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Saturday, October 27, 2012


(DISCLAIMER:  This post has absolutely NOTHING to do with the city in Pennsylvania or the town in New Jersey--or any other Allentown for that matter.  More at the end.)

Yesterday was a bit of an anomaly for me.  I was up at 345 am, not to take care of emergencies, but to shepherd our youngest daughter Natalie down to Philadelphia, where we would both take part (as extras) in our first TV show recording.  We arrived about 20 minutes shy of our 618 am call at Tenth Presbyterian Church in the Rittenhouse Square section of the city.  It was clear that many of the people knew each other from countless similar previous encounters.  Natalie, being the social butterfly and wanting to get to know people, struck up a conversation with a young woman.12 years old and she's so good with people.

I almost posted this without telling you what show it was!  Apparently it's going to be a mid-season replacement on NBC about a doctor with a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going on called, "Do No Harm" (the Hyde part is that he goes out at night after bad guys a' la Batman).

The whole day could be summed up in four words: HURRY UP AND WAIT.  That phrase is familiar (I'm told) to those who have served in the armed forces, always waiting in lines.  We waited in line to turn in paperwork, to be seated in the recital hall, to have our wardrobe checked; I was a bit concerned because at four in the morning everything looks black (I have an identical pair of navy slacks and in the dawn's early light I thought I had put them on instead--not good with the brown tweed blazer. My fears were unfounded).

After paperwork and wardrobe issues were dealt with, we were taken to the location where the scene was shot--which turned out to be, to my great surprise and delight, a recital hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, one of the world's great music schools.  I mentioned this to Natalie (and what dad wouldn't mention the free tuition) but gently reminded her that it was VERY VERY VERY hard to get into (didn't get into the details, but musicians out there know what I'm talking about).  The fact that she seemed remotely interested was encouraging.

What little Natalie would reveal to me told me she wants to keep doing this kind of thing. Yikes--but in a good way!   She's making friends from the start and that's never a bad thing. It's definitely a different parental dynamic than I'm used to.

For me the most interesting part of the day was watching the attention to detail by everyone involved, from the camera operators to the costumers to the directors. Time is most certainly money to the folks behind the camera.  Even the caterer had kosher food available on separate dishes (I saw--but didn't try--the nova lox).

We were done about 1230, and drove home but not before stopping at Qdoba for a celebratory lunch of sorts (which became dinner as well--the burritos are so freaking HUGE), and then drove down the block to For Eyes to pick up our new glasses.  I can see again!

Billy Joel, The Nylon Curtain, 1982.  I chose this title because of the line, "Out in Bethlehem they're killing time, filling out forms, standing in line" which is what we did most of the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day in the life*, part 2

1015 am: Today brings a weird melange of tasks to the table--or in my case, the circulation desk.  Upon arrival I discovered that the two games we had requested as part of our allotment for International Games Day ( had arrived.  Neither of them were familiar to me, so I proceeded to check them out.

One was called "Labyrinth", and as the name implies, involves finding your way through a maze to collect various items and characters.  Read the rules--seemed pretty straightforward, so I experimented with the game.  Could be good family fun, but may frustrate younger players; the game suggests a minimum age of 7, but I might bump that up a bit (older 2nd grade-3rd grade).  As per my usual practice, I'll bring the game home for my kids to try. They're a bit older now (daughters 12 and 14, son 17) but they like (okay, put up with) playing games with dad, especially when it's something new.

The other game, "Pathfinder", is a roleplaying game that will DEFINITELY appeal to my son and his friends, so I'm going to let him be a guest blogger and review the game when he's ready.

Kate's doing children's story hour right now (topic: School Buses) so I'm manning the desk solo.  Volume's pretty light right now, so it's not too bad.  Besides circulation, the only  patron I've had to deal with is a woman trying to edit a scanned document.  Wish I knew how.

1040am: Book van's here, so I'll be checking in things for a while.  More later.

1110am: finished with book van materials; next is shelving returns--mostly children's, so Kate will probably take care of those after story time is done...updated the reference department survey.

