Archive for October, 2008

PALINET08: Random impressions from a short trip

Posted in Travel on October 30th, 2008

I just returned from my annual visit to the home office–that is, attending PALINET08 Conference+Vendor Fair and staying on for a meeting at PALINET headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. Just a few quick random notes along the way…with no deeper import.

The conference

I was mostly there to talk to people about PALINET Leadership Network (PLN)–specifically, what we could or should be doing more of (or doing better). I got a fair number of good ideas and discussed some ways for PLN to improve support of library leadership across the board. I’ll be working on those in the weeks and months to come.

Unfortunately, those discussions meant that I missed one of several breakout programs that sound particularly interesting–and, as I discovered during the reception, I stupidly skipped another session in which a proper pirate discussed copyright issues.

Fortunately, I did not miss two sessions Tuesday afternoon–one on “Hidden downsides and possible future directions of open source software for libraries,” which wasn’t really about hidden downsides but was a spectacular, engaging, informal presentation, and the closing “open source round robin presentation” which was lower-key but also engaging, informative and convincing.

I believe those who attended the conference probably got more out of it than I did. It seems to be a solid, worthwhile annual event. But most of these notes are about the periphery…

The trip

Last year, I did the sensible thing in terms of time: Nonstop from SFO to Philly on USAir.

USAir did such a spectacular job on that trip that this year I flew American from San Jose, even though that meant changing planes in DFW (going) and O’Hare (returning) and a net extra travel time of about an hour each way. (About two hours actual in-flight time, but SJC is a lot closer to home than SFO.) I think it was the right choice…

Getting to SJC very early Sunday morning, I didn’t feel like any of the somewhat limited breakfast alternatives. Fortunately, my upgrade for the first leg (and only the first leg) came through, and American provided a very satisfactory cheese & spinach omelet with fruit, potatoes and bagel. (DFW has lots of good choices for lunch; that wasn’t a problem.)

The best meal was probably dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Air Cafe at O’Hare, but that note comes last…

The hotel and Philadelphia

Pleasant surprise: The HP net PCs (maybe they were real PCs, for that matter…you could see a keyboard and flat-screen display, but you could plug a flash drive into the media console under the TV) with free web service. The speed was spotty and you didn’t really get much screen estate to play with (about half of the vertical space was blocked by Sheraton overhead), but since I travel without technology, this was an unexpected bonus: I didn’t get behind on email or blogs, and could even fix a problem with a page here. )

Otherwise: The hotel (Sheraton University City) was fine. The restaurant, usually mostly deserted, had reasonably-priced options. There were dozens of nearby choices as well, but getting in late Sunday and rain Monday (and lots of food at the reception) encouraged dining in. (Tuesday I went to a nearby place; it was fine.) Oh, and this time the wide-screen high-def LCD TV was getting digital signals on network stations, so it actually displayed shows properly–the first time I’ve watched full episodes in high-def.

I didn’t explore Philly much because of the weather and time commitments. Given comments from locals, I was semi-dreading late Monday evening–until the game got rained out. (The general tone: “Stay in your hotel and away from the bars and you’ll be OK.”) I imagine it wasn’t really that bad on Wednesday, but I wasn’t there…and I’m certain locals are relieved that the quarter-century championship drought is over.

…and the Borg

I knew I’d get home way too late to have dinner, but there was an hour between flights at O’Hare, and Puck’s cafe was about 200 feet from the gate I was flying out of (K-1, an oddly stranded gate that’s on the hallway between the H/K concourses and the L concourse). I had an excellent individual pizza.

The table next to mine was occupied by two men, both business types (OK, I had a coat & tie on, so I was a business type too), both eating…and both talking. Talking fairly loudly. And, I realized (you couldn’t help but hear them), talking simultaneously and on different topics.

The answer, of course, is that two Borgs were seated at the table. They may have been “dining together” but neither of them was really there. Both were busily talking to other people (or other machines) in other places. I wonder whether either one actually tasted what they were eating–not that it’s up to Puck’s top restaurants (I have no idea: that cafe is as close as I’m likely to get to Puck’s restaurants), but it’s very good food.

