Thursday, October 07, 2004

Chapter 1 - October 7, 2004

"There's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there." - Vice President Cheney, 1/22/04 NPR Interview

"You've got your facts wrong. I never suggested a connection between Iraq and 9/11" Vice President Cheney, 10/05/04 debate.


Monday, October 04, 2004

Chapter 1 - October 4, 2004

A high school friend of mine named Gary Palmer was going through a troubling time with mental health in the 1960's. More and more he had to spend time in one facility or another, including the one that nobody wanted - the state hospital. During one of his visits, he became fascinated with the idea of humor. He told me a story about some of the inmates that he had known - particularly a patient who was obsessed with leprechauns. This began to get the attention of the keepers, who lectured him about the nonexistence of these fantasy figures. One day it went too far, so a psychiatrist got the patient in the day room. "I'll be taking you to Ireland," the patient was told. In fact, the patient was led to the garden out back, where he and the psychiatrist walked around the trees and bushes. "See, no leprechauns." At the end, the patient thanked the psychiatrist and went back to solving puzzles. Another patient whispered to him: "That doctor thinks you're crazy." "He thinks I'm crazy? All I did was talk about some leprechauns and I got a free trip to Ireland."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Republican Reality test

The official Republican Trivia test, 2004 edition. In honor of the New York Republican convention.

Sponsored by "Librarians for the Truth."

Answer as honestly as you can.
None of the correct answers have the name "Clinton" inside.

1. Who won the popular vote for President in the 2000 election?

2. How many Iraqis were on the planes that flew into buildings on September 11?

3. How many times has George W. Bush been arrested?

4. Essay question: Given that there were thousands of American families dealing with grief in the days following September 11, why were relatives of Osama Bin Laden and other Saudi's given special treatment and flown back to their homeland?

5. How many Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush dared his enemies - "Bring them on?"

6. How many weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since we liberated them?

7. What happened to the higher-scoring applicant to the Texas National Guard who was denied entry because George W. Bush was allowed in?

8. Why were air quality tests following September 11 hidden from the public, and substituted with misinformation that the air was fine?

9. What were Dick Cheney's "Other Priorities" that kept him from serving in Vietnam?

10. Of the 3 major candidates in the 2004 election, which one would most likely be supported by members of the Ku Klux Klan?

11. Is Bush's desire to find the person who outed Ambassador Wilson's wife as a CIA operative more intense or less intense than O.J.'s quest to find the real killer? Has he called Robert Novak into his office and asked him who did it?

12. Vice President Cheney spent a lot of effort to keep America from knowing who met with him about energy policy in 2001. Can you name an energy corporation executive whose presence on this committee might be embarrassing for the administration?

13. What percent of Iraqis view us as liberators and what percent think of us as a hostile invasion force?

"That felt good."

Richard Cheney

Friday, August 13, 2004

Fun with Lexis

Searching major papers for the last 6 months:

Reagan in Headline and first paragraph and prosperity in the text of the article: 164 hits
Reagan in Headline and first paragraph and market crash in the text of the article: 14 hits

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Chapter 1 - August 12, 2004

I am the only one who has noticed lately that the terms "Conservative" and "Liberal" have lost all of their meaning. These days, "Conservative" means anything that a Republican does and "Liberal" means anything that a Democrat does. Sometimes this gets into pretty murky waters to say the least. Earlier this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger rode into the office partly on rage over Gov. Davis' decision to allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses. So that's the "Conservative" position - right? A scant few months later, Bush declared that all illegal aliens in the nation should not only get driver's licenses, but should be able to buy into Social Security. Another "Conservative" position from times past was that you don't spend money you don't have. Now the national surplus has turned into a huge deficit to finance Bush's misadventures in Iraq. America in 2004 is a comedy co-written by Bill O'Reilly and George Orwell.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Chapter 1 - July 26, 2004

Fun with Windows

I am one of the few holdouts who still have a dia-up modem. Over the weekend, I tried to dial in to EarthLink, but the connection failed. A message came up that there was a problem in my Windows OS that caused my connection to malfunction. Do I want to send a report. Sure, but since I'm not online, how is that possible?

