Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

A Series of Surprises

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In May of 1967 Derek Taylor spoke of the fate of Smile in his press release. Smile “has been SCRAPPED. Not destroyed, but scrapped”. Could this mean that there was still some merit seen in the songs, but they would be ‘converted’ into other songs? This was effectively the fate of the Smile songs. They were reshaped, in constant chase of improvement. Brian himself stated, “1967 should bring a series of surprises for everyone from the Beach Boys.” (from EarCandy Mag: http://earcandy_mag.tripod.com/rrcase-2.htm)


Life is a long series of surprises and my life is no different. One of the biggest surprises to me was that so much of what I grew up learning from the people in my life was either not true at all or was twisted to fit their specific idea about life. I chose a photo of dandelions for this post because I think it visually sums up what I’m thinking here. Here in America we’re told that a nice lawn is full of green grass, well kept and groomed, and free of what we’ve dubbed “weeds”. Dandelions have been unfortunately placed in the weed category. Because of this there’s been an almost all out genocide on dandelions. Despite their wealth of benefits for humans and bees, they’ve become undesirable.

I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where lawns had to be perfect. Ours was cut, edged, and manicured weekly. If a neighbor did something with their lawn you better believe we had 24-48 hours to respond. About once a month some guy (it was always a guy) brought his truck around and sprayed the yard down with what looked like pellets you’d put on your ice cream. I was always told that this helped the lawn look how it did and that the lawn was better for looking that way.

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Cut to the last two years of my life where the ideas of the home, gardens, and Fidelia Hall have become very important to my happiness. As I settled into this chapter of my life I learned a lot of things: your yard doesn’t have to be green and well manicured, what we call “weeds” are actually really good for the Earth and by attempting to wipe them out we’re destroying the world, and that those “pellets you’d put on your ice cream” that my parents were spraying their lawn with were horrible poison. Life is a series of surprises.

Now the point of this post isn’t to go all Captain Planet and talk about the importance of being kind to the Earth. Of course I think you should but if you’re already doing it I’m not going to change your mind and part of me thinks we’re fucked anyways. The point is to recognize that life is a series of surprises. The Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys album SMiLE and the quote which starts this post have been on my mind recently when I think about my life right now. Has everything turned out as they were originally planned? No. But nothing really ever turns out as we think they are going to turn out. SMiLE was going to be THE album of its time, but it didn’t become that. Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles took that honor. What came out instead of SMiLE was a series of songs and albums that were “reshaped, in constant chase of improvement.” My life recently had a SMiLE moment. Instead of it being a defeat or the start of some kind of long spiraling descent into depression, I’ve decided to see that this moment was another part in the series of surprises that makes up life and that and that what I’m doing is reshaped things around me, always tuned into the constant chase of improvement which follows my life.

That change? Via https://fideliahall.com

Fidelia Hall is first and foremost the homestead of the Hoenke family. It is our hope that through our passion for family, community, creativity, sustainability, flowers, bees, art, fun, and food, that our contributions to the world will chip a tiny crack in the massive wall of negativity, fear, and greed that drives our culture.

We are not a business. We are not a non-profit. We are not a church. We are not a social club. We have explored every avenue and consulted every consultant and nothing fits. So we’ve decided to just be us.

I don’t expect you to “get it” nor do I care. The only thing I’ve gotta get is a hold of my life and my happiness. And I’m always doing that.


The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine is a great book to borrow from your local library by the way

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Family, Libraries, Three Things, Video Games

THREE THINGS 2017.2

COMMUNITY CENTRE

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I like this a lot. I have long thought that libraries are all community centers that just happen to be called libraries because once upon a long ago our only function was to loan books and we’ve grown up a lot since then. Anywho: Te Takere Library is a library in New Zealand and while doing some research I noticed that their council calls them the Te Takere Community Centre and Library.

HOMESCHOOLING

I walked by a public school today (a really great one!) and I saw about 30 kids playing at the playground. They seemed to be in very specific groups: those playing basketball, those playing on the playground equipment, and those around the teacher. They were all nicely fenced in by a giant 12 foot tall fence (I totally understand the need for this by the way) and it hit me: I wouldn’t change our lives as homeschoolers for anything in the world. I’ll eat nothing but ramen every day for the next 10-13 years of my life and be as poor as poor can be to keep this happening. I think about the past week that we had together and what we did and it makes me happy:

  • Wrote and drew a graphic novel (Finn)
  • Created his own guitar/keytar (Aero)
  • Went to swimming lessons (Finn)
  • Visited the library twice (Finn & Aero)
  • Worked on our gardens (Finn & Aero)
  • Went on some side quests in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Finn & Aero)
  • Did some dress up and role playing (Finn & Aero)
  • Read some books (Finn & Aero)

Learning happens all the time and I love being able to live a life with Haley, Finn, and Aero where we can explore this together at our own pace. There should be more freedom in our world. There should be less schedules. There should be more curiosity.

