Blogging Reference: Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009

Cold, sunlit morning. SE put out the tax forms on tables by the stair well before closing yesterday. AARP volunteers are having a planning meeting this morning to prepare for Tax Help, which starts Monday. People are more anxious than ever to get their refunds, if they've got one coming, so I expect our valiant AARP workers will be mobbed.

Working with MF this morning. She's found porn from a Yahoo image search for "porno" in one of the printers. Need to find out why WebSense isn't blocking this.

Cleaning crew did carpet last night. We go around taking the chairs off the tables.

Monitor for 36 has broken base. Ask MIS if another base can be scavenged.

10:00 Open.

Can sit down at PC and sign in? Yes.

"Do y'all have tax books? Is AARP here?"

Tax forms.


Can get card?



Phone: The elegant Florida P. Is husband in Who's Who? Will check and call back. No. What about any other directories? Will check and call back. Not in Amer Nat Bio, Af-Amer Nat Bio. Is in WW Among Af-Amer 15 ed. Wow, did not know about husband. Offer to mail copy. She'd like that.

Man has looked up IRS form on catalog PC. "If I hit print, where will it pop up at?"

Tax Help?

What does "received" mean in catalog, being processed? Yes. Can reserve it.

Phone book.

Retired Air Transportation Man, (a regular): Copy of 1/26 WSJ piece, Obama Moves to Let States Set Own Rules on Emissions, and copy of Fl Statute 322.005, Restrictions on authority of Department of Transportation.

Book by Edwards Deming. No. Friend got it here. Sorry, use your univ. library.

Address of personal injury attorneys, address of Sheriff's dept.


Baseball Man: Recent stats for Oakland A's Jack Cust.

Air cond. & refrig. books? Nothing, all lost or missing. Check shelf. Offer to ILL. He takes cell phone call, turns away. Comes back to desk. Must have today. Suggest B&N, Borders.

M checks iPage for air cond. repair books. All too costly to order.

Phone: Who did Heather Tom play on One Life To Live? Kelly Cramer.

Replenish Updike display.

Tax forms.

Copy and mail bio from WW Among Af-Amer.

Phone: Test prep for Florida Teacher Certification Exam K-6. 3 copies, all out, one overdue, one hold outstanding. She'll buy her own, test in 4 weeks.

Returns pen.

Baby crying on 1st floor.

11:50 and PC's just now full.

PC for Linson.

Printer doesn't work. Is in sleep mode, wake up.

11:55: Lunch.

As I walk out to the Park Avenue steps, a funeral procession passes, led by a quartet of musicians playing Dixieland jazz. Trumpet, clarinet, snare and bass drum. They are followed by a horse drawn cart bearing a wooden coffin with a floral arrangement on top, with twenty or so men in suits in loose formation bringing up the rear. Women in dresses file alongside down the sidewalks. They are heading down toward the Old City Cemetery, two blocks away. They are white.

Odd. This isn't New Orleans. Jazz funerals are not a tradition here, even among black people. And the deceased must be of old Tallahassee stock to have a plot in the old cemetery. First Presbyterian or Trinity Methodist, (the two churches on Park up the hill)? Surely Methodist, but who knows, these days? Could even be Episcopalian, from St. John's.

Sitting on a park bench in the winter sunlight, eating a chicken sandwich and reading Unsworth's Land of Marvels, I hear a piper playing Amazing Grace. I can see the blue burial tent through the trees. Having processed riotously there, they seem to be piping him solemnly into his grave. Then the quartet strikes up with When the Saints Go Marching In. Mourners straggle back up the hill to their cars, ties undone.

Back at 12:25, alone and non-stop busy until now, (1:12). M is down in Media. Missed a half-dozen calls.

Another flurry, 1:33 now.

Lots of directory assistance, a reverse lookup, when is tax help, assign PC's.

Girl wanted primary sources for Ponce de León. Showed her chapter with bib in Samuel Eliot Morrison's The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, found 1935 Ponce de León number of Fla Hist Qtrly with good excerpts from primary accounts. Showed her how to get FHQ at PALMM.

Where to hook up laptop.

U of Oregon Law School number, res listing in Eugene.

Fl Bldg code.

PC for Darryl.
PC for Willy.

PC for Walsh.

Her PC is frozen, reboot.

PC gets "sys incompatible" w TurboTax. Too old, Win2K machine. Get her a new PC downstairs.

Woman wants public speaking book. Show her section. "Can I just sit down and look at these? I feel like I'm in a candy store!"

1:55 M back.

Girl wants Angler: The Cheney Vice-Presidency. Place hold.

Much needed cigarette break.

