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Although I haven’t been active on this blog in a while, I have published two articles for the Society for American Baseball Research. One is Yaz Day from 1983, the other a Red Sox game from 1986. Enjoy. If you like baseball, that is.

http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/october-1-1983-carl-yastrzemski-day-fenway-park

http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-10-1986-red-sox-angels-game-sets-new-standards-bizarre

 

 

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In no way do I consider myself capable of doing an official book review. Other librarians are gifted in reading several books a week, comparing nuances, remembering details and characters, and can carry a conversation about it. That’s not me. I am slow and prodding, miss most of what I read, never remember which character did what, when or how, and couldn’t tell anyone more than 1 or 2 details I remember about the book. So, I read non-fiction, since that is all that really connects with me. I take forever to get through some books because I spend time looking up the names and details of history that I know nothing about. It’s a wonder I finish anything at all. Fiction just doesn’t do it for me, although I do give it a try now and then.

Earlier this month I read John Sexton’s interesting Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing beyond the game. I remember seeing Sexton interviewed by Bill Moyers a few years back, discussing the course by the same name that Sexton teaches at NYU. I would love to take…no…I don’t want to take any more classes. But if I did, this would be truly refreshing.

I can chart much of my life through what was happening in baseball at the time. As a kid, football and basketball had their place and their great memories, but only baseball was 24/7. One of the most impressionable events in my young life was seeing the movie “Field of Dreams.” You could very well call this a “spiritual” moment, and the specific moment was the James Earl Jones reflection on the legacy of the game:

Even as a 15-year-old I was starting to learn American history through the eyes of baseball. My uncle got me the Ultimate Baseball Book as a kid, and I was transformed by the stories and pictures of seasons finished long before I was born. I never realized at the time that baseball history and the annual traditions, remembering the legends, are similar to ceremonies celebrating the saints. We respect and celebrate what has gone on before. For me, I could learn a lot about life by learning through baseball history. Jones’ quote “The one constant through all the years is baseball” helped me to study US history, and gave me a sense of a bigger picture.

A year or so later when the movie was showing on TV, I mentioned to my high school coach and Bible teacher at my religious K-12 school how much I liked the movie. His response was a warning because the film was “full of ‘New Age’ doctrine.” I struggled with how something could be so meaningful, yet apparently so contrary to God. My heartwarming experience was now hardened as I worried I had been led astray. Later in life I realized that being nurtured in Fundamentalistville meant anything that makes you think must be “New Age.” In a year or so I would feel “called” to the ministry, rejecting what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up, (since maybe the age of 10): a baseball announcer.

As a kid I would copy the calls of Ned Martin broadcasting the Red Sox games. I couldn’t imagine a better job than going to every baseball game. I had a huge collection of baseball cards I referred to frequently, and tried to keep current rosters of every team on a clipboard as I tracked the transactions in the sports pages. Completely impossible task. When all we had was a black and white TV with no cable, I would listen to most of the games on the radio.

Our church had a “Bible Quizzing Team.” Every church would have a team and you would be expected to memorize entire passages of the Bible to be ready for the big state meet and answer any question or quote any verse on a whim in front of judges. This would distinguish you from the other church kids who couldn’t quote Luke or John and simply weren’t as spiritual.

This next meet was on a given Saturday, and since we had no car, we had to get a ride from the lady who was the church quiz director. On this particular Saturday, October 1, 1983, the Red Sox were having “Yaz Day” at Fenway Park, honoring player Carl Yastrzemski as he retired after 23 years. This historic event was going to be on the local TV station, of which we may have seen 20 games a year. I was determined to stay home and watch Yaz Day, telling my mother I would remember this for the rest of my life and wouldn’t remember a thing from a useless quiz meet. When my ride showed up, I refused to go, and have never regretted it. I can still remember seeing Yaz trot around the field, high-fiving the fans. I went to many quiz meets but couldn’t tell you anything significant about any of them. But I remember Yaz Day.

A moment like Yaz Day was something that was meaningful to me as it represented not only a game I loved to play, but also that there was a big city I had never been to, of people who went to baseball games, and who lived far away from the most dilapidated house in the city…ours. I had the hope that there was something beyond the pathetic childhood I was living out, and somewhere people enjoyed life.