Curses!  I left my flash drive home.  I can still do school work, but it's a little more complicated to save it.  I can always read my book report book.

140 pm.  Worked on two cataloging exercises using RDA/MARC formats; my classmates are cursing and I'm feeling like a genius for attending the workshop last Friday. It all feels familiar.

The homeschoolers are returning books in droves today.  I've been tied to the circulation desk for most of the day so far. The biggest load was at least two dozen graphic novels with a character named "Asterix".  Hope the kid got an A on his report...

Mr. M., one of our hearing-impaired regulars is in for his daily session on the computer.  He keeps to himself, especially if you're not proficient in signing.  One more skill to master...

We were busy today, but I managed to make progress on my numerous ongoing homework assignments.  Wish my team members for Management class shared my sense of urgency.  I'm going to plow on ahead without them.

Busy day tomorrow--Scrabble night, the Sears guys are coming to fix my dryer, and I am pressing onward and upward.  Cheers.

*--Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967,

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony*

An 80.4/100.  Could have been better, could have been a LOT worse--but at least my Cataloging midterm is over.  Beaucoups of Management classwork and reading await.  I can stop sweating LS502 for the time being. 

I had two perfect out of the ten.  Except for one of the remaining eight, where I took the totally wrong approach, I was making mostly MARC coding errors or had minor corrections on Cutter or call numbers.  Not too shabby overall.  Can't say I didn't earn every point. Now there WAS the issue of the timeclock, which shorted me 40 minutes.  It happened to others, too.  In situations like that, you take the test as best you can, contact the prof and hope for the best.  The only thing is I'll have to be just about perfect from here on out to the final to get an A--but in the back of my mind is "any shade of improvement will be a better B". UPDATE:  my final grade on the midterm was a sterling 87.2%.  Never mind that the class average was 91%. There is much rejoicing in the De Kok household.

Let me tell you about the MLA workshop I attended on Friday.

The MLA to which I refer is Music Library Association, Atlantic Chapter, which had its annual meeting at Princeton University in New Jersey.  The morning meeting was devoted to a pre-conference presentation on a relatively new cataloging system called RDA.  A librarian from the University of Maryland (who admitted that she didn't use it at her library) showed us how subject access worked, how MARC codes were significantly different, even how punctuation changes from LCSH to RDA, using audio recordings as a starting point.  I don't imagine that we'll be dealing with audio recordings in LS502 class, but it at least gave me an excellent point of reference going into the last half of this class. 

After lunch at the student center, I attended a session on what the University of Pennsylvania Library was doing to modernize their online catalog; a session on Kaltura (an online video platform) given by the head of Princeton U. Productions; an "RDA-Lite" session; and a presentation from Princeton U Musical Society using photos and documents from their archives focusing on the early (Woodrow Wilson era) years of the Society.

The highlight of the day was an organ recital at the University Chapel by the University's organist, Eric Plutz.  I don't really have superlatives for what I heard.  Magnificent just doesn't seem enough.
From his transcription of "Procession of the Nobles" to the great JS Bach Passacaglia in c and works by Vierne and DuPre, His command of the music and that enormous "piece of furniture" (his words) reminded us all what a great art we serve.

Onward and upward.


*--from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1.  It's also the closing text to one of the 20th century's crowning achievements in choral music, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble*

Well, if you ever need a lesson in humility, take a cataloging class. 

I just took my midterm--worth 40% of my final grade--and sort of bombed it.  I got two of the ten questions perfect.  Not all is lost though.  With the exception of one question, I was able to get MOST of the correct information down for the other eight examples, and he is going to grade these manually. There was one subject heading for which we needed to provide a description, four titles that needed subject headings, three titles that needed Dewey numbers, and 2 titles that needed Library of Congress numbers.  Most of my mistakes were dumb ones--reversing symbols, writing "bibliographies" instead of "bibliography", stuff I would have nailed if I'd had five more minutes to give it another onceover.

The one I missed outright (well, SOME of it is good) had me emphasizing the wrong subject.  I don't want to say too much because there's still people taking the test.

