Keep The Homelights Burning…Or Not

  by Tammy Surline  

I’m late! I would’ve had this blog done, but I’ve been on the wrong time. Apparently, this weekend was Daylight Saving Time, or the reverse of DST. Anyway, the practice of falling backward in time, which was preceded several months ago by the even more heinous practice of springing forward in time.

Springing Forward used to be one of my pet peeves that really got me lathered up. Losing an hour of my precious time was unacceptable. And besides, I liked the night time. Still do. When a young lass, I believed the night held the key. The key to what I never found out, but nonetheless, nighttime was much more magical than daytime. Still is for some reason. My dogs get this. They get me up at the same literal wee hour of the morning for their constitutional, despite what the clock says. They care not about clocks. Hmm…and animals are the dumb ones?

Not to mention, in my earlier jobs I had to be work at 6:30 in the morning. Any of you who have to function at this time has my sympathies. When you lose a precious hour of sleep on the weekend this pace becomes temporarily unbearable.

This switcheroo may be better received if the hour was taken during the traditional work week, say around 3:30 on Monday afternoon. If someone is going to rob time from me, I would prefer it be during the middle of a work day, perhaps the first one of the week. At the blow of a whistle everyone pauses to turn their clocks ahead and voila! We’re that much closer to quitting time.

My research led me to no logical reason for this practice. The origins or Daylight Saving Time span many eras. From turn of the century, to WWI, to the 1960s, and there are as many “sound reasons” for its beginning as grains of sand.

   Some facts about this tradition: 

  • It’s really called Daylight Saving Time, not Savings Time.
  • Originated in 1907 by William Willet who felt people were wasting daylight. (I think that’s a John Wayne quote, too. “We’re burnin’ daylight, Pilgrim!”)
  • Benjamin Franklin, who is usually credited with this nightmare, actually only suggested a change in the hours people worked, not a complete clock shift.
  • Farmers were also not responsible for this change, as the practice made general farm work and the milking schedule of the cows difficult, proving once again that animals may not be as dumb as we think.
  • While DST started during WWI as an energy reduction plan, studies found that this acutally saves no energy. Quite a surprise for those who don’t realize that shortening morning light only results in turning on electric lights then instead of in the evening.
  • It wasn’t until 1966 that the entire country was forced to adopt The Uniform Time Act which established the start and end times during the year.   However, confusion still reigns as two states, Hawaii & Arizona, have abandoned the practice all together.
  • According to Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time”, the driving force (no pun) behind the continuation of this abomination appears to be the petroleum industry.   The extra hour of daylight in the late winter/spring encourages citizens to recreate. So recreating means driving vehicles apparently?

Good grief! Now I’m irritated again. Can we just, as a nation, pick a time already and stick with it? Let’s start a revolution. At this time of the year, the library is open during both daylight and some after-dark hours. So let’s just calm down, check out a movie or a book and go home, close our blinds, turn on the lights and read/watch tv in protest. Power to the people!

 

Published in: | on November 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A BRAVE NEW WORLD, INDEED

by Tammy Surline

Some of you may have noticed a new addition to our libraries over the last couple of months. We are joining the ranks of retailers across the country and employing self-check machines. After working out a few bugs, the machines are up and running and doing fine.

Some patrons find these behemoths daunting, disturbing, and downright deplorable, and that’s okay. We are still here to serve you. But for those of you with a weakness for widgets, a madness for gadgets, and a proclivity for the technological, your wait is over!

Now for you loyal reader(s), you may find it surprising that I myself use the self-check machines at Wal-Mart and Smith’s. While this uncharacteristic embrace of automation may go against my usual bent toward tradition, I find the sense of control very comforting to my inner-introvert. Not that I mind interacting with store clerks (or librarians for that matter) but it’s just rewarding to sometimes do things for myself.

This little bit of technology has its advantages.

  • As I stated, little verbal interaction, the perfect solution for today’s busy introvert.
  • A privacy factor, no one will know if you check out “­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hot Topics in Urology or Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them.
  • A feeling of technological superiority and accomplishment after the machine spits out your receipt and you can be on your way.
  • Self-sufficiency, since you never know when a crisis will strike, leaving you librarian-less. Having this skill in your quiver can only help.
  • A really cool whirring sound the machine makes when unlocking your DVD.
  • Well, I know there are many other positives, but I don’t want to get carried away.