It was about 10 years later I finally made it to Fenway in person, made easier by going to college in Boston. But the majority of my life has been watching the games from home. I remember watching every World Series, and the times in college I missed, particularly Joe Carter’s game winning home run for Toronto to win the World Series in ’93. Baseball has marked the time.

Much like James Earl Jones’ quote, my life seems to have been “erased like a blackboard.” At one time, church was the continuity of my life, both in growing up years and the ministry era. When that changed, I still saw faith as a continuity, but then that seemed to disappear. Then the last thing, marriage, ended in divorce, and when you add these three things together, it can be considered an erasing. Some would value such a fresh start, and it should be considered that, but it seems a difficult process to get there. That’s when I realized it is sports in general and baseball in particular which has been the continuity of my life after family and faith lost their prominence.

Perhaps Thexton is on to something. For some of us, baseball replaces love that is lost, family who have passed, hopes that have been dashed, and dreams shattered. He lays out how we find all of the spiritual themes in baseball, and not simply a shallow grass, field, sanctuary analogy. There is mystery of origins. There are miracles we can’t explain, faith, doubt, and tragedy. There is perseverance, work, and luck. There are saints and sinners, blessings and curses, regrets and forgiveness. Awful, mediocre, and great seasons. The winter of darkness, the light resurrection in spring. We can find ourselves becoming part of the story because its metaphors define us.

I find a significance in that 2012 when divorce happened, the Red Sox were having their worst season in my lifetime. Students in the library pitched in to get me tickets for a game at Fenway in September, expressing their care for my situation. A buddy and I had seats under the center field scoreboard, with less than 5 rows of seats between us and the very back wall of the stadium. If I had good pipes and aim, I could have spit out of Fenway Park. I didn’t try. But despite the bad team, which symbolized my season as much as theirs, we were there to suffer together. Then, in a way which couldn’t be explained, in 2013 they went from worst to first, and won the World Series with a bunch of “lesser money” players who grew beards to symbolize togetherness. Although I have yet to feel I have experienced such, I am reminded hope rises out of sorrow, and life can begin anew.

Sexton makes it clear this is just a road to God, not the road, and I would say a road that could be called understanding/identity/growth etc. Anything could be such a road, but for me at this moment, baseball is a good place. I have recently become a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, something I thought about doing for years. Realizing classes will be over soon and I’ll have another Masters to put on a shelf, I am looking for things to do for the next adventure. Members of SABR research, write, and discuss baseball, even publishing books, such as this latest example. Right now, this seems like a place I should be, and a place where I can invest myself in a hobby.

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Happy Holidays to everybody.

Everyone loves a holiday tale that inspires, so why shouldn’t I write one?

Sitting here watching the news and ESPN, I have to wonder if sappy, inspirational stories of people overcoming adversity happen at other times of the year and not just late December. They all seem to show up now as filler because there is no hard news or sports to talk about. But no one will ever come to do a profile on what I’ve had to overcome in the past few weeks. It is nothing short of heroic and will bring a tear to your eye.

A few weeks back my toilet just decided to start randomly flushing whenever it felt like it. After trying to find the right keywords for this problem, I realized a “phantom flush” is the term they use, whoever “they” are, “they” know much more than I do. Water was leaking from the tank, not externally fortunately, causing the water to recede, causing the fill process to start over again, then stop with a thump. Not being educated in commode hydraulics, I tried to shine the flashlight in when it happened so maybe I could see what was happening. This is the equivalent to raising the hood of your car to “see what’s happening to make that clunking noise.” No idea what I’m even looking at, but it’s a fascinating observation in any event.

But I never could ever plan the observation at the exact right moment. So I was left befuddled on how to do this. So I of course turned to Google with search queries (and this is where all the Library and Information Science coursework comes in handy) of “toilet flushing when it feels like it,” “Toilet runs and then stops for about 10 seconds,” or to use Boolean logic “Toilet and bubbler or flush and spontaneous or intermittent or random.” Those didn’t find many results, so I just waited for Google to suggest things for me, so I queried something like “Toilet flushes then…” and Google suggested “stops.” But wait. Doesn’t every toilet do that? How does that explain anything? So then I tried “Toilet flushes on…” and Google suggested “its own.” And then I was led to the phantom flushing discussion. Damn, why didn’t I think of that?

This was an example of overcoming great obstacles. But the story goes on.

