First TV Netbook Commercial

HP netbook with Windows XP Home for $199.99 with purchase of Verizon Wireless plan. Seen on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Not that I would buy it.

I'm beginning to see that "cloud computing" isn't quite ready for prime time. I run into it all the time. Users think their public-access PC is broken, when it is the site they are accessing that is the problem. Commenters on a YouTube review of this product complain that it has XP and not Vista, that it has limited storage, that it's slow, as a device of this type will be with Windows. This is still something of a bastard appliance.

The solid-state netbook is made for Linux. HP offers a netbook mini with Linux for $279, without a command-line interface, with a Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail client. I say lose the e-mail client, get used to web mail with a netbook. Browser only, forget storage.


New Cat, Memorial Day

My mother's cat, an orange tabby named Claudius, has come to live with us. My sister Amy brought him up a couple of weeks ago. He is considerably younger than our old momcat Serena, who has outlived all her children. He is lean and muscular, and he reminds us of Serena's son, Walker, a black panther of a cat who was not inclined to real intimacy with humans. Yet he is jealous of our attention, and challenges Serena, who presides on her chair and ottoman, so that we must draw the pocket doors between the front and back parts of the house to separate them. Serena has an advantage over Claudius in that his front paws were declawed before my mother got him. Serena can therefore stand her ground. But she doesn't like to come into the kitchen and eat, or use her litter box, unless he is confined.

Ronda and I headed to Governor's Square Mall today to see what bargains we could find. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans at Dillards, as well as two beautiful shirts marked down from $75 to $20. The challenge in shopping for jeans, and I know it's been this way for a very long time now, is to find some that don't look like the ones I have worn out. Levi pre-washes their jeans, but at least they don't look tattered and bleached.

It's time to prune the azaleas, so I made myself do it, sweating, with a dark sky and thunder to the west all afternoon, Now, at midnight, we've had a little rain.

My family hasn't done very well at dying for our country since The War. We died at Chickamauga, Atlanta, and Petersburg, and for the Confederacy, but after that, not so much. My maternal grandfather was on a boat for Europe when the Armistice was signed in 1918. My uncle James was the only one to make it to Europe for WWII, though my father and his other brother Dwight were both in the Army Air Corps stateside. James was a pilot in the Berlin Airlift after the war. My uncle Charles was in the Navy in Vietnam. My own year of 1-A draft eligibility passed in 1973 without my being called up, and I wasn't sorry for it.

I will mention my father-in-law, Ron Hansen, a tank sergeant in the 8th Armored Division who crossed the Rhine in '44. Though he died in his '70's, he was as much a casualty of that war as those who died on the field of battle. So I raise a glass to him on this day.


Desolation Island

I was a little embarrassed, after likening lengthy literary masterpieces to ocean voyages, and declaring that I would soon embark upon a reading of Gibbon, to instead take up a series literally about ocean voyages, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. But having come through as grim a season as I have seen in this life, with the deaths of my mother and my poor cat Cleo, and this against the background of a grueling legislative session at the capitol, where my wife works, I hoped that you would indulge me.

The excellence of these novels lies in the way that they are written. O'Brian has immersed himself in the age of Napoleon, and in the spoken English of that time, and he tells his tales as a time-traveler to our day might tell them, effecting a fine period-rush.

Desolation Island, the fifth in the series, begins a new and greater movement. The prior four all have neat endings. Now his cast of characters is developed, and you sense that O'Brian is getting to the heart of his story.


A running battle with a Dutch man-of-war takes Captain Jack Aubrey's H.M.S. Leopard into the roaring forties, where, at length, a lucky shot shatters the Dutchman's foremast and he goes down in the heavy seas. Having pumped out their fresh water to stay ahead of the enemy, they approach an iceberg to refill, and gash their hull upon it. Near to sinking, Aubrey lets his first lieutenant depart with those who would abandon ship in the ship's boats to avoid a mutiny. Here I had to put the book down last night, unable to endure any more misery.

The Leopard limps along rudderless in the mid-forties, her diminished crew exhausted with pumping, trying to stem the leak with canvas. Even with an improvised steering oar, they fail to make landfall at an island when the oar breaks. With a new steering oar, battered by a gathering storm, Aubrey brings the Leopard into the lee of Desolation Island, where he finds safe harbor.

I confess that I heaved sobs of relief. I don't think I've been so moved since the relief of Minas Tirith by the horsemen of Rohan at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings.

Aided by a wary American whaler, (on the eve of the War of 1812), the Leopard manages to ship a new rudder, and there the novel ends abruptly, to continue in The Fortunes of War.

A blurb credits O'Brian with a "Conradian power of description", and I have to agree. It doesn't get any better.

