Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Steal my daddy's cue and make a living out of playing pool

Champion Billiard, requiesiat in chalk dust.

I don't want to compete with this marvelous depiction of life at Champion Billiards, but I can't let its passing go unmentioned.

I spent many happy nights in my college years hopping the Metro up to Silver Spring and meeting my buddies for a round of pool at Champions. Table rental was cheap and they'd never kick you out; I had a fantasy of playing all night and going to Tastee Diner for breakfast, but it never happened. We actually rarely played in the main room which Ted Gup describes above; we tended to play in the smaller nonsmoking room in the front, just past the vending machines and the dark hole of a 2-machine "video arcade". It was better lit and less smoky, and the regulars in there tended to be a little more patient of some young bucks just messing around. Our game was 8-ball or cutthroat, and always for the same stakes: the title of

Master of the Universe, and Surrounding Areas.

I remember pretty early on, noting a bunch of young guys who dressed tough and acted loud messing around in there. And then I saw the looks they were getting from the quiet, normally dressed older guys around the walls. I knew right off whose place it was, and while I never saw any trouble in there, I could tell I sure didn't want to see any either.

Actually, that's only partly true. I did see the one of the all time worst possible dates happen at Champions. Some young thinks-he's-tough had brought a date in; it didn't appear the he meant to teach her anything about pool and she sure as hell wasn't planning on learning. She must've steamed in that chair for 45 minutes while he shot pool with a buddy... until she got up, gave a nearly audible glare, and stalked out. And the poor maroon stood there, wondering what all the fuss was about. He cleared the table before going after her.

Me, I married a woman who plays pool.

But truth be told, figuring out how to get women to talk to us did put a crimp in our pool-playing time. That, and we got seduced by the rise of the swanky high-class pool parlors in the 'burbs, with their new tables and bright lights and full bars and food which could be dated to a reliable day instead of an approximate Presidential administration. But all that comes at a cost... no metaphor there, it really became too expensive to play that kind of pool on a regular basis.

I probably haven't been in Champions in 6 years. Heck, maybe 8 or 10. But any time I passed it, I remember looking into those plate glass windows and seeing the folks bending at the green felt and smiling. It always looked warm in there, no pretention, nothing deep, but honest. And now it's gone. I'm sorry. It makes me a little veklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic.

Any place called a "Billiards Cafe", you can neither get a real game of billiards nor a good cup of coffee. Discuss.

Monday, March 28, 2005

You've got a lot of nerve to say you've got a helping hand to lend

Laura K. (EXCISED) is a plagarist and Nate Kushner is like unto a God to me.

Plagarism is wrong, mmm-kay? You shouldn't take other people's work and claim that it's your own. If you read it somewhere else, you should say where you read it.

And just contracting out your own education? That's, like, relly wrong. Because college is relly exPENsiiiive and if you're not going to ackshully do the work, you should spend the money on something cool.

But most importantly, the Internet is full of mean fraudulent people who will take your money and not deliver on their promises.

And they're smarter and funnier than you.

If you can't be honest, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sweet Varnasrama Vindaloo Dharma, stay my hand from doing this to the next bonehead who asks one of my library listservs to comment on what is clearly a question from a take-home exam. Although, in fairness, a transparent plea for help is a far cry from an unsolicited invitation to commit fraud.

(Oh... and Vindaloo Dharma Bums would be a great name for a community softball team. Or a coffee shop.)

By the way... feeling much better now, thanks. A whole lot of sleep and a serious infusion of orange juice and Herself's Thai hot and spicy shrimp soup, and I'm much closer to human.

(Edit: Well, the original author took her name down, so I figured I would too. Sounds like the girl is in a mess of trouble.)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I got the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu

And thanks to GrrlScientist, I can say that it probably really is "flu"… rapid onset fever, muscle and head aches, fatigue and a minor sore throat, coughing but not sneezing and not much runny nose. (I do not, in fact, believe that I have pneumonia, rockin’ or otherwise.) But I'm pulling out of it pretty well, compared to the folks who caught the 7-day version of this bug.

