Monday, May 31, 2004

Tomatoes and grass...Memorial Day 2004

Spring has definitely sprung. Yesterday was a trip to our favorite local greenhouse. Our deck now holds flowers, both potted and waiting for planting in the garden, and today is the day the tomatoes go in. Only three plants this time, two beefsteak and one smaller patio plant. Since we bought them already strong and about a foot and a half tall, there should be no problem being overrun in August and September with tomatoes. The cherry tree and the apple tree are happily leafed out, both bigger than last year. I am amazed because last year there was a blight of some sort on them. I have no idea what, or how to combat that. It looks like leaving it alone worked! Meanwhile the grass has grown to resemble prairie, only to be cut down to suburban tameness a day or two ago. Mosquitoes love the tall grass, or I would leave it natural and intersperse flowers. It's a dream. And, in even more astonishing news, the sun is shining and the temperature is about 70. Truly a day off made in heaven.

The more somber note is that it is the Memorial Day Remembrance, and the televised ceremonials over the weekend were very sad. To think we have another crop of war dead is a shattering thought, and one that I hoped would never be true. After Vietnam, what did we learn about getting bogged down in a guerilla war in a place where no one likes us?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Musings on our political system

It's a hard call to know what would serve us better. Some criticism of the two party system may be valid, but this is countered a bit when people actually get into congress, depending on each legislator's level of thirst for power. At present we could argue there is too much power in the Supreme Court as well as in the Executive branch of the government, and not enough guts in Congress.

But we do have elections where as a rule people aren't trampled during riots at the poling places, and we have elections where you don't get shot as you come out of voting, and where you actually have more than the one candidate! Compared with the systems throughout the world, ours looks pretty workable. I don't see a utopia where things are accomplished in a more even manner politically, unless there were a very small population with a common culture. And this brings to mind the Big Man system, which heaven knows is not FAIR either. So In the end, our Constitution has served us fairly well all these years.

I do take my American citizenship seriously. I remember I was 9 when I raised my little arm and took the Oath of Citizenship. I remember wearing this little dress with a checkered print and cat-eye glasses. They gave us each a silk flag and a certificate. And there was a letter from president Eisenhower. The flag is and has always been, in my dresser drawer. I was the only child among the new citizens that day, and I remember that the courthouse smelled like well-waxed wood.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Library books as ideas and the weeding of same

I often think about the wealth of knowledge kept for the generations by the libraries of the world. Ideas become weapons and motivate some countries and some regimes to raid the libraries, and to incarcerate librarians. Cuba has done this lately. You would think that by now it would be generally known that draconian measures cannot prevail against ideas, and that print (paper or electronic) will circulate faster in this era than ever before. That's the big concern of every library association: how to keep the books circulating while safeguarding the freedom of each patron to read whatever is available without leaving a trail of identifying information.

Moreover it is important to keep in mind (on a more local scale) that weeding can be dangerous if the criteria used are simply "has this circulated in ten years" or "do we have room." At present, space is as short as funding for most libraries, academic libraries included, and there has been the temptation in some places to simply weed "the old stuff." Luckily, the saner view has prevailed in the cases I have seen. Just because a book has no astounding monetary value doesn't mean it isn't rare, and someone might have a need to read just the volume you are holding trying to decide if it goes out the door or if you keep it. The frenzy over electronic databases and full text sources hasn't lessened the value of our book collections. Although libraries certainly have embraced the electronic age, there is still value in the print holdings. How often has the "system been down" or the vendor no longer offered that periodical your patrons suddenly need.

Monday, May 24, 2004

eBooks: maybe NOT the wave of the future?

The wave of the future in books and publishing about ten years ago was the eBook. The Rocket Ebook excited the "cutting edge" reader-library world. That is to say, some of us. There were a few hardware readers, and there were a few software readers you could get for reading from your desktop screen. the first book I read this way was by Robert Rosenberg, his first, "Crimes of the City." I read it in plain text on a blue background even before I had Windows 95. Well, that all changed with Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader, and several other handy book reader utilities I actually preferred, because plain text readers suited me very well and still do. Today the Palm Reader is on my desktop, and the excellent options make it a joy to use. It doesn't of course display plain text. There is always the html option. Several sites offer online reading and downloads in html zip files.

