Daily Archives: November 13, 2007

First Memories of Reading And of Being Read To

I’m trying to wind up my presentation to the librarians at CUNY this Friday, so I thought it might be interesting to write something about reading, because libraries aren’t much use if you can’t read.

I can’t recall my first experience of reading, though I can recall the first evidence that I had learned to read.

My mother once told me that when I was quite young she noticed that I spent a lot of time with books. Since she had never tried to teach me to read, she decided to give me a simple test. So she handed me a copy of one of the Golden Books, very simple stuff, indeed. She may have said it was The Little Engine that Could, the book with “I think I can, I think I can, …”

She said she asked me to read it. And I did. I said, “The Little Engine That Could,” by ” whoever-it-was ‘, and so on down the page.

Then I turned the page.

She expected I would go on to the first page with pictures. But I didn’t. I continued reading,, “This book is copyright, (C), 19.., by Golden Books Company. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized copying … ” and so on, in whatever way the legal warnings were stated back in those days.

She said she then asked me to give her back the book, thus ending the test.

My mother rarely read to me aloud. I do recall her reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped to me when I was in the fourth grade, and she may even have read a bit of David Balfour, though I don’t think she finished it.

However, I do have very vivid memories of being read to aloud, on my very first day in the first grade.

I arrived in the classroom around 11:30, since my mother had just moved to town and so had to register me. As I arrived the teacher was reading a book about a deer and its mother. The deer’s name was Bambi. Soon thereafter we all learned that the mother was dead and many of us cried, including me.

She went on for a bit. Then we had a nice lunch, and after that she gave us some little blankets and we had a short nap.

I decided then and there that school was a neat place. You could have a good cry, a good meal, and a nap, all in just a few hours.

I also decided that books were great fun, too. This is why I am so fond of libraries…and librarians.

Annus Horribilis, Annus Mirabilis

A few years back Queen Elizabeth referred to a difficult year as “annus horribilis,” a pun on “annus terribilis.” See List of Latin phrases (A–E).

Annus Horribilis
Annus Horribilis

There is also the opposite, “Annus Mirabilis,” or “wonderful year.”

Annus Mirabilis
Annus Mrabilis

It’s now mid-November, so within a few weeks we’ll all be reading those end-of-year summaries and roundup’s. I’m going to do my summary now, so I can include these timely pictures I made as I packed up our Halloween decorations.

I think it is fair to say that 2007 was an “Annus Horribilis” for Microsoft. For example,

  • Vista has been met with a yawn, a very unprofitable yawn;
  • The OOXML standard went down to defeat.Though the ghost lingers on, it won’t be easy to get folks to swallow this standard.
  • Ever-declining hardware costs make the “Microsoft Tax” an ever-increasing fraction of the cost of buying a new computer. Indeed with the cost of entry-level machines approaching $200, the cost of software is now close to that of hardware;

I also think it fair to say that 2007 was “Annus Mirabilis,” a happy, marvelous year. For example,

  • Hardware costs now nearing $200, making Ubuntu even more competitive with Windows;
  • Windows Vista has been a definite flop;
  • The OOXML standard went down to defeat;
  • The first XO Laptops, costing $200 each, are about to be shipped;
  • A new, enterprise-ready release of the Linux kernel comes out ever few months. It took almost a decade to get Vista out the door.
  • ASUS will soon be marketing a micro-laptop for under $300.
  • The first international gathering of experts on education and open-source, the K12 Open Minds Conference, was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, in early October. Over 300 people attended, most of them educators;
  • The Ubuntu community just keeps on growing. A new major release, 7.10, came out on schedule. Moreover, you can update existing 7.04 versions without a hitch. Does Vista offer such smooth upgrades, comparable to moving from XP to Vista, at no cost? I don’t think so.

I could think of others, but I suggest the few examples should provide some comfort to the open-source folks.

There is another way to say “wonderful year,” or “Annus Mirabilis.”

It is “Annus Beatitas,” for fortunate, or blessd.

With the change of just a single character, you get “Annus BeatitMS,” or “Annus Beat-it-MS.” Or at least that’s how I read it.

Which photo do you associate with Ubuntu and open-source? Which with Microsoft?

Thomas J. Watson Library: The Gates of Paradise

I spent most of the afternoon of November 7, 2007, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I went there mainly to see for the second time the marvelous Ghiberti Panels described in my previous post, Golden Oldies With a New Sparkle.

I also took along a camera, even though I knew pictures weren’t allowed in the room that contained the panels. For I had noticed that above the entrace to the room were the words: Thomas J. Watson Library. I wanted to learn more about the Watsons — the founders of IBM — and their role in the Met.