Books That Disappear

Every librarian knows about these books. There are niches in the collection that are impossible to supply. To purchase more copies is futile. Some people have no notion of how a lending library works, no ethical grounding to understand the concept of sharing access with others. They come to us with a specific need, apply for a library card to fill that need, and throw away their privileges when the need has been met, never to darken our door again. It's sad.

A man came to me today, requesting a list of titles, all of which fitted the "Disappearing Book" profile. His arms were covered with prison or gang tattoos. He wanted Sun Tzu's Art of War, Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction, Milton William Cooper's Behold a Pale Horse, all titles with many copies missing, maybe one copy still active but checked out, possibly overdue. He didn't want to reserve them, which raised a flag. (Does he even have a card? Does he mean to make off them with them straightaway if they are on the shelf?) He settled for some titles we did have on the shelf about secret societies.

He was clearly looking to be a "player". Oh, all is vanity, sir.

Behold a Pale Horse has been the subject of discussion among us recently, after we borrowed a copy through interlibrary loan and it too went missing, which was very costly. Should we buy a copy to keep at the desk for in-library use only, to forestall further ILL requests?

Books that disappear:
GED and ASVAB test prep.
Magic and witchcraft
Martial arts
Secret Societies & Conspiracies
Small Business
Urban fiction, (African-American "Penny Dreadfuls")
Vampire & Horror fiction


Ye Have The Poor Always With You...

Lots of folks coming in this week to apply for jobs online, as fast-food crew and truck drivers especially. We have to make sure they know that they must have web mail accounts first, or all their pecking at keyboards will be for naught.

They are also coming in to apply for SafeLink Wireless, a government supported program that provides a free cell phone and airtime each month for income-eligible customers.

It is just wrong to require workers of a certain class to be computer literate. Laborers must be able to find work according to their ability to look for it. I recall an older woman who wanted to get a job as a charwoman at a local hospital. She was unable to handle applying online for the position, nor did she need to be computer literate to do the job.

We have to find a way for everyone to put food on the table, even if they can do no more than make their mark. And after thinking about it, I don't like the idea of having Internet Job Centers, where intermediaries would apply for jobs on their behalf. Screw the Internet. Require that employers must accept paper job applications without prejudice for positions below a certain grade.


Blogging Reference: Saturday, May 16, 2009

9:55 Working with Janine this a.m.

Cleaned hand-sludge out of old mechanical mouse at 15 min. stand-up PC. Ball was gross, wiped with desk cleaner & paper towel.

Pulled 10 excess lease copies of The Associate off the new book browsing shelves to return.

10:00 Open the doors.

Mr. Landers takes paper, asks about ILL, The Man From Laramie. J. checks, has been shipped. Had been very few holdings. Shipped 4/30, should have been here by now.

PC for Ronald.

Don't have to relieve Media for lunch anymore. New hire is there today. Yay.

Mr. Landers returns paper, heads for bathroom.

She left card at home, can check out books? Yes, with picture ID. Alas, she left entire wallet at home.

Do we have college textbooks? Not as rule. Introduction to Networking? No, sorry.

Freestone frustrated with old PC's up here. Can't handle his game downloads. Give him newer PC in the lab.

Phone: Kumar can't get into NetLibrary. Talk him through to right log in page. Success.

Young man with camera, poss. German but very good English, asks where the Chamber of Commerce is. Take him outside and show him, (next door). Is open? Probably not on Sat. Shakes my hand. Chamber is in one of the oldest houses in Tallahassee. Built in 1830, The Columns was town house of planter Benjamin Chaires. First location of this library in 1957. Moved 2 blocks in '70's to allow for construction of First Baptist's Christian Life Center.

Literacy women need resource room opened. Call super.

Make round. Fat kid in usual carrel back of non-fiction playing games on laptop. "Brad Pitt" in quiet area in back of Fiction w/ laptop. Swear he looks just like him w long hair & beard. Check shelf for next Aubrey/Maturin novel, Desolation Island. Hmm, not on shelf. Someone has moved typewriter, to plug in laptop, prob. Put it back.

Winslow Homer. Uses Homer's Fla. pictures as cover art for his books. Take to shelf. "Dude, thanks!"


DSM-IV. Circulating copy missing, as I knew it would be soon when we ordered it last summer. $89.00 book and we only got 5 circs out of it. Take card for desk copy.

PC for Richard.

Today's paper.

Phone: An Unquiet Mind by Kay R. Jamison. On shelf, put on hold.

1040EZ & booklet. Fetch from storeroom.

Help man adjust LCD height.

Dime for nickel & five pennies.

