Archive for August, 2008

Thanks, whoever you are

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

A funny thing happened this month at Amazon…

Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change sold a few copies–not quite one per weekday, but close, very close.

That’s the first time the book’s sold more than 10 copies in one month since November 2007. (One copy sold at Lulu as well…) It’s the most copies it’s sold in one month since I made it available on Amazon.

I’m not sure why it’s happening, but I’m delighted. I think it’s still a good, worthwhile book, and worth the $29.50. (The Lulu version has a slightly truer cover and cream paper instead of bright white–but it’s hard to argue with free shipping from Amazon, and the CreateSpace/Amazon version is just fine and does have an ISBN.)

In case you love tracking “best seller” status, I seem to be at around 350,000. Hey, being anywhere in the top million is an improvement…

Dear FireFox…

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I’m an old friend. I’ve been using FireFox as my primary browser for a long time. I even cope with the continued print discontinuities–the blog pages that I can’t print out from FireFox but have to go to IE for.

But there’s a problem. It’s a nuisance, but part of browser improvement should be to remove nuisances.

Namely, you seem to believe that I don’t ever actually intend to shut down FireFox unless I’m shutting down my computer.

See, I’m given to clicking on this red X up in the upper right corner of the browser window, when I don’t feel any need to be on the internet. (I know, I know: That’s heresy: “Don’t feel any need to be on the internet”)

And every so often–more frequently of late, you complain about that. You bring up a box saying that you’re sorry that FireFox terminated unexpectedly, and wonder whether I’d like to send a failure report.

It didn’t terminate unexpectedly. It terminated because I told it to.

Several times, I added a message to that effect and invited a response, and sent in the “failure” report.

Number of responses received: Zero.

Fixes made to the program so that it lets me shut it down through a generally-accepted method (or is the red X now a bad thing to use): Zero.

Big deal? Not really–but it slows me down just a little, as there’s this pointless dialog box, and if I’m shutting down the computer in an orderly manner, it’s an extra step.

You know, I hear IE8 will close what’s left of the gap between FireFox and IE; IE7 closed a fair amount of it…


A slightly irritated long-time user who’s talked up FireFox to others…but not lately.

Publish to Blog: A note about the previous post

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Yes, I know, some of you hotshot Word users/bloggers have known about this for months.

Yesterday, I tried Word2007’s “blog template” methodology for the first time–where you “register” your blog (as long as it’s one of the major programs, for which Word has APIs), then prepare the post in Word, attach categories from your blog’s category list, and publish it.

It worked–like a champ, and with absolutely clean HTML, maybe a little cleaner than WordPress’ own HTML. More to the point, it doesn’t swallow paragraph breaks, and you can work in the comfort of Word (if you find Word comfortable). (The blog template includes a “type title here” area and a set of styles appropriate for blog posts.)

As it stands, that’s nice. The editing space is much more wide open, Word offers occasionally-useful grammar tips, Word has the whole set of search-and-replace stuff, etc., etc.

But there’s another option: Publish as Blog. So I tried that this time. I added Disc 12 to the Word document for the second half of the 50 Movie Pack Western Classics, a document that will become part of the next Cites & Insights, then highlighted Disc 12, copied it to a new Word document, switched to my “web template” for that (the template I use for the HTML versions of C&I essays–all of C&I’s styles, but using typefaces that everybody should have), and clicked on Publish to Blog.

Shazam. It brings up the text with the blog template (overlaid with your existing styles), prompts for a post title, offers to insert categories–and it’s done.

You can see the result. Bring up the post as a separate page and View Source. You’ll see that there’s more HTML cruft than in the first test post, which as far as I can see has absolutely no excess HTML–but it’s not bad at all. The cruft comes from my Web template, to be sure, and you can see that from the spacing (I recently added one pica indents on both sides to all of the Web styles, so the on-screen rendition would have a little white space). Although I did click on Edit on the post, I made absolutely no changes to the HTML whatsoever. What you see is what Word sent directly through the WordPress API.

OK, I’m impressed. Will I switch to Word for all my W.a.R. writing? Probably not; somehow, there’s a different “feel” to creating a typical post directly in the blog. But when I have a complicated piece, or when I’m repurposing part or all of another document…you betcha.

Happy Trails… 50 Movie Western Classics, Disc 12

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

OK, so the song doesn’t appear in any of these movies—but the writer, Dale Evans, does. Given that, given that all four movies star Roy Rogers, and given that this wraps up the set, somehow the title seems appropriate.

