Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

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…

A “staycation” of sorts

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

If the next Cites & Insights is late or peculiar or both, or if I’m slow to respond to some things, or… well, here’s a reason of sorts.

I’m likely to be on an odd sort of “staycation” (from retirement?) for some weeks, because of a mix of factors:

  • Our slow process of destroying the front lawn and replacing it with something more suitable (I’ve been spending 45-90 minutes 4-5 days a week either shoveling out grass & sod or going back to shake out as much soil as possible before adding the rest to green waste, for a couple of months now, and although there’s still several weeks/months to do, I’ve cleared the area my wife–the brains of the outfit–plans to use for anything but a 2″ redwood bark ground cover) is heating up: we have a big bunch of bark & landscaping material showing up mid-week, my wife’s either capped or refitted eight of 13 sprinkler heads, we have some of the plants and will be getting more. This means taking more time carrying around stones/small boulders and hauling/spreading bark as needed.
  • I’ve moved from my 7-year-old (or is it 8?) Gateway notebook, used with an even older MS Natural wireless keyboard & mouse and a 19″ Sony second display, to a brand-new Toshiba Satellite (Fry’s had an excellent two-day/while-they-last sale for a model that’s most likely on its way out: non-touch screen, for example–but it’s just old enough to have a VGA output, which means I can still use the Sony). I’m also trying to switch to the notebook’s own keyboard & touchpad,  because my wrists have been acting up and the mouse may be part of the problem. (That means the Toshiba’s 17″ widescreen display is now my primary display and the Sony 19″ 4×3 is secondary, the reverse of the Gateway setup. Among other things, this means my typing speed is down enormously and my error rate is up enormously. I’ll give it a two-month trial before considering giving up and going back go a Natural. (I checked: neither MS nor Logitech seems go make an ergonomic keyboard with built-in touchpad.)
  • Apart from the slow curve of relearning to type and mouse around (before I turned off tap-to-click, I was cursing up a silent storm), this also means learning Windows 8.1 instead of 7 (that part will be OK), learning/customizing Office 2013 (also probably OK), finding & downloading the other software I use (I’ve already done Windows Easy Transfer), and figuring out what to do about quality, flexible, “distilled” PDF creation. This will be a slow process
  • Did I mention that my wrists are acting up? And now, a healthy dose of what’s probably bursitis–in other words, right now I’m  *feeling* 69 years old.

This too shall pass, but it may slow me down for a week or four.

Update Tuesday, May 26, 2015

OK, so I was discouraged on Saturday, one shoulder hurt like hell, both wrists were acting up, and I was silently cursing about all those clicks I was apparently making when I was just trying to use the touchpad. And typing so badly that moving to two-finger mode might have been an improvement.

Three or four days can make a big difference.

  • I’m reasonably comfortable with the Toshiba now (and I turned off tap-to-click, because for me it  becomes think-for-a-half-second-while-touching-trackpad to click, and I don’t want that). Gmail, for some reason, still seems to want to treat cursor hovers as clicks, and I don’t know why, but otherwise things are more or less OK.
  • In a while, I’ll do some more W8.1 investigation (is there a way to get an old-fashioned Start Menu?), but for now it’s OK–the Toshiba comes up in desktop mode, things are more or less where they should be (the fact that you can’t make desktop shortcuts for Office programs–yes, they’re on the taskbar–is going to be a nuisance when I want two separate instances of Excel, but I’ll deal with that later. If it’s not fixable, I can always re-download LibreOffice and use it’s spreadsheet for the second instance…but I’ll worry about that a little later. (Or maybe Excel 2013 works like Word has for some years: you can peel off instances as needed.)
  • The Toshiba itself, a bargain model, is fine–and I do like the speed with which W8.1 comes up! (2-3 seconds from Sleep, ab. 10 seconds, maybe less, from Hibernate, ab. 30 seconds from full shutdown) It’s enough more powerful that the daily Malwarebytes & Windows Defender scans don’t slow me down, even though it’s at the bottom of the iN hierarchy (a fourth-generation i3).
  • I’ve ordered PowerPDF and hope that will meet my needs for PDF creation/handling.
  • Still to do: restore SSH FTP (waiting for instructions from Blake), probably a couple of small programs to reload, probably more tweaks, and need to build a new weekly backup routine. But I’m far enough along that I’ve only had the Gateway powered up for 10 minutes out of the last three days.
  • I think my typing speed (adjusting for errors) is back up to, say, 80% of normal–and my wrists and shoulder are considerably better.

Overall: I’m still assuming I’ll operate at a slower pace for another few days, but that’s at least partly because I want to be as useful as possible in hauling bark and rocks around. The next Cites & Insights may be a little late (and will be a peculiar and short issue), but probably not very late (unless there are SSH issues), and I’m starting to look at detailed plans for extending the 2014 project.

