Archive for October, 2010

Mystery Collection, Disc 18

Posted in Movies and TV on October 25th, 2010

Inner Sanctum, 1948, b&w. Lew Landers (dir.), Charles Russell, Mary Beth Hughes, Dale Belding, Billy House, Fritz Leiber. 1:02.

A story within a story—with a twist on the outer story that I won’t reveal. The inner story: Guy gets off a train, woman gets off after him, they argue, she winds up dead, he throws her on the rear platform of the departing train. Lots more stuff happens involving a kid, his mother, a boarding house, a semi-loose woman, a one-man newspaper and various small-town folk. Oh, and a flood that strands the guy in the little town.

It’s OK, but nothing particularly special—the only real mystery is whether he’ll get away with it and what will happen in the process. I guess it could be called noir; I found it mostly dispiriting. The print’s good. As a minor B picture, it’s worth maybe $0.75.

Gaslight, 1940, b&w (released in the U.S. as The Murder in Thornton Square). Thorold Dickinson (dir.), Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell, Robert Newton. 1:24.

This is the original Gaslight, a British film—not the much better-known American version with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman filmed in 1944. (Supposedly MGM attempted to suppress this version.) I haven’t seen the later film, but this is essentially the same plot and based on the same play: That is, a man is driving his wife insane (or at least to the point where he can have her committed)—in this case so he can continue searching for rubies that he killed his aunt for, years ago in the same house.

In this version the husband is a sneering Victorian tyrant, a true villain, and the wife is neurotic enough to make the overall plot believable. Well played and a good print. Not quite a masterpiece, but very good. I’ll give it $1.75.

The Last Mile, 1932, b&w. Samuel Bischoff (dir.), Preston Foster, Howard Phillips, George E. Stone, Neal Madison, Frank Sheridan. 1:15 [1:09]

Primarily a short death-row drama featuring eight prisoners, each in his own cell, and the guard watching over them all—although the surround is one person who’s innocent (and the only one who survives). Lots of talk (and one execution early on, with the interesting variation that the prisoner’s Jewish, so the prayers being spoken are different) followed by an attempted prison break and attendant action. Very much anti-death penalty, including a textual introduction from a prison warden.

Not great, not terrible. It’s a play on film, and feels that way. The print’s missing six minutes and is choppy in places. I’ll give it $1.00.

D.O.A., 1950, b&w. Rudolph Maté (dir.), Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland, Lynn Baggett, William Ching, Henry Hart, Neville Brand. 1:23.

A classic, or at least a minor classic. Guy stumbles into the homicide division of a police station, asks to see the person in charge, gives his name…and they’re all ears. The rest of the story is flashbacks, and it’s a doozy. The guy’s an accountant from Banning, who’d gone to San Francisco for a little vacation (upsetting his girlfriend)…and who gets poisoned while he’s there, with a “luminous poison” for which there’s no cure but could leave him going for a day, two days, a week.

The rest of the story is his attempt to find out who murdered him. It’s a complicated story, but hangs together fairly well. To say any more might involve spoilers, and this movie’s good enough that I won’t do that. Well acted, well written, well directed. The print’s not great, but the movie is—about as good as film noir gets. $2.00.

It’s been a while…

Posted in Stuff on October 24th, 2010

…since the most recent post hereabouts. Looks like six days. Which is maybe OK–the oddly high level of traffic here seems to grow if I don’t post anything and shrink if I do. (Hi Abigail! And, by the way, in doing my near-universal study of English-language liblogs, I’m finding that the small subset of liblogs that are “book blogs”–primarily devoted to reviews, whether of books or other media–are distinctly different in longevity and posting frequency/consistency than most other blogs. Oh, and in preferred blogging software as well.)

I have a handful of topics on my little notepad that might be worth doing Proper Posts. I have a separate list of possible essay topics that could yield more–topics that aren’t ready for full-fledged C&I essays but worth addressing. And I’m not ready to deal with either of those. So, for what it’s worth, a random set of updates for a random blog.

