Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

The new Mikado

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Yesterday, we saw the closing performance of the Lamplighters’ production of The New Mikado: Una Commedia Musicale! at Livermore’s first-rate Bankhead Theater.

It was excellent.

Set in Tirmisu, a sweet little town near Renaissance Milan (and ruled by Milan’s emperor, Il Ducato, who aims to make the punishment fit the crime), it tells the complicated story of Niccolu, son of Il Ducato but disguised as a wandering minstrel (or second trombone in Tirmisu’s municipal band), Amiam, his beloved, and how love eventually conquers…nah, you can’t really recount the plot.

What? Renaissance Milan?

Yep. I’m sure you can find material on why the Lamplighters staged this production. (We saw their production of The Mikado a few years back. It was also excellent.) I won’t dwell on that. I’ll just say the commedia dell’arte-style production (including street entertainers before the curtain and actors reacting to scenery changes involving trees being lifted out of or restored into the scene) was absolutely first-rate. Mason Gates was especially good, but others–including F. Lawrence Ewing as Coco–weren’t far behind.

Sigh. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, the Lamplighters won’t visit Livermore for the rest of the 2016-2017 season.


How terribly strange…

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

I can only reasonably use the post title above for one more month, so this is as good a time as any. If you don’t get the reference, you may not be a S&G fan.

Semi-appropriate sidebar 1: For Paul Simon, it was more than four years ago.

The more significant item this year: the Fourth Official Sign of Growing Old in the U.S.:

  1. More than 20 years ago: AARP eligibility.
  2. More than five years ago: Medicare eligibility.
  3. More than four years ago: full Social Security eligibility.
  4. This year: Turning seventy-and-a-half.

If you don’t get that fourth one, you’re either much younger or don’t have a 401(k) or 403(b): this is when the government says “if you don’t take it, we will”–not unreasonably.

Semi-appropriate sidebar 2: For Sir Elton Hercules John (or Reginald Kenneth Dwight), it was nine years ago, and my best guess is that John has changed his mind.

This is the year I’ve decided “old” isn’t such a terrible word for me. Maybe because a couple of things have me feeling oldish…

Semi-appropriate sidebar 3: For Sir James Paul McCartney, it came twelve years ago, but his has always been more upbeat. He does not apparently have grandchildren, whether Vera, Chuck, Dave or otherwise–but he can probably afford to rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight. (Right around $270/night, AFAICT.) [No, that’s not the canonical version; UMG has done a pretty good job of locking out official versions.]

So what’s got me feeling old? Apart from waiting for forms to fill out (hey, Lincoln!) and that sort of thing? Well…

  1. This is the year I had my first surgery lasting more than 30 seconds or so, having a benign nerve sheath tumor (a Schwannoma) removed from my right forearm…and had the unexpected side effect of, so far at least (4.5 months later), a partly dysfunctional right hand. (Floppy fingers is one term; I have nothing but good words for the physical therapists at ValleyCare Livermore, and am getting good at six-finger typing. I do use chopsticks like a clumsy eight-year-old, though…) Yes, I know I’m damn lucky to have gone 70 years with no significant surgeries. And that I’m ambidextrous enough that this mild inability is just that.
  2. This is the year that, after some nudging, I clarified where I stand on speaking travel, given my health, my wife’s health, our cats’ health and other issues: Starting with “unlikely” and clarified to “Simply not doing it.”
  3. Not sure if this is a sign of age, but I’ve been blocking a lot more people on FB–mostly friends of “friends,” and almost always for misogynistic, bigoted, racist, stupid attitudes or support of such attitudes.

On the other hand…

  1. This is the year I completed a full in-depth analysis of article publishing by Gold OA journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, with sponsorship from SPARC. Considerably more than 4,000 copies of the book-length results have been downloaded–and, unfortunately, very few copies of the Subject and Country supplements.
  2. It’s now clear that $6 is a prohibitive price for an easier-to-use paperback copy of that same report. I’d say the ratio of PDF to paperback (excluding my own copy) is more than 4,000 to 1, but it’s actually infinity.
  3. I’m still married to my best friend, we’re still in the nicest house we’ve ever owned, and in a city we’ve come to like even better–this odd mix of fifty-odd wineries, cattlemen (still a few) and scientists (still thousands).

I said there was no deeper significance. I don’t find it terribly strange, but then I spend more time on long (4-5 mile weekly) walks with friends and short (1.3 mile daily) walks with my wife than I do sitting on park benches.


