31.12.04

Year-End Thoughts

I'm not a maths person by any stretch of the imagination, but I can read some stats and interpret them.

For example, I'm really pleased to see that the readers of this blog are not all MSIE users: 34% of you perfer some other browser (and, really, for the 66% of you that are still using MSIE all I can say is WHY???? Try Firefox. Really. It's so much better.)

Another stat that pleases me is the number of returning visitors. There are 19 of you that have visited over 10 times! Quite possibly that number is higher, but some of you may have your cookies off and appear as new visitors each time. In either case, thank you. Even though you don't comment regularly (if at all), knowing that someone is reading this makes me happy. I hope I don't disappoint you in 2005.

In the "imponderable" category is the 25% of viewers that are not from America. I think that's because of Blogger's "next blog" function, and because of skewed search results. Still, bienvenue, wilkommen, néih hóu and czesc.

Happy 2005 to all!

29.12.04

R.I.P.

Jerry Orbach, Star of 'Law & Order,' Dies. Usually, when a star of this magnitude dies, there's a call for a marathon of his works; my morbidly inappropriate sense of humour recognizes how redundant that would be. Just yesterday I was watching Dirty Dancing and admiring him in the role of Daddy.

My fondest memory is of him in Chicago. Years later, watching James Naughton in the same role, with the same choreography, I missed Orbach's twinkle. I think I'll listen to the CD of the original cast, and maybe follow it up with the cast album of Carnival.

He will be missed.

Next Step

Now that you've taken the time to clean your computer's HD, it's time to tackle that new bugaboo, "information overload" (aka "data smog", aka "info obesity"). Librarian in Black recommends this survey: Assessing and Addressing Information Overload.

Good luck!

Ponderables

I found this sig file on one of the listservs I frequent:

An optimist is a person who does crossword puzzles with a ballpoint pen.

Now, most of the people that know me would say that I am not an optimist. Yet I do crossword puzzles (NYT, WSJ, G&M) with a pen - sometimes ballpoint, sometimes fountain, sometimes whatever comes to hand. Do I now have to reconsider my outlook on life?

28.12.04

Personal Outrage

I'm adopted. And even if I weren't, this "concept" for a reality show would disgust me. 'Who's Your Daddy?' TV show sparks fury The best thing that could happen is that no one will watch, but I fear that people will, much as they watch car accidents and other disasters. Bread and circuses, folks, bread and circuses.

27.12.04

Give your computer a holiday gift

Clean it up - do a full virus check, defrag your hard drive, etc.. Then go to Corey Seeman -- Resources for a Healthy Computer for free ways to keep it clean and running smooth.

26.12.04

These poor people

The news from Asia is just horrific. God help them and their loved ones.

UPDATE: For "you are there" reports, check out 2bangkok.com's blog or go here for a good round-up of the news/blog postings. (þ: Jeff Jarvis)

24.12.04

Links Galore

  • You know that song in that commercial, the one you really like but can't figure out who sings it or where to find it? Check out Adtunes.com - they'll have the answer.
  • Of course, there are a lot of fake bands out there, so you better double check. As the site says, "[f]inally, all the fictional bands and singers from TV and movies listed in one convenient, scarily obsessive place. Why? It's the Internet, stupid! The Internet was created for such things as this!" (þ: Research Buzz)
  • If you celebrate Christmas, tomorrow (or Sunday) is the day when you start to thank people for their generosity. Before you do, take a few moments to check your handwriting against the best available.
  • Some of us don't use Google as our everyday search engine. Which means we miss the Google Doodles. Lucikly, we can go here to catch up! (How long will it take for Coke to claim infringement?!)
  • Finally, a little something to make you feel completely stupid.
Merry Christmas!

21.12.04

If you haven't given yet...

Earlier there was a bit of a to-do about Target's saying "no" to all solicitations, including the annual Salvation Army drive. There's also been a whole "buy blue" thing happening, in which people that vote "blue" are supposed to buy from companies that support "blue" causes (for example, Powells is preferable to Amazon).

Now, here's a conundrum: Walmart, a huge "red" supporter, has come to the Salvation Army's aid:Wal-Mart's Salvation Army save (þ: Major Dad 1984). So, what do "blues" do? Here's my suggestion: forget the blue/red crap (for a great rant on that topic, go read Aravis' blog). People aren't one or the other, and neither are corporations.

Give to Sally A. and feel good about it.

'Nuff said.

Tis the eternal season

According to the newsletter I get from Encyclopedia Brittannica:
One of the most common gifts of all is the toy. The ball, the doll, the kite, and the yo-yo are thought to be the oldest playthings, and human and animal figures -- sometimes mounted on wheels and dating as far back as 2,600 BCE -- have been found in ancient Egypt, India, China, and Mesopotamia.
So give in to your inner child, give a toy (to yourself even!) and just let the wonders of the gift-giving season take over.

20.12.04

Notable Quotes

Christmas Amnesty. You can fall out of contact with a friend, fail to return calls, ignore e-mails, avoid eye contact at the Thrifty Mart, forget birthdays, anniversaries and reunions, and if you show up at their house during the holidays (with a gift) they are socially bound to forgive you -- act like nothing happened. Decorum dictates that the friendship move forward from that point, without guilt or recrimination.
The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore

17.12.04

Links Galore

15.12.04

So many books... Part Two

At first I thought that using GalleyCat's analysis of the "Best of 2004 Fiction Lists" might be a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff. Then I noticed the Philip Roth led the list, with 23 mentions. I hate Roth's work. However, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is second with 20 mentions, and I liked that book. So I guess it's a toss-up. Still, it's a good collection development tool.

Imponderables

From the Floor reports that Thomas Kinkade has acquired the rights to Maurizio Cattelan. Why does this strike me as not the best mix?

So many books...

As the holidays grow nearer and I look at Mt. Bookpile to determine what I'll read during my upcoming Break, some thoughts about reading crossed my mind. In part, they were inspired by a post by OGIC on About Last Night entitled "The Five Hundred Twenty". In it , she quotes from another blog and then comments:
My financial adviser informs me that I must die when I am 87 because I will run out of money at that point. So, assuming she is right, at two books a month I will read only 520 books more in my lifetime. Do I want to waste one of those precious allotments on an award-winning book that I find neither enjoyable nor enlightening? I do not.

My own expected number of books-yet-to-be-read is higher than 520. But that doesn't make it any less stark, wherever it may fall. This is why I want to know if Critic X didn't think a book was the best of the year as reputed, and why I don't want critics to pull their punches. It doesn't mean I implicitly trust any one critic's judgment (well, maybe Wood's, tried and true), but, like Marjorie, I do want as much varied input as possible, and I want critics to write with readers, not authors, in mind. The 2003 Booker showed me that awards committees can be every bit as fallible as critics; I hasten to add that the converse is also true. All we can ask of each is frank and searching judgment, and to please keep in mind the (shudder) 520.
Like OGIC, my total is above 520 (assuming I'll live to 87, that's another 44 book reading years and at my usual rate of about 100 books/year, I'll get 4400 in). That's books, which doesn't include magazines and newspapers, which I also read in quantity.