My Pal Trigger, 1946, b&w. Frank McDonald (dir.), Roy Rogers, Trigger, Gabby Hayes, Dale Evans, Jack Holt, Sons of the Pioneers. 1:19.

This odd item purports to tell the story of how Roy Rogers got Trigger, with some voice-over narration and pretty clearly aimed at kids. Gabby Hayes plays a very different role: Not only isn’t he Rogers’ sidekick, he’s a rancher and owner of Golden Sovereign, a great golden palomino, and becomes Rogers’ enemy. Why? Well, Rogers wants to breed his horse (not Trigger) with Golden Sovereign. Hayes will have nothing to do with it (he only wants to breed Golden Sovereign with his own horses)—but the horses have other ideas, getting together on their own. Through a plot involving a nefarious neighboring rancher and casino owner, a wild stallion and some remarkably bad shooting, Golden Sovereign winds up dead, Roy Rogers winds up blamed for shooting him—and Rogers’ horse winds up pregnant with Trigger.

Now here’s where things get a little strange, or maybe I just don’t know recent history. First, our hero Roy Rogers, the whitest of all white hats—and playing Roy Rogers—jumps bail, flees the state, breaks into a barn (and fights the owners to stay there, since his horse is foaling) and hides out for more than a year. Second, the movie appears to be set in contemporary times—lots of cars and, oddly, apparently-legal casinos in Colorado (but this was 1946, way before casino gambling was legalized)—but somehow it would never occur to anyone to remove the bullet from Golden Sovereign to determine whether it’s a rifle bullet or pistol bullet, which would also have proved Rogers’ innocence. Naturally, it all works out in the end. Apparently, this was Roy Rogers’ personal favorite of his many movies—and probably the most personal of his movies. It does have fairly subtle acting, actually—and the bad guy isn’t pure evil, which is unusual.

Good stuff, despite the oddities. We get Dale Evans (as Gabby’s daughter), who suits the movie well. We get the Sons of the Pioneers, although not singing with Rogers. It’s a good print most of the time. This is the full-length version, not the 54-minute chop job. It’s sort of an odd Western, but I’ll give it $1.50.

Cowboy and the Senorita, 1944, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Trigger, Mary Lee, Dale Evans, John Hubbard, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Fuzzy Knight, Hal Taliaferro, Jack Kirk, Sons of the Pioneers. 1:18 [0:51]

Roy and companion hear about a kidnapping as they come into a town mostly owned by one affable gent, Craig Allen, and naturally offer to help—but one of the posse spots Roy’s companion, “Teddy” Bear (Guinn Williams) playing a slot machine (more legal casinos—my history must be faulty) with a slug that turns out to be from the kidnapee’s bracelet (which he picked up along the trail into town). So, naturally, they assume Roy and friend are the kidnappers, and Roy and friend flee. They find the “kidnapped” girl—Chip—in the hills. She’s fled for reasons that never seem quite clear. Anyway, that little mess resolved, her older sister—played by Dale Evans—is about to sell their apparently-worthless gold mine to the Allen, who’s also her fiancée. (He’s supposedly buying it as a favor to the older sister, to pay for the kid’s education, and plans to mine for manganese) But Chip’s sure her father buried a box in the mine, and it’s important to her.

Well, sure enough, the box is important, there’s a false wall in the mine, and…well, everything just barely turns out OK, including lots of stunt mine-wagon riding. A fairly typical B Western, but with a good party sequence added including some fancy dancing and singing. I saw a much shorter version than the original, apparently the 51 minute edited version. I’d imagine the other 27 minutes would help! Apparently the first time Dale Evans and Roy Rogers appeared together in a movie. Good print overall. I’ll give it $1.00.

Bells of San Angelo, 1947, color. William Witney (dir.), Roy Rogers, Trigger, Dale Evans, Andy Devine, John McGuire, Sons of the Pioneers. 1:18 [1:15].

This time, Roy Rogers is a border investigator on the (Texas?)-Mexico border and friends with the people in San Angelo (on the Mexican side). Something funny’s going on—and, specifically, locals from San Angelo are turning up dead, shot for stealing silver from the U.S.-side silver mine.