Phone: Grammar Man, (a regular). Adjective for "help"; valuable, special, or precious? Valuable, if must. Usage questions for "chairman".

Get refill for my pen.

PC for Greg.

Where are music books?

Daisy wheel on typewriter has "m" gunked up with Wite Out®. Swap out and try to clean.


Phone: Dead Certain, by Mariah Stewart. Place hold.


Shelver calls in sick. M goes to pull some books for holds.

ILL renewal request for What God Wants, by Neale Donald Walsch. "It's not a christian book", she says. "You have so many christian books, and so few metaphysical books." Send request, tell her call Mon. p.m. about renewal. Put OCLC printout on J's desk.

Man can't get Spanish dance articles from our Gale db's. Explain we don't have humanities db like JSTOR. Suggest he use his TCC databases. Show good entry in New Intl Ency of Dance. Doesn't want to pay to photocopy it.

Amelia Earhart books for Hist. Fair. Mom & freckly daughter, who must do by Sunday night.

Dr. Robin Smith, Inspirational Vitamins, Lies at the Altar; ILL 1st, 2nd on shelf. DVD's: Something New, place hold, Tae Bo videos, 3 on order, place holds.

Help man w new card get PC.

Directory assist. for Henderson, Nevada.

Where is computer section? Wants Photoshop books. Explain latest ones are too costly for us to buy, but great documentation on Adobe site. Do we have wireless? Yes. Thanks me.

Tax help questions.

DVD's, Brokedown Palace, Vantage Point. How to see exercise DVD's? Show how to limit catalog search by coll.

Phone: Economic Facts and Fallacies, by Thomas Sowell. On shelf. Place hold, trap, take to circulation.

Man wants me to check Carnytown site for dates of Bluegrass Shows tour. Not there, and Bluegrass Shows own site still has 2008 dates. He takes print-out of 2008 info.

Mom wants help finding non-memoir book about CIA, how it functions as gov agency. Find good, if dated vol in Chelsea House series on gov agencies.

Phone: How to find mattress reviews in Consumer Reports.

5:00: Closed


Berries -> Birds -> Poop

It's birding season in Tallahassee. If I never noticed them outside, I would know just by looking at the shelving trucks and the ravaged 598's in non-fiction.

We had a cold snap early in the week, with a hard freeze down at the airport translating into a light one up on our hill. Some, but not all, of my cardinal guards and pentas froze.

In its wake, hundreds of robins arrived to gorge on the wild cherry, camphor and holly fruit in my yard. I had said to my wife last weekend that I thought it was about time for the robins to come. You want to keep your car in the garage or car port now. This morning I swept the resulting debris of undigested pits and purple-black bird feces off of the back patio.


Remembering Viola Liuzzo on MLK Day

Several years ago I had a question, in-house, from a black staff member on behalf of a friend of hers. Who was the only white person to be killed during the Civil Rights campaign in the Sixties?

While it is not strictly true that she was the only white person who lost her life in that struggle, (Freedom Riders Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi along with James Chaney in 1964), it became clear that Viola Liuzzo was the person in question, having been murdered by the Klan in direct connection with the Selma marches of 1965.

Sometimes being an archival gumshoe means that you uncover stories that tear you up, and my voice broke with emotion as I told my wife about it over supper that night.

I will let the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography tell the story:

On March 24 Liuzzo stayed overnight at St. Jude's, a complex of buildings including a Catholic Church, hospital and school, just inside the Montgomery city limits. From the church tower she watched the approach of 25,000 marchers. When she came down from the tower, unsettled and anxious, she told Timothy Deasy, one of the parish priests, "Father, I have a feeling of apprehension. Something is going to happen today. Someone is going to be killed."

Calmer after prayer, she joined the marchers, barefoot, for the last four miles to the capitol building in Montgomery. With everyone else she sang freedom songs and listened to the speeches. When the march was over, Liuzzo met civil rights worker Leroy Moton, who had been using her car all day as an airport shuttle. The two of them drove five passengers back to Selma. When they were dropped off, Viola volunteered to return Moton to Montgomery.

Viola's biographer, Mary Stanton, describes the ride to Selma. "Between the airport and Selma a car full of whites drove up behind them and banged into the bumper of the Oldsmobile several times before passing . . . When they stopped for gas, Moton remembered, white bystanders shouted insults at the integrated group. Further along, the driver of another car turned on his high beams and left them shining into Vi's rearview mirror. 'Two can play at that game,' she said and deliberately slowed up, making the offending car pass her. Finally, when another car pulled up alongside the Oldsmobile while one in front slowed down, Vi had to jam on her brakes. They were boxed in, one of the passengers remembers, but Mrs. Liuzzo seemed to be more annoyed than afraid. As they drove along Highway 80, Vi began singing freedom songs: 'And long before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.'"