LCD man needs sound. He got the lemon PC w no front sound port. Move him to another.

11:32 Thunder & rain. Morning rush over. Quiet.

Latravia accidentally closed her session. Another.

Phone: Biography Woman wants DOB and DOD for Liberace.

Where is romance section?

PC is freezing up, give her another.

Phone: Fathers' Rights by Gross. No. Reserve Child Custody, Visitation and Support in Florida for PKY pickup.

New intern Lindsay. Show her locker to stow bag.

Clipjoint by Wilhelmina Baird. Take to shelf.

12:47 Back from lunch. A half-dozen white men from the Shelter are passing the time on the steps of the gazebo in the park. All the benches are wet from the rain. One old greybeard, with a deep, booming voice, is their leader, the Hobo King, as it were. He is a droll fellow. He makes observations with a deadpan delivery, but seems always to be enjoying a joke. I passed them the other day to find a bench to read and smoke, and waved. I heard him say, "He's heading for the shade."

Today's paper.


Today's paper. Sorry, it's out, shall I find him when it comes back? "Naa. If ah don't git it, ah haven't missed much."


Paper comes back, find man.

1:58 An hour of pandemonium.

Phone: how to spell "Moulin Rouge".

I was trying to find some route planning help for a man who is riding his bicycle to North Carolina, but after much effort, I had to give it up. None of the route mapping tools offered suggestions as to the best route. They were all Google Map adaptations that let you place your own waypoints and such. Plenty of "scenic routes" out there, but no AAA-style guide for best roads to anywhere for bike riders. If I am wrong, please send me a link.

A woman wanted print documentation for Florida DCF. Docs online too long to print out. Could only offer the Fla. Statutes, but she seemed happy with the index.

Where to get card?

Tallahassee phone book.

Can check out a couple of DVD's up here? No, sorry.

Can have guest pass for PC on first floor? Can't promise it. Need card to customize session. Ask downstairs.


Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat, by Nevada Barr. Take to shelf.

Do we have other copy of FTCE test prep book? Is using friend's library copy, but is hold on it. We have 3 copies and 4 reserves. Sorry, her friend will have to turn it in. Put her on list.

Where is elevator?

Try to help woman print cover letter from job site so it doesn't have a box around it. In-page print button doesn't work. Some Active-X control wants to install, so I let it, but no help. Try pasting into Word. Box remains. I give up.

Phone: is Brenda, who greets me warmly. Who is she? Says she is finishing school. How to spell "what's" and "learned". Oh, yes, Brenda who used to be an unsatisfactory receptionist here around 1991, when we had a receptionist.

Paper for printer.

See PC turned off, turn it on.

PC for Paulinas.

Straighten reading area.

His reservation doesn't work. Has expired, but PC is "available". Quickly get one of our dummy cards & enter number to start session before it's assigned to someone else.

2009 Guinness World Records. Take to shelf.

Water snapdragons on first-floor landing.


Obit. lookup. Don't find on microfilm. Check Fla. Death Index, DOD is correct. Not buried in any city-owned cemetery.

4:30 30 min. announcement.

Phone: address for Julian Bond.

Wants to know how holds work.

PC for Jessica. Doesn't want when I tell her we're closing at 5:00.

Count cash drawer.

15 min. announcement


Interesting Media/Internet Stats

Library statistical report for Jan/Feb '09 has landed in my office mailbox. Circulation for the media collection, DVD, VHS, CD,& audio-cassette combined is down year-to-date and quarter-to-date by about 9%. Public-access PC usage is down by an astonishing 20%. But print circulation is up by a healthy percentage, (Sorry, didn't bring it home and don't remember the exact figure).

Couple of possible reasons for the Media dip; the aging of our VHS collection, the shocking attrition of the DVD and CD collections from damage and theft. But there is also a drop in the need for physical media formats. Music and video are increasingly downloaded online. How do we maintain ourselves as a "content-provider" for non-print media?

Public-access PC's are increasingly needed only for their printing capacity. For everything else, the wireless laptop reigns supreme. In fact, our offline word-processing PC's showed an increase in usage. Checking the shelf for a phone-request this evening, I heard a gust of laughter from one of the study carrels. He was watching something on his wireless laptop.


A Free Lunch: The Oprah/KFC Chicken Dinner Coupon

It wasn't long after opening this morning that people began asking for help to print out a coupon for a free meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken that Oprah had offered on her show yesterday. The web site required us to first install a "coupon printer", no doubt a tasty bit of spyware. Next we were taken to a page that didn't load entirely, (one of those little "broken image" icons), but there was a link that said, "Click here to print coupon". Which, upon clicking, took us back to the "install coupon printer" page, with no coupon to show for it.

