Archive for August, 2005

I love Firefox, but does it love Bloglines?

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on August 30th, 2005

I’ve been using Firefox as my dominant browser at work for months now, happily so.

At home, once I got broadband, I started using Firefox more–except when I need to check work mail (iNotes still doesn’t play nice with Firefox). “More” meaning “exclusively except when I can’t.”

But an odd thing’s been happening–not all the time, but once every couple of days.

I’ll go do to my “pre-dinner Bloglines sweep,” click on the first blog with new postings, and wait. And wait. And…

Sometimes, the posts will come up after 20-30 seconds. Sometimes, not at all. Sometimes, a Refresh works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

Yesterday, when this happened, I opened IE, went to Bloglines, clicked on the same blog, and got right in. And went through the whole set with no delays.

I still scan Bloglines at work in Firefox–and haven’t had this problem.

Clues gratefully accepted as comments. Otherwise, well, IE’s always on the machine.

[This post prepared in IE--and I think WordPress opened faster. But Blake may have done some tuning, or I may be hallucinating.]

Where did the time go?

Posted in Stuff on August 29th, 2005

I was tempted to ask that question Sunday evening, as I was the previous Sunday evening, in comparing what actually got done with my list of Must, Should, and Could possibilities. The Could, of course, including some really good blog posts…

Thing is, I know where the time went on both weekends. I make the mistake of thinking that a weekend offers the equivalent of two work days entirely for my own projects, which might be true except:

  • I don’t get up at 5:30 on weekends, and certainly don’t start getting my wife up at 6:30 (our weekday norm–I’m more of a morning person, and we work different schedules).
  • We have leisurely hot breakfasts together on weekends, instead of my usual 20-minute weekday breakfast. (I don’t get home-cooked waffles on weekdays, and I don’t get good breakfast conversation either!)
  • Saturday there’s grocery shopping (figure 90 minutes to 2 hours), which we do together. Most Sundays, I do another chunk of shopping (figure another 90 minutes).
  • Weeknights, I fix my own dinner and probably spend 30-45 minutes total. Weekends, we walk 3/4 to 1.5 miles to dinner on Saturday (figure 2-2.5 hours including the walk both ways and dinner itself), and have a home-cooked dinner most Sundays (certainly more leisurely and more enjoyable).
  • And of course there are chores: personal laundry, helping with household laundry, vaccuuming, dusting, mowing the lawn, fertilizing the lawn. If my wife’s trimming and weeding in the yard, I cope with getting the stuff in the yard-clippings recycling bin. (Mountain View makes it easy to recycle; the result is that the city beat California 50% waste reduction target for the last two years running.)
  • Maybe I even move a little slower on weekends, taking the occasional nap, reading more for pleasure (did I mention the 2 hours to read the Sunday paper?), visiting open houses, once in a while going to the library (which I haven’t done recently enough!)…

All things considered, neither weekend was all that terrible. I wrote one major piece for the October Cites & Insights each weekend, scanned and printed (blowing up from 4×5 or 3×4 to 8×10) four of my wife’s great travel photos to brighten up my cubicle, but always left a lot more undone than I’d hoped to do.

That long list of Summer Projects…ah well, there’s always next summer.

Just a random musing on the realities of everyday life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything I can think of…

Balanced copyright and digital audiobooks

Posted in Copyright, Libraries on August 26th, 2005

Copyfight has this posting, “Lending? To whom?” by Alan Wexelblat. I tried to comment on the posting there, but the comment function appears to lead to neverneverland, so…

Here’s the portion of the post that I found troubling from a balanced-copyright position (and as a library supporter/person):

It’s Friday, so it must be stupid ideas time again. AP story (here on SiliconValley.com) to the effect that some libraries are “lending” audiobooks via download. The period of lending is controlled via DRM, which locks you out of the file if you run over your time.

This strikes me as a pinnacle of absurdity – lending libraries impose time limits on physical volumes because my possession of the book prevents another patron from reading it. Downloads… um, DON’T. All the patrons could download the same book and no one’s having a copy on their hard disk would impede another’s listening pleasure.

If you believe that copyright is irrelevant in a digital world, then this argument makes perfectly good sense. Or, for that matter, if you believe that creators/distributors of digital resources don’t deserve compensation even remotely similar to that provided for creators/distributors of physical resources, then fine.

Otherwise, I don’t see the argument. This lending model is precisely that: A lending model. The library’s paid for the right to have one copy of the audio ebook in use at any one time. How is that different than lending a book?

I suppose libraries could only license audio ebooks on an “unlimited simultaneous circulation” basis. I’m guessing the costs would be just a trifle higher, at least if authors/publishers have anything to say about it, since that would push the inherent friction between library models and copyright/royalty models into extreme visibility.

