Amazon Reviews of Classics

Jeanette Demain of Salon has a [wonderful compilation of reviews][comp] written by Amazon members of various *great works of literature*. Please note that I do not subscribe to such a notion, and so the compiled reviews are both telling for how ordinary people encounter literary texts as well as how those of us who are more interpelated into the *great works* paradigm than we would like to admit — okay, that would be me — are as apt to *tut-tut* such parochial or provincial or uncultured perspectives.

In short, it’s a great way to see on which side of the fence you stand.

[comp]: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2010/04/02/mean_amazon_reviews_open2010/index.html

“Adults Can Do Twisty Things”

This morning, as Yung struggled to gather her hair into a pony tail and get a hair band around it, Lily announced that “adults can do twisty things.”

Yes, it’s true, we told her, but some adults wish they didn’t have to.

Quick Video Resolution Guide

This post is really for my wife, who is helping to organize a conference. A number of presenters want to use media as part of their presentation. The problem is that everyone brings not only a range of equipment but also a range of expectations and knowledge about what it is they are doing and what can be done. I passed onto her a recent development in my own professional organization: in the last year, the [American Folklore Society][afs] has recently decided to standardize what audio-visual equipment it can afford to provide to its members at our annual meeting. The core of that equipment is an LCD projector with a VGA connector. (No resolution is provided, I suspect, because that would require more sophisticated conference/convention AV vendors than currently fill those ranks — feel free to correct me if you’re a vendor and you do provide resolutions: I’ll write about you and I’ll suggest we have a meeting in your town.)

In the particular case of this conference, they will be using two projectors that I know fairly well. Both of them are XGA resolution, or 1068 x 764. A quick run-down of 4:3 aspect ratio resolutions is as follows:

Name | Resolution (pixels)
:—–:|:———-:
VGA | 640 x 480
SVGA | 800 x 600
XGA | 1024 x 768
SXGA | 1280 x 1024

The 4:3 aspect ratio is the one we are all used to seeing everytime we look at a regular, old television — the resolution of which, in case you wanted to know, is something like 720 x 480, but what was actually viewable was something less — remember the black bars you would see when adjusting the *Vertical Hold* knob (usually awkwardly located on the back of the set)?

Now, as if all those acronyms aren’t bad enough, especially for people who still think PowerPoint presentations have to have bullet points, there is also the matter of how you connect your computer to the projector. Here’s the port that most Windows laptops have on them:

SVGA_port
*Windows PC VGA Port*

The VGA port will carry all of the resolutions above, despite the fact that it seems like an acronym mismatch. My advice to her and the conference organizers was to say something like this to presenters:

> The conference will provide an LCD projector capable of 1024 x 768 resolution in the room in which you will present. The projector will be equipped with a VGA cord. Please plan accordingly.

So, presenters will have to determine two things:

1. Are my materials in a format that will view well at 1024 x 768? and
2. Do I have a way to connect by VGA?

If they have a port on their laptop like the one above, they’re in good shape. If they have any other kind of port, they are going to need to bring some sort of dongle.

Mac users, who have suffered the slings and arrows of Apple trying either (a) to advance video display technology and/or (b) look for ways to sell add-ons, are long used to the idea of dongles. My new MacBook comes with the new mini-DisplayPort port, which, with any luck, just might stick around and become a standard. For now, however, every time I travel to a conference, I have to carry around this dongle:

MDP-to-VGA-dongle
*My new conference companion: Apple’s Mini-DisplayPort to VGA adapter*

This conference attendees will need to make sure they are similarly equipped. Some new, higher-end laptops may very well not possess the blue VGA port above but may, instead have a white DVI port. They make converters — or, if they bring a cord, our LCD projectors also have a ***DVI In***.

*Good luck!*

[afs]: http://americanfolkloresociety.org/

“Wheels Are Good!”

Lily got a bicycle for Christmas — thanks to her Nai-Nai. Like a lot of things, her interest and her ability just sort of seem to explode onto the scene. It’s really been Yung who has taught her how to ride, patiently walking up and down our street, giving a small push here, a small word of encouragement there. (It’s amazing to watch her do this.) On the second day of riding, Lily turned to her mom and said, “Mommy, wheels are good!” By the time I got home from Arizona, she is an accomplished tourist of our neighborhood. I grabbed the photo below while trotting backwards trying to stay ahead of her. (Yung can barely be seen in the upper-lefthand corner.)

Lily Rides Her Bike
*Lily in Motion*

A Better Day in New Orleans

We woke this morning in our smallish hotel room — it turns out that the Renaissance Arts was not the hotel I thought it was — but enjoyed our late rising and our breakfast in the hotel, despite the absolute chaos of the restaurant.

IMG_0037
*Yung and Lily in Bed*

Tina and Felix picked us up at the front door and we headed off to the Aquarium of the Americas, which seemed smaller, or at least more chopped up then either Yung or I remembered. We decided it must, in part, be from the increased number of gift shops scattered about the place and the food court that is now also part of the place. (Revenue is revenue, and it’s all part of the overall package that museums find themselves having to offer.

The tunnel you walk-through is still pretty amazing, and the rain forest area was impressive. The passages and hallways, however, are pretty narrow and so even a smallish number of visitors begins to feel like a crowd.

