Sunday, February 8, 2009

Well, This is New

I've never felt the urgent need to maintain a blog before, as there's been enough insights from varied minds to keep me mentally nourished, such as from Ken Levine (, the master sitcom writer and Erin O'Brien (, whose brother John wrote "Leaving Las Vegas," among other stunning books, and who's a talented writer in her own right. With them, and others like Pete Vonder Haar (, a fellow writer for Film Threat (, what could I possibly have to say that would make a blog worthwhile?

As expected, an idea came a few weeks ago that I've not yet worked out logistically (i.e., too lazy so far to make it happen, though seeing the blog alive should motivate me), but I hope will become the crux of this blog. If not all the time, then I hope the posts without it will retain the theme.

Three Sundays ago, my family (parents and sister, whom I will most likely write a lot about) and I left the Valencia branch of the County of Los Angeles Public Library system and on the ground were what stands now for due date stamps on the back of books: Printed lists of what has been checked out and when those items are due. It came with replacing the then-aging countywide computer system, which had librarians scanning in books to be returned and writing out various numbers on slips of paper corresponding to libraries that those items would be sent back to. A lot of paper used and certainly plenty of pen ink.

With this new system, there is still a lot of paper used, but now all the librarians at the checkout desk have to do is scan the book and a piece of paper prints out detailing which library the book goes back to, and to whom, if anyone. Much easier, less time taken, and I admire the convenience of it.

Those printed lists of what is checked out (the self-checkout computers also obviously do this) are useful if you're not me. That is, you don't access the library catalog from home every day, reserving book after book and causing wild frustration during the week (I imagine) to the librarians who were at least enterprising enough to remove my books from among the shelves where other people's books are sitting, waiting to be picked up, and put them in a large box under the counter at the far right side of the check in/check out area.

But outside on that Sunday, I noticed a few of those printed lists on the ground. I picked them up, learning that someone had checked out books on Indian cooking, while another, most likely a teenager, had checked out what looked like every "Yu-Gi-Oh" book the library carried. This was fascinating to me: A record of reading habits. How many books? How few? Short lists? Long ones?

I told my sister, upon picking up a few of these, that I wanted to start a blog showcasing these. Not to criticize, as I believe that whatever gives you pleasure you should embrace, but perhaps to make a little fun of some of the choices, and also maybe to imagine the person who checked some of these items out. "Little Children" and one of the discs of the first season of "Charmed," you have to wonder just a little bit.

We have a multi-purpose printer here at home that also can send out faxes and scan things. The most workable method for me is to tape these "scraps of literacy," as I call them, and hence the blog title, to sheets of white printer paper---making sure they're absolutely secure and don't cause us to have to buy a new printer---and running them through the scanner function.

I have a few short ones that I plan to practice on and hope that they work, including that one containing the above-mentioned DVD titles. Now, it should also be known that these slips of paper do not contain library card numbers. A matter of security, and a good one, particularly when people just throw them on the ground and move on.

In the weeks following my discovery of this, the grounds near the entrance of the library and up to the automatic doors have been disappointingly clean. Every Sunday, I hope for at least a few more on the ground, that maybe whomever cleans that wide area either forgot or wasn't there on Saturday or that morning (the library opens at 1 on Sundays and closes at 5). But I'll work with what I have for now, because I'd like these to be the centerpieces of this blog.

As for other possible "scraps of literacy," I read often, watch lots of movies, and there's certainly a lot to write about in this world of mine, so I plan to include all of that in here too. Most likely short pieces unless there's something really on my mind, another meaning to "scraps of literacy," and I hope my writing here is always literate enough.

I'm also constantly enthralled and fascinated by the night. Those hours within the darkness are when I spend the most time up and about, except for when I serve as a substitute campus supervisor at La Mesa Junior High, where my dad teaches business education. Nepotism with a twist: I'm good at it. However, though I do get on well with the students that the office and administration call for at various times in the day, it's not quite the same as the set of students I knew when I was a tutor for the AVID program, basically a useless stab at trying to turn kids toward going to college after they graduate high school. Never mind the car mechanics needed and various other jobs in the world that are also important. You help kids with problems they have with various subjects, there's a chart they draw out to try to figure out those problems, and that's all I could say about that without mustering further disgust. It's never been helpful even in its own aims. Seems more like a power trip for those teachers engaging in it, a way to teach without having to put forth the effort needed to be a really good teacher. Just sit behind the worksheets and methods laid out by others. Never mind the inspiration that could come from actual effort.

I'm sure I'll cover that in further detail in future entries, but for now, I will say that I did quit out of that personal disgust. I didn't want it anymore and it bored me to the brink of stupidity. It's thankfully not possible for me to step off that cliff. So I took a job as a substitute campus supervisor when needed. And the first time I did it, I met again many of the students I had helped as an AVID tutor, who seemed to like me more than their own teachers. They wondered why I was a campus supervisor now and I explained to them why, lightly, without getting into the bolder details of my dissatisfaction. I credit the genes I was given, as my dad has the same talent for engaging people, but I've no desire to follow him into teaching.

You may find in future entries my tendency to wander like this at risk of losing the point I intended to make. Here, it's to say that the hours kept by some of the campus supervisors are not friendly for a night person like me. One has hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., my favorite set because school ends at 3:10, and I have some time to stretch out on the couch in the teacher's lounge upstairs from the library. I go in with my dad in the morning and leave with him as well in the afternoon, so that means getting up at about 5:40 a.m. I'm going in again on February 12th, the day before a four-day weekend for the William S. Hart Union School District, encompassing all its schools. Good enough for me, though the hours I'll inherit this time are 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Five hours instead of the six I love so much. But a paycheck is always appreciated, so I'll happily take what I can endorse, after the district has taken various things out of it, the little, niggling, bothersome taxes that make you wonder what they actually use the money for, and if they actually use it.

But perhaps that's a little too cynical at this moment. I shall save that for later. I've no qualms about the job, certainly not with what it entails during the day, yet another string of thoughts suitable for another time, another entry.

I hope you'll join me and stick around, curious about what happens next. Maybe spontaneous combustion. I'm easy.

And now to figure out the scanning function on this printer.


  1. Awesome idea, Rory.

    Could you take a picture of these scraps of paper with a camera? And then you can adjust the light/dark/brightness/contrast for ease of viewing?

  2. I like that idea. My dad has a digital camera that just might work for that, once he finally replaces the battery, which still shouts, "I'M DYING, I'M DYING," with each flash of the "low battery" icon. I'll try that over the next few days.