Now, 4400 sounds impressive - and it probably would be if I could guarantee that each of those books would be "quality" books. But, as I've mentioned earlier, some books are just disappointing. I don't judge quality by pages, or by good reviews, nor do I restrict my reading to serious literature/non-fiction. Genre fiction (particularly a good mystery) is just fine with me. Earlier this year I was introduced to a good YA/fantasy writer by one of my students and now I'm eagerly collecting the author's works. To me, that's quality: a book or author that leaves you wanting more, that gives you "earworms".

Still, I'm left feeling that if I've only got another 4400 books to read, there should be some criteria that will allow me to avoid the disappointing ones and concentrate my efforts on the really good stuff. Unfortunately, even the best of critics/recommenders and I diverge on occasion (the Confederacy of Dunces incident still rankles!). I'm also left wondering what on Mt. Bookpile should be gifted (or regifted) without being read... and if there's a way to organize them in a "read this first" order.

If you have ideas or helpful hints, please pass them along. I'm all eyes.

14.12.04

Doing your civic duty

This article about how you can Stop the Parents Television Council before it gets beyond the TV caught my attention. I'm not big on censorship and while I have advised people not to read/watch certain things, that is based on my knowing them and not on some blanket assumption that if I find it offensive/bad everyone else will.

All it takes is sending an e-mail to Michael Powell. And telling everyone you know to do so, too. Let him know that there are a lot of responsible people out there and that 350 members of the PTC shouldn't be allowed to judge what's best for the rest of us.

13.12.04

I haven't forgotten you

Yes, I know blogging has been slow recently. This Friday I start my Winter Break and I'm trying to get through a long list of "things that MUST be done" before I take some much needed rest. So, during this lull, check out some of the sites mentioned under "Daily Reads" and "Friends and Fun". I enjoy them, so why shouldn't you?

11.12.04

I'm so vain

Have you ever "googled" yourself? I just did. It's a little frightening to see nine-year-old messages appear (I posted to a professional listserv while doing an internship). It's also strange seeing others with your name. I've never thought of my name as being particularly unique, but it's not the most common of names or combinations. Yet there are three of "me" born in the 1800s. Another "me" is CEO of a corporation and an Amazon reviewer. Still another is a student. I'm the most popular "me" out there, though. Which is a good thing, right?

On the other hand, it makes me think that J.J. Luna's How to be Invisible should be the very next book off Mt. Bookpile!

10.12.04

Imponderables

Teen Accused of Robbing Own Sister at Shop.

She's back!

CoCo's Corner has returned. Go see what she has to say.

Links Galore

9.12.04

A propos of my Blog Thoughts posts

Martin from Chapel Hill has posted some questions for a Blog Ethics Analysis 2004. In essence, he's trying to figure out why we blog. Go help him figure this out. I plan to.

It's nice to be needed

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about technology, information, blogging, etc. and heard a great term for what I'm starting to feel - media obesity. In previous incarnations, this was known as "data smog" or "information overload". I think now, with the plethora of ways to get information, "media obesity" really fits what I'm feeling.

For example, I have DTV at home, with 200-300 channels. I have an iPod with 2500 songs (and more stored in my iTunes). I have a T1 connection at work that gives me fast access to the web (and however many gazillions of pages are available) and databases. While I'd like to believe I'm judicious about what I'm watching/listening to, I suspect I'm not. And, let's be honest, if there are that many pieces of information coming my way all day, every day, how much am I really taking in?

Worse, how much am I really enjoying and learning from?

It's time to do some serious weeding.

Today, this article crossed my path. William Brody writes
Massive information overload is placing librarians in an ever more important role as human search engines. They are trained and gifted at ferreting out and vetting the key resource material when you need it. Today's technology is spectacular — but it can't always trump a skilled human.

Have you hugged your librarian today?
I am a librarian who knows how to "ferret out" quality resources. It's time I did it for myself, not just my patrons. And then, I'll give myself a big hug.

8.12.04

You know you're old when...

A young child, completely innocently, says "You have salt-and-pepper hair" without realizing that perhaps you didn't want to hear that!

My nominee for Best Award of the Year

This year's Foot in Mouth award goes to Boris Johnson MP. (þ: Language Log)

7.12.04

And now for something completely ridiculous

Aravis is trying to help the police find this man. You can help, too.

Good art gives you earworms!

I usually don't write about the arts because, quite honestly, I don't know that much about them. While I've been to many of the great museums, seen a number of operas and ballets and modern dance performances and plays and musical events, my "scholarly knowledge" of all of that is minimal. I do know when I like something and when I don't, but being able to express what I like (or don't like) in educated terms is something I can't do.

What I can say is that good art gives you earworms. What are earworms? That's the term for that annoying snippet of a song that gets stuck in your head for a while. For example, around this time you might find yourself "rum-pum-pumming" to "Little Drummer Boy" for no reason except that the tune is running through your mind. I admit that it's difficult for a piece of art to get stuck quite the same way that a melody does, but believe me, it can and does. Sometimes it's the color, sometimes it's the composition - but if you find yourself thinking about Monet's Waterlillies or Rosetti's Beata Beatrix, that's an earworm.

You may not realize what the dance step is called, but when you see a triple fouette it's impressive and the sight will remain with you. A hauntingly beautiful sonata can do the same. So can a passage from a book, or a movie.

What's "great" however, is up to you - the audience. I am of the opinion that even the mediocre can be elevated to great by one element. For example, to me, this lyric from Beau Dommage rescues an otherwise so-so song:
"Ne a Montreal
D'une famille normale
Eleve dans le noir
Entre la t.v.
Et le purgatoire"

(very loose translation: Born in Montreal to an average family, raised in the dark between tv and purgatory). What an image!

The movie Casablanca was considered mediocre, but how much of the dialog has entered our culture? I'm shocked, shocked that you would think that movie anything but great.

Almost 30 years ago I read Night by Elie Weisel. There's a passage that haunts me to this day - an earworm that elevated the book in a way that The Diary of Anne Frank has never done.

That's right: earworms strike again.

Last night I was at Rose Hall at the Jazz at Lincoln Center space. (Side note: if you ever get a chance to go, do so!) The performances were great, but the "earworms" I'll take with me are of tiny fingers flying over a keyboad producing a torrent of sound... the high note on "Ave Maria"... a string sextet weaving melodies onto melodies... What did I hear? It doesn't matter. It was great because those moments stayed with me and will live in my memory.

Don't let anyone tell you that you don't know great art. If you get earworms, you do.

6.12.04

Notable Quotes

Get your own geek.
Nicole Noone, The Librarian

5.12.04

Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse Him

With all the news reports of a new King Tut exhibit to tour America, Steve Martin feels it's time to clear up some misconceptions we might have about the King. (login required)

3.12.04

Links Galore

Imponderables

I just love this list: Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year 2004. The top word is "blog" (widely reported on other blogs) but the others in this top ten are:

2. incumbent
3. electoral
4. insurgent
5. hurricane
6. cicada
7. peloton
8. partisan
9. sovereignty
10. defenestration

Given the events of 2004, I understand why people looked for 1 through 9. But number 10? Could someone please explain to me why this was the 10th most searched for word of 2004?

2.12.04

Imponderables

America believes in the separation of Church and State, right? But what about when the State mentions Church? Apparently, that's a no-no: Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School.

Holiday Gift Ideas

Thanks to Aravis for pointing this out: .

(This site is part of a family that includes The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Child Health Site, The Rainforest Site, and The Animal Rescue Site. Click often.)

It's Back!