It was a bright, sunny Wednesday. I arrived early in the afternoon:

Met Museum, early November, 2007

Here is the entrance to the exhibit (no pictures could be taken inside the room). Notice the writing above the door:

Watson Library and the Gates of Paradise

Though I could find the Ghiberti Panels, I could not find the entrance to the Watson Library, so I decided to go down to the library on the ground floor, where we had entered from the parking garage. I learned they had just moved into their new quarters a few weeks back. I also noticed a terminal with their search system, “Watson Line.” I typed in the string “Watson” and did a search, and then took a photo of one of the returned pages:

Watson Line at the Met

[Note to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: WatsonLine running on an Apple? Work to be done, Sam.]

A small, discreet plaque nearby explained why it was called “WatsonLine:”

On the Met's Watsonline

I learned the entrance to the Watson Library was in the Greek Gallery, and took this photo before I wandered into the Watson Library:

Thomas J. Watson Library at the Met

I saw this on the South Wall of the main Reading Room in the Watson Library:

Nov2007 084

I spoke with the librarian briefly. She didn’t know much about the Watson family, and directed me back to the library on the ground floor, as you need special permission to use the Watson Library.

The librarian in the downstairs library kindly found me a table and showed me where I could look at old issues of the Metropolitan’s Bulletin. She told me which one had a special section on the architecture of the Met.

I arbitrarily picked out the issue from the month I was born:

December 1944 issue of Met Bulletin

I then looked to see if I could find the name “Watson.” I did. Can you?

Dec. 1944 Met Bulletin

I looked at the special issue on architecture and found a page with the word “Watson.” Can you find it?

Met Museum Floor Plan

I then went back to the Watson Library room with the panels and spent as much time as I could looking at them.

I won’t attempt to describe them. They are too miraculous.

However, I do think it worth noting that once these panels are returned to Florence, they will never leave it again. Never. This is your last chance to see them outside Florence.’

Once reunited, all ten panels will be re-installed in the original frame and then displayed indoors, never to be moved again.

The panels are arranged left to right, top to bottom, as follows:

1 2
3 4
5 6
7 8
9 10

The ones on display at the Met are (1), Adam and Eve; (5), Jacob and Esau; and (9), David and Goliath.

You can now view them from various distances, including just a couple of inches if you put your eye right next to the enclosing case.

Once the panels are re-united, you will never again get a chance to observe (1) and (5) close up, and even (9) won’t be as accessible.

By the way, there is a reproduction of the door at the back of the exhibit room. When we looked at it, my wife and I felt that the perspective is such that you appear to be viewing the lower doors from above, the middle doors at eye level, and the higher doors from below. It’s not just that this is the way you are viewing them, but this is somehow reflected in the perspective as shown in the panel.

My favorite, at least from the point of pure composition, is (2), Abraham and Isaac. At the top right is a high hill, and to the left are the distinctive trees with leaves only at the top, similar to ones my wife and I saw a few months ago when in Rome.

Ground Zero, The Board Game

I heard an ad on the radio this morning while driving to my gym. It said, “Soon out will be a new board game, Ground Zero.”

I thought this was just another reminder that some folks will do anything to make a buck; for example, witness the numerous politicians who run for office just so they can make our treasury their own trough, whether by pork-barrel politics or just plain grab-and-run. [1]

That reminded me of another famous gaffe, though that one was unintentional, or at least I would like to hope so.

Soon after Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June, 1968, all the radio stations in New York City suspended commercial programming for a few days. As I recall it, commercial programming resumed around noon.

Guess what was the first sound I heard in the very first commercial broadcast after Sen. Kennedy’s assassination?

A gun shot! Yes, a gun shot! It sent chills down my spine.

The commercial then went on to talk about a cereal, saying it was “shot through with sugar.”

However, on investigating via Google for “Ground Zero Board Game,” I learned it was another kind of game, a political statement.

See EX-COP’S ZERO RESPECT TOY, from the NY Post’s famed “Page Six,” its gossip section. We learn that the game is the creation of an ex-cop:

Peter Gleason, a former cop and city firefighter who is now a lawyer, is having 10,000 games made to start, and plans to sell them along Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton’s campaign trails.

An ex-NYPD cop has grown so annoyed at the slow progress of rebuilding Ground Zero, he’s sunk $50,000 of his own cash into a cheeky board game that “sheds light on the incompetence” of everyone involved in the project, including Bernie Kerik and former FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen.

“That’s him running with the money he made from [9/11],” said Gleason. Von Essen is made fun of, as is Kerik, who is portrayed in the game “caught with his pants down.” “I’m outraged with regards to how Ground Zero is still a hole,” said Gleason when asked why he created the game. “No one is immune, from the local community boards to the White House.”

Good idea, Mr. Gleason. For your next venture, how about taking a cue from Carmen San Diego? You can call the game:

Where in the world is New Orleans, the New Orleans as it was before Katrina?


1. I first spelled “trough” as “troff,” revealing once again that I am a programmer at heart. “See also On speling. Also, every time I have had to type “InstallShield” I have always first typed it as “InstallShields,” but this is an example of a psychological phenomenon called “chaining.”

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