Sure would be nice to get more OA supporters/C&I contributors, though…

Visual discrimination test

Monday, February 9th, 2015

At least one of the three numbered terms below is the name of a physics subject repository. At least one is not.
Can you tell which is which?

Comments open for a few days.

(A note: the terms appear as a screen capture from Word…because WordPress’ visual editor literally will not let me retain the proper glyph; it autotranslates it to X, no matter how I enter it. Cute.)

C&I and The Project: A quick update

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Just a quick update, also marking the last blog post I’ll do before I turn another year older…

The October 2014 Cites & Insights…

…will not exist. At least not as a separate issue. Most probably, the next C&I will be an October/November 2014 issue and will appear, with luck, some time in October or early November.

The project…

…is going swimmingly, I think. As of Wednesday, I’d have said “I’m sure”–but the last 300-odd journals in the Beall spreadsheet (the “independent” journals, because I checked them in publisher order) are slow going, as I should have expected.

For a bunch of journals with the same publisher, I can expect similar layout, the same place for APCs (if they’re hidden–some publishers are up front with them), the same possible shortcuts for counting articles. And for some “publishers,” I can anticipate spending very few keystrokes confirming that the “journals” are still nothing more than names on a web page.

The most extreme case of this came very early in the week, when I hit a “publisher” with 426 “journals,” only 20 of them having any articles at all. I usually consider it a good day if I can process 150 journals in all (usually doing 10 in the new DOAJ list followed by 30 in the much longer Beall list: the OASPA list has been done for a while now), an OK day if I process 100, and a great day if I can do 200. With that “publisher”, I managed 460 journals in one day, including 60 from the DOAJ list.

Given that Wednesday’s basically a half day and the weekend counts as a half day in total, here’s where I think I am:

  • I should finish Pass One on the Beall list by the end of this coming week. (Pass Two, a little additional refinement, should only take a week or so for all three lists combined.)
  • I might finish Pass One on the DOAJ list by the end of the following week–let’s say “within September” as a hoped-for deadline.
  • I can actually start working on Part One of the article(s) before the DOAJ list is complete, since that list should only enter into Part Two.

Then come lots of data massaging, thinking about the results, and writing it all up. I have no idea how long that will all take or, for that matter, how long the results will be. I’m aiming for somewhere between two 20-page and two 30-page essays, each constituting a C&I issue. My aim is notoriously weak.

I believe the project will be interesting and revealing. I know I’ve found some journals I might want to go back to and do some reading from…

Swan song?

At the moment, this project feels a little bit like a swan song. I don’t really have any major projects or book projects in mind at the moment. Oh, there are a couple of thousand–check that, 1,500–Diigo-tagged items waiting to be turned into various essays, but that’s just seeing C&I wind down. Or not.

It’s quite possible that new ideas will arise. Or I’ll start reading more, maybe finally join the local Friends and volunteer at the store or whatever. Or…

Anyway: Back to the project. 239 journals on the Beall list and 908 on the DOAJ list left to go; I’m sure a few of the DOAJ ones will disappear in the process (and I just deleted one duplicate title on the Beall list yesterday–a journal entered with two slightly different names but the same URL).

Update as of September 30, 2014:

Pass One is complete.  I chose not to start on the first part of the report until the DOAJ set was complete.

So is Pass Two.

I’ve started in on Part One of the report, and have completed the background material (a lot of it!).

Barring various disasters, Part One should be ready (and published as the October/November 2014 Cites & Insights) before the end of October. Again with the usual caveats, Part Two should be ready in mid-November.

One thing I’ve already found, and should have realized–but note that I really didn’t prejudge likely results. I’d planned to use graphs for a few things, specifically peak articles by journal within a set of journals, APCs for journals and maximum potential one-year revenue per journal.

That won’t happen. I guessed that all three would be power-law graphs. What I didn’t guess was just how extreme those graphs would be: even with logarithmic vertical scales, the graphs were so crowded near the bottom as to be difficult to interpret. I prepared a table equivalent for the first graph attempted (peak articles by journal within the Beall set) and, after looking at both (and dealing with the complexities of full-page-width graphs within a two-column Word document, especially if you want captions for the graphs), I ripped out the first two graphs and will use tables instead. They don’t give as much detail, but they’re much easier to understand and to format.


Graphic honesty

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014


Walt Crawford, August 20, 2014, Morgan Territory Regional Preserve

That’s me. By now, some of you may have seen smaller versions of that picture in various social media (Friendfeed, Facebook, Google+, Twitter), or the same version on my personal web page.