Gary Thomas Rowe was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant and a member of the Klux Klan (KKK). According to his court testimony, events transpired as follows. After the passengers were delivered, he and three other members of a KKK "missionary squad"—Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr., William Orville Eaton, and Eugene Thomas—spotted Liuzzo and Moton stopped at a traffic light in Selma. They followed her car for twenty miles. While she attempted to outrun her pursuers, she sang at the top of her lungs, "We Shall Overcome." About half way between Selma and Montgomery the four men pulled their car up next to hers and shot at her. Liuzzo was killed instantly. Her car rolled into a ditch. Moton escaped injury.


The West Wing comes to life

I saw this, cross-posted to TPM:

The Public Servant: The West Wing comes to life

We watched, every Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. For an hour we could pretend that we had a president we were proud of, with a staff that seemed to be people like us.

I kept saying the wheel would turn. I didn't think that it would be this soon. If this isn't it, we wait in vain. It is as close as we are going to get.

What Americans want to read

A thirtyish man approached the reference desk yesterday and held up two thrillers by Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, plucked from the "New Books" shelves. "Are these good?", he asked. I had earlier shown him where to apply for a library card.

"Well, they're okay," I replied, "what I call "airport fiction." His face fell a little. Oh God, now you've done it, I thought. He's come here on a mission to pick out some books for his wife or mother. I tried to recover. "They're fine. They're a lot of fun! People love them!", I chirped, approvingly. He seemed reassured, gave me a nod of thanks, and went down to check them out. Give me thirty whacks with a rolled-up copy of People Magazine.

I am blogging this after reading Keillor's hilarious column over breakfast, She saw her pale reflection in the window, in which he imagines himself murdered by both a thriller-reading "guy" and an English Department poetess:

"Read my book," the novelist said. "Are there breasts in it?" asked Brad. "Oh just grow up," the man sneered. He didn't notice Brad's left hand reaching under the workbench for the .357 Magnum he kept taped there for just this eventuality. "I'm a serious novelist," the man said quietly, "and I've won many awards." But those awards weren't going to save his skin from some serious perforation now. No, sir. BLAM BLAM BLAM.
I feel his pain.


Blogging Reference: Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009

(Note: The library got slammed today. Very, very busy, in spite of an FSU-Duke basketball home game at 2 and a pro football playoff game on TV. Parts of this were entered from memory during lulls, and this evening prior to posting.)

10:00 Doors open.

Working with DL today.

Connie at Northeast Branch w/ ILL renewal. Send, leave request on JR's desk.

PC for John.
PC for Ralph.
PC for Chris.

Phone: Giants, by John Stauffer, The Wild Places, by Robert Macfarlane, and The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott. Scott not on shelf? Will call if can't find.

Man upset that the old 2008 Scott stamp catalogs not available for checkout yet. Offer him CH's number to call on Mon.

Found Scott's LOTL. No spine label, does not match pub. info in title record. It is a flexible, pocket "souvenir edition", Collins, 1959, bound in black & white tartan cloth, title and kilted highlander w/ drawn sword stamped in silver on front cover.

Man through w/PC. "Hey I appreciate it dude." to me.

PC for Xavier.

Boy wants Kennedy "ask not" and "moon" speeches, info on Ted Sorensen, JFK speech writer. Can't find Sorenson's Special Counsel to the President on shelf.

Tax forms? Not til Feb. All online at irs.gov.

Info on St. Stephen protomartyr for lady's bible college theology class. Cath Ency.

PC for Demarte.

Democrat on microfilm, family member's basketball games in early '80's. Unclear on dates. No go.

Copy Cath Ency entry on Stephen for lady.

Boy's mom puts hold on Sorensen. Their surname is Sorensen. Ted Sorenson is boy's great uncle or something.

Phone: Child Called It on audio.

Eric Jerome Dickey paperbacks. Put Sister, Sister on hold.

Call Me Ted, by Ted Turner, Men are Stupid. . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery by Joan Rivers. Don't own Rivers yet, take manual request.

12:00 Lunch. Tuna sandwich, Pepsi, Rotter's Club on Park Ave. bench. Point Brit tourists to Mus. of Fla. Hist.

12:30 Back. DL to lunch.

Phone: Ophelia wants Shameless, by Vonetta Pierce. No. Someone Else's Puddin', by Samuel Hair. Yes, hold. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, by Steve Harvey. Is new. No, take manual request.

Coloring sheets? Send little girl down to Children's.

