Playing Doctor (Who)

When I was ten years old, all I wanted to be was a scientific adviser. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but I knew that was the Doctor’s position at UNIT, and the Doctor was always helping UNIT out and saving them from evil aliens, and I loved the Doctor, therefore being a scientific adviser seemed like a perfect job. Who wouldn’t want to be more like their childhood hero?

I grew up watching Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen on BBC America, and I wanted to be the one wearing the scarf, wielding the sonic screwdriver, being smart, always helpful and kind.

And then I grew older and saw that I would never be the scientific adviser, only the assistant, the one passing along the Doctor’s test tubes, as Liz Shaw and the Brigadier would say, and tell him how brilliant he is. And I forgot that being the Doctor would ever be possible.

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Wednesday Briefs: Slug Love

This week’s piece of flash fiction for Wednesday Briefs is, unfortunately, not the third part of Disassembly Required. It’s actually a weird, goofball stand-alone piece about a couple of college kids cramming on a Sunday night. Write what you know, right? Perfect for fans of unusual slugs and unusual physicists. I enjoyed writing it, so I hope y’all enjoy reading it!

Slug Love. One-shot. Prompt used: I asked you not to tell me that.

“I asked you not to tell me that!”

“Tell you what?”

“About the banana slugs!”

It was 8 pm on a Sunday night, and Trista and her best friend Ronaldo were at the library. Surrounded by five stacks of books deep, they sat at one of the biggest tables on the group study floor. Only a ring of empty and half-full coffee cups separated their working space from the towering texts that made up their study fortress. Ronaldo’s laptop face was clean, while Trista’s silver laptop was buried underneath layers of stickers that said things like Stand back, I’m going to do science, back in my day, we had nine planets, and drop the base. Instead of the biology essay she had due the next day on the history of forensic zoology, she’d found multiple articles on banana slugs, and was inflicting the minutiae of the Ariolimax columbianus‘ sex life upon Ronaldo.

“So you’re not interested in how banana slugs are simultaneous hermaphrodites?” She clicked from one tab to another. “Or that sometimes slugs will bite off the genitalia of their mate after copulation?”

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Is It Finally Time For Library Fines To Be Over?

An image of a paper due date slip, with stamped due dates ranging from 1983 to 2002.

Library due date slip (Wikicommons)

An interesting question arose on the library listserv I subscribe to, and I’d love to hear various people’s input on it. How do you feel about public libraries going fine free? That is, libraries no longer charging fines for overdue books and lost/missing items?

On one hand, the revenue from fines help keep the library running, although I’d personally like to see a breakdown of how the revenue streams actually fit into a library’s budget, and it reflects a need to have patrons respect the time and work put into keeping the collection up to date and not filled with ragged, torn books. Also, some libraries use the fine system to keep people above a certain limit of money due off of community computers, to reflect that their refusal to pay their fines have restricted all of their library rights, not just borrowing books.

On the other hand, as many members of the listserv pointed out, libraries are often used by the disenfranchised and the low-income. Not everyone can afford to pay a fine, and not everyone loses a book or keeps a book past its due date out of malice. Having a fine system does not encourage that patron subset to return to the library, and it looks like it’s a pretty big patron subset to lose.

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Wednesday Briefs: Disassembly Required (2/?)

My latest series for the flash fiction weekly Wednesday Briefs, Disassembly Required, is back with part two! You can read the first part here at the link. Previously, our anxious protagonist Beatriz and her assistant Allen had come across a diner in the fog while on their way to take home the machine without a name. I’m sure nothing weird will happen in this odd looking diner, right?

Disassembly Required, part 2/?. Prompt used: fish.

The interior of Frank’s Dining was faintly lit by the morning sun. Streams of orange light dappled across red tabletops and white linoleum, as though the fog had cleared the moment they’d stepped inside.

Beatriz stood in the doorway, unwilling to move. The door had been open when they arrived. Allen had already walked through and was sitting at the main counter, a plastic menu in her hand. The stool almost disappeared beneath the length of her skirt. She appeared listless, or perhaps restless. Maybe even like she hadn’t taken her medication that morning.

Still, Beatriz did not move. They were the only ones in Frank’s Dining. The only lights were the emergency lights. The jukebox sat in the corner, unplugged. The only sign of life was the clean countertops, and the faint odor of old cooking oil that came from the back.

