First… This post is also serving as the annual letter that would have gone out with my Christmas cards, had my Christmas cards gotten here on time and not been back-ordered. And I would have ordered or bought cards sooner had I not put off looking for cards I know I still have but haven’t unpacked yet, only to not find them (yet). I don’t send out many cards, but I certainly send cards to people who send me cards.
Second… We all get excited at New Years and use it as this giant celestial event to review the outgoing year and set goals or resolutions for the new year, all based on the regular orbital path of the ball of mud and rock we’re stuck on around the local star. We, or at least I, tend to also do this on my birthday. And honestly… It’s good to reflect on the past and set and adjust goals for the future.
Though there are global issues going on that made 2018 less than stellar, I look back on my own life in 2018, and while not the best year on record, it certainly wasn’t bad. Or at least, the good stuff outweighs the bad.
Things have been building up for the last year or so, but overall, 2018 was a good year for me at the library. Okay, getting flooded out of our room at the end of November wasn’t so good. Short version is that UD facilities put off replacing a badly corroded pipe leading off the hot water tank, and the Monday after Thanksgiving, the pipe burst and flooded the lower level/basement with hot water (at least it wasn’t sewage!). Our room is one of the last, if not the last areas of the library with asbestos tiling under the carpet, and so, after the water clean-up and relocating of us and our equipment and storage of other equipment, asbestos abatement is under way. In addition, we’re not getting new carpeting, but instead are putting in tile, which makes sense for an area with piping overhead and is prone to occasional mild flooding during large rain storms or snow melts.
Leaving that aside, I’m being given more integral tasks and projects for my department, which was renamed to Digital Collections and Preservation this year. We’re still working on the National Digital Newspaper Program, whereby newspapers on microfilm are being digitized into a searchable format and put up on Chronicling America. The project is managed by the Library of Congress with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities. I’m finishing up my part for the 2017-2019 grant cycle, our second grant cycle, which involves me collating base metadata from the microfilm, which includes date and issue information for each paper as well as counting/verifying the number of pages for each issue and noting duplicate or missing pages as well as damaged pages. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but also a very necessary first step in the digitization process. After me, the spreadsheets and microfilm reels are sent to a company in India that has lots of people and microfilm scanners and can, en masse, scan the pages and link the images to the metadata I create. Stuff gets sent back to us for some post-processing and quality control, and is then sent to Library of Congress, where it gets run through optical character recognition to make the text searchable. Then LoC puts everything up on their servers and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Keep in mind that I’m a bit of a history buff and my second degree has a minor in history. And as a representative from the Library of Congress said on his visit to our library, “Newspapers are the rough draft of history.” For one who knows semiotics and how to read between the lines, how to read what’s not there as well as what’s there, this project is a rich source of primary material not only for history, but for culture, art, and life in general, mostly for the local area, but with hints of life spanning the world in those articles about events overseas.
Also with this project, I now maintain a library-based blog on the Delaware Digital Newspaper Project (DDNP) wherein I look for interesting stuff to post about. NDNP encourages program participants to have blogs to, basically, get the word out about the project as a tool and to get people using it. Last I heard, our blog, the one I maintain, is one of the more active blogs. And I must be doing something right, as several co-workers follow the blog via either their own WordPress readers or subscribing to e-mail notifications. Sometimes I even get positive feedback in the halls as I pass people.
We’re working on a third grant proposal for a 2019-2021 cycle. I’m currently working on doing copyright research for the proposed titles for the third grant cycle, making sure copyright wasn’t renewed for the dates beyond what is now old enough to be eligible for public domain. In addition, though I’ve been involved with this project since the first grant cycle, my role is being written into the grant proposal.
Among other projects, I finished transcribing Delaware Senator J. Allen Frear’s weekly radio addresses from the 1950s. This was a lower-priority project that I’d been working on for a few years, and it was finally completed and put into our institutional repository.
With other organizational changes in the library, the individual internal staff organizations merged into what is not the Library Staff Council. In the past, I’d been involved with the Library Staff Association and even served as President for three years. With the new organization, I was elected to the Advocacy Committee. I and two co-workers are still defining the committee and streamlining the functions we in herited from the previous organizations.
Home life has remained good. Mom and Stepfather remain rather active for their age, which is good. My sister continues to work as head of a tech support department and my brother-in-law continues to design and run tests on medical diagnostic equipment. We’ve all been active in keeping up with Danielle, who started K4 this fall.