Where to read docs on floppy? Suggest Word Proc. Lab.

PC for Danielle.

His PC rebooted, help resume session.

1:00 DL back. Down to Media to relieve SJ.

2:00 Back.

Make round of floor. Shoo pinball playing man off catalog PC. No sleepers. Suit takes book from my medieval mysteries display.

Phone: Social Security Death Index lookup.

Nearest laundromat.

PC for Marvin.

Laundromat guy wants PC, but very cagey. Doesn't want to give me a name, but finally says "Max". Won't approach to get reservation slip. Leaves out Park Ave. doors.

Woman says card doesn't work at reservation station. Has already had limit of 2 sessions.

Outliers, Wishful Drinking, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. 1st two have waiting lists, doesn't want. Engulfed on cart in check-in room.

PC for Michael.

PC for Misha.

Toner for printer.

PC for A...


PC... 45 min. wait.

Paper for printer.

Books about C. S. Lewis.

Phone: Reverse lookup. 765 exchange not in directory.

PC for Charles.

Invisible Monsters, Fight Club.

Is meeting here? Dean's Social Group at 3:00. Take couple to elevator. Prob. retired FAMU faculty.

Charles getting no sound on #54. Give him other PC.

Freestone Wilson waves on way to PC.

Where are inspirational books? Wants Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now. Take to shelf.

Return ID for City Directory & Tall. atlas.

PC for Mary.

Phone: DVD of Autobiography of Jane Pittman. At branch, he'll get it there.

3:20 Quiet.

Power of attorney forms.

Phone: Advice on selecting ISP and buying PC.

List of children's book. Downstairs. Reserve Lion's Paw by Robb White.

Paper for printer.

Lady picks up Obama book.

Phone: Secret Life of Bees. YA copy in Children's. Transfer call.

Secret Life of Bees again. Copies in Bookmobile. Key from MD, down to basement. Look everywhere, can't find. Ask St. Tony for help. Find.

Books on psychology and physiology. Take to shelf.

4:50 Shutting down PC's, picking up paper, stray materials.

5 min. warning.

5:00 Closed for the day.


Watching the Virtual Grass Grow

I joke with my coworker, Chris, who is a Level 70 Undead Warlock, or some such, in World of Warcraft, that my gaming life is very boring. I tried my hand at online, multiplayer warfare with Red Baron 3D and it was about as enjoyable for me as a high school gym class.

Then I discovered Tropico, a building game in which the player, as El Presidente, must run a Caribbean island economy. You can take it in a number of directions; raw materials, rum & cigars, tourism. The game is a gem, and surprisingly deep. The modeling is superb. The vegetation is lovely, with many types of flowering trees and shrubs. There are occasional hurricanes.

I found myself over and over trying to build an Arcadian paradise, rather than accumulate a fortune for El Presidente. I just liked to watch the farmers farm,the fishermen fish, the goats and cattle graze. You can grow all kinds of crops: bananas, sugar cane, coffee beans, tobacco, pineapples, papayas, corn, depending on the conditions. Your peasants will work away in the fields, planting and harvesting. In the picture above, you can see a new tobacco farm on the left, where the padre is paying a visit.

The trouble is, it's hard to make time stand still with a building game. Tropico, for all its initial bucolic appeal, has a modern social structure with political and cultural factions. There are communists and capitalists, liberal intellectuals and a religious right, environmentalists and militarists, none of whom favor keeping everyone down on the farm, a la Pol Pot. In a game like this, the people want better jobs, health care, entertainment, and El Presidente must either make them happy or keep them in line by force, risking a guerrilla uprising. It is something to see when the rebels appear!

Tropico inhabits a larger, Cold War world, where your choices range between the extremes of Cuba and, say, the banana republic of Guatemala. Cuba is clearly the basic model, with its command economy, and Fidel is more or less the default El Presidente. That the player can secure an infusion of foreign aid by allowing the Soviets or the United States to build a missile base is the giveaway. Only the Soviet Union ever desired a missile base in the Caribbean.

PopTop Software created a Spring Break/Eco-Tourism add-on, Paradise Island, that reflects the direction many Caribbean and Central American economies, such as Costa Rica, Dominica, Jamaica, and Bonaire have taken in recent, post-Cold War years. It comes complete with a Mayan ruin. (The definitive Tropico release is the Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition.)

Where, then, to turn, for a digital Happy Valley, unencumbered by modern hunger for tantalizing, elusive Progress?

