Rockets Versus Missiles

Susan and I took a trip with the Baldwin Senior Travelers to North Alabama last weekend. What a great experience it was and how delightful people were to us, especially when they asked, “Are you old enough to belong to this group?”

On Saturday morning, as we began boarding the bus in Rocket City to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, our tour guide Jim asked how I’d lost my leg.

I went to my go to answer of late saying, “I never had the whole thing, I was born without my right foot.”

“Oh, well my dad lost his leg in Korea so I’ve been around prosthetics all my life.” Jim’s father always complained about the fit. The one improvement in my lifetime that radically changed prosthetics for the better was the development of the silicone gel liner, the interface between my stump and the socket. It is truly amazing.

Susan’s dad John never served in Korea, but he was part of the war effort. In 1958 his unit delivered the Redstone Missile to Germany. The Redstone was the first missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could be launched in the field. We went on the Huntsville trip to learn more about the Redstone, and John’s role in the Army.

Of course, Rocket City has next to nothing on information about missiles, war, or nuclear proliferation. It’s for families! So they promote Space Camp instead. While I didn’t go to Space Camp, follow the link to watch my ride on the Space Shot.

We didn’t have to go to Huntsville to learn about Korea. That morning we woke to the news that North Korea had successfully tested a nuclear warhead missile, technology we developed during John and Jim’s father’s war days.

This trip took place just a few days after our library book club read Almighty: Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age, by Dan Zak. The book is extremely well-written and traces the history of our nuclear arms race through the biographies of three protesters who were arrested at Y-12 National Security Complex (AKA The Fort Knox of Uranium) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 2012.

At book club, our 9 attendees unanimously agreed that the protesters were peaceful, nonviolent protesters. We also agree it’s far too easy to break into the country’s largest plutonium processing facility, which costs an average of $300 million to operate per year. It turns out all these folks would have been welcome on our tour bus, as the average age among them was 67. All three, including the nun, Sister Megan, reached Y-12 with a pair of bolt cutters and the belief they were on a mission from God.


Dean was our bus tour guide for our NASA experience on Redstone Arsenal military base.

We stopped at the Redstone Missile Test Stand, now a historic landmark.

We stopped at NASA’s Payload Operation Center, where people communicate daily with astronauts about ongoing research at the International Space Station. One thing Dean pointed out seemed very telling. All of our astronauts are required to learn Russian. However, Russians are not required nor do they speak English, which is supposed to be the primary language on the ISS. Fun Fact: Our astronauts used a 3-D printer in space to repair…something!


Finally, we learned about Orion, the new spacecraft that will circle the moon in 2022 and then go on a three year mission to Mars in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

It has not been decided what fuel will be used to get to Mars. Get this, according to Dean, politicians and NASA officials have concerns about using nuclear energy in space, but somehow having 32,000 nuclear warheads at the ready in the US alone is okay. What? Kind of makes me wonder what planet they’re from, or where they plan on going if we ever use these weapons. Orion only has room for 6, but only four astronauts will be cruising by the moon. I imagine it’s the world of difference, like first class versus coach. They could go to 51 Pegasi b, the first planet identified in another galaxy.

On our way back to the Gulf Coast we stopped at Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama.

We had lunch in the school cafeteria, and while we waited I stood outside in the shade under a buckeye tree. I don’t think I’d ever seen a buckeye tree, and one of my fellow travelers, Kim, originally from PA, said she didn’t know they grew this far south.

In his spare time, Brother Joseph Zoetti, a Benedictine monk at St. Bernard Abbey, built shrines out of local materials and things people sent him in the mail. I’m calling him the Founding Brother of Roadside America.

As I stood among the tall pines, the hydrangea and the buckeye, I noticed a three letter Latin word, PAX, in Brother Joe’s art. On the hillside in Cullman while walking with Susan, I enjoyed  visiting the St. Bernard Abbey Church, and learning about Brother Joe’s creative life. What I wish for new friends, neighbors, and nations is the time to think, reflect, and value these quiet moments of PEACE.

How’s Your Summer Going?


I’m in love with the graphic novel! I’ve only read two graphic novel memoirs but I’m totally impressed with the combination of images and text. I’ve also created a few digital stories and now I’m obessessed with iMovie.