  When running any contraption, there are bound to be a few snafus along the way. We have worked out most of those for you at the library, but I did have an incident at Smith’s last weekend during my  routine shopping expedition.

I was going along at the fine clip, scanning meat and veggies when all of a sudden an apple escaped my cart and rolled toward the door. As I chased my apple across the aisle, the self-check machine admonished me for not bagging all of my apples. “Place item in bag!” A customer exiting the store almost tripped over my errant fruit…and me chasing after it.

When I finally retrieved the missing missile, I’d gone past the allotted “mainframe standard time” for getting all the apples in my grocery bag. A mechanical female voice shouted “attendant has been notified to assist you!” I ran back to the check stand, apple in tow, almost slipped on something in the process and lost my grip on the fruit. Unfortunately, due to my cat-like reflexes and free-throw skills, the apple landed on the floor.

“Clean up at front exit, clean up at front exit!” An attendant raced past me with a bucket and mop. “Excuse me, ma’am, don’t slip on that apple juice there!”

Okay. Perhaps next time I’ll go back to the check stand with a cashier.

But fear not! The self-check machines at the library will not beep, or whistle, or admonish you to “place book in bag.” And there are no electronic voices to broadcast, “librarian has been notified to assist you!”

Whether you choose human or technological interaction, we will be right there to help you through the process and it really is quite painless.

 

 

 

 

Published in: | on September 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

The Books of Summer

“Come with me,” Mom says,
“To the library.
Books and summertime
go together.”
Lisa Schroeder, I Heart You, You Haunt Me

by Tammy Surline

Dare I say the rain has ended and summer is upon us, and you know what that means? It’s summer reading time for both adults and children at the library.

I love summer reading! Not that I don’t read throughout the year, but now I get to write down the books in a more official capacity and for some reason that delights me. Maybe there’s a little bit of school marm lurking inside my brain.

Summer reading is not only an opportunity to read the latest block blusters and best sellers, but to roam the shelves looking for obscure, odd, and intriguing titles. Here are a few that I am reading this year…

   We Need To Talk About Kevin   by Lionel Shriver

  An Italian Wife   by Ann Hood (not really obscure or odd, but intriguing to me as I am one.)

    Thank You For Smoking   by Christopher Buckley

     The Yiddish Policeman’s Union   by Michael Chabon

     The Adventures of Slim & Howdy  by Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn (this one tickled me because the authors are the recently retired famous country music duo. Apparently they are embarking on a new career.)

     Mermaids in Paradise   by Lydia Millet

     The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street   by Susan Jane Gilman  (Yum! And very summer-y!)

  Sometimes it’s fun to just run my finger across the books on the shelf and randomly stop at a title. I’ve found some very good books that way which maybe would not have made my list otherwise. For instance, I’m Down by Mishna Wolff, a delightful memoir about a girl growing up in a poor black neighborhood and being raised by a white father who truly believed he was black.  Wolff’s writing is both humorous and heart-felt in this age old tale of trying to fit in.

   And The Carriage House by Louisa Hall. Mostly I picked this because it had a picture of a tennis racket on the cover and I was feeling nostalgic for my sporting days. This novel is a re-telling and re-structuring of Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the twenty-first century.  Three tennis prodigy daughters of a man in contemporary suburban America find family and forgiveness when returning to their childhood home.

Reading is the perfect activity for Wyoming because it’s something you can do whether the sun is shining, the rain is falling or the wind is blowing.

So come to the library and sign up for summer reading. Not only may you win one of our exciting gift baskets, but you just might find a title that changes your life.

             

Published in: | on May 30th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

…And Now For A Word From Our Sponsors…

  by Tammy Surline 

Tomorrow marks the 49th Super Bowl (if my cloudy knowledge of Roman numerals holds). This is significant to me for really only two reasons. Making beer cheese soup (slightly more significant if the Green Bay Packers are playing so I can also  wear my cheese hat) and watching the commercials. Well, now DVR them in the unlikely event that I am distracted by the actual game and miss something.

In my advertising classes, we were always told that a sure fire way for your ad to get attention and be remembered was to add kids or animals. 

