Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Awful Ordeal

I wish I had a happy vacation story to share with you all, but instead I can tell you about my recent injury. I hope you'll get more pleasure reading this story than I did living it!

Early Sunday morning on December 9th, I dashed out of my apartment building on my way to church. The moment I stepped out my door, my foot slipped on the wet ice completely sheeting the path from my building. I landed hard on my left hip and elbow. This is great, I thought, God is smiting one of His faithful believers while atheists are still lying snug in their beds. Yet accustomed as I am to His mysterious ways, I continued on foot to church only to see a small boy sliding on the sidewalk and hear him call out--how's this for irony--"Thank God for this slippery ice!" One day, kid, you'll know better.

Throughout the rest of Sunday afternoon and into the evening, I waited in vain for the pain in my elbow to subside. I actually considered calling the library reference desk for advice, but I decided that they would only tell me to go to my local Emergency room and this was not what I wanted to hear. Finally, I relented. I called my fellow Oak Park resident Bruce Brigell at home and explained my situation. He kindly offered to drive to the nearest ER. Though it was Sunday evening, business in the ER was booming. There wasn't a bed for me, I was told, but they could spare a chair. They sent me for X-rays. The X-ray technician raised my arm to the right height for the machine by propping it up on a box of tissues. Such is modern medical technology. She then instructed me to bend my arm in ways my arm truly did not want to be bent. "Didn't they give you pain killers?" she asked me. No, they did not. The ER doctor eventually wrapped my arm up in a temporary cast and instructed me to bring my X-rays to an orthopedist the next day. He offered to write me a prescription for pain killers which I in a fit of insanity and bravado refused. This was an error in judgment that I would soon have reason to rue again and again.

The next day the orthopedic doctor I was sent to took one look at my X-rays and said he was scheduling me for surgery that day. Apparently some knobby things at the ends of one my bones in my elbow had broken off, and it was better for him just to cut them away rather then hoping for them to heal properly in a cast. I wouldn't even notice the knobby things were gone, he told me. This made sense to me so I hastened off to surgery.

The anesthesiologist completely numbed my arm and put me under a mild general anesthesia that was supposed to transport me to a "twilight state" in which I might hear voices but would otherwise be unaware of my surroundings. While I know many people undergoing surgery would embrace this twilight state for all it's worth, I was determined to have none of it. I would remain fully alert and rational no matter what was pumped into me. As we waited for my anesthesia to take effect, I was fascinated by a weird phantom limb sensation I was experiencing and offered a highly credible scientific explanation for it to my perhaps unimpressed surgical team. We were hanging around waiting for an OR to open, and when it did, the surgery team suddenly sprang into action, pushing me through doors and around corners. I felt like I was being led into the Batcave.

Although I was fully alert and rational during my operation, I couldn't see anything because the surgeons threw a sheet over my head. I complained to them that I felt detached from own body. My anesthesiologist patiently explained that, under the circumstances, this was not a bad thing. I said I wanted to see what the insides of my elbow looked like. "It looks like meat!" replied an unsentimental female voice. In retrospect, I believe that my running commentary during surgery might not have been as welcome or as helpful as I imagined at the time. It's never good to be the only person under the influence of mind-altering substances in a gathering of other people, and that's exactly what I was. My doctor, however, did consent to show me the parts he removed from me after he put them into a little jar. I was suitably impressed.

After my surgery was completed I needed to wait for my doctor to dismiss me. A nurse kept coming into the room and saying, "He still with the parents!" I thought my parents must really be grilling the poor man for details about my operation and the recovery process. I hoped they weren't too hard on him. Actually, it was nothing of the kind. My doctor was tickled upon learning that my father was a former linotype printer since his mother had the same job. He and my parents simply hit it off socially, and the doctor was mostly telling them about himself and his family. The man had been seeing patients or performing surgery for twelve hours straight and still he found a half hour to chat with my parents. Amazing.

I still faced one more obstacle before I could leave the hospital that night: my bed. I was waiting while some nurses checked my vital signs when someone discovered that the bed I was lying on wasn't working properly and couldn't be lowered. This could have been a problem if I were, say, 2 1/2 feet tall, but I am perfectly capable of leaving a bed on my own. It wasn't as if I were on top of some "Princess and the Pea" style heap of mattresses. Nonetheless, the consensus was that my non-lowering bed was a serious impediment to my being released. "I won't be stymied by a bed!" I said indignantly, and I meant it. Rather than wait for my nurses to perhaps build a little staircase for me out of tissue boxes, I simply stepped off on my own.

I was in bed that night in my parent's house when my nerves abruptly awoke from being numbed and set about making up for lost time. If anything, they were working even harder for having been rested. I recalled that the ancient Stoic philosophers believed that the wise man could be happy though on the rack. For the life of me, alas, I couldn't recall just how the Stoics believed a wise man could achieve this admirable state of poise during pain. I supposed that it had something to do with the distinction between That Which We Can Control and That Which We Cannot. None of this was helping at the moment, however, so I went in quest of ice and the pain pills I had at last acquired only to find them largely ineffective. At least I know I won't end up like Rush Limbaugh.

