Saying goodbye: another OFP

December 7th, 2017

I like good magazines. Good magazines are carefully curated* collections of content delivered on a regular basis, and if done well the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (If done really well, the ads in a magazine actually enhance the package instead of getting in the way.) *I’m not wild about overusing “curated,” but I think it’s the right term for thoughtfully-edited magazines.

Saying goodbye to a magazine I’ve subscribed to for years is always difficult–made less so lately because I suffer from CTCT (Cover-To-Cover Tendency, the tendency to read all of a magazine) and can’t keep up. (This is also why I’ve never subscribed to The New Yorker and don’t subscribe to any weeklies: I couldn’t keep up.)

I said goodbye to one old friend of a magazine last year, but that was because Conde Nast Traveler‘s new editor had changed it from a content-heavy travel magazine full of good information into an oversized art portfolio with lots of photos, little text and never any prices for anything actually travel-related. It became one of those “if you have to ask” magazines. I still miss it. (Fortunately, Travel + Leisure seems to have stepped up its game, although I worry about the Meredith takeover of Time Inc. We shall see.)

This month marks two more goodbyes, for different reasons.

Porthole–one of two cruise-related bimonthlies we subscribed to for many years–always was an “if you have to ask” magazine and almost entirely fluff. We both finally just lost interest. (It wasn’t hard to jeep up with: I could usually read a whole issue over breakfast. And then note that I hadn’t gained anything from the experience other than a meal.)

Analog is a much tougher case. It’s the oldest of the surviving science fiction/fantasy print magazines (originally with a more vivid name), and published many first-rate stories in the “golden age” and beyond. I don’t know how long I’ve subscribed to it, but probably more than 40 years (based on my awareness that I’ve always read Asimov’s, and it’s celebrating its 40th anniversary). I’ve subscribed to all three remaining SFF magazines for many years, even as they’ve gone from monthly to bimonthly (but with the same fiction page count: each issue of each magazine is now, I’m guessing, well over 100,000 words long).

I’ve been falling behind, and decided something had to give. That something is Analog–and not just because I’m falling behind (thanks to more bookreading, other demands on my time, and just plain slowing down). The other factor is that recent issues seem to be short on good story-telling, as though the new editor doesn’t think that science fiction must first be fiction. Increasingly, I either give up on a story partway through or get to the last page and wonder why I didn’t find it satisfying or intriguing or humorous or informative or much of anything.

That “what did I just read, and why is it considered a story?” feeling almost never happens with Asimov’s or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but it’s happening most too much of the time with Analog. So it’s time to say goodbye. It was great knowing you for some decades; too bad things have soured.

Cites & Insights 17 (2017) now available as paperback–and a brief sale

December 1st, 2017

Volume 17 of Cites & Insights is now available, including indexes, as a 492-page paperback.

Cites & Insights 17 Cover
The 6″ x 9″ trade paperback sells for $30, $15 of which goes to support Cites & Insights.

Brief sale: If you buy this book (or any other print books from Lulu by Monday, December 4, 2017, such as prior annual volumes), use the coupon code BOOKCALSAVE to save 10% on the price. (That savings does not reduce the $15–it’s a Lulu sale.)

If you care about gray OA–the gold OA journals that aren’t in DOAJ–you should buy this volume, as it includes the first (Gray OA 2012-2016) and probably the last (Gray OA 2014-2017) comprehensive studies of these journals–including an analysis of why the Shen/Bjork “420,000 2014 articles in predatory journals” is badly wrong, a case of sampling gone bad.

The volume also includes the subject supplement for GOAJ2; “The Art of the Beall”; “Gray OA Portraits” offering some notes on the “largest” gray OA publishers; economics and access; and a few non-OA essays as well.

Last year’s reduction of C&I Annual prices to $35 will continue indefinitely. (I haven’t updated the C&I Annuals page yet, so use the direct link to buy Volume 17.

In case it wasn’t obvious already: there will not be a December 2017 issue of Cites & Insights. The first 2018 issue might appear in December 2017–or it might not.

GOAJ2: November 2017 update

November 30th, 2017

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through November 30, 2017 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done):

  • The dataset: 259 views, 53 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 1,199 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks), plus 378 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 381 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 936 copies

Along with 94 new PDF downloads of GOAJ2 and 22 new downloads of Countries, September also saw 194 downloads of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 and 102 downloads of the earlier Countries version.