After an extended hiatus, Day by Day returns.

30.11.04

Venti = "Weasel Snot"?

Confused by the new terms for "small", "medium" and "large"? Language Log takes a look at Latte lingo.

I have to agree with their comments. It's much like that AmEx Gift Card commercial where the snotty saleswoman refers to "flavors" instead of colors. When did good, old orange become "pumpkin"? And what's with all the names for blue? Even my Crayola box didn't have those colors! Sometimes I wonder if I should be looking for a "Venti Cashmire Cerise V-neck with No Cables" when I go to the LL Bean site or into Bloomies.

It's bad enough that at 5'4" I have to get "women's petite" clothing (and doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?!). Can't we just use the words we learned years ago? Let's take back our language! Who's with me?

Holiday Gift Ideas

Do you know an angry driver? Consider buying Road Rage Cards this year. (þ: Librarian in Black)

29.11.04

Imponderables

Paternity suit runs into double trouble. Uh, excuse me???

Notable Quotes

There are three kinds of people in this world - those who can count and those who can't.
Unknown

28.11.04

And the divide grows wider

I know all about those Texas textbooks - you know, the ones with the disclaimers about what's "science fact" and what isn't. So now someone's created a bunch of stickers for other branches of science. I'm sure most "right thinking" people think the stickers, and the accompanying commentary, are funny but to me, they're not. They're the sad reminder that people are intolerant of other's beliefs and that if you're even slightly skeptical about what science claims, you're branded a kook.

26.11.04

Plenty to be thankful for...

It's that melancholy time of year: days getting shorter, and grayer; faux holiday cheer on the streets and in stores; "buy buy buy" warnings from the media; and families trying to gather the strength for one more get together (hopefully less contentious or stressful than last year's). It's also the time when many of us reflect on the past year, our hopes for the next and our relationships to people and whatever we call the Higher Power.

Some time ago I clipped this from Hoarded Ordinaries
In their work on Christian pilgrimage, anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner use the word communitas to talk about the experience pilgrims share when they arrive at their communal destination. Although each seeker might have taken a separate path, the footsteps leading to a spiritual goal being entirely one's own, when seekers meet up at Lourdes or Canterbury or Lough Derg, they find themselves in a community of believers. After traveling separate paths, these seekers are united by a shared belief that this particular place is the sight of special spiritual power... We each have to walk our paths alone...but at the end as well as along the way, we share our walks with other people.

Over the past few years I've been studying the works of C.S. Lewis (under the guidance and tutelage of Jim Como) and have, in a slothful way, made a pilgrimage towards a better understanding of the Divine and what Lewis called "Mere Christianity". I was not alone in this pilgrimage, there were others with me, and we all arrived at the end with different appreciations and results but, as the above says, "united by a shared belief that this particular [person] is the [site] of special spiritual power." And I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the friends I've made throughout the years. Recently I remade contact with a friend (almost said "old" friend, which she is but I really meant "someone I knew years ago"). She's in Australia and I'm here in America, and we haven't seen each other in almost 20 years. We might get together in April, when she's here for a family gathering. She is the person (excepting family) that I've known longest in my life. Then there are the friends I've recently made, equally important in my life because of the fresh perspectives and insights they provide.

Despite doing "nothing" yesterday, I felt comforted by the presence of my beloved cats. And last night, with Bogie curled on the pillow next to my head and Mallory using my feet as his pillow, I felt surrounded by their love.

No matter how gray or melancholy it gets, there really is "plenty to be thankful for."

(For those of you that don't know where that quote is from, or where the title of this blog is from, go rent Holiday Inn now)

Links Galore

23.11.04

Imponderables

I think it's time to start a new section of this blog: things I just can't seem to wrap my mind around. Here's yet another one via MSNBC Of mice, men and in-between

Stop the world

I want to get off. Why? Because sometimes, things happen that make you wonder what happened to the world you once knew. For example:
I just don't understand. Do you?

22.11.04

Notable Quotes

[Y]oung Americans are currently taught only about the violence of war. They must also learn about the violence of tyranny. For if we teach only the horrors of war, we teach cowardice.


19.11.04

Links galore

  • FLASHBACK: 80s lyrics alert (þ: Nina)
  • Sorry I missed the celebration this week. (þ: Language Log)
  • Just in time for the holidays: the Cook's Thesaurus. "More than a thesaurus, it's 'a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients and kitchen tools. Entries include pictures, descriptions, synonyms, pronunciations, and suggested substitutions.' (þ: Neat New)

18.11.04

Another example of getting what you didn't paid for (or want)

In July I mentioned that Linda Ronstadt had gotten booed offstage because of political comments she made during a concert. This bothered me then, and it bothers me now, particularly since the election.

Michael McGrorty had a recent "Unfortunate Event" with David Handler at CLA:
Mr. Handler observed the usual conventions and added a contemporary twist. During his speech he mentioned more than once his dismay over the victory of the Republican party in the presidential elections, and managed to compare the current reign of President Bush to that of former two-term President Ronald Reagan. His reference was anything but complimentary; it was in fact an expression of distaste, even loathing. For the record, these remarks received a thin smattering of applause from the assembly.... I neither welcomed nor appreciated Mr. Handler’s political asides in sum or in detail.

To begin with, Mr. Handler has misjudged his audience. He was speaking not to a group of individuals who may believe as he does but to a convention of librarians whose role and duty is to preserve the right to freedom of expression and to information without the stain of partisanship, whatever their own views....

For another thing, the assumption of a uniform dislike of the Bush administration is simply a mistake and presumes that librarians would submit to the muzzling of their more conservative peers...

Finally, it must be said that we do not appreciate the presumption that we possess any uniform set of beliefs, even and perhaps especially those which appear to be in the majority among our population. The assumption takes too much for granted, denies us our individuality and the right to change our minds, to make different decisions based on our own evaluation of facts and circumstances. It assumes we can’t think for ourselves, a bad guess to make about a group of folks who spend their lives in rooms filled with computers and books.... For myself, I add this note: The next time you want to agree with me, Mr. Handler, don’t do it in front of a crowd of librarians.
I find it refreshing that a self-confessed liberal questions the appropriateness of Mr. Handler's comments.

I've "met" the author at another conference and he was very funny and charming. Would I find him to be so if he'd made political comments? I think not. But this isn't the worst of it: even friends make these assumptions and then refuse to back off.

At the conference I recently attended, several people were still visibly upset about the election results. One friend mentioned that she'd never met a conservative or a Republican that she liked; when I responded that I was fairly conservative and my friends/family are Republicans it was amazing how quickly her smile faded and she left. Only one person understood what I was saying and decried the divisions in this country.

On a similar note, I've dropped an on-line group I hung out with for years because of the intolerance of the "other" point of view. Calling people that voted for Bush "dumb" and people that are religious "dumb" (or "dumber than most") is just not helpful, people! Trying to understand why these divisions exist and how to bridge that gap is what's needed, not refusing to accept that a large number of people don't agree with the so-called Liberal Elite and are rebelling against their ideas.

Sadly, I only see another four years of this nonsense.

17.11.04

Blog Thoughts (Part Three)

Yesterday a friend forwarded me a .wmv file captioned "Old Habits Die Hard". It showed a woman typing away on her keyboard and then slamming her computer off the desk as she atavistically hit the return lever. Remember those?

