29.11.06

Imponderables

During the Sandinista reign in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s, almost every terrorist group in the world had an office there, including the PLO, the ETA, and the IRA. Anyone counseling that terrorist groups should not be lumped together would have a hard time explaining their presence. They were, in fact, components of the Soviet foreign legion brought together by their common antipathy for the United States.

Richard R. Reilly
Former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan
in The Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 2006

(emphasis mine)

Uh, I'm not so sure that the IRA and ETA were antipathetic to the US. As a matter of fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that the IRA was an instance of city-sponsored terrorism - specifically, Boston and New York. Which are in the US.

27.11.06

Notable Quotes

A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Douglas Adams

26.11.06

Link Responsibly

One of the things we librarians do is link to sites that are helpful to our communities. We also like to teach people how to find information that is valid, useful, authoratative. However, as Chris Harris points out, that linking can help create a so-called Google bomb:
Page Rank technology weighs quite heavily the incoming links from other pages. The text that is the link becomes the search term. A classical example of this is the "miserable failure" Google bomb where overwhelming numbers of people linked the text "miserable failure" to the White House page for President Bush. Therefore, when you search on Google for "miserable failure"the first hit is for President Bush [more info]
This wouldn't be a problem if all we linked to were sites like the Library of Congress' American Memory Project. The reality is, we also link to sites that are "bad" - examples of things that we want our communities to learn are false sites (extremely biased, inaccurate, whatever). Some are quite funny. Others are not.
Some evil people created a site to spread lies about Martin Luther King, Jr. and then through a combination of their evil practices and many unwitting accomplices, got their site to the top of Google searches for MLK. But we can change this!

Step 1) Do NOT and I mean NEVER, EVER, EVER again link to or type out the url for martin|luther|king|dot|org. Every time you link to it for a lesson on bad websites, you increase its rank on Google. We say it is bad, but Google sees the links as an endorsement.

Step 2) We can take steps to ease the damage that has been done by all of the links by promoting other links for the phrase Martin Luther King Jr. This is done by linking to various pages using "Martin Luther King Jr." as the link text within your blog posts. Thanks to Tom Hoffman for the code to make this a quick and easy post.

Step 3) Actually do this
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

We need to use our Voice to influence the Search. If you have a blog where you can post this, please take a few minutes to help out. Thank you. And thank you to Tom Hoffman for getting this started!
Legions of LazyReaders, go forth and do likewise!

ETA: If you use Mamma, Yahoo or another search engine, the offending website does not appear in the top links.

25.11.06

Culture Vulture, part one

In which our heroine goes to concerts, sees artwork and attends the theatre...

In early October, I learned that Cat Power would be playing at Irving Plaza. Now, usually I don't like to do work-day concerts, but this was an early show and I thought "hey, I can totally do that!" So Thing One and I went off to see her. OGIC and Terry both recommended her music and the albums I'd listened to were pretty good, and after seeing Guns'n'Roses, I figured that I could handle any on-stage meltdowns. Irving Plaza, if you've never been there, is mostly standing room. That's great if you're tall, but I'm not. My view of the stage was obstructed, which was fine while we waited for Cat Power to appear. 10 minutes after the appointed time, a video started. Many were getting a bit edgy after 20 minutes of video... but then the band arrived. Two instrumental songs in, and Cat appeared - arms waving, shuffling, smoking and singing. The Greatest wasn't an album I'd heard (have now!) and the songs on it are pretty good. The concert was pretty good - not good enough for the hippies who kept looking for more movement (and less pantomime), or more rock stuff. Query: if that's what you're looking for, why go to a concert like this? From what I understand, this was a good concert for her, part of a good tour. My recommendation? Go see her if you can.

The next week, I went to see the Festival Chamber Music performance at Merkin Hall. This was a double pleasure: a high school alumnae gathering, coupled with the debut of a new piece by a former student. The first and third pieces were nice, and I've even decided to get a copy of one of them (if you don't know them, please, go listen). The second, by Athena Adamopolous, was... interesting. She said that it was based on her previous summer, influenced by her time in London, Paris and Athens. You know, I could almost hear those disparate parts! There were bits that really (to me) sounded like London and Paris sound; I can only imagine that the other parts were "Athens". Even though this was the second week in a row in which I went to an evening event, I enjoyed myself. Even better? Spending time with school friends and former teachers.

