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.