Need a Hand?

Up until a few days I was skeptical about public libraries hosting maker spaces and 3D printers. That all changed after I began reading articles about 3D printers and prosthetics. Most of the articles mention the e-NABLE community. Enabling the Future is a global nonprofit that provides open source software that lets users custom design functional prosthetic hands.

Anyway, it’s all here in a 7 minute video or text. It’s the story of a man who wants to give people (especially librarians) the tools to imagine, design, and build affordable functional prosthetic hands. It completely changed my perspective not only on 3D printers, but it’s a powerful message about our compassion and our innate need to help others.

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The Fairhope Public Library is getting a MakerLab for adults and teens! Complete our interest survey. We already plan to get a 3D printer, 3D scanner, robotics equipment (Lego Mindstorms, Arduino and Raspberry Pi) and Silhouette.

 

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Do you know Annie Easley?

 

On Saturday, I had a high school student come up to the reference desk with her mom.

Her mom said, “Go ahead, ask him.”

“Good morning, can I help?”

“I’m looking for information on Annie Easley.”

Do you know Annie Easley? If you do, I’m impressed. I have never heard of her.

So we went to the OPAC, or Online Public Access Catalog and typed in the name.

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“I found some things on the internet, but I need a book source,” she told me.

So I asked the student, who I will call J, what she had already found out about her. Easley was a scientist, and a mathematician.

“Follow me,” I said, confident that I could find a reference book with her name in it.

I pulled some subject encyclopedias on science, and women in science. Nothing.

Bound and determined to find J. some print on paper, I conducted my reference interview, then grabbed some sources. J and I scanned and skimmed alphabetical entries and indexes. Still nothing.

I learned more about Easley along the way, interviewing J about how she learned about Easley. J was African American, and so was Easley, and it’s February (African American History month), but she was not on a teacher’s list of people to research. Easley was also born in Birmingham, Alabama.

Earlier in the day, I had messaged a fellow student about what librarians without a master’s degree are called.

“Feral Librarians,” Ginny remembered.

I was a feral librarian rabidly interested in finding a book source for this shy, yet curious young student.

“They called her the Human Calculator,” J said, and added that Easley worked for NASA.

Doesn’t she sound like a woman who should be in book about mathematicians and scientists?

J also called her a “programmer.”

I told J, her mom, and now her younger brother, who had joined our tour of reference, that I just learned about this new documentary called, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap.

This documentary shows the large gender and minority gap in the world of science, specifically, computer science. Sadly, our collection was helping prove their argument and this student had done her homework. She knew Easley’s middle initial, “J.” I learned later that Easley actually developed code for NASA.

Walking back to the catalog I asked J to check the general encyclopedias. She confirmed my initial doubt and there was no mention of her in Worldbook, or Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Who is this lady?” J’s little brother now wanted to know, as we grabbed two more books from the stacks. From then on, he joined us in our search.

J’s dad came by, and seeing the stack of books, suggested to his daughter that maybe she needed to find another person.

She was thumbing through a book, and looked over at him. I could tell she was ready to give up.

“No way,” I told the whole family, then looking at J I said, “You need to champion Easley.” I’d gone feral, and decided book sources be damned. “No book sources from the public library, well, use that in your paper,” I said. I smiled, she smiled. Not a Cheshire smile, but the kind of smile that said, “I’m not sure if this librarian is crazy or just more curious than a cat.”

 Some books without Annie Easley

“I’m sorry,” I said, frustrated and angry that I could not find a print source for her. This young woman had found a person, an African American like herself and a mathematician, programmer, and NASA employee and my resources failed. The whole family and I went back to the computer and found Easley’s Wikipedia page.

“You stumped the librarian today,” I told them, and was disappointed I did not have a book sources.

J knew about Alabama Virtual Library, but she hadn’t looked at Wikipedia’s sources.

Easley’s Wikipedia page linked to a 55 page PDF from NASA’s “Herstory” Oral history project. The document was the transcript of an interview with Easley about her life.

“That’s better than a book,” I said pointing at the screen, That’s a primary document. This is her own words.” J, and everyone in her family, thanked me. Her dad shook my hand. As they headed to circulation to check out some items, I realized that Wikipedia, libraries, and librarians do not compete. They compliment.

