Oh, pen office!

The Edwardsville Public Library has begone the wondrous transition to Open Office. It’s now installed on every staff & patron computer in the building, and come April 1 I’ll be uninstalling Microsoft Office. This is the first of what I hope will be many steps away from proprietary systems (you’re next Windoze!)

Installation was a breeze- it’s amazing how simple it is to install software that has no licensing restrictions. There were a few grumbles from the staff about having to learn new software, despite my claims that it was scarcely a change at all from the user’s perspective. Since the unrolling, there have only been minor problems (e.g. template issues, naming confusion). What seems to be the greatest hurdle is Microsoft Word’s reputation. Everyone knows it (and it’s little icon), which may lead to future trouble with patrons.

Do we tell them we have Microsoft Office, when we really have a 100% compatible solution they’ve never heard of (and couldn’t differentiate from M$ Word)? Or do we have to be completely honest and say “No, we don’t have M$ Office, but we do have Open Office…….Yes, it’s the same…… No, the terrorists don’t win if you use open source software……..If you’ll just stop shouting………………….”

Once they realize it’s free and therefore:

a. Something they can download and install (I may even put a Installation disc into Circulation)

b. Something that doesn’t cost any of their precious tax dollars

I think it will be accepted. Maybe the computer classes would be a good launching point….

Ice to see you

Ah, the American Midwest.  Yesterday I awoke to astonishingly good weather.  At 9:00 am it was already 65 fahrenheit (~19 C), with sunshine to boot.  I absorbed as much sunshine as I could, and took up the sysaphean task of cleaning the garage with pleasure.  It was so nice that it would have been a crime for Ape and I not to walk to the liberry.

Then the spell was broken, and a frigid wind came along faster than you can say johnnycakes.  By 11:00pm, the temp had dropped to 15 fahrenheit (that’s a 50 degree drop for those of you keeping score).  Damnit.

With the exception of yesterday, the cold weather has kept me at home, leaving me lots of time to read.  I just finished Spandau Phoenix, a nice read dealing with America’s favorite pastime: postulating Nazi conspiracies 🙂

I’m normally not a fan of speculative fiction (such as alternate histories), but the book makes me wonder what would have become of the Nazis if they hadn’t pursued the Endlösung.  The Nazi government wasn’t too unique as regimes go: they ruled through brutality, fear, scapegoating an ethnic minority,  etc.  If you remove the Holocaust from the equation, how would things have turned out?

Would Germany have invaded England and ruled over Europe, realizing the goal that eluded so many other Nationalist European conquerors?  Or would it have folded as soon as an ambitious party member staged a coup against Hitler?  Would things be different at all?

Certainly anything is possible, but some things are more possible than others 🙂

The three factors that loom largest are Germany, England, and the United States, and the ties that bind them.  Spandau Phoenix would have you believe that it was never Hitler’s intention to invade Britain, rather he intended to eliminate Churchill and render England an ally.  There’s buckets of factual evidence to support this theory, but it presents a new problem: England and the U.S. are bff, Germany and Japan are on the same team, and Japan is gunning for the U.S.  This is a textbook example of the Lovers/Haters triangle, dependent upon your perspective.  If Hitler could reliably depend on control of England, there would be no European theater for the U.S. army, in the same way there was no ground-invasion of Japan.  Too much water separates the U.S. from England, and there’s no Midway Island in the Atlantic.  It would have to have been a naval/aerial effort.

Which begs the question: would the U.S. have used the bomb on a European target?  It’s a grotesque idea, but not out of the question.

An interesting idea, but still pointless speculation.  Besides, if Hitler knew about The Matrix, he’d probably save all his ammo for the inevitable rise of the machines.

Hoist yourself by your neighbour’s bootstraps

After a weekend of back-breaking labor (I think moving a washing machine up a narrow staircase is akin to moving the last giant stone to the top of the pyramid), it was time to relax and watch a movie. Like any movie-loving patriot, I have some DVD’s on the shelf that remain unopened and unwatched for many years, and on that particular night, my hand found its way to Memoirs of a Geisha, which Ape also hadn’t seen.

