Crucibles

It’s Sunday, and I have about an hour left here at the library. I figured it would be a good time for roulette, yay! Today I found a book on our book sale cart that stood out to me so hard that I just had to use it for this purpose. It’s called Geeks & Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders by Warren G. Bennis and Robert J. Thomas. Mind you the spine just said Geeks & Geezers and this is what caught my eye in the first place.

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Open up at random to page 98 and here’s the random paragraph:

The difference between fasting and starving

Crucibles vary in duration (and in anticipated duration), in harshness and in other ways. But there are two basic types: the ones you seek and the ones that find you. There is a world of difference between the two-the difference between jumping into an abyss and being pushed in, between fasting and starving, between emigration and exile. Some of our leaders had their crucibles forced upon them- Sidney Rittenberg’s sixteen-year imprisonment may be the cruelest example. The majority of our leaders chose their crucibles, although rarely with a full understanding of what the experience may bring. Some, such as Arthur Levitt Jr. became seekers of crucibles, constantly looking for the kind of challenges that would stretch them (Bennis & Thomas, 2002, p. 98).

Ok that’s kind of an interesting thought. Think about the things you seek out in life and also the things that just happen to find you. Which do you think are more powerful? I like the example of the idea of being pushed into an abyss vs. jumping. Sometimes in life we meet challenging people can be stuck with difficult attitudes and situations that we have no control over, but sometimes we CHOOSE that challenge. Why ? I don’t know, maybe because it makes us stronger people, better people, something along those lines. The idea of leadership itself has always intrigued me, the power to persuade, for good or evil, all of those things.

But what do they mean by crucible? Sadly I don’t know what that word even means. Just from the context I’m going to think some sort of event, or person, or action that brings about a situation that has to be solved or dealt with. I know that there is a play called the Crucible by Arthur Miller, but I have not the slightest clue what it’s about. Let’s define:

cru·ci·ble

ˈkro͞osəb(ə)l/

noun

noun: crucible; plural noun: crucibles

  1. a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.

“the crucible tipped and the mold filled with liquid metal”

  1. a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.

“their relationship was forged in the crucible of war”

(from google.com)

I’m going to go with definition number 2. Wow that’s pretty powerful. Severe trial, many elements, something new. I like that a lot. It’s kind of inspiring isn’t it? To think that our trials make us new again. Sometimes in my job I get to sit with people and do more than research. Talk of articles about co-leadership and eBooks can often turn into hopes and dreams with a side of past turmoil, hurts and abuses. Working with people like we do often times we are able to really make a connection with somebody and be inspired by them. I met an adult student yesterday that told me a story of her youth, and her struggles, her cycles of emotional and physical abuse, and how she got where she is today. She was studying business, but really wanted to study psychology and work closely with children who need a place to turn and to help guide them. She wanted to be the somebody that she never had when she was a child. It was downright amazing and I wanted to cheer her on the best way I could. Dreams man, they are the best thing in the world. But you can see that the trials in your very own life, the fires, the pain, all of it just forges you ahead and can turn you into something bright shiny and new. It’s really never too late for that. Now you can take all of that, learn, teach and help others to leave this world in a much better state than how you found it. Oh my lord I’m inspiring the heck out of myself here and I have to stop before my brain explodes from over use of the word inspiration.

That’s the thought of the day then I suppose. Get out there and seek out a crucible, do it. You never know what can happen on the other side of it. Something new, something better?

 

Bennis, W. & Thomas, R. (2002). Geeks & Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders.  Boston, Massachusettes; Harvard Business School Press.

Fair Isabel, Poor simple Isabel!

Sunday, rainy, rainy Sunday. There’s very few students here in the library today, everybody is at home listening to the rain or watching football or whatever. It is the last week of Jan term, so things should pick up soon. I figure the old Sunday tradition of roulette should pass some time here today, on top of working on the digital collection for Japanese Interment (which I AM doing, but slowly). I got some random numbers, 3, 4, 8 and this time a direction, R. And end up with some good old poetry. Yay, my favorite.

Now I’ve heard of John Keats, never read any of his stuff so far though. So I opt for something on the safe side and pick out: John Keats: Selected Poetry.

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(With a dreamy far off look in his eye).

I picked a random page and opened up to stanza 43 of Isabella; or the pot of basil. Which is labeled as a story from Boccaccio.

