Archive for April, 2005

Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton

Saturday, April 9th, 2005

I promised music, so here it is, if only briefly. There’s a mild political slant as well.

Some people my age may remember Phil Ochs; I doubt that too many younger people will. He was a “folk” writer/musician/singer protester from 1964 through 1975 (but mostly through the very early 1970s), who wrote some stunningly beautiful songs as well as many extremely political songs, not surprisingly for the times. Many of his songs were angry–also not surprisingly for the times. Many were powerful, and some have been recorded by others (In the Heat of the Summer, There But for Fortune, Changes, probably others).

[The political part: I’m always bemused by the phrase “Lefty liberal” and its ilk. Phil Ochs would have been astonished, given that one of his meanest songs was “Love me, I’m a liberal”–a left-winger’s attack on us wishy-washy liberals, who I believe Ochs regarded as even worse than conservatives.]

Phil Ochs committed suicide in 1976, after years of depression.

I’d owned several Phil Ochs LPs, but never replaced any with CDs. When Elektra/Rhino released a three-CD (and book) set of most of Ochs’ work, I bought it, planning to pare it down to two CD-Rs of the stuff I liked the most. I wound up with one very full CD-R with the 19 songs (of 53 on the set) that I thought I’d ever want to listen to again.

Tom Paxton was also a “folk” writer/musician/singer in the 1960s and 1970s, dealing with many of the same issues (segregation, the Vietnam war, etc., etc.). Paxton also wrote some stunningly beautiful songs, and had a gift for writing songs that were so natural that people assumed they were “folk songs” rather than contemporary compositions. “The last thing on my mind,” “I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound,” “Ramblin’ boy,” and too many others to mention. I’d owned most of Paxton’s LPs during those decades–and until two or three years ago hadn’t replaced any of them with CDs. I picked up one compilation (just a sampling), and found that I like all of the songs on it. I’ve since picked up more.

Tom Paxton has also suffered depression at times. But there’s a difference, and I think it comes through in the music. Tom Paxton is still with us–and still writing and singing (he’s done CDs of children’s songs, and some of you must remember “the wonderful toy” from decades ago). He’s not a big star, but he still writes wonderfully and has pretty much the same rich voice he had 40 years ago.

One difference was clear when listening to their protest and anti-war songs. Tom Paxton hated war, hated segregation, hated pollution (“Whose garden was this?” continues to be a classic)–but always liked people. Even his anti-war songs were as much celebrations of life and people as anything else–“Lyndon Johnson told the nation” is powerful and just plain good listening at the same time.

No necessary inferences here. I believe that many people who commit suicide really can’t help it, or at least never found the right combination of medicine, therapy, counseling, and meditation to find some inner peace. I just find it interesting that Paxton, who couldn’t even seem to mount a vicious attack on a person when he completely disagreed with the policies, has persevered–while Ochs, who seemed to relish attack more than anything else, faded away years before he died.

Fixing printability in Blogger

Friday, April 8th, 2005

Bill Drew seems to have fixed the Firefox printability problem at Baby Boomer Librarian with a few simple changes in his Blogger template. Baby Boomer Librarian moves to the “Winners” list in the followup piece I’ll be doing–and, to be sure, this also means the blog will print in IE without using all the color ink in your printer, since the change eliminates most stylistic overhead.

I wonder if it’s that easy for MovableType and TypePad?

Or, for that matter, why the software doesn’t come with something making printing simple?

Maybe blogs are only supposed to have brief little entries that nobody would print? Funny thing, that…

Refining the “F” printables

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

This post will mean nothing to people who don’t read the current Cites & Insights.

In that issue, I talk about printability, and include a list of “winners”–blogs and other sites from which you can readily get a multipage printout without difficulty–and “losers”–blogs and other sites from which I was unable to get a clean multipage printout at all.

I did not include weblogs on the “loser” list because the listings included sidebar material. That’s at worst a minor problem.

However, I should clarify that I did use Firefox for most of my testing. I had done several spotchecks using IE6, and it seemed to have the same problems on the same sites.

Somehow, though, either an IE update sneaked in with the last set of auto-updates, or something else happened. I find that several of the sites that won’t print out properly with Firefox do print out properly with IE.