And, in a parallel plot, Western writer Lee Madison’s coming to town and Roy’s disgusted, saying his novels are trash. When the bus arrives, there’s no man named Lee Madison on it—and when the woman on the bus overhears Roy’s comments, she comes up with a different name to play along. Shortly thereafter, the stage from the bus station to the lodge is held up by a lone masked gunman who’s really out to give Hamilton a scare—and who apologizes to the woman (who notices a Texas Ranger’s ring on the gunman’s finger).

The twist here is interesting—it’s not the usual mining story. The silver mine is worthless—but it connects to a long-abandoned Mexican silver mine. That mine’s also played out, but silver’s a lot cheaper in Mexico than in the U.S. So, you got it: They’re “mining” smuggled silver. As the plot progresses, lots of people get shot, Lee (and by now Rogers knows it’s her) gets nabbed by the bad guys, and in a final confrontation, the fact that he finally read her book Murder on the Border saves the day. (Hamilton is played by Dale Evans—who else?) Andy Devine plays a funny sheriff who also turns out to be landed gentry.

Good plot, well played, good music. Some surprisingly realistic fight scenes, leaving the actors bruised. This is the full version, albeit missing a few minutes. Unfortunately, much of the time the focus is soft, suggesting digitizing problems. That and some choppiness in the print prevent this from getting more than $1.25.

Under California Stars, 1948, color. William Witney (dir.), Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee, Andy Define, George Lloyd, Wade Crosby, Michael Chapin, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. 1:10 [1:12].

First we get a typical Western fight scene—then the director yells “Cut.” The movie’s over, and time for Roy to go back to the RR Ranch—where, this time, Andy Devine is Cookie, the cook and general factotum. (The Sons of the Pioneers are ranch hands/cowboys, and Cookie’s hired a bunch of relatives as well—including a young woman, a cousin who’s the new horse trainer.)

Where do we go from there? Some scoundrels are trying to round up wild horses on Roy’s range, to sell them to the government for meat and skins. Roy’s boys run them off, and we find that the bad guys are working for the town’s old horse trader, Pop Jordan—and the lead bad guy has a cute stepson with a thieving dog and a limp. Somehow, the stepson winds up at Rogers’ ranch and gets a job of sorts—and the horse trader figures that horsenapping Trigger for a healthy ransom is a faster way to make a buck than rounding up or rustling horses.

Well, in the process of horsenapping, one of the bad guys shoots another—and the sheriff says Roy can’t pay the ransom, since murder’s involved. So they try to set a trap for the outlaws. It doesn’t go perfectly, but in a fairly complicated final 10 minutes (involving double-crossing among thieves, naturally), it all works out. Oh, and Cookie—who has an awful voice—proves himself to be a good songwriter (the title number). So we end with Roy and Cookie—and the kid, who will get the operation he needs to walk properly—on their way back to Hollywood. Naturally, several full songs during the process.

OK, it’s not great acting, but the plot’s pretty good, the scenery’s fine, the print’s usually good, the sound’s good (although occasionally a little hollow) and it’s good “metaWestern” fun. I enjoyed it. (The reported run time on IMDB is two minutes less than the actual DVD run time, which makes no sense.) A little on the short side for a full feature, so I’ll give it $1.25.

Test post directly from Word 2007

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Doncha just hate test posts? Well, in this case, I really need to see how well Word 2007’s Blog Post feature works, since I’m writing a PLN article about blogs and wikis.
Modified: H1 clearly doesn’t work very well…but otherwise, it’s a winner.

Here’s quoted material.

Here’s a second-level heading.

  • One bullet point.
  • Another bullet point.

A link to PLN.

A little followup –done in WordPress, but I’m beginning to think that might not happen as often…(and that glitch with paragraphs vs. linebreaks just wouldn’t happen in Word).

I was aware of a “publish as blog” option in Word2007, but hadn’t actually tried it (guessing, perhaps wrongly, that I’d get the same CSS overload that I’d get with a direct copy-and-paste). That may be wrong, and I’ll have to try that later.

Meanwhile, I now realize that there’s also a blog template for creating new posts–and it works extremely well with standard blogging software. Once I registered the blog (basically provided the URL and knew it was a WordPress blog–there are several other software options), it’s pretty seamless, including bringing up my existing set of categories and bringing up my home page if desired.

And it’s producing minimalist HTML–almost precisely what WordPress itself would produce from the Visual editor. Except, of course, that you’re writing and editing in Word–which I find a whole hell of a lot more user-friendly. (I assume Google Docs will do this. Will OpenOffice? As transparently as Word does?)

