Archive for April, 2011

Signs of spring

Posted in Stuff on April 16th, 2011

So far, April 2011 in Livermore is (as, I think, in many other places) turning out to be one of those “if there was such a thing as normal weather anymore, this wouldn’t be it” months. We’ve had hail (which is really rare hereabouts), driving rain and wind, and–not here but elsewhere in the Bay Area–even small twisters, I think.

But there are also increasing signs of spring, and I find that we can spot seasonal timemarks (like landmarks, but temporal) in more than one way.

Take yesterday, for example. One sign was that it was over 70 degrees for much of the afternoon. But that was also true in some days in February.

The other sign: We hit 16kWh (kiloWatt-hours) from our solar (photovoltaic) system, for the first time in 2011.

We’d gotten ever so close on three other wholly-sunny April days (15.94 in one case), but yesterday we made it.

Here are the milestones for 2011*–noting that we’ll get better than 9kWh on a reasonably sunny day even in December:

  • January 20: 10 kWh
  • February 1: 11 kWh
  • February 22: 12 kWh
  • March 12: 13 kWh
  • March 28: 15 kWh
  • April 15: 16 kWh

With luck, and assuming very little loss in efficiency from last year, we should hit 17 kWh in late April. I don’t believe we ever got to 18 kWh last year; at some point, very hot days cause a drop in efficiency.

Why no 14 kWh? It was cloudy enough during most days March 13-27 to dampen generation.

Yes, the meter’s “spinning” backwards (OK, so it’s an LCD readout with no physical manifestation)–overall, we average about 11 kWh/day electrical use, with considerably less on days we’re not drying laundry. So, typically, from mid-March on, we start generating more power than we use–and, for PG&E, that’s most useful in June-August, when we’re generating most power during the hot middle of the day, when there’s also peak demand for electricity.

Does photovoltaic and other renewable actually mean anything? In California, absolutely: The two big utilities didn’t quite hit the 20% goal for 2010, but they came close (more than 17% of PG&E’s electrical generation last year was from renewable sources, which doesn’t include big hydroelectric facilities)–and the new goal is 33% in 2020.

Now, to wait for the fruits of spring to arrive at the Farmers’ Market…as my wife said, especially for folks who don’t eat apples (she can’t eat them, I don’t care for them) but love fruit, April really is the cruelest month.

*No, I don’t obsessively write down our generation each day. Our SolarCity installation includes its own wifi and a custom web page for us, with half-hour data points each day and daily data points on weekly and monthly graphs; it took me five minutes to determine those timemarks.

Why typography matters

Posted in Books and publishing on April 15th, 2011

This is a story about the significance of layout and paying at least nominal attention. Maybe it won’t matter to other people. I wonder…


When I go to the library, I usually pick up three books: One genre (alternating mystery & sf/f), one “mainstream” fiction, one nonfiction.

This week, the “mainstream” fiction was a book that looked intriguing in a subgenre that can be fun, the political thriller: “Capital Offense” by Kathleen Antrim. I’d never heard of her, but the flap copy made it look at least mildly interesting. So I checked it out.

Primary: The Problems

Started reading it. The prose isn’t polished, but I’m not sure I’d do any better writing fiction, so I’m not judging that just yet.

But something was bothering me–getting in the way of fully enjoying the story. I knew there had been something odd about the title sheet (no obvious publisher name on the verso, the silly “No part of this book” copyright claim that’s both unenforceable and legally false…and the fact that a badly-formatted CiP record was on its own recto page). But, hey…

Then I looked at the pages I was reading and realized the problem–or, rather, problems.

The typeface is a typical, conservative serif, which I haven’t attempted to identify. The text is fully justified. Margins are a little narrow (body width is 28 picas; I think 24-26 picas looks nicer, especially for a 6×9 hardback), but not so much so as to be terrible.