It all seemed a little sad. (Almost as sad as the woman across the aisle on the plane who, as soon as we touched down in San Jose, brought out two, count them, two phone/PDA thingies, checking both simultaneously for messages.)

Me? I had a cell phone along in case of emergency. It was on twice, for about two minutes each time. Since 1-800 numbers were free at the hotel, I used the years-old calling card minutes to call home instead of the cell phone…and my wife, who loves cell phones as much as I do, didn’t expect me to call On The Road unless something went wrong.

Psst: The moon is made of baklava

Posted in Stuff, Writing and blogging on October 29th, 2008

I’ve been following the continued brouhaha about pseudonymity–pretty consistently confused with anonymity, which is a really sloppy thing to do–and the curious idea that a publication is automatically endorsing each and every piece of writing that appears on its pages or website.

Recently, the various threads–including the truly silly sets of comments that seem to follow one pseudonymous writer’s posts–have included various assertions as to the identity of that particular PW (pseudonymous writer). I have no particular skin in this game (if I knew who they/it/she/he was/were, I wouldn’t say), but I was astonished to see a post elsewhere that seemed to take one such assertion at face value.

This astonished me because this particular assertion was, on its face, highly improbable. The assertion combined a person with a singularly narrow view of library issues (focusing almost entirely on two adjacent city libraries and their manifest, according to his worldview, failings) and a writing style so overheated and persistent that it’s been the stuff of fun on the internet for more than a decade… and a group or person with a wildly different writing style, considerably more knowledge of the range of issues in librarianship, and a whole range of topics. Is it absolutely impossible that the two are one and the same? No–but it’s wildly improbable. (The silly suggestion that Michael Gorman is actually PW is, while also wildly improbable, a whole heck of a lot more believable in terms of stylistic flexibility, knowledge of the field and general ability to snark, but I truly can’t believe that Gorman would do this.)

The suggestion that Donny One-Note is also PW was offered as a joke in a comment stream when PW happened to mention one of One-Note’s target libraries. The post I read on a deadly serious blog seemed to take the joke as fact.

If I suggest that the moon is made of baklava (spelling uncertain), would you go and report that as fact on your blog? As a professional librarian (or someone in the library field), wouldn’t you feel the need to apply a little professional skepticism or inquiry to the plausibility of that suggestion?

[None of this has anything to do with the question of whether PW has been phoning it in lately... and to some extent I think she/it/he/they has/have. Irrelevant to this discussion.]

 


OK: Brief admission. I’m still on the road, where I normally have no computer at all, but staying in (and about to check out of) a hotel with netPCs in each room. So, what the heck, it’s a silly post. Not quite as silly as the apparently-serious post I’m blind-commenting on, but silly. So it goes.

Hyperlinked list of blogs in The Liblog Landscape now available

Posted in Liblogs on October 26th, 2008

I promised that I’d make the final list of liblogs included in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look available–either as a spreadsheet including URLs or as a proper web page.

If you’re reading this post at the blog itself, look over to the right-hand side: You’ll see a new page listed there, “Blogs in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008.” Otherwise, you can get to the page from here.

The page also appears on my personal website, but that version lacks the snazzy Greek-lettering name that Technosophia uses. (I’m using a very old freebie page editor and it doesn’t know Unicode from a hole in the ground.) Otherwise, it’s identical.

I did make it a little more than just a list of 607 hyperlinked names. There’s a set of letters (and one number) at the top, so you can jump directly to any part of the alphabet–and each set of names beginning with a given letter is a bullet list.

URLs are as they existed October 16-17 2008, when I did one final scan of blogs. Some of the URLs are already dead, to be sure, and others will change in the future.