My hypothesis, which I plan to run by some of the local physical anthropologists, is this. Because of the amount of public service I do, I was exposed to the various viruses, bacteria, and crud running rampant among the students before Spring Break. This gave me some level of resistance. However, the students scattered to the four winds for Spring Break, and brought back some new virus I was unprepared for.

Anyway, that’s my guess, because I don’t much like the other theory. My addiction to iTunes has caused a significant change in my diet; when I used to drink grapefruit juice with lunch, I now drink Pepsi. This has probably led to a major decrease in my Vitamin C intake, as well as potassium and possibly Vitamin A.

Have I mortgaged my health for free music? Linus Pauling would probably say so. More importantly, so would a fair number of people who actually are biologists and medical professionals.

Then again, I might have caught it anyway, and I wouldn’t have my haul of free songs. If I have to feel like crap, at least I can listen to “The Theme from Shaft”.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

We all did what we can do... Does your conscience bother you?

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman has ruled that Issue 1, Ohio's new state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, also invalidates applying Ohio's domestic violence law to unmarried people.

(Edit: The link from Wired stopped working, so I've changed to the Boston Globe. But this story from the Plain Dealer probably lays out the issues better. Thanks to GrrlScientist for the heads up.)

I walked on the line. I cast my vote. I'm pissed, you can't believe how I'm pissed (OK, I probably know you, and yes you can). But I'll sleep tonight.

But I have a question for 60% of voting Ohioans, and 100% of nonvoting ones...

How does it feel?

How do you like knowing your vote bought a year of freedom for a 42-year old man who thinks it's acceptable to hit a woman over a pack of cigs?

What pro-family message did you send, now that violent criminals can walk right back in the home's front door?

When you look at your daughter across the table tonight and know you made her, or one of her friends, less safe... how's your dinner going to taste?

Was it worth it?

I hope it was worth it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Watching the Detectives

About a month ago, I installed the StatCounter traffic log. (It’s the little black-and green number at the bottom of the left column.) For people who run serious websites, traffic analysis is a valuable tool for trying to see your site through your visitors’ eyes. Where do they come from? Where do they go? How long do they stay and what catches their attention? What should you offer more of, and what’s in the way?

This blog, however, is a narcissistic little endeavor, and I just use traffic stats to validate my existence.

My favorite report is the one which tells me, when someone finds my site via search engine, what keywords the person was using. There’s a rather predictably high amount of traffic for “hip deep in pie,” which I attribute to two things: first, it’s a rocking quote from a cult TV show, and second, I’m guessing there’s somebody out there who remembers the name of this blog but not the address.

(On the URL, by the way… I did consider; it was available. Show of hands: how many people looked at that and pronounced “Hip-Dee-Pin-Pie”? Well, I did, and that’s why I went with the short form. Sounds like the B side to “Minnie the Moocher.”)

I was pretty happy recently to see a couple of hits coming from searches for Dexter Manley. The “naming my posts with lines from songs” trope seems to get me a lot of hits for people trying to find actual song lyrics. I got a little traffic recently for taking a poke at Michael Gorman, although I’m disappointed that my criticism of 60 Minutes’ online handling of the Devin Moore segment hasn’t generated a hit yet.

And then there are the weird ones. I still don’t know how I got a hit for “perky blonde girl Diet Coke sparkle commercial.” Somebody in library school tried to tell me about the difficulties of computer indexing a heterogenous collection of documents. Maybe it’s that. “Erotic hip contest” was popular for a couple of days, whatever that means. I just want to know whether to be insulted that I wasn’t invited to be a participant, or a judge. There seems to be a lot of interest on the Internet about “movies with pies in the face.” Some of that appears to be of prurient intent. Whatever floats your boat, jack.

Today, I finally got one which worries me. Somebody coming through the UK searched for “Joe gets pie in face for birthday.”

I have 7 months to dwell on this. And dwell I will. I’m making a list of suspects. I’m checking it twice. Oh, I know what you’re up to, bub. I got my eye on you. You ain’t sneaking up on me with no lemon meringue, no sirree.

Unless, of course, your whole goal was to make me jumpy. In which case I’m playing right into your clever plot. Or… am I?