Here goes the excerpt:

43

When the full morning came, she had devised

How she might secret to the forest hie;

How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,

And sing to it one latest lullaby;

How her short absence might be unsurmised,

While she the inmost of the dream would try.

Resolv’d she took with her an aged nurse,

And went into that dismal forest-hearse.

 

44

 

See, as they creep along the river side,

How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,

And, after looking round the Champaign wide,

Shows her a knife. – ‘What feverous hectic flame

Burns in thee child? – What good can thee betide,

That thou should’st smile again?’- The evening came,

And they had found Lorenzo’s earthy bed;

The flint was there, the berries at his head

 

45

Who hat not loiter’d in a green church-yard,

And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,

Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,

To see scull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;

Pitying each form that hungry Death hat marr’d

And filling it once more with human soul?

Ah! This is holiday to what was felt

When Isabell by Lorenzo knelt.

 

46

She gaz’d into the fresh thrown mould, as though

One glance did full all its secret tell;

Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know

Pale limbs at the bottom a crystal well;

Upon the murderous spot she seem’d to grow,

Like a native lily of the dell:

Then with her knife, all sudden, she began

To dig more fervently than misers can.

 

(Keats, 1818)

 

WOW that’s pretty dark. Apparently young Isabella has lost her lover, and she just can’t take it anymore and in an attempt to see him one last time, even rotten and in death, she takes her old lady friend, marches out to the woods armed only with a small knife and begins to dig Lorenzo up. I assume this was her plan all along, but the dame had no idea what she was getting in for.

 

This raises many questions for me… What crazy kind of love it that? Is there anybody in your life that you could dig up with a knife if they died just to see them one last time? Is that passion or pure insanity? Is there even a line between the two? I know this is a poem, but I wonder if anybody on the face of this earth has ever really done this. I would assume so, it’s a big place, and humans have been around for a little while.

 

I don’t know their backstory, seeing as the poem is pretty long and I only opened to this one part of it. The poem is from 1818 and it’s an adapted poem from another Italian called The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio by Giovanni Boccaccio. The original work is actually on Project Gutenberg: helloooo public domain. If you feel like reading it check it out here.

The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Or if you want to check out the whole narrative poem and see how Isabella got into this whole hot mess and how it all pans out, here’s a link to a site with the full poem.

Isabella, or the pot of basil

And just in case you were curious about the man behind the work, here’s a short author bio:

John Keats was an orphan who studied medicine. He was an apothecary, but abandoned the profession to pursue his writings. He had financial problems and loss of loved ones throughout his life and saw life’s “vale of tears and substituted the concept as a ‘vale of soul making'” (Cook, 1996). (Now there’s a positive spin on things.) Keats died at the age of 25 from Tuberculosis.

Cook, E. (Ed.). 1996. John Keats: Selected Poetry. New York, NY; Oxford University Press.

 

How I got f***** by AT&T and how I learned to switch the story

This is all drama, so I’m sorry for that. But this is not just a post about complaining out loud, so hear me out. Don’t tune out just yet.

In December, I updated my phone. I am one of the few who have the ever coveted grandfathered unlimited data on my shared plan with my brother. So I went into my local store by my work and told a very nice and seemingly well-meaning young lady my story. I HAVE to keep the unlimited data. I told her multiple times how important this was to me (and my brother who trusted me to make the account changes). She assured me that they brought it back and that I could get my phone upgrade along with two tablets, keep unlimited talk, text AND data and that it would be just a little bit less then what I’m paying now. Fantastic. Sounded too good to be true. Too good to be true, but hey, I have been really feeling like the universe is with me lately so… let’s believe in the good of people. I leave the store beaming and happy with my new toys and quite proud of my adult decisions and happy that my phone carrier is finally looking out for me.

The next day my brother sees the changes online to our account. Not good. We only have 10GB of shared data per month? I didn’t agree to that?  She knew our plan last month was 18GB of usage, almost double that. So I call her cell. No answer, no voicemail set up. I email, no response, I know that it isn’t good when the email address is a random mix of letters and numbers, looks like those reps aren’t too permanent. So me and my brother decide to go into the store. During this visit we are assured that even though technically now we only have 10GB shared per month there are no overages (that’s the unlimited part?) and even though it says that I will be throttled to lower 2G speed, making my streaming apps unusable that it won’t happen and I won’t notice any difference in my speed or performance. See, I was right, she did have our best interest at heart. Faith in humanity restored!