The book? It’s coming along, but I’ll be setting it aside to focus on the PALINET08 conference, then on Cites & Insights for a while…


Update, January 28: I won’t be able to fix the version of this list that’s on my personal website until Thursday (I’m on the road, and only have PC availability at all because of the hotel’s net PCs). Additionally:

  • This list is not intended to be comprehensive. For example:
  • No blogs that began in 2008 are included
  • The only non-English blogs are those that were in my 2006 study
  • Blogs that have relatively little “presence” online–at this point, essentially, very few inbound links as reported by Technorati–don’t appear
  • Blogs that appear to be official library blogs aren’t included (that’s a fuzzy criterion)

This is not–NOT–a list of “approved” or “recommended” blogs. There are blogs on this list (not many) that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. There are blogs not on this list that I read. (There are quite a few blogs on this list that fall into neither of those categories–I don’t read them, for various reasons, but they’re clearly valuable for some people. For example, I don’t follow kidlit much but there are some great blogs in that area.)

Basically, this is nothing more than the 2008-2009 equivalent of the spreadsheets I posted in conjunction with the 2006 look at “the great middle” and the two spreadsheets posted in conjunction with the two library blog books–but it’s in a little more convenient form.

NaNoNonMo

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books, Liblogs, Writing and blogging on October 25th, 2008

Yes, I know that’s not the proper abbreviation, but it’s what I’m more likely to do in November.

A few prosaic words about this mammoth fiction event

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, has been around for a decade (that is, this will be the tenth event). The idea is to write “a novel”–50,000 words, which is longer than a novella–during the month of November. But, well, it’s not about turning out a readable novel. Quoting from the site:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Last year, 100,000 people signed up–and 15,000 “crossed the finish line,” turning out something constituting at least 50,000 countable words. According to the organization, that makes them novelists.

Avoiding the Boojum

It’s tempting to be snarky about this. Writing 50,000 words in one month no more makes you a novelist than buying chaps and the right hat makes you a cowboy. The site lists 27 published novels that began as NaNoWriMo projects. I’m prepared to call those 26 authors (one has done it twice) novelists, not the (presumably) 20,000+ who have “crossed the finish line” one year or another.

At the same time, I think the NaNoWriMo people are on to something–at least for some people. As the site also says, for most people “writing that book” is a “one day” thing–“One day, I’ll write…”

Maybe that’s just as well in most cases…but there are always exceptions, people who really do have a flair for fiction writing but have never managed to put seat in chair and hands on keyboard long enough to do anything about it. At least I think there are–although, I must admit, even as a boring old nonfiction writer I find the urge to say things more than overcomes the inertia of not writing, at least most of the time. Is that less true for fiction?

I’m not going to put down NaNoWriMo: It’s too easy for that snark to turn into a Boojum, and I’m not ready to disappear just yet. (Oh, go look it up.) My guess is that it does free some people enough to result in more creativity, resulting in some worthwhile creations that would otherwise never get written. So only perhaps one-tenth of one percent of “successful” NaNoWriMo manuscripts ever get published–for all I know, only one percent of them (or less) ever gets submitted. For most participants, the journey is the reward. (I’m guessing that most also don’t call themselves novelists or poke fun at novelists who require months or years to complete a book. There’s a little snark on the website also.) For some, the creative juices result in publishable short stories…or maybe just high-quality blog posts.

But not for me

As a teenager, I wrote two science fiction stories. I submitted one of them to Astounding (now called Analog). I got a nice note back from John W. Campbell, rejecting the story but encouraging me to try again. Like an idiot, I eventually lost the note, which would probably be worth, oh, $1 by now.

I also looked at the stories again…and never wrote any more. See, they just weren’t very good, particularly the characterization (or lack thereof).

In college, I tried writing one or two brief humor pieces and taking them to the California Pelican, UC Berkeley’s humor magazine. Jon Carroll–the superb San Francisco Chronicle columnist–was editor at the time. He took the time to explain to me that my writing was OK but, well, I just wasn’t funny, and maybe I shouldn’t try humor. It was excellent advice, and I have since thanked him for it (by email): It saved me wasting time at something I just wasn’t any good at.

I’ve had it pointed out to me why I’ll probably never write good fiction: I’m not observant enough. I don’t pick up enough about people to be able to write strong characters or dialogue–and without strong characters and dialogue, it’s hard to do even mediocre fiction.

So for me, spending 50 hours churning out crap next month would be a waste of 50 hours. (50 hours? I usually write about 1,000 words an hour when I’m in good form, including interlinear editing. Of course, the overall average is a lot less because so much of “writing” isn’t writing at all.) I could probably do it–hell, there’s no question I could produce 50,000 words in a month–but why?