  • There’s no kerning. At all. “Warner”–which appears all the time, as that’s the name of one of the two primary characters–looks a little odd. “You” or “Yours” looks really strange, with the “Y” stranded well to the left of the rest of the word…
  • There’s no hyphenation–that is, words are never broken across lines. The result is sometimes   very     wide  spacing  erratically   between words–maybe not as bad as this line, but pretty bad. (Actually, it is that bad sometimes: I see spots where two or even three characters on one line appear over a between-word space on the next line down. And there are rivulets of white where overly-wide spacing happens on three or more successive lines.)
  • There are loads of bad breaks–single words on their own lines at the bottom of paragraphs, which create a somewhat jumbled page, especially when paragraphs tend to be short.
  • Dashes appear as either two or three hyphens, not as em or en dashes.
  • Relatively minor, but the running page header and footer appear on otherwise-blank verso pages (the book starts each section and chapter on the recto), which is just odd. You get a blank page with “Kathleen Antrim” at the top left corner and a page number centered at the bottom.

In some ways, I’m almost surprised that quote marks aren’t inch signs. On the other hand, widows and orphans–single lines of multiline paragraphs either at the top of one page or at the bottom–are avoided.

Would the average reader notice this? I’m not sure. I do suspect that many readers would find that this novel reads more slowly and is more distancing than it might otherwise be. For me, it’s not quite a showstopper, but certainly gets in the way.

And here’s the thing: Most of this–kerning, hyphenation, using em dashes instead of double-hyphens–is handled automatically by truly sophisticated high-dollar software such as, oh, Microsoft Word. Automatically. Yes, even Word2000. I know that for a fact. You can go back and look at Cites & Insights 1:1 if you want proof.

Yes, bad breaks require a little manual work (although I’m guessing some DTP software handles them automatically), although not really a lot.

So how did this ghastly layout–or, rather, non-layout–happen?


The “publisher” is 1stBooks Library, at least for the first edition in 2001. (If you look in WorldCat, you’ll mostly see iBooks, which picked it up a little later.)

1stBooks is either a self-publisher or a vanity press, depending on your definition, and one that offers to lay out your books. Apparently, at least in 2001, this is their definition of laying out your book–for a minimum of $999. (1stBooks is now a division of AuthorHouse, which does very much the same thing, albeit sometimes at a slightly lower price.)

Oddly enough, the flap copy on the jacket is kerned and does use em dashes (as does the CiP record, although it’s distinctly unkerned). Since that copy is set flush left, the lack of hyphenation isn’t particularly important.

Maybe It Doesn’t Matter?

Antrim did decently with this book, supposedly selling 10,000 copies before iBooks picked it up. It looks as though 138 libraries in WorldCat own it, primarily the iBooks edition(s), which is far from best-seller level but not bad. It’s probably in my library (Livermore Public) because Antrim’s local (Pleasanton, I think): the copy is autographed, although oddly enough “To Terry”

I think it does matter. If I go forward with one project (still waiting for word from the publisher), part of the result will be an easy guide to making book pages look better, copyfitting if you will. I’d guess that it would take me one or two days, at worst, to go through this 290-page book fixing bad breaks. Most of the problems–lack of kerning, lack of hyphenation, lack of em dashes–would require no work other than checking a few settings in Word. Well, and a global edit for the strange triple dashes…

If you look at this book and don’t find the problems I’m finding, check the imprint: Most likely, you’re looking at an iBooks copy, and they may have done some plausibly professional layout, or at least allowed software to do the minimal work.

As for the book itself? I’m past the Pearl limit, and it’s definitely a page-turner if I ignore the sometimes clumsy writing (here, again, I’m not sure I’d do as well) and the always clumsy layout. So far, no overall opinion. Or maybe I’m being kind. (When I looked up some sources, I get Antrim’s apparent surprise at finding that the spouses of U.S. presidents aren’t legally accountable to anybody in the government. This is a surprise? That there’s no Spouse Act in the Constitution?)

Thinking about magazines and journals

Posted in Media on April 12th, 2011

Years ago, writing one of my “OA independent” articles on Library Access to Scholarship in Cites & Insights, I commented that it was highly unlikely we’d ever get to 100% e-publishing for STM articles. Specifically, I said it was unlikely that Nature or Science would go away, since both have substantial non-library subscription bases.

I hadn’t actually read an issue of either one, at least not for decades…

As I noted (probably just on FF), a few weeks ago I received an invitation to join the American Association for the Advancement of Science for $99/year (a first-year discount from the usual $149/year), which includes 51 issues of Science. The invitation included a copy of the February 18, 2011 Science.

