From the Kommisar's Desk...

By Tom Dobrowolsky, MLIS Day


Greetings Bright and Sexy New Colleagues!

I would like to welcome you to the Information School. Please familiarize yourselves with Chapter I of the FAQ; it is located in a previous issue. It deals with all of that fluffy, user-centered business that we espouse around here. In this chapter, though, I would like to expose you to some advanced theologies, namely, the murky side of graduate student and university life. This seedy underbelly is a pretty nice place – it has luxurious red velvet upholstery where we drink intoxicating potions made from vanquished theorists… and the water is always relaxingly scalding.

Q. Speaking of theorists, how should I address my professors?

A. This ain’t no pretentious English Department. We’re pretty informal around here; first name basis is the norm. This not only helps us relate as future colleagues, but, mostly, it also just reminds us that even professors clip their gnarled toenails, exhale brightly-colored snot, and go to the bathroom like us mere students. When you break down the barriers of formality – some mistakenly call it “professionalism” – it becomes much easier to drink and schmooze with professors and esteemed colleagues at conferences.

Q. I need to put the edge on. Is there coffee anywhere near the Information School?

A. There is an espresso stand tucked into a corner recess of the first floor of Mary Gates Hall. It is located there for a very good reason; the coffee is remarkably bad. As with liquor, your best bet is to run out to the Ave where you maximize both coffee quality and the eye-candy appeal of baristas. Cafe Solstice is the closest and has the hotty-est employees and clientele; Espresso Roma is decent while Sure Shot, located just over 45th on the Ave., is the farthest. But Sure Shot has pinball.

This past September, a Starbucks opened across 42nd Street from Roma. Don’t go there – but not, however, for the typical, though very well-reasoned, anti-corporate-coffee clap-trap. Rather, don’t go there if you value your own safety. In barely a month of operation, one of its windows has already been shattered, presumably in protest. Glass shards do not easily dissolve in your latte.

Q. Computer stuff is so expensive. Where can I find cheap keyboards and such?

A. Large public universities such as this one are only allowed to sell surplus equipment to the public under special circumstances. University Surplus holds bimonthly sales where you can buy cast-off university equipment at decent prices. They have great stuff like slide projectors, glass pipets, and typewriters. Very useful too.

But why bother with the middleman? In order for stuff to go to surplus, it first has to be hoarded by individual departments until it becomes an annoying, critical mass of an eyesore. Only then does somebody place a call to get rid of it. As a result, unwanted equipment sits around for decades at the bases of stairwells and other "out of sight, out of mind" spaces. With a little bit of investigation and inquisitive searching, you will be amazed by the treasure you will find. Doubloons! Triploons! Silicon! Bullion!

Sure, people (ahem) have been stopped and questioned by the campus cops. But it's not theft if you look like you're supposed to be relocating equipment. For this reason it is actually better to carry off your spoils in the light of day. Remember: it's all about poise and confidence – qualities essential to teaching… you will learn this in 560. Carrying a clipboard helps, too; it gives you that look of official sanction in all of your illicit activities.

Q. I’m in such a hurry these days. Do cops around the U-District really give out tickets for jay-walking and crossing against the light? Isn't this just an urban legend?

A. I have personally been warned twice now. The first time was in October 2002. I crossed against the light, coincidentally, in front of the Red Light store on the Ave. As I was crossing, a svelte bicycle cop chided, "shame on you”. I apologized and he told me not to do it again because it carries a $42 fine. Though informed, I had a hard time feeling truly penitent. Nor was I apt to reform my behavior. These cops on their little bicycles were simply too slim, too fit, and too young to properly project any crushing sense of authority. They looked like something straight out of cop-fantasy porn. I felt much more likely to break the law again in order to be disciplined.

My second warning came last year, also in October. This incident was more brazen. I crossed busy 45th on the Ave against a red light. The cop actually yelled through his PA. I felt singled-out and special; they don't use those things very often. He didn't even get out of his cruiser, choosing, instead, to pull into oncoming traffic to speak at me. Upon looking into the vehicle, I understood; his belly didn't look like it wanted to go anywhere. This warning felt proper!

After informing me that my mom taught me better (how did he know my mother?), the little porkchop asked me whether he should write me a ticket for $38. After telling him I could do without the added paperwork, I bade him a good evening. Of course, the disturbing part of this sordid saga is that either the porno cops were somehow scamming $4 off the deal or the pot-bellied cop was horribly confused about fines. Either way, it is a frightening state of police affairs.

So I'm at two strikes. I think I might start crossing against the light only when there are enough scrappy Ave Kids loitering around for the cops to harass instead. My advice: don't do it at 45th and keep a lookout for cops before you do it. Of course, we are now safely out of October... so it should be cool.

Q. I am a loving and ecumenical librarian-in-training. Is it OK for me to display a little PDA when I’m walking the halls with a special somebody?

A. No.

Regardless of your noble professional ambitions, you must remember that you are a grizzled graduate student. Your courtship and mating habits are downright disturbing. Consequently, you should never subject the general public to your deviant, amorous machinations. This imperative is doubled if you consider yourself a filthy information scientist. Leave those kinds of displays to the undergrads (you’ve seen them) who can, at the very least, feign sweet and innocent co-dependent bliss. We don’t need to see you manipulating your... ahem... personal digital assistants, so to speak.

Q. Text adventure. Choose your path wisely:

1. Thesis!?! Research?!? Hell no! I want to do something productive and useful!

A. There is hope for you! You will be a beneficent steward of information for the public! The world will benefit from your work! Now get cracking on portfolio opportunities!

2. Thesis? Research? Hand me a towel, I drool!

A. You are swayed by the pull of the Dark Side! Buy me a gin and tonic and I’ll be happy to give you details.

That is all. Thank you for allowing me to answer your questions!

As a reminder, the Kool-Aid flavor for this month is grape. Also, if you have not yet bought either your Elevator Pass or your Pool Pass from a second-year, please do so at your earliest convenience.

Good evening, my colleagues. Gods bless.


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Page last updated: November 9, 2004