It reminds me of a story that I first heard in Philosophy class in 1964 at Phoenix College, told by Professor Hill. Napoleon was on the lam, and hiding out in the forest. One day he encounters a one-armed peasant.  The two strike up a conversation, and the peasant brags that he lost his arm fighting for Napoleon, and if he ever saw the general, he'd lose the other arm. The peasant subsquently finds out the true identity of the general, takes out his sword and cuts off his other arm. How? 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Important signs that civilization may survive until 2010

Air America Radio
Derek Jeter
The films of Eric Rohmer
The New York Fire Department
Countdown with Keith Olbermann
Project Gutenberg
Radio commentator Dave Ross
The International Space Station
Steve Earle
Katz' Deli on Houston
Michael Moore
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter
Yogi Berra

Monday, July 12, 2004

Signs that civilization has crumbled while we were busy thinking about something else

Reality TV
George W. Bush
Britney Spears
The Patriot Act
Governor Arnold
The Halliburton Corporation
Howard Stern
Joey Buttafuoco
Instant messaging
Courtney Love
American Idol
Don Zimmer leaving the Yankees
Ralph Nader
DVDs in SUVs
Ann Coulter
Actors who write childrens' books
The New York Post
The Hairy guy who plays for the Red Sox
Scott Peterson
Cell phones and the people who love them
"The Incredible Mr. Limpet" on DVD and not "East of Eden"
Kobe Bryant
Dick Cheney

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Chapter 1 - July 8, 2004

Whatever happened to the future?

When I was a small boy I went to Disneyland and marvelled at the exhibits in Tomorrowland that showed the great things we would have in the year 2000 like picture phones, trips to the moon and sleek cars that flew instead of rolled. In the many ensuing years there have been many great things discovered, and we now live in a time where we take certain marvels for granted. Last week when I was in Florida we went to the Disney theme parks and found that in many of the attractions showing the progress of technology, they had pretty much run out of future. In the ride through the giant dome in Epcot they show mankind progressing from cave art to the Internet, but nothing much past that to look forward to. Pretty much the same story in Tomorrowland, which was mostly Todayland. Is this a failure of imagination, or have we pretty much accomplished everything that could be done by the human race? I suspect the former, but it's not an easy answer. We could have probably gone to Mars for the money we spent "liberating" Iraq, but the space program seems to be in perpetual neutral, waiting for another tragedy that might shift it into a fast reverse. I'm resigned to the fact that we will not go to Mars in my lifetime, which is too bad. Dan Quayle and now Bush make great-sounding statements about going to Mars, but always stop when it's time to get out the checkbook.

And yet, we live in a time of intense and accelerating change. The changes that have occurred in my field, academic libraries, have been phenomenal since 1989 when I got my library degree. It's easy to look ahead to the day, fast approaching, when all scholarly publishing will be electronic, although I doubt if ebooks will replace "Fiber based" information technology in the century. I haven't read science fiction in ages, so I don't know if they're doing better at prognosticating than the Disney people. Maybe we're just getting tired as a people and want to circle the wagons so we can hold on to what we've already got. I miss the 1960's.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Chapter 1 - July 6, 2004

Just got back from a 10 day conference and then vacation in Florida. I had a great conference - learned a lot, went to some good parties, and even met E.L. Doctorow at one of them. That party, thrown by the journal the Nation, also was attended by the New Jersey librarian whose quick action saved Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men from the shredder. She was also instrumental in getting a special showing of Fahrenheit 911 as a fundraiser for several library causes. This resulted in a full house for the 2000 seat theater, and a raucously positive reception for the film. On one night, Universal Studios was booked for a librarians-only party, which meant some pretty short lines for most rides. On the whole, Epcot was the best park and Disney World was the worst. MGM Studios edged out Universal because a lot of their attractions were a salute to the art and craft of the cinema, whereas the rides in Universal were there to knock you around. I came out of the "Back to the Future" ride with back pains, but I can't say I wasn't warned - they had posted signs all the way up.

