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Worth their Salt

 Jack’s guest post is actually on Wednesday

My last guest post was about the satisfaction of completing work that I’d spent five years learning as an apprentice painter and decorator.

This one is about the importance of leaving some tasks to other professionals –

The last time we had heavy rain here, which is almost two months ago, we noticed we had a couple of roof leaks. They were in complicated corners of our main roof which had been completely re-shingled about five years ago. This is not my specialty at all, and I no longer have the head for heights that I used to, so it was time to call in the expert. I have the good fortune to be friends with the owner of the biggest construction company around here and he had previously put me in touch with his preferred roofing guy. He came promptly, explained that he was in the middle of a big contract but checked the problem areas and promised to take care of them as soon as possible. Lo and behold, he arrived yesterday, carried out work with no fuss and today it has rained heavily all day with no signs of leaks. The rain is welcome, of course, as it was needed to douse the wild fires over in Tennessee.

This past weekend we spent with Wendy’s parents in Knoxville, where her brother in law Dennis was working most of the time trying to diagnose and fix a long-standing problem with the heat pump (he knows about this stuff). When we got back here on Monday evening we discovered that our heat pump was acting up. I phoned the local company who had installed it three years ago and their engineer came this morning, established the problem and had it working again within an hour.

In both cases the communication ahead of the work was first class, which is something else that I consider a very good sign. I was taught, during my training, as much about customer care as I was about the techniques of applying paint, hanging wallpaper or working safely at heights.

What’s the ‘take-away’ from this?

Know your limitations, trust professionals and don’t grudge paying them their worth, take advice where you can on the reputation of these professionals and treat them with respect. They will have earned your respect and loyalty.

Here’s to my fellow professionals whoever and wherever they are!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

Dae ye need yer old lobby washed down?

Jack’s guest post is a wee bit late this week, but here’s why –

I started my working life by serving a five-year apprenticeship as a painter and decorator in my Dad’s firm, and then eventually took it over and ran it. Finally, I started teaching apprentices in the local college and ended up as Head of the construction Dept.

Nowadays as I redecorate around the bookstore I often reflect on the things I learned along the way that help reduce the time each takes. What I’m talking about is, of course, after emptying the room and before refilling it.

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On Tuesday I emptied out my office/studio and on Thursday I put everything back, so I had one day to paint the ceiling, walls and woodwork (two windows, two doors and the baseboard). Being a 1903 house the doors were paneled and with moldings, while the baseboards were deep.

What I noticed as I worked were a number of things –

1 – how much time had been spent learning brush skills; how to work equally well right or left handed; how to load just enough paint on the brush; how to cut in neatly between different colors on walls and ceiling and baseboards.

2 – That I knew how to load and use a roller without spraying paint around.

3 – that I knew the order in which to paint a four paneled door – moldings, panels, rails and stiles.

4 – that I knew how to apply paint evenly enough to maximize the chances of covering in one coat.

Wendy was impressed that I didn’t have any paint spots on my clothes or shoes, or on the floor. She asked if I’d enjoyed it, and I had to think about it. That’s when all these thoughts came to me – had I enjoyed it? Not especially, but it was very satisfying.

The worst thing was clearing out the room, because I kept discovering long forgotten things and just had to sit and read or look at them. Just as bad was deciding what should go back, what should go the attic and what should get dumped.

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Lest this sound as though I’m back in the game, however, anyone needs a room painted I suggest you consult yellow pages!

 

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Uncategorized

Toilet Yarn Bombing is Da Bomb

whoville-2016-035It’s not often that one gets to yarnbomb one’s own toilet.

Now that I have your attention…. :]

Jack and I took yesterday to get into the Whoville Spirit of things for the holidays here in Big Stone. The whole town has a Who theme going – I keep waiting for someone to display an album cover of Roger Daltry, but so far, everyone is behaving.

who-bugThere were days when one could join the cutout painting brigade, but with our crazy schedules, Jack and I had to handmake our contribution. So naturally it involved yarn.whoville-2016-036

Welcome to the Bookstore Whoville 2016, ladies and gentlemen! Flash photography allowed. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Since I live with a Scot, it’s a somewhat mixed bag here.

horton

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: ENDGAME by James Frey

well-this-sucksOh dear God in Heaven, Frey, you make up a memoir about drug addiction and somebody gives you the keys to a fictitious city????

