Monday, March 24, 2008

Enjoy the books, Marlon!

Way back in December I got an email from Jen on the Moon, who is part of a librarian social group in New York. Their group decided to adopt a school in New Orleans to send books to. The slow pace of recovery in New Orleans is a huge point of frustration. So this group in New York set up an Amazon wish list; the teachers at A.P. Tureaud Elementary School added their desired books to the list, and then anyone who wanted to could choose a book from the list that would get sent to the school. They started with about 250 books on the list, but you know, you can't stop librarians from buying books. I bought three, and all the librarians I sent the message on to enthusiastically ordered books as well. 250 books is not that many, so as they got close to having no books left on their wish list, but there were still plenty of librarians with their wallets out, they added more stuff: classroom sets of dictionaries, books in Spanish, multiple copies of books by Black authors, books about jazz and New Orleans culture. One of the organizers of the New York group, a New Orleans native, went down to visit her family and took some pictures of the school and the area. It is wonderful to see the atmosphere the school has created in the middle of such devastation. (Here's an example of what the kids go through some days.)

The other day I got a lovely thank-you card from Marlon at Tureaud. I think it's Marlon. Could be Marion or Mylan. (I erased the last name for student privacy). On the front of the card an adult had written ''570 books and counting.''

For most libraries, our number one problem is shelf space. There are so many wonderful, useful, beloved books, and no library can hope to have enough shelf space for all of them. For libraries in New Orleans, there are two problems: a rather more severe than usual lack of shelf space (eight public libraries were completely destroyed), and a serious book shortage. We can't do much about the first problem, but we can get all over the second one. As an added bonus, I just found out that A.P. Tureaud himself, an important civil rights lawyer who won all the most important desegregation cases in Louisiana, worked as a library clerk while putting himself through school. It all comes back to libraries in the end.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Super Plus

I am now entering the Super Plus phase of my life.

This realization came to me as I looked in a box of tampons I had bought. It was one of those boxes with various sizes of tampons, but the only ones I had used were Super Plus.

In my forties many things have turned from a trickle to a flood to a positive torrent. Dental appointments, changes in glasses prescriptions, and new grey hairs were once occasional irritants. Now they are regular preoccupations. Not that they are all negative! I am actually looking forward to having more grey hair since I have not been able to dye my hair for years. My hair is too dark to put a colour in the way it is. In younger days I double-bleached it with Loreal Super Blondissima to get it light enough to take a colour (it was still far from blonde). When I found out how bad the bleach was for my skin, I decided to wait for the grey. Now the day is almost here. I am thinking of alternating orange and green as my hair colours. Maybe the occasional red.

This led me to ponder the possibility that I could look on the entire post-40 Super Plus phenomenon as a re-branding opportunity. After all, Super and Plus are both positively-connoted words, as the business world knows.

Those aren't bifocals, those are Super Plus glasses.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Latest in Machine Translation

The subconscious is indeed a wonderful thing. My shabbes nap produced a very clear image of a voice translation machine. Now someone just has to build it.

Basically, it was about the size and shape of an Etch-a-sketch. The dials at the bottom and the push buttons on the left allowed you to choose input and output languages, using the menu on the right of the screen. Then you spoke into the built-in microphone at the bottom, and the text appeared on the left-hand side of the screen.

In my dream, my real-life Chinese-speaking colleague and I were arguing over the best way to produce Cantonese to Yiddish translation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

This Year at Marienbad

Well, Reader, we have not been the best of correspondents thus far in March. And why not, you ask? We have been Very Busy. I have an end-of-March deadline for a project at work; and Winnifred's been doing a lot of singing with her various choirs and such.

But we decided it was necessary to Relax and Get Away and Get In Touch with the Healing Spirit Within and stuff like that. So here we are, relaxing.

That's Winnifred in one of the outdoor hot springs at Harrison, this morning when it was raining. Personally, I always prefer the hot tubs when it's raining or snowing or sleeting. That way your head is being cooled off and you don't have to get out as often to avoid over-relaxation.

Just to put that shot in context, the hotel is right under a mountain range. Behind the tubs in this picture, you can see the looming mountain, with the fog up above mingling with the steam rising from below.

This afternoon the rain cleared and we got dramatic sun-rimmed clouds (the sun was already behind the mountains). I took this sitting on the patio of our room, where I was drinking a chai latte and reading Out Stealing Horses.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that it's all beer and skittles, Reader. No, we have been maintaining a gruelling physical regimen the whole time we've been here. We have: walked out of our room, all the way across the patio, and into the hot tub (several times); to the lobby bar to buy chai lattes, and back; to the spa for a massage; and Winnifred went out to the end of the dock on the lake across the street, to take pictures.

Winnifred's pictures will shortly be available via the link on the right (where it says "Winnifred's Photo Albums"). Assuming we have enough energy left when we get home to upload them. This relaxing is serious work.