  This must be true because the only commercials that really ever stick in my mind include animals. But after pouring over multiple top 10 lists on the internet for best all-time super bowl commercials, I have decided to abandon that and come up with my own (I mean Paris Hilton sloppily eating a hamburger is not appealing on any level). I will only subject you to seven.

7.) Budweiser Bud Bowl, 1989-1997

 

The Bud Bowl started in 1989 and lasted almost a decade, pitting regular Budweiser beer bottles against Bud Light in a clash for the ages.  Funny, I don’t remember either side ever winning.  Hmm..

6.) Anything with M&M’s.   Come on, who can resist those little round pieces of goodness? (My personal favorite is Yellow.)  Whether it’s “Blue” playing along with the Blue Man Group, “Red” being devoured while listening to the song “I’ll Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t Do That”, or “Yellow” and his friends being kidnapped by the Russian Mob, these colorful candies never fail to deliver.

     

5.) Budweiser Frogs  A classic that permeated society’s vernacular for many years. You couldn’t make it through a high school football game without hearing “bud”, “weis”, “er” flowing through the bleachers at least five times per game, or the hallways for that matter.  The commercial began with a scene of a dark swamp and a close-up of a frog croaking his name. Two others joined him, making up the famous trio.  First randomly and then in sequence, the frogs croak out their names.  Many sequels of this spot ran with additional characters, such as two wisecracking chameleons and eventually a ferret who tries to kill the frogs.

   

4.) Anything with the Coca-Cola Bears. Another fine example of the three a’s of advertising. They’re animals, they’re animated, and they’re adorable.  First appearing in 1993, the bears have endured.  They’ve done everything from watching the “Northern Lights”, to sliding down a luge during the Winter Olympics, to watching the Super Bowl together.

         

3.)     Anything with the Budweiser Clydesdales. They’re an American icon, with or without the beer. These majestic horses remind us of what’s good about our country.  One of my favorites was “The Little Donkey That Could” where a donkey yearns to become part of the majestic team.  Another touching spot that brings tears to my eyes still was simply titled “Respect,” the Clydesdales kneel at the sight of 9/11 Ground zero.

2.) The only way to improve on the Clydesdales is to add what? PUPPIES!! Genius! 

1.)     Mean Joe Greene and Coca-Cola, circa 1979. I put this one at the top despite the absence of animals or cartoons simply because it displays what a sports figure should   represent and rarely does anymore.  A young boy offers a Coke to an injured and limping Mean Joe Greene, who then guzzles the entire bottle.  He then limps away from the crestfallen child, but turns around and tosses him a jersey, saying “hey Kid, catch!”  A heartwarming spot that endeared for years, catapulting his popularity all over the world.

So enjoy the super bowl, the commercials, the half-time show, the snacks, and all it’s many other charms!

  

Published in: | on January 31st, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Little House On The Prairie?

        Product Detailsby Tammy Surline       

As I raised my garage door on Sunday and saw the huge drift of snow blocking my exit, I started to reminisce about the last eight years my husband and I have spent living in our own “little house on the prairie”.  We moved out here to what is known as “north of town” and it’s been wonderful! Life at our country oasis has, each season, provided as much drama as the television show of yore.

During the latter portion of our first summer, we experienced a hailstorm of Biblical proportions.  Hail the size of cranberries pounded the house.  It came down so fast and furious that one of the deep window wells filled to the brim and started coming through the basement window sill.  The neighbor saw us and ran to help us bail out the chunks of ice as quickly as they came down. Scooping like there was no tomorrow, my parents and grandfather joined us as well.  After what seemed like hours, the hail finally subsided and the well was dry.  Everyone was freezing.  We all went in the house and had hot chocolate in August.

    Another dramatic event that I like to call “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” happened around Halloween. A reddish moon filled the sky and a windstorm of Biblical proportions (recurring theme) kept up for hours.  The only quiet place to sleep was the inner corner of our southern-most closet.  After a fitful night, I readied myself for work.  It was still dark, but I didn’t hear any wind.  Tentatively, I peeked out the front window and saw some very large forms on our lawn and they were moving!  I opened the front door slowly to get a closer look and discovered four huge horses making themselves at home on our lawn.  A dark brown, reddish brown, black and pale gray, these horses were only missing the actual horsemen.  Apparently, they belonged to some of our neighbors and had become so distraught over the windstorm they escaped from their pens and landed on our property.