Randomness

In case it’s not quite clear, I continue to be astonished at the apparent level of activity at Walt at Random (from September 1 through October 22–my Urchin stats run a day late–I’m showing an average of 3,524 pageviews per day in 1,503 sessions, from 7,939 different IP addresses during that 7-week period), given that Walt at Random is caught in the middle: stuff that isn’t (yet) ready for my primary outlet, Cites & Insights, but requires a little more thought than blather on FriendFeed. I think it’s mostly a case of random accumulation coupled with relatively low posting frequency, so that people don’t get bugged enough to unsubscribe or stop coming here. (Now, if I could get an advertiser who’d pay, say, $5 per thousand pageviews…but there are also advantages to not having ads.)

Zero

We got our year-end true-up statement from PG&E, although we think it’s a month early. For the full year (as PG&E views it), we generated just slightly more electricity than we used. We won’t get paid for it (that comes next year, and if we did get paid, it would amount to something like $16), but it feels good.

We actually stayed under the zero line until a couple of days ago. Now, given complete overcast and shorter days, we’re back above zero. Remarkably, yesterday–which I would have called 100% overcast and gloomy all day long–we still managed to generate around 3kWh: When they say thin-film panels can deal with dim light well, they’re not kidding.

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010

I didn’t get a lot of feedback on various possibilities, and no interest whatsoever in either of the side project possibilities (the “freemium” collection of disContent columns or a possible 5th-anniversary followup to Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″), which I have to admit is not a surprise, so as usual I’ll make decisions based on what’s most interesting to me and feels right.

For the “as universal as I can make it” survey of English-language liblogs that still had an open web presence in late spring/early summer 2010, that choice turns out to be #3 on my original set of possibilities. That is: I”ll reserve the name “The Way We Blog” for a possible 2011 five-year study (assuming I don’t drop this hobby/obsession and take up something useful like golf or writing nutcase letters to editors), do as much with this set of data as seems appropriate, and publish the results as a Lulu paperback for the few who might want it, while publishing draft versions of most chapters (excluding the first, which will have overall commentary and fun facts from various chapters) in Cites & Insights along the way. That way, most of the important data will reach lots of people, but the few who are willing to pay a little will get a more interesting and more polished overview. (There won’t be individual liblog profiles. Period.)

A side note. The latest auto-update to Firefox broke the word-count add-on that plays such an important role in gathering liblog metrics. If that isn’t fixed, or replaced by some other Firefox or possibly Chrome extension by next June, that may be the tipping point for giving up this particular quixotic research.

Progress report on that: I’ve “finished” chapters 2-4 (of what should be an 8-10 chapter project) and the first third or so of chapter 5. A draft version of chapter 2 will almost certainly appear in the December 2010 Cites & Insights. A draft version of chapter 3 will probably appear in the first 2011 Cites & Insights, assuming there is one. A draft version of chapter 4 will…well, you get the picture.

Cites & Insights

One potential sponsorship is still up in the air, as it has been for three months now. I’m open to other possibilities. The current issue has gotten a couple of nice links and comments (which, without sponsorship, is the only thing other than actual readership that keeps C&I going). There’s no shortage of potential material, now or in the future. (One essay for December 2010 is now a finished draft. Add Chapter 2 and another Offtopic Perspective, and I suspect there will be at most one other essay and some CD-ROM reviews, if that.)

Open Access: What We Need to Know Now

“In production” at ALA Editions. As soon as I have concrete dates, etc., I’ll let you know. I think it’s going to serve an important purpose. At least I hope so. As for OA returning to C&I as an ongoing topic…probably not, as the reasons for giving up haven’t changed.

