Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving meditation - a day late

This year, I am a day late with my Thanksgiving blog post. I spent my Thanksgiving with my parents at their rehab center in Louisville, Ky. My youngest brother, his wife and son were also there. It was a very nice Thanksgiving dinner, but a bittersweet one.

My mother suffered a fairly disastrous stroke in mid-October, the week of her 89th birthday. It is not clear, but I am guessing the stroke caused the fall that broke her hip as well. The broken hip is healing well. The stroke is a slower thing to heal. She is able now, after a LOT of work, to say a short sentence, if she does not get too excited, or too tired. She can, with LOTS of support, shuffle about 3 steps. This woman is not going to be back to her old self. But I am impressed with the progress she has made, and with her determination. I am very grateful to all the medical teams who have worked with her and continue to provide gentle, kind and respectful care to her.

My father, whose memory had been deteriorating for some time, is now revealed to be quite incapable of living on his own. So he has joined her in the rehab center. He is actually very fit, physically. He can walk faster than any of the rehab center staff. It's embarrassing how much faster than me he walks. Until my mother's stroke & hip break, my father was doing all the housework and going out to trim the hedges at their house, rake leaves, and shovel snow. Now, however, he spends all his time sitting by my mother. He is taking tender care of her, and they are very sweet together.

My parents have been married for more than 62 years. They lived in the house they just left for 55 years. We kept wanting them to move to assisted living - they both really needed to be in a support system some years ago. But my father resisted with all his stubborn might. He wanted to stay in his house. We made the mistake when we did get them to try out a very nice assisted living place, of leaving the cars and keys with them! They stayed for 2 weeks, but then my father went back home, and my mother loyally went with him. They were back home for maybe half a year before my mother's stroke.

So my parents have been moved from Lexington, where they lived for many decades, to Louisville, where my youngest brother lives. He is the only child still living in the state. So, to be close to somebody who can visit and keep an eye on the care, stay in touch with the doctors and other caregivers, my parents are in Louisville. My siblings and I take turns coming in to give my brother a break.

I am very pleased that my visit is the occasion for my brother and his family to drive to Nashville to do a photo shoot for my amazing nephew, Mark. He is just starting high school, but is already doing couture design, and very interesting work. You can see the progress in his work from year to year at MW. I enjoyed talking with Mark, missed his older sister Grace, who is starting college this year. They are very interesting young people and I am glad they are having a chance to do something fun and very much away from Louisville and taking my brother for a brief vacation from responsibility.

My own family had an early Thanksgiving, thanks to my daughter sweetly coming home a week early to spend time with us while I was available. Thank you, Alexa! I understand she came back again (!) for the real Thanksgiving and I trust they are enjoying the traditional McKenzie Thanksgiving pizza.

I am thankful for family, and for generous caregivers. For people who will help a stranger just to be kind. I am thankful I have a job, and one I enjoy, that I hope is helping others. I am thankful I have children I love who love me back. I am thankful for my husband who is so supportive while I am doing all this. I am thankful for hotels that have internet as part of the package, too, even if it's not a very good connection.

I hope you all are having an excellent Thanksgiving, and safe travels wherever you go! May you also find kind strangers, willing to help.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bookstore using crowdfunding to stay open

My daughter forwarded me this plea from Food For Thought Books in Amherst, MA.  They are struggling, as so many independent bookstores are these days, to stay open.  They have turned to crowdsourcing to come up with the funds they need to tide themselves over the gap they foresee as they reduce the footprint and try to forge a future as a smaller store.  See Food for Thought CrowdSource.  Food for Thought has been more than a simple bookstore for 38 years.  Located in the Pioneer Valley, it has served as a center for the social justice and progressive communities, and a safe space for the gay, lesbian, queer and transexual community, and for radical thinkers. 

* The Indiegogo website that Food for Thought Books was using to raise money seems to hve gone away. I am trying to find out if (I hope!) that means they met their goal and shut down the fundraiser. I'll let folks know if I can figure out what it means. (11/30/13). Their Facebook page as of 11/27 says: "It's 5pm and we've raised $11,427! Think we can reach $12,000 by tomorrow??" (the ultimate goal is $38,000) So I think the Indigogo page is just temporarily broken. If you are trying to reach it to make a donation, please try back later!
Betsy McK*

While there have been several articles (Economist, Smart Planet, NY Times, and Christian Science Monitor) recently noting numbers showing overall growth in independent bookstores, my personal experience is that most of my local independent booksellers have closed up.  That includes, of course, the chain stores that these articles are dissing. The edge of small, independent booksellers, according to all three of the articles I link above is that they can get to know their customers and form personal bonds with them.  That certainly seems to shine through in the announcement for Food for Thought, above.

The Christian Science Monitor, as usual, analyzes the issues in much more detail, and it's an interesting read.  They point to a variety of influences in the recent resurgence of small, independent bookstores:

1.  The closing of Borders -  many of the erstwhile brick-and-mortar customers of this large chain have wandered into small independent bookstores and found a new bookseller.

2.  "Buy local" isn't just for veggies any more.

3.  Social media has enabled small independents to reach a larger audience with a lower overhead.

4. Newer bookstore owners are coming in with a business-savvy attitude.

5. Younger owners.

6.  Community events, and more creativity in developing community events. Some even run summer camps in their bookstores.

