Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Dear Fed: Why do you hate us (and other savers) so much?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

This is a serious post. Probably the most serious I’ll post all year.

My wife and I did what we were told we should do. We saved our money. We lived less considerably below our means so that we could save our money.

Now we’re retired (somewhat earlier than planned, through no fault of our own, but never mind…)

And now the Fed is essentially saying “Screw you. We hate savers. You are required to invest and borrow. Saving is for idiots.”

Which is to say: We can’t get decent rates on CDs or other guaranteed savings–because the Fed plans to keep interest rates at essentially zero for what sounds like pretty much forever.

Would we be happy to get interest rates equal to inflation? Not really–but I don’t even believe we can count on doing that at this point.

We don’t much like risk. We spent less money–a lot less money–so we wouldn’t have to cope with risk.

That apparently offends the Fed.

As far as I can tell, the methodology being used by the Fed basically enriches Wall Street, as it forces more people to invest regardless. It’s doing a pretty good job for bankers, too. Basically, those who were already getting richer are getting even richer.

I don’t believe it’s bringing lots of people back to work. Companies that can borrow at no interest seem to keep enriching their owners, managers and shareholders, and hiring the absolute minimum number of workers they can. (If zero-interest loans were only for small businesses, which create most new jobs, that would be different.)

But for us and, I believe, a few millions or tens of millions of other people, it looks like direct punishment for not being massively in debt and for not being gamblers: Making sure that we can’t earn decent return on savings.

And I think it stinks.


I forgot to add this crucial point:

If we could get decent rates on savings, we’d spend more.

As it is, fear of long-term major issues and knowledge that we’re getting crap on our savings–and that it’s likely to get worse, not better–is keeping our optional spending lower than it should be.

The public library benefit scene in 2010: inCompleat Give Us, an FAQ

Friday, September 13th, 2013

inc600

What is it?

The most complete book I know of to understand public library funding and service data in FY2010–more complete and detailed than the more recent $4 to $1. The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, a 433-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback, combines the text and tables from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four with all of the commentary added in Cites & Insights–and all of the graphs in Graphing Public Library Benefits that work in a black-and-white publication.

That’s why it’s inCompleat: It’s lacking some multicolor line graphs that don’t make sense when rendered in grayscale.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

A few librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $26.99 plus shipping from Lulu.

There is no ebook version.

While there are sales to justify availability, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1: Libraries by Size includes all but Chapter 21 (libraries by state) and also includes all of the multicolor line graphs. The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2: Libraries by State directly replicates Chapter 21 of The Incompleat… but in 6″ x 9″ PDF page images. Both ebooks are $9.99; both are also available in site-license versions ($39.99 and $34.99 respectively).

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

68 by 68?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

I hadn’t thought about it, but it might not have seemed an unreasonable goal:

68 by 68.

That is, 68 sales of new/recent Cites & Insights Books by the time I turn 68 (coming very soon now). Let’s say, 68 starting either August 26 (when the new books were announced) or, heck, August 1. After all, enough people had committed money in advance to account for somewhere between 17 and 36 sold copies right off the bat…

Barring miracles, that goal seems highly unlikely.

How about $68 by 68–that is, enough sales to generate $68 in net revenue, starting August 26?

Well, I’m about a third of the way there.

The good news: I’ll definitely have enough net revenue to pay for my own dinner on my birthday. Since we’re going to Campo di Bocce, a restaurant I like quite a bit…that offers free dinner on your birthday. I think there’s even enough net revenue to cover the 20% tip on what the dinner would have cost. Maybe.

Oh, and Blake? Yes, I’ve updated to 3.6.1.

Silence, partial or full

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

There might not be any posts here for a few days, quite possibly not until September 10.

There are some things I care about that seem to have gone into a total stall, and I suspect my best course is to try to ignore them and definitely not talk about them. (Nothing health-related, marriage-related or otherwise real-world seriously important!)

So: I’m still around, I’m reasonably healthy, I’m even working on an essay now and then. And that’s about it.

Sorry.

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Apparently “I” just sent email to 192 people inviting them to view my book recommendations on goodread.

Sorry.

I finally decided to join goodread, both to see what’s being said about my own books (what? you wouldn’t do that? really?) and maybe eventually to store book notes & recommendations. Or not.

As I read the description of the function, I thought it was using my Gmail contacts to build a set of “your friends recommends” items to me. I guess I needed to read it more carefully: It was actually sending out canned email to all of them. Which I would have never done if I realized what was happening.

Again, sorry.

Failed.

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Maybe that’s all I need to say. The $4 to $1 campaign failed. Big time.

Thanks to the 18 folks who supported it. (I thanked each one by email when the pledge came in. I may do another email round later.)

I might do a post mortem later on. I might not. It’s a Monday sort of Monday.

