What Happened on your Sunday Bike Ride?

It was late Sunday afternoon, Susan had already left the house to join the Slow Bike Society on the Eastern Shore for a round trip ride from Mullet Point to the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea and cookies.

Later on, around 5pm, I grabbed my 1980s era Huffy Bay Pointe 3-speed and headed to book club, Drinkers with a Reading Problem. Bikes, books and beer are a few of my favorite things. It started out as a nice leisurely ride to the The Book Cellar, a space next to Page and Palette for adult beverages, book launches, and live music.

As I crested the hill near the tennis courts, I was riding on the shady sidewalk with the whir of distant lawnmower when I heard a Crack! I looked up and saw a dead limb snap away from a pecan tree and it was falling into my path. I quickly rode off the sidewalk and toward safety. It never made it to the ground. Turns out it had fought gravity and won, thanks to it being caught in a cocoon of kudzu. And that was that. I pedaled on to book club and didn’t think anything more about it…but perhaps it was a sign.

At book club, I was enjoying a Grayton Beach Salt of the Gulf and listening to my fellow book clubbers comment on In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, by  James Lee Burke. Just as I was about to spout my thoughts on the book, my cell phone rang. My bride, Susan. She never calls me at book club.

“I’m calling because I knew you’d be mad if I didn’t,” she says.

“What happened?” I’ve already assumed the worst with her intro.

“I fell off my bike, and scraped up my leg and elbow. I’m okay. I’m home. I’m going to take a shower and put some ice on it.”

“How bad is it? Do you want to go to the ER?”

“No, it looks bad, but it’s just below my knee, I’m just gonna rest.”

“Do you want me to come home?”

“No, stay at book club, I’ll see you soon.”

“Thanks for letting me know, and yes I would have been mad if you didn’t call and tell me.”

When I got back to the table at book club, they were still talking about the gratuitous violence, and that the book was well written.

“Irene, (her book pick) I thought with an amputee like John Bell Hood so prominent in this book I thought you picked it with me in mind.” I did enjoy the book, the writing, and yes, especially the confederate dead. I did feel like there were a few too many deaths, i.e. plot points, that made the book about 100 pages to long, but I’ll read more Burke.

When I got home I looked at Susan’s leg and did my best Dr. Samry. Her leg looked like a red raft floating over a sea of skin and she told me what happened.

“I was riding beside Valerie on our way back to Mullet point and I hit a trash barrel with my handlebar. I misjudged how close it was. When I hit the barrel I fell and knocked Valerie off her bike. I’m glad we were wearing helmets.” Valerie had a puncture in her ankle and was able to ride back later with some of the group and thankfully, it didn’t stop her from playing her Monday morning tennis match.

Of course, the slow bikers are all Eagle Scouts, nurses, teachers, and mothers. Not only do they have Band-Aids on board their bikes, they have alcohol swabs and all manner of first aid. I think one of them carries a defibrillator. Everyone, genuinely concerned, including Maureen, Rosalie, Patricia, Liz and others, helped clean and dress the wounds. For some reason I thought of Bill. He’s like MacGyver, I would trust him with a scalpel, needle and thread. Thankfully they didn’t need any of that, no broken bones, nor a trip to the ER. A good Samaritan, Linda an employee from the Grand Hotel who had just finished her shift, stopped to find out what all the commotion was about and gave Susan a ride back to her car. Dadgum, people are so nice here.

My wife, bless her heart, has a history with mayhem. When she was a kid, she ran into the corner of a house. Yes, A house! Can you imagine…”it was during a game of tag,” so her story goes, “another judgement gone wrong.” Anyway, she’s fallen off her bike before too, but when she was a kid, over the handlebars and all. She was even bit by a dog while riding. Yes, while riding, and then she fell off, not wanting to run over the second dog, a pocket dog from the grassy knoll. Honestly, she comes home more battered and bruised from her classroom, no, not physical abuse from her 330+ second graders over the last fourteen years, but from walking into desks, tables, and quite frankly anything stationary. Oddly enough, I think she’s been fine on the stationary bike at the recreation center. Thanks to her cadre of caring cyclists Susan will be back on her Raleigh M-20 bike in no time, but this week she’s back to school. Stepping gingerly around all those desks I hope.

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Need Some April Reading?

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I’m hoping the March showers will bring April flowers here in Lower Alabama. In the meantime, here’s some links to an article on relationships, the great global nonfiction versus fiction debate, and links for amputees, poets, and librarians.