Well, she lied. Let’s not say lie, but omitted truth. Here I sit, the 18th of the month, with a text message telling me I’m through my data, I’m throttled, and I can’t use any social media, half of the websites I try to go to won’t load. Pandora is spotty at best. I’ve been streaming Spotify with no issues at least I have something. Please don’t fail me now Spotify.

Loud Sigh.

Well, naturally the first thing I had to do is write a yelp review. It’s long, and I’m not going to name names or curse or whatever. I’m just going to express how sad I think it is that companies force their sales people to lie to their customers in order to meet numbers, or to get rid of features they otherwise just can’t remove. It’s shady business. On the part of the company and the people involved not only sales people but their managers and the other higher ups who persuade them to lie. There’s pressure in sales, people have families, need money to live, etc. I don’t hate the sales people themselves, but I just feel that it’s so awful that they are put in these positions and that they don’t have another way out. Maybe a select few don’t really give a crap about lying to people, but I’ll say most probably don’t like it. Business. It’s all business. I highly dislike big business. But you know, the yelp review is to warn others, and address the broader ethical dilemmas brought up by big business while questioning who has the power to change these awful structures. I’m sure nobody really needs to hear about it all, but give me a soapbox and I’ll get up there.

So now here’s my way to change my sad story above. There are two ways that I thought I could spin it, whether I decide to pony up the extra cash for data or not.

  • Pay an extra 20$ a month to get things back the way they were (or close to it). Money is tight for you, yes. But how about you drink 2 less bottles of wine from the grocery store, OR skip going out one night and getting beers. You’ve been trying to drink less anyways right? AND/OR
  • Lessen your screen time. I know this seems scary at first, but I am way too connected, and have been for some time. Only check your social media at home on the wifi, or *gasp* maybe take a break for a couple of days at a time. You really just need the music, that’s the important part. Haven’t you wanted to unplug more lately? Use the time you would be sucking down data to suck down some more books, or write something. Take up a new hobby.

I guess either way really isn’t so bad. I was super mad at first. But the more I think about it, the less mad I actually am. There’s so many times these days when we are forced to take a cheek one way or another to some act of greed, or manipulation for no more than the interest of people in power, or companies. You can say your pieces, and stand up against the injustice of course you should. Say what you need to say, put it out there, know that you are not alone when stuff like this happens. I’m by no means saying lay down your swords forever, but there comes a point where you have recognize it for what it is, shrug, and think of solutions that are plausible WITHOUT working up your blood pressure, stewing, or sulking about it all night. With age you realize that there is a small amount of times in life when hey, sometimes, you just get f*****, and here I think I did. So, one feels the anger, naturally, and lets it pass. Then you can think of possible solutions and make the story not so frustrating. So I didn’t get f***** here, I think that AT&T is just pushing me to meet some goals in my life that involve two of my biggest addictions… social media and booze. Thanks AT&T.

You get a sense of empowerment when you realize that nothing in this world has the power to alter who and what you are inside, and how you feel. Don’t let this crap in your head, you make your story anyhow so make it good.

 

 

The Kids Aren’t? All Right

Sunday, once again. Why does it feel like it’s always Sunday and I’m always at work? Anyhow, it’s weekly roulette time…  Today I am moved to the third floor, very back shelf. Nobody is here to give me numbers so I just took a random walk. Today I have pulled:

Handbook of Serious Emotional Disturbances in Children and Adolescents. Edited by Diane T. Marsh and Mary A Fristad. This is a handbook, so it’s pretty boring to read, and each section is written like a very long journal article.

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This is another not so pleasant subject. Let’s open it up to a random passage and see where this takes us:

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Next to cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT) is the best supported psycho-social treatment for adolescent depression. Two groups of investigators are currently studying the efficacy of IPT in depressed adolescents, and initial results have been very promising. Further controlled studies are needed to replicate the findings and to allow generalization to non-Hispanic populations (Marsh & Fristad, 2002).

I don’t even know what that just said. I have no idea. In another life I would have like to have been a psychologist or put more time into studying human behavior and psychological disturbances. I mean I guess it’s not too late to learn something now. What is IPT? How can it help our young ones?

Interpersonal psychotherapy

Interpersonal therapies help patients understand their symptoms in terms of the impact they have on others (and, in turn, on themselves); they also help patients develop interpersonal styles and communication behaviors that are more direct and effective. In this regard, interpersonal therapies are quite behavioral in focus, even though they do not rely as explicitly on learning theory as the behavioral therapies do. The treatment series, which usually lasts less than one year, begins with the identification of interpersonal problems that are likely to be related to a patient’s current experience of depression. Problems are typically categorized as stemming from grief, conflicts, major life transitions, or personality problems relating to social skills. Once these areas are identified, treatments focus on therapeutic interventions (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017).