So, I guess, if the site owners don’t mind losing that growing fraction of their readers who have fled IE for Firefox, maybe they don’t have a problem. I’ll run a followup next issue.

Update after some more checking: I now see that the paragraph describing when I did the testing (mostly during the last week of March) and how I did it (using Firefox, but at some point checking a few sites with IE as well) was cut for length. That is, I cut it for length: a lot of that happens as I prepare an issue for publication.

I will indeed do a followup. Most of the sites on the “losers” list do print using IE6, although in some cases not terribly well (e.g. with those vivid color backgrounds in Blogger right there on the page, using up loads of extra ink). They don’t print (in full, for long sections) in Firefox, however, and that’s still a problem.

If I was an HTML guru, I’d investigate what it is about the print code in MT, TP, and Blogger that gives Firefox such fits–given that I never have problems with ordinary HTML documents. Meantime, I will indeed follow up (and maybe retest: I note that BlogDriver’sWaltz switched to WordPress just after I tested it, and now belongs on the “Winners” list).

(Netscape 6 doesn’t seem to have a print preview function…)

And yes, I have checked: the Firefox print preview matches what will actually happen if you print.

Food: The first post

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

I didn’t mention food in the subtitle of the weblog, but, evidenced by an early comment, Eli Edwards knows I’m likely to talk about it. So, here goes:

Well, not directly food, but wine. And growing up.

In my early years in Modesto, we lived about two or three blocks from the primary Gallo winery. Later, in my junior high and high school years, we lived right in front of the Gallo glass factory (they made, and presumably still make, their own bottles). We didn’t move: Gallo purchased the mostly-empty land in the middle. Living in front of a glass factory has one interesting consequence: If it ever suddenly became wholly silent at night, or any other time, we’d know there was some big trouble…

Then, after I left for college, Gallo purchased the whole block of houses and added a cafeteria and parking lot. My parents moved to the good part of town, the junior college district. Where, to make a library connection, my long-time acquaintance Dennis Tucker, who I know mostly from INCOLSA, is now library director–that is, director of learning resources. (Modesto Junior College, and it’s called that, not a “community college,” is–I believe–the oldest junior college in California.)

So (this is becoming a Mark Twainish story) anyway: That’s the big Gallo winery, where they mostly put out all the low-end stuff. (For many years, one of their Gallo’s wine people was an engineer with the same name as my father, also an engineer…just another sidetrack.).

The serious Gallo is Gallo of Sonoma in Healdsburg (and Gina Gallo, the star of Gallo of Sonoma, went to College of Notre Dame while my wife was library director there, and the connections just keep rolling around…)

Gallo of Sonoma turns out some fine wine under its own name. But it also owns a bunch of other labels, some started new, some purchased–most affiliated with a particular region, and mostly offering very good wine. There’s Anapamu, Frei Brothers, Rancho Zabaco, and more.

So here’s my real food post, and a consumer tip: How you can identify most (but not all) Gallo labels that don’t say Gallo on the label.

If the UPC code begins with “85000” (if the first half of the large numbers under the bar code is 85000), it’s Gallo.

If the UPC code does not begin with 85000, that doesn’t mean it’s not Gallo…but that’s another story.

So if you think Gallo is evil union-busting nasty folks, here’s a way to avoid them. If you think Gallo is family-owned, strongly supportive of the local community, company that consistently turns out good-value wine (and, I believe, has made peace with the UFW), then here’s a way to identify them.

Does the peer review system work?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

Time for a little provocation: a Slate article on peer review for scholarly articles. Not, to be sure, a peer-reviewed article, but interesting nonetheless.

I’d suggest three things:

  • In many, perhaps most fields, peer review does not determine whether a paper will be published–only where it will be published. (A point the article raises, if indirectly.)
  • It’s nearly impossible to do a proper study of the worth of peer review because virtually all scholarly articles go through the process. (A point also raised directly in the article: That is, where would you find a control group for a study?)
  • Peer review implies to many people a standard of quality that it doesn’t and probably can’t consistently deliver.

Easy for me to say, of course: I don’t claim to be a scholar, and have done maybe half a dozen peer-reviewed articles in my entire career (maybe not that many). I have served as a peer reviewer, to be sure–but not in STM. And I have seen articles that I judged to be pretty much worthless show up in print, if not in the journal for which I reviewed them. (No names, please, especially since it’s been many years…)

Cites & Insights 5:6 available

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:6 (April 2005) is now available.