Looking at the rest of gold OA (beyond DOAJ), Gray OA 2012-2016 has now been downloaded 1,929 times, while Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, released in October, has 436 downloads.

 

Belief, sex and all that

November 20th, 2017

These comments are probably badly worded and reflect only my own experiences and beliefs. Note that I was “raised wrong” (for my time, apparently, given some of the excuses going on these days): my parents  brought me up to believe that women were people first, women second, and I’ve never been able to see women as belongings or objects. Most of my best bosses have been women; most of my best friends have been women; the smartest and best person in this household is a woman [who kept her own name, but then I never suggested otherwise]; most of my most valuable colleagues at work were women; most of the jackasses I’ve encountered have been men.

Lying and belief

I am inclined to take most people at face value until I learn otherwise.

I am especially inclined to believe most people when what they’re saying can hurt them and has no likelihood of helping them.

I am acutely aware that women have a harder time being listened to, being paid attention to (not always the same thing), and being believed than men do.

So, all things considered, I am inclined to believe most women who speak up about bad things that happened to them, even after many years and especially when they’re standing up to somebody more powerful.

[Admittedly, if someone asserting low-level sexual assault turns out to be a frequent “just playing around” sexual assaulter herself or himself, that reduces credibility a whole lot: that speaks to “until I learn otherwise.”]

Oh, and there’s this: while I suspect there may be a few women somewhere who have never been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, that number seems likely to be shockingly small: I don’t have handy examples to point out.

So, yeah, for all those reasons and more–specifically including the believability of the women I’ve worked with and for, dated, or married–I’m inclined to believe the accusers.

I’ve heard enough about casting couches to assume they’re real; I’ve overheard enough bragging to assume there’s a lot of “seduction” going on that’s not the courtship of equals; in the past, I’ve even been known to shut down one or two “I’d do that…” discussions–although, to my eternal shame, not every time and perhaps not loudly enough. I know that too many men are dogs and proud of it.

Me?

As for sexual assault: I’m essentially certain that I never have. Certainly not kissing, hugging or anything more intimate, and I’m pretty certain not any unwanted touching.

Not the way I was raised. Not my understanding of how people should behave with other people.

Then there’s sexual harassment, and here, at 72 years of age and with a badly imperfect memory, all I can say is: I hope not, and I’d like to think not, and certainly not in the last few decades, but never? I can’t say. (If I ever did, it would never have been more than an unwanted compliment or asking someone out twice before taking “No” for an answer, and I can’t be sure neither of those or some equivalent never happened.) If I did, my belated apologies.

As for the “not all men…” idea, I’m not going to go for that particular line of bullshit, and I am aware of the societal dynamic. In effect, it might as well be all men. [How would I feel about men just not running for political office for, say, 50 years? Sounds good to me, and I haven’t voted for a male Senate candidate in quite a few years…]

I’m no saint, and I’ve certainly been an asshole now and then. I suspect that grown-up men are just fine, but I always wonder when I’ll actually grow up and how many men ever do…

Why this post?

I’ve tended to avoid some hot issues because I don’t have much to say. This may be one of them, but I think it’s worth saying something anyway.

 

Priorities: Why C&I may not appear in December

November 19th, 2017

See, here’s the thing…

My wife had surgery for degenerative arthritis on her left thumb joint about 10 days ago–much-needed surgery that involves replacing a bone with an extra tendon (did you know you have extra tendons in your arms?).

For a few weeks, that means her left hand’s essentially useless; for some time after that, it may be less useful. So, after she’s taken care of me for just shy of 40 years, I’m stepping up. (We’ve always done our own laundry, shared the household laundry, and done our own weekday meals & cleanup–but while most of my meals are quick & easy, hers are more healthful and involve more peeling and cutting and trimming and cleanup. Now, I’m doing as much of the prep work as requires two hands and all of the dishes, and providing help elsewhere when two hands are needed.)

I’m not complaining. If anything, it’s rewarding to know my work is directly benefiting one person I know & love rather than hoping it’s of some use to friends and strangers. But it does take up two or three hours a day, sometimes less, sometimes more.

Which reduces available writing time and energy to very little if any.

So…I have an essay with the source documents tagged for sections and the first 11 or 12 (out of 87, but that number always comes down during the process) handled. Including zero in the last four days. With additional doctor’s appointments and, oh yes, hosting Thanksgiving for the family (but at a restaurant), I don’t see the situation improving soon.