Now, what do I do? I came to realize it must be the seal has gone bad, and finding a frayed rubber ring, I decided that must be it. I moved the old thing around and made it worse. Now water didn’t stay in the tank at all unless I pressed down on the valve. So, now I went out to Home Depot to get a valve which didn’t fit. It was too wide. So I needed to go back. But then I wondered if I should fix the two other problems in the tank: the handle and the missing chain.

Like any sappy overcoming-the-odds story, we need a flashback:

This story goes back years. The ex and I couldn’t figure out how to fix the chain that had broken. If memory serves (where does that phrase come from anyway? It means I probably don’t remember anything the way it really happened), we could not re-attach a new chain. The problem is, this must be an old tank. The valve and flapper dapper are one piece- there is no rubber stopper. The valve has two looped openings which I guess is meant to hook the chain, but only one end of the chain has a hook- the other end…well…the other end is usually embedded into the rubber flapper. So how the hell was this to connect?

Commercial break to build suspense.

So we tried squeezing the end of that chain to get it connected to the handlebar, but it never could connect. So we gave up on the chain.

Tugs at your heart, doesn’t it?

The other problem was a loose handle which would not get bolted in no matter what the wrench did. We could get it just enough to be reasonable, but it wobbled. Then I realized I could take the arm from the handle, put it through the larger loop on the top of the valve, and bypass the chain altogether. This worked for a while until it would come out of the loop, after so many flushes. This lasted for years.

End of flashback.

Times have changed and now there is the problem of the seal, chain, flapper, and handle. And now, post-divorce, I am left on my own to deal with this adversity.

(Camera pans to a wide shot of a silhouette of me with a sunset in the background).

So another trip to Home Depot and a discussion with a nice gentleman, whose questions I could not answer, such as model type, whether it was a 2 inch or whatever. I just told him what things looked like, sort of like making grunts to your mechanic of what the car sounds like. So I came away with a new seal on the bottom, handle with arm, and flapper. Faced with these many challenges, I did one task at a time.

(Reporter is choking up as he narrates the piece).

I got the seal, and now water would stay in the tank. Basking in the glow of this major accomplishment, I took a few days off. I still had to manually operate this from the tank. So now I took out the new flapper and chain, and realized this was not going to be compatible with this design. So then I took the previously purchased chain that I couldn’t connect to the smaller loop at the bottom of the valve. (I tell you, I am getting this lingo down as I go). I thought maybe if I got a loop from a key chain, I should be able to connect the chain and the valve. It worked, but now the chain was too long, so I adjusted it at the top, then tightened the handle as much as I could.

And it worked. And several times more it still did. The handle is still a little loose, but it builds character, and was a reminder to the audience that despite these disabilities, we can never lose that winning, triumphant attitude, and as long as we don’t give up…blah blah blah blah.

So there is your holiday tale to warm your heart and inspire you to never give up. Tales like this should be shared all year round and not just at Christmas time. But then again, this did happen in December.

I may have a New Year’s inspiring story as well. The pilot light in the stove went out last week.

Happy Holidays.

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Imported blog

I have just imported a blog I have been doing this semester for “The Hyperlinked Library” course for fall 2013. That blog was course-specific and housed on a class WordPress.com blog. They make it easy to export and import to another blog, which is pretty cool. If you follow this blog, I’m not sure if you got a “30 new messages” notice or what, but anyway, that’s what this is.

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This short video is a cool presentation of some of the things we are talking about in this course.

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The techno-siege-ers

Michael’s lecture and mention of the techno-seiger kinds of folk made me laugh thinking of all the people I’ve known who fit the description.

I work in a little, conservative town where everything gets micro-managed. The first few days I was on the job we had the gathering of the whole district. I asked the tech director what vendor he uses for flashdrives, as I wanted to buy a bunch for checking out in the library. “Oh no,” he said. “We don’t allow that here. Students could bring viruses in.” So I asked if students email work home or use Google Docs. “Oh, no. Students aren’t allowed to use personal email.” So I asked how students are supposed to get work from home to school. He said he wasn’t sure.

The firewall he had blocked Facebook and social networking sites, as well as sites like Amazon and other purchasing sites. You had to submit a request in writing for what sites you personally needed and why. Even fashion sites were blocked, which was funny when the fashion & design class were in working on a project.