Recovery: a short, slow post

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Since I’ve left notes elsewhere saying I’m mostly offline for the next [1:n] days [where n is indeterminate], I thought a little more detail might be in order:

  • The surgery: removing a Schwannoma (a benign nerve sheath tumor) from my right forearm–a visible bump perhaps 1.2″ long and 1.3″(?) high, determined to be benign by a January needle biopsy-which also irritated the lump and caused it to grow.
  • When? Tuesday, March 29, around 3:30 pm Stanford Hospital, Dr. David G. Mohler (who did a great job).
  • Pain? Not bad: of the allowed 2-pills-each-6-hours allowed, I needed 1 pill Tuesday afternoon, 1 at bedtime, 1 Wednesday a,m.(10 hrs later) and, since then 1/2 pill every eight hours, Good chance I’ll stop altogether tomorrow. (OTOH, my metabolism appears to be tough on drugs: the whole-arm nerve block, intended to last 8-12 hours, lasted about 3.5 hours. General anesthesia not wanted or needed,)
  • Problems? Maybe just reality: after trauma to the tendons and muscles and nerves in the arm, my fingers aren’t back to normal. (But gripping, etc. is pretty much OK.)

So I mostly need to let my right arm rest until the swelling goes down. I’ve seen how hard it is to work online without instinctively using both hands. So I’m mostly staying off. Two fingers are starting to come back to semi-normal; the rest could take a day, or three, or a week.

Otherwise? There’s leeway enough in The Big Project; I’m feeling good enough that I went for the daily walk around the 1,3-mile block with my wife today.

Thanks for the expressions of concern

In partial defense of Jeffrey Beall

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Not in defense of his lists, which I regard as a bad idea in theory and fatally flawed in practice, for reasons I’ve documented (most recently here but elsewhere over time).

But…I’ve seen some stuff on another blog lately that bothers me.

  • I do not for a minute believe that Jeffrey Beall wrote the supposed email I’ve seen that suggests a listed publisher would be re-evaluated for $5,000. That email was written using English-as-a-third-language grammar; it’s just not plausible as coming from Beall.
  • I truly dislike the notion that a doctorate is the minimum qualification for scholarship. But then, I would, wouldn’t I (since my pinnacle of academic achievement is a BA and a handful of credits toward an MA).
  • I also dislike the notion that state colleges are somehow disreputable. My own degree comes from a state institution, and I’ll match its credentials with anybody.

The same blog had an interesting fisking of one of Beall’s sillier anti-OA papers. I had tagged it toward a future Cites & Insights essay on access and ethics. But after seeing this other stuff…I won’t link to or source from this particular blog.  Heck, I’ve been the subject of Beall’s ad hominem attacks; doesn’t mean I have to support that sort of thing.

Not quite gone: a short catchall post

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Just thought I’d drop a line to say why I’m posting even less than usual, and why that’s likely to continue for a few weeks months…

You can guess the major reason: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2014.

I’m trying to do the scan as carefully as possible, and include as many DOAJ-listed journals as possible.

Oh, that’s not all I do: I rarely do any of it after supper, there’s still (some) TV, I’m still reading roughly a book a week and lots of magazines, there’s still the Wednesday hike (or long walk) and the daily 1.3-mile walk around the block. But it takes up a fair amount of time.

Optimistic schedule

If all goes well, I hope to complete the first pass sometime in mid-March. I won’t start the second pass (revisiting a couple of thousand journals where revisits are required or advisable) until early April.

In between, I hope to put together some sort of Cites & Insights issue.

But there’s also a medical situation in late March that could have me out of commission (at least where typing’s concerned) for anywhere from a day or two to several weeks; the day or two is more likely, but you never know. (Benign Schwannoma on the forearm, if you must know: “benign” being the key word.)

Come April, there’s the rescan–a lot fewer journals, but each one will take significantly more time. At least I hope many of them do: part of the revisit is all journals that were unreachable or unworkable or raised malware flags, and I hope a fair number of those don’t have the same exclusionary conditions.

(So far, the only discouraging part of this new project is that too damn many OA journals–not very many in the overall scheme of things, but still too damn many–cause Malwarebytes or McAfee Site Advisor or Windows Defender or, in one case MS Office to say “do you really want to go there?” I  believe that uncontrolled ad sites make up a lot of the problem, but in any case it is simply not acceptable for any journal site to have code that triggers malware warnings. Nor will I ignore the warnings. If I had a dedicated Chromebook, I suppose I could–but that wouldn’t be helpful for others. And yes, I did get a serious bit of malware last time around, and it became clear that at least one other journal was trying to install the same code; that’s why I use Malwarebytes these days.)

