I was doing an obituary search recently, and came across a front page article in the Tallahassee Democrat dated January 12, 1971, "Carter Takes Georgia Reins", about Jimmy Carter's inauguration as the Governor of Georgia.

At the inauguration, the U.S. Naval Academy band and the Moria Brown College Choir performed the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", putting the good old boys on notice. You have to have been a Southerner back then to understand what a shock this would have been, playing the Yankee battle hymn.

Carter said, "The test of government is not how popular it is among the powerful and privileged few, but how honestly and fairly it deals with the many who must depend upon it".

I remember reading Hunter S. Thompson's June 1976 piece in Rolling Stone magazine. Thompson had written about the 1972 Nixon/McGovern race in his book, "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail", and his endorsement of Carter was a call to alienated hipsters like me to get up and go vote for this man. It is the most influential piece that he ever wrote.

Thompson made much of
Carter's Law Day address at the University of Georgia, May 4, 1974. Carter has said that it was the best speech that he ever made. If you want to get an idea of the promise of his candidacy, check it out.

I will never forget Jimmy's victory celebration on the night of the election. The Band played, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". He was the first president from the Deep South since the Civil War.

We did not deserve him. We mocked him for his call to conserve energy. The nascent neo-conservatives, like Jeanne Kirkpatrick, hated him for exposing human rights violations in Central and South America, when they thought opposing Communism trumped all other considerations.

Raise a glass to the most ethical president of our time, James Earl Carter.


For Better or Worse

Our library was a pioneer in providing access in the early days of the Internet, through a partnership with Tallahassee Freenet. Even before the advent of the World Wide Web, Freenet was offering users free shell accounts with e-mail and dial-up Internet service.

In-library public access Internet computing began with two separate projects in the late '90's: in Tech/Media Services on the first floor, where Tallahassee Freenet originally had its office, a computer lab was built with funding from the Gates Foundation, and on the second floor in Adult Services a pilot project was installed with 10 "thin-client" workstations running on a Sun server using the Hot Java browser. Yes, the Microsoft v. Sun war in miniature!*

If you ever tried the Hot Java browser, then you know how unsatisfactory it was. It was never anything like a contender when the main browser battle was between the revolutionary Netscape browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. To give it credit, though, it was the first browser that could render Java Applets, and all modern browsers now support Java.

At some point, exactly when I am not sure, (I was in those days still roaming country lanes in my bookmobile), the Sun Java Stations were replaced by Windows 95 PC's. The workstations that you can see around and to the left of the big white pillar in the photo are their successors.

From then on we struggled to meet demand, trying to close the much talked-about "digital divide". More PC's were installed outside the Gates Lab downstairs in Tech-Media. Library catalog telnet PC's and obsolete dedicated CD-ROM PC's upstairs in Adult Services were converted to Internet workstations.

When I came up to Adult Services in 2000 the situation was pretty hairy. Keeping the PC's free of viruses, malware and patron-installed programs, and managing session reservations was exhausting the staff. Centurion Technologies' CenturionGuard and Envisionware's PC Reservation saved our sanity. Anyone remember Bonzi Buddy?

The divide is now, in 2008, much narrowed. We provided free wireless Internet access in 2005, and today you can see all kinds of people online with laptops in the library. Public access PC usage has actually declined over the past year.

*(Edit 01/03/2008: Media staffer and former Freenet liaison Susie John tells me that they had a few dumb terminals for the use of Freenet shell accounts in the early '90's, before the arrival of the Java Stations and the Gates Lab. Freenet at that time ran on Digital UNIX.)


No Respect

Serving coffee, lemonade and cookies this evening for the Parish Ministries Fair after the 7 o'clock Mass, I was called over to the Knights of Columbus table. He had seen me at the library, where he thought I must be a volunteer. Whom should he see about our helping his Boy Scouts earn their library merit badges?

Dear reader, where to begin? Two or three times a year I get this; always, I suspect, from men who do not themselves read books, but who nevertheless think that libraries are worthwhile and desirable for schoolchildren and old women.

I guess I should feel flattered. They want to address me as a peer, but cannot reconcile their perception of me with the idea that I would be a librarian. Surely I have made my pile in business, and rather than rest on my laurels, I give back to the community by volunteering at the library. Aren't librarians women?

Librarians rank a little lower than public school teachers. Our job, people suppose, is to shush people and badger them about overdue books. That there is an interesting and current collection of materials on the shelves, that we can show you how to operate a computer, that we know the best place to look for information you need, is unknown to these incurious men. How could they know that we had to earn post-graduate degrees to even apply for our jobs? They simply have no idea.

Early Autumn

"When an early autumn walks the land and chills the breeze
and touches with her hand the summer trees,
perhaps you'll understand what memories I own.
There's a dance pavilion in the rain all shuttered down,
a winding country lane all russet brown,
a frosty window pane shows me a town grown lonely."

-Johnny Mercer


What is the deal with vampire romance novels?

Yeah, I know they've been around for a while already. But after Ronda and I slept in my niece's room while visiting my sister Carol in Tampa this summer, and I saw several of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" novels on her bookshelf, I began to wonder what the phenomenon signified. With Twilight opening in movie theaters in November, it seems I am not alone. Ah, riding the waves of popular culture...

Since Halloween is not far away, I thought I would share some results of my investigation.

Let's begin with a review of the literature. SciFiPedia has a great little entry.

Barbara Emrys, a professor of English and a contributor to “The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance,” thinks it is simply to do with the appeal of the "bad boy".

Super Jive offers her roundup of this "Vampire Renaissance" in books, TV and film at the womens' blog, "BlogHer".

Josh Eiserike, an entertainment columnist for the Potomac News, rolls his eyes. He'll take pirates any day. Maybe we should have a "Talk Like a Vampire Day" too! Mooah! Is it all just a media blitz, a grab for eyeballs and wallets?

Finally, Australia's Monash University is hosting a two day symposium, which is going on as I write. "Vampires, Vamps and Va Va Voom: A Critical Engagement with Paranormal Romance". Now we're talking! I'd love to read the papers.

Edit, 12/05/08: I want to point readers to this thoughtful piece on the film production of Twilight at The Atlantic magazine by Caitlin Flanagan, What Girls Want: A series of vampire novels illuminates the complexities of female adolescent desire.



My sister Carol invited me to join FaceBook. I began to write on it, but with only immediate family as an audience, and with almost no feedback there, I began to want more exposure.

For want of anything better, I've named this blog "Branches and Rain", the title of a recent piece I wrote on tropical storm Fay, which I borrowed from Arthur Rimbaud:

"I am the scholar of the dark armchair,
Branches and rain hurl themselves
At the windows of my library."