How many ways is Endgame bad – the writing that has characters doing abrupt turns from their previous hopes and dreams, all in the space of one sentence? The conceit of hiding a treasure hunt inside, along the lines of that golden rabbit buried a couple decades back, and getting people to buy the book so they can do the math and be one of the treasure hunters? The really, really stupid plot device of 12 ancient lines who all know about themselves but not each other, and who have successfully passed this secret from family to family without anybody else knowing? Kids killing each other – wow, where did you get such a great new idea in YA fantasy?

Shall I go on, or do we now have enough reasons to leave James Frey’s book alone? He’s the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces in which he claimed to have had dental surgery without anesthetic, crawled into a crack house within weeks of getting clean in order to carry his girlfriend out and enroll her in a program holding a spot for her, and been taken into the fold of a gangster who treated him as a son during their rehab. At the time I was reading Pieces I was working with addicts in a literacy program, and I remember thinking about halfway through the book, “No way, man. He’s lying.” Which turned out to be what everyone else thought, too.

Give it up, world. There is no taste, no truth, and no future. The Sky Gods are coming for us all, unless we’re one of those ancient lines or found the golden rabbit.

Short version: this book sucks.

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Filed under bad writing, between books, Big Stone Gap, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, post-apocalypse fiction, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, writing, YA fiction

Juanita Tries to Figure out Humans

15134332_1371938282817232_41046199_n-copyHi! I’m Juanita, and I am staying at the bookstore with my friends until my forever family arrives. We are having a very nice time. There’s Milky, she was found on the streets. And Frosty, he was from the shelter, like me, but he was later. And there’s Delight, nobody’s really sure how she got here. And Pear, her family moved and left her. And then there’s some kittens from the work farm at the prison; the warden asked if they could come live here.

We all live here together. We look really different and we’re all different ages and even purrsonalities. Delight is really shy and Pear doesn’t like to be carried. Me, you could carry me into next Christmas and I’d be okay with that. I love to snuggle and sometimes Milky and I have to share spaces when the humans sit down. There’s only so much lap space in the world, but we work on it together and we always fit. It’s not hard.

So the humans here, they’ve just had an electric-nation, I think is what Dad said, and they’re all worried. It must be hard to be a human; there’s a lot more to pay attention to than just eating and sleeping and playing for them, I guess. That wouldn’t be any fun.

Mom and Dad  say that it’s hard to just be yourself these days, because maybe some people are going to be mean to others, and you have to be nice to everybody, but if you’re nice to everybody, you’re nice to the mean people and the nice people, and that means no matter what you wind up being mean to somebody.

I don’t understand any of it. Mom and Dad are nice to cats, so I guess they’d be nice to people too, and since people are in charge of stuff–you know, like tuna, and where the sunbeams are–they have to be nice to each other, or some people won’t have enough stuff. I remember at the shelter, when cats didn’t get enough stuff, it went from friendly to mean real fast.

The world has a lot of room in it, Mom says, and some of it is for me, and some of it is for the other cats, and we’ve got enough room and stuff for everybody as long as nobody says only certain cats can have it. But why would anybody do that?

So I hope the humans can learn to get along. Mom says sometimes it has to do with what color you are. Which is like the dumbest thing ever. I’m black and white, and Pear is striped, and the kittens are all solid orange. But we don’t have any trouble. Mom says I have to think of it like one cat saying only orange cats are good, and the others have to do what he says. And I think, weird. If you don’t like a cat, you stay away from him. Mom says that it doesn’t work that way for humans, but I shouldn’t worry. And that I’m gonna get adopted soon.

I hope so. I got plans for sharing my space with other cats in a big happy family. Come see me and maybe we can talk about that.15174405_1371938066150587_670575587_n-copy

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Filed under animal rescue, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Meanwhile, Back in the Bookstore….

tea_for_twoAccording to social media, the world is cracking down the middle, and “The World” means America. According to commercial media, a lot of dumb mean people elected a president. I’m not sure what “the people” are saying because I can’t find them behind the memes and the blaming and shaming.

Okay, so everybody’s mad at everybody, got it. Time to do a bookstore tidy. It’s small, but when everything outside is falling apart, at least I can manage a little cozy order  inside.

