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Diary of a Librarian: SupportAssist Is The Root Of All Evil

Technically, I’m a technology librarian. That means that I know kind of how to make the computers behave themselves under ideal circumstances. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, I can either call tech support and spend hours on the phone or gracefully give up and text our IT contractor. However, there’s a decent handful of problems that I can manage on my own.

In a strictly professional sense, SupportAssist is one of these. However, I am not emotionally qualified to handle this cringingly horrible piece of Dell bloatware. Every time it does a new weird thing, which is about once every other week, my heart falls.

Even when SupportAssist is working correctly, everything about it is annoying. For example, when it’s processing, it flashes three little waiting dots. One two three. Right? Dot 1 flashes and goes out, dot 2 flashes and goes out, dot 3 does the same, then repeat. Right? RIGHT?

WRONG.

SupportAssist’s first dot flashes correctly, but the second and third flash together. Simultaneously. Every. Single. Time. Even though it’s a stupid superficial thing that doesn’t matter at all, the obviousness of this bug galls the hell out of me. It looks so bad. Also, if your intuition tells you that someone who missed that glaring issue might have missed others, then give that intuition of your a big wet smack on the lips, because it’s a winner.

Problems with SupportAssist abound. I could schpiel on for days about the nonsense I’ve endured with this damnable program, from times I’ve tried to remove it (it reinstalled itself) to times I’ve tried to update it because it was being an enormous heckin’ vulnerability. (Incidentally, during that fascinating episode, SupportAssist actually refused to install. What a world!)

For the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to stop SupportAssist from forcing popup notifications on our patrons. These are just update requests, but they require an admin password, and patrons, skittish darlings that they are, aren’t equipped to deal. Anyway, making any change to these computers requires turning off our disk imager, DeepFreeze, before I make any changes. There are a couple of restarts involved. The process is a bit of a slog, but it’s worth it because DeepFreeze is a great piece of software that keeps everybody’s filthy data off our nice clean library machines.

So I’m not sorry that I’ve been unfreezing and freezing our DeepFreeze clients for the last month, trying to figure out how to make SupportAssist stop yelling at our patrons. That’s just part of the game. I’m also thrilled that our IT consultant figured out a lasting fix – yay! What maddens me is that today, when I tried to apply said fix, I discovered that the issue had begun because SupportAssist had either a. tried to update itself and installed a bad version; b. become universally corrupted on all computers and decided to watch the world burn instead of working; c. decided to ask the user before updating its own bad self while also not being capable of doing that because it was too broken; d. all of the above.

I’m going to go with d. Somehow, it’s d.

That meant that I had to reinstall SupportAssist on each machine just so that I could tell it to never notify the user about its need for updates, driver or otherwise, ever again. It took…a while. I spent a lot of time watching its little waiting dots.

On the bright side, it does seem to have worked. As a certain TV hero once said, I love it when a fix comes together, at least long enough for the program to un-toggle it and/or go wonky so that I have to go back in and start all over again.

Until next month, SupportAssist.

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Hoo boy. DHALGREN.

I’ve finally finished Samuel R. Delaney’s doorstopper of a book and boy howdy do I have thoughts. I may break them into several parts over several blog posts because this book is way too big to just review, you know? I’ve got to both sink my teeth in and avoid torturing everyone with a 5,000-word blog post. There will be pictures. I promise. If I have to draw an orchid myself, I will include pictures.

Meanwhile, because I am busy sorting out what DHALGREN did to my freaking brain, please enjoy this tacit reference to that time Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy got married in Vegas.

poison ivy harley quinn married injustice 2 70

Healthiest relationship in the DCU. Harley + Ivy 4ever.


Audiobook Apps And Why They Bring Me Joy

I’m in an enviable position right now. I have too many audiobooks on my phone.

I should back up and say that I have at least two audiobook apps on my phone at all times. Libby is my go-to and my sweet summer darling. I’ve got an eternal fountain of audiobook holds backlisted in OverDrive just so that my Libby cup never runneth dry. And so far, it has not.

Librivox is another one, but I have a tense relationship with the app. LibriVox is a free, nonprofit, public domain book recording and distribution website. I’m not sure if they also created the app. I’m guessing not. The app is free and works well, but it’s ad-supported. All right. OK. We do what we must to keep the lights on, and after all, the books are free.

The ads are for e-cigs.

 

Not sure where BookDesign got their demographic info if any research went into that decision. Maybe they just couldn’t get any other advertisers. I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. Listening to a random woman gush about e-cigs after every chapter puts my teeth on edge. Call me an elitist if you must, but e-cigs are the filtereds of our generation and I do not at all believe that they help you to quit smoking. Neither does WebMD. However, there’s also no better way to burn through the classics than with the Librivox app. It even has Apple CarPlay compatibility. If I take up e-cigs, you’ll know why.