NaNoNonMo

So, for me, November will be NaNoNonMo–National November Nonfiction Month. A time when some of us who don’t do fiction will try to do good nonfiction.

I don’t plan to write 50,000 words next month. I’ve probably written roughly that much over the last 30 days, actually, between the most recent Cites & Insights (22,000 words after editing), a Crawford at Large column for Online (2,000 words), and most of the first half of the manuscript for The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look (67,000 words, and I’d guess 30,000 of those were done in the last 30 days).

For November, the goal will be another 25,000 words of new material (the December C&I and another Online column) and revisions and final editing for 67,000 words: I’d love to have the book at Lulu, with proof copy ordered, by the end of November.

National? Well, not really. I’m certainly not suggesting that everybody try to prepare a nonfiction book during November. How about a narrower goal, and only for those of you who already have blogs: Write 5,000 words of interesting prose during November, posting it as appropriate. 5,000 words is ten medium-length blog posts; this post is a little over 1,000 words.

Oh, and if you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo? Enjoy. Maybe you’ll be the one in a thousand, or maybe you’ll find it energizing in other ways. Just because I’ll never be a good fiction writer doesn’t mean you might not be.

Two Office2007 lessons learned–one useful, one maybe not

Posted in Technology and software, Writing and blogging on October 22nd, 2008

My wife and I seem to be in the minority in (a) liking Vista, although we’re both using notebook computers with integrated graphics, (b) MUCH preferring Office2007 and specifically Word2007 to predecessors, even with the small unlearning curve.

(Actually, I suspect that tens of millions of people like Vista just fine, but PC Magazine, PC World, and of course our friends at Apple seem devoted to convincing us that none of us can stand it…oh, and that you have to have $600 graphics cards for it to run. BS, but what’cha gonna do? Incidentally, for anyone trying to tell me I really should switch: My notebook cost half what the lowest-end Mac notebook would cost. It has 3GB RAM, 250GB hard disk, dual-layer DVD burner and an Intel Core 2 Duo brain. I’m very much more on a budget in “semi-retirement.” You’re going to have a really hard time convincing me that I’m losing out.)

Anyway, as I was saying…

I’m making great progress on The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. I may have a full draft just about ready to print out and review (after which there may be a lot more work ahead).

In the process, I learned two lessons that I found interesting and that may or may not be new to Word2007/Office2007:

Embedding an editable graph

I’m using a few graphs in this book–sixteen at this point, although that could change. (When I say “graphs” I mean graphs–scatter plots and line graphs, some with logarithmic scales. There are many, many tables.) In preparing a graph, I was usually either taking one column of my master spreadsheet and preparing a pivot graph (that is, taking the count of each unique value in the column, then making a graph of count vs. value–e.g., for number of posts in each liblog) or taking two columns and preparing line graphs of both values or scatter plots comparing one to the other.

When you’re doing graphs with as many as 600 data elements making up each series and you’re putting the results on a 6×9 book page–which really means a body width of 26 picas or 4.5 inches–you learn to make maximum use of the space available. That means doing some experimenting. (Sometimes, unlabeled axes described in text below the graph are extremely useful–they leave more horizontal space for the data!)

I’ve learned to pay attention to that little box that sits there after you do a Paste: It offers all sorts of useful choices. In this case, two of the choices will make the graph fully editable–one of them linking back to the Excel spreadsheet, the other embedding the spreadsheet in the Word document. The first raises cross-program security issues (and is how I managed to wind up with an empty graph at one point); the second works just fine.

Except. When I was somewhere in Chapter 3 or 4, with three or four graphs embedded and with about 15-20,000 words, I noted that the document was up to 1.4 megabytes. Which seemed a trifle high, since a 20,000 word document would typically be around 120K-140K.

Thinking about it, I realized the problem: I was saving a copy of my huge master spreadsheet–huge by my standards, anyway, with 607 rows and between 19 and 30 columns on each of the first three sheets, and other pages for graphs–with each graph.