The last thing I need at this point is more magazines, particularly given my idiot tendency to actually read everything I subscribe to from cover to cover, or at least start each article. I discarded the invitation…but kept the issue.

And read it. Not the whole thing, to be sure, but nearly all of what I’d call the “magazine portion”–in this case, pages 811-875, as opposed to pages 876-931, the “journal portion” (followed by ads and advertorials).

My initial conclusion: If AAAS was really committed to the advancement of science, they would and could go to gold OA, turning the print version of Science into a weekly or fortnightly magazine (about half as thick as it currently is) and publishing all the full peer-reviewed research articles and reports online with full and immediate access. Oh, and charging a much more reasonable fee for an institutional subscription to the magazine than the current $990–like, say, $149, or perhaps twice that including immediate online access to all the features that make up the magazine portion and the ScienceNow daily news, ScienceInsider, and so on…

Why? Well, it’s a really good science magazine. It has lots of ads. It includes lots of well-edited, well-written material. I suspect it would continue to thrive as a magazine. As a journal, however, it makes more sense online, both because it covers too much territory to make sense as a browsing resource for any given scientist and because much of it’s online-only anyway.

Maybe it would need article processing fees, although it’s hard to believe they’d need to be four-digit fees. In any case, going full gold OA for the peer-reviewed material would certainly be a huge step forward in the advancement of science. And it’s always been part of the serious OA advocates (e.g., Peter Suber) that it’s legitimate to charge for added value, such as popularized versions, discussions, news, etc.–all the stuff that makes up Science‘s magazine section.

This has probably all been said before, but I really was struck by how much the issue came off as a very good science magazine with a bunch of very specialized peer-reviewed items in back of the magazine. And how likely it is that the magazine would survive and probably prosper without charging high fees (or any fees) for online access to the peer-reviewed items.

LibreOffice Notes, 1

Posted in Technology and software on April 11th, 2011

For a project I hope to be taking on (for a real publisher, none of this “do all the work and see whether anybody wants it” stuff), I downloaded OpenOffice 3.3. Then, after being alerted to its existence and thinking about it, I got rid of that and downloaded LibreOffice 3.3 instead (version 3.3.2 at the moment)–all of the open source goodness, less of Larry Ellison (directly or indirectly), and presumably a more-or-less identical code base at the moment.

The idea was not to quit using Microsoft Office, especially since I’ve upgraded to Office2010 within the last three weeks. (Which, so far, I find a little cleaner than Office2007, and I was happy with that, so… A number of advantages, especially in the new “File” page, and so far only one minor annoyance.)

The idea was to offer an alternative, for book-level preparation, for those who couldn’t afford Word. I don’t think there’s much doubt that LibreOffice/OpenOffice is a reasonable alternative for most everyday Word uses and for most everyday Excel uses–but it doesn’t take all that much to move beyond “everyday.”

Heck, I even read a book on OpenOffice–after my attempts to open or import Access databases were, shall we say, less than optimal (yes, the tables opened…but with all table-to-table links gone, with all reports gone, and, in one case, with a fully-editable database turned read-only). That wasn’t helpful as regards the Database portion: I would up converting the databases into Excel spreadsheets, substituting page-to-page links for table-to-table links. But that’s a different matter…

Some Compatibility Testing

First, I tried LibreOffice as a truly compatible system, since it now claims to handle the “…x” formats (Office2007 native) as well as the old .doc and .xls and .ppt formats.

To wit, what would happen when I opened an existing document?

Trial 1: Current Cites & Insights

Yes, it opened. Yes, the typefaces were right. But…

  • The running footer disappeared entirely.
  • The issue was now 46 pages long rather than 44. Why? Because…
  • LibreOffice Writer turned off hyphenation. If you try to turn it back on, it hyphenates everything, including headings and subheadings. In other words, it’s simply ignoring style-level control of hyphenation.
  • LibreOffice Writer also lost all of the tightening I’d done, cases where I compressed a paragraph by 0.1 or 0.2 pts to pull a final word back up to the previous line. Oh, you can do that compression, but it’s much more laborious than in Word (partly because the default up/down step for compression is an absurd 1.0 points, not 0.1 points, yielding unreadable text)…and, of course, I’d have to go through and redo all of it.
  • Bizarrely, the Heading2 and Heading3 styles now assumed that all lines but the first should be indented 1.5 picas. This yields Heading2 (centered) that, if they run past one line, look absurd: Centered but with the second line offset enough to the right that it looks as though you simply don’t know what you’re doing. Similarly for Heading3.