Finally, I listen to Libro.fm. I discussed this app when I reviewed Bill Bryson’s THE BODY a few posts ago. It’s the only platform I currently use where I’d pay for books, if that were something that I could afford to do on the regular. Luckily, I’m a librarian who writes voluminously about literature, and therefore, I get advance listener copies from Libro.fm for free. This is new and really, really something. I don’t even know that to do with myself, I’m so excited about it. I have Erin Morgenstern’s THE STARLESS SEA ready to go just as soon as I finish DHALGREN. (And oh, my friends, you’d better believe there will be a DHALGREN review.)

Paris Review - Samuel R. Delany, The Art of Fiction No. 210

This man is Samuel R. Delaney, author of DHALGREN. He has taken over my life with his book.

I must have five audiobooks all queued up and ready to inundate my ears. We’re talking solid days of literary wonder. That said, it’s worth mentioning why I listen to so much audio.

I don’t really have time to read.

That’s right! The book woman doesn’t have a minute to crack a cover. This is in part because I spend two-plus hours on the road each weekday driving to and from the library where I work. It also has plenty to do with my secondary job, vis a vis writing, which takes a lot of time. I’d scale back, but we do have this thing we like to do every month called “pay rent.” And, honestly, I love to write. I’d write all day if I could. If I could write about reading all day, I’d do that. And then I’d read too.

yesss baby | Meme Generator

He can’t even read and he’s still psyched.

As things stand, I am but a hardworking librarian with a hefty side hustle, a situation that’s not unusual these days. What I’d really like to know is how many people find themselves in my position. Are we becoming a nation not just of overworked millennials, but of overworked millennial audiobook fans? Are changes in how we work leading to changes in how we read?

It makes you want to sit down with a nice e-cigarette and have a good, long think.


The Gospel of Climate Prosperity

There’s this incredible leap in the American mind between personal responsibility, personal ability, and moral behavior. I notice it a lot because I talk a ton about climate justice. Here’s how a typical conversation goes:

Me: Le sigh. How I wish that our way of life were more conducive to a livable planet.

Rando: Well you can buy a hybrid or electric car, go vegan, stop flying, and have fewer kids!

Me:…Yes.

Rando: Then you can go zero-waste! Buy only in bulk. Get solar panels. Have only electric appliances. Donate to climate-friendly politicians…

Eventually, I wander away because this conversation is unhelpful. First of all, I’m already doing a bunch of these things, and second of all, there’s no way I’d be able to afford some of them if I weren’t the lucky middle-class person I am. Five years ago, for example, I couldn’t afford a Prius. This year, I couldn’t afford an electric car, and anyway, where would I charge it?

Car, Electric Car, Hybrid Car, Charging Post

Second, I think it’s very interesting how we look at individual responsibility in this scenario. Notice how all of the fixes for climate change that Rando suggests are individual ones for which I personally pay. This kind of follows on to the point that individual climate responsibility is expensive. When the solution to climate change is individual in nature, then it becomes incumbent upon every individual to be able to afford a hybrid, solar panels, a house for the panels to sit upon, all electric appliances for the house, and on and on. If you’re making minimum, you’re barely affording a crummy studio apartment even in the reasonable parts of the nation. If caring about future generations is moral, and you need money to take climate action and secure a future for those generations, then by extension, you need to be rich to be moral.

This is how climate action falls to the fallacious idea of the Gospel of Prosperity. If you can give money to personal climate action, then we’ll all go to species survival heaven. Poverty becomes more than just a personal misfortune, but a general burdon, or even an evil.

This is how people who are “doing their part” come to resent the poor. When it comes to traditional Prosperity Gospel Televangelism, the stakes aren’t nearly as high. Someone who fails to give money to the preacher won’t thrive on Earth or go to Heaven when they die, but that won’t affect everybody else. Climate action, on the other hand, affects everybody. It’s our collective habit of relying on gasoline-powered cars that’s tanking the planet. If only everybody would just man up and buy a Tesla, right?

The conundrum of poverty resentment seems inevitable in this model of climate action, so the system’s broken. We know that because it’s not just (or possible) to make everybody buy a $63,000 car that they can’t charge at their apartments anyway. So we need to go higher up the chain. Where does this logic go wrong?

Personal climate action is flawed from the point where we start thinking of climate action as a personal burden.

