Looking at the last post I made — can it be November 11, 2009? It’s not that I haven’t thought about writing . . . probably hundreds of blog posts started, written in my head. Many of them rants that are better left unwritten. Some on sensitive topics that should not be shared. A few rather political or personal — not good to broadcast that stuff either. So, I guess the world, or at least the blogosphere, will never know what I’ve been thinking for the last  seven months.

So yesterday, I wanted to get the skeleton of a blog post down before I lost the thought — and, would you believe I couldn’t get into my blog? Well, first of all, when I logged into my server account, I got the message that there was such a critical security update necessary that I couldn’t get in until I updated WordPress. Well, OK, I’ve been ignoring those e-mails for a while – so why not press the “update” button. Did that, and went on to something else.

When I came back to my now updated WordPress installation, I proceeded to log in. Oops – I stared blankly at the screen. Then I found the “forgot your password” link. Filled in my e-mail address. Eeek, that address not on file. Geez, which one did I use? Hazardous to own server space that gives unlimited e-mail accounts. Not gonna guess the e-mail I guess. Try the user login option. Now what kind of idiot can’t even remember the user login. Nothing related to the domain or me. Ugh.

Well, I guess you can tell that through a trial and error process I guessed the user name and got my password. I managed to log in.

I haven’t a clue what the blog post was that I couldn’t wait to write. But I broke the drought. Is it over? Only time will tell.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day Salute

circa 1946

Today is Veterans Day,  a national holiday, first proclaimed as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 with the following words: To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

Armistice Day commemorated the end of World War I – known at the time as “The Great War.” The War officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918, was regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Family photo - 80s

circa 1985

Armistice Day became a legal holiday through congressional action on May 13, 1938. (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a). Armistice Day was a day dedicated to world peace and to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954 the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” following World War II and the Korean Conflict. With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The observance of Veterans Day moved to Monday, along with Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day, when the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968. This was unpopular with many states, who continued to observe Veterans Day on November 11th, and ignored the legislation. In response to the desires of the the majority of state legislatures, all veterans service organizations, and the American people, Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479) on September 20, 1975, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.

Source of information, Department of Veterans Affairs http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/
See also, History.com http://www.history.com/content/veteransday

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

The first episode of Sesame Street aired on November 10, 1969. A second generation of kids is learning their letters, numbers, and social skills from Big Bird, Oscar, Bert ‘n Ernie, and the rest of the gang. I even saw Elmo teaching kids to wash their hands to avoid H1N1 virus.

Happy 40th Birthday, Sesame Street!

My favorite – Cookie starts with C–

Berlin Wall Anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For over 25 years a city existed within the confines of a wall that encircled it, keeping its residents in and everyone else out. Travel to and from West Berlin was only permitted through applications and documents. The Wall was a symbol of the Cold War and a grim reminder of the differences in lifestyle from East to West.
Now for a short history lesson: Following World War II, the defeated country of Germany was divided into four sections and governed by the Allied Control Council or Allied Control Authority, the Alliierter Kontrollrat, a military governing authority. The members were the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. France was later added with one vote, but no duties. As was the country divided, so too was the capitol city, Berlin. Berlin was well within the Soviet controlled section known later as East Germany.  When the Soviets and East Germans erected a wall around the portions of Berlin governed by the Americans, Brits, and French, West Berlin was isolated from West Germany. Armed guards patrolled the wall and the checkpoints going in and out of West Berlin.
Berlin was a divided city in 1983 when I moved there as a military dependent. My mother was terrified when we announced that we were taking her two young grandchildren “behind the iron curtain.” Now there’s a term I haven’t heard in a good while. In truth, while we were excited to go on the adventure, it took me several weeks after we had settled in to get up the courage to actually go look at the Wall.  Soon, going to the Wall, or even hiking the trails around it were as common as going to Como Park is now.
During our time there, the political climate was relatively calm and we traveled back and forth into East Berlin fairly often. While we lived a relatively normal lifestyle, getting “Flag Orders” every time we wanted to travel outside the city was an inconvenience. Taking a bus was much easier than getting clearance to drive our own car (not to mention the difficulties surrounding trying to park). The exchange rate was embarrassingly high, and Americans were welcomed by the shopkeepers in the East for all the money we spent. While they claimed to be Communist, capitalism wasn’t so far removed.  Bus drivers who drove through Checkpoint Charlie often played “God Bless the USA” or “Born in the USA”  as we passed through — with the windows open.
One very tragic incident in 1985 affected us personally, when Major Arthur Nicholson was killed in the line of duty. His daughter Jennifer was in my son’s class. We were also there when President Reagan cried “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” at the Brandenburg Gate.
Shortly after we moved from Berlin to Maine, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I watched throngs of East Berliners pour through the torn down wall. I feel that way yet.