Otherwise

I let the end of September come and go without buying the discounted bundled registration for Midwinter and Annual 2011. I’d already thought that my 35-year record of essentially-unbroken attendance at both conferences would probably disappear in 2012, replaced by highly selective attendance (based partly on financial arrangements, partly on location, partly on other things). That’s now likely to be true for 2011 as well–and although San Diego is “nearby” (427 miles, certainly not an easy drive but a relatively short flight), it’s only marginally less expensive to attend than any other conference city. A lot can change between now and early January, but right now I’d say odds are heavily against Midwinter…and while I love NOLA, I’m not sure I’m committed to Annual either. I love getting together with people face-to-face, but realistically (and particularly given the absence of one especially good networking event for bloggers), the few dozen people I chat with during a conference can hardly justify either the time or the expense. I’m getting more retired all the time, helped by living in the nicest home we’ve ever owned. (If it wasn’t raining today, we might do an afternoon stroll to a nearby winery; Saturday before last, we did do such an afternoon stroll to pick up more locally-produced Frontoia-olive olive oil directly from the grower/producer. And if there’s any light at all, we get it.)

So there’s my post for the week. Time to resume work on chapter 5 (or vacuum, or go to the library, or read, or whatever).

Open Access Week

Posted in Passé on October 18th, 2010

This is Open Access Week. That term should yield dozens, more likely hundreds, of blog posts and other items, some of them from people whose thoughts I value quite a bit.

I don’t have much to say at this point. That isn’t because I don’t care.

I used to write about OA quite a bit (and have collected the essays from Cites & Insights into a book you can download for free or buy for essentially the cost of printing, if you’re so inclined–but it’s just a collection, with no new material and no index).

I gave up on OA in C&I in late 2009, for reasons that may or may not be reasonably explained in a full-article essay on Library Access to Scholarship. Basically, I was tired of coping with the extremists on both sides and felt that others, much more knowledgeable, were doing a much better job of covering the field. I felt that I wasn’t really adding much value.

My chance to add value came this Fall–and it should emerge early in 2011 (I’ll post the date as soon as I know it): A Special Report from ALA Editions, currently entitled Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. The “Special Report” moniker means it’s brief (30,000 words), will be a slender 8.5×11 monograph (I’m guessing 80 pages) and was written and is being published on a fast schedule.

I believe it will be a useful summary for library people and, for that matter, others. It covers a lot of ground in a few pages and ends with a whole bunch of good places to go for more information.

That’s about it for my current involvement. For current info and arguments, others do it better…just do that phrase search and see what comes up, including posts from Dorothea Salo, John Dupuis and other library folks.

Just go read this. Now.

Posted in Stuff on October 18th, 2010

John Scalzi is generally a thoughtful and interesting writer and his blog, Whatever, frequently worth checking (both for the posts and for the many comments–if only /. and other forums had the general quality level of Scalzi’s commenters).

Today, though, is different. It’s even better.

Go read this post. Please. And think about it.

Thanks.

How many liblogs at any given time?

Posted in Liblogs on October 17th, 2010

There’s a question I’ve seen asked–or, in some cases, given assumed answers–any number of times, and I’ve never seen or had anything like an answer. The question, in one form at least:

How many liblogs are active at any given time?

I think the more interesting form of that question is “…and how has that changed over time?”

Maybe even the next question: “When were the most liblogs active?”

So far, I’ve never been able to come up with anything like an answer–and I’ve always felt that the presumed answer I’ve seen some times, based on my hobby/research, has been misleading. (That answer: “Around 500 at any given time.”)

The status

As of Friday, I’ve finished the drafts for Chapters 2 and 3 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, my semi-comprehensive look at English-language liblogs (“semi-” because some have completely disappeared and some were doubtless missed), covering 1,304 liblogs that were still visible on the web in early summer 2010.

Chapter 2 is mostly methodology and background data.

Chapter 3 is sort of the “miscellany” chapter, also called “How, Where and When.” It covers the blogging software used for liblogs, the countries they come from, when they began and how long they’ve lasted (through May 31, 2010). It also covers currency–that is, how many weeks before June 1, 2010 the most recent post (up to May 31) appeared.

I plan to start Chapter 4 this week: The Big Picture, based on metrics that I hadn’t gathered in previous surveys. (That’s if I don’t decide to work on C&I essays instead; most likely, I’ll interleave the two). The metrics, for some but not quite all of the 1,304 blogs: How many posts the blog had from its inception through May 31, 2010–and a derivative figure, the average number of posts per month during the life of the blog.