On the other hand, kerning was fine and it seemed to retain bolding and italics. So it was ignoring some aspects of the original document–enough that it would have taken me at least 3-4 hours to get back to what I wanted.

Trial 2: Body Type Sampler

I put this document together to determine which serif typefaces on my system came with normal Microsoft software, so I’d have a set of possible alternatives to suggest (I have a couple of hundred typefaces that I’ve acquired in other entirely legal manners)…and how well each of them worked in terms of looks, kerning, etc.

I was using my default template, a very simple one, and using primarily four styles (but with typeface overrides on most paragraphs): Title, Heading3, First (first paragraph under any heading level, using 11-point type) and Quote (indented paragraph using 10-point type).

The good news: LibreOffice Writer picked up all the typeface and style overrides (each sampler paragraph includes normal, italic and boldface), and kerning was done as well as (I’d say identically to) Word2010.

The bad news:

  • Once again, the running footers were gone.
  • While the First paragraphs were still 11 point type, the Quote paragraphs–while properly indented–were now 12 points, which is bizarre.

Trial 3: Book with very little formatting

While disContent: The Complete Collection is no longer available as a book, I still have the .docx and .pdf files. This is a simple book, with the same running page headers throughout, but it does have a few typical book complexities–e.g., page numbering starts at the first chapter, there are lots of forced page breaks,

Let’s see…

  • Hyphenation disappeared.
  • So did running headers–to be replaced, on all pages, by a running footer that was only supposed to appear on the first page of the Preface, nowhere else.
  • The table of contents was a complete mess, as some lines were justified in a manner that made them unreadable (they shouldn’t have been justified at all).
  • The book was significantly shorter–because, as it turned out, Writer had dropped the gutter margin, so that the body text was now 4.7 inches rather than 4.4 inches.

Trial 4: Early C&I, using .doc (Word2000)

Just for fun, I opened Volume 2 Issue 1, which used .doc but also used drop caps at the start of each new story.

LibreOffice Writer did considerably better with this document–retaining the running footer, handling the drop caps, but still changing formatting in ways that made the whole text run a little longer.

Overall Conclusion

LibreOffice Writer is “compatible” with Word, where “compatible” is in scare quotes–because you have no way of knowing which aspects of a document Writer will choose to ignore and which it will handle correctly.

For the book-length projects I’m thinking of, I’m reluctant to consider it as an alternative, because it looks to be fairly cumbersome at pagefitting and at handling special aspects of a book. But, of course, 99.9% of documents prepared in Word aren’t books (I made that number up, of course)…and LibreOffice may be just fine for those and especially when you’re creating new documents.

I might give it a little more trial, using it to create new things, to see whether I can figure out how to have a Style palette display, whether its templates are robust, and other things that matter to me but maybe not to others.

And then there’s LibreOffice Calc…

Just as a side note, “Writer” and “Calc” are the program names–but if you open LibreOffice itself, they’ll appear as “Text Document” and “Spreadsheet.” Not sure whether that’s an advantage or a disadvantage. Also, LibreOffice uses Office2003-style menus and toolbars (no ribbon), which some people will find to be an advantage. Oh, and because LibreOffice will produce PDF/A, it’s a little better for cases where the PDF must embed all typefaces–I still don’t see how to do that in Office2010′s PDF save-as option. (Unfortunately, I can’t get rid of an Arial stub that doesn’t appear to actually be in my documents, but still registers as an unembedded typeface.)

I tried opening two mildly complex Excel2010 spreadsheets (or Excel2007–I’m not sure I’ve turned off Compatibility in either case). One is the Liblog2009 master spreadsheet, a biggie with thousands of page-to-page links and formulas. The other is simpler but uses a Vlookup to another page as a key element.

My first impression is that Calc is doing just fine with both of these, although it took a while to open the Liblog2009 one (it felt like more than a minute, but that might not be true). All the page-to-page references seem to be OK; all the formulas seem to be fine.