My name in a Textbook

It happened February 13, 2016 at 6:23 Eastern Standard Time. In my second semester of online library school at the University of Alabama.

I was reading Reference and Information Services: An Introduction by Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath (2013).

On Page 115 it states:

In the past, the stouthearted librarians of the New York Public Library

would prove this time and time again as they ventured into schools to

play the game, “Stump the Librarian.”

 

 

 

 

2015 Recommendations

Books

Nonfiction

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, Neil White

Scorsese: A Retrospective, Tom Shone

Steal like an Artist, Austin Kleon

Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck

What we See When we Read, Peter Mendelsund

Picture Books

The Book with No Pictures, B. J. Novak

The Day the Crayons Came Back, Drew Daywalt

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Lindsay Mattick, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

USS Alabama: Hoorah for the Mighty A! Karyn W. Tunks

Graphic Novel

Demise of the Spirit’s Guiding Lady, Megan Redlich

The Odyssey, Gareth Hinds

Fiction

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Poetry

Next Door to the Dead, Kathleen Driskell

Movies

Big Eyes

Big Hero 6

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Boyhood

Cinderella

The Cobbler

Dolphin Tale 2

Gone Girl

The Help

Ida

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

Night Crawler

A Night to Remember

Noah

Pixels

Rushmore

St. Vincent

Selma

Star Wars *In Theaters

The Theory of Everything

Wild

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Documentaries/Nonfiction

Evel Knievel’s Spectacular Jumps

Fed Up

Ivory Towers

Open Sesame

Television/Streaming

American Crime   

Boardwalk Empire Season 5

House of Cards

Nashville

Red Oaks *Amazon Prime

Survivor : Cambodia-Second Chance

Happy New Year!

Do You Write in a Library?

For two hours on the last three Mondays I was in my element teaching a class on creative writing at Fairhope Public Library.

Nine wonderful library patrons paid the $20 refundable deposit and showed up for “Great Readers Make Great Writers: A Crash Course in Creative Writing.” It was a true crash course as each two-hour session covered creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

Creative Nonfiction

In the first class, we got to know each other a little. My students ranged in age from thirty to ninety. The ninety year old is writing a gossip column for her community newsletter. The youngest is a coworker, sculptor, and installation artist. Many were retired, including several teachers, but I also had a stylist from a local salon.

Students enjoyed “Somehow Form a Family,” a personal essay by Tony Earley, and learned some lessons on craft from “On Keeping a Notebook,” by Joan Didion, and “This is What the Spaces Say,” by Robert Root.

The writing exercise I gave them for the first class was to skim through their notebooks, journals, or diaries, find an entry (a word, fragment, sentence, paragraph etc.) that interests or intrigues them and start writing.

“Reading fuels writing,” I said. When we read we are consciously and subconsciously learning and absorbing things we like and dislike. In this way, I believe each writer gleaned something from the readings and incorporated that little something into their writing, whether it was pop culture, a small detail, a setting, or a historic moment in their life.

For the next writing exercise, I handed out postcards from my collection and asked students to write to someone. After they finished writing, I told them to give the postcard to the person on their left. I instructed them to use the postcard given to them by a classmate as inspiration for a fictional writing journey for the next class.

Fiction

The fiction reading list included major amputee characters, a subject near and dear to my own heart.

“The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” from Robert Olen Butler’s collection Had a Good Time, was enjoyed by all the students for its humor but “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Connor drew mixed reviews, mostly for being a bit too depressing. They did enjoy O’Connor’s ending.

We read aloud Chapter 3 from The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. “The story of a turtle.” I told my students, but it’s so much more. I called it “Steinbeck’s three-page metaphor for living.”

The flash fiction I assigned left most readers confused. Perhaps this was due to my selections, or the newness of the genre. In very short fiction you have to be able to make leaps in the reading and that’s something difficult to do, even for me.

The fictional pieces from postcards, which is how Butler wrote his collection of stories, Had a Good Time, were fabulous.

They used the postcard images (Cape Cod and Tiffin Motorhomes) or the words on the back to write an account and most of them responded to the writer in a letter, but with a fictional spin about blacksmithing, dieting, and traveling.