Easy solution: Create a new spreadsheet for each graph, copy the data columns to that spreadsheet, create the graph, save that as a little tiny Excel file–15 to 30K each, where the biggie is 385K–and use that spreadsheet as the basis for the copy-and-paste.

Actually, it’s also a good solution in that it keeps the data safely removed from the master spreadsheet so the effects of a bonehead move are minimized. Not that I ever make bonehead mistakes…

Net effect: The first half of the book, with 16 graphs and about 35,000 words, was 651K–and the whole book (including the 607 liblog profiles), currently 265 pages long, is 885KB. (The PDF version is over 3MB–but that’s using Microsoft’s PDF driver, which doesn’t optimize nearly as well as Acrobat, but I haven’t purchased a contemporary Acrobat yet.)

It’s not that Word can’t handle multi-megabyte documents. It can–but it does slow Opens and Saves down (and possibly some other activities), and it’s just not necessary.

The one that may rarely be useful…

This one really isn’t new to Word2007, except to the extent that people who didn’t use Styles before are more likely to use them now. I’ve always used Styles, so that’s not a biggie.

Anyway: A key set of changes was to get the library profiles section down to size–it was close to 200 pages on its own, I knew I needed to add a sentence to most profiles, and I want the whole book to be under 300 pages. I asked a question a few weeks ago and am grateful for the unanimous response–but one of the responses gave me another idea. John Dupuis sad something about using smaller type, and I realized that the profiles really aren’t narrative and probably would work well with 10-point rather than 11-point type. For that matter, the tables–and there are literally hundreds of tables, many of them (unfortunately) split across pages–might work better with 10-point type, as it opens them up a little bit.

I’d added two new styles: “f10″ (first paragraph but with 10-on-12 instead of 11-on-13 type) and “n10″ (normal but with 10-on-12 instead of 11-on-13). I’d gone through and changed tables in the first 10 chapters from First to f10.

For the second half, though, it made sense to do global changes: The only styles (other than headings, subheadings and blognames) were First and Normal, and I wanted all of those to become F10 and N10 respectively.

There are two ways to do that. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of the second way until I’d tried the first. Well, “unfortunately” only cost five minutes, since I’d saved the file beforehand (and I have Word set to autosave every ten minutes anyway).

The first method, also known as “Doing it Wrong”: Select all instances of First or Normal in a 36,000-word document with literally thousands of short paragraphs (each line of a table is a paragraph), then click on the new style.

Word just ground away…actually, it managed to do it on Normal–but went unresponsive on First. I suspect it would eventually have given me a result, but I did a forced shutdown and restart.

The second method, also known as “Thinking“: Do a global replace, using the Style for the search and replace. That took maybe five seconds to handle a few thousand instances…

I suppose the question is: How often would you be doing this sort of thing?


And here’s a tease on the content itself:

As I was updating the liblog profiles (with quintile numbers and a phrase describing those numbers), I thought about “typical liblogs”–that is, liblogs that fall into the third (middle) quintile on all of the metrics, or even just the four key 2008 metrics (posts, words per post, comments per post, figures per post).

Know what? I don’t think there are any. I don’t believe I spotted a single blog that is in Q3 on all four measures. I’ll check again, using the spreadsheet itself. If that’s true, it’s interesting (although not terribly meaningful): There may literally be no such thing as an average liblog, even if you define “average” pretty broadly. (What would it take? For a measured quarter–in this case, March-May 2008–14 to 25 posts averaging 217 to 288 words each with 0.71 to 1.30 comments per post and 0.31 to 0.52 figures/illustrations per post. The comment and figures quintiles are tricky, because they exclude cases where there just aren’t any.)

Update, later the same day: I checked the spreadsheet itself. There are not, in fact, any liblogs that fall into the middle quintile on all four categories. Closest, oddly enough, is ALA Marginalia, a relatively new blog–it’s in the middle quintile on three categories and just short of the third quintile for average figures per post. For an “average blog” it’s about as distinctive as you can get…

Bloglines much improved

Posted in Writing and blogging on October 19th, 2008

Following up on this post (and an intermediate post about an interim solution):

Bloglines is paying attention–and I should have filed a trouble report.