I’m guessing I’ll need to take more breaks during the rescan, so there may be more blog posts and activity at Cites & Insights. Then, of course, comes the analysis and writeup… after which I may have a good deal more time. Or not.

Not complaining; I love this. It’s a little triumph each time I can fully analyze a journal I’d left out before, even if it means opening up a dozen PDFs for each of the past five years. At least now I have real broadband, so that’s feasible if annoying. (“Real broadband” as in Comcast, guaranteed 25mbps, actual 30mbps–as opposed to “Uverse” 1.5mbps but dropping entirely once or twice or more a day.)

Still around, still mildly active in various parts of the LSW diaspora, but mostly doing research. And enjoying it.

Something positive for the holidays: A shout-out to OfficeDepot/OfficeMax

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

As a few of you on LSW Slack may know, we (well, my wife, but I’m spending my time helping her cope with it) have been having more than our share of ComputerWoes this holiday:

  • Her 4-year-old Toshiba Satellite, which she was a couple of months away from replacing, suddenly died when she tried to wake it up from sleep mode.
  • She wants to stick with a 17″ screen (this is her *only* computer) and there aren’t a lot of good choices from brands we semi-trust. A clearance Toshiba model was sold out at our local OfficeMax. We went to Fry’s; they had a more expensive Toshiba that seemed pretty nice. We bought it (and Office 2016–and now realize we probably should have gone for the multiuser Office 365 subscription instead, but that’s a different story).
  • First good OD/OM news: Clark, the computer tech at our local OfficeMax was able to recover all the data and bookmarks from the broken Toshiba’s hard disk for a very fair price ($50; since OD/OM also had a great sale on 32GB USB 3.0 flash drives from the brand we both prefer, Sandisk–$9.99, which really is a great price, I purchased a couple of them and gave the tech one to use for the data).
  • But…two days later–day before yesterday–the new Toshiba wouldn’t boot up–power light, wifi light, nothing else. This is after she’d pretty much restored and loaded everything, and was starting to get stuff done again.
  • Took it back to Fry’s. They were actually willing to do a “brain transplant”–swap the hard disk into another Toshiba of the same model–but, tada, they’d run out of that Toshiba model. We could drive a long way to another store or… The only other suitable 17″ notebook was a Dell Inspiron: smaller hard disk, less RAM, but an Intel i3 CPU rather than an AMD; same price. So…we made the exchange.
  • ANYWAY: The other OfficeDepot/OfficeMax thing that feels like a seasonal miracle, even though I didn’t need it: Seeing just how much faster USB 3.0 is (and both of our machines–I have an 8-month-old Toshiba Satellite, also a 17″ screen, replacing a 7-year-old Gateway notebook that’s still operational but overheating–now have USB 3.0 ports), we both think we’d like to use USB 3.0 flash drives for backup and have extras. The store was out of the sale units (the sale ends Sunday), but what the heck, if I purchased four of them from (for $39.96 plus tax), they’d throw in free delivery.
  • I ordered the flash drives yesterday afternoon, around 3 p.m. Figured they’d arrive midweek next week, the usual 3-5 business days. That’s fine: we don’t need them yet.
  • Half an hour ago–20 hours after I ordered the flash drives with free delivery and no rush anything–there was a knock on the door and a delivery person handed me the box. Which apparently shipped last night at 7:30 p.m. from a Fremont OD warehouse.

A long and odd story, but the shoutout here is: Really? 20-hour FREE delivery when I didn’t even request it? I don’t expect it to happen again, but hey, good for OfficeDepot/OfficeMax

(I’d always been an OD shopper–Mountain View has a big and very good OD store that was in walking distance of our old house–but it’s OfficeMax in Livermore, and since they’re both really OfficeDepot now, we’ll manage. And their tech support person, Clark, really is great. He looked at my 7-yr-old Gateway to see whether it was plausible to replace the noisy fan and keep it as a backup computer. He concluded that the fan was a symptom of overheating, showed me the whole situation, said probably not worth trying to fix for such an old machine…and didn’t charge anything. Now, if only they had the Toshiba 17″ notebooks in stock…)

So: the closest to a Christmas present we’re likely to get (our family doesn’t do presents for adults, a wise decision made decades ago), and always good to deal with user-friendly companies.

And to all…happy holidays, whichever you do or don’t celebrate.