Also yesterday, another friend started a Yahoogroup and a website (which could hold a blog and a forum and... and...) for the group of neighbors that are protesting a housing development in their area.

And, also yesterday, Karen Schneider wrote on her blog:
And frankly, though I believe in Hot Tech and Ubiquitous Computing and all that, the best part of the CLA presentations was that the audience members were listening to what I had to say. Which is where I have a bone to pick with my biblish buddies Michael Stephens and Steven Cohen, who are at Internet Librarian wondering where the bloggers are, because they are one of a handful of people blogging during the presentations.

Yeah, I know it's called multitasking, and I know the NextGens think it's hot. But I think it too often can be an excuse for solipsism. Just when you should be all eyes and ears for someone else, what are you doing? Blogging!

As an adjunct library science instructor, far too often I have had to walk around the room and say Shut Down That PC And Listen. I have seen the pouts, the lower lips pushed out, the dagger eyes. I have said Shut It Down Anyway. If nothing else, you are paying good money for me to bore you.


All this blog/computer activity got me thinking about technophobes vs. technophanatics. While I'm not accusing any of the above of being the latter, they don't have too much sympathy for the former. Me? I'm somewhere in-between, trying to figure out which technology I like, which I don't and how to integrate that into my life in a meaningful and helpful way.

For example, I use Quicken to pay my bills and keep track of expenses and my checkbook. But I can still do manual double-entry accounting, should I ever need to. Part of me misses those green columned pads and Fred, my TI calculator, sits on the floor of my living room. Using the computer makes it a little easier in terms of playing with the numbers and, since the advent of Check 21 and on-line billpaying, it's probably good to have kept up with the times.

Last January I made a conscious effort to write to friends. I have stationery and a fountain pen, and I used them. I got a number of responses back that said, in effect, "I loved getting your letter... I hope you don't mind my e-mailing my response." Well, yes, I do mind. Getting letters is fun. Getting e-mail is, well, everyday stuff. I do have one penpal and we correspond, but beyond that my mailbox is bereft of communication with friends and family (except at holiday and birthday time, when they still manage to get cards into the mail - but how long with that last?).

My friend that started the blog is one of those computer tweakers - downloading cracks for programs that he'll only use once or twice but thinks are "cool", lecturing all about the way their computers are set up, using VOIP services, etc.. He spends a lot of time frustrated with people that aren't interested in learning to be as advanced as he. Back in the "good old days", mimeographing announcements and coffee sessions to discuss the latest information took a lot of time and effort. Creating a website and a newsgroup is more modern, certainly but it's also more distancing: there's no "neighborliness" there.

Yes, I blog. But, as stated before, it's really for me and I often see it as sort of a journal that I can share (like these "Blog Thoughts" posts). I could use an old fashioned diary just as easily, but then the venting aspect wouldn't take place. For me, it's sometimes like writing that really hate-filled letter to an ex or a teacher or whomever and then burning it. You got the feelings out, but no harm done. Here are thoughts I want to share and it's up to people to decide if they want to share in them. Given my site stats, not many do and that's ok.

I recognize that this is the right tool for me to use right now. It might not be later: I may start a real diary or I may move to another forum or who knows what the future holds. But it's the tool that matters, and knowing when and how to use it properly.

My final thoughts for today are remembering a keynote speaker at a conference I attended a couple of years ago. He was extolling the wonders of the Palm and how everyone would be using them in school in the future (more on that in a later post). During the Q&A, I asked how we were teaching students about choosing the right tool for the right job and if we weren't pushing Palms as the cure-all rather than as one choice. He responded that "everyone" was using Palms and to get used to it. Then someone asked how large the IT department at his school was. He pulled out a piece of paper on which he'd written the response.

'nuff said.

Blog Thoughts (Part Two)

One of the intreresting things you learn from Powells Books - Ink Q & A Susan Orlean is this: "Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
Married him."

Given the anonymity that most bloggers have, and the distances separating us,not to mention the newness of blogging, I wonder how common this might be. I know that there are some husband/wife and boyfriend/girlfriend bloggers - not necessarily on the same blog - but to meet a reader and end up married to that person?

I'm sure someone will write a book or blog about the possibilities soon. But it does lead one to think about the nature of the connections we make with the people that choose to read our words daily (or weekly or occasionally).

More later.

15.11.04

Blog Thoughts

I recently attended a conference where blogs were not only discussed but there was a conference blog (and a session blog for one of the sessions). I'd been thinking about the nature of blogging for a while and this got me thinking even harder.

When I started this blog it was a way for me to put "out there" thoughts and links that I thought were interesting but that most probably didn't matter to anyone else. Friends could check, read and (or) ignore as they chose and I wasn't wasting their bandwidth e-mailing them stuff. The concept of belonging to The Blogosphere really didn't enter into my thoughts. Then I noticed that people outside my immediate circle were noticing what I was writing and some were commenting on it. While that hasn't changed what I post, it has made me think more about the community for whom I'm writing.

With this conference, the blog wasn't really a success by most blogger's standards. Few people really commented on the sessions and discussion was limited. Still, given the geographically diverse group of people that attended, a blog would appear to be a good way to continue the conversations started. Why a blog rather than an e-mail list? Because you can opt-out of a blog: it is your choice to read and respond. Because a blog is less annoying than an e-mail message with a ton of quoted previous comments. And because a blog can track comments on different topics easier than an e-mail list can.

I think the next time this group starts blogging, it'll be a richer experience for all. As for my blog, well... more on that later.

Notable Quotes

Previously seen on a colleague's sig file:

(until the Red Sox win the World Series)

Currently on that colleague's sig file:

(until the Celtics win #17)

Talk about greedy (although I have to admit I agree with the prayer)!

12.11.04

What are you waiting for?

Mozilla Firefox 1.0PR has been released. Check out the built-in pop-up blocker, tab-browsing mode and integrated Google, IMDB and other engine searching. Surf the web safely and without the nonsense that IE forces on you.

Links Galore

  • OOPS! Regret The Error reports on corrections, retractions, clarifications, and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in North American media." (þ: Bookslut)
  • Essential Keyboard Shortcuts "Easy to learn and real timesavers. For example, if you need to get into Windows desktop in a hurry hold down the Windows key and press D. Also, Windows-E zips you to My Computer."
  • Worried about who's looking at your stuff? Check out the Spyware Center from one of the most trusted technology resources (CNET). Includes spyware basics, a glossary, a blog for the latest info, and reviewed downloads of top-rated spyware fighters. (þ: NeatNew)

9.11.04

Productive weekend

I just completed a very productive weekend: banking, errands (including laundry), magazine editing, etc. all getting done. It's really incredible how much better life seems when you see that check next to the "To Be Done" list and that pile of papers/trash growing.

My only complaint is that I didn't had enough time to read my new book. I was looking for something "good" to read after two disappointments in a row (something I haven't experienced in a while). I found one, but which book it is isn't important. What is important is why the two books I read were, in my mind, disappointing.

Because of my job, I read a lot of YA Literature. Now, some of it is really good, with interesting characters and plots and all that. C.S. Lewis said that a good story can be read by anyone at any time, and I agree with that: just because the intended audience is much younger than I doesn't mean that I won't really enjoy it just as much. The three big trends in YA Lit seem to be Harry Potter-esque, Lemony Snickett-esque and Darren Shan-esque. The problem is that, while imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, often it's done poorly. The Prophecy of the Stones is a meld of Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Jane Yolen/Diana Wynne Jones and written by a 14-year-old. That, of course, is the salient point: the author was 14. To tell the truth, it's quite good for someone that age, but it's not quite good enough. At least, I don't think so.