Family photo
Family photo

Flu and the digital divide

I’m particularly sensitive to information and connections that can only be had through the Internet. In the public library we see people every day who come in with something written on a scrap of paper – an Internet or E-mail address they heard on TV for something they want to know. Unfortunately, the address they’ve written is often wrong, and library staff has to play detective to help them find their needed information. Amazingly, the staff is pretty often successful.

Tonight’s news reported that now the Digital Divide affects peoples’ ability to get a flu shot. Park Nicollet health care system received a shipment of H1N1 flu vaccine and set up an appointment line. There were so many phone calls that they had to shut down phone appointments, and now the only way to get an appointment is by sending an E-mail. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

Where will people turn? I hope to their public library. But will we able to handle it? I don’t know. Limited hours and a finite number of PCs will limit their access. Many don’t know how to use a computer, or have an E-mail account from which to send an E-mail. Staff are stretched thin. Will they have time to help people set up E-mail accounts and send the E-mail to get an appointment for a flu shot? I don’t know. The article doesn’t say, but I assume that Park Nicollet will send an appointment by a return E-mail. That means that the person who wants a flu shot will need to check that possibly new E-mail account again (and again?)

Hard looks at policies in hard times

There IS such a think as bad publicity, and a library in Wisconsin demonstrates it. The library evidently turns cases of patrons with long-overdue items over to the local police department for collection. In this case, after the library sent 5 notices, the police department sent 2 notices, including a citation. When the woman received the citation, she returned the books, but didn’t appear in court as ordered. So, according to the newspaper, the police department showed up at her house 3 months later and handcuffed her in front of her children watching out the window.

While the title of the news article — “Overdue items lead to woman’s arrest” — casts the spotlight on the library, the arrest warrant was actually because the woman didn’t appear in court, as ordered. The librarian acknowledges that “It’s embarrassing that someone would go to jail, especially being arrested outside their home, for not returning a book. But, it has happened before, and there is another woman in the same situation.” The news article also quotes the woman as stating the books were the last things on her mind, as both she and her husband had lost their jobs and their van was broke down.

I urge this library, as well as all of us, to review our policies on delinquent accounts. There’s got to be a better way to handle this, when the economic situation of many of the people we exist to serve is crumbling in upon them. There are just so many issues here, and so many points that this whole situation could have been averted. And I wish that the news wouldn’t look for the sensational. It all just makes me sad.

Busman’s holiday

Las Vegas Library

I recently returned from vacation. On my way home, I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this sign at the Las Vegas Airport. Good on the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for their marketing at the airport. I saw two of these signs at the airport.

This might be the first time I’ve gone on vacation when I didn’t step foot in a library. Well alright, I came close. We were on the Deuce Bus, headed for downtown when I spied the universal library sign pointing somewhere near the Stratosphere. Since we’d bought an all-day pass, I immediately headed for the door at the closest stop. My beloved life partner, accustomed as he is to my spur of the moment actions, also jumped up from his seat, and we headed down the street to where the sign was pointing.

