Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Any USB port in a storm

There were several topics I thought I should post about and just didn't, couldn't, didn't wanna, didn't have time, was beaten to, etc. Like the proposed Park51 community center two blocks away from the former World Trade Center site, formerly known as Cordoba House, also known by a media scare name that I refuse to use. Like Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in DC, which my mother, two aunts, and an uncle attended. Like another event from last weekend--L'Ailee and I babysitting our best friends' daughters, taking them to the zoo, the bowling alley, and Trader Joe's. Like the Discovery Channel building hostage situation this afternoon.

I'm not blogging about any of this. Instead, I believe I will answer the question, "Why do you still buy so many books instead of a Kindle or something?"

Hurricane Earl is coming up the East Coast. As I type, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are being threatened and have been evacuated. It's a nice area from what my work husband and I saw--we went there for a friend's funeral last year--and we wanted to go again for happier reasons. Since it's a tourist destination, it's going to be losing that last infusion of seasonal cash from Labor Day weekend. Earl will then be on its way up here by Friday. My best friend Yemaya O'Reilly and I are hoping we'll have good surfing weather with lighter-than-usual beach traffic this weekend, but of course shit can get much more serious than that and we've had to prepare. Yemaya's Jamaican and I'm Floridian; we know how to prepare, and we have. It still seems weird to me that news of a hurricane's making me have to worry more about myself, wife, and friends in NYC than about my family and friends back home in Florida. This weirdness has been pointed out to me several times.

Whenever I think of electronic readers, the same scene pops up in my head--me outside on the patio after a hurricane knocked our power out, reading to pass the time. Part of a Floridian childhood is learning how to entertain oneself without electricity a few days a year. The thing about an electronic device, including a reader, is that one has to recharge it, and the juice has to come from somewhere. Now if the juice isn't available for days or weeks? Well, then, you're fucked when the power goes out. I can extrapolate it further, imagine how it would be if everyone's most dystopian visions came to pass and the electricity never came back on again. I won't. Even without hurricanes, NYC's dealt with blackouts related to heat waves as everyone ran the A/C and nobody wanted to leave the house. They come from tornadoes, ice storms, and mismanagement.

I think about a passage in a young adult book I read in middle school, one so disposable I forget the rest of it. (I've read many books like that, and wonder if maybe a reader wouldn't be such a bad idea after all, just to eliminate waste.) What stuck with me in this book was the young narrator's grandfather expressing his disdain for computers. I paraphrase: "All this knowledge on computers. What happens to your knowledge when you unplug it?" I don't want my knowledge to go away at the pull of a plug.

As a teenager, one of my struggles at school was having to use a calculator for math class. Yes, in Central Florida in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they were required. I know this is going to sound weird--some of you will say, "I wish I could have used a calculator." But I have dyscalculia. To vastly oversimplify, dyscalculia is dyslexia with numbers instead of letters. I can read written and typed numbers most of the time, after a great deal of brain training as a young teen, but square digital numbers have always been an absolute bitch for me to tell apart even in the best of times. I wasn't about to ask my mother to waste $90 on a required scientific calculator I could never use--or worse yet, spend several CDs' worth of my own babysitting money! So I insisted on writing my problems out very neatly on paper.

My teachers didn't like this at all, and kept insisting that I use a calculator like the other kids. I shamed one in 11th grade: "I thought I was here to learn how to do math, not press buttons," I told her. "I already know how to press buttons. Why are you yelling at me for doing math in math class?" She never bothered me again. As an adult, I can figure out a tip or halve a recipe very quickly on paper, as quickly as most can on a calculator, which amazes everyone who knows I'm dyscalculiate. I was forced to learn math the hard way--the old school, analog, unplugged way--and some of it actually stuck with me. I know this may sound like bragging, but I'm glad to have that ability now.