It couldn't possibly be personal, you say? Nobody would go to this kind of planning for the world's oldest slaptick joke? Oh, that's what you'd like me to think.

Stupid Internet.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down

(Happy Bring Back the Snakes Day, by the way!)

Apparently, CBS News doesn’t have enough problems; they have to piss me off too.

One of my faculty members asked me to look into buying a copy of a recent 60 Minutes segment about the lawsuit filed by the families of two of Devin Moore’s victims against Rock Star Games. The plaintiffs allege that Grand Theft Auto is essentially a distance education course… in murrrr-derrrrr. (Paul Winfield, host of City Confidential, rest in peace.) The defendants, of course, lawyer up and don’t say anything, but an industry spokesperson says that games don’t kill people, screwed up kids do.

CBS won’t be able to ship us the tape in time for the prof to use it in class, so I did a little more research. You can get a full transcript of the piece on 60 Minutes’ web site. There’s also a link there to watch “free video.” I do love Ed Bradley’s dulcet tones, so I figured I’d give it a look. The quality’s not bad, so I figured I’d recommend that the prof use that video in his class.

I watched the piece, I read along with the transcript… and I noticed that there ain’t no way they’ve got the whole segment online. The segment breaks about half-way through. The plaintiff’s half. The defendants don’t even get a chance to respond.

There is no link on the video page to “go here to read the whole transcript.” There is no link to “go here to buy a tape for 30 bucks.” There is not even a frame at the end to say that this wasn’t the whole segment.

What there is, essentially, is half a news story. Where I come from, we call that an editorial. Unless it’s not labeled. Then we call it yellow journalism.

Hey CBS! In the immortal words of Jon Stewart, “Stop Hurting America.” I’m not asking you to put the whole show online (although it’d be a great thing if you did). $30 is not a bad price and your copyright terms are pretty reasonable. I think it’s not a bad segment, as a whole. I’m just asking you not to foul your own reporting when you put it on the web.

Full disclosure: I’m pretty much a First Amendment absolutist, and that makes me very nearly a libertarian in these issues. So yes, I’m ticked that the folks on my side don’t get to speak. But what I’m more worried about is that I can’t trust any of the video on anymore. I have to assume that all of it is only half the story. Maybe they should just call the website “30 Minutes.”

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I'm a rover of high degree

Happy Amateur Night! Hey, I’ll still be Irish tomorrow.

And beer, should we need to belabor the point, is not green. Gold, yes; red, certainly; dark brown, absolutely; nearly black with a thick beige head, Katie bar the door! But it Is. Not. Green.

This is the one day of the year when I miss DC, and specifically working at The Catholic University of America, the least. Over on 12th Street, there was a dive bar called Kitty O’Shea’s which made a point of opening early on the 17th to get the undergrads good and liquored up. By the time I got to work (around 9 AM), I could usually see some impaired kids wobbling toward their dorms or classes, and the Metro station smelled like the end of a frat party.

(Sidebar: Kitty O’Shea’s is about the worst name I can think of for an Irish bar short of Semtex. Consider opening a bar in Springfield, Ill. called John Wilkes Booth’s. Or an Italian place called Brutus’. More appropriately, open up a bar across from DNC headquarters called Monica’s. Charles Stewart Parnell may have been the best hope for peaceful self-governance that Ireland ever saw, and to name a bar in memory of the fact that he was taken apart in an adultery scandal is not a joke, it’s a low down dirty shame.)

I will be heading to a friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party tonight, loaves of soda bread in hand. I will not, however, be wearing green. Sue me. Before the day’s out, I’ll probably crack a volume of Yeats and then read some more of Neal Stephenson’s Confusion, in which William of Orange is a hero. (Which is a new idea to me.) On this day, I stand with Stan Rogers, God bless him.