NINTENDO SWITCH

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Even though we’ve really only been playing THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD (combined playtime for Justin+Haley+Finn=over 125 hours) we have been having a wonderful time with the system. First up, Zelda: the game is amazing, fun, and sparks great curiosity and exploration in all of us at the Hoenke house. Every time one of us plays it we have discussions about what we’re doing and who we’re encountering. We’re telling each other so many stories about what we find in the game and in turn we’re inspiring each other to try new things. Second, the Nintendo Switch system itself is glorious. At times it can feel a bit more delicate than previous Nintendo systems. The amazing thing about is the ability to take it from the TV to wherever you want without any interruption. While Finn and Aero were inside using the TV yesterday afternoon after being outside all morning I spent my time in a hammock outside playing Zelda. It was glorious.

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I wrote two articles about the Nintendo Switch for InfoToday recently and you can read those here:

Plan a Library Game Night With Nintendo’s New Console
Attention, Libraries: It’s Time to ‘Switch’ It Up

Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Week of Music (2017)

WEEK OF MUSIC: “Everyone C’mon Get Happy”

I wanted to do more as a band with Aaron but for some reason that didn’t work out. I got a laptop and a digital recording interface and went to town recording another album titled Everyone C’mon Get Happy. It was a straight up pop rock album that didn’t have any big concepts or ideas behind it. They were just songs and they were fun and that was it. To celebrate the album, I got together with Kristel Bastian, Dustin Miller, and Dave Washousky to perform some of the music I had written since 2004. It was a pretty awesome event!

I enjoy just how fun these songs are. There’s nothing big behind this album…no giant concept, no deep meaning…it’s all just a bunch of pop songs. I need to remember this album in the future and do my best to add a bit of fun into every recording that I make.

You have a few options with how you can listen to and download these albums:

  1. You can purchase the albums at the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine website. The albums are $7 each and any money made from the purchase of these albums goes into one of two things: Arbacarba Records, which will invest the money in making these albums available on streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc) or Fidelia Hall, which will help with the repairs and restoration of this 144 year old community center. Once purchased, you can download the albums in a variety of formats (MP3, FLAC, and more) or stream them via the free Bandcamp app (iTunes, Android)
  2. You can stream the albums for free at the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine website.
  3. If you are a library (public, academic, special) and you wish to add any of the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine albums to your digital collection, you may do so by contacting me at justinthelibrarian at gmail dot com and I will gladly share these albums with you as MP3 or WAV formats. Once you have these files, your library will be able to provide your library card patrons with these albums for free by adding them to your library digital music collection at no cost to you.

I hope you enjoy this album!

 

Family, Libraries, Life, Video Games

Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

Libraries

Signs

I believe that all signs that hang in a public library should be clear, easy to understand, colorful, and fun. They should brighten up the library and also make it easier for our community members to find what they’re looking for.

When I got to the Benson Memorial Library about a year ago, I did a quick inventory of the signs that we had hanging out. They were all over the place: different colored paper, different fonts, and no real cohesion that made easy for patrons to follow. There were also way too many signs. Too many signs can confuse things. Six months later, I made an attempt to update our signs but I failed…the signs were too small, too generic, and just not that easy to follow.

Recently I worked with one of our employees named Jess and she came up with the signs you see above. Her penmanship and handwriting is amazing, so I thought it would translate really well into signs that helped the community find what they are looking for. I’m really happy with the work that Jess did…these signs are so bright and helpful.

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I also want to commend another employee named Sharon on her great displays and bulletin boards. Over the past year, Sharon has really stepped up her game with all of the bulletin boards in our library.What you see above was the latest that she created. This new book display lives in our Youth area and it just makes the whole area much happier.

 

Social Media

Social Media is Really Fucking Stupid These Days

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About a month ago I heard about a site called Who Unfollowed Me. Once you log in with Twitter, this site will show you who has unfollowed you on the service. I logged in and saw my list of recent unfollowers. It was a mix of the following:

  • Authors who thought “oh he’s a librarian I’ll try to sell him that book that I published on Amazon” and then discovered I wasn’t that kind of librarian.
  • Librarians who haven’t used Twitter in months-years.
  • Other random people who don’t fit into a neat and tidy category.

The site also had an option to tweet about how you found out who unfollowed you on Twitter. All in all, these two things got me thinking about social media, ego, and all that kind of jazz. I came up with this. WHO GIVES A FUCK.

The amount of followers a person has, their “social influence” and their reach? I think it is all a bunch of crap. It doesn’t matter all that much. And it sure isn’t a badge of honor that a person should wear around. Big on Twitter? That’s great. Huge on Instagram? Wow, you are amazing. Actually not really. None of this matters that much in the long run. It’s just a bunch of numbers that give the user and others in their community an inflated social media ego. It’s a bragging right that doesn’t need to be a bragging right.

The other thing that struck me (the option to tweet about how you found out who unfollowed you) was just how rude we can be to each other. Why would someone want to put this out into the world? “Hey, I found out that you unfollowed me. Here’s something to make you feel bad.” I don’t get this. But this is something that I see on social media these days; rage, anger, and the idea that one always had to get in the last word. It’s like we’re living in a social media time loop where something happens, followed by another thing, followed by this and then that. We usually get Saturday and Sunday off to forget about the hot topic of the moment and wait until Monday to start up on something else (see this for a perfect example of the social media time loop idea). It doesn’t seem to end these days.