The 22-page issue, PDF as always, includes:

  • Bibs & Blather: Go Away–and an HTML challenge!
  • disContent Perspective: Print a bil i ty — 30% failure rate!
  • The Library Stuff: seven articles worth noting
  • Net media Perspective: Google and Gorman: More thoughts on Google Print, and a retrospective on the recent unpleasantness
  • Trends & Quick Takes: four trends, eight quick takes
  • The Good Stuff: five articles worth noting

A tip o’ the hat to Dorothea Salo, who caught a grammar goof that I corrected (along with a page number error) in the final PDF.

Theme and variations

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

Since I didn’t mention this initially:

This weblog is based on the LetterHead WordPress theme by Robin Hastings.

Modifications include:

  • Substituting serif faces (primarily Book Antiqua, Palatino, serif) for the sans typefaces used for most body and sidebar material.
  • Eliminating letterspacing within the weblog name and subtitle.
  • Enlarging most typefaces for ease of reading.
  • Eliminating some traditional sidebar sections (e.g., “Blogroll”) and adding sidebar sections appropriate to my needs.

I think that’s about it. The (lack of) color and stark simplicity are all LetterHead, all the way. Note that the print stylesheet appears to be WordPress’s default, and offers the best printability of any weblog software I’ve encountered.

Speaking of printability and weblogs, here’s a sneak preview: the April 2005 issue of Cites & Insights will be published later today (Gaia willing and the creek don’t rise), but in the meantime inquiring minds may find that clicking on that link leads to a file I loaded to make sure it would print properly–a PDF that bears a remarkable similarity to the forthcoming formally-published version.

[Hint: Formal publication in this case will consist of uploading HTML pieces and changes to the three support pages. I don’t expect to re-upload the PDF at all.]

Fading language distinctions

Monday, April 4th, 2005

Here are two lists of–well, let’s call them “thingies” for now. What do they not have in common?


The six terms do have some things in common:

  • They all refer to entities in the library field.
  • They’re all spelled with all caps.

The difference is one that seems to be fading away in English, and I think that’s a shame:

While all six are initialisms, only the first three are acronyms.

And yet you see “IBM” and “ALA” and “IEEE” and many other initialisms called “acronyms.” They’re not.

It’s not an arcane distinction. An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a series of words. It’s automatically an initialism (that is, an abbreviation made up of the first letters of a series of words)–but it’s also a word.

The first response in Google when you enter “define acronym,” sparklist, gets it wrong: “An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a series of words.” That’s an initialism.

The next seven would be ambiguous, except that two of them use as examples initialisms that aren’t acronyms (IEEE and LRC). Then there’s one that gets it right, but doesn’t use the word “initialism” for the broader range (using “abbreviation” instead).

Here’s the most succinct correct definition I find in Google’s lengthy list:

an abbreviation which is made up of the initial letters of a group of words, and is pronounced as a single word, for example: RAM (Random Access Memory). [a UK site that seems to have gone south]

Call me a fogey (Steven Cohen made me promise to avoid the usual qualifier with that term, at least until my next landmark birthday), but I like to retain distinctions in language. If someone tells me “ALA” is an acronym, I’d expect to hear something that would sound like one term for a deity. (OkLuk and Rilg are too silly to even contemplate as acronyms.)

Incidentally, Wikipedia’s lengthy article on acronyms and initialisms, which has been modified hundreds of times, “gets it right” in Wikipedia’s apparently-preferred non-judgmental style–that is, it says that many dictionaries, but not all, make the distinction. Oh well, I’ve always liked Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries, so I can live with descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive) coverage. But I also like this distinction: I believe it’s useful.

Pushing and blogging

Sunday, April 3rd, 2005

I’m trying to avoid inside-baseball entries (that is, blogs about blogging–or, worse, blogs about blogs about blogging), but this is a tough one: Steven Cohen commented on my first post, and (as frequently happens at Library Stuff), I got an error when I submitted a comment–and now there’s a “1 comment” signal but I get nothing but empty box when I click on it. So I’ll respond here…and refer you to Perspective: The Dangling Conversation from the March Cites & Insights for lots more comments about the problems with “conversations” in weblogs.