It’s a well-presented movie, with visual appeal, lascivious geishas and even a (world) war! The only problem: you often can’t tell whether the characters are speaking in English or Japanese (Godzilla is the only Japanese word I know). What does one call English heavily inflected with Asian speech? It isn’t a drawl, nor a lilt, nor a brogue; is there some other nonsense-word that deals with these sounds?

Aural discomfort aside, Memoirs rekindled my thoughts on social mobility.

–The story (if you’re not already familiar with it) recounts the life of a country girl, sold to a quasi-boarding school for girls (not the same concept, but similarly executed). If the girls are deemed worthy, they are sent to geisha school. If not, they pretty much end up a servants to the geisha. The protagonist is accepted into geisha school, and has a pretty miserable life for awhile. Then she grabs the bull by the horns (so to speak) and becomes the most sought after women in the country. Shortly thereafter she realizes that geisha were never meant to pursue their own goals; rather they live to entertain other (presumably more successful) persons. Plus, all of the other geisha, especially the ones she trusts, end up trying to deceive/screw/kill each other.

Are geisha on a shorter leash than we are? Would our own memoirs be any different? Probably only insofar as we don’t wear crazy make-up and dresses (generally). People are still yoked to their careers, still trying to screw each other over, still relying on the few whose motivations are selfless to make their lives worthwhile. The geisha are a peculiar lot, but I don’t think these concepts belong to any single time or place; they’re rather endemic to humanity, arising in every society, sub-culture, and group, right down to the very last soul. It’s the outward manifestation of our inner struggle against the most primitive urges: eat, poop, and dominate.

On the bright side, there is (and probably always was) a huge gray/black market to exploit, for those who don’t fancy a traditional 9-5 yoking. I could probably make serious coin smuggling arms/hooch/maple syrup out of Canada, but would it be any more satisfying than the liberry?

It is tempting to think that, with time, we gain more freedom as individuals. There are lots of examples (both true and made-up) of people in this country climbing the ladder of success, starting from their low-born beginnings as a cockney boot-black and then becoming 16th president of the United States. Indeed, the protagonist geisha was once sentenced to become a slave, and against all odds, became not just any geisha, but the geisha.

Quotable Axiom: The only barriers we can’t overcome are those we set for ourselves.

Result: Charter bites back

The great internet dry spell of aught-eight continues in the Quebecker household.  It’s not that I’m that upset by the absence of the internets; on the contrary, it’s been oddly relaxing.  The few times it has been missed were mostly inconsequential, for example, wanting to look up a recipe or GTA cheat codes.  I think that’s why I haven’t noticed it much- GTA San Andreas has stepped up to fill in the lonely hours I would have spent surfing.

Yesterday, the 15th of January, I got another bill from Charter, after the Charter Representative explicitly told me I’d not have to pay any further charges.  As it turns out, rather than deal with the muss/fuss of asking me to return my leased modem, they’d rather just charge me for not returning it and hope I wouldn’t notice.  I stabbed Charter’s number into the telephone keypad, and explained (while trying to mask my contempt)  to the Charter rep that I hadn’t been contacted about returning the modem and that I wasn’t going to pay them a single penny.  They responded that it was just a misunderstanding (that should be their corporate motto!) and they would send a serviceman on Friday between 9-5.  I didn’t bother to ask if they knew what time, because they never do.

Meanwhile, I’m nearly done with Perfume: The story of a Murderer.  I’d first seen the movie in Germany, and decided I should follow up by reading the novel.  I won’t give away any spoilers, but the book does make you think about the nature of scent, and what scent you emit.  I can vaguely recall the scent of Ape’s apartment, and she likewise remembers the scent of my bachelor-abode.  Are our scents now combined into a melange?  Or do they just tolerate each other, like Ape & I?