Activity increased with the arrival of Diana Lynn, who arrived the evening of September 14…
She was born via c-section seven weeks early, as my sister was pre-ecleptic. She spent three weeks in the NICU before coming home, and is now doing pretty well.
Dani, fortunately, has adapted well to having a little sister.
Dani is starting to become literate. She can write her own name (with relish!) and can write other things if you spell them for her. She can read names and small words. She’s also able to do some basic addition.
Diana is still realizing there’s an environment around her. Her eyes are open more these days and she watches everything. She primarily knows me as “diaper guy,” since when we’re babysitting her here, I typically change her while Mom gets a bottle ready. She watches every little thing I do and I typically now get a smile and a little bit of a coo when I’m done giving her a clean diaper.
Rocky is pretty good with Dani. If she pulls out one of his toy mice, he will play with it for as long as Dani’s interest holds. And Diana? When Diana’s “hangry,” he will purr and rub against her for all he’s worth, even if a stray arm or foot hits his head. He has to be one of the most patient cats I’ve ever had with regards to tiny humans.
On an aside: Rocky and Minerva are both doing well. Well, mostly well. Minerva is going blind due to diabetic-related cataracts and possible retinal degeneration. We need to take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist at some point to verify the retinal degeneration. But thus far, she can still judge light, dark, and movement and has minimal impact on her life in general. That is, she still jumps up on the bed, and off the bed, has no problem finding her food or litter box, and so on. She is also pretty patient with Dani, especially since Dani will often bring Minerva’s dinner to her whenever we have Dani for an overnight and such. As for Yoda… We got him a new plexiglass cage. Given that his balance has been pretty bad since his outer wings had to be amputated a few years ago due to calcium tumors, we got him a smaller cage where he can’t climb and consequently fall all over the place. As a result, his tail has finally grown in fully and what’s left of his wings tend to look halfway normal these days. While he’s purely obnoxious sometimes, he’s become much more interactive with the family.
In late February, I started dancing with Brittany. Brittany had, a little over a decade ago, taken the HESC 120 class for credit, then danced on the team for about a year and a half afterward. She had competed all of once, and, unfortunately, never had a regular partner. She is now married and has two kids, one of which goes to the same day care Dani went to. Thus, Brittany knew my sister, and they got to talking, ballroom dance and my search for a partner came up, and so we reconnected and started dancing together. We’ve made noticeable progress in the last 10 months thanks to regular practice and semi-regular lessons with Francesca Lazzari. Francesca and her husband/partner Emanuele are one of the top dancers in the world for International Standard, and while Brittany and I specialize in American style, Francesca and Emanuele are more than capable of coaching us in all styles. Though Brittany and I may start testing the waters with International style at competitions. Smooth and Standard have a lot of similarities, and I’ve tended to do well when dancing Quickstep in the past for shits and giggles.
Then, because a few students had requested it, Brittany and I held a small workshop on Samba (an International Latin dance) back in December. We mentioned this to Francesca, who then asked us to demonstrate what we taught. So we did, and her response was that we should consider competing in Samba at the next competition.
In 2018, we competed at BAMJAM (University of Maryland) in April, Princeton in October, and DCDI (University of Maryland) in November. Over the summer, we also did a small performance for an adult day care center for people with Alzheimer’s. And we continue to teach beginner social ballroom classes on Sunday nights.
While the team has actually shrunk in the last year, I remain optimistic that we’ll get some interest and start having a net gain of members. At the very least, the finances are stable, we are still teaching our classes, and I’m still getting occasional donations of dresses, shoes, and other materials. So, when we do finally start to gain new members, we’ll have the resources to help them achieve their dance goals. In addition, I was contacted back in September about teaching ballroom dance classes at Cecil College for their lifelong learning program. So as of the end of January 2019, I will be an adjunct professor there.
Last but not least, I had a short story published in an anthology this year! An historical fiction short story I’d written for a history class nearly two decades ago, “The Chandler at Windsor Castle,” inspired by some historical research and my visit to Windsor Castle back in 2001, is in the anthology She Blended Me With Science.
So, I am dancing, am a professor (if in title only, since they don’t have a position for “dance instructor,”) am technically a professional blogger at work with the DDNP blog, and am a published writer with the book.