Saturday, March 9, 2013

Newman Books is Closing

Newman Books announced last month that it is closing, having lost its lease. This month all purchases are 35% off; any stock remaining in April will be 50% off.

Newman Books is located in Paulist College on 4th St. NE. It could hardly be worse situated for anyone not living at Paulist College or perhaps working for the U.S. Conference of Bishops next door. It is a brisk 15-minute walk from the Brookland Metro, and it is not that convenient to drive to, being at the end of long, narrow driveway--the street end was occupied by a dump truck when I got there Friday. And having arrived at the front door one must be buzzed in.

There is a good deal of philosophy and theology remaining in stock. I was interested to notice that the holdings included three or four feet of Nietzche or writings about Nietzche (including a book by H.L. Mencken), as compared to about 1.25" of Fichte and Schelling, the latter accounting for the whole inch. Kant was represented by three copies of The Critique of Judgment, that I could see. There was a spread of Marsilio Ficino's Platonic Theology, but whether the same volume over and over or the whole set I did not see. There was a fair bit of Newman of course in the theology section--I picked up A Grammar of Assent. There were quite a few Greek and Greek/Latin New Testaments.

Monday, March 4, 2013

At the Election, Or Not

The impending conclave reminds me that around the house there are four accounts of papal elections, covering six centuries and then some.

The oldest and most intimate is by Pius II, recounting his own election in 1458. Florence Gragg's translation of his memoirs, Secret Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope: The Commentaries of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomi, Pius II, is out of print in the older paperback edition, but Amazon seems to have it available at a range of prices. Harvard University Press provides a bilingual edition of the Commentaries; the English is  Gragg's, with some revisions.

Chateaubriand was ambassador to Rome during the election of Pius VIII in 1829. What he saw of it, he tells in Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe largely by official letters and letters to Mme. Recamier. Chateubriand obtained, he said, the journal of the conclave; this he translated into French, redacting it so that the sources could not be identified, and sent to the foreign minister, with his comments on it, enjoining strict secrecy. The Italian original he burned. He was happy with the results of the conclave, for the pope, formerly Cardinal Castiglione, was regarded as favorable to France, though his secretary of state, Cardinal Albani, was known to favor Austria.

Stendahl gives a circumstantial eyewitness account of the events of 1829, in the first person, though he was not in Rome. His Roman Journal  is written mostly from the notes of a cousin who had the material but not the skill in writing. If you wish to read a dramatic account of Cardinal Albani stepping out to the balcony to say "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum, papam habemus", you will have to consult Stendahl, who was in Paris, rather than Chateaubriand, who was in Rome.

The American journalist Murray Kempton was in Rome during the election of John Paul I. His account is collected in Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events. It is certainly not the best essay in the collection; quite possibly I'd have forgotten it but for its mention of Stendahl. But the essay and the book are both well worth reading.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lessons Relearned

In a week spent doing more user support than I had for years, I noticed a few things once again.

First, the models that techies take for granted, others do not.
  • A slowly refreshing web page over Remote Desktop suprised me not at all--a terminal server in city A is rendering graphics, and sending the images over the internet to the machine in city B to display, and the machines between them are paying to encrypt, then decrypt the traffic. But to the user--a very intelligent person--this simply meant that IE is slow.
  • To connect to the internet from the event center's network, one must first go open a browser, which will present a log-in page. Ah, but if you open the browser to take you to a secure site (office email, for example), the browser will (rightly) warn you of a certificate mismatch. This is not really a problem, but it looks like one.
Second, old software really does not go away. User: "I need you to scan this to PDF". Self: "But Word 2010 will save PDF." User: "But this is WordPerfect."

Third, cables, about the simplest bit of hardware there is, will let you down now and then. Twenty-five years ago, my problem was likely an RS-232 connector with a pin loose or out of place that would. In 2013, a couple of times it was an RJ-11 connector with a worn-out clip. Securing them with tape worked, but replacing them would have made me feel better.