The fun part was the chance to hang out with Tina and Felix and to watch Tina and Lily get to have more time together. Afterwards, T and F dropped us off at our hotel, we grabbed our bags, fetched our car, and got on the interstate as quickly as we could, not stopping until we got to Des Allemands for gas and lunch.

Lily Plays Follows Her Own Labyrinth
*Lily Follows Her Own Labyrinth*

A Culture of Thugs

In our hotel room now, safe and sound, which is not something we take as much for granted in the wake of what happened only a few hours ago.

We are in New Orleans to celebrate the engagement of my sister and her boyfriend, who both have strong ties to the city. Felix grew up here and still has family here. Tina lived a long time here and has the kind of attachment to the city that so many of us find both alluring and puzzling at the same time. (Even before the storms, the city was deeply troubled.)

Yung-Hsing, Lily, and I joined them and the small number of folks they were able to invite to a party in a really lovely atrium that is part of the condo complex that Felix’s sister lives in. The complex is on Saint Charles and only a few blocks away from the interstate.

It was easy to get to, and we were lucky to find some parking on the street a mere thirty yards or so from the building’s front door. The party was terrific, and we were some of the last to leave. My sister insisted on walking us out, and we paired her with Lily, who was thoroughly enamored of her aunt. I walked out with my backpack on my back and the large roller bag in one of my hands. Yung had her back on her shoulder and Lily’s pink suitcase.

We headed out the door in high spirits because we planned on staying overnight and all getting together again the next day to visit the Aquarium of the Americas. As we stepped out of the building and began our way to the car, coming up the street were four young black men. I really thought nothing of it. The same group in Lafayette would have been just four young men walking down the street. They were taking up the whole sidewalk, but I figured they were just feeling their oats. I even made eye contact and said hey to one of them.

What happened next I don’t really know. I was in the lead, but as the group moved along our group, one of the young men made to grab Yung’s bag. She held on and he went to pull harder. She yelled “Hey!” and I guess she startled him enough that he gave up. I looked back to see my wife stumbling, as if she had tripped, and the four guys sprinting down the sidewalk — and I swear one of them looked back and smiled.

I was caught completely off-guard. Yung was first-rate. She said two things: “I’m okay” and then “Get Lily in the car.” We moved quickly, my poor sister both upset that this had happened. She was particularly worried about Yung.

We explained to Lily as best we could, with as little coloring of the events as possible, what had happened, but in that moment, all I wanted was to get out of the city and put it, and its many problems, behind me. I think the worst of it was that I don’t think those four men set out to rob us. It was simply the case that one of them, with sympathy and support from the others, saw an opportunity and seized it. That’s thuggery. Exploiting others when the chance arises is pure thuggery, and I feel sorry for New Orleans that it has these four roaming its streets.

I am not looking to excuse these four. Far from it. But when I thought about it as we drove to our hotel, I couldn’t hep but think that we are surrounded by images of thuggery. In the days leading up to Christmas, I saw in the local paper that the executives of the failing, flailing banks paid themselves $1.3 billion in bonuses using taxpayer funds. That’s exploiting a momentary weakness for your own benefit, and that’s thuggery. A lot of entrepreneurs and developers bought up hundreds and thousands of properties in New Orleans after Katrina, taking advantage of the poor’s inability to deal with disaster. That’s thuggery, too.

I know thuggery of both kinds stretches back as far as humans. It’s the bandits of the Middle Ages and the Robber Barons. I don’t know if, in this moment, I hold out any great hope for humankind, but I do know that I will be glad to leave New Orleans behind.

Words and Music for “The Book of Love”

*** Capo on Fret #1
*** Actual Key Is Ab / Play in Key of G
*** The entire song is G/C/D/G Progression

Intro - G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G

G           C       D        G
The book of love is long and boring
G          C        D    G
No one can lift the damn thing
G            C                    G
It's full of charts and facts and figures
G   C            D      G
and instructions for dancing
G     C  D  G
But I........
G         C        D    G
I love it when you read to me
G       C   D   G
And you..........
G   C           D  G
You can read me anything
G                C      D     G
The book of love has music in it
G              C           D     G
In fact that's where music comes from
G          C       D        G
Some of it is just transcendental
G             C    D      G
Some of it is just really dumb
G     C  D  G
But I........
G         C        D       G
I love it when you sing to me
G       C   D   G
And you..........
G       C       D     G
You can sing me anything

Bridge:  G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G  G/C/D/G

G           C       D        G
The book of love is long and boring
G       C        D    G
And written very long ago
G            C           D            G
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
G                C       D     G
And things we're all too young to know
G     C  D  G
But I........
G         C        D       G
I love it when you give me things
G       C   D   G
And you..........
G            C       D       G
You ought to give me wedding rings
G    C  D  G
And I.......
G         C        D       G
I love it when you give me things
G       C   D   G
And you..........
G            C       D       G
You ought to give me wedding rings
G    C  D  G
And I.......
G         C        D       G
I love it when you give me things
G       C   D   G
And you..........
G            C       D       G
You ought to give me wedding rings
G            C       D       G
You ought to give me wedding rings