We were all very excited for awhile, but it became obvious to me that no hardware reader was going to remain viable because of the rise in popularity of handhelds PDAs which can do the job of a book reader as well. A somewhat small reading area for me - I would have preferred a Rocket eBook in a lighter and slimmer body with some of the nicer features of today's PDAs. Now I have to wonder what the future of the ebook is at all because of the pricing of the books.

At AMAZON today I saw a brand new book I had just cataloged into the library. It sells for $10.50 in hardcover, and is a very nicely bound smallish book with an attractive dust cover. I saw that it is also available in both Adobe and Microsoft Reader format at a cost of $17.50. WOW. I had to laugh. Who is going to pay for the eBook when they can have the hardcopy. And, in fact, it angers me to think that this is the way publishers have responded. They could have had a really thriving market for eBooks. It would be so convenient to travel with the laptop and read at leisure when business could be set aside. But, as is not unusual in the world of publishing and music publishing, foresight is less than common, and a market was never expanded to fill the potential. Someday...

All this from wood and wire...

Violins make the best relaxation music imaginable, or is it the best MUSIC imaginable. My media player is offering up Gil Shaham, Perlman, "The Gadfly", Solerno-Sonnenberg, and MORE (as the advertisements always add)! I think I'm saving on therapy fees with the violins.

Loose ends, browsers, politics, and books

Thought I would mention that Firefox has won the browsing war as far as I am concerned. After using it this long I find I open it in Windows and in Mac 99% of the time. I seldom use Safari unless it is necessary for the application I have in mind. There seems to be a frame issue in Firefox, but it is not consistent, and in fact only appears for me in Yahoo sporadically. No problem. Haven't even been interested in a trial of the new Opera browser - it's too little too late for too much!

Politically there is no real excitement. No one looks particularly good lately, and maybe Nader is the way to go. The sorry state of the world and the sorry state of our involvement in Iraq has me avoiding the news networks. They have a way of exploiting every aspect of everything in order to fill that 24 hours of programming. I watch the BBC when I want news, and luckily we get it on cable from our Public Television affiliate in Plattsburgh, NY. One half hour of deplorable chaos is enough for one day. Actually, it is impossible to avoid the news on the car radio, and with the RSS feeds when I am online, I have to admit I get plenty of news.

Reading several books. Still reading "Seven Pillars", and I have to admit that I got lazy and read a few in the meantime. "WLT" I already reported on, and then there is "From Rags to Bitches." I am not done with that one. I feel as though I shouldn't even read it, the writing is pretty pathetic, but there is something about the man himself that comes through that has me interested. I guess it is sort of a pathetic book in content as well. Yet "Mr.Blackwell" did liven up a boring era with his style, and his story has some interesting slants on the "times of our lives." I have so many books piled up that I want to read soonest.

Myth of the Circumferential highway...

Once again, the ever more remote prospect of getting around Chittenden County in any kind of ease has been put on hold. Another two year review is now in the works. I don't even remember when the "circumferential highway" has not been a topic in the "Burlington Free Press." Now the funding has been spread out to other projects and the highway may never be built. Those who oppose it say that it will foster urban sprawl. That's ridiculous, since urban sprawl is here already and has been for years. People living in that sprawl need a way to get around: to work, to school, to recreation facilities, and wherever they need to go. Urban sprawl pays the bills. Urban sprawl is the tax base. Urban sprawl is us.

Friday, May 21, 2004

XML Fun week...

Feed added for those few select fans. What a rush. After combating the lazies, I finally read some of the documentation at Blogger about goodies I could be using for enhancement and education (mine). After checking out a couple RSS Readers, Mac and Win, I am using one each. Handy way to stay up to par on the news of whatever sort you prefer, although the availability of "feeds" is equivalent to grains of sand on the shore now, and some time has to be left for daily life, and - well - browsing the web! One blog leads to another, and so very many have RSS feeds. Discipline is required. Perhaps I might even decide to focus the blog one of these days, though that might take all the fun out of the process for me. There is considerable interest in where Google will take Blogger now, and I am certainly interested in the outcome.