For Amputees

This month is Limb Loss Awareness Month. (#LLAM) The Amputee Coalition of America’s National Limb Loss Resource Center is a great place to find information for anyone with limb loss, from born amputees like me, to those recovering from amputation surgery.

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Relationships

My wife Susan and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last month. In a Facebook post, my cousin Gayle asked, “What’s the most important thing to share about your time together?”

“Friendship, empathy, forgiveness, funniness, and affection are a few important things,” I posted. About a week later, I read the article below. No matter the relationship, I think understanding one another is profoundly difficult and infinitely more challenging to sustain.

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For Readers and Writers

The next storm that crossed my path is the relationship readers and writers navigate between fiction and nonfiction. This global multilingual discussion will have you wondering about the origins of the word nonfiction and questioning the meaning of story.

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Student Librarians and Poets

Since it’s also National Poetry Month, I’ve included a link to an article that I netted for a library school assignment about Charles Bukowski. It’s not his poetry at the other side of the link below. A well-written (if a bit raunchy) profile from a 1976 Rolling Stone magazine interview has motivated me to go and read some Bukowski this April.

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Don’t forget, next week (April 10-16) is National Library Week, so visit your library, online (Fairhope Public Library) or in-person, to learn how Libraries Transform.

 

 

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.

0 results

“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.”

 

 

 

 

What’s your Halloween Costume?

Josh Sundquist is a cancer survivor, paralympic skier, motivational speaker and author. At Halloween, he’s always entertaining. This year he brings a classic amputee joke to life. Click on the photograph or the link at the bottom to watch “Making of IHOP,”  Josh’s short video about this year’s costume.

Josh Sundquist’s 2015 Halloween Costume

His Amputee Rap is great too!

Rhapsodizing Librarians

Shoalhaven Libraries

After such a serious post about osseointegration, I needed to lighten things up and find a way to thank my followers.  So get comfortable, click on the link below, and enjoy the YouTube music video from the Shoalhaven Library staff.

Librarian Rhapsody

Are You Wasting Time? Or Learning?

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Here’s my alter Leg-O. The website (+) has many pirate-themed parts to build your Picture Yourself in Plastic Mini-Mizer but unfortunately, no one-legged options. It should be included in the book I’m reading right now. My wife Susan bought it for me at her school’s Scholastic Book Fair. 100 Ways to Waste Time is actually a project-based learning tool kit for middle school students. I’m discovering that it is suitable for all ages, and especially for anyone who has been hanging on to their imagination/daydreaming gifts. The book is written by Tim Bugbird, according to Amazon, but his name could also be an answer to a time-wasting exercise in the book. The trifold book includes a flick-able plastic frog, a small book of googly eye stickers, a booklet of time-wasting things to do, and a list of ideas on how to waste time.

Examples you want? (Follow the symbols to see some of my answers.)

  • Think of the weirdest combination of animals ever. (*)
  • Think of five things you would do if you were a ferret.
  • Think of three favorite TV shows you would combine to make the most awesome show ever. (#)
  • Take out all of your underwear and decide which will be your lucky pair.
  • Write the name of the best computer game ever. And, think of three ways to make it even better.

The book even comes with certificates for “Outstanding Time-Wasting.” If any of my readers feel they are outstanding time-wasters I’d love to hear from you. Answer one of my examples or tell me one of your own time-wasting ways.  Please leave me a comment and I’ll post a certificate for you.

Time-wasting is actually great for independent and group learning. Don’t believe me, watch “Build a School in the Cloud,” the best Ted Talk of 2013 by Sugata Mitra. It turns out that what looks like time-wasting to adults can be problem-solving sessions for students, using what he calls Self Organized Learning Environments. Susan learned about the Lego avatar site from a  Simplek12 webinar she watched during school vacation on “15 Free Web Tools for Elementary Student Projects.”

The limited choices meant that my avatar would not look like Metal Beard from the The Lego Movie. However, Susan and I learned  how to improve our avatars by working together. The future of learning, creativity, and real and virtual world problem-solving, will involve computers and the cloud. Like any good game, time-waster, or life lesson, learning will always need two or more players.

+ Click here to create your own Lego Avatar.

* Half Mosquito Eater/Half Anteater

# Scooby Doo, Boardwalk Empire, and House of Cards

What Can You Learn From Steinbeck’s Classic?

Our book club, “Drinkers With a Reading Problem” met at Fairhope Brewing on Sunday evening. Thirteen of us, a large turnout for our group, came to discuss John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Grapes Cover

We agreed to let Betty take the lead for this book. She immediately suggested we go around the table and air our impressions.