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Poetry

Students gave mixed reviews on a chapter from The Odyssey, by Homer and translated by Robert Fagles, and the nature poems by Robert Frost.

“Facing It,” by Yusef Komunyakaa and a “Poem Guide” from The Poetry Foundation, is where we spent the most time. Having the guide helped students understand the depth of poetry upon a close reading of a few lines.

In addition to Homer’s epic poetry, the nature poems of Frost, and the ekphrastic poem of Komunyakaa, I chose works from two actual amputees.

“Invictus,” Latin for unconquered, by William Henley was written from a hospital bed after doctors believed Henley, who already had one leg amputated, was at risk of losing the other. They saved the leg, and Henley went on to achieve what I can only dream of. With “Invictus,” he became a one-hit wonder, but to his friend Robert Louis Stevenson he was much more. Henley became the inspiration for Long John Silver in Stevenson’s classic pirate novel, Treasure Island.

Jillian Weisse’s poems of her amputee childhood brought back some memories of our experiences in “Below water,” and some humor in “Holman, Age 10,” from her collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.

Read, contemplate, imagine, think, reflect, write.

Many said writing the poem was the most difficult exercise but they used song lyrics, humor, civil rights, rhyme and repetition to discover how writing is a form of artistic expression.

These never happen in order, but having a few steps to get the creative writing process going is useful to all artists, including creative writers.

I heard recently that creative writing is no longer offered at many public schools. While this saddens me, I would like to keep creative writing classes alive in the public library, an idea that dovetails with my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.

Let me tell you how fortunate I am to offer these programs. The leadership of Fairhope Public Library, recently named a “Gold Star” library by the Alabama Library Association (ALLA), encourages staff and patrons to share their expertise, hobbies, and passions with their communities. Sharing knowledge and information is the cornerstone of public libraries and I believe growing these learning, artistic, and continuing education opportunities is the future of public library programing.

Do you agree? If so, check out  Fairhope Library for what’s happening soon (Phil Klay author of Redeployment), and watch the “Events Calendar” for my summer creative writing series. I love sharing what I’ve learned with others, but there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing those voices read writing they have created.

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What’s a Bikes, Beer, and Airbnb Travelogue?

I recently learned that I was not selected to write a beverage column for a local publication. However, as the “close runner-up,” I wanted to post the sample column, and include a few photos, for my blog readers. It’s also a great tie in for my upcoming library program about last year’s vacations to Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina. Come to the Fairhope Public Library at 2 PM, on January 29th to see pictures, hear stories, and learn about my airbnb experience. Although we will not be doing any Day Drinking, I’ll be giving away some souvenirs during and after the program.

2014: The Year of Magical Drinking

On Christmas, I was pouring tastes and offering pulls from my bottle of Lucky Buddha, a beer my brother Mark brought for the festivities.

As I took a sip of “Enlightened Beer,” I pondered. Then I began to count my 2014 blessings. It really was a year of magical drinking.

Portland, Oregon (Or-y-gun)

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Ten days of vacation in a walkable, bike-able city like Portland is pure bliss. And that’s before we even had anything to drink. Portland’s called Beervana for a reason. We were within walking distance, less than a mile, to about ten breweries/tap rooms, six distilleries and a few micro coffee roasters. I’ve written about Oregon before, but here are a few places not to miss.

Base Camp has great beer and the best water dispenser. The water line empties into a keg that’s hanging on the wall and you tap your own water.

Cascade Brewing is a sours only brewery. These tart barrel aged beers use wild yeasts from the air, or left behind in aging barrels to help ferment the beer. The wild yeasts are unpredictable, and time consuming as many sours can take up to two years from barrel to bottle.

Oregon Brewers Festival 

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So many beers, so little space. Here’s my list of favorites with brewery, style, and a few choice words.

Anderson Valley, Summer Solstice, summer cream ale, Not your Father’s.

Boulder Brewing, Shake, Chocolate Porter, You can taste the cacao.

21st Amendment Brewery, Hell or High Watermelon, Wheat, a picnic in a glass.