The first graphic novel I read was El Deafo, by Cece Bell. It’s her story about becoming deaf and adapting to life with a hearing device. It’s funny, poignant, and somehow celebrates difference in a new and magical way for me. In a class discussion it was great to see so many of us becoming fans of graphic novels after reading one very powerful book.

I just finished My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf. The author actually went to school in Ohio with Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. I know, why are you reading about serial killers, Alan? Well, I’ve had a fascination with them going back to high school. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi left an impression on me about how one man can control the feelings and behaviors of others. (Rumor has it Quentin Tarantino is planning on bringing the Manson Family to the big screen.) Mrs. Courtey’s Criminal Justice class at Falmouth High School was a great introduction to the subject that has been fueled by other great true-crime books including In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City.

I took three library school classes over the summer and all them required video/digital story component. I thoroughly enjoyed learning iMovie to create these stories. The stories are less than 6 minutes each and contain all the flaws of a movie-making beginner. They can only be viewed by following the link below and signing in with a Youtube or Google account.

For the Maymester, which is just three weeks, I took Traditional and Digital Storytelling (LS 543). Here’s a link to my digital story, Why is My Hero a Villain? This is the first one, so the sound is a bit soft at the beginning.

The Summer I session was a five-week whirlwind that began the day after Memorial Day. The second video, and by far the most fun and the one I recommend if you only have six minutes, is the read aloud I recorded for one of my favorite picture books, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt.

Finally, my management class (LS 508) centered around leadership and vision. This is the digital story of My Leadership Philosophy.

Only two classes left before I graduate with my MLIS from the University of Alabama! The fall semester begins August 21, so I’ve got a few weeks to relax, take a vacation, and reflect on my ten years of working part-time at Fairhope Public Library. Right now, I’m working on a digital story about my family genealogy for my cousin, Charles Walouke and I’m reading Wonder and The Great Fire. I’d love to hear what’s on your list! Share your summer reading/watch list with me in the comments!

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.


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.


What’s a celebration without a bear naming?

Welcome to the family Booker Honey Bear!!

Thanks to everyone who attended our open house and dropped a name in the honey pot to give our new bear a name. We had over 100 entries!

Fuzzy Wuzzy, Paddington, Beary, Wild Beary, Frederick, George, Cassandra, and Baloo were a few other suggestions.


The newest addition to the Fairhope Library Youth Services department is a life size black bear cub, created by artist James Hood. He’s no ordinary bear, he’s differently abled. Just like I was born without part of my right leg, our bear was born without front bear paws. That doesn’t seem to matter to the children who come in the library. He’s a friendly bear and the kids talk to him, touch his soft fur, or even give him a hug.

Of course , everyone knows me as Alan, or Stump the Librarian, but our bear needs a name.

So consider this your personal invitation to come to our open house celebration on Saturday January 21, 2017 between 10 AM and 2 PM. And while you’re here, suggest a name for our new bear.

Thanks! For What?

I never really know how thankful I am until after Thanksgiving. At work, thank you is currency. I help dozens of people everyday and most times all it costs them is a thank you. You can tell a lot about a person by their thank you. I believe you can tell how thankful people are by their thank you’s. Often a thank you is not enough for some people, and I’ve been on the receiving end of many “have a blessed day.” This is not to be confused with a “bless your heart,” which is sometimes how people respond when I tell them I’m an amputee. Sometimes you can take thank you’s for granted, after all, it’s just a verbal gesture of politeness really. But it can be like a conversational black hole when you don’t get one. Sometimes what’s not said says it all. I’ve helped a patron hundreds of times for the last 9 years and I don’t recall her ever thanking me. I don’t take it personally, it is just who she is, and instead she will say, “I was just wonderin.” Actually, she reminds me a bit of my Grandma Samry, who was a widow for a long time and became more guarded as she got older, but honestly, she was always a bit ornery. Of course the opposite is the person who seemingly has to be the last word in an exchange, and it has nothing to do with appreciation. Ultimately, the outliers give me perspective. I appreciate all the regular and sincere thank you’s even more.