The minor epiphany

This morning, as I was reading the Sunday paper, I had a thought:

I recorded the starting year and starting month in separate columns, both numbers…and the longevity of the blog in months in a third column. With the right formulas, I could use those three columns to determine whether a blog is active at any given point–where “active” means “had a post in or before this month and in or after this month.”

Actually, I first realized that it was possible to populate a huge array of 0s and 1s, then add up each column in that array to find out how many blogs were active at that point. It was a while later that I figured out the formula to populate that array automatically, making it not only possible but practical.

I also realized that this is another one of those little Excel chores that I probably wouldn’t have attempted, say, 5 or 10 years ago–I would have assumed that Excel would have broken or that it would take hours to do the calculations or that I just wouldn’t have enough memory to handle the whole thing.

See, here’s the thing: The matrix involves 46 columns and 1309 rows, with formulas in 42 of those columns and 1304 of those rows. That’s close to 55,000 formulas–each one different–and an overall matrix involving 60,214 cells. Just to get three or four tables and graphs, or maybe only one table and one graph.

The process

In reality, it wasn’t particularly difficult–I think it took half an hour, maybe a little longer (and that includes figuring out how to transpose a set of rows and columns to make later handling easier). While each of the 54,768 formulas (each involving a double-If) is different, they were mostly auto-generated. That is: I wrote the formula for the first row and column, copied it across the 42 columns, then modified the formula in each column (changing a relative cell to an absolute cell). Then I copied the 42-column row to the other 1,303 rows…and added (and copied) the summations to give me the 42 totals (actually four times that many, as there’s an interesting way to split the blogs).

How long did the calculation take? As usual, it seemed to be done as soon as I finished the copy-and-paste operation–certainly no more than a second. On a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo notebook, not a wonderfully fast CPU. (The massive matrix with formulas seems to occupy about 200 megabytes400 kilobytes but of course I can delete the whole thing now that I have the summary numbers.) NOTE ADDED Monday, October 18: I saved that page as a spreadsheet for possible use next year. The spreadsheet uses about 400 kilobytes–the increase in size for the overall spreadsheet was closer to 200kilobytes, not megabytes!

The results

Ah, well, for that you’ll have to wait a while. Those results will be part of Chapter 4. If all goes as planned, all or part of that chapter may appear in a future C&I–most likely the second issue of 2011 that isn’t a single-essay issue. I’d guess that the book version will appear at the same time or a little earlier.

I wouldn’t have tried this five years ago and maybe not three years ago. I’m glad I did–the results are interesting (I would say “not quite what I expected” but I’m not sure I had an expectation).

Hmm. I wonder how long it’s been that it’s not only plausible but trivial to build and calculate a matrix involving more than 60,000 cells and nearly 55,000 different formulas? On a cheap notebook computer? Now there’s an interesting question for which I have no answer.

Business biographies score again!

Posted in Stuff on October 16th, 2010

I’m so happy Livermore Public Library doesn’t weed nonfiction too rapidly–because it’s such fun to read books of a certain age, particularly those that have the future all mapped out.

Back in June, I read and commented on a book telling us how Apple had gone sour, essentially why it was all over for the company. The book was published in 1999. As y’all know, Apple has become a mere shadow of its former self, dropping from $6 billion in FY1999 to a paltry $36 billion in 2009…

This time, it’s Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft. By David Bank, published in 2001, basically covering events through 2000. Bank’s thesis is that Microsoft should long ago have abandoned Windows as a key platform and turned all its attention to open-source web-based software: How else could it grow beyond a $10 billion company?

He seemed to think that Bill Gates (a) would resume full control of the company and (b) would “shoot the moon”–go for a complete transformation of Microsoft to be a great supplier of web-based software, maybe retaining some small revenue from those few who would stick with Windows and Office in the new millennium.