Monday, May 17, 2004

"Master and Commander" is more than worthy of the "new rental" fee. The group of actors involved turn out wonderful performances, all within a believable setting of the Napoleonic Era. Naval terms are not my strong point, but I especially liked the ship at night scenes. Somehow you feel the isolation of the ocean, far from home, yet connected with ties of loyalty and emotion. The battle scenes are depressing of course, as they are a reminder of all the lives wasted in war, then and now. Needless to say, once again Russell Crowe exhibits his wonderful talent, and this time he is matched by several cast members. Try it, you'll like it.
Does the whole world want our Social Security numbers? Apparently the answer is yes. Having researched both major satellite television providers, I see they both want your major credit card and your SS# in order to install and start service. Not only that but the "Special Offers" you get in the mail only begin to tell the tail. By the time you get the channels you had on Cable, plus the one or two more you wanted that motivated you to look into satellite, and then you add the monthly "optional service" fee (warranty you pay for) and then the fees for having the ability to view different channels in different rooms, and then the taxes, and the fees for local channels if you are lucky enough to be able to get them, well...AAAAARghhh. So for now I will save the extra $30 and stay with cable.

BlogThis! works I see. Good to know. It should work flawlessly then in that other browser.
Trying the BlogThis! miniprogram. Having tried it in another browser I want to try it in Firefox for the Mac. Just another fun techy moment.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Finished Garrison Keillor's new book, "WLT." It was a mix of pathos and humor, telling the story of fictional WLT in Minneapolis back in the days of families gathering around the radio weekend and week nights, listening to favorite local and network programming. I do remember running in the house when the "Green Hornet" came on - or "The Whistler" or "The Shadow." Not to mention "The Lone Ranger," "Amos and Andy," "Fibber McGee and Molly," "Letter from Luigi" - but I digress. The personal story of Frank White, fictional future television anchorman emeritus is the vehicle for the very mellow and nostalgic look back at radio stations and their employees, none of whom seem sugar coated to say the least. A certain fixation of female anatomy colors the waking hours of many of the books characters,reflecting no doubt the author's own cogitations. All in all a touching read.

New template in place after seeing the nifty new ones here on Blogger. I will try and spend a bit of time tweaking the template one of these days, although there seems no real reason to do this. I suppose I should want to write my own, but frankly the people doing them for Blogger seem to have both the know-how and the time. The results are excellent.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Back from a trip to beautiful and muggy North Carolina. I must say the area is beautiful, the people are friendly and the highways - well, to Northern new England eyes the highways are a sight to behold...all kept up...all in good repair and always BEING repaired, which does cause a bit of urban clog from time to time. But all in all, North Carolina is one PERTY state. I have been out to the Charlotte area as well. That is even lovelier than the Raleigh area because of the rolling hills. Both areas are green - as green as Vermont - trees abound. On the way into Raleigh there are lovely pink and white poppies along side the road. And more wonderful than all that are my two little grandbabies, 4 and 2, and their parents. So all in all a good trip.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Spring has begun to make an appearance. After a few SUMMER days, we now have Spring with blooms on the little cherry tree, and green budding leaves on the maples. Daffodils are lovely and the grass is at that wonderful point where it is green yet hasn't required mowing yet. Made for a very quiet weekend. Soon the power tool weekends will begin, bringing the earsplitting noise that indicates "men at work."
The iTunes update to 4.5 is excellent. See crabbing in my last entry, but really, the new version is fine. Limits your burning of each playlist to seven CDs, but that cannot be too inconvenient for most people. I see the cute little icons that ran when you burned a CD are no longer there...they were cute. iPod update went smoothly as well.
Well, with the advent of iTunes 4.5, I think I have my first real complaint about Apple. It is something I've noticed to a lesser degree since getting a Mac. Now if I want a song from iTunes music Store I have to upgrade to the new iTunes, which of course will require an update of the iPod software as well. This isn't a good idea. One thing about Microsoft is that even my old stuff from Win95 is usable in XP, except for a very few programs, none of which are from Microsoft. Well, windows users are not going to be really happy with Apple for this when they go to buy a song, and this will add to their already not all that happy feeling about iTunes. Most Windows users want to use the music store with iTunes, but they are not really crazy about using iTunes as their default music player. Oddly enough.

I have been a Mac user for over a year and I have noticed the plethora of updates etc., followed by the updating of all the ancillary programs I need and the ones I want - most of the time I don't update unless I am forced. As long as the stuff I need and want works for me, why should I? It is altogether a pain in the neck. My old version of iTunes should still be good enough to buy a song. Maybe that pain is lower than the neck after all!