We finally got her surname correct on that pesky birth certificate.


See, at the hospital they only permitted the mother’s name, the father’s name, or a hyphenation of the two. Dangerblond told me of that’s the law. So we knew we’d have to go through a legal procedure. It sure has taken a while to get to this point, but she’s got her whole life ahead of her, so it’s worth it.

People either love this name immediately, or they don’t quite get it and look at us like we’re crazy. Which we may well be.

Of course, there will probably be some future hassles down the road since all three of us have different last names. I’ve actually contemplated changing my last name to match hers, but Xy won’t hear of it. Plus, it’s kind of expensive with the lawyers and all.

We hope to have a naming ceremony soon. Nothing fancy, just a few words and a toast. I’ll record it so our distant family can enjoy it too. Does anyone have a bell we could use?

I’d been thinking it would have been nice to celebrate on the autumnal equinox, but I was waiting for that certificate, and it just didn’t arrive in time. Then I thought we could do it this weekend, but I notice the grass is kind of long down on the bayou, which is where we want to have it. I think the city will probably cut the grass soon. We’ve waited this long, what’s a little while longer?

Plus, the pomegranate harvest should be coming in soon.

Lindy Boggs

What’s that floating in the water? Yes, it’s a portable toilet!


This picture was taken on the entrance ramp to the basement of the Lindy Boggs Medical Center on September 24, 2008. This is not Katrina flooding. Apparently all the Katrina water was pumped out. But the basment has filled back up with water since then. Basements without electricity to run pumps are kind of a bad idea in New Orleans.

I’ve started a new photo set called “The Facility Formerly Known as Lindy Boggs Medical Center.” Only five pictures there, but no doubt more to come.

Actually I should probably start a group, and invite others. Some other people have been taking interesting pictures at the site. Here’s one from Xy’s cameraphone.


Those are electrical trucks bedding down for the night, after a hard day of restoring power, after Gustav.

Creating a group on Flickr only takes a minute. Here it is: Lindy Boggs. I think this would be a good place for pictures of Lindy Boggs herself, as well as pictures of the hospital in its heyday, as well as its current state of dilapidation.

Now to invite some others. I remember Derek had a nice photo from last summer:

Mid-City Emergency

Which of course must be contrasted with how it looks now:


Any others?

$16 TP?

As noted by the inimitable Oyster, our only daily paper is raising its rates. As of October 1st, a subscription to the Times-Picayune will cost $16.00 per month.

That seems like a lot. I certainly have many complaints I could lodge against the paper. Some of my more ardent activist friends refer to the paper as “virulently racist.” I think that’s a little much. I would describe them as a fairly moderate organ in a virulently racist and classist society. I certainly wouldn’t expect the T-P to be at the vanguard of the revolution; I’d expect them to serve the power elite. But within that framework they still have a function to fulfill and can still be a valuable source of information.

But I digress. After much breast-beating and soul-searching, we decided to maintain our subscription. The reason is simple. Even at $16 per month, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single other daily source for all this information on what’s going on in the city.

Digital Natives

I first heard the phrase “digital natives” at the New Media Consortium’s 2007 Regional Conference. I enjoyed the conference a great deal and found the majority of the sessions enlightening. However, there was one session in particular which fell way, way below the mark. I can sum up this presentation as follows:

Kids today sure do like that new digital technology. They’re Digital Natives from Digiland! All us old folks can ever hope to do is be Immigrants to Digiland. Even so, we’d best savvy up right quick to this here new-fangled stuff, or we will fail to engage these Digital Natives in the educational process.

I wish I could say I’m going over the top here, but that was pretty much the gist and tenor of the presentation. I was frankly disgusted, even outraged.

Since then, I’ve started to notice the phrase “digital natives” cropping up with greater frequency, and I think that’s a shame. It strikes me as a worthless, indeed a disabling notion.

So I was really turned on by Siva Vaidhyanathan’s article in the recent Chronicle, “Generation Myth.” In my humble opinion, Siva knocks it out of the park. He argues that the the notion of “digital natives” is pure bunk, but he goes farther than that and argues that generations themselves are bunk. I absolutely agree with the first argument, and I’m inclined to think he’s right about the second, but in any case it’s fascinating and provocative stuff. I’d say it’s must reading for anyone interested in technology, education or generational politics.

