Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "100,000 and 1"

This poem is from the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] librarygeek and a character by [personal profile] stardreamer. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek as part of Autism Awareness Month. This poem belongs to the Antimatter and Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"100,000 and 1"

For their personal growth project
assigned by Mr. Marshall,
Stan and Lawrence had decided
to focus on relationships.

Stan wanted to explore ways of
improving connections, while
Lawrence wondered about
influencing people's behavior.

So they went to the school library
in search of supporting materials.

Lawrence strolled in casually,
thinking about how to guide Stan
through the maze of bookcases --
only to realized that Stan had
lengthened his stride and was
already at the circulation desk.

"Morning, Ms. Fischer,"
Stan said cheerfully.

"You two know each other?"
Lawrence said, startled.

Ms. Fischer stared at him
over the top edge of her hornrims,
making Lawrence squirm. "Yes, we do.
This is the school library and Stan
is a student at this school."

"I just meant, ah ..." Lawrence stammered,
glancing at his boyfriend who was
the picture of a perfect jock.

Stan gave him a hurt look.
"I like books," he said.
"I can be a good athlete
and still like books."

"Of course you can, darling boy,"
Ms. Fischer said as she reached up
to ruffle his light brown hair. As soon as
she let go, it fell back into place
with hardly a lock out of line.

"Thanks for that stuff you found about
football diagrams and chess diagrams;
they really helped," Stan said. "Anyhow,
we've got a new project that's supposed
to be about healthy relationships, and
we could use a hand finding where
improvement and influence match up."

"Look up operant conditioning," said Ms. Fischer.
"Just remember that you're free to observe people,
but if you want to do anything to people, then
you need to write up an ethical statement
and get informed consent."

"Trying to change other people is pointless,"
Lawrence said, shaking his head. "I want
to explore what I can change to affect outcomes."

"In that case, add cognitive distortions,
communication skills, and mirroring,"
the librarian advised, smiling at him now.
"You may find something useful in
the self-help or counseling sections."

"Will there be books on that stuff here?"
Lawrence asked. "It sounds kind of
complicated for high school level."

"Anything you find here will probably
be better suited to a school paper,"
Ms. Fischer pointed out. "If it's not enough,
you can always visit the city library later."

"Smooth," Stan agreed.

The librarian's fingers tapped across
her keyboard, and the printer spit out a page
with their assignment, the recommended subtopics,
several potential books, and the locations.

As they walked toward the first shelf on the list,
Larwence murmured, "I didn't mean to be
insulting back there. It's just something
I didn't know about you, that you like
to hang out in the library so much."

"Sometimes I like the peace and quiet,"
Stan said. "I love my family, but it's
kind of a madhouse at home, you know?
Besides, I can use the help with my homework,
and I didn't always have you for that."

"I wondered how you got into the habit
of asking for research help," Lawrence said.

"It's the difference between 100,000 and 1,"
Stan said with a shrug, plucking
Nonviolent Communication off the shelf.

"What's that supposed to mean?"
Lawrence asked.

"Google can give you 100,000 answers,"
Stan said, smirking a little. "A librarian
can give you the right one."

"Google is evil," Lawrence muttered.
It was, literally, connected through
several shell corporations to
a supervillain organization.
"You should use Femto."

"I use both," Stan said.
"Femto is faster, Google is wider.
I can work around the evil part."

That was just it, of course;
Stan could breeze right past
a steaming heap of evil without
ever getting any of it on him.

He just had a way of moving it aside.

Considering how much influence
Stan already had on people --
Lawrence being just one example --
maybe studying it in particular
would help them both understand
more of what they were doing.

* * *


[Character design by [personal profile] stardreamer]

Kelinda (Keli) Fischer -- Ms. Fischer is the librarian at Stan and Lawrence's school. She is in her early 50s and has fair skin, blue eyes (with horn-rimmed bifocals) and light-grey hair which she wears in a long, wavy shag. She is a science-fiction fan and convention-goer, and very hooked into geek culture in general. Her preferred mode of dress is Business Casual for work, jeans and geeky T-shirts on her own time. She works out enough to stay fit because she doesn't want to dwindle into a Fragile Old Lady, and contradances as a hobby; at conventions, she is fond of costuming. She is married but has no children, by choice. Ms. Fischer will happily befriend any student who has an interest in learning, and tries to spark such an interest in the others if she can do so without being pushy. She also refuses to tolerate any sort of bullying in the library, and has a Mean Librarian reputation among the students who are accustomed to having their nasty behavior be ignored by teachers. She contributes to equality-activism causes and occasionally attends activist rallies. She
and Mr. Marshall are friends and allies.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Research, Good (+2) Geek Contacts, Good (+2) Computer Skills, Good (+2) Stronger Than I Look, Good (+2) Artistic Eye
Poor (-2) Very Nearsighted
Signature Stunt: Google-Fu (from Research) -- she can find useful information about any topic, no matter how obscure or difficult to define, very quickly.

* * *

“In a world where Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”
-- Neil Gaiman

High school stereotypes include a hostile division between jocks and nerds. Jocks are not considered smart, and nerds are not considered athletic. As Rise of the Silver Surfer so graphically illustrates, this nonsense can get people killed. Stan functions primarily on a physical level, but he's smarter than most people realize; Lawrence is primarily intellectual, but a lot more physically active than expected. They're a good match for each other -- but it takes time to learn their respective traits.

Human subject research requires careful attention to ethics, and you can see Terramagne being more careful about that even at the high school level. On the safe, easy end of the scale are observational studies like what Stan and Lawrence intend, conducted in public or semi-public places.

Operant conditioning and mirroring are two methods of influencing behavior.

Cognitive distortions are misleading thought patterns that need to be corrected in order to think clearly.

Lawrence has correctly identified that changing other people usually doesn't work, and it's much more feasible to change yourself instead.

Healthy relationships depend significantly on communication. Know how to improve relationships and boost communication.

Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg is one of the most recommended books on relationships and communication.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing

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