(Rats! There’s not one Stan Rogers song in the iTunes Music Store. Here’s the form to tell them to fix that. There’s my St. Pat’s contribution. If one guy says they should put a peace song up, he’s crazy, and if two do it, they’re both a couple of drunks, but if three I say if three people filled out that form and said “get a copy of House of Orange up here”, why, friends, that’s a movement. Sorta.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Meet the new boss (Or, Same as it ever was)

Recently, the president-elect of the American Library Association, Michael Gorman, expressed that he has some problems with Google Print. Needless to say, more technophilic members of the profession have a problem with him having a problem, and they expressed this on their blogs and listservs. Gorman, never one to back down from a challenge, basically insinuated that these people couldn’t read a novel if it didn’t star Dick and Jane. This produced the detailed, careful debate which the Internet is lo long known for. His defense, apparently, has been that his response was a satire… although of what, he doesn’t deign to tell us.

I'm sorry, are there librarians out there who did not know this was going to happen when they saw Gorman's name on the ballot? He was saying making the point that faster and disintermediated wasn't always better in print 10 years ago when I was in library school. (I’ll easily agree with this statement, by the way.) I've personally heard him say things like this at conferences over the years, and not always in moderate ways. If you didn't know this was coming when you cast your ALA ballot, then you didn't do your due diligence. (I know, there's a lot of names on that ballot, but there's only about 3 in the President category, and we are people who work in the research industry...)

For all Gorman's good points and contributions (and lest we forget, there are many), he's also a classic academic who likes the sound of his own voice. Put another way, one might say that he's a firebrand who points out legitimate flaws in ways the other side can't ignore, and if we were smart, we'd consider how he might be right and how to address his criticisms.

(On the listservs, by the way, Gorman caught a lot of flack about how "terribly inappropriate" his response was. Swift and Twain, however, might agree with him about satire... it's not supposed to be nice; it is supposed to get your attention. Taking a reductionist, selective response to reductionist, selective criticism does seem, shall we say, a very subtle piece of satire indeed, and he shouldn't be surprised when people don't get it. Alternately, it’s a mighty convenient excuse when you’re caught being the pot calling the kettle black.)

Let me put my cards on the table. I think that most blogs aren't much good if you don't know the author (or their persona). I'll suggest that it's a limitation of the format. The Blogger help actually suggests that you write short blurbs, not long essays, and it's a lot harder to communicate complex thought in short bursts than long "complex texts." (It is possible, and a skill which chronic logorrheics like myself need to work on, but I digress, and that's the point...) After your publishing platform eats your beautiful long essay once or twice because you click the wrong button, you learn not to trust it (or, like Pavlov's Blogs, to write blognuggets like you're supposed to instead of working on harder ideas).

But then again, a couple of my library school profs did stress the importance of evaluating content separately from format.

Access for all, does mean access for "all", and while the library community has already had plenty of conversations about adult material and hate or violence or political sites, we haven't really addressed the fact that it also means 16 year olds who don't want to eat their spinach or do their math homework. (Or people of other ages and the same attitude.) In point of fact, that's exactly who we're protecting with this core value of ours, because it guarantees them the right to eventually hit the complex paydirt underneath. And their free access, their searching Google, their gradually learning that "OMG liek whoa" is not serious discourse, is part of that becoming process.

Yes, Michael, the blogosphere is full of a chattering class who push out their own collections of almost commentless links, parroting what they've heard without providing significant new context to the discussion. Full disclosure: I've done this here, just to force myself to post. Fuller disclosure: how many of us remember that in 1994, putting your bookmarks file on a web site was The Thing To Do? Even fuller disclosure: "There is only only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, 1891. This is not a new problem, Michael.

Yes, our world has been, for hundreds of years now, getting faster, and sacrificing detail and depth to do it. According to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of everything is crud, so the more stuff you make, the more crud you get. But crud is also in the eye of the beholder. My friends write beautiful interesting blogs. Just look to the list of brilliant people on the right. It’s people I don’t know who write garbage. (grin) Digitization makes it more possible than ever before for undergrads to write mediocre papers at 3 in the morning of the due date. It also saves a lot of scholars a lot of time and travel (or ILL) money. Again… not a new fight; I wrote plenty of mediocre papers without the Internet to help me.

But trading insults between "The Blog People" and "The Book People" is no progress at all. So for all of us who move with ease between the camps... is there something here to address, and how do we do it? What can we do to increase the level of discourse in the LIS corner of the blogosphere?