Siva’s article caught the attention of the good folks at Digital Campus, who devote the better part of their current episode to a discussion of digital natives. Although they take Siva’s article as a jumping-off point, and don’t really rebut it, I guess they didn’t buy it either, because they continued to refer to “digital natives” throughout their discussion.

I cringed each time.

Two of the participants offered a metaphor which I found quite helpful. Consider the automobile. Consider the generation that grew up with the automobile, and subsequent generations. Chances are these folks know how to drive. They may be able to fix a flat or change a spark plug. But most of them do not understand the intimate workings of the internal combustion engine. For most problems, they will need to defer to an expert, a mechanic. This is true even for professional drivers, people who make their living behind the wheel of a car. And most folks certainly wouldn’t know how to design a car, much less build one from scratch.

I like this metaphor because it captures some nuances that seem to be glossed over when people speak of “digital natives.” Sure, younger people probably have a greater facility with some of the easiest digital technology. But that’s really a superficial distinction. I suspect that the percentage of people with true skillz and deep knowledge of digital stuff increases as the age of the sample decreases. But such experts are still a distinct minority. In my experience, most people are still somewhat befuddled by technology whatever their age.

The term “digital natives” is harmful because it suggests a level of competence that simply isn’t there for the vast majority. It suggests a monolithic, mythic quality to the up and coming young folks. It also carries the connotation, as noted by the misguided speaker at the NMC conference, that older folks are “non-natives” who can never expect to gain the level of competency and comfort with digital technology to which young people are supposedly born. These notions do not serve us well.

I suppose I might be sensitized to this because I work at a a “majority minority” institution — a place where the majority of students are from racial and ethnic minority groups. Our student body is also largely economically disadvantaged. I think it’s especially misleading to speak of “digital natives” in this context. Siva cites Eszter Hargittai:

[W]omen, students of Hispanic origin, African-American students, and students whose parents have lower levels of education tend to have less mastery of the inner workings of digital technology than other groups do.

But regardless of the race or gender or socio-economic standing of the group in question, I don’t find the term “digital natives” helpful at all.


After Xy left for school this morning, I discovered Persephone had a fever. She also seemed to have a rattle in her chest, quite loud, every time she breathed.

So I called our doctor. It was early, and her clinic wasn’t open yet. The voice message instructed me to hold the line, if the matter was urgent, and I would be connected to the answering service.

I held the line. I was connected not to the “answering service” but to the “call center.” The woman at the call center could hear Persephone’s rattly breathing over the phone. She accessed some sort of data that allowed her to observe that our doctor was not in the clinic today. OK. So should I just call back later, or is this a matter of some urgency?

I was transferred from one person to another throughout the Tulane Medical System. Eventually I was transferred back to the call center, where I waited on hold for ten or fifteen minutes. Then I spoke to the same woman again, and she sent me off on another round of transfers.

We repeated this little game three times, wasting the better part of an hour. Finally I had the good sense to hang up. It was almost 8:00 AM, at which time the clinic would officially open, and I could just make an appointment.

So at 8:00 AM precisely I called in, and got a slightly different phone message. I was instructed to “press two” if I wished to make an appointment. I pressed two, and was transferred — not to clinic staff, not to the “call center,” but to the “answering service.” The woman I spoke with theorized that the clinic actually maybe didn’t open until 8:30. Or perhaps, she speculated, they were just running a little late today. It happens to the best of us. She suggested that I call back in a few minutes, which I did, at which time I spoke with her again. I didn’t ask what function the “answering service” was supposed to serve. I just called back a little later and finally made the appointment (with an alternate doctor) for that afternoon.

Oh, as for the girl? She’s got an viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, otherwise known as a common head cold. I stayed home from work and took care of her. It was kind of fun, actually. She had a healthy appetite and was generally in good spirits, but running a low fever all day. I fed her a full serving of carrots and a full serving of prunes — more non-milk food than she’s probably ever had in a day. Her poop is starting to stink now, alas. But mostly we had a good time. She kept me busy, but I even managed to sneak some work in. Tomorrow, Xy’s staying home with her, and I’m headed back to campus. We’re keeping an eye out for any worsening, but this is probably minor. I’m counting this as her first real sickness. I’m pretty sure what she had two weeks ago was probably just teething.

I shared my early morning telephonic experiences with the clinic’s office manager. By the time I was done I think she was ready to ream someone a new asshole.