Will there be a ,2?

Unsure. I might experiment some more; I might not. I probably won’t play with Impress, because I so rarely use PowerPoint that I can’t really judge.

Overall? LibreOffice is one heck of a bargain, and it may be the only Office suite most people need (especially if you do more spreadsheets than template-based documents). But as a fully compatible Word equivalent…well, maybe that’s asking a lot, but the sheer unpredictability of what would and would not import correctly bothers me. A lot.

And if open source advocates say, “But that’s not it’s primary purpose!”…I’d agree. Note the first two sentences of the previous paragraph.

Mystery Collection Disc 23

Posted in Movies and TV on April 11th, 2011

The Great Flamarian, 1945, b&w. Anthony Mann (dir.), Erich von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes, Dan Duryea, Steve Barclay. 1:18.

We begin in a theater in Mexico City (1936), where an odd act with a guy swirling a cloth is ending and one with a clown is beginning. Suddenly, shots ring out… The woman in a husband-and-wife team is dead, the husband’s the obvious suspect, but we’ve seen somebody climbing up into the rafters and hiding. We soon find that the woman was strangled, not shot—but the husband’s still the obvious suspect because, you know, he’s the husband. It doesn’t help that the wife apparently had eyes (and whatever) for others within the troupe.

As the police leave and the clown closes down the theater, we hear a thump, as the guy in the rafters falls to the stage, almost but not quite dead—he was the recipient of the shots. He tells the clown that he’ll be dead by the time the police arrive and tells his tale: The rest of the movie, told as flashback. The guy (von Stroheim) is The Great Flamarian, a remarkable trick-shot artist with a little act built on him catching his (stage) wife with her (stage) lover. The woman (Mary Beth Hughes) is a gold-digger out for herself. Her husband at the time (and lover in the act), Dan Duryea, is increasingly a drunk but knows she was a petty crook until they got married.

We have a tale of conniving, an innocent man who lives only for his work, and the results you’d expect—death and betrayal. It’s quite a story, and although it’s short of greatness, it’s good noir, well-acted and done well enough to get $1.75.

Parole, Inc., 1948, b&w. Alfred Zeider (dir.), Michael O’Shea, Turban Bey, Evelyn Ankers, Virginia Lee, Charles Bradstreet, Lyle Talbot. 1:11.

Based on the opening title, this is propaganda for tough parole laws and boards, with the implication that parole boards are commonly releasing dangerous criminals. The actual film is sort of a potboiler, with a federal agent going undercover to prove that one state’s parole board is being bribed to let people out. Good cast, but to me, the whole thing felt a little forced—and, frankly, I don’t believe a real undercover agent in this situation would tell the three men setting him up for the sting what his cover name was going to be, since he’d have no way of being sure one of them wasn’t corrupted and it’s information they don’t need.

Good cast, mixed acting. Overall, OK, but it didn’t quite ring true for me. And, of course, there’s no real mystery, since the movie’s all flashbacks while the injured agent’s dictating his report from a hospital bed—where if things had really gone bad, he wouldn’t be dictating any report $1.00.

Baby Face Morgan, 1942, b&w. Arthur Dreifuss (dir.), Richard Cromwell, Mary Carlisle, Robert Armstrong, Chick Chandler, Warren Hymer. 1:03 [0:59]

We open with telegrams being delivered to cheap grifters in four different areas—and, separately, a cute scene with a soda jerk/waiter and his somewhat more worldly cousin and the cousin’s girlfriend (a remarkably vapid girl who’s never heard from again). Then the plots converge: The telegrams are bringing the grifters back to re-form the mob that had once ruled Central City with a protection racket, back before their boss, Big Mike Morgan, was killed. One smart guy’s decided to rebuild the racket, using Big Mike’s son as a front (without his knowledge). First, though, he wants to check out the son—who turns out to be the soda jerk who, thanks to an overheard and wildly misinterpreted phone conversation (his boss’s initials are DA, he dropped off some pineapples—which the mobsters assumed to be grenades—at the sheriff’s office, and he picked up bill payments from some customers), is assumed to be a hardass criminal and immediately nicknamed Baby Face Morgan (he does indeed have a baby face), although he doesn’t know that.