So basically what this is saying is that this helps a person who is experiencing depression to identify certain problems in their lives that may be related to events that have occurred to them (transitions, life changing events) or things that may be happening within them (problems with social skills). Then shows the impact that their behaviors have on themselves and others around them and helps them to develop healthier and more direct communication methods and ways to relate to others. I can see how this would be especially helpful for a teenager or child, as they are developing how they interact with the world around them and inside of themselves. Offering a child or adolescent that is experiencing depression this type of therapy could allow them to develop new skills earlier in life that could keep them from experiencing further depressive episodes into adulthood.

Depression sucks, and it’s a pretty prevalent part of our landscape these days. As an adult looking back adolescence was one of the hardest times of my life. (OK it’s actually JUST getting better now that I’m in my 30’s.) I can’t imagine how things have changed for these children now with the flood of constant media through smartphones. I searched for some statistics, and came across this one that was rather troubling.

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These numbers were pulled by the CDC to reflect how many students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities.

This sucks. 46.7% of all Hispanic female high school students reported having symptoms of depression? That’s almost half of the student base. For a total of 29.9% of all high school students in the US feeling this way. Schools are full of politics. This is one of the reasons that I decided to NOT go into teaching back in my heyday, but I think that we may need to direct more attention towards the mental health of our adolescents. After all, they become the next generation to shape our world. I’ve heard something recently about wise decisions being made and that the wisest ones are made to consider how what we do will affect us seven generations out. If we decide now to help our youth today with these problems, how will it affect them, and us, and their children and grandchildren and so on? Teaching children young about these problems, and how to seek help, and that they are not alone can be a very powerful thing that could cause a ripple effect of overall better life conditions for many generations. A little could go a long way.

So yep, here we go again with a bit of a downer. But life (like libraries) are full of all sorts of things both light and heavy. But I think that the more light is shed on an issue, and the more that we know about it, the more we can cast off the darkness. Do you know a teenager, is there an adolescent or young person in your life going through a rough time right now? Reach out, buy them some ice cream, or send them some puppy memes. Let them know that you are there for them, and if they are feeling this low, how they can get help and why it’s important.

 

CDC. (n.d.). Percentage of U.S. high school students who felt sad or hopeless* in 2015, by gender and ethnicity. In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/222124/us-students-with-depression-by-gender-and-ethnicity/.

Marsh, D. & Fristad, M. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of Serious Emotional Disturbances. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Mental disorder. (2017). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://0-academic.eb.com.leopac.ulv.edu/levels/collegiate/article/109830#259966.toc

Sunday, Library Roulette Time…

Geez. I think I’m in over my head with this one. I have no idea how to discuss this topic, it’s boring to me, I know nothing about it, and it’s not particularly pleasant or exciting.

Today I pulled this book…

Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898. By Harvey Rosenfeld.

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Wow. War. The first thing that comes to that mind is that song, something along the lines of… What is it good for? Absolutely nothing… (Say it again!)  But that’s only a tip of the iceberg I suppose. Here’s the passage I randomly opened up to:

Monday, May 30: At long last, the military invasion of Cuba had begun, or at least it appeared so. Troops in the Gulf ports began breaking camp and boarding transports. Some 25 ships stood ready to receive some 30,000 men. It was reported that the men would depart from Mobile and Tampa, with the transports converging at Key West. The belief that departure was near was strengthened by the order that troops at Chickamauga leave for Tampa. The safety of the troops would be ensured by convoys of warships provided by Admiral Sampson (Rosenfeld, 2000, p. 88)

If I have to be honest here I don’t really even know what the Spanish American War was all about. I love history, but certain parts of it that aren’t of particular interest to me aren’t held in my memory very long. Maybe I learned about this war at some point in high school, or college? The only thing I can think of to do is you guessed it… Research!  Let’s get the backdrop:

The war began with Cuba struggling for its independence from Spain in 1895 and Spain was pretty brutal in its attempts to stop that from happening. The U.S. caught wind of the brutalities and pretty much demanded that Spain withdraw its troops and give it up. Spain decided then that it was time to wage war on the U.S. in return for that demand. Long story short Spain loses and they end up signing the treaty of Paris in 1898 where Spain gave up any claim to Cuba and ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the US, along with the Philippines for a cool 20 mill. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017).