Irene talked about Steinbeck’s “marvelous descriptions.”

I mentioned that I had read the book in high school. It’s been thirty years since I read the book, and I explained to the group that the movie “clouded my memories of the book, especially the end.” I praised Steinbeck, as most did, and compared him to Hemingway and Sinclair.

While I could not recollect any memories, feelings, or reactions when Rose of Sharon lets a dying stranger suckle from her breast, many book clubbers commented on the scene.

Bob mentioned that the title of the book was a verse from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and The Bible. He offered some Midwestern sensibility by suggesting that Rosasharn, if you are from the Midwest sounds an awful lot like rose is sharing, demonstrating the epitome of the word in that final scene.

Bob also felt that the Joads “lost a human scale,” once the tractors arrived.

A newcomer to the area and the club, who had not finished the book, used the opportunity to network. She’s in need of a job teaching High School English.

Judy talked about the significance of the turtle in Chapter 3 and it’s larger meaning for the Joad’s and humanity. She pulled out some notes about the shrub, rose of Sharon, and it’s horticultural properties, many of which aligned superbly with the character traits she was given by Steinbeck.

Betty quoted the scene with Casy the preacher and the roadside burial of Grampa.

This here ol’ man jus’ lived a life an’ jus’ died   out of it. I don’ know whether he was               good or bad, but that don’t matter much. He was alive, an’ that’s what matters. An               now he’s dead, an’ that don’t matter. Heard a fella tell a poem one time, an’ he says             ‘all that lives is holy.’ (144)

Wilson had started to read the book for a second time but got derailed by “the dialect.” He wound up listening, then playing his guitar and singing some Woody Guthrie tunes.

Robert called the book the “consciousness of America during the Depression and the labor movement.” He recommended another book by Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.

Donna praised the novelist for his, “use of description and for the evolution of the characters.”

Suzanne, and a few other, noted how depressing the book was, but empathized with the characters, and so continued to read. Despite these tests or perhaps because of them we read because we all endure.

After we all had a chance to comment we listened to Guthrie’s “Tom Joad, Part One and Two.” I think it was our second Bob, from Kentucky and a fan of Guthrie, who called the song another form of “Cliff Notes.”

I mentioned how the book was banned and how literature transcends the arts as The Grapes of Wrath is told in music, first through Guthrie, then Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” which was covered by Rage Against the Machine, a song I carry with me on my phone.

Elliott, the club’s founding member, selected this month’s book. He arrived late, but quickly dove into the music conversation.

When I left the meeting, I didn’t know what to write about. It was my own fault that I was stumped. I didn’t bring one of my favorite scenes for consideration. In this scene Tom Joad and his brother Al meet a slovenly man with one eye. Tom doesn’t give a crap about his disability. Fix yourself up, get clean, put a patch over that eye Tom says. Then he tells the junk yard man a story.

Why, I knowed a one-legged whore one time. Think she was takin’ two bits in a           alley? No, by God! She’s gettin’ half a dollar extra. She says, ‘How many one-legged           women you slep’ with? None!’ she says. (179)

My regret was not hearing from others about this scene, given that I’m an amputee. After some reflection and distance from our wonderful discussion on a literary classic, I found my notes, and stuck my nose back in the book.

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It turns out that Tom needed to learn that all living things, the turtle, the one-eyed man, and the one-legged whore are all holy.

Then I reread this oft quoted passage where Tom Joad, who is hiding out in his own wilderness, is telling his Ma what he learned from Casy.

Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul an’ he foun’ he                 didn’ have no soul that was his’n. Says he foun’ he just got a little piece of a great big           soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good           less it was with the rest and was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn’ think I was               even listenin’. But I now know a fella ain’t no good alone. (418)

The wilderness is where we do our thinking, if we are lucky to have the inclination, freedom, and time to do so. You can’t spend your whole life in the wilderness.

I can’t say for sure whether I’ve got a soul when I’m alone, thinking, and wandering around in my writing wilderness. I know I need that time, but I know I can’t stay there forever. I’ve been going to the “Drinkers” book club off and on for more than five years because I enjoy the fellowship.

We need time to be alone and together. Solitude for thinking and public areas for conversation are the fuel for community.

As we were leaving book club, I mentioned that I work at Fairhope Public Library.

A woman said, “I’m in the library four times a week and I’ve never seen you.”

I didn’t say anything, but later on I thought about how the rest of the conversation between Tom and his Ma went.

Next time you come in, look for me, I’ll be there.

Grapes Back