When I was assistant director for the public library of Springfield, Illinois, one of my library board members was an elderly gentleman named Simeon Osby. Dapper, always smelling of cologne, sporting a precisely trimmed pencil-thin mustache, Simeon had lived through some interesting times.
My eye lighted on the diagram. I saw a ladder leaning against a house, an angle translated into degrees, a distance measured in feet. A lot of unknowns. A space to work my calculations.
And I froze.
I had, in fact, the first math panic attack I'd had since college trigonometry -- the only college class I ever failed. This is not a memory I cherish.
Where was I? Sitting in the administration building of the Douglas County School District. What was I doing? Taking the 10th grade Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, test.
I've just finished listening to travel writer Bill Bryson's wonderful, "In a Sunburned Country," about Australia. I've been a Bryson fan for a long time ("The Lost Continent," "Mother Tongue," "Notes from a Small Island," \"I'm A Stranger Here Myself," "A Walk in the Woods," and others) but this book shows a Bryson that's happier than I've ever seen him. He LOVES Australia.
It all started when Nancy Bolt, the State Librarian of Colorado, sent out an electronic call, back in May of last year. It went like this: "HELP! I have four Bulgarian libraries looking for Colorado library partners."
Through a series of improbable events, Nancy wound up visiting Bulgaria some years ago, after the breakup of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. She came back not only with some interesting connections to people, but also with some samples of truly stunning Bulgarian jewelry.