The Dysmey Blog
The personal weblog of Andy West.

September 2009
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Start of Autumn 2009
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 8:54 pm

fall is here

September is ending, and with it any remnant of the past summer. The days are already cool and windy. Even if it warms up, the summer is already gone. My goldenrods, where were not very florid this month, are already wilting. The leaves are changing color on some of the trees. And, with me turning on my furnace for the first time in months, the time has come to put away my air conditioners.

museum days

Evening work on the Schwartz Complex Macs won me a half-day off, to which I added a half-day vacation to make all Friday a vacation day. (That other half-day was to have been a doctor’s appointment, but that was canceled — twice — due to the doctor’s back injury.) But that day was mostly rainy, which did neither me nor the festival any good.

However, Saturday turned out sunny after a cloudy early morning. I spent the morning doing volunteer work at the Friends of the Library book sale. We were busy with the book bags as Saturday was Bag Sale Day: Fill a bag for five bucks). I found myself explaining to people that the library is now next door. Most of our customers were out-of-towners, former towners or folks from the vending booths along the street. The townsfolk themselves either did not know about the sale or were busy elsewhere. (An ad in the local paper would have helped here; but, well, we avoid the local paper when we can.) One of the customers wore a T-shirt that had the old high school on the front and the phrase “I donated” on the back. I hope he got his money back; the cause is lost.

Saturday afternoon was the big parade, which I watched from the front porch of my folks’ house. The parade had a few antique cars this year; there were none last year. All in all, it was a good parade this year. I talked with Tim Yale, a classmate from my high school days, who paid the folks a visit. Madre cooked a pot of chili, some of which I brought home.

Sunday was barbecue pork ribs and spiced french fries. For my sister the teacher (whose absence is the reason we were having barbecue) I was sent to a vendor for two pork kebabs. Otherwise, I stayed at home for the day, working on my Library Thing account.

Yes, I know, how can I sit at home while there is a festival going on? But, when you are not a kid, when you do not have a family of your own, and when you do not share the same enthusiasms (James Dean, ancient cars, vendors selling … whatever) as most of the townpeople, a village festival does not have much to attract you.

traffic control

The traffic has behaved itself, now that the town has installed two stop signs on Fourth to go with the two on Buckeye, making my intersection a four-way stop. The neighbors across the street from me have three kids, and as do another family two houses down. That, I think, was enough to convince the town board to splurge on stop signs.


There was a functional mill and grain storage business along the railroad tracks on Washington and Elm. When the owner died, his family argued and whined over who got to inherit it. During the years of disputes, the mill decayed, becoming a home to rats and other vermin. Townsfolk complained; the town board complained; there was even a petition to have the mill torn down. The family of the mill’s former proprietor ignored the pleas, and nothing came of it — until a couple of Sundays ago. On Sunday morning someone set the mill on fire; it burned for hours before the local fire brigade doused it. The mill is down; and it is only a matter of time before the silos next to it join it, for I am fairly sure that the fire has weakened their bases.

library thing

As I noted above, I send much of the weekend reviving my dormant Library Thing account. First I added those books of mine at work, all computer-related. Then I added the books in my white bookcase or otherwise scattered downstairs. In all I have added more than two hundred books.

But those do not cover the main bulk of my books. Those are in the upper room, laid out in or on those two-tired beechwood bookshelves I got from Target. These I will add, one bookcase at a time, over the next week or so. I suspect that I will have cataloged more than five hundred books in my Library Thing account by the time I am finished. All of them will be tagged with words relevant to their subject matter.

As an aside, I decided to buy two more of those beechwood bookshelves, more formally described as Beechwood 2-Tier Tilt Bookshelves. The order set me back $170, and I have to put the bookshelves together myself. But I can put up with these, because I like that kind of bookshelf. Target no longer sells them; I had to buy the two from an Amazon affiliate. One will go into the upper room to hold the overflow of my (mostly animé) DVDs. The other will likely go into the living room, freeing up the top shelf of the white bookcase for bric-à-brac.

public libraries are not cash machines

People still visit public libraries; and they still do so in order to read books, even if most of the books are, I admit, rubbish. It becomes an annoyance when some authors, and reportedly the Authors Guild itself, push the idea that checking out library books is equal to theft of copyright. The courts of the United States have thrown out such arguments, consistently, but the dumbass making the argument in that Techdirt blog entry is a New Zealander. The rub is that this dumbass is defined by the Wikipedia article about him as a media personality. Media personalities are not authors; you are not an author unless your entire career relies on writing and publishing books.

To make things more ridiculous, the dumbass is basically demanding a public subsidy for his profession, since public libraries are government entities supported by tax dollars (usually property taxes in the USA). The kind of tax that fool demands would turn libraries into virtual bookstores, in which checking out books would be in fact leasing them. It is likely that, rather than be milked by an institution for which they are already paying for with their own taxes, citizens would sooner close the libraries down. And, with the public libraries closed, the rot begins.