In the days that followed I spent more time with my doctor. He turned out to be a real history buff, and I was happy to give him reading suggestions and even a few books. He told me he once wrote to Thomas Fleming after the historian and novelist referred to Hermann Goering as "Hans" Goering. I agreed that this was an appalling mistake. "Hans" Goering, indeed. I had hoped to bring my doctor to the library for our book sale on Saturday but that turned out to be a snowy day and thus a good day to be an orthopedic surgeon. He did, however, offer to take me with him to the opera one day, so I can't complain.

While I can't say that my injury week has been an especially good one, it has been eventful. It also helped me out a bit. For some time, I've been feeling sorry for myself for nothing. Now, I'm feeling sorry for myself for something. Hey, it's a step up.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Oh the Things I Do for You: Final Post

In the words of the immortal Boyz II Men, "Now we come to the eennnd of the roooaaad." I've downloaded two audiobooks already, one all by myself. So now all I need to do is comment on our website. OK!

What do I like best about our website? All the content. What do I think is the biggest problem with our website? All the content. To quote Percy B. Shelley, "we have eaten more than we can digest," and I don't think eating even more is a good response to this problem. I'd like us to concentrate on promoting our existing 24/7 services (downloads, databases, virtual reference) rather than seeking to add yet more services. I'm also in favor of winnowing down our website in the way Ricki wants to winnow down the Reading page. Well, that's my proverbial two cents. TTFN

Flickr: I Could've Been Quickr

All right, here's a picture. I hope you're all happy now ;-). The process was exceedingly easy with the combination of Jenn's camera and our new Mac computer (praise be) with its marvelous iPhoto software. This is a clear sign that I need a digital camera of my own.

My favorite part of the library's Flickr page are the READ posters. What I'd like to see are some scanned historical photos from the library's archives. Pat Groh mentioned to me recently that in the old days, people in the library's book discussions--including her--used to smoke cigarettes rather than sip tea and eat cookies. Now that's something I'd like to see a picture of. I don't know if we have such an old photo, but I bet there are other neat things in our archive.

I really don't know what tags to suggest for the library's Flickr page since surely this must depend on the photo being tagged. I think the tag "Skokie" will be enough to pull Skokie residents to us, and that's who want to come to the library anyway.

My Desk

My Desk, originally uploaded by theskokieten.

Obviously, I've given up trying to stay organized. Another sign, I suppose, of a life of quiet desperation.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Good Stuff from Google

As a Mac user, I'm all for efforts to break the Microsoft Office hegemony. I don't have MS Office on my computer, so I can't open Office documents even if they're sent to me. I use Apple's free stripped down word processor to do my writing at home. Frankly, Google Docs is better than Applewriter, so I think I should start using it at home. This way I would be able to access my documents from the Web when I'm at work without having to send attachments.

The biggest weakness of Google Docs compared to MS Word is that I don't see a way to view your Google document as it would look when printed. This is a problem when doing something like a resume or formal letter where formatting is important. Still, for most uses Google Docs is a "good enough" program.

The only Google tool I use is their toolbar. I'm sure Picasa is good, but I have iPhoto which is better. I don't have enough on my computer at home that I would really need Google Desktop. I should give Google Notebook a try but I haven't yet. As for Google Calendar, a simple paper calendar works fine for me.

A Wiki Quickie

I am a fan of Wikipedia for what Gary Price recently called its "long tail" coverage. That is, Wikipedia is able to have articles on thousands of more obscure or specialized subjects that no print resource would have the money to include. In these cases, the question is not whether Wikipedia is better than print sources, but whether comparable print sources even exist. In general, if an article on a particular subject exists in a standard print source, I'd go with that over Wikipedia any day.

As for radical trust, I don't think that concept is unique to wikis. We already have radical trust in the journalism and print sources which we use all the time. Or rather, we accept that people are fallible, have agendas, and sometimes are dishonest but trust that most of the time safeguards exists to avoid the worst of these abuses and that we need to be alert to what slips through. "Trust but verify" is a good motto for librarians to follow.

I think wikis would be useful for library organizations like FictionL where people regularly collaborate on shared lists such as fiction books on a certain topic. I don't see the advantages of a wiki for library patrons. For any wiki, people need some of way of being told when new material is being added for the wiki to be useful as a communication tool.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fun with Podcasts

As a non-radio listener, I was skeptical about podcasting. I realize, though, that the virtue of podcasting is that one can be very selective about what one listens to in a way one can't with radio. I signed up for three book-related podcasts. One featured authors from Simon and Schuster. I listened to Lance Bass reflect on his memoirs and found Bass to be every bit as articulate and insightful as I imagined. My second podcast was called Book of our Times which featured authors perhaps more accomplished than Bass but presumably without his singing and dancing abilities. These podcasts were very long--an hour or more--much too long for me to listen to at work. My third and favorite podcast was Nancy Pearl's book reviews which I found on the NPR website. I really enjoyed listening to Nancy and appreciated the brevity of her reviews. Although I don't see myself giving up audiobooks any day soon, I wouldn't mind listening to Nancy as well in the future.

As for podcasting at the library, I think Nancy provides a good template: short reviews of new and favorite books or, in other words, an extended shelf talk.