burns and injuries she sustained after she wandered to close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire in the family farmhouse in the Belforest community. Carolyn is buried in the Belforest Catholic Cemetery.

Mildred was chasing the toddler’s date of death, which she had learned was between November, 1919 and January 1920. I offered to go through back issues of the Fairhope Courier, which we have on CD.

I did not find any mention of this family tragedy in the Courier. I was stumped! So I recruited my coworker and resident genealogy expert Pam McRae to help in my search. She went to several different websites, only to be snakebit on any death date at Family Search, Ancestry, and Find a Grave. Pam praised Mildred’s research, harkening back to her teaching days and said, “she’s really done her homework.”

When I spoke to Mildred last night, I told her we were not able to find a date of death for young Carolyn. Undaunted by the bad news, Mildred vowed to continue the search and said she would contact the Baldwin Times newspaper. If Mildred was related to Carolyn in some way she never mentioned it. Before hanging up, she said the cemetery committee wanted to, “add the dates to Carolyn’s headstone.”

Losing a family member on a holiday or your birthday is tempered by reflection. Yet we are bound together by time shared and distanced only by dates on a perpetual calendar. As the collector of the record, this blog is not about cataloging legs this time. It’s an attempt to connect two families through one holiday; Halloween.

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Frank Joseph Samry was born on September 30th, the year of the Great Mississippi River Flood, 1927. Pam’s father Gerald Martin was born the same year on May 12, which is my father-in-law John Cherkofsky’s birthday (1939). (Pam and I hope to attend the free outdoor screening of The Great Flood at the downtown branch of Regions bank in Fairhope on Nov. 7, at 6 PM. Live music by Modern Eldorados will accompany the film)

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My dad, the one whistling with one hand on the wheel, was in the Navy during WWII. Pam’s Dad Gerald also served in the Navy during WWII and the Korean War. The man in the photograph with my dad is “Rebel.” With a name like that, I’m hoping he was from the south.

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Wedding Day. August 30, 1953. Joseph Samry, Mary (Walouke) Samry, Frank J. Samry, Joan (Hannan) Samry, Lillian (Tuell) Hannan, Walter Hannan. Can’t wait to see my mom this Thanksgiving. She’s coming to visit us again.

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Pam McRae’s daughter Megan with her fiance James. Megan’s celebrating a birthday today. They are getting married in July in Baldwin County. Happy Birthday Megan!

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My father (Notice the name difference?) died on Halloween 20 years ago today. Pam’s father died June 1, 2007.

How do we commemorate a holiday, celebrate a birthday, and mourn a death all on the same day? By sharing words, moments, pictures, and documents with family and friends we are asking others to contemplate those being honored. If we are fortunate, we have committed moments to our minds, people to our hearts, and conveyed the value of life’s memories. If we are successful, the next generation will continue to cherish, collect, and preserve their family histories.

Happy Halloween.

Is Parody the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Our group of bloggers attended the Social Media Conference earlier this week on the Baldwin County campus of the University of South Alabama.

After the conference, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee party sat outside for lunch at Panini Pete’s. Karyn got an email from Cal Tech’s swim coach about her son attending college on the west coast.

“Do you know who else went there?” I asked from across two tables.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “Who?”

“Weird Al Yankovic.”

A couple days later, I emailed Karyn. It turns out Cal State, not Cal Poly had emailed about her son. Can you guess what song’s stuck in my head?

Dare to be Stupid. It’s so easy now.

Chuck Klosterman said. “Nothing is ever in and of itself.” We are constantly looking for connections. That’s why I’ve decided that everything that happened during and after the conference can be summed up with two words. Weird Al.

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Angela Rand

I’ve been to lots of sessions led by Angela, the University of South Alabama’s Baldwin County Librarian. She does a great job of presenting and hosting. In fact, she’s Like a Surgeon. Using her scalpel, forceps, and retractors she brought a surgical team of librarians and a marketing company founder to the OR.

Dr. John Burgess

In “Classical Rhetoric for the Digital Age,” Burgess defined rhetoric and talked about Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Obviously that triangle is the last one I think about when I post a photo of my grinning, glasses faced self in a cardboard cutout of Drew Daywalt’s book The Days the Crayon Quit. I was inspired by Weird Al, who has his own picture books, When I Grow Up, and My New Teacher and Me. (Also relevant for woman in the audience writing children’s books.) As a rhetorician, John said I should think about whether Facebook, blog, and Instagram posts project a persuasive message. Being a skeptical librarian, I probably don’t need to worry too much, since I only have 5 followers on Instagram and only 12 people like my Facebook post.

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Gump came to mind too, and not because it rhymes with stump, and leaves me a leg up on no legs, Lt. Dan. Burgess is an instructor at Alabama, and Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, lives down the road in Point Clear. I remembered another Gump-ism and as it turns out, a circular argument: stupid is as stupid does. My wife Susan is always telling her second graders that you can’t use the word you are defining in the definition. I liked Burgess. He reminded me of a younger Dr. Demento, except Burgess had a red beard any Portlandian hipster would be proud to groom. He was no pirate though, more White and Nerdy, like me. Maybe next year we can bowl with the gangstas.