That’s the start of what could be film noir but is, in fact, a nicely done little comedy—as the son & cousin, set up as heads of the shell Acme Protection Agency, get bored doing nothing (they have no idea what’s actually going on) and start selling insurance to local business owners, beginning with one cute young woman (a trucking company owner) who’s resisting the racketeers. The racketeers blow up one of her trucks; the Acme Protection Agency immediately writes a check to cover it—that check, unknown to them, being funded by the protection money—and we’re off. Rabbits play a role as well. The close is a little improbable, but it’s an interesting blend of noir and comedy. Despite its short length, I’ll give it $1.25.

The Woman Condemned, 1934, b&w. Dorothy Davenport (dir.—credited as “Mrs. Wallace Reid” in the film itself), Claudia Dell, Lola Lane, Richard Hemingway, Jason Robards (Sr.), Paul Ellis, Douglas Congrove, Mischa Auer. 1:06 [1:01]

I’m not sure what to make of this one—part noir mystery, part romantic comedy, part farce (I guess), and for most of its length, a short movie that seems very slow, as though it was written as a 15-minute sketch and expanded to a one-hour movie.

The plot involves a woman singer who takes a “vacation,” tells her boss & would-be fiancée that she doesn’t know when she’ll be back, and tells her maid to tell everyone she doesn’t know where she is. There’s a phone conversation with a mysterious and evil-looking man who points out that, while something is expensive, she wants to be free to live her life—and he doesn’t take checks. (A contract murder?) There’s a female detective from out of town, hired by the boss to find out what’s going on—a detective with a truly lousy skill at being unnoticed. And there’s a wisenheimer reporter (or something) who hangs around night court and, thanks to an even more wisenheimer judge, winds up married to this detective he’s never met before. Oh, and identical twins are crucial to the plot.

That’s just the start of a complex plot; there is an actual murder, which if this is intended as a comedy makes it a bit less amusing. Everything gets resolved, more or less, in a final eight minutes that almost makes up for the lethargic pace of the rest of the movie. All in all, though, it felt underdone and confused. Charitably, $0.75.


Posted in Stuff on April 8th, 2011

So far, starting out to be a better day than yesterday–and this is just a little miscellaneous post, one that could go on FriendFeed.

  • Yesterday got even stranger on multiple counts, as I was inclined to say “What the hail?” in the early evening. That’s right: Hail, and a significant amount of it, in Livermore, in the second week of April, after a sunny morning and afternoon. (Sunny enough that we got at least 15kWh photovoltaic generation–and we have yet to hit 16kWh per day this year, although Wednesday was short by only 30 watt-hours.) Apparently throughout much of the Bay Area, and enough to cause damage in other places (not here). This morning? Sunny, with just a few puffy little clouds.
  • Checking Lulu (as I do once a day), I see that four books were purchased yesterday–the most in one day in a very long time. Including, for the first time in months, two of the C&I annuals (2009 & 2010). Not sure if it’s one buyer or several, but I’m grateful. (Financially, more grateful for the two C&I annuals than for the others–Open Access and Libraries is priced to return almost nothing to me, intentionally, and But Still They Blog‘s current price doesn’t yield all that much return. But financials aren’t everything.)
  • So far, I haven’t caught any more flack for various things.
  • Our recently-dental-worked cat is sleeping again and seems to be doing fine.

So, at least things are starting out better.

If you’re a FF person: No, I’m not boycotting FF. I’m just being, well, a little more cautious as to what conversations I choose to engage in and how honest I am in those conversations. That probably won’t last for long.

Oh, and responses so far re a possible F2F@NOLA4C&IPPL? (Wow. I wouldn’t have imagined I could do something quite that ugly.) So far, none. It’s early.

By the way: If you’re interested in some of my books (including most or all of the C&I annuals) but don’t want to set up a Lulu account–most or all of them are also available on Amazon, typically at the same price.

What a day this has been…

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 7th, 2011

Not, unfortunately, in the mode of the song from Brigadoon

I issued the new C&I today. Badly, getting some links wrong and with one readily-fixable typo in the issue’s banner. Maybe I should have waited until tomorrow (for various reasons, I got very little sleep last night–partly a cat who’d just had dental work done, partly that stupid brainteaser, partly…); I’m not sure it would have made much difference.

