Imaginary friends

I have two chronic diseases/illnesses. They’re largely invisible. And for the most part they stay in hibernation.

One, Asthma, is easier to see when it gets cranky. There’s the wheezing noise. The coughing. The accouterments: inhaler(s), personal home nebulizer, extra pillows. People understand. They believe the invisible friend of asthma is real.

The other, Depression, is harder to see. And people are less likely to believe it exists.

They’re the imaginary friends I never wanted.

I had imaginary friends as a child. 5 of them. Eventually they didn’t hang out with me anymore, but I remember them. They were important. They were real to me. My mother, bless her, never argued about their existence. She accepted them. There was Eric, who wore a brown leisure suit with a cream ribbed turtleneck (it was the 70s!). Eric was my scapegoat. Momma yelled at me, I yelled at Eric. He was always being naughty. There was Big Dave, the gorilla, who protected the house and us. There was a little girl in a pretty party dress, who’s name I can’t remember. And one minor player that I can’t remember other than they existed for me.

And there was Alligator. Alligator was my everything. My best friend. He went everywhere with me. I could never describe him to others, but it didn’t matter. Alligator was Alligator.

No one could see him, but he was very much real. To the point my dad had to stop driving once and open the door to let Alligator in the car. I was inconsolable until he did that. After that I was perfectly happy.

Depression is a lot like Alligator. Except that Depression is an unwanted invisible friend that showed up for the first time in high school. And then again in college. And then never left. Now Depression goes everywhere with me. Sometimes Depression makes me inconsolable. Depression is hard to describe to others, he’s unique to me.

But it impacts everything. Depression shows up without warning. And Depression has come for an extended visit lately. Depression is always hungry when he visits. He eats my energy, my motivation. I’m trying to live with him again, but I’m not doing so well. I’m worried about work, about people there understanding because Depression is invisible and hard to describe. He’s ever present, generally content to just exist as an imaginary friend, subdued by medication and various tools and tricks, but right now he is demanding attention like whoa. It’s hard to function when Depression is demanding. It would be nice if like my childhood friends Depression would just fade away into a memory.

Alternately, I wish Alligator could come back and eat my unwanted invisible friend Depression.

Posted in depression, life | 2 Comments

Thoughts on data editing

It has been made painfully apparent that I might have some strong feelings about metadata editing. OK, some very VERY strong feelings.

As my staff will tell you (and tell you I repeat this to the point of annoyance), I take the following approach:

RULE #1: If it’s not wrong, leave it alone. Always. 

When editing, follow these three metadata editing steps:

  1. Fix errors. If something is wrong, fix it or remove it. Fix spelling errors, incorrect controlled vocabulary/identities, etc. Delete anything blatantly incorrect.
  2. Enhance. ADD value to the record to make it more findable. Add controlled data points (codes, controlled vocabulary, identities, relationship terms, etc.)
  3. Make it pretty. But ONLY if you have time to do so. It doesn’t matter how pretty the data is if no one can find it. Frankly, the user isn’t going to care if the note isn’t phrased “just so” as long as it has the information they need. Likewise, while all caps are annoying, they don’t impact indexing or findability (normalization…remember NORMALIZATION of all variable fields happens in indexing/searching) so just let it go. LET IT GO.

Don’t get me wrong. It took a LONG time for me to get to the point of letting go of the instinct to make everything pretty. I mean, I went into cataloging/metadata to channel my OCD in a positive/healthy direction. But I realized that my energy is better spent adding value and figuring out how to improve the system than on the little details that have no impact on findability.

And remember, sometimes you’re adding controlled data points for future use.  Just because your current system can’t use it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It just may be that the value can’t be realized in the current environment. Identifiers and controlled vocabularies and controlled data points (fixed codes) are what make the intertubes go ’round. Think about what your data will be able to do once it’s no longer silo-ed with that added data value.

Ultimately, always ask the following: IS IT FINDABLE?

If the answer is no, FIX IT and make it findable.

If the answer is yes, but not very well or it’s missing stuff…then ADD VALUE to make it more findable.

If the answer is yes, then just leave it be.

And if the answer is yes but I want to make it pretty, then BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD.

Spend your time and energy wisely. As with everything else, you want the best return on investment. And if you follow the main rule, and the three steps outlined above, you’ll see a positive impact on the findability of resources, without working overtime.

Posted in cataloging, librarianship | Leave a comment

The beginning of the end?

OK, at least I hope it’s the beginning of the end of this identity theft saga.

I spent over 2 hours on the phone on Friday trying to sort out what happened and fix it. Plus an additional hour or so on Monday. And a lot more time waiting for confirmation letters (I’ll be waiting on those for a few weeks more).

First I called the IRS. After spending a good 40 minutes on hold (OMG hold muzak is awful), I spoke with a very nice and very helpful woman. I was just trying to find out what I needed to mail them to dispute the tax adjustment. In what ended up being FABULOUS news, because I have all the paperwork, including the Federal court case number and the names of the two women that conspired and stole my identity, we were able to resolve the issue over the phone. I don’t owe the IRS any back taxes for forgiveness of a fraudulent loan.

I’ll still be holding my breath until I get the confirmation letter from the IRS that all is resolved. In three to five weeks. Natch.

Next I called the lending agency that filed the loan forgiveness using my Social Security Number. More time on hold with maddening muzak. After a good 15 minutes, I explained the issue to the receptionist. The woman who answered the phone was sufficiently horrified by the situation. After some back and forth and putting me on hold a few times to find out who to transfer me to, she asked me who I spoke with back in Dec. 2006. I gave her the name of the woman, and lo and behold, she still works there. SHE STILL WORKS THERE. Whoa. Unfortunately she wasn’t in on Friday, so I left a detailed message of the situation, reminding her that we spoke in Dec. 2006 about this same case, and for her to call me on Monday.

On Monday morning the woman from the lending agency called to get some more information. She does remember me and the situation and the ensuing court case (they filed a bunch of documentation with the courts). Needless to say she was very surprised to hear from me having assumed all was over and done with when the women were sentenced in 2008. Gee. I thought the same thing.

Apparently they were mandated by the courts to file 1099-C Cancellation of Debt forms for a number of accounts. The fraudulent account got mixed up in that. I’ve sent her all the relevant info about the 1099-C (date of file, etc.) on my IRS letter so hopefully she can figure out how an account closed due to fraud got mixed up in the court requirement. I also sent her the employee ID# for the lovely woman I spoke with at the IRS so she can fix the IRS issues on their end. She also promised to find a way to flag the fraudulent loan account so it never happens again. NEVER EVER. Somehow they have to figure out how to mark in their system to NOT file any paperwork with my Social Security Number. They can’t delete SSNs from their system (why, I’m not entirely sure…something about their antiquated system not letting them – they can correct, but not delete) but they should be able to permanently flag the account. She will mail me a confirmation letter detailing the situation and what they’ve done to fix it.

I still can’t fully exhale even now that things are in process to repair the latest issue and I’ve confirmed there will be no lasting damage. I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll really be able to trust that it’s all behind me. If nothing else, this has taught me to never ever let my guard down.

What you can do:
IRS Identity Protection
Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Info

If you’re a victim:
DO NOT DELAY. Act immediately. Alert your bank(s), credit/loan companies, and the 3 credit reporting agencies to flag your accounts, file a police report in the jurisdiction the fraud/identity theft has taken place, file an affidavit, and document everything. Keep your documents. I dug my 3 inch file out of a box of old files and it’s what has kept the pain of the process this time to a minimum. I can guarantee I will keep it forever now.

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