Archive for May, 2005

Notes about cruising, Part 1

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

The tagline for this weblog notes a few of the many odd topics I’ve covered–and one I haven’t up to now: Cruising. (No, not that kind of cruising. The kind where you’re on a ship or a boat.) So, herewith the first in an occasional series on cruising–why you might (or might not) want to consider it and some of our experiences.

Fair warning: Our experiences are atypical–or, rather, they’re typical experiences on atypical ships. When we were cruising on the cheap and our favorite cruise line went bankrupt, taking a booked Panama Canal cruise with it, we wound up on a high-end cruise line instead. And we’ve mostly been on high-end lines ever since, because they meet our needs particularly well. (Hey, we both work full time, we both hate to shop, we drive Honda Civics out of preference, my wife’s hobbies cost very little, and my primary “hobby” brings in extra money: Cruising is our only extravagance.)

More about that later, when I get to specific ships. I mention it up front because I can’t give you any personal experience with Carnival, Princess, NCL (Norwegian), or Royal Caribbean, the big mainstream cruise lines: We’ve never been on any of them.

Back to the starting point: Why would you consider a cruise?

For us, it all started with Hawaii: We’d never been, we didn’t want to waste away on Waikiki, we wanted to see several islands, and back when American Hawaii was operating 7-night four-island cruises, that was one easy way to see a lot of Hawaii.

There’s another aspect to multi-location vacations: neither of us will go somewhere on the basis that we’ll find somewhere to stay when we get there; neither of us cares for repeated packing and unpacking or, for that matter, checking in and out of hotels; neither of us wants to try to find a restaurant when we’re starving (or get stuck with chain restaurants); and, frankly, neither of us really loves driving or flying.

So the idea of seeing places via cruise ship made sense: You check in once, unpack once, and you know where you’re staying in every city. You know where you’re dining too. Someone else does the driving, but you’re not stuck on a tour bus: The transportation also provides a range of things to do. (Even a library!)

We weren’t sure we’d like cruising, and it took us years to make up our minds on that first cruise. But when we took the cruise–on the Constitution, a great old liner that’s now at the bottom of the ocean somewhere–we loved it. We did one or two tours at each stop, seeing more of Maui, Hawaii (the big island), Kauai, and Oahu than we could have done on our own in a one-week trip without exhausting ourselves. We also cruised slowly past the magnificent cliffs of Molokai and their many waterfalls–something you can’t do except by boat. We found the room more than acceptable, the food good, the people varied and interesting. Accidentally, we also learned that neither of us suffers from seasickness (a surprise, since I had terrible motion sickness as a child): On the longest crossing night, there was a tropical storm, with waves reaching just under the bridge and with substantial swaying up and down, back and forth. (The Constitution was an old ship, with none of today’s stabilizers.) Our cabin was full forward and just under the bridge, getting all the motion you could get. The next morning, half the crew was sick, there was broken glass all over the gift shop, and few passengers were up and around–and we were fine.

That was our first cruising experience. We knew it wouldn’t be our last, but it was a couple of years before we saved up for another one. That one was one of the experiences that every American should have some time, and that’s almost impossible to do any way except by cruise ship (or ferry system): Seeing Alaska along the Inside Passage.

More on that later. On that second cruise, we watched a lot of the passengers who now had the time and money to cruise, but were old and feeble enough that they couldn’t fully enjoy some of the shore excursions. That was when we decided to see at least some of the world while we were still young and healthy enough to enjoy it fully, as time and money allowed. Probably the best decision we ever made (other than getting married, of course)…

In another post, maybe, I’ll provide some bullet points on why you might or might not want to cruise. I’ve offered a few hints here. Cruising isn’t necessarily expensive–actually, it can be cheaper than most land vacations, depending (I see prices as low as $500 per person for a seven-night cruise on a good-quality ship, and that includes lodging, food, and transportation)–and more expensive cruising can be worth every penny.

Enough for now.

Note: For the next 10-12 days, posting will be erratic and I may not be reading comments or approving those comments that require moderation. If you post a comment and it doesn’t appear, it must have hit the moderation trigger (links can do that, and I’m not sure what else); I’ll approve it when I can [assuming there’s not a problem, and so far I’ve never failed to approve a comment). If I don’t respond–well, I will eventually, just not for the next few days.

Old movies–TV movies, in this case

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

Another in the ongoing series of single-disc comments on TreeLine’s megapacks, my constant companions in treadmill time:

This is the 50-Movie All Star Collection, a set of 50 Movies for TV.

All stars! All color (I believe)! All talkies! Some as recent as the 1980s. Some even with stereo sound! Oh, and by the way, these are all TV movies. Nothing wrong with that, to be sure.