Then it was off to Western Massachusetts and the Eric Carle Museum. LM_NET has been having quiet the discussion about the museum, and all I can say is: what are you fussing over? It's small. It's not got Big Art or pretentions. It's just what it says it is -- a small museum that has one focus, picture book art. The exhibit I dragged Thing Two to was that of 100 years of art related to the Wizard of Oz. Now, I love this series. I have all the Baum texts (but none of the Reilly, Thompson or other continuers). I was a member of the International Wizard of Oz Society for a few years. And this was one of those jewel-like installations: one gallery, with art by Denslow and Neil and others (since the initial books are out of copyright, current luminaries like Sabuda have made free with interpreting the text). The other exhibit, in the other gallery, featured books like Knuffle Bunny coming to life, from original idea to full illustration. Very enjoyable. The next day brought the perfect pancake. What a nice weekend.

Next post... Chicago and beyond...

23.11.06

(I've Got) Plenty to Be Thankful For

It's true: I do got plenty to be thankful for. No matter that my life feels as though it's in freefall - reality is, there's plenty of good in there. As there is, I suspect, with all of my readers. Let's celebrate that, shall we?

(ps: This post's title is from the movie that gave this blog its name...)

22.11.06

The purrfect nap

I woke up at my usual time today and fed The Boys. Checked my e-mail. Etc..

Then I curled up back in bed, joined by The Boys. My Big Boy pushed his way into my arms, teddy bear style. My Little Boy first perched on my side, but then went under the covers to nestle in the small of my back. We stayed that way for the next three hours, dreaming whatever dreams we had.

Today is my Official Day Off. Tomorrow I have a guest, and Friday I'll return to "work" (from the comfort of my living room, in the comfort of my pjs). Expect blog posts!

Until then, unless something exciting occurs, I predict you'll find me in another Mommy sandwich. Purring along with The Boys.

21.11.06

Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication

Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication (þ: Brainiac)

What age is right?

A while ago, Educating Alice posted about The Holocaust for Young Children. Since then, I've been mulling the question she poses:
But is this intended child audience developmentally ready to really understand the Holocaust?
I'd venture "no".

I grew up in a "survivor" community, and my Jewish upbringing was basically God of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob/Masada/Holocaust. With some Hebrew thrown in (prayers and Rocket to Mars). Nothing really about the joy of being Jewish - nothing about the great accomplishments (running away from pogroms does not count). The constant message was "we're doomed - everyone hates us". What a way to grow up, right?

Children don't always understand context. They don't always understand adult motivations. So giving them books like this isn't likely to increase understanding between religious groups, nor is it likely to make them aware of the horror that was the Holocaust (or genocide in general). My guess is that the more we dwell on this, the more we force them to "understand" the less they'll take in at an age when it's really appropriate. They'll watch movies like Schindler's List in an inured state, without reacting the way they're "supposed" to.

I'm not suggesting that all books for children be happy-laughing-fairy dust type books. Far from it. But let's not preach at them in hope that they'll Learn Big Lessons. Let's let messages creep in "Past Watchful Dragons".

Snarf... snark...

The True And Precise Nature Of Sausage

20.11.06

DUH!

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
Non-Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(þ: Oached Pish)

Imponderables

Presidents, Well Known or Not, Will Have Their Day on a Dollar. So, they're issuing a known collectable? (Login required)

13.11.06

What's your ink to data ratio?

A friend of mine and I were just talking about the art of revising one's work; she mentioned Tufte's work on data presentation (and his book on PowerPointless). The big question: what's your ink to data ratio?

In reading the previous week's posts, it's clear I've been wasting a lot of ink. As one of my favorite English teachers says, half as long, twice as nice.

11.11.06

Having a bad book day

Very akin to a "bad hair day" because there's the same amount of prep and the same lack of control.

Today's Bad Book is "Second Wave" by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. I know, I know: shocking. Usually the McCaffrey books are sooooo good. Not this one. I suspect it's because it's a sequel, and one of those that relies rather heavily on the first to set up the situation and the characters. Guess what? Never read the first one, so reading the second left me totally lost. After about page 30, I started to get irritated. By page 50, I closed the book.

Me. A Clean-Plate Reader. For the second time in my life.