One of the bigger problems is that Prophecy was described as "The Next Harry Potter". That's an automatic UH-OH. Anything that's "The Next" probably isn't (I mean, really, the Bay City Rollers were so not "The Next Beatles"). That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good, but the expectations one has of something being The Next are inevitably not met.

The other book I read, Codex, was The Next Da Vinci Code. And again, it wasn't. It wasn't even a good imitation. I had no interest in the characters or the plot; I honestly contemplated not finishing it. The last book I didn't finish was several years ago, The Mark Twain Murders (the killer was when an academic library was shelved according to Dewey and Twain was located in the 820s - if you're a librarian you know how wrong that is!). Codex didn't have any such egregious errors, it was just boring. If you're going to be Da Vinci-esque, at least talk more about the book mystery and how that's resolved. This was one of those blink-and-you-missed-it solutions.

I do enjoy series-type reading. Good series, that is. One problem is when the author loses the thread or the charm as the series grows. Martha Grimes, for example, did that with her Richard Jury series. Her solution? Write a few books that weren't part of the series and voila, the series improved. Reginald Hill, on the other hand, has not lost his ability to write a good read. Good Morning... Midnight has restored my enjoyment of the written word. Now I'm on to The Next (next) Da Vinci Code. More on that later.

8.11.04

Notable Quotes

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.
- Moses Hadas

5.11.04

Last words

Once again, Colby Cosh gets it right: "How about reaching for a tall foamy glass of the obvious? Gore and Kerry lost because they were Gore and Kerry--schoolmarmish, humourless stiffs who had spent most of their lives preparing consciously for the presidency." And Daniel Henniger explores why Blue Democrats lost red America back in 1965. (login required)

Links Galore

3.11.04

Sorry about the lack of posting

Unlike some, I'm not depressed about the election. I get why Bush won. I even understand people that voted for him.

I do, however, have a serious case of the book-blahs. Two books I read recently just weren't that great. I'll write about that later, but right now I'm in search of 1. a good read and 2. some Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

A long night's journey into the unknown

  • These are cool: no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, you've got to love the BBC Interactive Electoral College Map. C-SPAN has another map, showing slightly different results.
  • The view from Canada can be found over on Colby Cosh and at Macleans. My favorite line? "As I type this, Ralph Nader, who has already received more minutes in screen time from C-SPAN than he did votes, is droning on about how great Canada's voter-registration and balloting systems are. Sure, I agree, but it's like hearing a homely, aggressively dumb girl explain in detail what a hard, throbbing crush she has on you."

2.11.04

A humorous thought for today

Exploring Aravis contains this in today's post: "As I was driving through the town I saw something that struck me as funny. First there was the standard yellow street sign which read 'Caution Elderly Housing.' The next building after this sign was a funeral home.

Actually, the elderly housing development is across the street from the funeral home. I'm not at all sure that's an improvement. Whose poor granny gets the apartment that overlooks that?"

For today

(assuming you're a liberal and/or Democrat) Election Day/Night Survival Guide (þ: Bookslut)

No matter what your politics are, VOTE. It's the very least you can do.

1.11.04

What to do tomorrow night

Your very own Election Night cheat sheet (þ: Crooked Timber)

Notable Quotes

That unknown persons should think themselves entitled to comment upon so private a matter as a death and a resurrection, that they should vent their curiosity in letters to her daughter was a circumstance to excite Mrs. Wintertowne's utmost displeasure; she had a great deal to say in censure of such vulgar, ill-bred beings, and upon his arrival at Brunswick-square Sir Walter was obliged to listen to all of it.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke

30.10.04

Who's next?

While SI readres ponder Who has the most die-hard fans now?, I suggest we all just buy this t-shirt and root for the Cubbies. After all, the BoSox had five Series titles before The Curse and the 86 year draught. Now that we've won, wouldn't it be great if the Cubs could do the same?

29.10.04

The view from the middle

Crooked Timber has a guest blogger from Ohio. He'll be blogging about the election and what it's like to live in, well, as he says "It’s possible that Ohio could prove to be the Gettysburg of the 2004 vote. If so, Columbus would be Cemetary Ridge. I’ll try to tell you what it looks like from here." I'll be reading the reports daily...

Links Galore

28.10.04

Why am I not surprised

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET POLICY FAILURE

The Bush Administration's Internet policy has resulted in high prices that are retarding the spread of high-speed Internet service and widening the digital divide, a report released today by the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union concludes. The report, Expanding the Digital Divide and Falling Behind in Broadband, documents the advantages that Internet households, particularly those with high-speed access, have in conducting economic, social and political activities, and concludes that it is critical to aggressively close the digital divide by promoting universal service at affordable prices for all.
I'm shocked, shocked! The narrowing of competion by allowing companies to take over in almost monopolistic fashion has expanded the problem, not solved it. Competition for broadband users is nil - if I want it, I have to go with RoadRunner. There's no choice between them and Optimum or Comcast or another provider.

When I go on-line at home, I use a 56K modem. Why? Because I'm not spending another $50+/month to get on-line. And my total household income would allow me to do so. Now, what about people who aren't at my income level? Or who are but have more responsiblities and claims on that income (like children)? Relying on Starbucks or work for highspeed access doesn't help. The FCC should mandate that competion for broadband increase, much as it has for phone services. Somehow I doubt this is a top priority for either Bush or Kerry.

It just wasn't in the Cards

No pigs flying, hell hasn't frozen over, but the Red Sox WIN!

27.10.04

Ya gotta wonder

Like many bloggers, I keep track of my site statistics. One of the features is a keyword analysis that tells me what search terms people are using to find my site. I have to admit, I feel sorry for some of the people who found my site by looking for:
michael jordan newsclips
germans are the rudest in poll
mark helprin cliff notes
cliff notes of the da vinci code
fried dough circus fair
concord grapes in bosnia
al franken no child left behind quiz lies and the lying liars
kitty burns florey diagramming
puerto rico bobsled team
I hope they found what they were really looking for!

What's your WPM?

Yesterday Terry Teachout and Sarah Weinman blogged about how quickly they read. This ties into a discussion I've been having on TRP about how many books I have read (and cataloged) as well as how many are on Mt. Bookpile.

When I was younger I was tested at something like 1000wpm, but I think that's gotten considerably slower as the years have progressed. I usually manage to read about 100-150 books/year. Now, that total has gone down as I've become more professionally involved, and as my intake of magazines (professional and otherwise) and newspapers has gone up. The total for the summer, for example, was about 35 books in three months, but the number I'll be able to read during the school year will be less.

Some of the books are really short, YA/Child Lit books while others are longer (like Jonathan Strange...). The rate of speed really depends on the type of book, though. I mean, if I'm reading something "deep", something I really want to learn from, I'll slow down so that I can take in more of the ideas and think about them as I read. However, something "fun", like a mystery or the latest Cirque du Freak, I'll whip through in no time.