     Late that winter came “the great snud-fest”.  It had been an early thaw in February so the fact that we had yet to put in a back lawn and there was a lot of digging going on all around us, made for a lot of loose dirt.  True to Wyoming form, that early thaw brought an epic snowstorm dumping over eight inches. The drifts were so high the dogs could literally walk over the fence and out onto the tundra.  The next day higher temperatures melted the snow quickly and the obligatory high winds began. High enough that I once again slept in the closet, awaking to complete darkness.  Thinking night had become day and Armageddon had at last arrived, we pulled up the window blinds and saw…nothing.  The windows and walls on all four sides of our house were covered in a substance I later named “snud”, a mixture of snow and mud that is thick, sticky and hardens like concrete.  The house looked like a giant chocolate glazed donut worthy of Hansel & Gretel’s admiration…or Pig Pen’s.  We promptly went out a bought a power washer.

     Then the Blizzard of ’23 hit (April 23, to be exact).  Once again, sprinter hit us hard as I was driving home from work.  It was so bad my dad volunteered to follow me out.  As we passed the convenience store, we knew we were in trouble because everything disappeared into a vast sea of white. Never had I experienced such a total whiteout. I drove along at a snail’s pace praying my dad was still behind me. Dottie, our dog at the time, stared into the distance thinking she’d had a good life up to that point. I plundered along to where I thought I might be getting close to home when pppfffff! I was stuck. Dottie & I sat there hoping Dad would see my stopped vehicle in time. Finally I saw a flash of his stocking cap in my window. “Sorry it took me so long,” he said, “I realized I wasn’t in the right place when the snow cleared briefly and all I saw was a yellow diamond-shaped sign that said ‘nudists crossing’…crazy neighbors. Couldn’t you have just driven a little further?” he asked and pointed to my mailbox, a foot from my driveway. Bother! He hooked his winch cable my car while intermittently getting into the vehicle to avoid freezing to death. Once again, we had hot chocolate at a non-traditional time of the year.

    And that’s only the weather-related drama we’ve had. For more excitement, tune into a future blog entitled “The Mothman Prophecies”, “Caterpillars & Cayenne”, or “My 17-Year Locust Just Returned 10 Years Early” in which we’ll discuss the array of insects and creepy crawlies that have graced our property.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

 

 

 

Published in: | on December 30th, 2014 | No Comments »

Over the Oven and Through the Television

by Tammy Surline

All year I look forward to my Thanksgiving Eve tradition of cooking long into the night while watching a few of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving sitcom episodes.

#8) King of the Hill – ‘Happy Hank’s Giving” The Hills are flying to Montana to Peggy’s parents for the holiday and Hank insists on smoking the turkey with a propane grill. At the airport, Hank manages to get his bird through security but unfortunately can’t bring his small propane tank. Alas, the flight is delayed due to weather and all are trapped. The next day, the flight is on again but at the last minute Hank is required to “check” his turkey instead of carrying it on. When the crew loads up the luggage, a dog barks at the turkey box and they all believe it’s a bomb. The squad is forced to “explode” the box, ruining the turkey. Rain again delays the flight. Deflated by losing his beloved turkey, stalled by the weather, they all end up in the airport food court where Hank heats up pizza using his propane tank. Everyone is thankful to be together on Thanksgiving. (I feel Hank’s pain seeing his masterpiece bird destroyed. Like the year my pan of sweet potatoes landed face down on the floor after exiting the oven. I managed to salvage most of them without much damage though. Hey, don’t judge! Nobody got sick!)

#7) Mad About You – “Giblets for Murray”   This is obviously on my list because of the dog, Murray. When Paul and Jamie (Murray’s parents) host Thanksgiving dinner, they go out of their way to accommodate all their guests. But Murray decides to help himself to the turkey, and they spend the rest of the day trying to get a replacement turkey. (This actually happened one year when our dog Fancy pulled the turkey from the table when we weren’t looking. We managed to salvage most of it though. Hey, don’t judge! Nobody got sick!)