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The Last Letter From Richard To Arline

I’ve been slowly working my way through a collection of personal correspondences centered around Richard Feynman, and I just can’t forget his final, heartbreaking love letter to his first, departed wife Arline. You can read the full text online at Letters of Note; an excerpt is below. It was written several years after Arline Feynman passed away after a long battle with TB.

I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

For an even bigger punch to the heart, you can also watch Oscar Isaac read this letter live on stage. It seems to be part of a series of videos of actors reading famous and well-know correspondences live.

My last blog post was about communication as well, but this is the kind of communication that just knocks me out.every time. What a privilege to read these words and what a tragedy that they had to be written at all.

Talk Jargon To Me, Or Not

I just love Big Think’s YouTube channel, and I especially love when they talk to actor/writer Alan Alda, who is a personal favorite of mine. So I was especially pleased to watch his brief video on good communication and jargon, which you can find below.

Other than the fact that Alan is just a wonderful storyteller, I found a lot to think about from his discussion of the importance and also the drawbacks of jargon, especially for people in very niche and specialized fields.

Alda knows that jargon can be both a tool of precision and a weapon of confusion, and it’s definitely something worth talking about in certain circles, like academia and the professional world. He uses the world of cinema as his touchstone example, and I would probably use library science, as that is my specific personal field. It’s a very easily adaptable scenario.

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Book Review: Teeth

Two fish hooks arranged in the shape of a heart, against a background of silver fish scales.

Cover image for Hannah Moskowitz’s novel, Teeth.

Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother…Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything…He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life. (Source: Goodreads)

TEETH is the second book by Hannah Moskowitz I have read this year, the first being the utterly superb NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED, and in a way, they have similar narratives of a main protagonist who feels isolated and alone who connects to another person through their shared struggles; with NOW, it’s Etta and Bianca’s eating disorders and drive to be successful in theater, while in TEETH, it is Teeth and Rudy’s loneliness and identity crises. Rudy struggles with living in a family with a sick brother and no longer having a life outside of taking care of him; Teeth struggles with his very sense of who he is, a scarred and patchy fish boy with a horrifying origin.

TEETH also reminds me a lot of Aaron Stormer’s SPONTANEOUS, which I’ve reviewed here, as a text that it took me a good chunk of time to get into, but once I got into it, man, I got into it, and nothing else mattered. The more time you spend with Rudy and Teeth and the other island inhabitants, you more you get to care about what they are going through. Everyone on this island is unwell, but not everyone is actively dying from it.

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Wednesday Briefs: Disassembly Required (1/?)

I promise my compatriot and mother that I would write for this week Wednesday Briefs, and not only have I done so, I apparently started a new series. I realize I haven’t finished the last Wednesday Briefs series I started, but by no means is that one abandoned. Anyway, this one has everything: science nerds, lesbians, troubled youths, strange diners, and fog aesthetic. Enjoy!

Disassembly Required, part 1/?. Prompts used: foggy road, “What time do you open?”. Content warning: homophobic slurs.

The drive back to town was a slow one. Fog hugged the road and clung to trees that cast monochrome silhouettes in the haze.

The machine sat in the back of the car, except it wasn’t a machine anymore, because machine suggested the possibility of functionality, and this particular bundle of metal and circuits was no longer operational by human standards.

Her assistant was slumped low in the passenger seat, staring out at the fog without a word. She hadn’t spoken since the hotel parking lot, since tears stung her eyes and cheeks as she shouted, “It’s all your fault, Beatriz!”

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An American passport, with a gold eagle embossed onto the cover.

Libraries Are Still For Everyone, Period

In my reference class this spring, we talked about the ethics of librarianship and our duties as reference librarians when creating our policies to think about how it impacts patrons. My professor said that we should think about who a policy harms as much as it helps, and it is something that has stuck with me: every policy hurts someone, intentionally or not.

Consider my old undergraduate library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis: alumni could check out books but could not use interlibrary loan or access consortia books. Non-UMSL affiliated could use our public computer terminals, but not our Wi-Fi, as it was tied into student and staff logins. Access for some people means less access for others, and there are varying levels of access for all patrons, on multiple levels.

However, when libraries start throwing up artificial accessibility barriers, that’s a problem. At Librarian.net, someone wrote in saying that a local U.S. library was asking for patron’s proof of citizenship before they could get a library card. The article writer gave them a lot of good resources, but it rankles that it should even be happening. They did say something worth repeating outside of the various links and organizations provided: Everyone should be allowed to use the public libraries and everyone should be welcome.

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