I naïvely expected that TV movies would be defect-free, taken from videotapes. In general, there are a lot fewer defects here—but there are, in some cases, the kind of scratches and jumps you expect from overused prints.

As always, a second bracketed run time is what I actually found on the DVD, when it differs by more than a minute from IMDB’s claimed run time.

Disc 1

Divorce His; Divorce Hers, 1973, color, Hussein Waris (dir.), Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Carrie Nye, Barry Foster. 3:00 [2:27]

I don’t understand either the 3:00 claimed run time at IMDB or the 2:34 combined run time on the sleeve (two portions, 77 minutes each). I’d guess the latter difference represents the “in part 2” trailer and “in part 1” leader that the TV presentations would have, which don’t appear on the DVD—but I would assume that these were 90-minute episodes including ads, which makes sense for 73-74 minute runtimes. Is it plausible that 33 minutes are missing? I doubt it. In any case, this two-sided view of a marriage falling apart is well-photographed (mostly in Rome), in glorious color, and you can’t fault the cast. It’s a little slow moving (as one reviewer noted, it would have made a good 2-hour movie), but it’s certainly worth watching. Generally very good condition. (This counts as two of the four movies on disc 1: Divorce His and Divorce Hers.) $2.50.

The Brass Ring, 1983, color, Bob Balaban (dir.), Dina Merrill, Sylvia Sidney, Dana Baron. 1:21

Well…Dina Merrill plays this kind of role well, I guess. She’s a depressed mother of three who won’t take her medicine, runs away from her mother’s house in New York (Sylvia Sidney as the mother), camps out on supposed family property for some months, gets a job for a little while, and then goes completely out of it…while the older daughter narrates and tries to keep the family together. The mother also chain-smokes. Just not very interesting, a typical “trouble” TV-movie.

Catholics, 1973, Jack Gold (dir.), Trevor Howard, Raf Vallone, Martin Sheen, Cyril Cusack. 1:37 [1:13]

Another puzzler: Is it possible that 24 minutes are missing? (The sleeve, which has the run time right for The Brass Ring, says 1:18; the DVD itself has 1:13 of movie.] Maybe so, but I can’t imagine where—unless they added 24 minutes for the video release, called The Conflict. The full title of the TV movie is Catholics: A Fable. It’s set in “the future”—1999—in a time in which the Catholic Church has not only abolished the Latin Mass but also private confession, Lourdes has been closed by the church, and transubstantiation is no longer Catholic dogma—now you’re eating a wafer and drinking wine with only metaphoric religious meaning. A bunch of monks on an Irish island maintain The Old Ways, going to the mainland to do an open-air Latin Mass, and bus- and plane-loads of people flock to attend these now-heretical services. A very young Martin Sheen (this was 32 years ago, after all) shows up as a representative of Rome, to investigate and quell the rebellion. He’s not dressed as a priest. It’s an interesting story about faith (or lack thereof) and change. Unfortunately, this one appears to have been taken from an overused film print; there’s a fair amount of damage. $1.

12 strings, stunt potholes, and moderating

Friday, May 27th, 2005

It’s Friday, and time for a catchall.

Yesterday on the way to work, I was listening to Tom Paxton’s “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation.” (That’s the first line of the chorus, which continues, “Have no fear of escalation, I am trying everyone to please; Though it isn’t really war, I’m sending 50,000 more, To help save Viet Nam from Vietnamese.”) On the money as the lyrics are–in the voice of a soldier coping with our interference in a civil war, and mostly lighthearted–that’s not what this is about.

This is about the sound–the sound of the acoustic 12-string guitar, the only accompaniment in this song. A well-played acoustic 12-string is, in my experience, one of the most impressive and expressive “human-powered” instruments around. I don’t seem to hear it much any more; maybe it’s too tough to play, or maybe everyone’s in love with electronics. (Or maybe I’m listening to the wrong music.) In the folk-music era, though, there were some great 12-string performers. In Berkeley, I remember one guy who did a credible transcription of “Great Gates of Kiev” from “Pictures at an Exhibition”–and it was as though an orchestra was playing.

That’s one piece. The second: Stunt potholes!

Today’s paper has the Governator filling in a pothole in San Jose to show how wonderful it is that he’s not taking away as much of the transportation budget as originally expected. (He’s stealing a couple billion extra from our under-funded schools instead, but then, they’re run by Special Interests–schoolteachers–so they’re an easy target. We now know that Arnold’s definition of Special Interest excludes any corporation that gives him campaign money and includes anybody who doesn’t, particularly if they represent or include actual workers.)

Great photo op.