And, of course, as y’all know, everybody’s migrated to the web, Office essentially disappeared, and nobody remembers Windows except as a once-significant operating system… So much so that, for FY2010, the Windows division of Microsoft brought in a mere $17.8 billion in revenues (and $12.1 billion in operating income), while Office (and other business software, mostly Outlook) accounted for a paltry $18.9 billion ($11.7 billion in operating income). As a whole, Microsoft was down from its former might of $10 billion to a mere $62 billion (hmm: almost exactly the same growth rate as Apple, roughly six times the income ten years later)…ah, but $24.1 billion operating income. So, without Office and Windows holding back profitability, Microsoft would have an operating income of around $3 billion.

And Gates still seems primarily focused on the Gates Foundation, which doesn’t yield any kind of profit whatsoever. At least not in dollars and cents for the short term or for Microsoft shareholders.

The most curious item in the book, and it’s probably good (and mostly forgotten) history: At the turn of the century, Gates seemed heavily focused on Microsoft becoming a primary supplier of tablet computers, in a year or two. Not just the software: the computers. You know: the mPad…

Legends of Horror, Disc 10

Posted in Movies and TV on October 15th, 2010

This disc really points up why I probably shouldn’t be doing these reviews. I loathe gore flicks and what now seems to be standard slasher horrorshows, with their oodles of “blood” and crazed killers. I almost stopped watching the first flick 20 minutes in—and that might have been the right decision. So if you’re a fan of stupid bloody horror, just ignore these reviews. If you’re a true connoisseur of “holiday axe murderers” and the like…I really don’t want to know about it.

Silent Night, Bloody Night, 1974, color. Theodore Gershuny (dir.), Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson, Mary Woronov, Astrid Heeren, John Carradine, Walter Abel. 1:28 [1:21]

The idiocy starts right at the beginning, as a man whose coat is on fire runs from a house into a snow-covered field—and doesn’t drop-and-roll, even by accident. Nope. No matter how often he falls down, it’s always forward and he gets back up and keeps running as he’s burning to death.

But that’s a flashback. Today, we have a long-abandoned house about to be sold. The devil-may-care adulterous lawyer up with his hot French girlfriend to sell it for quick cash, by order of an owner he’s never met—and, of course, staying the night in the abandoned house, not in the motel the town council suggests. People always respond to mystery messages by going, one at a time, usually unarmed, to meet their fates. And, if you want to stretch things far enough, you could conclude that Only The Good Survived…

Awful, awful, awful. Badly filmed, poorly acted (John Carradine doesn’t help matters and Patrick O’Neal is a joke), crappy direction, poor production and a worthless screenplay. Maybe the one good thing it has going is the opening music—a minor-key arrangement of Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht that’s surprisingly unsettling. I’m being exceedingly generous by my own standards to give this piece of trash $0.25.

Horror Express (aka Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train), 1972, color. Eugenio Martin (dir.), Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Julio Pena, Angel del Pozo, Telly Savalas. 1:28.

This is a cross between science fiction and horror, beginning with an expedition in China but with all the action taking place on the Trans-Siberian Express. A British anthropologist has discovered a “fossil”—some sort of caveman or missing link encased in a block of ice. Another scientist is returning with his assistant. The train also includes a count, countess, their crazed Russian priest, a beautiful spy, and a police chief—and an engineer who studied under Tsiolkovsky, the early Russian rocket theorist.

All of which comes into play as we get one corpse and another, in both cases with wholly white eyes. After one scientist (who’s also a medical doctor) notes that the eyes on a steamed fish at dinner are wholly white, he does an autopsy on the second victim—and finds that the brain is entirely smooth, which (he intuits) means that their memories have all been sucked out. Okay…well, things continue, and we learn much more along with quite a few deaths along the way, all with the same briefly-horrible eye-bleeding/eye-whitening scene, always in the dark or near-dark. I won’t give more of the plot away, such as it is, except to note that it ends with a deliberate train crash but also most potential victims saved. We get mind/being transfer and even blind zombies of a sort.

Telly Savalas as a scenery-chewing Cossack. A strong cast (Lee and Cushing are the two scientists), interesting script and decent acting. It’s entirely on a train ride (after the first few minutes)—always a good thing for enhancing mystery and suspense. The print is a little wonky at times and never all that good. All in all, $1.50.