At the end of the conference, we rented a car and drove 50 miles to Cocoa Beach so my son and I could tour the Kennedy Space Center while my wife got extra beach time. At the end of the day, everyone was happy. I must be the last New Yorker in the world to visit Florida, and I honestly don't see this as somewhere that I would ever retire. The weather was so hot and humid that I felt like I was back in the Philippines. The prices for anything in the Orlando area resembled highway robbery. The theme parks were fun at times, but they were jammed even on weekdays in the off season. It was fun, but I'm glad to be back home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 22, 2004

I'm starting to believe that spam is a form of terrorism, invented and perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden to drive me, personally, over the edge. I have a spam program that I bought and also have my Outlook set to automatically divert anything about pornography or Nigerians who want to make me a millionaire. Does anyone actually buy drugs from people who send unwanted email and can't even spell the thing they're supposedly selling? I don't think so. There was supposedly an anti-spam law passed, but it doesn't seem to be doing much so far. A colleague of mine said that I've set myself up as a spam target because my web page is there for anyone to see and it has my email address on it. I'm not sure I agree with the point of view. People can see my car but that doesn't mean they can throw eggs at it.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Chapter 1 - Father's Day weekend

Part of our family mythology is that something bad always happens on Father's Day or my birthday. In this case, it was true, but it didn't happen to us. On Sunday morning, I was told that we would be going to the South Street Seaport and tour the boats and the museum. My son Bob is an intern at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Bowling Green at lower Manhattan. It is an unpaid internship, but it carries the interesting perk that he can get in to any museum in New York for free, and usually get us in as well. There are certain parts of Manhattan that I will drive to on a Sunday, and then there is lower Manhattan. We took the train to Penn Station and the 2/3 subway line to Fulton Street Station. The day was absolutely magnificent, and I walked the remaining few blocks with my camera ready for action. At the Seaport, we found a restaurant on the top level with million dollar views of the East river and the three bridges.

Afterwards, we got our tickets and toured the huge schooner Peking as well as the tugboat Cameron. Then we got a good look at the Seaport Museum, which has some of the most magnificent scrimshaw I've ever seen. It was fun seeing maps of Manhattan and Long Island from the 1600's. It was now getting towards late afternoon, so we walked up to Wall Street, and found the subway entrance closed. No problem - we went further west and found another one closed. The policewoman told me that an open one could be found on Broadway, so we walked another block. We thought that they were adding extra security in case Bush or someone were visiting the Exchange the next day. We figured that we'd find out when we watched the news that night. Turned out to be the lead story. Chambers Street, the subway stop just before Fulton Street had a mugging at 11:30, and police chased the suspect down into the tunnel. He lunged at them and shouted that they'd have to shoot him. They obliged him, and that was the end of his story. All of this was happening within minutes of the time we had been passing through. The trouble with New York is that it is a dangerous place, but things run so well there that you are not on guard as much as you should be.

The more things change....

I pray you to pause and consider. Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object--robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick--a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor--none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?


Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.

This Republic's life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: "Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor." Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid raid because to grant peace to those little people on their terms--independence--would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam's phrase--you should take it up and examine it again. He said, "An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war."

Mark Twain

Friday, June 18, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 18, 2004

"When I die, I'm donating my body to Science Fiction." Steven Wright

Preparing for a trip to Orlando next week for the annual meeting of the American Library Association. These meetings are a good opportunity to keep up with the field, and with old colleagues. We always manage to sample the local food and drink wherever we go, and this should be particularly interesting because we are the last New Yorkers in existence who have never been to Florida. I was surprised to see that the Kennedy Space Center is so close to Orlando, so we added a day of vacation to visit that area. In the last year or so I've been bringing a Palm Pilot with a fold-up keyboard that allows me to write my reports as things are happening and upload the thing to the web as soon as I get back. Usually these contain a mixture of hard library information, travelogue and plain silliness, but people read them so I keep writing them.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to see the transit of Venus just as the sun was rising over Connecticut. I remember reading about this as a teenager in the 1960's, thinking that the year 2004 was strictly science fiction. Actually, if you think about the lives we are living now, it really is science fiction. Having the ability to sit at the reference desk in slow times and write these messages, which can then be read anywhere in the world in 5 minutes. That's something, if you think about it. That just brings up the basic problem with Science Fiction. The technology of today is wonderful, but people are still the same. I read science fiction until I was 30. At that time I realized that I had started a dozen sci fi books but never made it to chapter 3 in any of them. It occurred to me that I really didn't like this stuff anymore, so I started a lifetime reading plan that I've mostly kept up since - reading the best possible authors and trying to keep a balance of the subjects covered. This helped me later in life when I started writing myself.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 17, 2004