I like the internet a lot. I like social media. I really like talking to friends that I don’t get to see everyday. This damn thing connects us and that is great! I love it! But recently, I think we’re stuck in a rut. We should all take a step back and think about how we’re using the internet and how we view ourselves and each other on the internet. Let’s deflate our egos a bit. Let’s calm down and not get so angry. Why so serious? Let’s dance for a bit. Wait a second. I have a fantastic song.

THIS is why I love the internet.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

564 Days (or, the story of THE 2ND FLOOR thus far…)

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library has been in its current state, a place for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, for 564 days, or 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days as of today. If you’re visiting The 2nd Floor for the first time today or have visited us over the past 564 days, you’ve probably wondered what it’s all about up on the 2nd Floor.  This post is my attempt to explain all of that and more to you.

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about people.  It is a place where the community, library employees, out of town guests, and more can connect, share an experience, and learn something. It is a place where lifelong learning and fun meet in the middle, get all messy, and create something awesome.

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The 2nd Floor is a constant work in progress. Repeat visitors to the 2nd Floor always remark how “things have changed quite a bit” and that there’s “a lot more” than there was the last time they visited. Their observations are spot on. We may not have the newest furniture, shelves, tools, and more around (it’ll come), but we change everything around enough to keep it fresh and exciting for the community. We use what we have to make this place a great experience for the community.  If something works, we keep it around and refine it. If it doesn’t work, we let it go and try something new. To be the best library for our community, we have to move forward and meet their needs.

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When you visit the 2nd Floor, you won’t see endless rows of books in the space. Instead, you’ll find a well groomed collection that represents what the community wants. You may see two rows of The Hunger Games on the shelves, but they are there because the community asked for them. You will find our books arranged and presented in a way that best reflects the needs of the community. The picture books are as low to the ground as we can get them at the moment to allow for little hands to find what they want. The graphic novels have their own unique areas.  Our non-fiction shelves for middle aged readers are overflowing because that’s what the community wants.

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As I said above, the 2nd Floor is all about people. But we have to remember that a library is also made up of the people that work in it as well. The 2nd Floor is home to some of the most amazing colleagues I have ever had the chance to work with. Some have been here 15 years and some have been here 6 months. No matter how long they’ve been there, one thing connects us all: a passion for what we do and a great care for our community.  All of our 2nd Floor employees bring different attributes to the table: creativity, reliability, organization, energy, and more.  All of these attributes meet in the middle and create something amazing. Simply stated: the 2nd Floor staff are awesome.

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3D Printers, iMacs, button makers, video games, and more are just things that live on the 2nd Floor.  Yes, they are nice tools to have in the library and it is great that we can give our community access to them.  I am fully aware that not every library can have the same tools that we have in our library. But here’s the thing: they are just tools. The 3D printer will stop being the cool and popular thing over the next few years. The computers will need to be replaced. Items will break.  These are all ok scenarios. They are all just items. They are all just things. Without the community coming into the library to use the 2nd Floor, they are just empty, unused things. It is what the community does with these tools that makes their place on the 2nd Floor so special.

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The tools that your library offers to the community should reflect what the community needs. Does your community not want a 3D printer? That’s ok. You don’t have to get a 3D printer. It can start simple: pens, pencils, and paper. That’s an art and writing station. It can grow to include some hand-me-down or donated items, like a sewing machine. If it needs to, it can grow from there. In the picture above, one of our frequent library users is using an older sewing machine brought in by one of our library employees. They used it together to make a robe just like Hermione wears in Harry Potter.  It was a great experience using tools and items that we had all around us.

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The 2nd Floor is flexible. It has rules because it needs rules in order to survive and function properly. But the 2nd Floor is open to interpretation. The community will make it what they want it to be at that moment. In the photo above, the 3D printer has become the test subject for a teen’s interest in learning how to do time lapse photography. Flexibility and the desire to take a chance on something new allows your community to thrive and grow.

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The 2nd Floor is unique in that it doesn’t push kids, tweens, teens, and their caregivers into age specific corners. It’s about following your interests and sharing a positive interaction with someone…a family member, a friend, or someone you just met.  When you open up your library to interests and interactions like these, some great moments can occur. Instead of checking the IDs of everyone that enters the the library, the library employees are free to then interact with the community and develop relationships. They are able to chat and connect. This is where something magical happens and what I consider to be the best part of the modern public library experience: The library as the place where the community connects.

2014-05-03 12.54.56Sure, we have all this great stuff you can borrow. We have loads of programs and experiences for you if you visit our physical locations. We have loads of downloadables that you can enjoy on your device. All of that is great. But what makes the library magical is when people connect: all ages, all genders, all races. They come together to learn and have fun. They put everything aside and enjoy a moment together. From those moments, bonds and connections are made. Some last minutes. Some last a lifetime. Those connections are what helps our communities grow.  Healthy communities lead to happiness.  Happiness is something global. Happiness is something that spreads everywhere. It all starts with one interaction and it grows.