At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Today I visited the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, on the West Texas A&M campus in Canyon, a few miles south of Amarillo. It was a pretty impressive collection of items from the region: windmills, oil rig equipment, paintings, fossils, furniture, automobiles, etc. On the way back home I saw a BNSF train loaded down with sand-colored military vehicles on flatbeds, perhaps destined for Iraq?

I'm sure many people here in Texas have paid more attention than usual to car tags this week: the new Texas plate shows the shuttle orbiter flying over a western landscape.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

A day of minor annoyances, to wit:

(1) Last week I was browsing through my files and I found some purchase request forms that D., the acquisitions clerk, had returned to me. When a department submits a request, I give the form to D., D. orders the item(s) (online, usually), writes a purchase order number on the forms, and gives the form to me for my records. I noticed on this particular form, originally submitted in November, that some of the items weren't ordered. I asked her about the discrepancy and she didn't have any explanation--they weren't out of print, yet to be published, out of stock, etc. So I put in the orders for the remaining items, hoping that they were not eagerly anticipated. But today an accounting prof came in asking whether these books had arrived yet. He was understandably annoyed that they hadn't, since he had put in the request three months ago.

(2) A student worker called on behalf of the Spanish department asking if a couple of CD-ROMS that a professor had requested had come in yet. She didn't know the title, the subject, the publisher, etc., but said she thought they had been ordered at the beginning of this semester. I got paranoid because I couldn't for the life of me remember any such request, and was worried that I had been completely careless. I asked her to call back after she got more information. In the afternoon she called again and said "Oh, I think it was the beginning of last semester, not this semester," which made me relieved; however, she still didn't know any specifics about the items in question and I couldn't find any order in our files for the Spanish department. Now I suspect the careless one is the professor.

(3) Yes, the religion department dropped off another big stack of requests! I've told them twice that their well has run dry. When the new fiscal year comes around, I will probably blow their entire budget on the spot purchasing these backed up orders.

(4) Right as I was getting off work M. stopped by the desk and asked what I was doing tonight. Why was he asking? His computer at home was broken and he wanted to get online to try to troubleshoot. He just needed to use mine for a few hours some evening. Why not use the library computer? Because he doesn't like to use it for personal reasons. I told him I might go to Lubbock this evening, and he said he would get in touch with me later to arrange a more convenient time. I then countered that when I was home I was often using the computer myself, so "we'll have to see." Now that I think about it, the supposed scandalous behavior of M. was computer related. Is there something nefarious he wants to do under guise of my IP address? Probably not, but the thought makes the library scene not so colorless, eh?

I inquired about volunteering as a tutor for the local literacy council. The director wrote me back saying "We always need volunteers, especially men." My reaction to this statement was mixed. Evidently my interests are not particularly masculine. On the other hand, I'll be meeting lots of high-minded women, some of them, perhaps, young and unattached.

I get tomorrow off because I'm scheduled for Saturday, so I think I'll do a few things in Amarillo.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

From CNN:
Space shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore said NASA is assuming that foam debris from the external tank was the "root cause of the problem that lost Columbia."

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

This morning I worked on choosing our monthly quota of selections from our McNaughton plan, a service that leases popular new books to libraries. I don't know much about mainstream publishing so I relied on amazon blurbs and on the acquisitions clerk, who reads a lot of romance novels and diet books. In the afternoon I browsed through the review sections of academic journals looking for interesting items. Seems like I should be doing something else, like evaluating the strength of the collection in various areas or thinking about criteria for weeding.

This evening I started to watch The Lady and the Duke, Eric Roehmer's latest. In many ways it's a departure from his usual style. Typically he portrays contemporary Parisians negotiating relationships, but here he attempts a costume drama set during the French revolution. He decided to use video instead of film, which, combined with the fact that most of the movie consists of conversations taking place in drawing rooms, gives the movie an unfortunate resemblance to a soap opera. In most of his movies Roehmer eschews special effects, but here he creates a disconcerting stagey effect by superimposing live action over painted backdrops. His films have always depended on dialogue rather than drama, which can seem dull to us Americans; in the past I've enjoyed his stuff, but this one bored even me and I quit after twenty minutes or so. I started up Henry and June, about Anais Nin's erotic encounters with writer Henry Miller and his wife June. It was interesting to see Uma Thurman and Maria de Meideros starring together before the appearance of Pulp Fiction; Thurman is a famous sexpot but I found myself preferring Meideros' delicacy and innocence. Anyway, like other cases of adultery in the movies, Nin and Miller's infidelities seem exciting at first but then the painful consequences come to light and the movie ends with Nin returning to her husband. This seems true to life, but what would I know about it?

In the gym today I struck up a conversation with a professor in the political science department. He said "When I read about you coming here with a Ph.D. from Notre Dame I thought to myself, 'Why in the world is he coming here? What law enforcement agency is he running from? Which of his three wives is he hiding from?'" I had to sign inwardly at this reminder of my failure to make a go of it in academe. Perhaps I can dig myself out of here soon.

Monday, February 03, 2003

I've been accepted to review for Choice! I'm told that it might be some time before I get my first assignment; it all depends on when the next book in my area of specialty is approved for review. One of the essential functions of a Choice review is comparing the work to currently available alternatives. It's been two years since I've been active in academe, so I may want to catch up on the literature that has been published in the meantime.

Sunday I went to a Baptist church near campus, but it started off poorly with a children's sermon that had members of the championship high school girls' basketball team talking about their recipe for success and then the pastor drawing the banal analogies to the spiritual life: the church is our team, Jesus is our head coach, and the Bible is our playbook. Then I saw in the program that the rest of the service was pretty much filled with praise choruses, so I bailed and went to a late Mass at Sacred Heart. This one was in English, but again I was completed ignored so I think the potential for a tightly knit community is negligible. At this point I'm ready to start heading down to Lubbock on Sunday mornings, as inconvenient as that would be.

I need to find a decent cheap table wine. It's sobering (excuse me) to realize that since I go through a bottle in three days, a $12 bottle runs me $4 a day, which is almost the price of a meal itself.

My dad works for the company which makes the space shuttle's external tank, one of the chief suspects in the disintegration of Columbia. He said the mood was somber at work today. I'll try to stay informed during the course of the investigation.