Last night, I spotted the first fireflies of 2004 in Long Island, so life is proceeding in a normal fashion. We are throwing a party on the deck Saturday night, so that will give me one more thing to do. We only throw a party once in years, so it's a big event.

I see that our president today reiterated his claims that Iraq was somehow linked to Osama in the 2001 bombings, in spite of massive evidence to the contrary. Looks like another episode of "Faith-based intelligence" at work here. The mess that he has created defies all description. After a year since "victory" to turn the liberated Iraq in a paradise on Earth, we've had a few surprises along the way. More than 90% of Iraqis now consider us occupiers rather than liberators. My wife wants to protest the Republican convention in August, and that precipitates a moral crisis with me. I dislike them at least as much as she does, but they have a right to throw a convention and have their say.

Summer is the boring time for us at the university library. Most of my friends are teaching faculty, so most of them are off in Europe or something. I take on as many good new projects as I can, but it doesn't make up for the lack of my traditional breakfast gatherings with the chemistry teachers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 16, 2004

Another warm, muggy day, and it isn't even 8 yet. Any day now we expect to see the fireflies make their annual appearance in Long Island. Last year, they didn't arrive until July, but late June is the norm. So far as we can tell, we are the only people who sit out on their deck and watch them, but that doesn't bother us a bit.

Today, I am going to learn how to post a picture on this site to relieve the general tedium of just my words. I'm impressed with the capabilities of the profile to find others who share my obscure interests. I'm surprised that only 2 other people professed an interest in Mark Twain, but I was proud to be the third.

It's a good day when I wake up to find that both of my local teams, the Yankees and the Mets, won last night. As the wise man said, "life is a metaphor for baseball."

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 15, 2004

I'm puzzling over my entry in this thing - says that I'm 61. If only that were true, I could start collecting Social Security checks 4 years early. I feel like I'm 61, but that won't cut it with the Social Security Administration. I do have two birthdays, but they are a day apart. It appears that I was born a minute or two before midnight (according to my mother and the newspaper listing), or a minute after midnight (according to my birth certificate). Given the fact that my mother did not want me to be born on August 25, I'm dubious about the August 24 date, but that's what I've always celebrated.

In case you've noticed that this post is Chapter 1, as was that of the day before, it is in honor of Gary Zukav's book "The Dancing Wu Li Masters," where every chapter is a new beginning. This is my favorite of the genre of books that mix Eastern religions and quantum physics.

My favorite case of artificial stupidity came in the form of a message from my computer at home. My connection to Earthlink failed, so I couldn't get in to the internet. A message came up that asked if I wanted to send a report to Microsoft. Since I wasn't connected, how would that be possible?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Chapter 1 - June 14, 2004

I am getting my thoughts together as I prepare for my first-ever visit to Florida to attend the Annual conference of the American Library Association. I look at all the programs that I must attend, all of the parties and receptions, and the travel time to get from one to the other, and then I balance this with the fact that I'm supposed to go to a few theme parks with my wife and son, and I reach one conclusion: I must clone myself to do it all.

Who am I, you ask? Terry Ballard, aged 57, father of one son who is a senior at Quinnipiac University. I am the automation librarian at Quinnipiac University. At last look, my Google count was up over 1800, so why, you ask, am I putting out even more of my thoughts and observations? Good question. However, I look at the world around me and realize that there is a need for realistic observations, so this page is a blow for that, and a strike against Faith-based intelligence and the numerous ills of our time.
Failing in that, this will be a record to be discovered by aliens landing on our planet in the future, wondering what we did to make such a mess of things. Sit down. I've got much to tell you.