#6) Everybody Loves Raymond This show has several hilarious Thanksgiving episodes so it’s hard to choose. But the best is “No Fat or The Tofurkey”. Marie plans a healthy Thanksgiving to help with her cholesterol and prepares a tofu turkey which no one likes. Behind her back, Ray orders a typical meal from a restaurant. Marie finds out and breaks into Ray’s house at night to eat the food which had been ordered because she is hungry. The family catches her and they end up eating the “unhealthy” food together.  (I don’t know which is funnier, saying “tofurkey” or looking at one.)

#5) The Simpsons – “Bart V. Thanksgiving” Lisa is proud of the special centerpiece she made. She brings it in while Bart brings in the turkey. He complains the centerpiece is blocking space for the turkey. They escalate into chaos, causing the centerpiece to land in the fireplace , making Lisa so mad, she runs to her room in tears. Bart refuses to apologize and runs away, taking his dog with him. Bart and his dog find themselves at a homeless shelter where they see how bad things could really be. Lisa meanwhile is actually missing Bart despite her misery. In the end, Bart and his dog come home and they reconcile. Homer leads the family in prayer and they all enjoy leftovers at 11 pm.

#4) The Middle This show offers many great Thanksgiving classics, but the best is “Thanksgiving II” when Brick, the youngest son, learns that a librarian is coming for dinner! When Frankie (the mom) finds out her mother isn’t coming for Thanksgiving, she decides to invite her co-worker, Bob, and his new girlfriend who happens to be a librarian. Brick (the youngest bookish son) is thrilled, announcing to all that “a librarian is coming for dinner!” (Need I point out the obvious reason I would like this episode?) At dinner, the librarian shows more interest in Brick’s book collection than Bob. This episode is even better than the previous season’s Thanksgiving when Brick goes missing in a corn maze.

#3) Friends “The One With All The Thanksgivings”   This one includes memories of all the characters worst Thanksgivings, including Joey (my favorite friend) getting a turkey stuck on his head. It ends with Monica wearing a turkey on her head to cheer up Chandler, thus prompting him to finally tell Monica he loves her, which he promptly denies. (How can you not love a show that has people running around with turkeys on their heads? No, I’ve never put a turkey on my head.)

#2) Bob Newhart Show – “Over the River and Through the Woods”  This is my all-time favorite!  Emily heads off to a family reunion and Bob, Jerry, Howard and Mr. Carlin spend the day watching football and getting completely drunk.   Bob then gets the idea to order Chinese food, specifically ”moo goo gai pan”, over the phone. It’s hard to say “moo goo gai pan” when blotto, not to mention give the delivery person your name and address. In the end Emily comes home early to find her living room full of drunks and $98 of Chinese food.

#1) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Okay so this is my all-time favorite! And why not? Snoopy prepares popcorn and toast for the upcoming feast at Charlie Brown’s house. Who but the culinary-challenged yet lovable Charlie Brown would serve popcorn and toast at Thanksgiving? (Well, perhaps my dad, Charlie, but that’s another blog.)And now, every Thanksgiving Eve, I myself enjoy a little late-night popcorn and toast while waiting for the pies to bake. It’s become my own tradition.

 There are many more hilarious Thanksgiving episodes, but I couldn’t list all of them on this blog.  Here are a few more to make your holidays funnier.

 Cheers – “Thanksgiving Orphans”       The Beverly Hillbillies/Green Acres – “Thanksgiving Spirit”       M*A*S*H – “The Yalu Brick Road”       Seinfeld – “The Mom & Pop Store”       WKRP – “Turkeys Away”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!!!

Published in: | on November 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

“Good Ev-en-ing, Ladies & Gentlemen”

by Tammy Surline

Once upon a midnight dreary…well it wasn’t midnight and it wasn’t altogether dreary, but it was nighttime and it was during the fall/winter semester of my senior year in college, I took a “Studies in Horror Film” class at the University of Wyoming. I couldn’t believe my good fortune that this class would actually fill a requirement for my degree. After all, it was a course in which we watched movies (horror films at that) and discussed them for credit. To make it even more interesting, my friend was in the class with me and we had to walk at night to the classroom building. Talk about a potential Halloween party every Thursday night for the entire semester! That was livin’, Pally!

