Bringing Board Games to the Library

When I was down at ALA this summer, I attended a session focused on board gaming and libraries. As an academic librarian, I’ve often looked with envy at the fun activities public libraries get to run from time to time. Movie nights. Festivals. Board games. So much of what I do is focused purely on the academic side of reading. Research. Information evaluation, etc. We do a few things more slanted toward fun, but I’d never really considered board games as a good fit for the library.

But while I was at that session, I suddenly found myself questioning that assumption. Why wouldn’t board games fit with the rest of my offerings? We have space where people could play games. College students love games. We do activities from time to time focused on stress relief. What was stopping me? What’s the point in being the director of a library if you can’t bring board games into the fold?

While that thought was still fresh in my head, I went with a friend to a board game cafe. (Thirsty Dice in Philadelphia.) It’s such a great set up. You’ve got all these games waiting to be played, arranged by type of game, number of players, difficulty, length of time to play it, etc. There are “board game baristas” waiting to give game recommendations and teach people how to play if they’re not sure. You can go in and spend hours playing old favorites or learning new ones.

Wouldn’t it be great to bring that to my institution?

I’ve decided to go ahead and give it a shot. There are a couple of issues that I’m not 100% sure won’t cause problems, of course. My plan is to have the games stay in the library (non-circulating), but I’m also planning to just have them out in the general area where people can see them and use them as they wish. I debated putting them back behind the circulation desk, but in the end I thought that would make it less likely that the games get used. Of course, with them out in the open, we run the risk of the games being “permanently borrowed” or of pieces wandering off. I want to believe that won’t be a huge issue, however. It’s been my experience that board gamers want to play games. If they have a game they love, they want to own it. If they want to own it, they want a fresh, pristine game to own, and not one that’s been communally used.

In the end, I decided I’d just try it out and see how it went. I have some games I’m donating to the collection to start things off, and I might buy a few more core games to get the ball rolling. From there . . . we’ll see. See if the games get used. See if the pieces go missing. See what the response is from students. At the very least, it’ll be a fun experiment. In an ideal world, I’ll start to offer some programming around the games. Have game nights. Work with some student clubs to run activities. Foster more gaming events. If things go well, it could be a really fun addition to our offerings.

Wish me luck!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: When They See Us

I heard good things about When They See Us as soon as it was released on Netflix. A dramatized retelling of the Central Park Five rape case in the 80s that has since gone on to garner 12 Emmy nominations. It went straight to the top of my “Watch Next” list, and I finished the mini-series last week.

As expected, it’s an absolutely brutal experience. If you’re not aware of what went on in the case, it was focused around the rape of a jogger in New York City. The night she was raped, a large group of boys had been in the area, assaulting several other people. Police rounded up who they could, and five of those boys (four 15 year olds and a 16 year old) eventually ended up being accused and convicted of the rape, primarily based on them admitting to the act on camera in taped confessions. Years later, another man came forward and confessed to the crime. He was a serial rapist who’d been active in NYC at that time, and DNA evidence proved he committed the crime. The 5 boys were exonerated, though some still believe they were part of the assault of the woman.

So this is not exactly material that’s going to leave you feeling uplifted and happy. But I think it’s important to watch. It reminded me in many ways of The Wire. (As a heads up, it’s TV-MA, largely for language.) But the problem with a work like this is that it’s so hard to use it as fodder to get any real change implemented, and that’s even more depressing.

Any time you’re dealing with “facts,” people want to come out and dispute the facts. Ave DuVernay’s depiction of this historical event leaves little in the way of justification for the police. Taken at face value, it’s clear these 5 boys were wrongly accused, and that what happened to them was a travesty of justice. The people involved in those false convictions are monstrous for what they did to those boys. But of course, the people involved then say the depiction wasn’t accurate, and that key pieces of evidence were left out of the mini-series to make it all seem more cut and dried. It reminds me of the Making a Murder show that came out a while ago.

I was not present at the scene of the crime. I can’t say definitively what happened and what didn’t happen, and at this point in time, there’s nothing that can really be done to solve the past in this instance. NYC paid over $40 million to settle a case against it by the 5, though naturally some say that shouldn’t have happened. That they were guilty and remain guilty.

But to me, the longer this remains focused on finding out “exactly what happened” in this particular case, the bigger chance there is that things similar to what is depicted in the mini-series continue to happen. Do police beat false confessions out of suspects? I cannot imagine that they don’t. This isn’t because I don’t trust police officers. It’s because I recognize that any system as large as the American criminal justice system is inevitably going to have problems. Just as I know and respect many doctors, I still recognize the fact that doctors will make mistakes. They will misdiagnose. Wrong limbs will be amputated. Massive blunders happen. Our goal should always be 100% accuracy, but anyone who thinks we’re already there in any area is delusional.