Does this mean I don't enjoy the reading? No. Nor does it mean that I read so quickly that all the plots and characters blend into each other. I may not be able to tell you in which Chalet School book Jo pulled what prank, but I can tell you what the books are about, why I like them and why they're worth reading (or not - there are books I really found a waste of time, effort and dead tree).

Reading for speed does raise the question of quality vs. quantity, though. I think that for many of us, the reality is that we read. Period. The fact that we read faster than some doesn't mean that we're going for quantity; in fact, it may mean that we also read a lot of dross. I do know that I enjoy the majority of what I read, whether or not it is considered "quality" by other readers. And ultimately, isn't that what matters most? The enjoyment of the book should be paramount, not how quickly you can plow through it and get on to the next one.

UPDATE: "Thomas H. Benton" writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the correlation between owning books and being an academic. He also reminds us of a New Yorker cartoon ("A couple years ago a cartoon from The New Yorker depicted a man in a book-lined study sipping a martini and talking to a woman in a black party dress. The caption: "These books represent the person I once aspired to be."). For me it's almost the reverse: my books represent the person I aspire to become.

25.10.04

Notable Quotes

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

22.10.04

Links Galore

  • Better than Cliff's Notes: The Book Spoiler: "Want to act like you've read The Da Vinci Code when you really haven't? Or maybe you just want to spoil the ending for everyone you see carrying it around?" (þ: Bookslut)
  • Got too much time on your hands? Want to take a quick break from work? Solitaire Central may be the place to go.
  • Bored with Verdana, Times Roman and Arial? Check out The International Type Index (þ: Reserach Buzz)
  • Stumped by a word you just can't seem to remember? The Onelook Reverse Dictionary might be able to help (þ: Scout Report)

FIBB

(from the ISED-L listserv):
Friday
Is
Browser
Diversity
Day


What is Bi-Browseralism?
It is using more than one browser to accomplish your web browsing needs.

A little history.
  • The Internet is not owned by anyone.
  • It is a global communal effort to facilitate communication.
  • Most people use the Internet via a web browser.
  • Microsoft tried to take over the browser market (and therefore, in a way, the Internet) by using their market dominance to destroy their chief browser competitor, Netscape. This is not my opinion, Microsoft was convicted of just this in a massive anti-trust case a few years ago.

Netscape went under but the computer source code of the Netscape browser was donated to the open source programming community. Many people have contributed to this code over the years and have helped forge a wonderful new browser called FireFox.

FireFox is not perfect. For some things Explorer will work better.
So don't get rid of Explorer, just add FireFox, and by this small act accomplish two things:

1. Improve your web browsing experience.
2. Help make sure the Internet stays a free and undominated resource for everyone.

Freedom is On The March


*****

And then there's this fromBlogography: "FQ Quantum Leap: You have been given a one-time-only opportunity to travel back in time and interfere with history! Would you do it? Sure! Where would you go and what would you try to change? I'd go back to when Microsoft was first starting out and sabotage the company... that way, I wouldn't have to freak out about trying to make web sites render properly on Window's crappy 'Internet Explorer' program because Windows wouldn't exist."

20.10.04

What will these people do on November 3rd?

Reaction from the US to the Guardian's Clark County project: "Last week G2 launched Operation Clark County to help readers have a say in the American election by writing to undecided voters in the crucial state of Ohio. In the first three days, more than 11,000 people requested addresses. Here is some of the reaction to the project that we received from the US "
The Guardian, Truthout, anti-Bush bloggers, Michael Moore, etc.. The election is too close to call right now, but let's suppose that Bush wins. What will these people do? Move to Canada? Commit mass suicide?

Now, let's suppose that Kerry wins the election. All of a sudden these people, who have constructed lives around their work anti-Bush, will have waaaaay to much time on their hands (personally, I think they have too much time on their hands right now!). Will they turn that into something positive or will they just fade into the woodwork?

My sense is that all this energy and rhetoric and passion will just fade into bitterness no matter who wins or loses. No candidate can live up to the pictures partisans on either side have painted. They're neither the antiChrist nor the Second Coming. They're politicians and as such are pretty flawed. Sad, but true. Pity we've become so blinded to that fact.

19.10.04

When did we meet Generation X?

Surprisingly, according to this article, in 1952! Sexy was sexy in 1956 but sex was hot in 1929. Check out the other "words of the year". (þ: Language Hat)

18.10.04

Feeling generous?

A few days ago I mentioned a game that I thought would be fun to own. Today I discovered that Powells, my favorite 'clicks-and-mortar' bookstore, has a wish list program. So, if you're in the mood to be nice to me, go there and search the wish list under lpblog@att.net. You don't just have to buy something for me - maybe you'll discover a 'must read' for yourself (not to mention supporting a real bookstore, not Amazon!).

Notable Quotes

Bunny, for all his appearance of amiable, callous stability, was actually a wildly erratic character. There were any number of reasons for this, but primary among them was his complete inability to think about anything before he did it. He sailed through the world guided only by the dim lights of impulse and habit, confident that his course would throw up no obstacles so large that they could not be plowed over with sheer force of momentum.

The Secret History
Donna Tartt

17.10.04

This got me thinking

Number Inflation
What has happened to big numbers? Units aside, a sizable amount of something used to be counted in the hundreds. One thousand was Grand. Tens of thousands were quite enough.
Erica has a point. Everything has gotten larger: we "supersize" our food, our cars, our houses, our lives.

What happened to appreciating the little things? Even something Real Simple is really large (and expensive). This weekend they sponsored Get Organized New York, a huge tag sale in Central Park. While I applaud the thought and the charity it supports, why do we need the opportunity to get even more stuff in our lives?

I'm thinking of scaling back. Ok, perhaps not the books. But the other stuff: appreciating the simpler things; taking time being quiet and at rest; not spending every penny I earn - these all sound very appealing right now. Why? I think it's because of the frenetic pace of our oversized lives. Who really needs to buy meals in a bag and microwave them? What's wrong with buying the individual ingredients and making your own, fresher and better tasting dinner?

More on this experiment as it unfolds.

16.10.04

Yet another voice against IE

Firefox
THREE HOURS AND COUNTING: Amount of time it's taking me to figure out why the pages will display perfectly in every browser I can find EXCEPT Internet Explorer in Microsoft Windows.
WHAT THE F#@&?!?

Seriously. This is stupid, STUPID, STUPID!!! I just don't get it. Why doesn't Microsoft feel any obligation whatsoever to fix rendering bugs that ONLY appear in their browser? I'll tell you why... they don't give a shit. And why should they? 90% of the people on earth are using their shitty software, so web designers have no choice but to grab their ankles and waste hours and hours of time trying to make sites compatible with a bug-ridden pile of crap browser. Microsoft is law unto itself and is apparently not accountable to their customers, web standards, the US government, or anybody else.
What are YOU waiting for?

Boy, did they get this one wrong...

HASH(0x8e9854c)
You have yellow wings! Calm, and peaceful, you
hardly stress and worry. Being around you makes
others feel happy and in tune. Even though you
are serious, you never over react or panic,
which can make you the perfect body guard.
Using logic, and thinking with quick wit, you
may be in a grave situation, and be able to
think your way through. You like doing quite
things, such as reading, and enjoy watching
sunsets, aquariums, and snow storms. At peace
in your soul, your yellow things reflect the
collected person you are.