I haven’t made a final decision, but if my higher-priority stuff and the fun/reading I need to have continue to crowd out the essay, I’ll choose a point in December, massage the index for issues 1-10, publish the annual volume (the thickest ever, but that’s because it’s the first 6″ x 9″) and continue working on the essay for a January issue.

Of course, come January, a renewed project will take up much of my attention–GOAJ3 2012-2017, for those familiar with this. So C&I may continue to be even more erratic than usual (a comment that could apply to its editor/publisher/writer as well!). Not abandoned, not yet, but occasional.

50 Classic Movie Warriors, Disc 3

November 2nd, 2017

Hercules Against the Moon Men (orig. Maciste e la regina di Samar or Maciste and Queen Samar), 1964, color. Giacomo Gentilomo (dir.), Sergio Ciani (“Alan Steel”), Jany Clair, Anna Maria Polani, Nando Tamberlani. 1:30 [1:27].

The city-kingdom of Samar is ruled by an evil (if beautiful) queen and under the domination of creatures in the Mountain of Death, who require a sacrifice of many of Samar’s young men and women on each full moon—a process that requires a remarkably large army and would seem to undermine the survival of Samar. (Most of the creatures are slow-moving stiff giants made of stonelike slabs, but there’s a top man who’s clearly a human with a funny mask and Princess Selene, a beautiful woman who must be brought back to life and power by the blood of the queen’s sister so that Jupiter can align with Mars and…well, never mind, it’s even more confusing than the Age of Aquarius.)

A senior adviser says enough is enough and asks for Hercules’ help (against the wishes of the queen, who attempts to kill him on the way into town). Lots of stuff happens from then on, culminating in a pointless and lengthy sandstorm, Hercules once again winning through unlimited strength, and a happy ending of sorts.

The so-called plot is incoherent, and the revolt never seems to take any shape. What this is, is mostly HercPorn: lots of closeups of well-oiled arms, legs and chest of this person who can lift and move anything. A mediocre print, crudely panned-and-scanned from what must be a widescreen original. I double-speeded through some of it, which helped (true double-speed, sl all the dialog and the really poor music.) Mostly for fans of Alan Steel’s acting ability muscles. Maybe the dialogue made more sense in Italian (or Greek?). Notably, this is really a Maciste movie, not a Hercules flick. (The French title, Maciste Against the Men of Stone, makes considerably more sense—although the plot’s still, well…) Generously, $0.75.

The Giants of Thessaly (I giganti della Tessaglia), color, 1960. Riccardo Freda (dir.), Roland Carey, Ziva Rodann, Alberto Farnese. 1:38 (1:28)

Title or no title, this is Jason and the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece. As such, it involves gods, an island full of beautiful witches and talking sheep and stones, despair at sea, treachery at home, lots of beefcake (and beautiful women modestly dressed), and a lot of plot—and yet I found myself double-timing through a lengthy dance number and Jason’s seemingly interminable climb to retrieve the fleece. There’s only one giant (Cyclops) and he’s one-eyed and nowhere near Thessaly. It’s amazing how, after wandering aimlessly and seemingly lost for months, the Argo manages to return to Thessaly so rapidly and directly once the Golden Fleece is in hand, but… This was filmed three years before Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts, for what that’s worth.

It’s wide-screen (16×9), but you’ll have to zoom to get that and the resolution isn’t all that great. Still, good color, and it’s all reasonably well done. Not a classic, but worth $1.25.

Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens (orig. Simbad contro i sette saraceni, color, 1964. Emimmo Salvi (dir. & story), Gordon Mitchell, Bruno Piergentili, Bella Cortez, Carla Calo, Franco Doria. 1:34 [1:20].

I would say this flick has continuity problems, but that assumes continuity. Some scenes seem out of order; others just betray really cheap production—e.g., “midnight” scenes that are in broad daylight and a solar eclipse that only occurs over the palace grounds, not a few hundred feet away. When Simbad or Ali Baba or whoever is rescued (momentarily) by princess/harem member Fatima, he pushes her away and, about 30 seconds later, they proclaim their eternal love for one another. The best acting may be from the little person (Doria)who scurries around in secret passages—and the worst may be the deranged harem guard.