I can’t think of an appropriately sardonic title for this post. I considered “Marvels of Modern Medicine” and “Wonders of Telephony” but they seemed to miss the mark. What strikes me is that, as I reflect this day, the first day the girl was ever truly sick, the first day I ever stayed home to take care of her — it’s that little escapade on the phone that really stands out as the most salient aspect of the day. There’s something about the experience of being caught in dysfunctional bureaucratic phone madness that seems emblematic of our moment in history.

Furniture on the Curb

Today as I took the girl to school, I spotted a pile of furniture on the curb, on Iberville just past Jeff Davis.

Flooded furniture. The flood was three years ago. And it struck me the houses here are like patrons at a party where poison punch has been passed. They stand for a while. Some fall. Those that don’t fall eventually disgorge their guts onto the sidewalk. Some take longer than others. I bet in 2015 we’ll still be hearing of the occasional house that finally had its contents removed, ten years after the flood.

I stayed home from campus today to work on the house and my mind. I’ve borrowed a ladder from Michael. I still have Joe’s ladder, but it’s actually too long for this job. I’m unsticking the painted-shut windows on our upper floor. I can’t abide windows that won’t open. We’d have never bought this house if the windows had been painted shut. The weather’s too nice now for AC.

Because I was home, I got to see some more furniture piling up on another curb, at the house across the street. I didn’t get a good look at who was doing the work, but they came, emptied the apartment, swept it out, changed the lock and left. It looks as though Trinetta’s been evicted. I wonder if she knows yet.

(Same landlord as two years ago, different tenant.)

At least I got the rest of the windows unstuck.

Update: We saw people picking over Trinetta’s stuff. I expressed concern, but the guy working on the apartment said it was OK. “Is she dead?” I asked. “Yes!” he said. But I don’t think he meant it. That seemed to be a misunderstanding born of the language barrier. Apparently Trinetta already moved out and just left a bunch of stuff behind. So I guess she’s not evicted. But still — that’s a lot of stuff she left behind. Something seems off.


The autumnal equinox takes place today at 10:44 AM Central Time. It seems to me like the autumnal equinox gets short shrift. The solstices are celebrated (Christmas, Midsummer) and of course the vernal equinox is the subject of an enduring myth. But the poor old autumnal equinox gets no traction in the popular mind. I wonder why that is.

PS: Driven by some strange impulse, I shaved my beard that night for the first time in three months. I’m beginning to see a pattern.

Seven Months

You’re seven months old today. I’d heard the first three months, or the first six, might be the hardest, but as I’ve mentioned before you’ve been remarkably easy so far. This last month, your seventh, has been the hardest by far. You’ve been crankier than ever. The reason: Apparently you don’t like the feeling of sharp shards of bone thrusting their way through your tender flesh. Go figure. You now have three fully erupted teeth, and there’s more on the way. And now for the first time I am experiencing the weariness and sleep deprivation that so many people warned me about.

You still don’t sit up on your own. You’re not crawling yet either. Personally I think you’re just being a little lazy. I think you’re strong enough — you can do a full-body push-up — but you’re just not sufficiently motivated. Of course I’m more interested in your cognitive development. Your eyes will now lock on something that interests you, and then you’ll reach out and grab it.

Lens Grab

You seem to be taking an interest in the books we read you. The Little Bee finger puppet book is one of your favorites.

Most of your nutrition still comes from your mother’s milk, but you’ve been on solid food for a month now. You seem to like applesauce, pears and carrots. Bananas and sweet potatoes — not so much. The folks at the daycare said you enjoyed your bananas Friday, but you sure didn’t seem to want them from me. I find the very notion that you might have likes and dislikes odd. I thought taste was a learned behavior.

Also in your seventh month of life, you experienced your first evacuation. I hope we don’t have to do that again any time soon. I hope we don’t have to do it ever again, but I suppose it’s inevitable. With any luck, by that time you will master the phrase, “Are we there yet?”

Heavy Rotation

What I’ve been listening to the most over the last week:

  1. Death in June
  2. Dead Can Dance
  3. Tzolk’in
  4. Zoviet France
  5. Radiohead
  6. Sven Grahn
  7. Alpha Blondy
  8. David & Steve Gordon
  9. Jonathan Richman
  10. Bohren & der Club of Gore

And here’s a mix featuring all these artists via 8tracks:

More Ike Madness

My cousin Leslie and her family in Houston went to Austin for a wedding around the time of Ike; they are still waiting for power so they can return. But this news from Mom in Indiana threw me for a loop:

The remnants of Ike hit Indiana pretty hard. Nothing compared to Texas, of course. The devastation in Galveston and surrounding areas is hard to comprehend from a distance. Last Sunday we had high winds and rain. In fact, Indiana had the second highest death toll after Texas as a result of Ike. Five people died from falling trees and two others from other reasons. A number of schools were closed on Monday and some for another day or two. People were out of power too. Most of this was south of where we live. We only had small branches and twigs to pick up.