Ant, Brown, Carrying, Egg, White, Tired, Hard, Working

That’s when we come back to the American identity conundrum. Our national philosophy is to cowboy. In our minds, we’re all Teddy Roosevelt, rugged individualists (gloss over the failed ranching, bankruptcy, national parks protection, etc. for now) and we’d rather have fewer taxes and no government helping us because whatever it is, we can do it better ourselves, god damn it. (Many of us, anyway. Even if you’re a true blue Liberal, I’ll bet you have a few dregs of this. How do you feel about government surveillance, for example? Should police have assault rifles? There you go: you’re not 100% sanguine about the government either.)

Yet we’ve never had less agency over our lives. When’s the last time you harvested your own corn? Where do your clothes come from? With a few exceptions, we’re tended by a system. We live comfortable lives in the palm of a fossil-fuel god, and the only price is our ignorance. The idea that someone could buy their way out of our current situation is unfair at best, and at worst, it’s a way to shut down discussions about actual climate solutions.

Individual behavior change can only be powerful when taken in concert with a giant group of coordinated people, at which it’s no longer individual. If everybody agreed to only buy hybrids from now on, that would definitely prompt a change. But for reasons we’ve already discussed, the power of that kind of collective action is limited. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking. By all means, keep composting your kitchen scraps. But we’re not going to save the world unless everybody can compost. In fact, we’re not going to save it unless everybody has to compost.

That’s why we need to stop telling people to self-soothe with individual action and start working on our governments and corporations. These are the constituents of the fossil-fuel god that inescapably rules our lives. Our species is only going to have a chance of surviving climate change if that god changes first. Our lives are built on the back of highway programs and municipal waste treatment and Coca Cola. That’s good because once those change, everything changes. It’s bad because unless they change, there’s only so much that we can do.

Of course, corporations claim that they respond to consumer demands and our government, a body of wealthy, mostly white mostly men, essentially ignores the will of ordinary people unless it’s an election year. (And even then, they seem to go out of their way to gerrymand, bribe, and otherwise tweak the system in such a way that they can get any results that they want.) It’s frustrating to watch the wagon of our government careen downhill most of the time, only to have a moment now and then to give it a shove in an equally inscrutable, possibly no better direction. People get exhausted. As long as our system is set up like this, then getting Americans to be active in their government might be a big ask.

So what’s our solution?

City Hall, Mayor, Building, Government, Urban, Center

Local involvement is a good option. People who want to see climate action happen can still get into their local governments and make this their main issue. Everybody else needs to vote for these guys because hyper-local elections for cities, towns, villages, etc. are probably the most direct form of government we still have available to us. People need to go to town council meetings, get involved in committees, and otherwise meddle in local affairs. The effect will percolate up to the rest of the government as climate-focused local pols move up the ladder and – this is critical – remain climate-focused.

This is easy to say. I myself don’t have time to accomplish much in the way of local meddling beyond casting my vote and attending CCL meetings when I can make it. I take as much personal action as I can, write letters to editors nationwide, and march when I can. But I acknowledge that this is more action than many people can take, while also being less than many people would accept as a minimum, and that’s OK. The same fossil-fueled system that drags us all onward by the hair makes sure that most of us are too busy to take labor-intensive action. But those of us who can, must. The rest of us need to be compassionate environmentalists. If we lose respect for each other, then we’ll never have the capacity for cooperation that we’ll need in order to win this. The Gospel of Prosperity conveniently excises the original bits about not judging others and removing logs from your own eye. If the eco-friendly movement makes the same mistake, we’ll guarantee our failure.


Review! That! Book! THE BODY by Bill Bryson

I’ve been a fan of Bryson’s since I was literally in middle school. My sisters and I listened to audiobooks together as a kind of collective bonding activity, especially during the rare moments during the summers when everyone was home from school, camp, work, and wherever else we were all constantly detained. A WALK IN THE WOODS was one of our favorites, and I think I probably listened to it about 3.423 times. Not four, mind you – in fact, I doubt I ever finished it completely because whenever an errant sister returned from wherever she’d gone off to, we had to go back to the last place we’d all heard. Then there were some parts that were just lame, like any part where Bryson wasn’t doing dumb stuff in nature, so we eventually learned where those were and skipped those tapes. We listened to the bits we liked over and over, and the bits we particularly liked were the parts about Katz being an ass and saying “fuck” and Bryson being terrible at hiking. (I should mention that we were a hiking and camping family, as in *primitive* camping and hiking *for weeks.* We lived in a world where a child of ten could be trusted, even expected, to safely start a fire by themselves.)

That was the thing about A WALK IN THE WOODS. There was some good info, particularly about the EPA, but the best part was listening to the author’s misadventures in Appalachia. Recently he’s departed somewhat from the personal approach, but in my opinion, that’s still his best writing.