Things to keep in mind

From the Little Professor, A cynic's guide to real estate vocabulary. With luck, that won't discourage me as I search for a new place to call home.

On the other hand, My Nutty Landlord is out raking and gathering up the leaves for the third time today (power tool use included; so much for my nap). He just can't keep up with 'em.

We can handle it

I just finished Chew on This, a book about the fast food industry. It's not as sensational as, say, Fast Food Nation or Spurlock's Super Size Me, which I liked. That's not to say that it supported the industry (although the authors did point out a few places where they're "doing it right" - and those aren't the places that currently litter our towns and strip malls), just that they tried to be rather factual about things.

All-in-all it wasn't a bad read... except... They were describing conditions for the various animals, and some of the problems with health conditions in the packing plants, and they kept using the words "poo" and "pee". Every time I saw those words I just cringed. Why? Because it seems to me that in this sort of book, it's OK to use the Real Words. It's OK to be accurate. Using that terminology just sounds so childish and I suspect that others will cringe much as I have.

On the other hand, it was an ARC so perhaps some editor somewhere's cleaned it up.

10.11.06

Don't even have to be there...

Tonight, a friend of mine is going to see G'n'R at Madison Square Garden. We went the last time they played... I suspect my review then will cover this performance (although the opening acts will be different, including Sebastian Blech Bach):
So, despite the bad weather and the transportation horrors, MSG actually sold out last night!

Of course, that wasn't immediately discernable because no one came before 8:30 - 9. Unfortunatly, some of us were there for the first opening act, CKY (Camp Kill You). There wasn't a rock cliche they didn't hit (windmilling the arm, pompous guitar solo, kewl gobo lighting swirling over the logo) and when they weren't playing they clearly thought they were in a fuckin' Mamet play. Very Spinal Tap, without the earnestness. Having seen my kids play over the years, I can tell when they're just phoning it in or when they're really feeling it. This was very much a fuckin' phoned in performance - ROCK AND (fuckin') ROLL!

Then Mixmaster Mike came on. High energy, lot's of "HEY NEW YORK!!!""s and "It's good to be home"s. They had a camera on him so you could see him doing the mixing (Rush, Blondie, Run-DMC and some other stuff I didn't recognize). He even told us to watch him scratch vinyl. Wow. A lot of the audience was doing those silly rap hand movements and it occurred to me that they were air scratching.
Ahhhh.... youth. I actually liked it, but I wouldn't go again to see him. Someone more creative, yes, no problem. But this seemed a bit like a "been there, done that" experience.

After the opening acts it was time for tit shots and lesbian kisses. No kidding. The camera roved the audience checking out T&A and then some of the girls decided to have fun. Two girls kissed (well, ok, there was lots of hair covering their faces so it was probably faked but you never know) and then one girl lifted up her shirt to show us all her silicone, which she was very proud of and wiggled and stroked and licked all for the camera. Huge roar of approval. Some of the girls were - shockingly enough - not thrilled to be caught on camera. Particularly after that performance. Oh - silicon gal? Got an encore.

We also met our seat buddies. To my left were a bunch of heavy metal fans. Black shirts, emaciated, etc.. In front, frat boys. Drunk frat boys. Wouldn't be surprised if they were DKEsters. To Jeff's right, a couple (mid 40s) from Westchester that were major fans. Their wedding album had "November Rain" as the theme/soundtrack.
Jeff's seen Gn'R several times and everyone was very impressed. The FBs asked what he was on when he saw them and were awed that he'd not done anything - like being straight at a concert is some sort of crime or just plain incomprehensible.

Having read that Axl n' the boys didn't go on until close to 11 for the past few shows, I was thrilled when they came out just before 10 (9:57 by my watch). The set was good (Welcome To The Jungle, It's So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Live And Let Die, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Think About You, You Could Be Mine, Robin Solo, Sweet Child O' Mine, Out Ta Get Me, Axl Piano Solo, November Rain, Chinese Democracy, Madagascar, Buckethead Solo, Rocket Queen, The Blues, My Michelle, Patience, Nightrain - and no, I didn't memorise that I got it off the website "Here Today... Gone to Hell..."), and Axl seemed to be in fairly good voice. Lord knows I couldn't run around the stage like that night after night! He did the Davy Jones, there were fireworks and torches and all the stuff you expect from a huge stadium concert.
The rendition of "Live and Let Die" was really good - better than anything Sir Paul could do (and since Sir Paul's on tour, I wonder if one could see competing versions). I didn't really care for the protracted guitar solos (Buckethead is no Eric Clapton) and the juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" with Gn'R's "Madagascar" was a bit confusing.