While sitting with some people we met during the festival, drinking a Laurelwood Pale Pony India Session Ale, we witnessed a Portlandian moment. A man in a Darth Vader helmet was riding a unicycle and playing the bagpipes. He’s obviously doing his part to “Keep Portland Weird.”

As we were leaving someone was handing out samples of hop soda. The Proper Soda Company makes a crisp, refreshing, and thirst-quenching soda, and it’s made with cane sugar and hop extracts.

Where would a congenital below-knee amputee like me, go to get coffee around Portland? Why Stumptown, of course.

It was summer so I ordered an iced coffee, but this is Portland, where they’ve melded coffee and beer brewing techniques together. Stumptown’s cold brewed iced coffee is infused with nitrogen.

They also fill growlers of this nitrified coffee to take home. (Read my recent post on Fairhope Roasting here.)

Willamette Valley (Wuh-lamb-it, rhymes with damn it)

Susan and I left the city for the valley and stopped at the Sokol Blosser Winery. After sampling some very fine wines, bought a bottle of the 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, made in the Alsatian style with rich and spicy tropical fruits with hints of fig and grapefruit. We intended to take it home but on July 26, after a day of whale sightings and lighthouse climbing, we opened it on our balcony and watched the sun sink into the Pacific.

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Take a detour to Rogue Farms. There’s something special about seeing the hops budding and being near the ingredients that make it into my pint glass.

Asheville, North Carolina

Henry the VIII deemed hops “a wicked and pernicious weed,” when brewers began adding it to beer. The beers at Wicked Weed are amazing, full of hops and yet delicate as flowers. They have managed to fuse bitter hops with the grace of grains to create a complex medley of balanced brews. From floral aromas and drinkable session IPAs like “Feral,” to their dank, hoppy beast, “Freak of Nature,” a double IPA, the beers at Wicked Weed do not disappoint.

Do you know how fabulous it is to find a list of craft beers on tap at a concert venue? Asheville lives up to it’s nickname, Beer City, USA. The Green Man Porter was delicious, especially while singing and dancing, (well grooving) along to “Time of the Season,” by The Zombies, at The Orange Peel.

B-Ham

On a trip to Birmingham (for the Y’all Connect Social Media Conference) I had time to visit the good people, at Good People Brewing. I sat at the bar and enjoyed my first Oatmeal Stout.

What’s better than a brewery and tap room? A brewery and tap room with the best BBQ two doors down. That along with some fine beers is what Avondale Brewing has got going on, especially with their saison. We ordered up some Saw’s Soul Kitchen and brought it back to the taproom. Trunks Up!

Gulf of Mexico

My sister Laurie was in town around the Fourth of July. Six of us piled into a Suburban to watch the Blue Angels air show over Pensacola Beach. I only had my five toes in the sand, but it was a hot day! For a tiny moment, a grain of sand in the hourglass of eternity, a Pepsi “made with real sugar” quenched my thirst.

Fairhope

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As the winning bidder for an Alabama Coastal Foundation Fundraiser, a group of us had a personal tour of Fairhope Brewing (celebrating their 2nd anniversary this weekend) from Head Brewer Dan Murphy. We were an inquisitive bunch and I seem to remember him saying something along the lines of it being one of the better tours he had given at the brewery. Dan walked us through the naming of each beer while talking up the tasting profiles of each ale. He gave us the scoop when he announced that the brewery was expanding their production and then showed us what was in store for the future. He had obtained several wine barrels to begin experimenting with sours.

The bottle of Lucky Buddha was returned to me, alas, empty.

Never one to let his little brother down, my brother Steve went to the fridge and poured me a glass of Blue Pants Chocolate Oatmeal Porter.

I can’t wait to sip what the future holds.

Are you Board with the Same Old Brew?

Walking in the door of Fairhope Roasting Company, I was greeted by Roast Master Hanson Eskridge and Mackenzie Chandler, his marketing expert and logo designer. I wandered around, pumped a cup of coffee into a logo-ed mug, and got caught up with the personal and creative lives of my Southern Bloggers Jubilee friends.

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A graduate of Fairhope High, Hanson went off to “experience” college, and then headed north to pursue his passion to roast coffee. A talkative, animated, and single guy, Hanson worked at Bull Run Roasting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Last summer he was back in Fairhope pitching his investment idea of a roaster, the first on the Eastern Shore, to Will Carlton. It turned into a “good combination” with Hanson as owner/roaster, Carlton the local investor, and Mackenzie, Will’s daughter, handling all the marketing.