It’s also my main objection to THE BODY: A GUIDE FOR OCCUPANTS. Bryson’s done a fine job with his research, especially for someone with no medical background, but there’s no hilarious personal experience here. It’s just a layperson’s rundown, punctuated by things about the human body that are baffling and unknown. Why do we sleep? Baffling! What does the appendix do? Unknown! Why do we need chromium? Baffling again! It’s a skim. The most interesting mysteries are left unexamined, and there’s not even any personal misadventures to distract us from those burning, unanswered questions.

I should mention that I listened to this book as an ALC I got from Libro.fm, my new bestest buddy on Earth. Because I’m a librarian and a Book Rioter, they’re giving me free advanced listener copies now, and because my commute consumes two hours of every single god-lovin’ weekday, I have plenty of time for listening. So listen I do! This is the first ALC I’ve tried, and I really do like the service. In my personal hagiography of book reading apps, it’s effectively competing with Libby and has blown Librivox clear out of the water.

Image result for libro.fm

Mah buddy!

Also, it allowed me to finish this book. If I didn’t chug through THE BODY in the car at double speed, I’d have stopped reading fifty pages in. It’s not that Bryson’s a bad writer. He’s still got it. The subject matter is interesting enough too. But this book has got very little of the funny above the level of incidentals and wordplay. It’s well-researched and entertaining enough for someone who knows practically nothing about their own horrifying body (vis a vis moi.) Still, I can’t help but wish I’d grabbed a new Mary Roach instead. Incidentally, Bryson cites Roach twice and depends very much on other popsci and popmed nonfic as references. My reference librarian heart goes eehhhhhehhhhhhh.

Bryson is 66 years old now. Many of the people he discusses in the book, both historical figures and people of medical interest, have died around that age. Even though medical science will likely keep him alive for a good while yet, discussing death, as he does, appropriately, at the end, is a look straight in the face of the fact that human beings don’t last forever. I wonder how it felt for Bryson to pen this book. I know for a fact that it’d wig me out, and I’m still in my thirties. Here’s a story I’d have liked to read from this author: the body’s many fallacies and superpowers as seen through the lens of a well-regarded writer’s yet-distant but cresting mortality.

I’m not sorry that I got it. It’s a nice little repository of body trivia and now I know that you can actually put a catheter through your vein and guide it to all the way to your heart and actually touch your beating heart with it and your heart will not explode. Now off to give it a try!


Daylight Savings? I’d rather daylight spend, thanks.

Daylight Savings Time does a number on me. Every year it’s the same, not just for yours truly but for all the unnecessary accident victims, crime victims, heart attack victims, and everyone who needs to maintain an even sleep and medication schedule. It doesn’t seem to matter to my body that I get to sleep an hour late in the fall. I feel completely lousy right now and will continue to feel lousy until I adjust. That might be tomorrow. It could also be next week. Hooraaay.

So until I feel well enough to entertain you in print, have some awesome old cinema.


Diary of a Librarian: Dum-dums for Patrons

If you’ve ever worked at a library service desk, then you absolutely know that patrons can be surly, rambunctious, problematic, inappropriate, and rude. Any patron can become an issue – I’ve personally had the most trouble with older, wealthier people – but in some cases, the issue is obvious: hanger.

Hanger is the pernicious emotional combination of hunger and anger that manifests when your blood sugar level falls at the same time as your email fails to load. When I see it in the library, it’s usually in kids and homeless people. There aren’t any eateries nearby and the city itself doesn’t support any shelters that I know of, so it stands to reason that these populations would be the hangry ones.

However, the weeks surrounding Halloween have been blessedly free of hanger-related orneriness. Why? Because we put out a festive seasonal candy dish.

The candies weren’t what you’d call choice. Most were the small suckers the kids back home used to call dum-dums [edit: this is, incredibly, what they’re actually called] and hard candy a la Werthers. My awesome coworker, who is nice to the point that I want her to give a librarian master class, added a bunch of leftover fun-sized chocolate bars today. However, even hard candy disappeared at a steady rate. Who took it? Our homeless patrons, that’s who! Teens and kids as well. Once dined, their dispositions and our patron interactions noticeably improved.

So here’s my proposal: let’s keep the spirit of Halloween alive all year long. Nobody’s going to clean us out of dum-dums. They’re sucky candy in multiple senses. Let’s stock them at the reference desk 365 days of the year! People could take as many as they’d like from a freely available bowl, although I suspect they’d only take two or three at the most. Nobody’s going to try to survive on dum-dums, and it takes a while to eat one. That’s ten-ish minutes when the patron is not immediately in want of food and therefore irritable.

Honestly, I might buy them in bulk with my own personal money. It’s not like this is caviarWe’re re-opening the reference floor soon and we’ll definitely see our foot traffic increase again. I’d like to see our patron interactions remain as positive as they have been with our regulars these past few months.