I started getting dupes this morning–that is, posts on both Bloglines and Google Reader. Checking “all feeds” this afternoon, I find that 41 of the 43 problematic feeds has now been restored, and I’m pretty sure they’re all working.

I believe that one of the other two feeds is a real problem, that is, a blog that has disappeared or gone wonky.

And having used both in parallel for a while…I still prefer Bloglines. I love Gmail, I use Google Search, I’m grateful for Google Book Search…but I like some diversity too.

Oh boy, a free indie movie!

Posted in Movies and TV on October 18th, 2008

A while back–actually, a long while back–a little package showed up by surprise: A DVD case with a movie I’d never heard of (and a second “extra features” DVD) and a letter about what a great flick it was and how they hoped I’d watch it and write about it. (I don’t remember details of the letter. This was a long time ago.)

Unsolicited, of course.

The description of the flick neither intrigued me so much that I had to sit right down and watch it nor turned me off completely. The top half of the case was just full of award symbols–and reading them closely told me that there are a lot of film festivals. I’d never heard of any of these, but I’m not a film festival buff.

I set the pack aside until an appropriate moment to try it out. And life got busier.

A while later, I received a message from the people who sent the flick. They were really, really, truly hoping that I’d watch it and write about it. I think they were getting ready for a wider DVD release. I treated their request with the seriousness I’d treat any other purveyor of unsolicited merchandise.

Finally last night…

We watched our daily episode earlier than usual. I didn’t feel like reading, and had an hour or so to kill. “What the heck,” I thought, “I’ll watch the first hour of that flick and see whether it’s worth finishing.”

I started watching. After 20 minutes or so, I started using the next-scene button on the remote. I “finished” the movie (roughly typical feature length, let’s say an hour and a half) in about 45 minutes–and had no desire to either go pick up the partly-watched scenes or look at the extras disc.

OK, it was an indie. OK, it was made using digital cameras, which is ecologically sound (no wasted film) and produces really nice picture quality. OK, it mostly didn’t use real actors, and boy, was that obvious. (I should note that we watch a fair number of indie flicks via Netflix, probably at least one out of five movies that we rent–including some “true indies.” I like good indie moviemaking. Good is a key word.)

It just didn’t do it for me–at all. As a comedy (what it was billed at), it wasn’t funny. Some good and varied scenery, but the non-actors kept getting in the way. I’m really amazed that I lasted as long as I did.

You may notice that I haven’t provided the name of the flick. I plan to give it all the free publicity I think it deserves.

Checking around…

My total faith in the reliability and worth of IMDB user reviews was verified in this case: Every one of the reviews was adulatory, either 9 or 10 out of 10 possible stars–and there seemed to be a lot of similar wording in the three pages of nothing-but-rave reviews.

I would never, for a second, suggest manipulation, “friends & family” reviewing or anything of the sort. Apparently everyone else who’s seen this movie and chose to review it just absolutely loved it–a level of unanimity that I don’t find on IMDB for, for example, Citizen Kane or Catch-22 or other such lesser accomplishments. So it must be that I’m just blind to the sheer genius of this masterpiece, “best independent ever” according to at least one review.

Such is life.

AL=OA, in case you hadn’t heard

Posted in ALA on October 17th, 2008

No, not that AL. Or that AL either.

I can’t imagine there are many readers here who haven’t seen this announced on at least one other blog, but George Eberhart is a friend and this is, in fact, a terrific announcement, so here ’tis:

American Libraries Direct–available to everybody

American Libraries‘ weekly e-newsletter, the remarkable American Libraries Direct, is now available to anyone who wants to sign up for it, not just ALA members. When I say “remarkable”–well, maybe I’m easily impressed, but I like AL Direct a lot. You’ll find the signup form and the FAQ here.

AL Inside Scoop–another blog

To quote George’s email directly:

American Libraries has launched its own blog, AL Inside Scoop. Editor-in-chief Leonard Kniffel offers an insider’s view of goings-on at ALA headquarters and what hot topics ALA staffers are talking about in the hallways. Associate Editor Greg Landgraf offers his perspective from “the lower floors” of what many see as the ALA ivory tower.