OK, count me impressed. I could easily see using Word for all or most new posts. Now, about converting a Word document (which for me means a heavily-templated document) to a blog post: Well, we’ll have to see.

Now, back to the “blogs vs. wikis” article I’m writing…

Te Taua Moana

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

For some reason, I thought it was time to say a word on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Navy, the maritime arm of the New Zealand Defence Force.

That word is now said. Oh, and betting is both fun and tricky…

Library newspaper columns – a second call

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Last week, I posted this piece, asking who’s doing newspaper columns–and, better yet, archiving the columns on the library’s site (or somewhere) and maybe even mirroring the columns in a library blog.

I asked the same question on PUBLIB.

There have been a few responses. I will, as promised, create a Library Success Wiki page with the responses, probably do a roundup post here, possibly turn that into a Cites & Insights article (or part of an article)–and, depending on the set of responses, possibly make a PLN article out of it.

But I could sure use a few more responses! I don’t see doing the various roundups until some time in early September, so if you know of examples–your own or someone you can send email to–I’d love to have them by Friday, September 5, 2008. Send them to waltcrawford at or just append them as comments here or on the original post.


The blues of black and white

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Dichotomize! That seems to be an even more common cry than Plagiarize–but Tom Lehrer never wrote nearly as amusing a song on dichotomies. (Or if he did, I missed it.)

Silly me. I thought the black-and-white crowd was declining a little, but maybe I’m wrong.

Latest instance? The specifics aren’t terribly important, but had to do with Twitter. The person writing said that people writing about Twitter fall neatly into two groups:

  1. Those who haven’t used it and fear it.
  2. Those have tried it and use it regularly.

Woopsy. Here comes one of quite a few members of the excluded middle to say, It just ain’t so.

I’m not the only liblogger who’s tried Twitter and found–not that “it’s awful” or that “it’s useless” but that it doesn’t work well for me for now.

But, you know, it makes a much stronger case for Twitter as a universally wonderful thing if you simply assert that the only people who don’t like Twitter are people who have never tried Twitter.

I’m trying to think of anything for which that statement would be true: That is,

The only people who don’t like X are those who have never tried X.

Oxygen in breathable concentrations, I suppose. Food as a general thing. Beyond that…not so much.

I’m similarly amused by things for which it is proclaimed that you’ll either love it or hate it. Particularly since, for most of those things, my reaction is somewhere between Meh and It’s OK.

(And a quick shoutout to Randy Travis–and Wayland Holyfield and Verlon Thompson, who wrote the song, albeit “in” not “of”)

Quick update: Since I didn’t link to the particular instance, this isn’t really necessary–but the dichotomizer in question admitted it was an overstated dichotomy. The point this person was really trying to make: Those who actively dislike and fear Twitter haven’t tried it. I’m not sure that’s true either, but it’s at least a narrower dichotomy.

Mystery collection: Twenty cents a movie

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

A few months ago, I wrote a post updating the situation with Mill Creek, the company whose mining of the public domain has been keeping me on the treadmill for some years now with its well-priced “50 movie pack” collections. Part of that post mentioned Mill Creek’s larger bundles–first, a fair number of 100-movie packs and then, the ultimate (so far!):

250-movie packs

There were then (and still are) four of them. I don’t believe any movies appear in these monster boxes for the first time; they’re bigger sets of movies also in other smaller sets. They’re also, according to what I read, in fancier packaging: foil “collector’s boxes.”

And Amazon sells them for $50 (or $49.95). That’s twenty cents a movie.

So, late last week, I bit. I ordered a set that appears to be called:

Mystery Collection 250 Movies

It arrived yesterday. Here’s what you get.