And to think Indiana is where we’ve taken refuge from two hurricanes. I always figured Indiana was so far inland as to be immune to serious damage from tropical systems, but obviously not. And there are still thousands of people in Indiana without electricity.


I’ve been playing around with a relatively new music-sharing website called 8tracks. It allows you to create and share playlists legally.

Here’s a silly little playlist I uploaded this morning:

Using their nifty new Mac app I was able to upload this playlist directly from iTunes. It contains eight songs — one for each day of the week. Disclaimer: This is not my favorite music, but I’m a sucker for a concept. Even a silly one.

8tracks looks pretty handy. I’ve seen playlist-sharing sites before, but they had severe limitations. Some only allow you to share links to purchase the music, so you can’t actually rock out. Some allow you only to choose from their library. But 8tracks allows you to upload the music directly from your own collection, so no cut is too obscure.

For an example of something more obscure, here’s another playlist, which I constructed yesterday:

The most amazing thing to me is that this is all apparently legal. 8tracks seems to be taking the legal issues seriously and their ducks are apparently in a row.

Coleen Salley

I just learned that Coleen Salley, the “Grocery Cart Queen,” passed away yesterday. I never met her, but I did encounter her (and her krewe) on Mardi Gras, 2007, and I took this picture, which I offer now as a tribute:

Krewe of Coleen

Rest in peace, Coleen.

500 Months

I am 500 months old today. It’s been 500 months since the date of my birth. I have been alive for 500 months.

I really don’t know how else to put it. It seems like a simple (if somewhat silly) concept, but some people seem to have difficulty grasping it. They ask: “What do you mean?” or “How do you figure?”

The figuring is easy. Every year is twelve months. 41 years is 492 months. So eight months after your 41st birthday, you’re 500 months old.

At my age, I only get an interesting birthday once every ten years. I just can’t get excited about the number 41.

But 500, that’s impressive. A nice round number.

Here’s to 500 more.

Hatin’ on the 8

Next to my web browser, I guess iTunes is the most-used application on my system. Come to think of it, I may actually use iTunes more than my web browser. I use it to play music, at work and at home, all day and all night.

I’m happy with it, but I view each new version with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Maybe they’ll come out with some killer new feature. Yet I fear that, sooner or later, Apple is bound to screw this good thing up.

I’m especially nervous/excited about major releases. You know, the ones with a whole new version number.

I am mightily unimpressed with iTunes 8.

It’s got a new visualizer. OK, that’s some nice eye candy. Grid view? Basically more eye candy. I guess iTunes 8 does something new with HD video, but I don’t use iTunes to watch anything.

The big new feature that caught my interest was Genius. Hell, it’s the only new feature of interest. And it’s a bust.

Genius (unfortunate name!) is supposed to generate playlists from your collection based on any given song you select. It’s also supposed to supply recommendations of music you might like from the iTunes Music Store. It’s similar to what Pandora or last.fm have been doing for years. The problem is that Genius only seems to derive it’s associations from the iTunes Music Store, and that’s somewhat limiting.

For example, right now I’m listening to “Dariya Da Makiya” by Umaru Sanda. Genius can’t do anything with this track. No playlist, no recommendations. By way of comparison, last.fm can at least recommend two similar artists. What’s more, last.fm will usually let me play music similar to a given artist for free — though to be fair, even last.fm seems to choke on Umaru Sanda.

It seems most of the music in my library is Genius-proof. But even when Genius has recommendations, I’m not interested, because I never use the iTunes Music Store. When I buy music I use Amazon or some other vendor that doesn’t encumber their wares with that Digital Rights Management crap. I turned off the iTMS years ago because of the DRM.