It’s nice to be appreciated at work, but this year is personally special. We moved into our new home in August. I had a poem published, my wife Sue and I have been healthy, and Oh, did I mention I made the final cut of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. It’s streaming now on Amazon and iTunes. If you watch it, pay particular attention to the Spam scene. About ten minutes later, there is a “high wide” of us in the raft rogether. The movie, in my opinion and many of the people I know who have seen it, is better than the reviews.

But the biggest news is that over the weekend my mom relocated to Fairhope, Alabama from Falmouth, Massachusetts. She joins my sister, who moved here in January. Three out of my four siblings live in Fairhope now. Yep, sorry southerners, more Damn Yankees! As life long Red Sox fans, please try to refer to us as Northerners.

Anyway, it’s unbelievable. I spent Monday morning sitting in mom’s new apartment. The relocation was postponed a few times over the last year or so. Her health, lack of wealth, and her attitude needed to align before it happened. Now it has!

Last time I saw her she was in the hospital after a fall that cracked her head open like a coconut and left her in a halo for six weeks. On top of that it happened on Mother’s Day. In her 80s she went jumping on the bed… and then fell off, hitting her head on a hotel bureau on the way down. Seeing her on the floor a few minutes after it happened, I’m thankful she’s still alive. Schilling just had the ‘bloody sock.’ My mom had well… there’s a picture, but we would never share it. The doctors ‘say’ she suffered no permanent damage, but it’s gonna take her another six months to fully recover from the trauma. She never expects the pain in her neck to go away. “It joins the pain in the middle of my back,” she says.
It was wonderful to be at our Monday Night Thanksgiving Welcome Home Party with family. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my mom and the rest of my family of 15, which includes two Canadians. And not just for a few hours on a holiday, but year round right here in Fairhope.

Are You Watching?


If you live in LA, let me personally invite you to a free Watch Party at Fairhope Public Library as we stream the movie USS Indianapolis: Men of  Courage. I have not seen the film, so we will find out together if I made the final cut. We’re playing it on the big screen in the Giddens room, which is also one of four theater locations for next week’s Fairhope Film Festival. I encourage anyone who was involved with the film’s production, shot mostly along the Gulf Coast, to join us. Fingers crossed and over the ‘pause’ button!

If you are unable to join us, the movie is available to rent from Amazon Prime and iTunes for $9.99. If you choose to stream it privately, please, no spoiler alerts as to whether my scene in the raft with Nic Cage actually made it into the movie.

Read about my time on the set from  Day one, Day two, and Day three.


When’s Your Movie Out?

People have been asking me when USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage is being released. While I’m flattered by this, it is not my movie. I’m one of two amputee extras in the film and I am in the trailer, twice. Check the 1 minute 47 second mark and the 3 minute 10 second frame. You’ll have to pause it because if you blink you’ll miss me. I’m in the raft with Nic for both scenes. I’m in the foreground (‘an important position,’ according to Merriam-Webster), and leading with my stump. The top of my head is covered in a rag, and I’m leaning over the side of the raft.

According to Wikipedia, the movie premiered in Russia September 22, 2016. It was also released last month in the Philippines.

US Release?

Internet Movie Database up until a few days ago said it would be in theaters Veteran’s Day, November 11.

As of today, IMBD says, “Coming Soon: In Theaters October 14.” What theaters?

The official Facebook page for the movie is silent on when and how it will be released.

The movie is absent from the list of movies coming soon to Carmike and AMC cineplexes.

Unfortunately, a bootlegged version available with English subtitles is already on the internet. As much as I want to watch the movie to see if I’m it, I don’t want to support piracy. So, I’m waiting, and I encourage my readers to do the same.

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage is facing the same problems as Nic Cage’s last Gulf Coast movie. Tokarev, aka Rage, was pirated, and never officially released. A Russian DVD version is available or you can stream it on Amazon.

Is there an “official release” for my movie? Well, don’t ask me, I’m stumped. I will be looking for updates and checking Netflix and Amazon to see if it becomes available to stream and I will post again when I learn more. If you have some thoughts, news, or updates about the movie, please share them in the comments.

In the meantime, check out my posts One Two and Three about my movie extra experience.