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.