Some authors hate the idea of library circulation because they believe–wrongly, in my opinion–that they’re being robbed of royalties for additional copies. (As opposed to gaining new readers and popularity…) In some countries, libraries are required to pay (directly or indirectly) a fee each time an item is circulated. That fee isn’t as high as a standard royalty payment, to be sure; it’s a compromise between American first-sale rights and an absolute hardline “every use must fully compensate the creator” policy.

Without such a fee, I don’t see how it’s fair to creators/distributors to argue that libraries should be able to distribute an unlimited number of copies of anything–be it audio ebook, regular ebook, or whatever–while paying for one such copy.

I’m not wild about any DRM–but Wexelblat’s post reminds me that there may be some areas where DRM is essential because people don’t believe good faith and fair dealing are issues in the “digital world.” Unfortunately, that makes it easier for Big Media to argue for extreme DRM, where everything not expressly permitted is forbidden.

Connecting the dots in today’s paper

Posted in Stuff on August 25th, 2005

I found a distinct connection between a front-page story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle and the “Dear Abby” column.

The story is about a growing obesity problem among kids in California–which I suspect isn’t as bad as it is in a lot of other states. It’s a fairly long story, with some folks blaming food, others pointing out that there’s a lot less physical activity than there used to be. Since most obese kids grow into (even more?) obese adults, this is a long-term health issue of considerable proportions.

Then there’s the “Dear Abby” question. Some person’s niece, who lives next door, got a job “half a mile down the road” and this person is driving her to and from work–and would like to get $5 a week toward gas. Dear Abby gave one of those “is the family hassle worth the money?” answers.

I was saddened that she didn’t raise another question: Is there some reason the kid can’t walk ten minutes “down the road” and ten minutes back? (OK, for me it would be 8 minutes, but most reasonably-fit people can walk faster than 3 miles an hour.)

Maybe there is–maybe “down the road a piece” is in a terribly dangerous neighborhood–but those facts were not in evidence in the letter.

Have we really gotten to the point where it’s a wonderful thing to drive everywhere, no matter how short? Where a teenager can’t be expected to walk half a bloody mile?

If so, then there’s little reason to wonder about the obesity epidemic.

SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 3

Posted in Movies and TV on August 24th, 2005

There’s a programming problem on side two of this disc—one that should become obvious as you read the mini-reviews. Other than that, this group is interesting: two fairly good black-and-white movies, two mediocre color flicks, two with explicit science aspects, two “sci-fi” only in the broadest definition. I believe one or two of these had the honor of appearing on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. What more could you ask?

Kong Island, 1968, color, Roberto Mauri (dir.), Brad Harris, Esmeralda Barros, Aldo Cecconi. 1:32 [1:24]

Turns out the original title is Eva, la Venere selvaggia and this was made in Italy; the sleeve title (and the way it was promoted in the U.S.) is King of Kong Island. The sleeve description is also pretty far off, as it involves a “descendant of King Kong.” Basic plot: Mad scientists implanting control devices into gorillas to create an unstoppable army; group goes hunting for some fabled sacred monkey, who turns out to be an “ape girl” (always topless, with hair that always stays strategically in place); way too much plot ensues. Not great, not terrible; the “Italian disco” music (as an IMDB review puts it) is, well, interesting for this movie. Unfortunately, either the print or the digitizing stinks: soft colors, fuzzy images. $1.

Bride of the Gorilla, 1951, b&w, Curt Siodmak (dir.), Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney, Jr. 1:10 [1:05]

This time, IMDB gets the plot dead wrong. Raymond Burr plays the foreman of a jungle plantation who doesn’t exactly kill the owner but causes his death, then marries his beautiful widow—but a crone servant places a curse on him (actually sneaking him drinks laced with hallucinogens, as far as I can see) that causes him to run into the jungle and believe that he’s turned into a monster gorilla. Filmed fairly cleverly: You never really know whether Burr is turning into a monster or just believes he is. Naturally, things end badly. The IMDB review is savage; I thought it was a modest little psychological thriller, with (an obviously much younger) Burr doing a great job as a heavy. Siodmak, a fine writer, also wrote the movie. (Oops: The first-screen IMDB plot outline gets it wrong, but if you click on “more,” you get a completely accurate plot summary. Strange.) Decent print with some gaps. $1.

Attack of the Monsters, 1969, color, Noriaki Yuasa (dir.), Christopher Murphy. 1:22 [1:20]

Once again, the IMDB plot outline is wrong but the summary’s right. The original title here is Gamera tai daiakuju Giron, and that may tell you a lot about the film: Gamera! The plot is—well, there’s a lot of it. After a Japanese scientist explains why there can’t be life anywhere else in the Solar System, three kids spot a flying saucer (a small one); two of them get in, and it takes off—flying them off to counter-Earth, a planet in the same orbit but on the other side of the Sun.