What Color are your wings?(Mainly for Girls)Beautiful Pix!
brought to you by Quizilla

15.10.04

Links Galore

  • The Foliage Network. In other words, get out of town now! (þ: Scout Report)
  • People just don't understand

    BEYOND THE VOTE: THE CRISIS OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM
    It almost goes without saying that one experiences a profound sense of bewilderment with each reading of the polls for the 2004 Presidential election. The statistical dead heat may have come as little surprise to some, but the unshakable anxiety that it invokes in those on the left is unquestionable, and the reasons are obvious. Here we have perhaps the most ruthlessly conservative and, indeed, most radically right wing administration of the 20th century. But even after the endless war against the environment and public assistance programs, the implementation of regressive tax cuts and a ballooning national debt, and finally the morass in Iraq with its endless errors—whether it be the invasion itself, Abu Ghraib, or its gradual descent into social chaos under the American occupation—the numbers have remained stubbornly fixed.
    I've said this before, when you lose sight of your base, you're in trouble. Democratic leadership doesn't get that they've lost "them", but they have. It's not just the rich and privileged that are voting Republican these days. It's the "street" - the union guys, the average Janes and Joes, the young - that are.

    Why? Because they perceive that the Democrats stand for more taxes, more social programs. When you pass unfunded mandates, someone has to pick up the slack and states, counties and cities then raise taxes to do so. Who gets hurt? Everyone. The people that were supposed to be covered by the mandate get hurt because their needs aren't me and the people that have to pay ever higher taxes get hurt because, well, that's obvious.

    Some believe that American is the land of opportunity, but that means "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" not "take the government for every handout you can". Republicans better embody the former for many voters.

    I'm not saying either perception is true, but if the Democrats really want to regain the White House (and Congress) they need to stop repeating past mistakes and offer programs and candidates that speak to what the people want NOW, not what they wanted years ago.

    Getting to know all about me!

    Some time ago a person reading this blog commented "You seem to formulate opinions about everything going on around you very well, but you hardly write anything strictly about you. Other blog-browsers, such as myself, might be able to understand more where you are coming from if they knew more about you.... just a suggestion."

    Well, I've thought about that and, unlike some bloggers, I'm not comfortable sharing with strangers intimate details about my life. However, to satisfy some reader's curiosity (þ: The Little Professor)...

    #1: Name three of your...

    1. Pet Peeves: incompetence, ignorance, not having enough time to read
    2. Favorite Sounds: purring, pages turning, purring
    3. Favorite Flavors of Candy: chocolate, peppermint
    4. Biggest Fears: heights, dying alone, not having cats in my life
    5. Biggest Challenges: eating properly, making small talk with strangers (or mere acquaintances), getting time to read
    6. Favorite Department Stores: Saks, Almys (now defunct), Kaufmans
    7. Most Used Words: clearly, problematic, "not so much"
    8. Favorite Pizza Toppings: cheese, mushrooms, garlic
    9. Favorite Cartoon Characters: Fisher, the dog in Drabble, Violet from Peanuts
    10. Movies Recently Watched: Paycheck, Secret Window, Collateral
    11. Favorite Fruits: apples, peaches, pomegranate
    12. Favorite Vegetables: green peppers, cucumbers, carrots

    #2:

    1. What is your favorite word? Book
    2. What is your least favorite word? Anything to do with bad weather (eg, sleet, snow, blizzard, nor'easter)
    3. What turns you on? Intelligence and wit
    4. What turns you off? Incompetence
    5. What sound or noise do you love? Purring
    6. What sound or noise do you hate? Doors slamming
    7. What is your favorite curse word? The "O" word (O'F*ck) ties with F*cksh*td*mnh*ll
    8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Fiction writer
    9. What profession other than yours would absolutely not like to attempt? Athelete
    10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the gates? The bookstore is that way, everything's there and it's all free to take.

    14.10.04

    Gotta get this!

    People that know me know that I like playing Trivial Pursuit. They also know that I like reading (ok, ok, I'm a book-a-holic). So this seems like the ideal gift. Not that I'm hinting or anything.

    13.10.04

    Notable Quotes

    ...if art does not reflect the times in which it is created, if it does not inspire us in some way, the artist is not worthy of our patronage.

    12.10.04

    For Bernie



    Love to eat them mousies,
    Mousies what I love to eat.
    Bite they little heads off...
    Nibble on they tiny feet.
    (B. Kliban)

    My Sister Bernadette

    Kitty Burns Florey writes about her youth: "Diagramming sentences is one of those lost skills, like darning socks or playing the sackbut, that no one seems to miss." She goes on to talk about Sister Bernadette, who taught her this "skill".

    I had a Sister Bernadette - Miss Webster. She was half-Maori, all-Kiwi and very strict. One of the first things we learned was that New Zealand was not on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, nor was it to be confused with Tasmania. If you answered a question without properly reflecting, she'd say, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Since I was attending school in Geneva, Switzerland at that time and we were required to use fountain pens, my fine motor skills got quite a workout. If there was an ink splotch on the paper, we'd be asked what happened. Now, I was 10/11 at the time and my response was usually a variation on "My pen splattered." Miss Webster's raised eyebrows and her disapproving, "A poor workman always blames his tools" soon broke me of that!

    Penmanship was important to Miss Webster. I still have copybooks filled with pages of properly (and improperly) slanted l's, m's, w's and other letters. Thanks to her I have two different styles of handwriting, the very upright looped version I was taught in my American public school and her version.

    We were also taught "New Math" by Miss Webster. To this day I can do bases. In later years I was able to do quadratic equations and I was taught geometry, trig and even how to find f(x). Do I remember any of that? No. But her lessons have stayed with me:
    • how to write an interesting essay (remember not to repeat the opening word of any sentence more than twice)
    • how to write neatly
    • how to use a fountain pen (which I now use when solving the NYTimes Crossword Puzzle)
    • how to take responsibility for your thoughts and express them appropriately
    • how to play Maori stick games
    • how to diagram a sentence
    • how to be (and not be) a teacher.
    She's also the only teacher I had in my early years that I remember with any clarity. The American teachers are all a blur, but she remains fixed in my mind. Back then we called her "Webby" and couldn't wait to get out of her class. I wish I had the opportunity to tell her how much she influenced my life, and how I now appreciate her.

    11.10.04

    R.I.P.

    Christopher Reeve.

    I met him once, back in 1985. He was visiting Circle Repertory Theatre, where I was working. At the time I met him, I was doing concessions in the theatre in Seventh Avenue South. The space for a lobby was a bit cramped, and the brick walls were lined with framed posters of the famous Circle Rep productions from past years.

    Christopher Reeve was not a small person and it was hard for him go be unnoticed. Despite this, he tried to blend in by sort of huddling along this wall. One of the other patrons noticed him and asked me, "Is that Superman?". Hearing this, Chris started, knocking several of the posters off the wall, and his attempts to fix things just made it worse. In a flash of inspiration, I said, "No, that's Clark Kent," causing Chris to bolt into the theatre and hide in the lighting booth.

    Several seconds later the stage manager came over to me laughing, saying that whatever I'd said had really rattled Chris. That's how I remember will him, a normal guy caught in an abnormal situation and horribly embarrassed by it. Not as the man in the wheelchair, and not as the movie star.

