Monday, November 17, 2014

States I have visited

I know I did this once before, but there is a new map generator out there: www.maploco.com

Here is my map:



Create Your Own Visited States Map


It is pretty clear that I need to plan a trip north, and swing through those big states in the Northwest. That would just leave the "exotic" ones: Alaska and Hawai'i. Both are on my bucket list. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Bourbon Street: A History – A book review

Bourbon Street: A History, Richard Campanella, Louisiana State University Press, 2014

I don’t usually do book reviews, but I felt compelled to talk about this one.

I love New Orleans. I lived there for four years, and that has certainly helped both develop my affection for the city and its people, but has also informed my ideas and opinions about the city. Prior to living there, I had visited the city about 8 – 10 times, always for a conference/convention. The areas I visited then were the French Quarter (including Bourbon Street), the CBD/Warehouse District and the Convention Center. Living there, and visiting since, I have seen much of the rest of the city which is different than the Quarter and has its own charms.

In the Preface, Richard Campanella notes: “And yet Bourbon Street has been almost completely ignored by scholars. Not a single book has been written about its history, much less an in-depth scholarly investigation.” This book fills that gap. The book is divided into three parts: Origins, Fame and Infamy, and Bourbon Street as a Social Artifact.

“Origins” sets the stage both in talking about the larger history, and some of the geography of the area. “Fame and Infamy” has a period-by-period history divided into six eras. The last part includes more interesting analyses. The book includes reproductions of maps and photographs, some from very early periods.

Part of the analysis of history and data that he does goes well beyond what I consider “geography” – a concept probably limited by my elementary school classes on the topic. Some of the modern data is based on research and data collected by the author: musical genre performed, volume of pedestrian traffic, numbers of men and women standing on balconies, origins of Bourbon Street pedestrians, and local versus out-of-state ownership of property

It is a fascinating history and discourse about the most famous part of New Orleans. It is a weaving together of tales told by history, and by data, along with anecdotes from the participants.

I had a chance to hear the author speak at the Louisiana Book Festival last weekend, and he was as engaging as his book.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Compassion, Punishment, and the Death Penalty

The recent conversations about the death penalty made me think ... and that is not a bad thing. It all started when one of my IRL (In Real Life) friends posted on Facebook one of the links about the apparently botched execution in Arizona. (Which link he posted is not important to this story.) The person who posted is someone I have known for quite a few years. He is a hard worker for the volunteer organization where we met.

In a prior life, he worked in the prison system. He retired from that position and began running a non-profit which helps to re-integrate people leaving prison into society. In my mind, it is important work.

Mind you, I am opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. In a truly moral society, how can we justify ever taking another person's life. However, I recognize that not all agree with me on that point, and argue for the use of capital punishment.

My friend made this comment, the last sentence of which went straight to my heart:
"What John Q. Public fails to understand is that this penalty is carried out and witnessed by public servants (correctional personnel) who must deal with the memory for the remainder of their lives. I had a colleague who witnessed an electrocution in 1969 and never fully recovered from that trauma. Execution has devastating and hidden costs to the human soul."
 Execution has devastating and hidden costs to the human soul.

I posted on Facebook, and there were comments from a full range of my friends, family, and acquaintances. Many of them echoing my thoughts and feelings about the death penalty.

Then there were comments from another friend, one who has been on the other side of the bars from my first friend, mentioned above. Below, I have edited and combined two of his comments.

I know first hand what it is like to be in prison for multiple years. I gotta chime in on this one. I [want to] make two points: 1). It costs less to house an inmate for life than it does to go through the lengthy, automatic, mandatory appeals process for a death penalty sentence. 2) A mandatory, natural life sentence, with NO chance of parole, is a far more severe punishment than a quick and painless death. Let 'em rot in prison for all their days and think about what they did.

Death is the easy way out. Do away with the death penalty and institute mandatory life sentences. Save money and mete out a more severe punishment. It's a win/win. (And as an added bonus we do away with all the extraneous nonsense).
There is a perspective I had not considered. Death is the easy way out.

