on t-shirts that need to be made …

So … Apparently, some people that I work with (well … one person) feel that my vision of educational technology is too, “pie in the sky …” whatever the hell that means.  To you, I say:


tshirt1aYeah you can suck it, dumbass! You’re lame and I have to be polite to you so all I can do is write in this blog … But it does make me feel better.


on why government matters by senator elizabeth warren …

Yes! Thank you, once again, Senator Warren!

on civic duty …


Let’s just say it, “I hate jury duty!!!”

So many things I’d rather be doing than sitting here, but … What choice do we have, right? If we want our system to function, then we all have to pitch in a little bit. The thing that bums me out the most is that I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 12 years and this is the THIRD time I’ve been called for jury duty!!! Either, there is A LOT. Of crime in LA, or there are an awful lot of jury duty scofflaws that aren’t getting busted by the system and I’m one if the suckers making up the difference. Other than that big hiccup, I find that doing my civic duty isn’t all that painful. Thank goodness, though, that the court now provides wifi access in the jury assembly room!!!

Most people don’t want to be here, but I do have to say that it is nice to see 250 other Americans showing up and patiently waiting out the day to do their civic duty. With just a very few exceptions, people are pleasant and try to make the best of the situation.

I know that it is fashionable to bag on civil service employees, but I can truly say that the clerks running this assembly room do a really admirable job. I’ve watched them calmly diffuse angry folk in the jury pool who are outraged that they cannot be dismissed to live their lives that are so much more important than the rest of ours; I’ve watched them compassionately lay out options available to tearful potential jurors who cannot make ends meet should they lose the income of workdays missed due to jury service ($15.00 a day really doesn’t make up a day’s wages); I’ve watched them firmly shut down the obnoxious attorney broadcasting his anger at having do his civic responsibility in a horrendously loud cell phone conversation; and I’ve watched them very firmly inform people that showed up too late that they would have to reschedule their jury service for another week because … THEY WERE TWO HOURS LATE!!!

Our courts, though, really do need some more money to keep me going. My jury assembly room is on the eleventh floor of the court building downtown. There are ten or twelve elevators, but at least four of them are out of order. When everyone got dismissed for lunch, the wait for elevators was so long that a good chunk of us decided to walk down eleven flights of stairs rather than wait. That’s not a good thing! It was a little surreal walking down eleven flights of stairs in a huge continuos stream of jurors from all different floors heading out to lunch at the same time. We reached the bottom and found out that it was a dead end (kind of a bad plan for N emergency exit … How about a sign, guys?) only to have to back up and clog up the exit door on the second floor.

All in all, though, it is what it is. If I have to serve, I have to serve. I have a copy of my flight info showing that I will be flying out of LA on June 12th. As long as a judge is cool with me leaving on that day, I’m cool with it.


to passive-aggressive people i say …


on best friends forever …

2 Mom Dad Bern Donald

Dad, Mom, Auntie Bernadette, and Uncle Donald

My 87-year old mom took a fall backward and got a bad bump on the back of her head. She suffered a pretty serious subdural hematoma, but thankfully she has stabilized and seems to be back on the (long) road to recovery.  She had been out painting the town red with her best friend, my “Auntie” Bern (in Hawaii, your parents’ friends are all “Auntie” and “Uncle”). They were returning home from a friend’s birthday party when my mom took her tumble in her driveway.

In the hospital, I heard details of their friendship that were new to me that need to be written down. Mom and Auntie Bern became acquaintances in the seventh grade at Stephenson Intermediate School (one of Honolulu’s old time schools) where they were in Stephenson’s first graduating class!!! They remained acquaintances through high school and through their first two years at the University of Hawaii. As sophomores, they independently decided to pursue occupational therapy degrees and together decided to attend OT school at Milwaukee Downer Women’s College.

In their day there was no such thing as a “college tour” so the two if them crossed the Pacific to San Francisco on a convoy ship at the end of WWII. They shared a cabin, but on the crossing only women and children had cabins and any men making the crossing slept up on the deck in makeshift bunk beds enclosed by canvas tenting. Because they had better accommodations and fare than the guys, mom and Auntie would order extra food and slide it under the canvas wall to the guys. Their waiters, apparently, wondered constantly how in the world those two Chinese girls were able to pack all that food away!!!

WWII ended while they were mid-crossing so when they arrived in San Francisco, it was in shambles from the celebration. They hopped a train for the three day train trip to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago, they ran into another acquaintance from Hawaii who was heading to Milwaukee Downer for OT school. This acquaintance, my “Auntie” Mabel, turned out to be their third roommate at Downer.

As travel was costly, there were no trips home for Thanksgivings or Winter or Spring breaks. In fact there were no trips home until they all graduated two years later so it was there that what would become their lifelong bond would more fully take shape.

My earliest memories of Auntie Bern, Auntie Mabel, along with Auntie Nitta were if them all working as OTs together at Leahi Hospital. I remember, as a young kid, going to the beach for “OT picnics” on Friday evenings.  My “cousins” and I would swim until sunset then we’d eat dinner around a hibachi grill.