AL goes Gold OA (although it’s not a refereed scholarly journal)

A few weeks back, I chose not to post about the irony of Elsevier employees preaching to ALA about taking the work of scholars (provided free) and then selling it back to the profession. Partly because, even though it came off a little oddly coming from a branch of Reed Elsevier, the point was still good. (Incidentally, Information Technology and Libraries does now offer gold open acess but with a six-month embargo. Yes, I’m discussing it and the feasibility of at least making the refereed articles immediately open… And as far as I know, ITAL and most other ALA divisional refereed scholarly publications haver for a long time offered rights assignments consistent with green OA.)

Meanwhile, American Libraries has taken the plunge–not that it’s refereed or a scholarly journal, but still:

Login is no longer required to view the current issue of the American Libraries print magazine online (in PDF format), or to view the archives, which date back to the January 2003 issue. Go here. First-time viewers will need to install the ebrary reader to view issues. Firefox 3 users installing the reader for the first time will need a workaround.

I have an interesting track record with American Libraries. AL published a dozen (or so) articles of mine, then gave me a column…and then dropped the column just less than three years later, after 32 editions. I read the magazine and enjoy it, and I’m pleased to see it become openly available. I regard it as the best and, I believe, most widely read magazine in the field.

The Bloglines problem: My current solution

Posted in Writing and blogging on October 16th, 2008

If you remember way back (OK, four days back…it seems longer than that, maybe because my “two-a-week” posts hit a clump of activity) to this post, I was having a little trouble with Bloglines, tried Google Reader as a replacement, and decided to stick with Bloglines.

I thought a brief update might be appropriate…(as to the “sometimes it just spins” problem, that doesn’t seem to be happening very often)

How big is the other problem?

There seem to be 43 (of 505) blogs where Bloglines continues to show the problem flag (!) — 39 in my big Libraries group and 4 in my small Miscellany group. That’s 8.5%, which is certainly significant–and it includes a few blogs I really do need to track. (The latest addition to the troubled crowd: Open Access News, which I definitely need to track.)

What do they have in common? That’s hard to say. It appears that most or all of the ALA blogs have problems. Otherwise, I don’t see any particular pattern.

Bloglines says it attempts to correct the problems on its own. It doesn’t seem to be working very well. Incidentally, unsubscribing from the blog and resubscribing via the orange icon doesn’t help.

Current workaround

What I’ve done for the moment is to wipe out the big set of Google Reader subscriptions, go through Bloglines, and add a Google Reader subscription for each red exclamation point I see in Bloglines.

That seems to work pretty well–after, that is, I “hid” all the “friends” whose items I was “sharing,” like it or not. (At least one “friend” was sharing some “librarian” items that I really and truly do not want to see in my browser window…I’m not much of a librarian-porn person, thank you kindly. “Thanks for sharing” does not apply in this case–and, frankly, I think the on-by-default “if you’re a contact, you’re a friend”/post sharing thingie is a mistake on Google’s part. Maybe I’m just not social enough or sufficiently inclined to let it all hang out.)

I’ll see whether Bloglines fixes the problems, whether it gets worse, and how Google Reader does on handling the feeds. Or whether I should follow Corp’s advice…


Update later the same day: I have a suspicion as to why a bunch of ALA blogs are showing up as problematic. Trying to reach them directly, Firefox is timing out about every other time… and when it doesn’t time out, the blog. comes. up. slowly… as though that 8086-based server in the back room was overheating.

I mean, I’ve been a loyal ALA member for more than three decades, and I’m even semi-active again in LITA… and I’m sure the new ALA website is better than the old one… but is this stuff really so difficult?


Update 10/19: Bloglines has clearly done some maintenance work–of 43 feeds that weren’t working, 41 are now fixed (and clearly working). I think one of the remaining two is a real problem, a feed that’s gone sour: It doesn’t work in either reader.

50 Movie Hollywood Legends, Disc 11

Posted in Movies and TV on October 14th, 2008

No, I don’t watch movies that fast. In an earlier post, I discussed a problem with another disc in this set—a problem that the publisher resolved in fine style, showing exceptional customer service. While they were solving it, I went ahead with the movies that were on Side A of the problematic disc—which were the first two movies on this dics.