The Nightmare Never Ends (orig. Cataclysm), 1979, color. Phillip Marshak (and others, dir.), Cameron Mitchell, Marc Lawrence, Faith Clift, Richard Moll, Maurice Grandmaison. 1:34 [1:28]

Life really is too short. I gave this half an hour, which is probably 15 minutes too long. Given the miserable quality of the print (soft, with bad colors—and it’s not clear whether the bad colors are deliberate), lousy production (from what I could see) and incoherent plot, direction, script and acting, I just couldn’t see going through the whole thing.

What I could get of the plot up to that point: There’s a famous (Nobel laureate!) professor who’s an atheist and has just published his most important work, God is Dead. (There’s a problem here: A proper atheist wouldn’t write such a book because a nonexistent being can’t die.) His beautiful wife is a doctor and a devout Catholic, who firmly believes in God and Satan. Let’s see. There’s a Las Vegas fake clairvoyance act, where the admittedly-phony clairvoyant dies (or is murdered) immediately after getting the wife to visualize her nightmare around a Nazi dinner party. There’s an old Jewish Nazi hunter who’s almost entirely incoherent, but who believes a young man is actually one of his targets from 35 years previous—and who gets his face ripped off as he’s being killed (and, of course, the corpse ends up with the doctor/wife).

I’m sure there’s lots more, but I found it unwatchable both because of the print and the movie itself. Cameron Mitchell’s cop isn’t terribly well played but stands out among the rest of this. Looking at IMDB, it appears that it isn’t just a bad print or digitization; it’s a lousy film with bad production values and terrible acting and plot. It gets a rare $0.

Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (orig. The Satanic Rites of Dracula), 1973, color, widescreen. Alan Gibson (dir.), Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones, Joanna Lumley, Richard Vernon, Barbara Yu Ling. 1:27.

The final Hammer film with Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, presented in wide screen (not anamorphic, but a zoom mode should work) and in a decent print (with damage at a few spots). Contemporary setting, with Dracula as an industrialist poised to unleash a much more deadly version of The Plague, developed by a scientist (who won the Nobel for “science and humanity,” one of the more obscure categories). Some nudity (mostly as part of a Satanic ritual), some violence, lots of female vampires, and evil in high places.

Pretty good as these things go—after all, with Lee and Cushing in a Hammer film, how far wrong can you go? Some of the plot is a little bizarre (why would Dracula want to destroy the entire world?) and the addition of hawthorne trees as deadly to vampires seems odd, but, well… As to the title: It involves Van Helsing’s beautiful granddaughter (Joanna Lumley) and is a little misleading, but there you go—the original title makes more sense. $1.50.

Cites & Insights 10:11 now available

Posted in Cites & Insights on October 13th, 2010

Cites & Insights 10:11 (November 2010) is now available for downloading.

The 24-page issue is PDF as usual, but HTML separates are available for each essay (click on the essay titles). The issue includes:

Bibs & Blather: Three Times Ten pp. 1-4

Notes about a tenth anniversary, a readership update…and notes and queries about The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, the nearly-universal English-language liblog project I’m currently working on.

The CD-ROM Project: From Print to CD pp. 4-8

Three different CD-ROMs (and sets) that attempted to add value of some sort to print books or magazines.

The Zeitgeist: Blogging Groups and Ethics pp. 8-18

A brouhaha in one blogging group, thinking about groups and blogs…and thinking about ethics and codes.

Offtopic Perspective: Legends of Horror, Part 1 pp. 18-24

This is not a set of legendary horror films. Instead, it’s a set of films that feature someone who could be considered a legend of horror films if you’re really loose with the word “legend.” Don’t expect great movies here… (Note for when Part 2 comes around rapidly: This was ready  for the September issue, but held over because 60 pages was way more than enough.)

66,504 Facts & Formulas in 1.98MB

Posted in Liblogs on October 11th, 2010

Very quick update on what’s now The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 (I’m reserving The Way We Blog for a possible five-year overview, maybe, perhaps, if I don’t cure this obsession).