It was hot, hot, hot (95 degrees) as we trudged through several turns, following the signs. Unfortunately, the library was closed. The neighborhood was one where I was really glad that it was mid-day and there were lots of people on the street. The website says about the branch we almost visited: The Meadows Village Library is an outreach branch that supports the curriculum of the many programs of the Chester A. Stupak Community Center and specializes in Spanish and Latino resources.

Heaven’s new little angel

The story of this tiny short life puts things in perspective. It is told on Establish the Work of Our Hands, by Mary Beth Oyebade, a missionary in Jos, Nigeria who along with her husband Bayo oversees the Mashiah Foundation, a ministry to people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

On August 14th, Mary Beth introduced Moses, an 8 month old whose mother had died of Aids in June. Relatives who had cared for him had waited for him to die and had even quit feeding him, but he refused to die. Esther, the matron at Bezer Home had picked him up at the hospital and named him Moses. Mary Beth closed the post this way: Does the baby have HIV? We don’t know. Does it matter? No. Every child needs to be loved no matter what their circumstances.

On September 4th, Mary Beth gave an update on Baby Moses (great photo), He’s keeping his food down, and responding very well to all the love and attention he’s getting. Whenever I hold him, I notice that he loves to make eye contact, and he also likes to be reaching out and touching people.  Please pray for this little guy’s future.

On September 21st, Mary Beth had bad news that Baby Moses had been injured: This morning, as his bath water was being prepared, little baby Moses suddenly squirmed out of his caregiver’s hands, and fell into very hot (near boiling) bath water. He was instantly plucked out, but the damage was already done. We ran around this morning getting medical attention for him. He is now on admission at the hospital. Although he has improved greatly in his time at Bezer Home, he is still frightfully small—about the size of a normal 2 month old, when he’s actually about 9 months old. We do know that he is a survivor, and we believe that this little guy will fight for his survival this time too. Volunteers are taking turns with his round-the-clock care at the hospital.

On September 23rd, Mary Beth reported that Moses’s burn was not too severe and that his appetite was good. Despite his frail health and small body, she was hopeful.

Last night, the posting read: Baby Moses is in the arms of the Lord. We all thought he was recovering and would be discharged from the hospital soon, but he simply slipped away this evening.

No yen for late returns

A colleague received an E-mail from a patron soon after the patron moved to Japan. Artist and author John Becker (Japanese name Bekka Jion) told about uniformed Japanese library workers who laughed at his jokes and brought him “the hot towel to relieve weary shoulders.”

He also reports on the library workers’ answer to why they don’t have library fines: “Why should you not be responsible? If you are human, why would you want to shame yourself with thoughtless irresponsibility? And why would we shame ourselves by not trusting you, Bekka-san?”

Now there’s a different way of looking at things. Drape hot therapeutic towels over customers. Expect the return of materials as a matter of honor.

Read the entire E-mail from Japan on the East Central Libraries blog.

I remember MJ

Today has been a day . . . as we collectively memorialized the life of Michael Jackson and the jolt we felt at his sudden death. He died the same day as Farrah Fawcett. We expected her to die. I agonized as I watched her last days captured on film that were so much like the days which we walked through with dear Sandy just over a year ago. But Michael? I have been silently cheering him on to a comeback on his world tour, and new ground-breaking music.

MJ was bigger than life. Most conversations I’ve had in the last week have at least touched on what his musical contributions meant to us.  My memories center on two 5-year old boys, one white Scandinavian, the other black with pigtails all over his head, singing Beat It at the top of their lungs on our back patio. Or the whole group of neighborhood kids (as racially diverse as any group of military brats can be) roller skating to the Thriller CD on that patio. And a half-time show at a high school football game in Berlin Germany, where the high school choir I directed led a mass singing of We Are the World that gave all in the stadium a lump in their throat.

Thank you, Michael. With all your imperfections you made the musical world a better place.