I wonder how many people died in this war. Let’s see if I can get some numbers. According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs the US totals were as follows:

Spanish-American War (1898-1902)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide): 306,760

Battle Deaths: 385

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 2,061

Non-mortal Woundings: 1,662

From what I can tell from a quick google (Non-Theater) means these deaths did not happen on the battlefield or in combat, and could be non-related to combat. According to the Library of Congress the reason for the non-theater deaths was much higher, stating that almost 90% of the US military losses were due to infectious diseases. Yikes. (Library of Congress, 2011)

I’m having a hard time finding the Spanish stats. I couldn’t track down a trustworthy source.

This whole lot is just rather depressing really. The thought of war, death and violent conflict. Let’s hope that a lesson was learned here. I don’t know what that is, but the purpose of history and knowledge of history I think is to understand how things became the way they are, to get an insight into human nature (which let’s face it is pretty much timeless) and to keep from repeating mistakes. However boring or depressing this random roulette has turned into nothing but a short and shallow history on the Spanish-American War. So at least I learned something today. Always a good day to learn something new. Cue that star streaming across the screen…

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Yep that’s the one.

 

 

Department of Veteran’s Affairs. (2016). Fact Sheet: America’s Wars. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf

Library of Congress. (2011). The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War. Retrieved from: https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/intro.html

Rosenfeld, H. (2000). Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Spanish-American War. (2017). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://0-academic.eb.com.leopac.ulv.edu/levels/collegiate/article/68989

Bruuuuccee

As if you needed a reason to love Bruce Springsteen more? Well here it is…. The boss has released his autobiography and it’s amazing.

Born to Run is Springsteen’s account of his life and career, so it’s quite lengthy. At about 500 pages plan to set aside a pretty decent chunk of time to get through this one. However, it’s written simply and to the point using analogies for life and life’s lessons that are both interesting and humorous. Bruce has had a career that has spanned over 4 decades so there is a lot to cover and he covers all of it, in short well separated chapters. He focuses mainly on his work and music, but starts to delve more into his personal life when he gets to his early 30’s and starts to suffer from depression and anxiety that he sought professional help for. He mentions at some time the emotional issues one has become too hard to run from anymore and you have to own up to them, they come scratching at your door and you have no choice. Yes, this all sounds familiar (cough cough everybody). Another reason why I adore reading biographies of people that we cast the spell of celebrity on is that you get to see them for who they are, and see into the other side of what fame is, and how people get there. Many of us will never know this phenomenon, and some may be sad for that but others may think themselves lucky. Many people who end up in the spotlight had no intention to wind up there and the weight, scrutiny and pressure of it can be enormous.

There’s this great monkey suit analogy he uses to describe his avoidance of life that hit especially home to me. Like this grand moment of clarity he comes to about the realness of things somewhere in his early 30’s:

Robert De Niro once said he loved acting because you got to live other lives without the consequences. I lived a new life every night. Each evening you are a new man in a new town with all of life and life’s possibilities spread out before you. For much of my life I’d vainly sought to re-create this feeling every… single… day. Perhaps it’s the curse of the imaginative mind. Or perhaps it’s just the “running” in you. You simply can’t stop imagining other worlds, other loves, other places than the one you are comfortably set in at any moment, the one holding all your treasures. Those treasures can seem so easily made gray by the vast open and barren spaces of the creative mind. Of course, there is but one life. Nobody likes that.. but there’s just one. And we’re lucky to have it. God bless us and have mercy on us that we may have the understanding and the abilities to live it… and know the “possibility of everything”… is just “nothing” dressed up in a monkey suit… and I’d had the best monkey suit in town (Springsteen, 2016, p. 274).

How good is that? There’s so much in that one little paragraph. That moment when you stop shooting for some unrealistic fantasy of a future and realize that everything that you ever wanted was really right in front of you the whole time. We have so much in our lives and within ourselves but often we miss out on enjoying it reaching for some future, past or both. It’s good to strive for great things, but if you are living in your imagination and the stories in your head you will miss out on what’s real and in front of you. So, take off your monkey suit and enjoy it while you got it and check out this read if you are so inclined. Here’s a link to the publisher’s page:

Born to Run

Springsteen, B. (2016). Born to Run. New York: Simon & Schuster.