Only one problem: The pothole was created so that he could fill it in. Not that San Jose doesn’t have potholes; the residents said there were plenty of them a couple of blocks away. But apparently they weren’t photogenic enough, or something. So a bunch of workers went out and dug up the street in the morning so Arnold could help fill it in in the afternoon. Perfect for an actor: A stunt pothole.

Sorry. I try to avoid politics, but this was just too precious. In case you care, I didn’t much like Davis either. California’s last really good governor (in my opinion) was named Brown, and the first name wasn’t “Jerry”–I mean Pat Brown, Jerry’s father. That was a long time ago…

Third and final piece: Expect posting to be even more irregular over the next two weeks–and expect comment moderation and responses to comments to be nonexistent or nearly so. I still don’t understand what causes some comments to require moderation while most don’t, but there’s been just enough spam that I’m unwilling to open the moderation gates entirely. If your comment doesn’t show up for a while (as much as two weeks, in this case), it probably doesn’t mean I’m censoring it; it probably means it hit the moderation triggers and will show up…eventually.

NetFlix and…Wal-Mart?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Talk about your “good news, bad news” situation.

Wal-Mart started a NetFlix-like DVD subscription operation. Put a fair amount of money into it, too. And got nowhere with it. That’s the good news: Any time some other company can clean Wal-Mart’s clock without corrupt or unfair practices, and particularly when it’s a relatively small company, that’s a good thing.

Wal-Mart gave up. So far, so good. Wal-Mart even routed its customers to NetFlix, which agreed to keep them at Wal-Mart prices for a month (or more?). (The prices aren’t that much different.)

Here’s the bad news: It seems to have resulted in some form of “partnership” between NetFlix and Wal-Mart, such that NetFlix now refers you to Wal-Mart if you want to buy DVDs. (I believe they used to refer you to Amazon.) That’s a shame.

Will I drop NetFlix because of the Wal-Mart association? No; it’s clear that Wal-Mart doesn’t own NetFlix. This was part of the deal for Wal-Mart dropping their DVD subscription operation. But I certainly won’t follow the link either.

I prefer local bookstores to Amazon, and think that’s a reasonable preference. (I do buy things from Amazon, but they’re things that aren’t available at local stores.) But, other than a lingering distrust of some Amazon operations based on specific experience related to one of my books, I have nothing particularly against Amazon.

Wal-Mart is a different story. If you’re in some small town that’s already been Wal-Marted, you don’t have much choice, and if price is all that matters to you, that may be the overriding factor–but I don’t like the company’s business practices, and I loathe the stores themselves. My own stance (and my wife agrees) is that if something’s only available at Wal-Mart, we probably don’t need it that badly.

Not much to do with libraries, I suppose. Sorry about that; this is one of those (weeks? months? years?).

Open Access: Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Just a quick note here:

The new(?) Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship is out with an Open Access theme.

(Thanks to DigitalKoans/Charles W. Bailey, Jr. for the tip.)

I haven’t read the articles yet, but I regard ISTL as a first-rate journal, so I’m inclined to believe they’re worth reading.

Since the current Cites & Insights has a Library Access to Scholarship section, I’m unlikely to discuss these articles soon.

Blog stuff and followups: a potpourri

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

Just a little digital dusting…

So Blaise Cronin does one of those silly attacks on blogging, “the blogosphere” manages to simultaneously prove his point and refute it (that is, a whole bunch of stupid name-calling goes on, along with a fair amount of cogent, well-written criticism), and Dean Cronin “responds” with a piece that cites the worst of the blogosphere (anonymously, of course) and ignores the best.

Point proved. Both Cronin’s point, by selective evidence, and the points of his better critics, by his response.

I did write briefly about this situation when it first heated up. I don’t think I have any new points to make that I didn’t already make in Cites & Insights 5:6.

Except for one little item I’d forgotten. Checking C&I indexes to see what I’d said about Cronin in the past, I was reminded that he appeared as an expert witness in the CIPA case. Supporting CIPA, that is. My comment at the time was:

Cronin’s rebuttal to expert testimony…strikes me as astonishing and considerably lowers my respect for Dr. Cronin.

It’s fair to say that this latest brouhaha does not restore that respect.

A while back, I wrote about my new “subnotebook”. A progress report may be in order. To date, I’ve made 22 entries.

Three of those are reminders that I more-or-less have to do certain C&I pieces in the next few months: A followup on printability, the honest-as-possible 10-year review of Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality, and…well, the third one will remain silent for now.

Eight other entries have resulted in postings here. So far, none of them have resulted in a C&I essay, but it’s early yet.

The remaining entries will either turn into essays or posts, or I’ll decide they’re no longer interesting when I tear the first few pages out. So far, so good. (Except that my wife, who didn’t know about the notebook, decided she needed something similar–and found an even smaller edge-bound memo pad. Twice as expensive, but I know what I’ll buy when–if–this one’s full.)

