February 13th, 2014

Today's Activities Include: a day of cancel, short power outage

I got some of the expected cancels (for our local school district and for T.'s school from last year) this morning at 5 a.m. However, there was a bit of extra excitement. T.'s current classroom is in Harvard (the town, not the university) and his teachers told him yesterday there would be no school today. The superintendent, however, like many superintendents, had some other theory about who got to make that decision, and we received a robocall saying there would be early dismissal.

Really? T.'s bus is not provided when my town (where, oddly, the relevant bus operation is located) is canceled and my town was canceled, which implied I would have to provide transportation to and from school for him. Yeah, that wasn't gonna happen. I concluded that just because Harvard was foolish enough to open the school didn't imply that I needed to be foolish enough to drive him in and tried to go back to sleep. I had more or less succeeded, so I didn't actually bother to grab the phone to listen to the second Harvard robocall, wherein the superintendent explained that upon further reflection, they were going to close the schools after all.

Sensible of him.

I have no idea why there are so many nominal decision makers who aren't the de facto decision makers. Obvs, this poor man got a whole lot of feedback on his earlier decision. We should just put the de facto decision makers in charge. You know: set up a website and let parents and teachers express whether they intend to send their kids to school/show up for work. Whenever the percentage falls below a certain level, just shrug and close it up. Democracy in action. Because you know that's what's going on behind the scenes anyway. The teachers, aides and bus drivers _always_ know what the superintendent is going to decide before he even seems to.

My son's previous school district is where A.'s swim lesson is. The pool was closed today, so no lesson.

For a little added frisson of excitement, the power went out here at around 8:15 or so, coming back on an hour and a half later. R. got the generator up and running, so we had power, and the gas fireplace works regardless (as does the stove, if you get the lighter out). It was nice to have a daylight run of the generator; I think this may have been the first time we ran it to power the house since we got it, but R. could say for sure.

Peeping Readers? Book Voyeurs?

For what seemed forever, but was probably less than two years, there was a strain of commentary in newsmedia about how wonderful printed books are to hold in the hand and to smell. After spending a lot of time openly mocking this kind of blog post/article in this blog, I took to calling that particular refrain "book huffing", and the perpetrators "book huffers". I need a new term, however, because I new refrain is popping, at least in my perception. The idea of books as physical decoration, things to look at with desire, affection, etc.

Here is today's instantiation, courtesy Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader


"Because a printed book is a physical object that I can forever admire on my shelf. I can’t admire a file on a smartphone or tablet. I personally have more than 160 printed books and less than 20 on my Kindle." (Actually, I sort of feel like I'm being trolled right at the moment.) Then a picture of some art on the writer's arm is displayed as further evidence of the author's need to commit to the p-form.

Also, I _wish_ I could say with a straight face that I have more than 160 printed books. I mean, I _do_, but it would be a deceptive statement.

R. wants to call this a book fetish, but I don't think that's quite right. Something about the loving gaze directed at the object of one's affection is more appropriate. Fetish sounds too, er, hands on.

ETA: I cannot believe I forgot this. I distracted myself by wondering if I was being trolled with this piece. "The print vs. e-book question had never once been asked prior to the 2000s." I had an hours long argument with a very nice young Seventh Day Adventist man (well, we were young then; it was the early 1990s. We're middle aged now.) who firmly believed that within a very short period of time, everyone would be reading exclusively e-books. I argued that I was basically the only person I knew who had read more than one book all the way through on a computer and it was a miserable experience. If I couldn't tolerate it yet, there was no way The Masses were going to switch (remember how expensive PCs were then? And people think iPads cost so much now!) any time soon. In any event, the question was definitely asked long before the 2000s. Also, people reading books in mobi format on various PDA devices.

By way of contrast: a thoughtful comparison of e- vs. p- form reading

Again, courtesy Nate from The Digital Reader


I suppose I should start by noting the author is correct: serious non-fiction reads a lot slower than genre fiction, in e- or p- form. And all our adaptions -- whether trained or evolved on our own -- to studying serious non-fiction (a finger in the Notes at the end of the chapter or the back of the book, marking our "second" place in the book, as we read through the text) help us very little when reading e-form. The author doesn't appear to have a Paperwhite or other backlit ereader, so that's unfortunate. And the author hasn't found the search feature (yikes -- that would make it almost unusable). The complaints about pictures and trying to figure out who historical people were strike me as a big misguided. I habitually read non-fiction on the kindle with either a laptop or an iPad handy, so I can wikipedia or otherwise look up things I am wondering about. This is _way better_ than digging around in the index and rereading something I forgot from earlier in the book, because that only handles the case of it was mentioned but it slipped my mind. Wikipedia plus other sources found by googling around let me also find out whether the author is yanking me around. The closest p-form analogy would be reading about a topic while sitting in the stacks where that book would ordinarily be filed: you can check the author's work against the work of all those other people, right handy. (Have I done this? Oh yes, I have. And I've bought a half dozen books on a topic, just to make sure the book I wanted to read was as good as I wanted it to be -- or to make up for its shortcomings as they appeared.)

The pictures thing is tricky, however, I've had fantastic luck with google image search. I can usually find whatever is in the book in a larger/zoomable form online (not always).

And of course, that lovely disco book, _Hot Stuff_: I could listen to the music on youtube and buy it on iTunes.

But I really love this comparison. It's thoughtful, by someone who genuinely uses both forms, and with clear eyes can see and clear words convey the good and bad of each. I wish all e-book commentary was this good.