I even went to Mass this morning beforehand, something I don't normally do--just felt the need.  Feast of St. Luke today.  Deacon homilized about "using your talents".  I'm getting better at cataloging, but for now I'm not listing that as one of MY talents.  Onward and upward.

*--Mac Davis, It's Hard to be Humble, 1980

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pick Yourself Up*

I am beyond tired right now.  I've spent the last hour and a half working about a dozen cataloging problems.  Were any of them perfect? No.  Some had errors as tiny as using "in" instead of "during", or going one step too far on a Cutter number. My biggest errors were in LCC, where fatigue played a factor.  I wasn't quite thorough enough and didn't find the right number (five more minutes when I 'm less tired would have done it).  I'm still not where I need to be but I'm learning the ropes--and I think that that's the point at this point in my career. I am making progress.

Management continues to be a cross to bear--a LOT of work, a lot more than I had for LS550 (Intro to Research)--and that was a four-week class, not fourteen.  I just have to remember that I'm eating an elephant--and to do it one bite at a time.  Eyelids heavy. Going to bed.

*Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, Swing Time, 1936

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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I'm going to have to BE a powerhouse this week and next if I'm going to get through it--and we're almost out of coffee at home. The schoolwork seems never-ending, and I don't know where to begin.  It's times like these that remind me of the old saying that it's even possible to eat a whole elephant--one bite at a time. So away I go--working on two papers for management class, prepping for a cataloging midterm, getting music ready for an SPSO performance, and this on top of everything I do for my family.

About the SPSO:  We're doing a program of American music at Arcadia University on Saturday, November 16.  Samuel Barber is represented twice:  the familiar Adagio for Strings and the lovely Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for soprano and small orchestra. We're also performing a piece written for Benny Goodman, Aaron Copland's Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, and closing with one of the stranger pieces ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, the Third Symphony ("the camp meeting") by Charles Ives.  This will be the first time I've performed Ives since graduate school in the mid-1980's.  There's a killer trombone lick in the third movement (which is the only section of the program I play) so I need to be ready.  I'm going to move heaven and earth to give my readers some program notes prior to the concert, but if by chance I don't, you'll know why (see first paragraph).

Back to subject headings. 


*--Raymond Scott, 1937.  Carl Stalling used this tune in countless Warner Brothers shorts with Bugs Bunny, Marvin K Martian, etc. You'd know it if you heard it, trust me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

One More River to Cross*

1030 pm Sunday night: so much to do, so much left undone.  I don't really have a method of prioritizing. I just go and do something.  Then I go and do something else.  Eventually it all gets done--the fun stuff, the chores, and everything in between.  That way I don't obsess over NOT getting everything done at once, and I feel better about what I DO get done in a given segment of time.

This week is a rarity.  I don't really have anything due this week, but a lot of ongoing projects for MSLS and the musical side of things.  To whit:

Webinar project due October 31 (Management) I've listened to the session once.  I need to listen to it again and start writing
Book Review due November 7 (Management) I've outlined and skimmed the book.  I need to sit down over the course of a couple of weeks and read the damn thing.  Should have picked a smaller book.
Midterm October 18 (Cataloging) I'm going to review all the practice exercises in LCSH, DDC, and LCC, in addition to any other information I can go over.
Music Distribution begins for November concert (SPSO). Can't do that till the Personnel Manager gives me the concert roster.
Weigh-in by Wednesday (Weight Watchers).  It's gloat time, baby.
Audition November 15 (SPSO) I've been acting principal trombone up to this point.  I have to choose a concerto and hope my laying off this summer hasn't hurt me TOO badly.  I still have second chair to fall back on, but I've been there seven years, and it's time for a change.  The down side is that I will have to eventually give up playing in this group, especially if school duties are getting more intense (which they are).

God, that's a lot.  I'm going to need a good night's sleep for starters.

Lord, keep me moving so I can be useful to my family AND get all this stuff done.  Amen.

*--Canned Heat, One More River to Cross, 1974.