Three roasts were available, and I sampled them all. Morning (light), Medium (Fairhope), and dark roast were all delicious, and I found myself going back for the Fairhope, as it seemed to have the viscosity of a stout, a beer style I’ve been enjoying lately.

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Hanson led us to the roaster, which is located in the more industrial wing of the operation. We heard the Probat 1989 roaster whir to life. If Hanson had a nickname for his roaster, he didn’t mention it, so I’ll refer to her as Brassy, as that’s the way she looks, and may be what she’s made of.

“Timing and temperature,” Hanson said are critical in the roasting process. As the gas-fired roaster reaches the correct temperature, it’s filled with Honduran beans. During the roasting, he pulled samples at intervals to show us the darkening of  the bean. During the early part of the roast, the aroma filling the air was not the familiar scent of coffee. It seemed a bit more dank, a little peanut like, actually. Then we heard Brassy. Not a “pop” but a tiny blast. Hanson called it, “First Crack,” and it sounded like damp wood burning in the fireplace. After he spilled the beans from Brassy, the more familiar smell of coffee vapors filled the air. After cooling in Brassy’s spinner, he transferred the beans in a high-tech Rubbermaid bucket to the grinding and packaging area.

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Fairhope Roasting plans on doing cupping sessions soon, according to Hanson, and they already have plans to purchase a sample roaster specifically for these sessions. Cupping sessions are like wine tastings. Hanson will take people through each roast taste by taste, and encourage feedback and discussion. Until then, he plans to post dates and times on social media when he’s roasting so current and future customers can see how the green bean is transformed.

I was surprised to learn that, like a peanut has a red shell, a coffee bean (it’s really a seed) has a chaff. During the roasting of 20 pounds, Hanson said he loses about 15% of the weight in chaff and water. We each got a bag of Fairhope Roasting to go, which was very generous.

Fairhope Roasting Company coffee is delicious, fresh, and available locally or you stop by their location at 361A Commercial Park Drive. If you want to learn more and sip some local roasts, Hanson will be at Mobile Green Drinks at Fairhope Brewing tomorrow from 5-7. The two companies have fused their brews and a Coffee Painted Black India Pale Ale will be available.

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In my mailbox at the library later that day was a manila envelope. At first, I thought it was something from a coworker. Then I noticed it was addressed to me. I still love sending and receiving handwritten mail.

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The couple at the flea market saw me eyeing it.

“It still works,” the woman said, adding that it originally belonged to her mother. Her husband showed me how it collapsed and even included a wedge to make sure the contraption didn’t spring open in transport. Patricia said she had no room for the ironing board now that she and her husband were full-time RVers.

“Thanks for the story behind the board,” I told her before slipping it under my arm and carrying it away like a surfboard. I didn’t think much about the scraps of paper that lingered on the bottom. Until she mailed the label to me!

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The Rid-Jid ironing board, also from Minneapolis sits open in front of my office window.  Yes, I also use it to iron my clothes. I even went out and bought the most manly looking cover I could find. As advertised, the board still does not, “wiggle, wobble, jiggle, joggle, slip or slide.”

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On Saturday morning I brewed Fairhope Roasting’s coffee through my new Hario V60 slow pour coffee kit. When I visited Stumptown Coffee in Portland, my appreciation for the taste of coffee, not the cream, truly evolved. Since then I’ve become a big fan of slow coffee. The slow coffee movement is where you, the drinker, control the ingredients, time, and temperature of the brewing.

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I didn’t roast the coffee. I didn’t make the iron or the board, but there is something satisfying in participating in these rituals with new tools and techniques that harken back to old ways. I brewed a quality, fresh cup of coffee from beans roasted locally. My shirts are ironed on a board made in the 1930s. Whether you use new, bright, and shiny, or antique, dull, and rusty, the way we get things done affects us emotionally and opens us to change. As I pour the coffee, press the wrinkles, or push the ink onto the page, I think about the people who  made the coldest day of the year quite personal, comfortable, and warm.