And yet so often the approach of the law in America seems to be “police don’t make mistakes and are never crooked.” If you speak out against any instances, some will accuse you of slander or bias. But for our justice system to improve, it can’t be an “all or nothing” defense of it. Just because we acknowledge there are serious flaws in some areas doesn’t mean we’re accusing the whole thing of being rotten.

When I watched this mini-series, I got angry. Angry that things like this can happen in our country. Angry that people can have their lives ruined so that other people can slap a proverbial “problem solved” sticker on an issue or a case. I want that to stop. I want a justice system that’s open and accountable. I’m very glad police have taken to wearing cameras on them at all times, though it’s disappointing that’s what it’s taken to get some of these travesties brought to light.

I get it. I understand life is complex, and the cut and dried Hollywood solutions on screen are rarely that way in real life. But at the same time, I’m growing very tired of the hackneyed tendency of some (mainly on the right) to pat other people on the head and claim that they’re all misguided children. And even as I write this, I know the reaction some will have to it. But I challenge anyone to try to argue that events like those depicted in this series don’t happen. If we can at least agree that they do, and that they shouldn’t, perhaps we could start to come up with ways to ensure less of them do in the future.

In any case, this is something I think should be watched. Yes, it’s extremely uncomfortable. And it’s not perfect. There are a few pacing issues in spots, but I ended up giving it a 9.5/10. Highly recommended. Now I want to search out the Ken Burns documentary that was made on the same topic.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Invisible Weights

I imagine a fair number of you have been skiing. If you have, then you can surely relate to the feeling of taking off a pair of ski boots after you’ve had them on for a whole day. They’re clunky and very restrictive, and when you take them off, it’s amazing how much lighter your feet and legs feel. Like they’ve suddenly been freed from something you didn’t realize was as bad as it was.

Now imagine that you’ve had ski boots on for months. Years even. Imagine what it would feel like to take them off, even for a little bit.

I think there are weights we all carry, some voluntary and some involuntary. We carry them all around for long enough that we sometimes forget they’re even there. We wonder why we’re so tired all the time, or why just getting through the day can be exhausting. And it’s only when we take a moment now and then to look at all the things we’re carrying around that we notice just how much we’re shouldering.

Case in point. As a member of the Maine Library Association presidency for the past six years, it was never a “burden” that I felt was overwhelming. It was work I enjoyed doing, and it needed doing. But when I stepped out of that role a few months ago, there was definitely a feeling of taking off a load I’d been carrying around for so long I’d forgotten how heavy it had become. You take that responsibility and tuck it away in a corner of your mind, reserving some mental space for it.

Second example: with Tomas and DC gone to Fiddle Camp this past week, it’s been amazing to me to see how much extra time it feels like I have. Please note: this is not me complaining about having kids at all. I love them all dearly and am very happy to be their father. But it is another responsibility that I take care of each day. I’ll come home from work and check with them to see how they’re doing. I’ll keep track of the things they need to do, or the things they’d like me to do. You wouldn’t think it takes that much mental space to keep track of it all for kids who are old enough to be self-directing (for the most part), but this week, I realized I’d been selling the job short. It still takes time and emotional energy.

The same logically holds true for all the relationships we have in life. Spouse. Parent. Child. Friend. Co-worker. Anything we need to put effort into to maintain. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. (In my experience, anything worth real value takes effort.) But in some situations, it can certainly be a problem. Because these burdens are always there, it can be hard to tell if you’re in a relationship that’s taking too much of your time and attention. As hard as it is to imagine forgetting to take off your ski boots when you’re done skiing, I suppose it’s theoretically possible.

So what to do with this new observation? In most cases, I imagine the answer is “not much.” Like I said, this is a “burden” I want. One that’s rewarding and worth the effort. But perhaps it would be useful now and then to try and identify all the burdens we’re carrying, particularly the ones we might not realize are even there. Because if we could identify just a couple of those that aren’t necessary anymore, that can free up some much needed mental space for all the other things we’re doing.

It’s something to think about . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Accidental Sports Parent

It never crossed my mind that one day I might end up the parent of a high school athlete. I was about as far from an athlete in high school as I am today, and that’s saying something. Back in Council Rock, the school was enormous. My graduating class had 850 students in it. With a school that size, I suppose it’s fairly natural that there will be distinct cliques within it. Groups of students who identify primarily by their main interests. There were very fully developed, robust programs in everything from band to chorus to drama to a whole slew of sports, and then there were the typical array of classes according to difficulty level.

I was in all the most difficult classes. That was my first priority. Second was band. Almost all of my friends were in band or orchestra, though I was tangentially involved in drama. I was in a play, and I had a number of friends in drama, but it wasn’t what I identified most with. There were smaller connections as well (the school paper, for example), and I had a few friends outside those spheres, but that was almost always because they were in the other honors classes with me. I had one very close friend on cross country, but I never paid any attention to what he did when he was competing. It simply didn’t interest me at all, so it remained a mystery.