On a completely different topic:

What the *B(#^ is it about infographics that causes people to take “facts” seriously even when there are no sources given and the “facts” are wildly improbable? There’s an “awful facts about reading” infographic making the rounds that has no sources, includes wildly improbable “facts” that are refuted by, well, every other survey that’s been done–and turn out to be based on a ten-year-old statement from some group I’ve never heard of that, itself, doesn’t really provide sources. But hey, it’s an infographic: It Must Be Taken Seriously. Arggh…

Or does this mean that I should scrap $4 to $1 and turn it into a series of, what, 400 infographics, so that it’s taken seriously?

Go read this.

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Dorothea Salo has a new article out in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

You should read it, especially if:

  • You care about open access
  • You care about scholarly communication in academic institutions
  • You would like to see a healthy future for scholarly communication and for scholars, including independent scholars
  • [This bullet removed as, well, a spoiler for those who don’t read thoughtfully.]

The title: “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that it appears to have been used as a blueprint by any number of institutions before it was published.

One consequence of Salo’s article: My planned article-in-installments, “How not to be the expert,” a series of autobiographical musings, may be postponed indefinitely. Once you’ve seen a master at work, it’s easy to recognize one’s own limitations. But that’s me. For you: Go read it. Now.

 

 

Raining on parades

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

I try to avoid grousing about people who rain on my parade, put down something I’m enthusiastic about, or otherwise buzzkill. I’m not sure I always manage that.

One reason to avoid bitching about buzzkill: If you then put down other people or groups for their enthusiasms, well, you come off looking like a hypocrite.

Looking like one because you are one.

I know, I know: You’re harshing my mellow, where I’m just pointing out the flaws in what you appreciate. It’s totally different.

Right.

[I was going to comment on the flood of liblog posts in Feedly this morning–more than 300, compared to the usual 110-150–but it turns out one specific blog burped up its entire history, accounting for more than half of the posts. So: Never mind.]

Bing problem (apparently) fixed–for the record

Monday, July 1st, 2013

For the record, the search problem I blogged about a couple of days ago now appears to be fixed.

The mystery of spreadsheet sizes

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Thanks to Colorado’s Library Research Service, I found out on Wednesday (June 26) that the IMLS released the 2011 public library datafiles a little early. (I was expecting them some time in July, so “a little” is the operative word. Still: early is better.)

So I went to check the site, figuring I’d do my usual: Download the .zip file containing the .mdb (Access) databases, extract the database consisting of library data (as opposed to outlet data or state summaries), download the PDF documentation, then open the .mdb database in Excel, convert the whole thing to a table, and save it as an Excel spreadsheet for later use (assuming I do the Give Us a Dollar… project). The Excel spreadsheet would probably start at around 8MB, but once I peeled off the columns I actually care about, it would get a lot smaller.

Surprise!

First, the surprise: The data is no longer available in your choice of .mdb or flat (.txt) files, the latter requiring a form of string processing I’m not sure how I’d do.

Nope. Now it comes in SAS form (only for 2010 and 2011), .txt, and two other forms: .csv (comma-separated values, which Excel’s only too happy to open) and .xsl (Excel native form).

That’s not only true for the 2011 tables, IMLS has gone back and replaced earlier .mdb databases with .csv and .xls files.

Well, that’s one step I won’t have to include in the how-to chapter of “Mostly Numbers” if I do that particular project–namely, how to open the .mdb database and convert it to an Excel spreadsheet.

Oh, but look: The Excel spreadsheet is more than 21MB, about three times as large as I’d expect.

Mystery?

That was surprising enough that I went back and downloaded the .csv files. The .csv library file is about 7MB. When I open it in Excel, it looks precisely like the Excel spreadsheet (as it should, unless there are formulas hidden in the Excel version)…and when saved in Excel form, it’s about 7MB.

In other words, just about the size I would have expected.

What’s going on here? Unless somebody from IMLS reads this and sends me a note, I’ll either figure it out later or not. As things stand, I’m more likely to work with the .csv-to-Excel form (although I suspect that both would wind up shrinking to about the same size for the 15-20 columns I actually need out of the scores of columns that are there now).

This could be one of those Office mysteries, where if I delete and restore one cell in the 21MB Excel spreadsheet it suddenly turns into a 7MB spreadsheet. Or not.

Meanwhile, it’s just one of those mysteries.


Memes

One little note here on an entirely different topic. I’m generally not much of one for following memes, such as the idea of blogging every day in June. That’s a lot of blogging for an occasional blogger like me. I’d feel silly signing up for it and then not doing it (or having odd “post 23” titles on daily posts).

Whereas not signing up for it, and then (accidentally?) doing it? That’s just fine.

[No, I won’t accidentally write a 50,000 word novel in November or any other month. I lack the personal observation skills to be a good fiction writer. Could I produce 50,000 words of decent second-draft material in a month? Yeah, I think so…but November’s not likely to be one of those months.