I have other considerations, too. I like books and always have--how they feel, how they smell, even the words previous owners have written in the margins when I get one secondhand. They've been very good friends to me since I was a little girl. One of the things I like about riding the bus every day--and there aren't many--is having a little time to relax with a book or magazine. It brings me back to school, in a good way. The last book I read on the bus was Composed, Rosanne Cash's memoir. I've occasionally lost books on buses. I hated losing $20 or less worth of book--imagine losing $200 worth of e-reader plus downloads! You have a better chance of getting your book back!

I like looking at our shelves in the living room and seeing L'Ailee's books, my books, and our books that we share. The Russian novels and the ones about science, sports, and classical music are hers. The Southern authors and the ones about color theory, history, and politics are mine. Together we like science fiction, graphic novels, and satire, so we get one copy of those books for the two of us. It's a little funny how we'll compete to grab the books we both want. "I got the Passage, ha ha ha!" I texted when I picked up Justin Cronin's dystopian tome at the store earlier this year. "Shut up!" she texted back. By getting the book first, I'd earned the right to read it first, starting on the ride home. She got me back a couple weeks ago by buying Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story out from under me.

Hurricane preparedness means buying water and cat food and batteries and matches, making sure we have enough tape, all that. It also means that I'm torturing myself further by not starting Super Sad True Love Story until this weekend, just in case. I've also got Will Bunch's ultra-cheerful new non-fiction about the hatefulness in current right-wing politics, the Backlash, on deck. Hopefully I'll read it in the AC, but if not, I'll put up my hair, make a fan out of copy paper, make some sun tea, and bring them outside.

Yesterday afternoon, I said, "Modern technology's awesome, but so is knowing how to get things done w/o it when you need to." I tweeted that from my cell phone.

Links to click before the power goes out:

9/11 Season is here, and that means opportunistic jackasses trying to make a political thing out of it. Usually those are the same jackasses who talk about "liberal New York elites" most of the year. Case in point, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are having a rally in Alaska on 9/11. Ironically, in 2002, L'Ailee and I went there so she could be away from NYC during the anniversary (since she actually lost her job and a friend and all on that day). It *was* nice...

Speaking of Beck, Kathleen Parker, a conservative-leaning columnist whom I've often disagreed with, does some amateur analysis on him.

San Francisco gets used and scapegoated by politicians, too. What politicians mean by "San Francisco values."

Is New York the next "Papers, please" state?

Some barbed humor: Top 10 Things to Build at Ground Zero Besides a Terrorist Mosque

Finally, the hottest song you'll never hear on the radio, Cee-Lo Green's "Fuck You", now has an official video!


Dorminic said...

I'm completely behind your take on tech. I'm proud to call myself a techie but nothing beats taking notes the old fashioned way or the way a hard cover feels in your hands when you read it.

And your dyscalculatia story is just inspirational...

Jude said...

I gave in to a Nook and I love it but right now, I'm reading a paperback. I've found the ebooks are much more enjoyable when the printed version is plus 800 pages...much easier to hold. Losing your reader, yeah, that wouldn't be very cool but you would still have all your ebooks available to you.
Hope you stay powered on and safe this weekend.

bluzdude said...

I'm with you on the books. I don't want a Kindle either.

Oh, the irony in having all your e-books but being unable to power our reader... reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode...

Burgess Meredith plays a nebbishy guy that just wants to get away from everyone so he can read. He ends up getting trapped in a building (or vault or something) with thousands of books. But in the process, he broke his eyeglasses and couldn't see a thing.

That's your powerless Kindle... a blind guy trapped in a library.

BostonPobble said...

Aside from all the emotional stuff like loving the feel and smell of books and blah, blah, blah, for me, the pragmatic side of still reading books is that I read places where electronics tend to not be happy. The bath. The beach. Poolside. On the boat. I'm also a wee bit clumsy. My paperbacks I can hang and dry out. Enjoy telling the story about why that one is water logged or this one is so sandy. A Nook or a Kindle and yeah, I'm the proud, clumsy owner of an expensive paperweight. Oh, and did I mention the Alaskan tundra isn't the easiest place to find an outlet? There's that, too.

Hope you get good surfing and nothing more dangerous!