Friday, October 5, 2012

All (Indian) Summer Long*

1155 am. It's a brilliant, sunny fall day, and I'm getting ready for what promises to be a killer midterm in Cataloging class.  Seemingly no amount of preparation will help, but there are encouraging signs, nonetheless.  Work slogs on in both classes.  I have a major paper--a book review--due in just over a month, and a webinar review due the week before that for Management class. 

Registration for spring term classes are next week.  If everything goes according to plan, I'll be taking classes on Digital Libraries and Bibliography of Science, Technology, and Medicine.  Bibliography of the Humanities isn't available till Summer.

CATALOGING UPDATE:  Okay, so I didn't get any of the five cataloging exercises correct. My mistakes WERE less egregious, so it's cause for celebration. I'm getting closer, so I must be my nose growing?

The semester's almost half over and there's so much trepidation among my fellow students (okay, me too)

In about five minutes, one of the highlights of my workday will happen.  We get a serenade from a local carillon (electronic--no one can afford the real thing these days except for churches with financial "angels") but it still warms my heart to hear the bells play the traditional Protestant hymns.

*--Kid Rock, Rock 'n Roll Jesus, 2007 (Author's note:  Say what you want about Kid Rock, but I love this song.  I grew up in Michigan, too, and he captures a teenager's summer there to a tee.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Night Shift*:

11:35 pm:  The house is silent, the stillness broken by the hum of the refrigerator, the ticking of the wall clock, and the occasional passing car (some with sirens attached).  I found it amusing that my history-loving son slept thru the presidential debates while my wife and our daughters watched it.  Who knew?

I had my first migraine in about four months this afternoon.  They're miserable, beastly things. If I feel one coming on, my day is shot, especially if I don't have my Imitrex with me.I'm light- and noise-sensitive when I have them, and making matters worse was having to pick up the girls, some of their teammates, and the son of friends of ours from volleyball and soccer practice.  Don't get me wrong--they're all lovely people, really--but when the migraine hits (and this one was bad) all bets were off.  The crowning touch was realizing when I got home that I'd left my flash drive in the hard drive of the terminal that I was using today.  C'est la vie--I'll pick it up tomorrow morning.

Turned in my paper for Management class last night, and submitted my resume` to the proper authorities.  Onward to choosing a webinar, FINALLY getting to the book for my book review, and taking a cataloging quiz on Library of Congress classification tomorrow. A busy week thus far.  Cheers...

*The Commodores, Night Shift, 1984. (personal note: this song has always been one of my favorites.  It pays tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, R and B geniuses who left us too soon.  I had forgotten that it was the Commodores who recorded this on their first album after Lionel Richie left to pursue a solo career.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You can close your eyes*

It's the end of the day and it's been a full one.  I completed a paper for management class surveying job advertisements for academic library directors--13 pages, with graphs and 27 8x10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and OH, I CAN'T GO ON!! Just ignore the part after graphs--I was channelling Arlo Guthrie for a moment. If you have to ask, ask someone your parent's age.  Or your grandparent's age. Then have a Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat...and say hi to Officer Obie for me.

It can be a real chore to write in APA style--you have to refer to yourself in the third person.  "The author stated", "The writer believes", "It is up to the reader to..."; no I or me or we or you. I once knew a librarian who talked that way.  "Mrs C. doesn't do that", and so forth.  I wanted to puke.  I still do. I persevered, it's done, on to the webinar report and book review.

Cataloging class continues to be a royal headache.  This week--Library of Congress Classification. Five titles, all bibliographies.  That takes part of the guesswork out of it.  I just wish it took the "second-guess"work out of it.

On the Music front, UPS dropped off the last two pieces I need for the SPSO November concert.  It's an American music program--Barber's Adagio for Strings  and Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Ives' 3rd Symphony, and the Copland Clarinet Concerto.  Glory be, the bowings are already marked, so next step is counting to confirm they sent everything, and then sorting for each player.

A lot of littles today.  Tomorrow is Spring City and getting ready for International Game day and the next SCRABBLE night.  Cheers.

*--James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, 1971