Technically, “Morgan Territory Regional Preserve” may be wrong–the picture may have been taken in the Los Vaqueros Watershed. We were hiking on the Whipsnake Trail, which is in both areas. It’s where the hiking group I usually spend Wednesday mornings with was a week ago.

When my wife saw the picture (one among several dozen posted as a “report” on the hike) she said it was a good one. I requested a copy from the photographer (Bill Leach, another hiker) and have now replaced my older picture with this one wherever I’m aware of an icon, avator or other picture appearing. (I’m sure I’ve missed one or two and will get to them when I see them.)

The previous picture was also from a hike, oddly enough also in Morgan Territory, but from two or three years ago. It replaced a considerably older picture.

I like using a current picture because it feels honest. (That this one is a really good picture doesn’t hurt.) It’s how I really look at very nearly 69 years old. I suppose I should have a snazzy younger picture ready for an eventual obituary (and actually we may have the perfect picture–oddly enough, not all that old), but I hope that’s a long ways away. I’ve seen enough authors and others who somehow never age in their publicity pictures; I’m not them, although I understand the urge.

Why am I posting this on a Wednesday morning when I should be on a hike? I just didn’t feel like it today; I probably skip one hike out of every four or five, either because of location (there’s one area I just don’t care for) or other reasons. (For those who know the east bay, today’s hike is also partly in Morgan Territory, but in a very different part of it–it’s a Finley Road hike, partly in Mount Diablo State Park, partly in Morgan Territory, with a little too much walking to get to and from the trailhead because there’s no parking anywhere nearby.)

One other note: Yes, that is a cheap floppy gardening hat rather than a snazzy Panama hat or other hiking hat. Why? Because I have a fat head, and this gardening hat is big enough to fit it. Most hats don’t.

No deeper meaning here.


Helpful hint for indoor cat owners

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

If you’re like us, your cat(s) use(s) [a] litter box(es) (ours use two Booda enclosures) and you use scoopable litter (we’re very fond of World’s Best pure corn-based litter).

And when you scoop up their solid waste, it stinks. So goes into a bag and then a plastic bag, so that it doesn’t stink up the house before garbage day.

Which is great as long as you have plenty of produce and other leftover plastic bags lying around. Not so great if you don’t.

[Note: this tip might also apply to dog owners who aren’t neighborhood jackasses–that is, who follow their dogs and pick up the dogs’ presents from nearby lawns and sidewalks.]

You can buy poop bags, but they’re six or seven cents each–not bad if you need the compact little roll to take with you, but high if you just need one or two a day to deal with litter boxes.

We found a solution of sorts, if you have a Smart & Final nearby (or equivalent):

Bags on a Roll–basically, rolls of thin plastic produce bags.

The roll we got has 1,640 11″ x 14″ bags, .35 mil (about as thin as they come, which is desirable)…and cost $18.99. That’s 1.16 cents per bag. If we had three friends with similar situations, I think the cost would come down to less than a cent a bag (if you buy four rolls or more, they’re significantly cheaper).

Yes, they do have the standard thin-plastic-bag warnings printed down one side. For us, one roll should be a three-year supply, and takes up about the same space as a jumbo roll of paper towels.

Slice of life post

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

So today we decided to walk to one of the readily-walkable nearby wineries, seeing as how we hadn’t done that in a while, it’s a beautiful day (high 70s with a breeze), and it makes for a three-mile walk (round-trip), a little more exercise than our usual 1.3-mile daily “walk around the block.” And we wanted to see how this winery was doing.

We approach the winery–which is also a wedding and other event venue–and see a fair number of cars, at least a dozen, probably more. That’s OK; we’ve been in crowded tasting rooms before.

Walk into the tasting room. There are maybe four or six other people there (in addition to three staff).

So, two-thirds of the way through the tasting (their wines continue to improve), we mention the number of cars. And get a good answer

“There was a wedding here last night…”

and apparently some of the guests were enjoying themselves a lot. (There was mention of people dancing without shoes. The word “tipsy” was used, and another staffer said that wasn’t quite the right word.)

So there was a bus that picked people up and took them to–well, somewhere (the local resort? a local hotel? home?)

Thus, a bunch of cards left over from the wedding. Which will presumably disappear eventually.

Much better than having a bunch of drunken fools on the roads on Saturday night!

[For those familiar with some parts of California wine country: This is Livermore, the oldest California wine region. But not one of the best-known. 50-odd wineries & tasting rooms, but only two very large operations; most places are only open Friday-Sunday for four or five hours a day, although at least half a dozen, maybe a dozen are now open daily.

Oh, and the tasting prices: $5 for the standard flight of five wines (plus a bonus wine); $10 for the reserve flight of six wines (plus a bonus). Perfectly OK for the two of us to share one tasting (I only drink white, my wife mostly drinks red, and Livermore caters a lot more to her than to me).]