The problem with the demands of that dumbass is that libraries exist at all to promote reading as a civic good. (That is the reason for public libraries in the appropriate laws of the State of Indiana, where I live.) If you close the libraries, fewer people read, even fewer people buy books, and in time a public illiteracy comes about that makes the prospects for authors and an already declining publishing industry bleak.

Really, this New Zealander is a greedy, um, male puppy. The citizens of New Zealand should treat this chattering apeling with rigor, starting with the country’s libraries no longer buying his books (the Techdirt blogger’s suggestion) and excessing what books of his they already have (my suggestion).


I do not contribute to Slashdot much anymore. I find its concept of moderation annoying, especially as at least one of my comments was judged ‘funny’ when it was not, and as my ‘karma’ has been judged to be bad. Swive this, I thought.

Slashdot does explain how moderation works and how ‘karma’ is apportioned, but the FAQ that does so is a torrent of babble. I had to go to the Wikipedia entry for a better explanation. I decided that my comments, even on entries that beg comments, are not worth the effort and the annoyance.

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Visit Fairmount High School While You Can
Filed under: General, Politics
Posted by: Andy @ 4:02 pm

Fairmount High SchoolIf you are visiting Fairmount during Museum Days on the last weekend of this month, give the old Fairmount High School a long look. It may well be your last. It will likely not be there next year.

It was bad enough that the ‘historical preservation’ company (which I will not name) that bought the building in 2003 did a poor job at fund-raising and dealing with interested parties. It tried to trick Warner Bros, who made the James Dean films, into contributing; the studio instead held a botched-up bash called James Dean Fest in 2005. The company took years to try to raise money. However, it never had enough; it had misestimated the cost from the start (the building is loaded with asbestos); and that cost kept going up.

In the end, after the mini-depression came last year, the company in April transferred the building back to the original owner, a local youth sports league. But not before it recouped some of its losses by selling off the northeast quarter block to some guy, who turned the old vocational education building into a garage and plans to reseed the parking lot. Now the league has no choice but to tear down the building: It is in far worse shape than in 2003, and the league needs the parking space.

But what makes it all the more galling is that everyone in town had been deceived. The company, it turns out, passes off its mission as historical preservation when, in fact, its chief mission is fund-raising. It is, to put it bluntly, a front! I learned this last night at the library board meeting.

I suppose we were ripe to be plucked, dazzled by the company’s promises of a performing arts center and museum in James Dean’s name. What does a town of under three thousand people need a performing arts center for? What does it need a museum for, when it already has one? There were plans to move the local library to the restored building; but those plans left no room for expansion; so, in the end, the library board gave up waiting, got a state grant, and renovated a couple of neighboring buildings into a new library.

It is not so much that people lost money on this. The company is said to have refunded all donations to the high school restoration. What we have lost is time — years during which everyone had their hopes raised while the building was rotting away. Now it is too late to save the building — it will be torn down — even if Warner Bros (who must have known that the company was a front) decides to pony up restoration funds now.

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On Caitlin Clarke
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 9:55 pm

Caitlin ClarkeIt was five years ago on this date that Caitlin Clarke passed away after a long bout with cancer.

Ms. Clarke chose to live her final years with her folks and to pass on her beloved craft to a new generation of actors and actresses in the metro Pittsburgh area.

Ms. Clarke chose to do this rather than seek treatment in New York.  But I suppose there was no point in her staying there.  Her type of cancer was incurable, and if she was going to spend her final days anywhere, it might as well be with her folks.

It is hard to figure out some of the things Ms. Clarke did:  Dump a playwright to marry some philosopher-in-training (and got a satirical play written about her), then dump the philosopher and New York for a try at a Hollywood career that ultimately failed.  But there was no doubt about her love of her craft; and it is this love that let her carry on through the failures as well as the successes of her career.

It was equally as difficult to bear her passing those five years ago.  I could not visit her during her final days (even though I knew where she lived), nor could I attend her funeral (I had an iffy car and a new job to break in).  But I was buoyed by the outpouring of support for her from her friends and students.  If I have not thanked you then, I thank you now.

This is a hard saying, but I do not know whether Ms. Clarke, if she were still with us, would still be employed in the craft she had loved.  Thanks to her generation (she was born at the rising curve of the Baby Boom), America had become overly obsessed with youth and health; and actresses in America generally do not age well.  (The only one I know about who has is Sigourney Weaver — whose Flea Theater kindly commemorated Ms. Clarke a few weeks after her passing.)  I myself cannot see how her career could have survived beyond local theater and independent films.  

But Ms. Clarke did have the will to match the love of her craft, so anything could have been possible with her.

I still miss you, Caitlin Clarke.

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