Beth Shepard

Angela built up such an introduction to Shepard that I was nervous that she wouldn’t deliver. She didn’t disappoint. Shepard had lots of useful information on Instagram and the most interactive audience session of the conference. For her efforts, she gets I Perform This Way because some of us went Gaga for her content and delivery on all things Instagram. Even better, I never imagined or saw photos of Shepard draped in a shawl of raw red meat. She said yoga so many times, I began to sing Y.O.D.A Yoda.Ya ya ya ya ya Yoda. I’m following Yoda on Instagram now. #yoda.

Paula Webb

Anyone who follows Shepard has to be comfortable in her own skin. Paula was, even as she was pointing out all the apps for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the game called Solve the Outbreak. Webb’s focus was on government apps, including Smithsonian, which has an app called MEanderthal.

“I’ll have to download that app in the man cave,” I said, which got a good laugh, and reminded me of Bedrock Anthem. Yabba dabba dabba doo now. That’s Flintstone for post something will ya! Preferably, with your phone in one hand and your baby elephant vacuum cleaner in the other.

There’s even an app for Fat. When I walk out to get the mail (U.S. Postal Service), it measures on the Richter scale (FEMA). Down at the beach (Healthy Swimming), I’m a lucky man; I’m the only one who gets a tan (UV Index).

Melissa Hoffman

I loved how Hoffman described social media marketing as the “Million-legged Beast.” Where does that leave me? As the one-legged guy in an ass kicking contest, that’s where. Hoffman’s the marketing director of SixDegrees (not from Kevin Bacon), but has a few peeves about email. The fact that she doesn’t read spam, leads me to believe that for Hoffman, It’s all about the Pentiums, and it’s important to stay current. Your laptop is a month old, Well, that’s great, if you could use it as a, paperweight.

Our time is valuable, so Hoffman had some sage advice for us: Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me. If you do send or forward mail, companies with IT hackers, code crackers are blocking all your Mail Chimp and PicMonkey business.

Audience

Glasses, Guy, Glasses Guy, or Marcus was the social media guru turned heckler, and chamber of commerce blasphemer. However, Mr. Bluefish had lots of relevant comments and suggestions, just like CNR, (Charles Nelson Riley). Most important for the guys in attendance was his information about the men’s version of Instagram’s @whatsinmybag. @everydaycarry is what are you carrying for dudes. Glasses Guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a Lego Stars Wars character keychain. I think it was a stormtrooper, so let me just say, The Saga Continues.

Lunch

During the Southern Bloggers Jubilee feed session, AKA Eat It, we rehashed the conference. None of our bloggers were living in an Amish Paradise, acting technologically impaired.

We all got the message at the conference that if you “do” social media, you should never be Inactive.

My bloggers would never do anything Tacky, like live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased.

And we always own up to and immediately correct our Word Crimes. Most Bloggers could care less, which means we do care.

In fact, we love social media so much we’ve got the chutzpah, nay the Gump-tion to have our own social media and blogging conference. It’s still early on, and I’m optimistic that we have a better shot of holding a conference than Weird Al headlining halftime at Super Bowl XLIX. I definitely don’t want to be his Foil.

 

Have Amputees Gone Mad or Mainstream?

It seems like amputees, and their legs were coming at me fairly regularly, at home and at the library this week. I wondered how much and how often amputees are in the media. So, I put them to a test. How many new amputee references can I catalog in a week?

Friday

I was at lunch at the picnic table on what I call the back forty, the property behind the library that doubles as a parking lot most days. I was flipping through my Flipboard, an app that brings me headlines, stories, and book recommendations. A headline from Huffington Post:

“Leo Bonten has his leg amputated, turns it into a lamp and tries to sell it on Ebay.”

The Dutchman’s story was cataloged under “Weird News.”

After having the leg amputated, the man had help from a pathologist and a lamp maker. He said Bonten could not “say goodbye,” to his leg, so he preserved it.

Mr. Bonten put the leg lamp up for sale on Ebay for $127,500. Ebay took it down the same day saying it does not sell body parts.

Bonten claims he had to sell it because he’s broke.

“Soon I won’t even have a home where I can put the lamp,” Bonten said.

I guess an amputee can’t even cash in when he’s able to upcycle his own leg from medical waste to a practical home furnishing project. I just want to know what bulb fits in the socket. LED, compact fluorescent, or incandescent?

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Saturday

I was thumbing through a new book, On Paper: The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History, by Nicholas Basbanes when I came across a quote from a former POTUS. John Quincy Adams wrote in a journal every day from age twelve until two days before his death. He even wrote on leap year days. In one entry, Adams writes about the futile and occasionally frustrating writing habit. It had become, “Like the race of a man with a wooden leg after a horse,” and resulted in, “a multiplication of books to no end and without end.”