In the credits in that first post, I included a thanks to “all the people who did not follow Steven Cohen’s suggestion that they push me to start a weblog,” noting that I don’t respond well to pushing. Here’s Steven’s comment on this:

Sure, I’ve been telling Walt to start a weblog for a few years and it is possible that I told people to nudge him a bit (although I can’t find any evidence of that – I didn’t look hard though), but I don’t understand why it matters. The irony is that Walt started a blog as a reaction to a negative essay in Library Journal and not a proactive push from me and probably a few fellow bloggers (I couldn’t have been the only one asking Walt to start a blog, although I was probably a bit more vocal about it). And whether he admits it or not, my pushing may have been a small factor in his decision to start a blog.

[He follows this with some very nice comments, which I thank him for, although I’m not sure that a fading library person who really didn’t do much of anything professionally until he was 39 years makes such a great mentor, and I’m certainly no role model!)

Well, here’s the thing, Steve: The last sentence of this post is: “So, help Walt out and Name That Blog (and push him to pursue the possibilities).” I interpreted that parenthetical clause as a suggestion that people push me to actually create the weblog. Maybe I misread it.

In any case, I didn’t intend a dig at Steven Cohen. He’s an advocate for weblogs, RSS, and other stuff–a pretty successful advocate, I’d say, given that his weblog is sponsored, he’s one of the few “A-list library bloggers,” and he’s speaking 16 (sixteen!) times this year, according to his blog. (That’s fifteen more than me, at least to date–and at least six more than I’d be willing to do under any circumstances.) He’s a mover and a shaker; just ask Library Journal. He’s also a nice guy; if he does regard me as a mentor, I’m honored.

The dig, if it was a dig, was at me–or, rather, at character elements that could be called “flaws.” One of them is that I’ve grown stubborn over time. I listen (or I try to), I look at what might work, and I’m reasonably flexible–but my response to continued prodding in one direction is somewhat mulish. Thus, I started doing HTML sections of Cites & Insights only after people had stopped bugging me to do a full version. I started using an aggregator when it didn’t require downloading or installing software and when I could use a single aggregator from home and work without difficulty. And I started a weblog after Cites & Insights left its formative, experimental stages and I concluded that I do have occasional things to say that just don’t fit there (either for time, topic, or approach reasons).

And I really do hope that this is the last blog about blogging that I do for a week or so…

Orphan Works

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

An orphan work is a work protected by copyright “whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate,” to use the wording of the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry on Orphan Works, issued January 26, 2005. Here’s a little more from the summary of the notice:

Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.

It’s a real problem–but it’s a lot worse problem now than it was decades ago. Back then (at various stages):

  • You had to register a work with the Copyright Office for it to be protected by copyright at all.
  • Copyright expired after 28 years or, with explicit renewal, after 56 years. Thus, it was impossible for a work to be orphaned by more than 28 years
  • Even after the term was extended, you still had the registration requirement, which at least provided a starting point for finding the copyright holder. That requirement no longer stands.

The Copyright Act of 1976, which eliminated registration and even the requirement for a (c) mark, made orphans far more likely–after all, there’s no longer even a starting point to track down the copyright holder. This has made it nearly impossible to republish older books, movies, sound recordings, whatever–stuff where the owner has disappeared, but might reappear and sue once the republication happens.

The comment period ended March 25. It was well publicized by Mary Minow and others in the library and copyright communities–so well publicized that 700 comments were received by the deadline.

This is an important issue for libraries and the creative arts. A combination of factors meant that I didn’t include a heads-up during the comment period–and the sheer bulk of comments assure that I won’t even attempt anything like a coherent review of the comments. When (if) the Copyright Office issues a statement, I expect to comment on it (and may comment on a few of the written comments and proposed bills relating to orphan works).

Meanwhile, if you recognize how important this really is, you might want to do some of your own reading. Mary Minow recently posted a link to (and summary of) ALA’s draft proposal for orphan works, and previously posted her own written comment.

Other starting points include Orphan Works (thanks, Mary, for that link as well) and Public Knowledge, but there’s a host of others as well.