I looked for other farming simulations. I found farming games, such as the arcade-ish Farm Frenzy and Magic Farm. I also found a couple of genuine sims:

SimTractor, to judge by the videos of beautifully modeled farming machinery in action, succeeds very well in simulating the operation of a large industrial farm. It is free, and there are many additional models of tractors, spreaders, balers, etc., available for download. It would be perfect for 4H-ers, and for folks who want a sort of farm version of a railroad sim. But there are no people in the sim, and "first-person" farm simming isn't really what I had in mind. I prefer to be God in His Heaven.

The SimTractor site links to another, European, multiplayer farming simulation, SimAgri. This is daunting indeed, being played entirely "on paper". That is, you schedule things to happen in a tabbed text environment. There is no 3D graphical world at all. Again, very 4H-y and serious, with mainly French-speaking players, over 27,ooo of them, 156 playing online as I write.

I was thinking of an ancient farming village, where nothing would change for millenia. I'm looking at some of the empire-building demos: Imperium Romanum, Caesar IV, Anno 1701, and Medieval Lords.

The closest thing I have found so far is Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile, a 2004 game which was re-released with improvements last year. It is said to be, "one of the most serene and gratifying city builders since the genre began". Its 3D world is stunning. It takes 2000 years to play. See you in 2000 years.

<$200 Linux Netbook?

Now we're talking. Ubuntu Linux a launch partner with mobile phone chip maker Freescale for new Netbook chip.


Ghost Train

My friend Peter, over at Naked Blog, has emerged, blinking, into the January sunlight, likening his holidays to a "ghost train", meaning the kind of fairground ride called in the U.S. a "horror house" or a "spook house". A well-known example is the actually pretty unscary Haunted Mansion at Disney World.

The horror house at the Central Florida Fair of my childhood was scary as hell. The painted facade showed helpless, distressed victims gruesomely tormented by demons. The Throes of the Damned. Terrifying screams issued from within. Horror was promised. My sister Carol and I went on the ride. I don't remember much, except that Carol got bonked on the head by something and started to cry. At supper, my father told me not to call it a horror house, (it sounded too much like whore house, I figured out).

I never heard it called a ghost train until I read Anthony Powell's exquisite description at the end of Casanova's Chinese Restaurant:

The question reminded me that Moreland, at least in a negative manner, had taken another decisive step. I thought of his recent remark about the Ghost Railway. He loved these almost as much as he loved mechanical pianos. Once, at least, we had been on a Ghost Railway together at some fun fair or on a seaside pier; slowly climbing sheer gradients, sweeping with frenzied speed into inky depths, turning blind corners from which black, gibbering bogeys leapt to attack, rushing headlong towards iron-studded doors, threatened by imminent collision, fingered by spectral hands, moving at last with dreadful, ever increasing momentum towards a shape that lay across the line.


Netbook Update

Internet News is reporting high returns to stores by dissatisfied users. In my post of last October, I guessed that this might happen.

Hmmm, maybe I can get one for cheap now!


Goog-Goog-Googly Eyes

Yes, Google's had custody of my eyeballs a lot lately. Between Blogger, Picasa and Google Books, I've spent most of my online time in Google World the last couple of days.

Google Books is an astonishing offering for readers who like old literature. I spent about an hour and a half tonight scarfing down PDF's of copyright-expired books scanned from the Harvard and other libraries. Fantasy and supernatural fiction by Lord Dunsany and Arthur Machen, John MacGregor's Rob Roy sailing canoe travelogues, The Collected Poems of Maurice Baring, all mine, ha-ha-ha!

You can do an advanced search limited to "full view only" and retrieve countless treasures for free download, not transcribed as text-files like the Gutenberg Project, but gorgeous scans of original editions. Bless the Gutenberg Project, I 've used them heavily in years past. But with broadband cable and a 300 gigabyte hard drive, 70 megabytes of PDF's is nothing now.

I am old enough to remember how hard it used to be to find out-of-print books. Back in the '70's, I regularly drove from Windermere, in Orange County, over to Haslam's Books in St. Petersburg, to poke around in their huge used-book section. I used to spend hours on the top floors of the Strozier Library at FSU, where they stored the old, Dewey-cataloged books.

When you put Google Books together with used-book middlemen like AbeBooks and Alibris, and OCLC WorldCat for interlibrary loan, as well as the numerous digital archives assembled by government agencies and universities, such as the Library of Southern Literature at UNC, access to books is now far beyond anything we could have imagined thirty years ago. I am in "hog-heaven"!

It occurs to me that I can now do a Local Color display, (e.g. Sarah Orne Jewett), something that has been impossible because the library owned so few titles from that school of American literature. I could show laminated color print-outs of covers from the PDF's, and point readers to Google Books, the Gutenberg Project, and elsewhere.