Otherwise, the fun’s all been on FriendFeed, and what fun it has been.

There’s a temptation to beat a strategic retreat…for a few days or for good. That’s unlikely, although a timeout for a few hours might happen (and I think some smarter people, like Jenica, have the right idea in just withdrawing for a few hours at times. I am not in any way being ironic or nasty in calling Jenica “smarter people”).

There’s also the temptation to change a section in this post, the one about “Not the swan song.” Maybe it should be. Probably not.

On the other hand, I did get a generous donation, so that the C&I PayPal total for the year is now in the three digits…and Michael Golrick’s offered to find a location if I actually wanted to have a C&I F2F in NOLA. (In English: If I wanted to have a get-together of people who care about Cites & Insights during the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.)

So, trying to pull a silver lining out of what’s turning into a pretty cloudy day, I’d say this:

  • A little get-together might be fun, if at least (say) five of you think it’s worth doing. No gifts, not even buying me drinks, no program, just a little get-together.
  • If so, when? The limits are Friday late morning through Sunday evening.
  • Maybe I should just piggyback on the LITA Happy Hour (location and time not yet announced, but it’s always late Friday afternoon/early Friday evening), in the manner that LSW sort of piggybacked on that event at a previous conference…

Comments or email will help in this regard. Piling on not encouraged.

Small oops

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 7th, 2011

If you’re fast on the draw and already attempted to open the new C&I, you may have noted that two of the three links are to volume 5 issue 11 rather than volume 11 issue 5…and, for that matter, that the current issue (v. 11 issue 5) said “May 2010″ in the banner rather than “May 2011.”

The links have now been fixed in the post and the date has been fixed in the banner of the issue. Thanks to DJF for the head’s-up.

Cites & Insights 11:5 (May 2011) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 7th, 2011

Cites & Insights 11:5 (May 2011) is now available for downloading at

The 44-page issue is PDF as usual, and consists of 1.5 essays. Each essay (or portion) is also available as an HTML separate; click on the essay titles. If this seems like an all-ebook issue, that’s not intentional.

This issue includes:

Perspective: Writing about Reading (continued) pp. 1-16

This essay completes Perspective: Writing about Reading from the April 2011 C&I, with sections on how ebooks will (if you believe the authors) change reading and writing; “all singing! all dancing”–in which the only future for books is as multimedia extravaganzas; and writing about writing. It’s snarkier than the first portion, even though it’s been heavily desnarked.

The Zeitgeist: 26 is Not the Issue pp. 16-44

This abecedary goes from Absurd licenses to… Well, no, the topic is the only one truly suitable for the Zeitgeist label at the moment–HarperCollins, pay-per-view in some form, deals with the devil and what you lose when ownership turns to licenses.

If this one seems long, I’ll note two things:

  1. It’s actually the shortest of this year’s major essays–but it’s all appearing at once, instead of being split over two issues.
  2. I was drawing from some 100 source documents, and in a few cases those really needed to be quoted in full. Most cite-and-comment essays average around 500 words per cited source; this one averages fewer than 250 words per cited source. (Yes, I skipped some of the original 100…)

Enjoy! Or, you know, don’t.


Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Posted in Stuff on April 7th, 2011

I lost a lot of sleep last night reconsidering scenarios and situations, to no good end.

And, eventually, found myself agreeing that–and this is the only way I can put it without getting a sudden headache:

In the Monty Hall puzzle, as discussed in this post (see below “Original Post”), in two-thirds of all possible scenarios, the contestant will gain by switching doors when the host makes the offer.

In other words, the post itself is wrong–which means I was wrong. Period.

The whole situation still gives me a headache. I’m not willing to use the wording that “the remaining door you didn’t choose has a 2/3 probability of being the right door”–that makes me want to scream. If a second contestant shows up, sees the two doors and is told which door the original contestant chose, I’d still assert that the second contestant is equally likely to win by choosing either door.

But I’m wrong as to the facts for the original contestant. Hell, I’ve been wrong before.

Note: I wrote this as the very first thing I did on my computer this morning–before reading two additional comments. Now, after pasting this same text into the original post, I’ll go read the comments and add another one, admitting that Seth (and others) were right and I was wrong.

And then maybe go take some aspirin.

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