We watched many films, starting with Nosferatu, the 1922 black & white classic about Dracula which was pretty frightening, all the way up to more modern offerings, such as The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Don’t get me wrong, they were all scary (especially when we had to walk back home in the dark knowing a prankster classmate everyone called “Wolfman” was following us waiting for a chance to pounce). But the films of a certain legendary director were the offerings that stuck with me the most.

Sir Alfred Hitchcock, known by his rotund figure and droll sense of humor, was referred to as “The Master of Suspense”. His innovative techniques with suspense, horror, and psychological thriller pictures are imitated to this day. His directional style included many editing techniques and scene framing that instilled a sense of voyeurism in the viewers. His films thus produced heightened anxiety and fear as the viewer was able to empathize with the characters who always experienced unexpected twists and turns as the stories of crime, violence, and murder unfolded. From his many feature films to his television series, his traditional cameo appearances in all his endeavors made him a cultural icon all his own.

     Psycho may be the most famous and talked about Hitchcock picture, and clearly part of the horror genre.   The film premiered in 1960 and was based on the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch and loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer, Ed Gein. Almost everyone knows at least something about this movie. The heroine ends up in a motel run by a psychopath who has mother issues. I mean who doesn’t know about the infamous “shower scene” where our heroine, Marian Crane, is slashed by the nefarious Norman Bates? It is a fabulous movie, especially at this time of year, but personally I find Vertigo, and The Birds just as spell-binding.

      The Birds, made in 1963, depicts a series of violent unexplained bird attacks that occur over the course a few days. Hitchcock used sound effects instead of music and innovative special effects for filming the “flapping of bird’s wings”. Some scenes took weeks to shoot since filming was done before the computer age. The results were phenomenal and when The Birds first aired on television in 1968, it held the highest rating for four years. To this day my mom still hates birds because of this movie. I, however, re-watch the film every Halloween, as I will do this “ev-en-ing”, as Hitchcock would say.

   Vertigo came out with mixed reviews in 1958, but over time became a Hitchcock classic. Without giving too much away for those of you who haven’t experienced this fine motion picture, I’ll just say that Jimmy Stewart, the main character, has retired from the police force due to his fear of heights. Thus he is hired as a sort of “body guard” to his friend’s wife who has an obsession with her dead great-grandmother. Stewart inevitably falls in love, loses her, thus becomes obsessed himself. Filmed with odd camera angles and dizzying heights (I’m beginning to realize why my mom does not enjoy Hitchcock as much as I do), it has all the classic elements of voyeurism, suspense, and obsession wrapped up in an over-the-top murder mystery plot.

Sometimes Hitchcock movies have sequences that seem long and uneventful. With any other director, this might seem unnecessary and downright boring. There aren’t many modern film directors brave enough to show this many minutes of seemingly nothing. But with Hitchcock, it only adds to the suspense, at least for me. Like when I wake up in the middle of the night just sure that something is in the house right beyond my bedroom door. I continue to lie there, wide-eyed with a rapid heart, just imagining what it could be. With the ticking of the clock, the white noise that is the night, I get up and slowly make my way to the door then fling it open! Nothing! (Until I step on one of the dog’s toys and then it’s something!)

                                                                       

So tonight, experience the theater of the mind with some of Sir Alfred’s best offerings. Many of them are available at the Sweetwater County Libraries.

Published in: | on October 31st, 2014 | No Comments »

What Would Jack Bauer Do?

     by Tammy Surline

After watching too much news this last month for some reason, I decided to calm my waning nerves by re-watching one of my favorite television series, 24. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, 24 is a political thriller starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. He works for the Counter Terrorists Unit (CTU) whose main objective is protecting America from terrorist plots. Each season is based on one twenty-four hour time period, depicting the events as they happen in real time.

How can this calm anyone nerves, you may ask? The hero in this highly charged progression of hour-long episodes, Jack Bauer, is admittedly flawed. Highly trained and ruthlessly efficient at his job as CTU agent, however, he is like MacGyver and Walker Texas Ranger rolled into one.