So I put the kettle on (okay okay, I opened a bottle of red wine) and started in. Good grief. In general fiction, Robert McCammon sat astride a Jamica Kincaid novel. She belongs in classics, he belongs in the nuthouse – well, horror. Lots of nasty werewolves involved in strange situations.

Over in history, I found a telenovel of The Tudors. No, no, no. The Tudors, smirking, went back to historic fiction. But sitting in brazen glory on that shelf was Hadley, our, ehm, special staff cat. Hadley lost a few brain cells during an oxygen-deprived birth, and, as we say in Big Stone, “She ain’t right.”

Hadley was playing a game with the Robert Harris alternate future novels – and what were they doing in historic fiction in the first place? She pushed the top one off the sideways shelf stack, waited until it tumbled to the floor some four feet below, and then pushed the next one.

“Look Mommy, I’se helping!” Well, yes, they needed to be moved anyway.

And so it went. William Johnstone mounted his palomino and rode back to westerns from (in order of appearance) classics, mystery, paranormal romance, and Christian non-fiction. The Patricia Cornwells got rounded up and returned to clearance. I’m pretty sure one of them bit me.

And Carl Hiassen migrated from every corner to occupy the H shelf in fiction.

We culled some books, too. Sidney Sheldon, your time has come–and gone, and come, and gone. Hasta la vista, baby. We need the space for science fiction.

Outside, the world feels cold. There is no place for anything – not dissent, not agreement. Building a bridge has become sleeping with the enemy. Refusing to play along is derided as sore losing. We are literally in a place with no place for dialogue.

Outside. Inside, the bookstore continues to be itself: a not-too-tidy place where people of dissenting needs and plans are welcome. Where conversations will be civil and accompanied by tea, and where “everyone welcome” doesn’t have a hidden caveat. Where ideology and practicality and reality lie in messy alliance next to one another, and nobody can impose much order on them, nor tries. There will be other places like this in other parts of the country, pushing up green things between the concrete cracks. God bless the cracks.

How did holding still come to look like moving in the wrong direction? I dunno, but the shelves are tidy and the future looks messy and we have the kettle on.

We also have whisky. Y’all come.

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Keep Calm and – – -?

Jack is doing the Monday book this week –

Crime Control as Industry – Nils Christie

Regular readers of this blog will probably know that I visit inmates at our local Federal prison each month, and I’ve been doing that for over four years. It’s against that background and in that context that I’m reviewing this book – – –

One thing I had inevitably learned in my conversations with inmates was that there seemed to be an enormous economy surrounding prisons in the US, then research showed me there was a very disproportionately high number of African-American prisoners, and the overall percentage of the population behind bars in this country was among the highest in the world (the three highest are China, Russia and the US).

Christie’s book is mainly concerned with western European countries and the US, and focuses on the very different attitudes and approaches to crime and punishment in them.

Nils Christie is a Norwegian criminologist, and his world-view is naturally affected by where he is based and grew up. The first thing that caught my attention in this book was that (at the time it was written – 1998) there was a waiting list in Norway for folk to serve their prison sentences! The number of prisons was small and there was a consensus that people shouldn’t be crammed in, so folk carried on with their lives and waited to be told when there was a space for them. The sentences were fairly short in most cases and only the most serious actually received prison time at all. Despite this, crime figures were low compared to other countries.

What on earth was going on here?!

What Christie goes on to unravel is the very definition of crime, the need for ruling elites to create and then control a ‘surplus population’ and the market led industry that operates that control. At its crudest (which is always), the market needs a level of unemployment in order to suppress wages and allow the economy to compete with others around the world (this is exactly the thinking of the recent winner of a certain Presidential election). That ‘surplus population’ in the US has historically been mainly black, so there are residual racist reasons feeding into the equation as well.

So, where are we now?

Christie is/was tentatively optimistic that reason would prevail and that his Norwegian model would set an example, however, other more recent research suggests otherwise. The growth of private prisons, the economic market surrounding State, Federal and private prisons, the increase in the ‘surplus population’ and the demonization of anyone who isn’t a WASP.

Maybe the fact that I’m a WASP and can write this is a good sign? There again, maybe an algorithm has already identified me as part of the ‘surplus population’?

 

 

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Uncategorized, writing