7.  Enough bookstores have closed, the market is stabilizing. Maybe.

8.  Diversified revenue streams; some bookstores do more than just sell new books. Some publish, some sell second-hand as well as new, some sell alternative and niche titles and paraphernalia.

9.  Beyond the coffee shop:  Some are adding wine bars, cheeses, summer sausages, olives, jams and locally made breads, specialty coffees, Italian sodas, cakes and chocolate.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Libraries or Jails?

That was the question put to voters in Lafourche Parish Louisiana last Saturday.  As reported by Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times, the ballot measure would have diverted library funding to a new jail.  The measure was put forth by Lindel Toups, Chair of the Lafourche Parish Council, who objects in particular to the Biblioteca Hispana, a Spanish-language section in one of the branch libraries.  Mr. Toups accused the library of "teaching Mexicans how to speak English."  Furthermore, he said, "'Them junkies and hippies and food stamps [recipients] and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps [on the Internet].  I see them do it.'" 

The specific proposal called for moving some property-tax revenue from the library in order to build a new detention facility.  Advocates of the proposal cited the need for a new jail, and said that diverting the money away from the library would allow the $25 million jail to be built without raising taxes.  Opponents pointed out that  the library system has already endured massive spending cuts and that some of the nine branches are in need of repair and renovation.  In addition, the library is not meeting state standards for staffing and acquisitions, and needs to devote more resources to both.  Finally, the library needs more funding to support the purchase of technology and to provide the digital resources that residents request.    

According to the statistics that Kellogg cites, Lafourche Parish is not a wealthy area.  The library is needed by those its serves and it is used.  "About 43% of [the Parish's] households do not have Internet access at home, while the library provides free Internet access with 186 computers.  More than half of  ...  residents, 53%, hold library cards, and in 2013, the library system has served more than 280,000 visitors."  The library launched a vigorous P.R. campaign, which was ultimately successful.  On Saturday, the voters rejected the measure by an eight-point margin (54-46 per cent), with 15.1 per cent of registered voters turning out. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Google Books: Scanning is Fair Use per Judge Denny Chin

Judge Denny Chin granted Google's motion for summary judgement today, dismissing the lawsuit by the Authors' Guild against their Google Books project.  Here is the ruling on Scribd.  Judge Chin found that Google's scanning and adding a search function to the print books was "highly transformative" lifting the Google Book Project out of the strictures of copyright into Fair Use.

Judge Chin referred to a number of amicus briefs filed by various library and scholarly groups to recognize the many benefits generated by the book and library projects in his opinion.  From preservation to data mining to increasing access, the Google projects are recognized as providing huge new benefits that were previously not reached by either print or e-book presence.

Judge Chin assumes that the plaintiff has established a prima facie case that Google has violated copyright through the scanning projects.  But because he finds that it falls under Fair Use doctrine

(§107 of  the Copyright Act), the case is dismissed. Because Google Books uses the words in the books for a different purpose - creating snippets for readers to sample, for instance, or to search with , or for datamining, Judge Chin finds Googles use "highly transformative."

Words in books are being used in a way they have not been used before. Google Books as created something new in the use of book text -- the frequency of words and trends in their usage provide substantive information.
     Google Books does not supersede or supplant booksbecause it is not a tool to be used to read books. Instead, it"adds value to the original" and allows for "the creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings." Leval, Toward a Fair Use Standard, 103 Harv. L. Rev. at 1111. Hence, the use is transformative.
(from Chin,  Author's Guild, et al., v. Google, 05 Civ. 8136 (S.D. N.Y, Nov. 14, 2013) , at pp. 20 - 21). 
 Image is Judge Denny Chin, taken at the time of his confirmation as a federal judge.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Courts

A story in the Boston Globe about Creating a Special Court for Veterans caught my attention this Veterans' Day.  Suffolk County, (Boston's County), is following the lead of Norfolk County, where I live.  The Veterans' Court in Norfolk County is described as a cross between a court and an AA meeting, where all the veterans come and participate in the hearings for each other, offering comments and encouragement. 
“It’s fascinating to watch,” [Bill] Sinnott [a former Marine and corporate counsel for the city of Boston] said, especially when the veterans report the progress they have made. The fellow veterans in the courtroom will often share words of encouragement, he said. “They’ll say, ‘Great job, John. Atta boy, John.’ ”
The idea began in Buffalo, NY in 2008, and has since spread to 104 Veterans' Courts around the Country. There is a great website and organization, Justice for which provides support and assistance to cities and counties wishing to explore setting up such courts. At What is a Veterans Treatment Court, the website explains the rationale for establishing a veterans-only docket:

Veterans Treatment Courts allow jurisdictions to serve a large segment of the justice-involved veteran population as opposed to business as usual – having all veterans appear before random judges who may or may not have an understanding of their unique problems.  Because a Veterans Treatment Court judge handles numerous veterans' cases and is supported by a strong, interdisciplinary team, he or she is in a much better position to exercise discretion and effectively respond than a judge who only occasionally hears a case involving a veteran defendant.  A Veterans Treatment Court judge better understands the issues that a veteran may be struggling with, such as substance addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and military sexual trauma.  A Veterans Treatment Court judge is also more familiar with the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, State Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations, and volunteer Veteran Mentors and how they all can assist veteran defendants.

There is much more there, including links to an annual conference (Dec. 2-5, 2013 in Washington, DC), resources, including information about state legislation, and information on the beneficial impact of such courts.