Well, my decision is this. Once a week, I’ll try to post something substantial about my field. I’m going to define "my field" very broadly indeed, and I’ll try to keep it relevant to people who don’t spend all of their time in libraries. Maybe, like TRP has done in the past, I’ll just pose a question and try to start a discussion. We’ll see.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked

Got a couple of nice shoutouts lately on Other People’s Blogs. Lemming was most grateful for a little library assistance I provided her. (One of the great things about being a librarian, boys and girls, is that it’s practically carte blanche to treat any trivia question as “professional development.” And when it’s a serious academic question for a friend who happens to have attended the school you now work for, it’s also “alumni relations.”) Ben thanked me for driving a little traffic his way. (And if you haven’t checked out Zeroth Order Approximation, you should. Because with topics like what it will take to destroy the earth on a nearly atomic level, you don’t want to let this guy get too far out of your sights.) Matt was even kind enough to ask me to weigh in on the status of our local water system. (Long story short, don’t hire a colander vendor as a municipal plumber.)

Then I got a response about the lyrics meme too. "3.5 points?!?! Fuck you and your lyrics game." We don’t have to say who said that, but he looks almost exactly like me except blond and 3 years younger.

I’m way up on the iTunes/Pepsi promo – 8 free songs so far, which is about 50%.

Except that the penny finally dropped that I’m paying $1.30 a Pepsi, and getting a 99 cent song in return, when I win. Math is hard. Also, you can only use them on singles, not whole albums.

Which is a pisser, because I just found out about Jamie Cullum thanks to Austin City Limits, and I really desperately needed his album. (So I bought it anyway.) Very reminiscent of Harry Connick, but not so New Orleans. Twentysomething and All at Sea are good, and I like his funky interpretation of I Could Have Danced All Night, but it was his small combo cover of The Wind Cries Mary which sold me the album; it’s brilliant. (I remember hearing someone saying that rock would sound a lot more like jazz if Jimi had lived; idle speculation, I suppose, but this song might make you a believer.)

I may have to start watching Austin City Limits more regularly; it won’t fill the hole in my heart left by Sessions at West 54th, but it might restore a little cred to my musical taste.

And somebody near here got a question in to Strong Bad.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.

But it might be when I tell this story next time.

And I thought this might have been the whole post, very Blog People of me, until I saw a recent headline in the Washington Post about Dexter Manley.

Dexter was an explosive Lawrence Taylor-style linebacker on the Washington Redskins of my youth. He is probably the single biggest human being I’ve ever personally met. (I shook his hand once, when I was maybe 12, at my dad’s Knights of Columbus council’s Sports Night. Or, you know, I offered my hand in his direction and he gently wrapped it up in his huge mitt.) There’s some of that childlike hero worship in me every time I hear his name. I still think of him as that gentle, genuine giant. (Who did, admittedly, smash opposing quarterbacks into the turf for a living… which was loads of fun to watch.)

Unfortunately, Dexter is also a tragic example of the complete failure of the sports-academic business complex. He graduated from a Division 1 school functionally illiterate. When his football career ended, he was completely unprepared to do anything else. Falling in to drugs and the drug trade seems almost inevitable. He’s been in and out of prison and is millions of dollars in debt. I hope his high school and college teachers and coaches stay up nights wrestling with their failures. I hope it drives them to watch out for the next kid they’re supposed to be watching out for.

This is not to minimize Dexter’s own responsibility for his choices. People failed him and used him, but he decided that it was acceptable, and he participated in it. Now, it seems that he’s realized that what he has is his story, and what he can do is try to use it to reach other people. He works for Second Genesis, a drug rehabilitation program in DC, raising money in a town that still tends to remember his good side. He’s speaking, trying to explain that change and rehab are possible, but more importantly, that it’s possible to stay out of these problems in the first place.

Seems a little peevish to complain about my 99 cents on iTunes by comparison.

Dexter Manley, if you’re out there, I still believe in you. I hope you’re turning it around, and I'm happy to see you’re convincing other people to turn themselves around too.