75 years later, they’re still together. Caring for each other. Looking out for each other. My Auntie Bern has been at my mom’s bedside everyday since mom’s fall. They’re closer than sisters and it makes me cry to see them together.

More than anything, I’m grateful that mom has had such wonderful friends. My Auntie recently told me, “We’ve been best friends for over 75 years.”

They’ve given me a new understanding of the phrase best friends forever.

We should all be so lucky to have just one BFF like my Auntie Bern in our lives…

on asking the right questions (part deux), and being bossy …

'Question mark made of puzzle pieces' photo (c) 2008, Horia Varlan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Our frosh are working on term papers. Frosh have a thesis statement from either the classical period or the middle ages and they need to prove the thesis with primary sources.

Here’s the thing, when you ask a Middle schooler (even one wandering the stacks aimlessly with a dazed gaze), “Are you doing okay on the project?”

The response is, without fail, “Uh … Yeah, I’m fine.”

Believe me, Frosh, the vast majority of whom have no previous experience what-so-ever with primary sources REALLY are NOT FINE finding primary sources on their own.

When you ask, however, “So … How can I help you on your primary sources project?” 90 percent of the time, they will start an exchange with you that allows you to do some good reference work with them.

That’s probably why middle school librarians are bossy.  We foist our services on you whether you want them or not (And you are going to like it …)!!!

on places of quiet contemplation and pissing contests …

'Zen Garden' photo (c) 2006, Sheila Thomson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Libraries are wonderful places of quiet contemplation …

To my mind this sentiment begs the question, “Wha?!?!?!?”

See … There are opposing world views in the school library world about libraries and quiet policies.  “Old school” or “quiet” libraries are stereotyped as stuffy places where students don’t want to go and librarians are mean old women (don’t mean to be sexist, but that is, indeed, the stereotype) with their hair up in buns guarding dusty old books that nobody wants to use.  “New school” or “unquiet” libraries are stereotyped as being bright, sunny, airy spaces that are lively, welcoming, “information commons” spaces where bright-eyed young middle schoolers arrange their chairs neatly in clusters and eagerly gather around digital devices.  In excited, but low “inside voices” these middle school beings contemplate and debate the balance of renewable and fossil fuel production sources needed to minimize America’s carbon footprint, while allowing the U.S. economy to grow out of recession and prevent us from heaving ourselves over a fiscal cliff so that their librarians who have served them nobly can someday retire modestly  with enough in their 403b plans to live comfortably and have decent medical care.

Wow … I’m breathless … Anyway …

I do, indeed, work in a library with a staff of librarians that has whole-heartedly embraced the “unquiet” library model and most of the time … Well … I really love like it.  There really is nothing creepier or sadder than a beautifully designed school library that has no students in it.  There are, however, times during the school year, when … Well … There are times when I just want to go old school and make everybody shut-up.  “Silence is golden, children!  Silence is GOLDEN!!!”  It seems to me, that one of the times every year when I suddenly feel the need to go “old school” is this stretch that runs from just before Halloween until first quarter grades come out in about two weeks.

I think that this stretch of time is after our week of all-school retreats when our seventh graders suddenly feel very comfortable on campus and feel “ownership” of the campus now.  Emotionally, they feel like they are now eighth graders, but our eighth graders … Well … Our eighth graders are still eighth graders.  For those of you who are not middle school teachers or librarians (the uninitiated), let me just tell you, that … Well … Two eighth grades on a campus is not really a good thing …

I’ve composed a set of open letters to the sevvies and 8th graders that I welcome into my library with open arms (albeit with a few conditions outlined below).

Letter #1:

Dear, I’m sure usually, delightful [insert appropriate grade, but most often 7th or 8th] grader,

I welcome you to the library, but you are being extremely loud–Like, even loud for a playground, loud. Please settle down and get to work using your indoor voice or you can choose to go to the student lounge near your deans’ offices or the dining commons. We don’t force you to be locked in here like when I was in middle school and that’s a wonderful thing!


Mr. Ambookgeek

Letter #2:

Dear, I’m sure usually, delightful [insert appropriate grade, but most often 7th or 8th] grader,

Well … Child … What’s with the ‘tude and the rolled eye-balls? Because, you know, you are now the umteenth child I’m having this conversation with.  I have walked over and calmly asked you to quiet down and work productively or to please head outside and … Here I am for a third time in a single period.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Ambookgeek had only one single nerve left and you are now standing on it and jumping up and down.

So … Child … You best reign it in because, though I am not exactly an Alpha Male, I can still piss a whole lot higher than you … And I am fully capable of dishing the ‘tude.  Believe me, you won’t like it. I work out at the 24-Hour Fitness in West Hollywood so I have an advanced degree in ‘tude. So …

Stop rolling your eyeballs. Speak with an inside voice. Pick up your crap. Don’t bounce balls in the library. Push your chair in when you leave.

If you can meet these terms, we’re so very happy to have you.  If not, GET OUT!

Thanks for your cooperation and support on this matter,

Mr. Ambookgeek

I’m hoping that with just a little clear communication we can all live happily together in our unquiet (but let’s never forget that it’s not a frigging playground) library.