Axl's patter was fun, when it was comprehensible. He brought out donuts (Krispy Kreme) for what we thought was Al Roker, but it turns out it was Conan. Then, later, he mentioned that he'd read reviews saying that "The band's material is dated. No Shit" (not that I'm on a Sir Paul kick, but I wonder if he or the Stones get those comments?!). He mumbled a lot, so who knows what else he was saying. It wasn't that important, clearly.

One good thing - Jeff got the tickets at a low enough level, and MSG is sturdier than Shea, so I got to enjoy the concert not just stand there frozen in fear (which I'd done in '89 at Shea for the Stones... Michael still has the scars!). It was a bit surreal with the ushers and people wandering around selling glasses of champagne (excuse me??? $7.50 for a plastic cup of Korbel with mushy strawberries is just plain wrong, but at a rock concert it's downright unpatriotic!).

Of course, being able to enjoy the concert meant that I also got to take a good look at the stage, etc.. And, being the tech geek I once was, I took a gander at the lighting set up and all the amps and stuff. About halfway through I noticed this box at the end of the ramp leading far upstage right. Could have been an amp. But it looked a little funny for a plain amp. Then I noticed that the design on the front kept changing. Then the light hit: AXL USES TELEPROMPTERS. I spent the next few minutes looking around and finding the other five hidden on stage (hidden might not be the best word, but it's not like they were clearly marked "HEY, I don't know the words to my own songs so I have to read the lyrics" or anything). It was a bit distracting. I started wondering things like, does it say "extended guitar solo" or "wail" or "audience participation" or does the text just stop temporarily?

Then there was the pre-main show debate about Axl and plastic surgery. Part of it is that he's supposedly clean now, and going off herion can bulk one up. And then there's the lithium, which packs on a few pounds. And adding a few years can change a person's face. But in close-ups he just looked bad. So, having some idle brain time on my hands, I tried to figure out what it was. A WIG. Axl's hair is about as fine as mine, if not finer. Which meant that the cornrows (much discussed, apparently, by Axl Aficionados) had to be fake. And if the wig isn't applied properly, an odd line across the upper brow appears, leading to rumours of surgery. He got it fixed by the fourth or fifth song, but the damage to my eyeballs had already been done.

The audience was really up for it - many hands waving in the air, everyone yelling the songs (except the two new ones) along with Axl, some of the ever-popular Bic's flaring, pot and cigarette smoke hazing the air, and what I assume is a new twist, cell phones allowing those less fortunate (or smarter?) to listen along with the crowd. Jeff looked a little silly pumping his hand in the air but he wasn't alone.

Don't get me wrong - I've never really been to a concert like this, I don't mind the music, and I had fun. But once was enough. Particularly since it was on a weekday and I have to get up early and I'm not as young as I once was. Jeff, on the other hand, seems to be in fine shape (of course, he's ten years younger than I). And it's really clear that this isn't the sort of concert you go to to actually hear the group (unlike, say, the Julliard Quartet or kd lang) because often the audience was louder than the band, which, given the amp power of the band, is interesting - this is one of those "I saw them when" concerts.

All-in-all, it was a good night. Just not a "let's do this again soon" night.

Not alone, I see


You scored as A college textbook. You're an authority on something, you just know it. Everyone else does, too, but that doesn't mean they like you. Since you think very highly of everything you say, you charge a pretty penny to entertain your listeners. Those forced to pay do so grudgingly and try to defray the costs of learning from you by selling portions of their access to your charms to others. As a result of this speedy dissemination of your knowledge, you constantly add to your repertoire--and then hike your price. Despite your usefullness, which is rarely in doubt, nobody likes you. They find you didactic, boring and irrelevant--but still necessary.

A college textbook


82%

A classic novel


71%

An electronics user's manual


68%

A paperback romance novel


57%

A coloring book


39%

Poetry


39%

The back of a froot loops box


32%

Your Literary Personality


Just like Karmon. And (apparently) Jandy. I wonder how many others from TRP qualify?