Gamera, who at this point is “the good monster turtle who loves kids and defends Japan from bad monsters,” comes along part way, partly in his flying-saucer mode. The kids are convinced that the people on this other planet must be very advanced, with no wars or accidents (“accidents” may be odd translation), but they’re wrong: all that’s left are two women who want to eat the kids’ brains so they can return to Earth with all the knowledge they need to pass as humans. (I said there was a lot of plot.) Oh, and this counter-earth suffers from quite a few monsters of its own, with the Ginsu Monster acting as a defender for the evil women. (His name’s actually Guiron, but his characteristic is that his nose is a huge knife, and he attacks by whacking at things just like a big Ginsu Knife.) Gamera, of course, saves the day. The scientists and cops, who cannot accept the possibility of a flying saucer (small enough for Gamera to carry it back to Earth in his mouth), find Gamera’s appearance every day. The problem here is that Gamera is a Good Guy in this movie, as opposed to… Decent print, and apparently 1:20 is the full U.S. release time. $1.

Gammera the Invincible, 1966, b&w, Sandy Howard (dir. for U.S. portion), Brian Donlevy, Albert Dekker, Diane Findlay. 1:26.

Two “m”s or one? IMDB says two (for this movie), the sleeve says one. This comes off as a U.S.-Japanese coproduction, but apparently is one of the more elaborate cases of adding U.S. footage to an existing Japanese monster flick, presumably Daikaiju Gamera, the first in the series (1965), and changing the plot as needed. Smoother than most such cases, but I do wonder about the Japanese ambassador who, alone among all the dubbed voices, has an absurdly extreme case of “sounding rike some berieve they talk rike.”

Here’s the thing: Gamera/Gammera is no hero in this flick, in which the jet-propelled/fire-breathing/fire-eating turtle emerges from 200 million years’ hibernation under the ice when U.S. jets shoot down a Russian jet over Alaskan airspace that’s carrying a 4 megaton atomic bomb (which, as with any atomic bomb, goes off immediately upon impact when the plane’s shot down, presumably triggered by being shaken up badly…) Gamera cuts a swath of destruction through portions of Japan, saves one kid’s life (from destruction the turtle caused), and winds up being shot off to Mars in a rocket. What happens between this flick and the first on the side? Well, the movies aren’t good enough for me to bother finding out…but this one’s a little better than I expected. Very good print, and almost sounds like stereo sound (but probably isn’t). $1.50.

For anyone who’s keeping track and wonders why it’s been so long since the last review posting, I have two comments:

  • Get a life. But you probably don’t exist; nobody can be paying that kind of attention.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Specifically, the commentary on five episodes in Season 7, which I left until we’d watched all the episodes. I watch commentary the same as I’d watch cheesy old movies: on the treadmill.

Now back to TV movies…(ah, but disc 4 has Santa Claus andConquers the Martians! I’ can hardly wait…)

Life-changing events

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries, Speaking, Stuff on August 23rd, 2005

The Carvers and Schwartzes both have true life-changing events: children.

Marriage is a life-changing event (if it isn’t just a formalization of an existing arrangement). So is divorce (again, if it’s an actual change instead of a formalization).

Other than that?

Here’s a thought experiment. Comment if you feel inspired, but I’m not setting up a proper survey:

Take the following possible events in your own life (degrees of “possible” left open):

A. You publish a book

B. You’re nominated for and accepted to Who’s Who in America

C. You receive a Macarthur Award

D. You’re invited to keynote a major library conference (define “major” as you choose)

E. You receive a major ALA or ALA Divisional award (one that includes a four-digit cash honorarium)

F. You receive an honorary doctorate

G. You win Super Lotto, MegaMillions, or some other prize yielding at least $5 million over your lifetime

Would you consider each of those life-changing? If so, how and how much so? For example:

1. Worth blogging about, but not much more.

2. I wouldn’t tell a soul…at least not for a while.

3. Worth taking some time off to think about how it changes things.

4. Worth a celebratory dinner with my [spouse/closest friend/significant other]

5. Worth a big party for everyone I know

6. I’d certainly note it at my place of work, and hope they’d publicize it

I’m not suggesting answers. There are no “correct” answers here, I don’t believe.

You might be able to put together a sort of personality matrix based on the set of responses to those possibilities, although I think you’d need more responses (and more possibilities).

For now, it’s just an idle entry. (No, none of those has happened to me recently. This isn’t a post about me or my life, as it happens.)

Surveying the biblioblogosphere

Posted in Libraries, Media, Writing and blogging on August 19th, 2005

Meredith over at Information wants to be free has set up a survey of the biblioblogosphere. (That link’s to the post, which has the link to the survey.)

The initial survey was a little more biased toward ML[I]S-holders and future ML[I]S-holders than Meredith really intended–as a “library person” who’s not a professional librarian (and frankly unlikely to become one at least before retirement), I couldn’t get past the first page of the survey. Which was fine–I’m an oddball case. (Drop the “case” if you prefer.)