  • I think, believe, hope I have the derivative pages populated on the master spreadsheet–that is, all of the calculated data as well as the observed data.
  • After problems I had last year, I’ve had the good sense (?) to: a. Not try to put everything on one massive page, b. Save a copy of the master spreadsheet, and…c…perhaps most important: Save another copy where every page is values & number formats, without any formulas or references. (The master sheet is lousy with both of them.) This should minimize, maybe even negate, problems with screwing up data while sorting, summarizing, etc…particularly since I won’t actually use the “fixed copy” (the copy with no formulas), I’ll use a working copy of it, feeling free to not only hide but delete columns for convenience…’cuz I can always restore the whole thing.
  • Damn, but “If” formulas with four levels of testing are clumsy to get right…but that’s what I needed, and I got it, eventually. (That is: There are in all four “If” statements within the nested overall statement. Trust me, it’s necessary…partly because I need to distinguish between “0 because none there” and “0 because unable to count” or “0 because the blog didn’t exist yet.”)
  • Excel does reasonably well on compactness. The master spreadsheet includes six pages, each with 1,305 rows (labels and 1,304 blogs), with–respectively–24, 9, 12, 20, 20, and 28 columns. All cells are populated (frequently with “dummy numbers,” which are always negative). There’s a lot of duplication among the columns, in order to make analysis a little less screwy (that is, each major segment of analysis has its own page), but there are, in fact, 51 distinct columns among the–lessee–113 columns. Of those, 24 are observed items, 27 are calculated items.
  • So, depending on how you look at it–and ignoring column headers–there are either 66,504 data items (including blog names and URLs, both of which can be long) or 147,352 data items in the master worksheet.
  • All of that stores in Excel2007, including format information, as a 1.98MB spreadsheet with formulas–and a mere 1.05MB spreadsheet without formulas. That strikes me as pretty efficient storage.

Now, to start messing with the working copy of the “fixed” spreadsheet…and writing it up (well, I’ve already written up most of the metric definitions). In case anybody cares, I’m currently tending toward a “hybrid solution”–publishing most chapters (excluding the first, which will have all the hot overall items and will be developed as I write the book) in C&I, also appearing as 6×9 PDF separates, and–when it’s ready–making the whole book, with index and first chapter, available through Lulu for the few who want it.

Oh, and finishing up/publishing C&I for November 2010–which will not include any of this project.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Posted in Stuff on October 9th, 2010

Once in a while, I feel the need to let the snark out–particularly if it’s a case where I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to get their feelings hurt.

This is one of those times.

Here’s a quote from a March 2009 discussion of the proposed Google Books Settlement:

…in late October 2008, Google announced a proposed settlement of the lawsuit. While the settlement hasn’t received final approval, it’s on its way.

I have a strong sense that the writer thought of “it’s on its way” as “…probably within a few months.”

It’s now October 2010–two full years after the proposed settlement was announced, 17 months after that statement appeared. I’ve heard nothing to suggest that GBS is on the verge of final approval, and some indications that it might never be approved, at least not without substantial changes.

Who wrote that naively optimistic assessment? Well, it appears on Page 1 of Cites & Insights 9:4 (March 2009), and the author’s name appears about 1.5 inches above that quote.

I would have sworn that I said “a few months” as the time frame for settlement approval, but it appears that I missed that entirely boneheaded assertion.

Since then? I’ve tagged a few select commentaries and news items in delicious, on the assumption that it might be worth doing a commentary after the thing was finally settled. “A few” now numbers 186, an absurdly large set of source documents for any reasonable C&I commentary. There may be some action on a case related to GBS toward the end of October (2010); then again, there might not be.

Almost as silly, on that same front page, I said that the AAP/AG suit against Google was “in court for a long time.” It was filed in 2005. The proposed settlement was three years later. For some reason, I thought that three years counted as “a long time.” Apparently not.

[In the meantime, I added one more to the tiny set of commentators whom I avoid quoting or commenting on because they seem to believe that disagreeing with anything they say is tantamount to disagreeing with everything they say. Such is life.]


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