A third friend (who is a nurse by profession) commented:

I also don't believe this is the best answer for all of humanity, but it might be the best of no good options for the family members of the victim.
...
As a society, we can't afford to finance the multiple appeals and lengthy incarcerations for the worst of worst criminals.
At this point, my intellectual side comes out and says....is it truly more expensive for the appeals than the incarceration assuming no appeals and parole? Will the certainty of a sentence of life without parole, and no appeals, help the families of the victims deal effectively with their loss? More for me to ponder.

A final note....I found the whole conversation most interesting. Every single person who commented on my post is someone who is part of one or another of my real-life circles. They are people who would not necessarily know each other, and I am the only one who knows all of them. It was a respectful and thoughtful conversation. One I am glad I had especially since it is one which may not have happened without the technology of social media.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Happy Birthday, Blog

It was nine years ago that I started this blog. Wow.  #568. A great deal has happened to me since then.

One thing which has not changed for me was the subject of my second blog post ever, on July 7, 2005. The title of that blog was: "Driving, Weather, and 'ALA Post-Partum Blues'". The first two are not issues for me today, but the third still is. Here is part of what I said then:
For many of us, we get to spend some concentrated time together working on important issues, thinking thoughts about the big picture and enjoying working hard on the process. We get to vote and make decisions. Now we are back home. For me, that means the every day realities... While we email back and forth between conferences, that personal contact is really important. ... I am very much in favor of having technology help us to do our work, but this "blues" I am feeling are clearly related to a sense of missing the personal interaction.
(I did edit some of the text.) While we have tools to use which are different than we did nine years ago, I am still a firm believer in the importance of personal contact. At this conference, I got to meet some friends whom I had only interacted with using tools like Facebook. Our future relationship will be able to be deeper having had personal interaction.

(Oh, and Happy Birthday to Brian, my younger son, whose name is often mistyped by my clumsy fingers as "Brain.")

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Relationships

No, I am not going to post about what is happening in my personal life.

Being at the ALA Annual Conference has put me in a reflective mood. One of the topics I have been thinking about the nature of personal relationships.

I love going to ALA Conferences, because I get to spend time with various folks who I do not get to see very often. For some of them, my relationship with them goes back to the mid-80s or before. (The mid-80s is when I began my active work in ALA.)

There are several folks with whom I have spent a great deal of time, in intense discussions, for a period of time. I am thinking of ALA Executive Board (EB) and ALA Council in particular. Service on the  EB is very intense. There are 4 - 5 meetings in person each year (Midwinter and Annual included) with almost monthly phone conference calls, and many, many emails. Catching up with those folks is important to me. This is the one time of year when that happens.

From among my "Council friends," one of the things I value is the ability to disagree on any given issue, but to still maintain a relationship, if not deepen it. Respect for a person does not mean you cannot disagree.Indeed, some of the folks I most respect on Council, are some with whom I disagree on one or more issues. We can disagree without being disagreeable. I have one friend (from Council and EB) who often says, what is most important is keeping an open mind and listening, especially to those with whom you disagree. She cites an example (I remember the event, but not the issue), when she and I were among a small group who stood in support of a particular motion with some of the folks with whom we most often disagreed. We had sat and listened to the arguments, and changed our minds! Getting to hang out with folks like that is part of what has enriched my life in ALA.

Facebook helps to maintain contact with many of my ALA friends, and, for me, enriches many of my relationships. At the same time, it is important for me to have the "face-time" or IRL (In Real Life) contact. That is and important part of what ALA meetings are about for me today.

I also had one of those "serendipity" moments. The first day of the conference, I had wandered through my hotel, and accidentally into the next one. I "saw the light" and was headed towards the street. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice someone else headed that way, but I was trucking on. Then, after having passed the person, I heard my name. It was someone to whom I had been introduced on Facebook, and with whom I had chatted a couple of times, but had never met (even though they were from New Orleans!). We chatted for a few moments, and after I mentioned I was headed out to find food, we agreed to go have breakfast. We wound up at the restaurant across the street, aptly named Serendipity.

For me, it was a great beginning to the conference. Many relationships were solidified, and others renewed. It is part of what I need on a periodic basis.