On Saturday night, I was using Amazon Prime Music, an app that lets subscribers stream from millions of songs in about 15 different genres and from other Prime member playlists.

I flicked across the Dropkick Murphys, an American Celtic punk band. You’ve got to hear their song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” The main character is a sailor without a leg, and he’s “shipping” up to Boston to get his peg.

Sunday

As I sorted the Press-Register on Sunday morning, a pair of brown eyes glanced up at me from the cover of Parade magazine. I was greeted by a German Shephard mix dog missing a left front leg. Mama Lucca was an IED detecting dog who saved the lives of 14 men, and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart for her actions. Her record of keeping our service members safe and without casualties still stands, but it came at a price. She’s now retired and living in sunny southern California.

Monday

I was talking to a co-worker during lunch. Gwen asked if I’d seen the woman on crutches this morning.

“I thought she might be coming in to talk to you,” Gwen said. I have met many amputees in the library and often go and introduce myself and let them know I’m an amputee too. The woman was was an above knee amputee. She was not wearing a prosthesis.

“No,” I told Gwen, “I was helping another patron, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to her.” I saw her only briefly when she was checking something out at the circulation desk.

After lunch, Cheryl told me she saw the movie Dolphin Tale 2 with her granddaughter. The movie features Winter, the prosthesis wearing dolphin, and the sequel features Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton, who plays herself, lost her arm in a shark attack while surfing her home waters of Hawaii. Cheryl said the movie was good, but Hamilton didn’t have a lot of dialogue. The first movie is based on the children’s book, Winter’s Tail. I enjoyed the movie Dolphin Tale so much, my wife Susan and I went to Clearwater, Florida to see Winter. The picture of me with Winter’s prosthesis number 17 sits on Susan’s desk at Daphne East Elementary School. Her kids don’t even notice my prosthesis because they are so excited about seeing Winter’s prosthesis.

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Tuesday

I always straighten  the new books when I walk past them on the way to my desk. I spotted Stronger, a book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. Bauman survived the Boston Marathon bombing, losing both his legs, but was an FBI witness in the search for the bombers.

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Julius Caesar, after conquering a town along the Dordogne River, cut off the hands of every man who fought against him.

I watched the tail end of Utopia on Fox, and a little bit of New Girl. I saw a commercial for Red Band Society, a hospital ward of teens facing long term stays for various illnesses, which now includes leg amputees Jordi and Leo.

Wednesday

Susan and I were watching Survivor when we saw a commericial for Criminal Minds. The preview showed a human leg in a box. Presumably, the rest of the show was about finding the rest of body.

Thursday

Looking for movies to borrow, I spotted The Fault in our Stars DVD while scaning the online catalog crawl. I’ve already seen it. Good thing, since it already had 35 hold requests for patrons wanting to borrow it.

Leg-End

Yesterday, I saw the future of legs in libraries, which indicates to me that media coverage of amputees and their prostheses will continue to expand.

I read in the Wall Street Journal that the Westport, Connecticut Public Library will have a couple of humanoid robots roaming around. Vincent  and Nancy are quite sophisticated. They are able to be programmed and also learn with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through human interaction. They have already been programmed to speak 19 languages, to kick a ball, dance, and do Tai Chi. Robots and their artificial intelligence can think on their feet just like humans. Nancy, Vincent, and I do this on our artificial legs.

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How to Pay it Forward

I had 18 people attend my class, “Starting a Blog with Stump: the Librarian.” It was a wonderful mix of familiar and new faces, including library patrons, business owners, artists, photographers, and writers.

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My class at the library was an introduction to blogging. Patrons did not create a blog and start posting in my class. There was not enough time. It was a not-too-serious, but informative, learning environment. I told them to think up a clever name that combines who you are with what you want to say, but cautioned some of the good domains may already be taken. “Without a leg to stand on” was my first choice, but Stump: The Librarian is actually better, since I’m writing about amputees and libraries. I hope my passion for blogging was evident in my enthusiasm for sharing what I’d learned about blogging. I wanted each person to determine for themselves if they should start a blog.

Several people signed up after hearing about the class from fellow blogger Karyn Tunks, the guest speaker at Pensters, a local writing group. Library volunteers, Nonfiction Book Club members, Genealogy Club members, and a couple of co-workers sat in on the session. In my last post, I wrote about connecting with community. I could swear these people had read it because that’s exactly what we had in the computer lab yesterday.

Since I had such a convergence of community, I’m paying it forward to another local organization that provides educational opportunities. The Eastern Shore Institute for Lifelong Learning (ESILL) bills itself as “school for the fun of it.” The classes are not free, but they are very reasonable. Four ESILL instructors attended my blogging class who are also part of Pensters. Gene, Jane, Fred, and Rosanne teach photography, art, ancient wisdom, and writing, respectively. Bloggers and future bloggers should check out Blogging 101. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to continue my leg-ucation. Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

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Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

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Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.