  • The box is indeed a colorful foil-printed box, about 7.7 inches wide, 7.7 inches tall, and 5.5 inches deep. Mostly pictures of some of the more important stars with names of a few (Basil Rathbone, James Cagney…) and, on the back, in very small type, an alphabetical listing of all 250 movies with one star from each–from Affair in Monte Carlo (Richard Todd) and Algiers (Charles Boyer) to Woman on the Run (Ann Sheridan) and The Wrong Road (Helen Mack). Oh, and under “250 movies” on five sides of the cover is “On 60 Double Sided DVDs!” Here’s a link to the product site, with the front cover and total length (324 hours 59 minutes)–and, for each movie, a link to a title page that includes production details and, usually, a picture and a synopsis.
  • But that box seemed bigger than it should be. So it is–unfortunately. It really is a “collector’s box”–with some cardboard spacers for the real box. That one’s a black near-cube (mine slightly marred, but who cares?),  5.5 inches square by 5.7 inches high, with a hinged top to reveal the contents.
  • Those contents being, to be sure, 60 coated-cardboard sleeves, each with the synopses of the movies on the sleeve’s disc–Side A movies on one side of the cardboard, Side B on the others. (Just like the 50-movie packs, although those seem to have different colors for each sleeve; this one has 60 identically-colored sleeves.)
  • The order? Certainly not alphabetical by title (as on the box). Initially, at least, it seems to be by detective or series where that makes sense. Disc 1–oh, and Mill Creek now correctly spells “Disc” with a “c” both on the discs and the sleeves (they used to use a “k” on the sleeves and a “c” on the discs)–has six relatively short Bulldog Drummond movies. Disc 2 three Dick Tracy and one The Shadow. Disc 3 another The Shadow, one Mr. Moto, and two Mr. Wong. Discs 4 and 5, eight Sherlock Holmes (not all Basil Rathbone). After that, it’s mostly singles…and lots of them.

Well, that’s at least two years on the treadmill…even though there are a few repeats from other sets I’ve watched (14 out of the 250, I think–including some first-rate films).

I won’t repeat the suggestion–that a library could start a “leave one, take one” casual-circulation DVD collection with two or three of these–and it may or may not make sense. If it did, I think three of the four 250-movie packs would make great starters and offer 180 circulating items. (The Horror pack may need a little thought: It tends toward the R level at times, I think.)

Good stuff–and effective use of the public domain.

<hr />

<b>Clarification:</b> While “effective use of the public domain” correctly characterizes much (most?) of what’s on Mill Creek Entertainment sets, MCE itself never claims that its sets are entirely public domain, and in some cases certain items <b>could not</b> be public domain, and must be licensed, presumably at very low cost.

Diversity and the beholder

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Calm down. It’s a food post.

Our local weekly had brief notes on all the candidates for council this fall–an unusual election in which there are no sitting councilfolk running for re-election.

One (of quite a few) apparently moved to Mountain View fairly recently, and this person has a complaint.

Namely, that downtown Mountain View doesn’t have diverse dining choices.

Now, if you’ve been in downtown MV–which I’ll take as being Castro Street and two blocks either side of Castro–this may seem like an odd complaint. Just from memory, I know of:

  • Several Chinese restaurants, mostly region-specific, with one or two pan-Chinese.
  • Several Indian restaurants at various price points.
  • A couple of Thai restaurants.
  • Several Vietnamese restaurants–some Pho places, some not.
  • Some Japanese restaurants
  • At least three good Mexican restaurants (probably more), various cuisines
  • At least three Italian restaurants
  • A couple of mediterranean places–at least one halal kebab grill, at least one mostly-Greek
  • A good brewpub with an expansive menu–burgers, excellent fish, salads, what have you
  • An “Irish” pub and an adjacent “Irish” nightclub
  • A good “East coast” pizza place and a good California pizza/calzone/grill place
  • A very-high-end California/continental restaurant.
  • A fairly high-end fish place
  • A tapas & large-plate place
  • And I’m sure I could go on for a while. I believe there are at least 80 restaurants in the six-block stretch.

Ah, but there was another sentence explaining what this person meant by “diversity.” She said there weren’t enough places serving traditional American food.

And, you know, I think I know what this person means by “traditional American food”–and it is indeed in short supply in downtown MV, although readily available with a minute or two’s driving, to such an extent that snobbish San Franciscans delight in claiming that the Peninsula has nothing but this kind of restaurant.

What we don’t have in downtown MV:

  • Denny’s
  • IHOP
  • McDonald’s
  • Burger King
  • Sizzler
  • Macaroni Grill
  • Applebee’s
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Olive Garden
  • Chili’s
  • and all the rest…

Not saying anything negative about those, but it is true: Castro and adjacent streets are low on chain outlets, other than (of course) overpriced over-roasted coffee places (both Starbuck’s and Peet’s).

Too bad the candidate doesn’t come out with her true platform: “Downtown Mountain View needs more Chain Restaurants! We need more predictable food!”

Somehow, it doesn’t sound like a winning platform. There are loads of these chain outlets all around downtown–but the more distinctive places seem to be doing just fine in the heart of downtown. I have problems feeling bad about that.