Denisa and I never enrolled the kids in any sports programs. No youth football. No little league. No soccer. They’re all active skiers, but they never expressed much of an interest in trying for the ski teams. They’ve gotten into music, and they’ve done some summer activities like tennis and rock climbing, but they’ve generally been focused elsewhere. (DC and MC both expressed fleeting interest in dance. That didn’t happen for a litany of reasons.)

His freshman year, Tomas was very active in school activities. Math club, the Franklin County Fiddlers, and Robotics dominated his afternoons. That seemed like more than enough to keep him occupied. But what I didn’t realize was that in a school with just around 150 in a graduating class, there can be a whole lot more bleed through between cliques than there seemed to be in my school. A ton of kids who are in Fiddlers are also on Cross Country, for example, including many of his close friends.

So when he expressed interest in joining the team, Denisa and I were perhaps a bit surprised, but definitely encouraging. What was one more after school activity, more or less? What I failed to realize was just how all encompassing a sport can be. Denisa went to the first big meeting, and . . . wow. Practice after school every day. Meets most weekends. Team dinners the night before meets. Fundraisers. Practices in the summer. For the first two and a half months of the year, he’s going to be living the Cross Country life.

And I still don’t know where I fit into all of that as a parent. Do I go to the team dinners? Do I go to all the different meets? What do I do there? Can you even see anything at a cross country event? Maybe I should have been paying better attention back in high school. Do I go to away meets? Home meets? I just don’t know where I fit into all of this. On the one hand, I want to be supportive. On the other, I recognize and remember that not all parents are involved to the same extent. My parents were never really “band parents” the way some of my friends’ parents were, and I was fine with that. They came to a number of events, but by no means all of the many marching band competitions.

This isn’t a high level of stress for me or anything. I know it’ll all iron itself out, and Tomas isn’t worried about it either. But it’s still interesting to find myself in a wholly new situation that kind of sprang out at me out of the blue. Certainly much more respect for all the school athletes and their dedication to their sport. I had no idea.

Go Cougars! (Lucky for me the high school and BYU share the same mascot, so at least that all lines up nicely.) 🙂

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Adulting 301: Safety Deposit Boxes

Well, it’s official. I managed to make it 40 years without opening a safety deposit box, but those days are now behind me. Today Denisa and I traipsed into town to the bank to make it official. We now have a spot to put all our gems, gold, and illegal substances. If we had any of those things. Sadly, our lives are much less interesting than that. We just wanted to get the box to have a secure place to store our important documents.

See? How boring and adultish have I become?

I mean, I really wanted to have something cooler to put in that box. At least a few passports from other countries, as well as stacks of bills from a scattering of different currencies. I didn’t even have any mysterious keys to stick in that could lead people on an exciting adventure. No, instead I had a living will. Movies and television has taught me so much more is possible from a safety deposit box, but instead I put in What to Do If I Am Comatose and Not Likely to Recover.

Funnily enough, Denisa and I prepared those documents 4 years ago. Living wills, regular wills, powers of attorney. All that flashy stuff that makes any sane person’s eyes want to glaze over. We got them all set and done, and the last thing we needed to do was put them someplace secure, in case our house burned down or something.

Instead, we did the standard immature thing: stick them in a drawer and forget about them. (Hey, it’s an approach that’s never really failed me yet, so . . . )

For the record, getting a safety deposit box is more complicated than I thought it would be. I pictured us walking in, signing a piece of paper, stuffing the documents in, and being on our way. In reality, it took about twenty minutes. Our cost around $50/year for a small box just big enough to fit a rolled up stack of Very Important Documents. But at least that cost includes a cool set of keys that make it so you can’t open the box without having two keys present. Kind of like entering nuclear launch codes, but without the messy aftermath.

Why did we do all this? Because we have studied, and in studying, we have learned that man is mortal.* Stuff happens. And as much as it would be nice to never have to talk or think about that stuff, it’s still not a bad idea to prepare for the bad stuff, just in case. If Denisa and I both died, what should happen to our kids? If we’re brain dead, what do we want to happen to our bodies? Who gets to inherit the gazillion dollars I have stashed away in gold bullion from that adventure with the dragon and the dwarves from back in my early days?**

I dislike even thinking those thoughts, let alone writing them. They make me want to glance over my shoulder to see if a train’s about to barrel through my room. But as attractive as sticking my head in the sand seems . . .

We still signed the documents, and we still (finally) put them in a safety deposit box. So now I can legally forget about them and not feel guilty when I remember they’re not in a safe spot. I’ve got the cool double keys (and the yearly fee) to remind me I’m done with that for now.

In the meantime, if any of you are looking for a place to hide a very small piece of stolen artwork, have I got the spot for you . . .

*We also learned never to get involved in a land war in Asia.

**Bilbo was actually 50 when he first set off to the Lonely Mountain, so I’ve got almost a decade before I really need to start worrying about being behind on that plan.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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