Resolved: Charter can bite me

I haven’t had much time to post lately, more than a few things having been thrust upon me at once.  The good news: I finally finally severed the line to the organized crime syndicate known as Charter Communications.  For 3 years I’ve been fighting a Sysphean battle to pay the promotional rate of $30/ month (more than enough) and every six months or so they shoot it up to $56.99 just to piss me off. This time, they went too far!

Thrice I called the customer service hotline, and as many times I was hung up on.  The fourth time was the charm it seems, and I got through to a human after a couple of minutes.  The southern-accented woman who helped me was forthcoming and spared me the regular Charter retention offer b.s.  In a few minutes, it was done.  They pulled the plug today (even though I’m paid until the 20th), and I was left with a vague satisfaction.

Circumstance drove me next to AT&T, who’s dry-loop DSL was the talk of the town. It was surprisingly easy to sign up for the express package ($23.99), though the $10/month DSL AT&T is required to offer still seems to be a myth.  There were the usual registration questions, e.g. Name, D.O.B., SS#, which were closely followed by much more personal questions, such as ‘where do you work? How many computers do you have?  What OS do you use?’.  AT&T has certainly earned a reputation for being untrustworthy and downright sleazy, so I wasn’t totally honest with my personal details.  Do two wrongs make a right?

Innernet travails aside, I had a short screening of the interviews we’ve completed thus far for the youtube filtering video.  If you’re not in the know, the Illinois legislature is entertaining a bill that will make internet filtering mandatory for libraries, and punish any library that resists.  Previously, they just withheld funding for libraries that didn’t filter.  Whether you’re morally opposed to the innernet being unfiltered or not is irrelevant.  What’s at stake here is whether communities will be able to choose their own stance on filtering or have the choice thrust on them by the state legislature.

In this spirit, a few members of LCLS and myself are banding together to release a youtube video voicing our opinions.  We’re interviewing librarians in this area about their views on filtering, and what roll it plays in their libraries.  It’s been very interesting so far: of the libraries that do filter their internet access, most seem to have been motivated by the the funding opportunities that come along with filtering, rather than some misplaced sense of security.  They’re also quite aware that the filters can be very easily circumvented, and a few even know how!

We have two more interviews to go, at the end of which we hope to assemble a script.  Feel free to post if you have any suggestions….

Review: 2008

I know what you’re thinking, and my rebuttal is no, it is not too early to review 2008, a relative newborn as years go. The verdict: cold, dark, and full of surprises (not unlike Space). It honestly hasn’t been so terribly cold yet; in fact, I don’t think it’s even dropped below zero.

The problem lies rather with the weather indoors at the Liberry. My beloved berry is a Carnegie Library. It’s been added on to, renovated, nearly burned to the ground, rebuilt, and re-renovated. The culmination of this 111 year history is a fantastic liberry with sub-prime heating and cooling. While the catalogers are fanning themselves upstairs and sipping iced tea, I shiver in the storage/server room cum meat locker. The upshot: I now drink more green tea than the 8th, 9th, and 11th Dalai Lama.

No news is more surprising than the upsets in the Iowa caucus, with democrat Barack H. Obama (the H stands for Hussein! Like Saddam!) and republican Mike Huckabee (another guv from Arkansas) triumphing over their respective party brethren. What does this mean for you and me? Not too damn much. Some people feel that winning the Iowa caucus will give nomination-ensuring impetus to the victors. These people are idiots.

Iowa is nothing remarkable; it has a lot of land, about as many people as metro St. Louis, and a misplaced sense of pride. Its only distinction is being the first state to hold a caucus. This small get for Iowa hardly seems deserving of all the folderol surrounding the Iowa Caucus.

Of course, there’s always hope that people will come to their senses. My boy Kucinich (who had no chance from the start) endorsed Obama, which prompted speculation about him being Obama’s running partner.

The real winner yesterday was an NPR interviewee who confessed that although she was a faithful christian and republican, voted for (mormon) Mitt Romney instead of the the (christian) Mike Huckabee. Why? Because she felt Huckabee’s religious zeal was inappropriate in a world of dangerous religious fanatics, and that faith is a personal tenant, not a public spectacle.

Maybe there’s hope for 2008 after all…