    8.10.04

    Links galore

    We don't need no stinkin' spyware

    LibrarianInBlack reports that the House of Representatives is finally moving on anti-spyware legislation. As with most technological issues, it took them long enough. The bigger question is, will this legislation have teeth and make our lives better and safer?

    In the meantime, check out Ad-Aware to protect yourself.

    7.10.04

    If I only had a car

    (SeeYaGeorge)

    This bothered me, too

    From yesterday's Best of the Web Today
    Two decades ago, when we were a teenager, we knew an older man named Paul. Paul was in his late 50s, a reformed alcoholic and born-again Christian, and he had very conservative views on social issues. In particular, he had a strong antipathy to homosexuality. And he taught us a lesson about the complexity of political identity.

    From the description above, you'd think he was a member of the "religious right" and thus a reliable Republican voter. But in fact he was a diehard Democrat who detested Ronald Reagan. Why? Well, Paul worked for the U.S. Postal Service, which means he was a blue-collar worker, a federal employee and a union man.

    Given his age, he presumably became a Democrat during the FDR and Truman years, when the main difference between the two parties had to do with economic class, with the Dems the party of the workingman. Most of today's "social issues" weren't even on the political radar at that time; what liberals today call "extreme right-wing" views were, for better or worse, merely a matter of longstanding tradition.

    We thought of Paul during last night's debate, when John Edwards said this during an exchange on same-sex marriage:

    I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.

    Why bring the Cheneys' daughter's private life into this? Here's a theory: At present, a vast majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage; when it comes up to a statewide vote--whether in a red state or blue--voters typically reject it by majorities ranging from 60% to 80%. This means there are a lot of Democrats who, like Paul 20 years ago, belong to their party despite its views on social issues. Among these, we would surmise, are many black and other minority voters whose party identification grew out of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights triumphs in the 1960s.
    The more comments I hear from Democrats about not understanding union workers who are now voting Republican, the more I realize that they expect that everyone has political allegiances that froze years ago. That's simply not true - given the lessening of the economic differences between the parties, the social issues become the focal point and that's what attracts new voters.

    Putting on my curmudgeon hat, I think that too many changes are being forced down our throats rather than allowing some of them to occur organically. Backlash is inevitable and will be ugly when it comes.

    I think he gets this wrong

    Tom Watson blogs today about Howard Stern's announcement that he's leaving "free" radio for satellite. He compares the growth of satellite to cable, and mentions the cost/necessity of having multiple fees and receivers (as opposed to having many, relatively cheap radios that you can take anywhere).

    I think the real story is the growth of the fragmentation of society. Way back when, you had a melange of musical genres and tastes on each station. Yes, some played "Free Bird" and "Stairway to Heaven" until you wanted to kill, but a quick flick down (or up) the dial brought you another song. Exposure was the serendipitous result - finding something or someone new to listen to and learn about. That's a lot harder to find today.

    Why is this a problem? While the majority of us still use the radio, the homogenization of music means that the "aha" moment is removed. Those that opt for XM or Sirius remove that almost entirely, as they narrowly program their tastes and excise what they don't know.

    One of my professors in graduate school thought this was an exciting development, that soon we could drive across country and only hear the music we wanted. That thought scares me. Diversity breeds knowledge and potential acceptance of the "other." Narrowing our choices (on the radio, tv, in life) ultimately hurts everyone.

    6.10.04

    So where's Kevin Bacon in all this?

    Homicide: Life on the Street Crossovers & A Multiverse Explored. I found this on A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago:
    "SIX DEGREES OF FRANK PEMBLETON: I refer you to this lengthy file. It comprehensively chronicles how 166 different TV shows are apparently taking place in the same universe (that is, inside Timmy Westphal's head, as revealed at the end of 'St. Elsewhere'). Try this one series of connections:

    Sports Night on CSC is playing on a TV at the end of an episode of Spin City. Spin City made mention (in Michael J. Fox's final episode) of the existence of Alex P. Keaton, from Family Ties. Andrew Keaton, from Family Ties, showed up on an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Eddie Haskell (from Leave it To Beaver) showed up on Parker Lewis. Beaver's June Cleaver showed up on an episode of Hi, Honey, I'm Home! Hi Honey, also featured a cameo from Gomer Pyle from Andy Griffith, which was a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show. Buddy from Dick Van Dyke appeared on Danny Thomas. Alan Brady from Dick Van Dyke narrated a film made by Paul Buchman on Mad About You. Mad About You ties into Friends through Phoebe and her twin Ursula (among other ways). Caroline In The City and Friends crossed over in an episode where Caroline's Annie was hit on by Chandler. Niles and Daphne from Frasier read the Caroline in the City comic strip. Frasier is, of course, tied to Cheers. Westphall, Craig, and Auschlander from St. Elsewhere all visited the Cheers bar.

    Thus, every single one of those 15 shows takes place in the same universe, and there are still more connections. Everything from The Geena Davis Show to Becker to The White Shadow can be tied in somehow. The sound you just heard? That's my mind...blowing."
    Not only does someone have waaaaay too much time on their hands, but I'm starting to worry that I've seen too many of these episodes!

    5.10.04

    Just in time for tonight's debate

    Not sure if you support John Kerry or George Bush? Try these quizzes to find out. (þ: Aravis)

    4.10.04

    Interesting Debate Analysis

    Presidential Debate Analysis. I wonder if this will be done for all the debates. The list of favorite noun phrases is interesting. (þ: Sybil Finemel)

    2.10.04

    Links Galore

    1.10.04

    Why comment?

    There's nothing I can say about the debate that Lileks hasn't said better than I ever could. So go read him.

    It's about time!

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee: "Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, but he had something bigger in mind all along... Berners-Lee is finally getting his reward: in July he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and the previous month he received Finland’s million-euro Millennium Technology Prize, awarded 'for outstanding technological achievements that directly promote people’s quality of life, are based on humane values, and encourage sustainable economic development.'"

    Arguably one of the most influential people of the past half century.

    29.9.04

    Call to action

    Legalizing Torture: The Republican leadership of Congress is attempting to legalize extraordinary rendition.

    "Extraordinary rendition" is the euphemism we use for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation. As one intelligence official described it in the Washington Post, "We don't kick the sh*t out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the sh*t out of them.”

    Write your Representative about this NOW! (þ: Crooked Timber)

    What more proof do you need?

    Do this Browser Security Test and then click on the link I have to download Firefox. Really. It's worth it just for the peace of mind. (þ: Librarians in Black)

    27.9.04

    Why we need to stop the USA PATRIOT Act

    Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion: "Free societies win because freedom and justice are stronger than their opposites. Even if we eliminate our own freedoms at home and fight brutally abroad, we will still be only a third-rate oppressor. We can never out-torture or out-spy or out-suppress al-Qaida or the dictatorships of the world. " (þ: Library Link of the Day)

    Notable Quotes

    "I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare."

    John Chriton, Farscape

    26.9.04

    Why read?

    Read on: "And this is the real pleasure of reading: not just the search for facts and information, which we can get just as well from other forms of media, but the connection to another human mind and heart that we can only experience when we enter a world that someone else has created."

    No matter how often I use e-mail or IM or iPod, no matter how much tv I watch or how many movies I go to, this is the reason I read. The immediacy of touching the pages, turning them at my pace, allowing the characters to come to life in my mind is something that is not allowed by the other media.

    Now excuse me, I have a book to finish.

    24.9.04

    Links Galore