Monthly Archives: April 2008

Mission creep at the library?

This LA Times story looks at how many libraries are trying to bring in more young people by offering video games, including “Guitar Hero” and others which let them make as much noise as they want:

    That doesn’t mean libraries will turn into arcades, said Loriene Roy, the association’s president and a professor in the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information. Roy said libraries established themselves as places for both education and entertainment more than a century ago when they created controversy by beginning to lend fiction books. Now libraries circulate all manner of items other than books, including music albums, tools, toys, cake pans, even animals. “Libraries are about providing public access to resources, in whatever format,” she said. “It goes back to what people want.”

(You can sign out an animal at the library now? Wow.)

What do people think about this trend? Are libraries supposed to be a place for work, or for play? For socialization, or for (subversive) private communion with long-dead authors? If both, then how much of a blend? Do you think different library activities are really helping literacy?

An interesting reminder, that fiction books were once a no-no in libraries. Still, to me this just decreases the specialness of libraries as a place where people could go to escape the noise and media saturation of our world. Some time ago I wound up at my local library (tiny little Fairmount Community Library) and was hoping to kill some extra time with some quiet reading of whatever was on the shelf, but some not-so-young kids were in there hanging out and generally making a racket in a way that never would have been tolerated when I was their age (which wasn’t all that long ago).

This isn’t a “kids today!” post (I hope), but I just wonder where bookworms are really supposed to retreat to these days when the outside world is intruding more and more on their solitude. Are they to be all shut up in their rooms? (but less affluent kids don’t always have quiet rooms of their own…) I remember once in college I was at the library, way back in the labyrinthine stacks somewhere, and I accidentally intruded upon a Muslim student who obviously had taken a break from study for prayer. If libraries are destined to become less and less of a public sanctuary, and more and more of a public hangout, what might replace them in their former role?

Good news for frogs and Upstaters

For those who are worried about Upstate New Yorkers slipping into total economic oblivion, there is some good news today. Although Mark Bitz of Plainville Farms once said that the economic situation here was analogous to putting a frog in lukewarm water and slowly raising the temperature until it politely boils to death, it turns out that this is not possible. You can’t boil a frog that way. Even if you raise the temperature slowly, it will still get agitated and eventually seek to escape.

So yes, eventually Upstate New York will be empty, but at least it won’t be littered with dead frogs. Good to know.

What lies beneath: NY’s plumbing problems

I’m in the process of redecorating my upstairs bathroom (scraping old wallpaper, spackling, painting, new floor, new fixtures, new color scheme, etc), but try as I might, I can’t ignore the fact that the sink faucet is leaking and getting worse no matter which deft trick I try when shutting it off. Time for the plumber. It turns out we’ve got the same problem with our infrastructure… to the tune of millions of gallons of water being lost from New York City’s aging reservoir conduits.

    Two hours north of New York City, in the Ulster County town of Wawarsing, a mile-long stream and a marsh the size of a football field have mysteriously formed along a country road. They are such a marvel that people come from miles around to drink the crystal-clear water, believing it is bubbling up from a hidden natural spring. The truth is far less romantic: The water is coming from a cracked 70-year-old tunnel hundreds of feet below ground, scientists say. The tunnel is leaking up to 36 million gallons a day as it carries drinking water from a reservoir to the big city. It is a powerful warning sign of a larger problem around the country: The infrastructure that delivers water to the nation’s cities is badly aging and in need of repairs.

36 million gallons! A day! But Syracuse’s water infrastructure is also complex, and water pipes are everywhere under our feet. Just up the street from me, Onondaga County’s water supply from Otisco Lake passes through a tract once known as “Lake Lawns.” I always used to wonder “where’s the lake?” Well, if that thing ever springs a leak, just wait for it! Not exactly any danger of the Johnstown Flood here, but one wonders… (For a good history of Syracuse’s water supply and especially information on the water service history of the western suburbs, see this page at OCWA.)

I also went to Carousel for the first time in a long while this past weekend to find that DestiNY’s munchkins had been all through the place painting in a new green and yellow color scheme and some pretty silly Burma-Shave-style messages along the walkways. All that was missing were the giant lollipops. While I marveled at the logistics of the new paint job, I did start to feel like I was in a huge Sprite commercial (or at least, it got me thinking about green lemons). It made me wonder at many recycled-paper press releases and fluttering banners we’ve seen in the sunshine, with little or no talk about what lies beneath. With all this talk about saving the Earth, let’s not forget that She doesn’t give a damn about the works of man.

Baseball logic

While I consider myself neutral on the Yankees-Red Sox spectrum, I must say this attempted stunt was pretty audacious.

NY Yankees Remove Buried Red Sox Jersey

In fact, trying it and failing to get away with it, is probably just as effective (according to fan logic) as starting a rumor that someone did it and got away with it.

Then again, there are those who want to see the Sox fan locked up without parole. Hmm. “A very, very bad act”? Really?

Then again, I don’t really understand why Yankee Stadium needs to be moved across the street. Whatever.

Is the gentlemen’s agreement ending?

Just making a quick note of this blog post from the Daily News from a few days ago, which looks at the further erosion of the “gentlemen’s agreement” unofficially dividing New York into separate political fiefs.

    At last weekend’s DRC convention in Saratoga Springs, Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith stressed the “we are one state” line that is emerging as a theme for the Democrats this fall, and also said the minority hopes to replicate the success it had in the 48th SD with now-Sen. Darrel Aubertine (who may have to fight hard to keep that seat this fall) in other GOP-dominated districts.

And the Republicans are arming for battle downstate as well. Cry havoc! Be prepared for more nasty Barclay/Aubertine style ads.

However, Simon of Living in Dryden (writing at TAP) proposes that what any party really needs to do is to revive a sense of visceral, uplifting involvement among voters – something that negative ads won’t do. This is one of the most compelling arguments I’ve seen against the “Ahhh… back to business as usual” sighs of relief among political observers about the recent regime change in Albany, which appears to have made “Three Men in a Room” more secretive than ever.