Colleague J. found a sort of bulletin warning that the coupon downloads had been troublesome. I thought to forewarn staff in Tech/Media and at the branches:

">>> BC 05/06/09 10:49 AM >>>
Oprah offered America a free coupon for a chicken dinner from KFC yesterday.

We've got people coming in to print out the coupon, but it's not working. Reportedly, the KFC servers are being hammered.


BC "

Twenty minutes later, BB at our south-side branch, where the coupon had been in great demand, replied with this:

">>> BB 5/6/2009 11:09 AM >>>
BLP apparently had the same problem. All coupons are printing out with "1234" as the last four digits of the bar code. KC called two KFC locations (N. Monroe, Paul Russell) in Tallahassee and was told they are NOT honoring the coupons. She was told that each coupon should have a unique barcode to be legitimate and if not, they will assume they have been photocopied which is not allowed.

"We have been printing out coupons this morning using the coupon printer which has to be downloaded and they are still coming out with the same barcode each time. K. also tried at home last night and got the same "1234" barcode. We are telling patrons at BLP today that they can print the coupons but that they may not be honored by KFC and that they will have to take that up with KFC (or Oprah).

I had another man who was able to fully load the "print coupon" page, but clicking "print coupon" still had no effect. Nothing came out of the printer. A "Having trouble printing coupon?" link led to a form to fill out, promising that "You will be contacted shortly". I explained that we'd been having problems, that likely the KFC servers were presently overburdened, that he might want to try later. I sent this reply to all before going to lunch:

">>> BC 05/06/09 11:53 AM >>>
Wow, thanks for that, B.! M. says people were printing them last night, but that at least one person reported back that the local KFC would not accept it.

"More problems as I write. Attempts to print the coupon don't go to the printer.


B. had been searching into the whole business with great diligence, and flashed back 12 minutes later with this:

">>> BB 5/6/2009 12:05 PM >>>
UPDATE: KFC on Paul Russell will give one piece of chicken (nothing else) to people with barcodes ending in 1234.

"KFC on Apalachee Pky is honoring all coupons.

"KFC on N. Monroe is not answering their phone.

"BLP has been able to print coupons with different barcodes this morning but they are keyed to the IP address so only one person per computer can print a coupon (period). If you try to print a second coupon from the same computer you get an error message says "sorry you've already printed your coupon". Then if you question it, it pulls up a form with the IP address already filled in and asks for you contact info. You then get a message says "you will be contacted". Tell eveyone to fill in Oprah's contact info on this form!

"The saga continues......"

A couple of hours later one of our volunteers figured out that you had to clear the browser history to print out multiple coupons from the same PC.

I imagine that this went on at public libraries around the country.

Hey Oprah, guess what? A lot of people who wanted that free meal ARE POOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T OWN COMPUTERS AND HAVE TO USE PUBLIC ACCESS PC'S.


When Did the '60's End?

My sister Amy commented on the previous Moody Blues post, which I cross-posted to Facebook,"Very 60's". Well, yes. A Question of Balance was released in 1970, but no one would deny that it was a "'60's" album.

So when did the '60's end? I think that the '60's are elastic, as is the Boomers cohort. But if I had to name a year, two years come to mind.

In 1973 the military draft ended, marking the end of mass opposition to the war in Vietnam. You could see this as the end of the '60's and the beginning of the Disco '70's. For American society as a whole, I would go with 1973 as the end of the '60's

Alternatively, at the end of 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the Presidential Election, and John Lennon was murdered. For "core" counterculture types, this is the more accurate date. The civil-rights/anti-war "Movement" had splintered into niche causes: post-Mao Maoism, Lesbian-Feminist Separatism, pre-AIDS "Gay Liberation", White Rastafarianism, and many other flavors; an efflorescence of decay. This was really when the scene in Tallahassee dissolved. It was SO over. Lots of people left for the West Coast, Seattle in particular, Ecotopia.

This was when I said Good-bye to All That.

Postscript, August 28, 2011
This post has gotten a lot of hits since I wrote it, so I feel I ought to mention a new book by David Browne, Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970.  Browne argues that the '70's began, and the '60's ended, in 1970, a bold assertion.  You can sample some reviews here.

I think it is a matter of perspective.  My experience of the Sixties was in Florida, a cultural backwater.  I didn't actually meet any hippies until 1969 at my high school..  It is hard to describe how difficult it was to find out about the "Counterculture" in those days.  Progressive Rock could only be heard on the new, non-commercial radio station, FM 107.  I recall endlessly poring over The Whole Earth Catalog, which was a sort of directory of hippie thought.

This was not the case in New York, Los Angeles or London.