I let Meredith know about the problem, somewhat ungraciously. The problem was corrected very rapidly: The intent really was not to exclude “library people” who don’t have the degree and don’t plan to get it. (My apologies for the tone of my original comment; rough week…) So I returned and did complete the survey, which is (I believe) well designed [with the little glitches taken care of).

[If I wanted to nitpick, it would probably be about the geographic question. I don't think of California as either "Southwest" or "Northwest"--I think of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico as "Southwest," while California is "Pacific Coast." But "Southwest" will do, I guess--even as the survey also has the traditional "Midwest," about 1,500 miles to the east of "Southwest" and "Northwest." Or does Northern California count as "Northwest"?]

If you write a blog and you’re a library person, go take the survey. It won’t take long (despite one visual cue, it’s really only one page). It doesn’t ask loaded demographic questions (income, religion, politics…) and doesn’t ask you to identify your blog.

I believe the results will provide an interesting complement to my study–if enough people respond. Are there more than, say, ten library bloggers over age 50? [Interesting: I first said "five" and was going to say "I think I can name four, and I'm not certain of one of them"--and at this point, I think I can name six--although I'm not certain of one or two. I won't name them, except for Walt Crawford...] What’s the distribution among types of libraries? Geographic distribution?

Playing favorites

Posted in Stuff on August 19th, 2005

At some point in the ongoing set of “biblioblogosphere” discussions, I believe someone suggested that I should go ahead and list my “favorite blogs” and why they are my favorites–just as a number of people have now commented on lesser-known blogs they particularly like.

I haven’t done that, partly for the same reason I’m uncomfortable with a number of surveys: Something that became pointed when, a few years ago, the person who arranged a speech and who learned that I read science fiction asked me to name my five favorite science fiction authors.

I couldn’t. For some reason, my mind doesn’t seem to work that way.

I can’t give you a list of my five favorite science fiction authors, or my five favorite books, or my five favorite cuisines, or my five favorite movies, or my five favorite cruise destinations, or my five favorite songs or albums or musicians…or, for that matter, even my five favorite magazines. And certainly not my five favorite weblogs.

Or, for that matter, my single favorite in any of those categories.

[Yes, I can name my favorite cruise lines, but only within the relatively narrow confines of those I've been on, and within the small realm of cruise lines in general. Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas, Windstar, *maybe* Delta Queen. But since there's only one other surviving cruise line that we've been on--as well as a bunch of bankrupt or otherwise-departed lines, that's not a very meaningful list.]

I’m not claiming broad experience or a love of diversity or any of that nonsense. I just don’t seem to choose favorites in a lot of areas, at least not that I’m aware of. It may be a failing; it may just be a personality quirk. (I may not be normal, but nobody is, as Willie Nelson sez.)

Oddly enough, this allows me to check off a note that’s been in my “blog or C&I ideas” notebook for a long time–maybe a long time because it’s a personal post rather than an “about” post. It’s a piece of an unlikely-to-be-written memoir…

Yahoo! and Google index sizes

Posted in Stuff, Writing and blogging on August 17th, 2005

I find it interesting that news of a study that denies Yahoo!’s claim to have a substantially larger index than Google is, if anything, spreading much faster and more broadly within the blogosphere (or at least the slice of it I follow) than did the original claim.

I find it unfortunate, however, that almost none of those linking to the study are also linking to this post by Seth Finkelstein, which does a good first-cut job of undermining the study.

If you’re going to read the study, read Finkelstein’s post as well–and think about it.

Phishers with a sense of humor?

Posted in Stuff on August 16th, 2005

My Notes mail account doesn’t have Gmail’s heavy-duty spam/phishing protection built in, so I probably delete ten occurrences of specific worms/viruses (typically 31K attachments to various notes from nonexistent mail administrators)–which NAV catches as soon as I touch them anyway–every day, and maybe 20 phishing attempts, most “from” banks and services I’ve never used. (Cut off my Bank of the West online access? Feel free!)

There are also, of course, the ones that are a little more plausible–although I’ve noticed that bank-related ones seem to give up after a week or two. Then there’s Paypal, for which phishing attempts never seem to end. (Ebay as well–but there again, I don’t use it, so…)

Most are pretty obvious (spelling errors, lack of individual salutation, etc., etc). Some are grotesquely obvious–the page comes across as raw HTML. None gets by a simple “show source” check of the supposed links to Paypal (the action link, to be sure).

Lately, with the new version of Notes, it’s enough to just let the cursor hover over the supposed secure PayPal link; the real link shows up at the bottom of the screen.

Which brings me to this post: just received another phishing attempt, and the real link is at “www.clueless.net”

To which I can only respond, “Not quite that clueless.”


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