The plot has to do with Omar, a brutal lord who wants control of eight territories and to sit on the Golden Throne, but to do that requires winning a death match with one representative from each of the other seven tribes—the Seven Saracens, I guess. Ali Baba has a knack for being captured, and much of the plot doesn’t really work. No relationship to either the Sinbad or the Ali Baba of literature, of course. But never mind…

A reasonably decent eight-way battle (accepting that these people only use swords to hack at each other: although some of them wear what seem to be modern pants, shirts and boots or shoes, nobody’s ever heard of swordsmanship). A little unusual in that the American actor is the villain (although several actors used Americanized names for the film). Apparently only released in the U.S. as an 80-minute movie for TV, and not really even up to American-International’s standards. Very generously, $0.75.

The Giant of Marathon (orig. La battaglia di Maratona), color, 1959. Jacques Tourneur (dir.), Steve Reeves, Mylène Demongeot, Sergio Fantoni, Daniele Vargas, Gianni Loti. 1:30 [1:24]

Phillipides, medalist at the Olympics, new commander of the Sacred Guard and farmer at heart, saves the day for Athens against Persia, thanks to a sudden pact with Sparta and despite the treasonous acts of Athenian aristocrat Teocrito. Steve Reeves! Lots of action and scenery! Wide-screen (you’ll have to zoom), and a good enough print that it’s quite watchable. Good continuity, very good photography, excellent battle scenes, decent acting.

The sleeve description makes it seem as though it’s all about the battles, but about half the movie is about instant love lost, regained, lost again and…well, of course there’s a happy ending. By the standards of these flicks, $1.50.

 

Cites & Insights 17.10 (November 2017) available

November 1st, 2017

The most colorful issue of Cites & Insights to date, November 2017, is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ17i10.pdf

This 36-page (6×9″) issue includes two essays:

Intersections: Gray Portraits  pp. 1-26

A brief portrait of each of the 29 publishers and “publishers” with 100 or more journals and “journals” in Gray OA 2014-2017. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether 12 of the “largest” 14 (and 13 of the 29) are different “publishers” or one “publisher” with many aliases.

Social Networks: Remember Facebook?  pp. 27-36

A roundup of Facebook-related items from four to seven years ago, which may or may not be of any interest now.

GOAJ2: October 2017 update

October 31st, 2017

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through October 31, 2017 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done):

  • The dataset: 233 views, 49 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 1,105 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks), plus 276 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 359 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 884 copies

Along with 266 new PDF downloads of GOAJ2 and 39 new downloads of Countries, September also saw 266 downloads of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 and 134 downloads of the earlier Countries version.

Looking at the rest of gold OA (beyond DOAJ), Gray OA 2012-2016 has now been downloaded 1,836 times, while Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, released in October, has 292 downloads.

 

Getting it wrong–to your own disadvantage

October 16th, 2017

I wouldn’t bother to note a bonehead arithmetic error in an ad–even if it’s a full-page ad in Fortune–because there are so many of them. But this one was odd, because the error works to the disadvantage of the advertiser.

The ad is for Charles Schwab’s Total Stock Market Index Fund; I saw it in the August 1, 2017 Fortune (as usual, I’m about to months behind on magazines), but it’s probably appeared elsewhere.

The ad compares Schwab’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, 0.03% cost with $5,000 investment (or any investment), with Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, 0.15% cost with $5,000 investment.

And under the 0.15% says “Nearly 80% more expensive than Schwab.”

Which is a true statement, but a boneheaded one. 400% is “nearly 80%” with a whole lot left to spare.

The Schwab fund is 80% less expensive than the Vanguard–but percentages are not commutative: 80% more and 80% less are not at all the same thing. If A is 80% less than B is 400% more than A.

I’m not sure where the “nearly” comes from in any case, unless those cost percentages are rounded.

I suspect the error didn’t come from Schwab itself, but from a copywriter or editor who thought “80% more expensive” under Vanguard was more impressive than “80% less expensive” under Schwab.

In either case, it’s wrong. And boneheaded. (Not an attack on Schwab, given that we use them.)

Cites & Insights October 2017 available: Gray OA 2014-2017

October 15th, 2017

Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, the October 2017 Cites & Insights (17.9), is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ17i9.pdf

The single-essay issue is 42 pages long (38 numbered pages).

It updates article-count and status-code information (but not APC/fee information) for gray OA journals not in DOAJ, adding full-year 2016 article counts and January-June 2017 counts, doubled for ease of comparisons. Journals in Gray OA 2012-2016 that have been added to DOAJ have been removed from the new report.