Of course Apple is interested in driving people to their store, which is why I’m convinced they’ll screw up this app some day. Lending support to this idea is another new “feature” in iTunes 8. There are little arrows next to every song and album title, every artist name and musical genre. Click the arrow and it takes you to the appropriate page on the iTunes Music Store. Mind you, that’s not new. The little arrows have been around for quite some time. I turned them off long ago. What’s new in iTunes 8 is that Apple has removed the ability to turn the arrows off. It was an option in the preferences, and now it’s gone, and the arrows are on by default. They’re ugly and useless. How annoying is that? At least there’s a command-line workaround:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

So, though it’s not a deal-killer, I find iTunes 8 to be a disappointment. And worse than a disappointment: an annoyance. Too bad, because there are plenty of improvements I would have liked to see.

A Change in the Weather

A cold front came through yesterday, pushing rain before it. Now the weather here is distinctly cooler and drier. The oppressive heat and humidity of summer is gone, at least for a little while. Furthermore, we’re over the hump of hurricane season. After the 10th of September, I think, the historical record indicates a dramatic tapering of storm activity. Right now, there are no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic to worry about.

The sense of relief and optimism is almost palpable in New Orleans this morning. Tasks that seemed overwhelming last week now look doable after all. If I can just lay hold of a twelve foot ladder, I think I can unstick my painted-shut windows.

It’s almost enough to make a person forget that Louisiana has had two hurricane disasters in the last month, that tens of thousands of Texans are waiting in need of hurricane relief, that gas prices are setting new records, that the US economy is in terrible shape, that our election campaigns are farcical mockeries of the democratic process, that we’re embroiled in an unnecessary war where innocent civilians are killed almost every day… But nothing can kill my mood with weather like this.

Teething and Other Stuff

Man, I thought it was rough when those bottom two teeth came in. Now there’s some dental action up top and the girl’s really been feeling it. When I picked her up Thursday the daycare staff said she’d had a “rough day” — her very first. I guess that’s why she had a little fever on Saturday, and it seems to be making her nose run. Yes, we’ve given her the frozen washrags, teething rings, etcetera. I massage her gums. All these things seem to help a little, but they sure ain’t no silver bullet. I guess the only thing we haven’t tried is benzocaine, and I’m not sure we want (or need) to go there.

Gustav blew off one-third of our shed’s roof. Yesterday David B. wrestled it back into place and secured it with some screws and nails. Not exactly what I called hurricane-proof, but hopefully it will keep the rain out for a while. The shed really needs a whole new roof. Actually we need a whole new shed, but I don’t feel like dealing with that anytime soon. There’s a lot more pressing work needed.

I need to hire someone to do a number of odd jobs on our old house. I’ve held off because I was waiting for Xy to start getting paid, now that she’s back to work. Her paycheck didn’t materialize, so finally she went to the main office. Everything seemed to be in order — except, oh wait: “You shouldn’t even be working! We never got a note from your doctor saying it’s OK.” So Xy had the doctor fax a note and they cut her a check.

This is all random and jumbled because I just haven’t had a chance to record much lately.

Ike really shut things down Friday. Xy got to school only to find they were closing — just as parents were dropping kids off. Then the daycare called and said they’d be closed. It had been raining hard early that morning, so David B. dropped me off on campus. A minute after I got there Janice called my cell and informed me that campus was closing at 9:00 AM. I got a ride home with her. Adding to the craziness of the morning, we had a small electrical fire in the office suite. An exit sign just burst into flames. I arrived in time to see the blackened ceiling tiles.

I found myself getting a little choked up reading about the devastation Ike has caused. They say the flooding in some Louisiana parishes is worse than Rita, the worst in living memory. And in Texas… parts of Galveston are just gone. It looks similar to what happened to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Katrina. Of course, it’s very dissimilar to what happened in New Orleans then, when the floodwalls failed and the city filled with water for weeks. I hope people don’t make false comparisons between the two events; it’s like apples and oranges.

And since I’m rambling, I might as well mention this little gem. I’d been laboring under the delusion that the internet and telecommunications in general are fairly “green.” I’d subscribed to the fantasy notion that such technologies could promote a cosmopolitan worldview while consuming less energy than actually moving people around. I should have known better:

Data centres consumed 1 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2005. By 2020 the carbon footprint of the computers that run the internet will be larger than that of air travel, a recent study by McKinsey, a consultancy firm, and the Uptime Institute, a think tank, predicted.

That’s from an article about Google’s idea for putting data centers on barges.

Also, David B. and I went to see the matinee of Burn After Reading Friday at the Prytania. First flick I’ve seen since the girl was born. A fine, fun, forgettable film. I laughed until I cried. No joke. What a treat.