8.11.06

Ain't that America?

Rumsfeld resigns... Britney Spears leaves K-Fed. And those are the leading topics of conversation.

'Nuff said.

Prescient or Curmudgeon?

Bill Joy, at the The Aspen Ideas Festival:
Bill Joy on the Internet and education

Joy, the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, dismissed the suggestion that the online communities formed around Internet games and LiveJournal pages could provide an educational boost for America’s young people.

This all … sounds like a gigantic waste of time. If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I was competing with spending their time on this kind of crap … [P]eople are fooling themselves that they’re being creative in these spaces … [T]he standard of creativity in the world, to be competitive and be a great designer, is very hard: you have to go to school; you have to apprentice; you have to do hard things. It’s not about, your friends like something you did. So I think this is setting a false expectation: you can create your own island and people come to it in a video game … and I don’t see any correlation between that and what it’s gonna take to be a designer and have a skill set to succeed in the world. So I go back to what I said before: we’re amusing ourselves to death; there are good uses of this technology, and I don’t see this as a good use of the technology …

[T]he real problem is, by democratizing speech and the ability to post, we’ve lost the gradation for quality. The gradation of quality was always based on the fact that words had weight—it cost money to move them around. So there was back pressure against … junk …

[U]ltimately, not everyone can have a million readers, because all the readers have run out of time. So it’s a false promise to people, that they can get the big audience. Because in the end—once [you’ve] gotten to the years when you’ve got a job, you’ve gotta raise your kids—you’re not gonna have time for this.
(from The Atlantic Monthly - login required)

At NYSAIS, I'll be hearing from Will Richardson. He doesn't agree with Mr. Joy. I wonder if he's thought about it from this perspective. I know it's one of the things that worries me.

7.11.06

Good, but could be better

Conference One (not to be confused with Conference Two, starting tomorrow) was good. For the most part, the presenters avoided the Things I Hate. I know that at C2, there'll be a lot of talk about the election and that I'll want to kill all of them: people, remember - not everyone shares your biases pro or con a party/person/policy. I know that in this polarized world it's hard to believe that you might actually know someone that doesn't think the way you do, but - gasp - you just might. So keep the major angst to yourself until you know you're not going to annoy anyone.

End of rant one.

Rant two concerns the purpose of C1. It's a "Leadership Summit", which is wonderful. I'm always flattered to be considered a leader. It was inspiring to hear many of the thoughts, but... I know too many "sheep". There was little to no talk about how to reach them. It's a conundrum for which I have little response. If they don't come to the conference, how do you get the ideas back to them? If they don't do professional reading, how do you get the ideas back to them? If they aren't passionate about staying current and being relevant, how do you get the ideas back to them? Even more important: how do you convince someone in a school with little money, no help and an administration that sets up roadblocks to change that these ideas matter?

So the "could be better part" for C1? Next time, let's work on outreach - create a primer of small steps that anyone can take, perhaps, or figure out ways to bring the news to "the people" rather than forcing them to travel to hear it.

Sadly, I expect the same from C2.

,

6.11.06

Where Are You?


My statcounter has added a Google Earth mash-up of where my readers are. This is one day's worth. Neat, no?

4.11.06

Did I disturb you?

Things One and Two often complain that I'm a disturbing reader. It's not just the 1000+wpm. It's not just my addiction to reading (and, some might argue, books).

It's the laughing. Sometimes it's a knowing chuckle - which is not, as they've learned, a hint for them to say "hey, what's so funny". I'll share if I want, but I'm chuckling to myself. Last night, it was out and out hysterics. This isn't the first time (Dave Barry, mondegreens and Terry Pratchett are pretty much guaranteed to get me rolling, and there's plenty more). Maybe it was the late hour... or the wine. But if you were in the hotel rooms adjacent to mine, and my laughing kept you awake. I'm sorry.

But really... you try not laughing as you read this.

3.11.06

On the road...

I settled into The Drake, went to a show last night, and have been catching up on "chores" this morning. Unfortunately, that didn't include a lengthy (and overdue) post on my Culture Vulture activities. I promise one in the next few days.

In the mean time, check out the AASLBlog and the SLJWiki for a glimpse of my current activities.

1.11.06