     I realize he’s only a fictional character, but just thinking that a version of “Jack Bauer” is out there, breaking the rules for the right reasons, fighting fire with fire, gives me a sense of peace. He is not above breaking a few eggs (or skulls) to keep us safe. So maybe his tactics were a little unconventional. And maybe, on occasion, in his zeal to catch bad guys he inadvertently caused devastation for some people along the way, but his intentions were always pure. And you’ve got to admit, the television world of 24 ended up a safer place when Jack was done…at least until the next day’s installment started.

While in the middle of a particularly hair-raising scene, my dogs began frantically sniffing and running across the kitchen floor. Their toe-nails clicked-clacked to the rhythm of the beeping 24 clock until I could take neither the suspense of the show, nor the suspense of what they might be into no longer. When I entered the kitchen, the dogs did not move from their spots by the cupboard. They stood like sentinels. Now I knew something was up and it wasn’t good.

With them on all fours and me on all twos, I bent over to see what the potential threat could be. Blast! A mouse was stuck under the cupboard! My furry little field agents had found a beady-eyed little terrorist of their own and now it was up to me to figure a way out of this mess. What would Jack Bauer do? First, I hollered for my husband. (No, Jack would not have done this, but in order to get up to Bauer standards I would need another head.)

Together, we figured the mouse had entered the property from the back door. I had let the little field agents out to potty. While they were out sniffing the outer perimeters, I opened the door to call them in and the sneaky saboteur made his move into the kitchen. (Now this was sounding less like 24 and more like a poor man’s Dragnet.)

While the dogs scratched the cabinet, I scratched my head. “You know Jack is always dealing with moles within the organization,” I quipped. “We should use some of his same tactics to ferret out this mouse.”

Pat looked over his glasses while smearing peanut butter onto a mousetrap, “there’s no need to start worrying about moles or ferrets.”

Twenty-four minutes after the vermin episode began, it was over. The perp had been not only detained, but dispatched, and all with minimal spectacle. I really am married to my own calmer, quieter version of “Jack Bauer”. Or perhaps more of  a “MacGyver”.

   In a perfect world, Jack Bauer’s over-the-top tactics wouldn’t be necessary. And in our world, maybe it’s not so good when those who enforce the law break the rules to follow them. But it’s nice to escape to a place in books, television and movies, where some heroes seek out justice at any cost. These heroes work behind the scenes or on the periphery of the law. When they show up, the bad guys know they mean business!

And when I’ve got a mouse in the house, I want it gone and I don’t really care how that happens!

Remember you can always check out 24, MacGyver, Walker, Texas Ranger, and many other hero shows at the Sweetwater County Libraries.

Published in: | on September 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

PSA: You CAN Help a Friend With Writer’s Block

by Carla Ceballos

Neil Gaiman famously observed that writing is just “putting one word after another; it is as easy and as hard as that.” These last two months, for me, it is indeed as hard as that.

I believe I have a case of writer’s block.

For those of you who have never felt this, I feel like I need to extrapolate on what this terrible feeling is. More specifically, what does writer’s block look like? You can see the warning signs in others and have some idea on how to help.

Writers block looks like inactivity: just sitting at your desk, staring at a black computer screen/piece of paper. Writer’s Block is basically the right side of the brain gone numb and listless, which causes the body to look similarly inert, including sweaty palms, bloodshot eyes, thready heartbeat.

Writer’s block looks like exertion: this symptom can come either before or after inactivity, and the two usually work as a feedback system, looping back into each other. Writer’s Block sufferers can often be found pacing around the workspace, wringing their hands as if they were what kept the words from pouring forth. It may lead the blocked individual to take their pacing outside, and can lead to extended periods of walking outdoors in all kinds of weather. They can also be seen frantically trying new activities or revisiting old interests, desperately searching for inspiration. Note: exertion can in some cases prevent writer’s block, but by the time the writing has stalled, exertion only makes the situation worse.

Writer’s block looks like plagiarism: well, not really plagiarism but extremely-inspired-by-other-amazing-writers-who-said-it-better! Benjamin Franklin said “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing,” Ernest Hemmingway said ““There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” Maya Angelou said ““There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”  and I already mentioned Neil Gaiman. How can a writer really expect to say anything that hasn’t already been said?! And these people not only said it well, but they have lead amazing lives and contributed to humanity. Which leads me to my final point:

Writer’s block looks like crippling insecurity: after all, when it seems like so many other people seem to be cranking out such mellifluous prose on a regular basis, it is hard for the blocked writer to not get down on themselves. It is important to remember that writers block is something that happens to you, it does not define who you are.