But the best story of all was when he had a guest come to do some training. They held the training in the computer lab. But because the firewall blocked most of the sites he wanted to display, there was a problem. And since he could not shut down the firewall because that would open it up to everybody, he needed to connect to a port that was off the network. The only one on the floor was in the janitor’s closet which also houses the server. So to connect, he had to get an Ethernet cable. This cable went down the hall, passed 3 classrooms, the guidance office, the library, the front entrance and main office, and the nurse’s office. Then he came into the library wondering how many people were online because it was slowing down the network for the presentation, especially students who found those “streaming video sites” (YouTube was of course blocked).

Fortunately he and those days are long gone, and while we always have tech problems, it is nothing compared to those days. He actually became tech director at a larger school with higher pay. Amazing how often that happens to people who are totally useless.

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the emergence of network consumption across a variety of devices and environments, coupled with a user desire for convenience and relevance, presents a challenge for current service infrastructures.

That’s the quote from the “Always on” article by Dempsey. It’s a pretty long article and he says a lot of good things, but my mind wandered and I doubt I grasped half of what he is saying. My mind wandered when I read the above quote “presents a challenge for current service infrastructures.” What I thought about is my day.

I spent much of the day trying to get a large screen TV to work. Last year’s graduating class donated a TV so announcements could be scrolled on the wall. It was installed in the summer. The facilities director was the only one there when it was installed, and he doesn’t know how it works. So before I even got to school this fall, he decided to have the software installed on my computer as I “would be able to figure it out.” It basically comes down to if this thing is going to be used, I’ll be the one to do it, or it will be blank all year. I see it as an opportunity to fill it with library ads (hey, my prerogative, right?). It has taken me a while to even figure out how the program works. I know have slides designed and updated, but to get them to change every 30 seconds seems impossible. Every setting I find begins with 10 minutes.  Hoping the facilities guy can get the sales guy to come back and show me how to do this in 15 minutes. Our new principal stated “I’m concerned you didn’t even get trained to do this.” He truly hasn’t been here long. I’ve been the webmaster for 6 years and learned that as I went as well.

Several students brought their laptops in because they were not connecting to the public wifi. Students being allowed to have their own devices is all new this year, so we no longer have to tell them to put them away hundreds of times a day. Some adults now have nothing to do because that was their day. But the IT guy says there are problems with the wifi and “I’m not sure Macs can really work with it.” Sounds great. Here’s the ethical dilemma. We have a 2nd wifi that is the actual server for the district. Only a few of us know the password, and this is not to be given to students. But that connects pretty easily while the other never seems to. So do I get students on the one that works, or do my job and give them the one that is crap?

Well, no point following the rules now.

The principal came in to get 2 laptops for students having detention all day and being kept in the office. I told him I had 1 which worked, the other iffy. I was later called in because the iffy one wouldn’t connect. I logged in as administrator, took the wireless network off, re-added, and other usual maneuvers, but still no good. So I called the IT guy. He came up and couldn’t get it to work either.

At one point I was working on two laptops at once- working on one while waiting for the other to re-boot.

I fixed the copiers a couple of times today. Because of no AC and the high humidity, papers get jammed and such. I am the only one in the building who really knows how to fix them, although some try, and even my work is temporary.

We have an HP color printer in the library. The district buys non-HP cartridges to save money, which means they cannot be calibrated. To work around this, when the printer starts up, you hold the down arrow until 3 lights stay on. Hit the up arrow once. Hit the menu button, then select skip calibration. If everything goes well, this will work for a couple of hours before being jammed again.

I actually did get to some library work by the afternoon.

Okay, so I must be insane, but after all these years this is pretty normal. I look at it this way. For students to work, they need to connect. They can knock on the IT door and get no response much of the time, or they can find me in the library. Do I say this isn’t my job? I helped a French teacher today with the same problem. Is it more important I get her connected so she can teach the lesson she has prepared for her class, or say it isn’t my job and she needs to contact IT, and by the end of the we ek she’ll get a response? The TV will never happen unless I do it, as we have new secretaries and secretaries who have changed positions, so they are not even competent with their jobs, let alone a new endeavor. So should I utilize this opportunity to get announcements up (including easy plugs for the library) or say it’s not my job? When a teacher can’t make copies because, and I kid you not, all the copiers in the building aren’t working, do I say it’s not my job, or fix the copier (even if a temporary solution) believing her class lesson is important?

So, we aren’t quite ready for “always on” and allowing people to access things with any device when the basic infrastructure is pathetic.

And there you have it. I’ll have something more profound to say on the readings later in the week, but right now this is the world I live in.

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