Heartbeat, 1946, b&w. Sam Wood (dir.), Ginger Rogers, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Adolphe Menjou, Melville Cooper, Basil Rathbone. 1:42.

A young woman escaped from reform school shows up at a Paris school for pickpockets, where she seems to be doing well—but when she attempts to lift something, she’s caught. The person catching her—an older diplomat–tells her to steal a watch from a young diplomat at a dress ball (or she’ll go to prison). She does, notices that there’s a picture of the older diplomat’s wife inside the watch, removes it before giving it to the older diplomat. He tells her to return the watch, which she does—and in the process of the two dances, she and the younger diplomat fall for one another. Maybe.

That’s just the beginning of a moderately confused plot involving marriages of conveniences, a variety of con men, trains to and from Geneva…naturally, it all works out in the end. (The sleeve plot description is wrong on several counts, but that’s par for the course.) The movie’s well filmed and generally well played—but to me, Ginger Rogers seemed more vapid than she needed to be in the star role, seeming not to show much of any emotion or even interest, even when she’s crying from happiness. That hurts the picture. So, in the case of this print, does some minor visual damage and fairly major sound problems—the sound is frequently distorted, making dialogue a bit difficult to understand. In the end, I come up with $1.25.

He Found a Star, 1941, b&w. John Paddy Carstairs (dir.), Vic Oliver, Sarah Churchill, Evelyn Dall, Gabrielle Brune, J.H. Roberts. 1:29 [1:15].

A British stage manager wants to be more, and with the help of a woman friend (played by Winston Churchill’s daughter) starts a small-time talent agency, specifically looking to help out the unknown talents. They struggle for some time but eventually build a business of sorts—and he continues to treat her as nothing but a secretary. It all climaxes when he gets a would-be star (who’s a reasonable success, and who he wants to propose to) out of multiple “exclusive” contracts, signs her up for a big new show—and finds that she’s going to run off to Hollywood.

Naturally, it all works out in the end. In the meantime, the action’s constant but the plot’s a bit hectic, possibly because of a lot of missing footage. To my eye, the various acts were fine (the traditional baritone turned one-man band is a charmer) but the dramatic actors didn’t make much impact, and I never got any sense that the secretary desired the talent agent until the last few minutes of the flick, somewhat undermining the dramatic conflict. Given that, a sometimes-damaged print and a sometimes-damaged soundtrack, I’m hard put to give this more than $0.75.

Affair in Monte Carlo (originally 24 Hours of a Woman’s Life), 1952, color (b&w on this disc). Victor Saville (dir.), Merle Oberon, Leo Genn, Richard Todd. 1:30 [1:04]

Merle Oberon is excellent in this tale of sudden romance and gambling addiction, told mostly as a flashback—but there are two problems. The biggest one is that this seems like “scenes from an affair”—at 1:03, it’s much far too short for its story and has gaps in continuity. Given the fairly slow pacing of the movie, that’s particularly unfortunate. Noting IMDB after rating this, I see that’s what’s happened: The movie should be 90 minutes long, the U.S. version was trimmed to 75 minutes (why?), and this version—apart from losing its color—is down to a mere 64 minutes.

The other—well, the credits list a Technicolor colour consultant, but there’s no color in the movie as presented here. The scenery would be much nicer and the film more convincing in color. It doesn’t have the qualities of great b&w cinematography. (Actually, it looks like desaturated color, which is what it apparently is.) Nice little story, good scenery, some good acting, but ultimately I’m generous at $1.00.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952, color. Henry King (dir.), Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Hildegard Knef, Leo G. Carroll. 1:54 [1:53].

Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward. Spectacular scenery, well filmed. Ernest Hemingway. What more could you ask for? Well… Not to speak ill of classics, but this movie seemed a little thin and soapy to me, apart from the starpower and writer’s credentials. (On the other hand, it’s a Hemingway short story, so maybe it is a little thin for a two-hour flick.) But that may be me. Good print (by and large), although there’s some ticking on the soundtrack for a few minutes near the end. Even though it isn’t quite my cup of tea, it deserves $1.50.


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