So how can you get over writer’s block? Or help a writer-friend through it? Finding a venue to discuss and get excited about ideas, new or old, is critical. After all, writing is about communication and connection so it makes sense that these things can breathe new life into ones writing. (Note: alcohol is never a good resource to turn to for inspiration, unless it is enjoyed surrounded by supportive friends and comrades, and as a bonus to the enthusiastic sharing of ideas.) Go outside and don’t think about writing; similarly, try a new activity (or revisit an old one) and don’t thing about writing, simply enjoy these things for their own sake. Finally one of the best things you can do is laugh! Laugh at a joke, or with a friend, laugh at the preposterousness of the blocked writing situation! Then take a deep breath and you may be surprised that you will find something to write about!

Published in: | on September 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Golly, the Grass IS Greener Over the Septic Tank!

by Tammy Surline             Product Details

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit glum so I wandered around the library and found my old friend, Erma Bombeck. She’s been gone for almost twenty years, but thankfully her humor lives on in the printed word. It really was Erma who kindled my writing fire back in early junior high. I picked up a dog-eared copy of one of her works, The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. Who could resist such a title? From there I was hooked! And now I actually have a septic tank and I can honestly say the grass is greener there.

     The iconic Erma Bombeck was best-known for her newspaper column about life in suburbia during the mid-1960s through the late 1990s. She wrote many best-selling books and the aforementioned even became a made-for-television movie, starring Carol Burnett in 1978.

During the 1980s, Bombeck also had a spot on television’s Good Morning America news program, during which she used her wonderful humor to illustrate her life as a midwestern suburban housewife, mother, friend, daughter, and writer. She passed away in 1996 from cancer.

Erma spoke to me from the very beginning. Oh, I hadn’t done much of the stuff she wrote about. After all, I was only twelve when we “met”. But she was funny! She took an ordinary day and wrote about it so that everyone could find it amusing. Even sordid or depressing topics took on a silly bent in the capable hands of Mrs. Bombeck.   This was very apparent in her later life after she developed cancer. She took any experience and turned it into something to laugh about.

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I was inspired! From that first book, I decided that I would try to infuse wittiness into anything I wrote. (You should see my high school dissertation on Beowulf.   The teacher may not have been entirely on board, but he did give me credit for at least finding humor in that particular work, which is barely readable.)

I discovered many more great humorists because of Erma. Andy Rooney, Art Buckwald, Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, Patrick McManus, and the legendary Will Rogers. I continue to discover new humorous writers, such as Jim Gaffigan, B. J. Novak, Christopher Buckley, and Dave Sedaris to name a few.

And wouldn’t life be better if we all found some hilarity in it? Just last week, I was at home during the day and I discovered a young man creeping into my yard with a BB gun. (It’s okay, calm down. These things happen out where I live and it isn’t cause for a S.W.A.T. team and the van from the six o’clock news.) He was intent on aiming it at one of my beloved yard rabbits. I raced out onto the porch…now anyone who knows me, is probably petrified at this point, wondering what will come out of my mouth or what I’m carrying. But alas, I calmly and forcefully said, “no”! He stopped and apologized.

Later, the young man and I had a perfectly pleasant exchange, getting to know one another a little better. Since I thought it might be a teachable moment, at least for the purposes of my yard, I told him that “shooting a rabbit from that distance doesn’t make you skillful, it just makes you an….” well, maybe that, too, isn’t suitable for the purposes of this blog. And calm down! I didn’t actually say what you think I did. After all, he was a nice young man.

But the point is we should all try to look at things with a bit of comedy. It may not make life easier, but at least we can write about it.

    

 A few quotes from Aunt Erma, to lift your spirits…

– Dreams have only one owner at a time.  That’s why dreamers are lonely.

 – Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

– If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.

– My second favorite household chore is ironing.  My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

– When humor goes, there goes civilization.

– I worry about scientists discovering that lettuce has been fattening all along.

– Never accept a drink from a urologist.

Published in: | on August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »