Archive for August, 2012

Is Netflix Shoving Us to Stream? Apparently not

Monday, August 20th, 2012

UPDATE: Maybe it is just a run of odd luck. It does seem odd that Smallville Season 4 Disc 4 suddenly becomes unavailable, that Stargate Season 4 Disc 1 is suddenly hard to get, and that at least one or two other old, presumably not-much-in-demand others won’t ship…but they are, finally, shipping us a TV DVD. I’m still a little suspicious (given Netflix’ past history of manipulating queues), but…

Second update: Netflix has gone out of their way to provide Stargate SG-1 Season 4 Disc 1. We’re happy.

Original post:

Maybe it’s just a run of odd luck on our part, but I wonder…

We have a disc-only subscription to Netflix, because our DSL–while fast enough for all other purposes–isn’t fast enough to deliver a streaming Netflix picture that we consider watchable on our HDTV.

We have a three-disc subscription because we watch old TV series on disc. Otherwise, a single-disc subscription would be jes’ fine: we watch one movie a week.

Until last week, Netflix was working the way I’d expect: you send back a disc, you get the next disc in your queue…almost always. (We don’t pop the latest movie releases up to the top of our queue.)

And then…

We sent back a TV disc, with another TV disc at the top of our queue (I pop the next one up when one’s finished). We didn’t get the next disc; instead, we got another movie.

We sent back the movie, with two TV discs at the top of our queue. We got another movie…and both TV discs suddenly said “Very long wait.”

We moved those discs down the queue and another, entirely different, TV disc to the top of the queue. And completed the only TV disc we had on hand, and sent it back.

And got another movie.

I’ve now put three TV discs, none of them showing a wait, on top of our queue. Two discs are on the way back to Netflix.

If we get more movies, frankly, I’m gonna get suspicious. Suspicious that Netflix is deliberately ignoring TV discs in an effort to force us to use streaming for TV and pay the extra $8. (Which would require at least an extra $30-$50/month to get adequate bandwidth.)

Which would also backfire, since we’d drop back to a single-movie (Blu-ray) subscription, and the differential is a heck of a lot more than $8.

I trust it’s just some odd sequence of accidents. But the fact that Netflix has, over the years, always handled the queue properly (and we’re very early subscribers), does make me, well, a little suspicious.

Is this happening to anybody else? Or are we just oddballs? (OK, maybe the fact that we don’t pay a fortune to have Really Broad Broadband and actually watch TV series on discs makes us oddballs…)

The X for X: How to succeed without facts

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

I was going to write this brief comment about a specific book I borrowed from the library–and, after reading it, wondered why it was in the 620s rather than the 0-something “UFO and similar stuff” class. (Hey, I’m no Dewey expert. I find it amusing that librarianship is right next to UFOs.)

But I’m not going to name it after seeing some of the Amazon reviews. The true believers might choose to hound me.

What I found interesting was the methodology–whether intentional or not–used to get from, um, sketchy “facts” to assured conclusions.

  1. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” If enough people are asserting something, it must be true! (The birther theme song…)
  2. “If there’s not much smoke, it’s being suppressed.” When it turns out that a rather small number of people are asserting something, and most people with appropriate backgrounds are dismissing it as nonsense, there must be Some Important Group Silencing People.
  3. “You can tell all about a person from two words in a transcript.” This one’s fairly specific, but the general idea is there–all it takes is a couple of words (in this case, “I see”) to allow a really good “nonfiction” author to tell us somebody is clearly honest and well-informed, or whatever.
  4. “If a person seems likable, he or she must be correct.” There are no crazies with good social skills.
  5. “Observe the progression: Anecdata becomes Possible truth becomes Probable truth becomes Known facts.” This takes place over several chapters of a book…and sometimes the anecdata is actually lack of anecdata because, well, see #2.
  6. “Where there’s smoke there must be fire.” This one’s important enough to repeat. Over and over.
  7. “If your pet theory is associated with the lunatic fringe, it’s because The Powers That Be are putting out disinformation.”
  8. “Scientific laws are just theories, and mostly wrong.” This one has to be kept lowkey, but it’s always there.
  9. A respectable journalist in one field is qualified to make scientific and political judgments in all other fields.
  10. And, in the end, “where there’s smoke there must be fire.” Rinse and repeat.

There are more that are somewhat specific to this case….and to some similar cases. I won’t go into them.

But, of course, face The Facts: My brother worked for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for several decades, which means that my own security-clearance possibility was investigated, which means I’m probably Part Of The Powers That Be. So this is just more disinformation standing in the way of The Truth. Who knows? Maybe all of Livermore is affected by mind-altering drugs, probably spread through the water by Zone 7, our water supplier (which, of course, is a pseudonym for Area 51).

Cites & Insights September 2012 (12:8) Available

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The September 2012 Cites & Insights (12:8) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 36 pages long. The single-column 6×9 version, designed for online reading, is 67 pages long.

The issue includes these articles (available as HTML separates from or via the article name links):

    Public Library Closures: 2010 Update  (pp. 1-2)

A brief look at reported library closures in the FY2010 IMLS tables, updating previous Public Library Closure articles.

   Thinking About Blogging, Part 1 (pp. 2-34)

Catching up on a few interesting blogging-related items. (Part 2, next issue, focuses on libraries, liblogs and starting, stopping and pausing. Part 1 focuses on issues such as names, comments, science blogging, Brilliant Statements–or, if you prefer, Bewildering Stuff, gengen, technology and the philosophy of blogging, and the power of blogging. Note that this essay prints out as roughly 57 pages in HTML form; if you want it printed, save paper and download the whole issue.

The CD-ROM Project (pp. 34-36)

OK, so it’s been a while… The theme: Music music music. four music-related CD-ROMs (or groups of CD-ROMs).

Two quick book notes

Monday, August 6th, 2012
  1. I’ve removed Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four from general availability on Lulu, since I’m working on the revised version (using FY2010 data) and can already see that it’s vastly more useful (and more interesting).
  2. There’s another summer sale at Lulu: You can buy any of my other books (including The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing hardcover edition) for 20% off. Just use the coupon code ASTOUND when completing your order. That’s good through Friday, August 10. (The easiest way to find all of my Lulu books, including the one just mentioned: Go to and search for Walt Crawford.)

Mystery Collection Disc 32

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Hold That Woman, 1940, b&w. Sam Newfield (dir.), James Dunn, Frances Gifford, George Douglas, Rita La Roy, Martin Spellman, Eddie Fetherston. 1:07 [1:04]

This fast-moving comedy (not much mystery, although there’s plenty of crime) is set in an LA where apparently nobody actually pays for anything and people move every few days to avoid being held accountable, thus keeping an army of skip tracers employed: People who go out to either get some money from the skipper or retrieve the item.

Skip-Tracers Ltd. has a star tracer—and another guy who doesn’t do so well (and who deeply resents the fair-haired boy but never says why). He’s told that he has 30 days to ship up or ship out, and given to easy assignments to do before his date that evening: A fur coat and a radio. Next thing we see, he’s picking up his date—the beautiful daughter of a cop—and hands her this great new coat to wear for the evening. Oh, and they have to stop on the way to the nightclub to pick up that radio…and when he tries to do that, he gets arrested.

Anyway, one thing leads to another, with repossessions and “un-repossessions” all over the place, a jewel robbery with an obvious suspect (who’s obviously guilty: Not much mystery here), a wealthy Hollywood starlet with an odd accent and a tendency to love whoever’s handy…and this skip tracer who has impulse problems. As with: When you’re about to get fired and have $600 to your name, what’s more reasonable than to propose on the spot, get married, rent a house and spend the rest of your cash on a houseload of furniture. (Which turns out to be…you guessed it.)

Lots of action, a fair amount of fun, reasonably well played. Silly, but (or “Silly, and”) I’ll give it $1.00.

Midnight Limited, 1940, b&w. Howard Bretherton (dir.), John King, Marjorie Reynolds, George Cleveland, Edward Keane, Monte Collins, L Stanford Jolley. 1:02.

The night train from New York to Montreal is the setting for a series of robberies—always in Car 1 (next to the baggage car), always the same MO. In the first one, a young woman—not the intended victim—has crucial papers stolen because the robber wants to intimidate her. She needs the papers and keeps bugging the railroad detectives until one of them takes a fancy to the case (and to her).

That’s the basic plot, and as you’d expect it winds up with the couple getting married, with a fair amount of plot in between. (The plot doesn’t always make sense, but…) The problem I had with this fairly typical low-budget B mystery is the dialog and acting of the head detective and the hero: They both sounded like they were reading from a dictionary, and the dialog seemed wholly artificial. That clumsiness reduces an otherwise typical buck-a-pop hour-long B to $0.75.

Murder At Dawn, 1932, b&w. Richard Thorpe (dir.), Jack Mulhall, Josephine Dunn, Eddie Boland, Marjorie Beebe, Martha Mattox, Mischa Auer, Phillips Smalley, Crauford Kent, Frank Ball. 1:02 [0:51]

There is a plot, to be sure. A young couple about to get married head upstate to her father’s mysterious lodge/laboratory, accompanied by another married couple (the husband a cheerful alcoholic). They arrive at some remote train station where the only conveyance is the source of some sad ethnic humor…and eventually at the house (which the driver didn’t want to take them to). Meanwhile, the father’s just completed his invention, a solar-powered source of unlimited energy! which works equally well under artificial lighting! and will revolutionize the world! According to one review, the lab equipment (with lots of sparks and the like) was the same used in the original Frankenstein.

From there we get lots of secret passages, lowkey-spooky housekeeper, mysterious characters of all sorts, the drunken bumbling and childish screaming of the male friend, one murder, at least one assumed murder and some varied number of unknown folks stalking other unknown folks. I guess it all ends well, but it’s so incoherent that it’s hard to tell. Apparently 11 minutes of an already-short flick are missing; it’s possible (but unlikely) that it would be more coherent if it was complete. Mostly this is just dumb, in a mediocre print. Charitably, $0.75.

Murder at Glen Athol, 1936, b&w. Frank R. Strayer (dir.), John Miljan, Irene Ware, Iris Adrian, Noel Madison, Oscar Apfel, Barry Norton, Harry Holman, Betty Blythe. 1:04 [1:07]

The suave detective on holiday (at a wealthy friend’s home, the friend conveniently gone), trying to write a book while his former-prizefighter pal (they’ve saved each other’s life) is vacuuming, butling, and generally interfering. The neighbors with complicated family stuff—including a golddigger who’s divorced one person for a fat settlement, driven a husband into the asylum, and now wants to get rid of him and marry his brother…and who comes on to the detective, but also has a beautiful and not quite so bizarre friend. Gangsters (I guess) also come into the play—partly because the slut/golddigger/party girl is blackmailing one of them.

What follows: Lots’o’plot but remarkably little real motion, to the point that I may have nodded off once or twice. Three murders (well, five deaths…) It all winds up with the detective marrying the beautiful friend after a (courtship? a few conversations) lasting perhaps two or three days, and justice sort-of done.

Somehow, this one just didn’t work. I didn’t care about the mystery, I didn’t care about the detective, the friend, the victims, anybody. Charitably, $0.75.

Liblog list now available

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

As part of a blogging roundup that will appear in the September and October issues of Cites & Insights–but actually as a separate article in the October issue–I checked the status of all the liblogs in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, the final book in the Liblog Landscape series and the one with the most comprehensive list of English-language liblogs (more than 1,300 of them).

While the article won’t appear for a few weeks, one natural byproduct of the status-checking is a set of liblog names and URLs. It didn’t take much work to turn that list into a bunch of HTML (using Excel and Word editing tools), and it only took a couple of hours to turn that bunch of HTML into a Web page with letter headings and all.

That page is now available–and you’ll find it at “Liblogs” in the set of “Places” on the right sidebar. (It’s at

I actually did a little more than just prepare One Big List of Links. The page has two lists–one of blogs with at least one post in the past year (and with boldface for blogs with at least 84 months or seven years of posts), and another of blogs that have either explicitly ceased (marked in italics) or are moribund (have gone more than a year without a post.

What’s not there: the 104 (I think) blogs that have either disappeared or been reused for something entirely different.

I’m sure there are errors, but I don’t think there are many of them. Note that the page does not include liblogs that began after June 2010.