Why I’m not joining AAAS (a silly little post)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Once in a while–maybe twice a year, and only since we moved to Livermore–I get a shrink-wrapped copy of Science that’s perhaps a month old, with an envelope enclosed inviting me to join AAAS for the super-low introductory price of $99. (Note that “join AAAS” is pretty much synonymous with “subscribe to Science,” and the discount seems to be honoring my nonexistent status as a scientist.)

Wonder why this has only happened since we moved to Livermore? I’m sure it has nothing to do with being in a small city of 85,000 people that includes two major labs–Lawrence Livermore and Sandia–employing more than 10,000 scientists and support staff between them. Maybe it’s purely coincidental.

Anyway, it happened again this week. After looking at the offer, I recycled it…and kept the magazine to read. (You can call Science a journal if you wish; to me, it comes off as a serious science-oriented magazine that happens to include a few peer-reviewed papers.)

I recycle the offers for two reasons:

  • It offends me that I’m offered Science for $99, with a renewal price that wouldn’t be higher than $153 (and probably lower), while if my library wants to subscribe to the print edition, it will cost them $1,282. I don’t know of very many magazines with the effrontery to charge a library nearly nine times as much for a print magazine as they charge an individual, although for scholarly journals that may be typical. Or not.
  • The less serious reason: I love magazines. I love books. I love some TV and movies. I love doing stuff on the computer. If I took Science with its weekly schedule and fairly meaty content, I’d have to stop taking at least half of the other magazines I read or give up on books altogether. Not gonna happen. (If anyone wonders why I don’t subscribe to The New Yorker, just reread this bullet. Also one reason I didn’t renew The Economist, although in that case going from free-for-airline miles to $100 or so made the decision easy.)

No deeper message. Just a quick note.


Sometimes there is a little progress

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Sometimes. Shonda Rhimes (who must be the most powerful black woman in TV today, I’d guess) puts together shows that always feature strong women who aren’t just appendages of men, and sometimes they’re black–so that Viola Davis was able to win an Emmy. As she said, it’s tough to win an Emmy for parts that don’t exist.

So that’s progress, a little of it.

And in language: if I was writing about either of these people at length, I’d probably use Ms. Rhimes and Ms. Davis, because I neither know their marital status nor believe that’s a defining characteristic for a woman.

Which is, I think, progress, given that I’ve been reading portions of a William Safire language-column collection from 1986, including a discursion on the use of Ms. (Safire was in favor), including this gem:

Most of the mail ran the other way. “A woman who wants to be addressed as ‘Ms.,'” wrote Mrs. Havens Grant of Greenwich, Connecticut, “is either ashamed of not being married or ashamed of being married.”

And at the time, that supposed newspaper of record in New York City would not allow Ms. (have they finally stopped that nonsense?). And, sure enough, the longest response to Safire’s follow-up column attack Ms. as feminism run amok.

I’d like to think that people like Mrs. Grant (I assume her husband’s first name is or was Havens, since The Traditional And Proper Means of Naming Woman makes it clear that they’re essentially property by not even retaining their first names) have come around to the belief that a woman is something more than her marital status. I could be wrong.

Hey, I’m an optimist (my wife, Ms. Driver, sometimes has stronger terms); I’ll take progress where I can find it. Even if it is slow.

By the way: if you’re one of those who still believes it is Right and Proper for a woman to be either Miss or Mrs.: Show me the commonly-used male equivalents. If you can’t, well…

Did any other radio station do a signature song this good?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Back in the ’50s and ’60s. one of the best radio stations was KSFO–good talent, good music. And a *great* signature song, The Sound of the City. You couldn’t call it a jingle: it’s more than a minute long and anything but a jingle.

I was fortunate enough to get a copy from a radio columnist. I now see that YouTube has a version that’s not quite as high quality (just a little distorted and bass-heavy), but pretty close:

So, my question is: Did any other radio station, anywhere, any time, do anything this classy? And if they did, could you point it out?

Or just, you know, enjoy The Sound of the City.

“Right now, I’m all right.”

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

I was reading Rajnar Vajra’s novella “Zen Angel” in the May 2015 Analog (I’m about four months behind on my SF magazine reading) and encountered this:

From necessity, I’d developed a coping strategy for times when trouble overflowed: repeating the phrase “right now, I’m all right” until it became true.

A few days earlier, we’d been to see The King and I at the Bankhead Theater. And, for the life of me, when I read that sentence I could not help but get an earworm involving whistling a happy tune…

No, no deeper significance. (Good novella, by the way; Vajra’s usually a good read.) Just found the parallel amusing…

Now, back to the OA checking…