Finally, I just read a commentary on why “blogging” is a terrible word–I don’t remember where I read it, or I’d link. I don’t want to get into the vocabulary discussion, but what astonished me was the person’s discussion of how they prepare blog entries:

  • First they write out the post in longhand, on a legal pad.
  • Then they key it into Word for spell-checking and review.
  • Then they paste it into a weblog tool for publication.

I’m impressed. Here’s how I prepare a weblog entry:

  • Log in to WordPress, click on “Write.”
  • Choose categories (which I’m clearly bad at, given my struggles in finding old posts)
  • Write the post.
  • Click “Save as Draft” so WordPress will show me a formatted preview.
  • Fix any grotesque HTML errors and click Publish.

That’s it. I suppose it shows in the results. The only exceptions are postdated entries (a few of which are on the way, and I’ll explain why they were postdated after they appear, if I remember)–and even those were written directly within WordPress, in one sitting.

But then, I certainly don’t aspire to literary greatness in this blog!

Cites & Insights 5:8 available

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Cites & Insights 5.8 (June 2005) is now available.

This 24-page issue includes:

  • Bibs & Blather – Readership patterns, a cheaper HTML challenge, a reminder about reporting, and notes about cable flags, which leads into:
  • Perspective: The Broadcast Flag (an Endless Story?) – Notes on the court ruling striking down the broadcast flag, reactions from various sources, the issue of “standing” as it applied to ALA and other plaintiffs, some background–and, sigh, proposed legislation to restore the struck-down flag.
  • Net Media – comments on wiki wackiness, weblogs, RSS, audio blogging (and podcasting), the folks at Pew, and why I’m not covering Folksonomy
  • Trends & Quick Takes – four trends and seven mini-perspectives ranging from hi-rez audio to a look back at Y2K
  • Library Access to Scholarship – The NIH policy and various reactions, a Suber trio, and shorter pieces related to access, including extensive notes on Charles W. Bailey, Jr.’s new DigitalKoans weblog.

If you just can’t cope with PDF or only care about one of these topics, you can reach HTML versions of each essay from the C&I home page.

(Note: If anyone here’s also on the Topica CICAL Alert list–Topica is down today, so this issue will have a three-day rollout instead of the usual two-day rollout.)

Mondegreens as ads

Friday, May 20th, 2005

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen it by now: The ad for Lime Coke with the strange, catchy tune.

If you were ever a Harry Nilsson fan, you may feel a slight sense of outrage. Or nostalgia.

And if you can hear, you’ll recognize why the ad has a follow-the-bouncing-ball section: To convince you that what’s being sung is “lime in the Coke, you nut,” even though you don’t think that’s what you heard.

It isn’t what you heard.

Harry Nilsson wrote The Coconut Song and recorded it in 1971. As with much of what Nilsson did, it’s a mix of talent and eccentricity. I can’t make sense of all the lyrics, but the verses have something to do with “Doctor, ain’t there something I can take…to relieve this bellyache” and the chorus goes,

“You put the lime in the coconut, you drink them both up…”

I trust Nilsson’s estate got a hefty fee for the deliberate misquotation and use of his performance. I don’t plan to try the new concoction, but then I don’t care for pop in general. (Sodas? Cocola? I don’t know what my regional term for sweet fizzy stuff is supposed to be.)

(Mondegreens? Mishearings of song lyrics as being other lyrics. Jon Caroll’s written a number of great columns over the years about Mondegreens, which take their name from a mishearing of a ballad about how they killed Lord such-and-such and laid him on the green, which was heard as “they killed Lord such-and-such and Lady Mondegreen.”)

The undeath of lists

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Chrystie at BlogJunction has this post about lists. (“List servs” may avoid trademark problems, but barely. Can’t we just call them lists?)

Quoting a central section:

Saying “List servs are dead” is like saying “God is Dead!” or “The Author is Dead!” While I admit that I usually will indulge in this sort of brain candy, there’s something about this particular “X is dead!” statement that doesn’t sit right with me.

Just a few weeks ago on PUBLIB, real-life librarians were talking about restroom fixtures, pc management, and breaks from the reference desk. They were also talking about censorship, Laura Bush, and disabling public chat. And the nice thing about it is that there were tons of different voices in there. Sure, it came in to my email and filtered down to a folder. Yes, it’s sort of a pain. But something tells me that we need to remember, or get back somehow, to the real challenges facing librarians, especially those in small and rural areas. Sometimes it *is* more about the restroom fixtures. When’s the last time we picked something like that off our feed? Better yet, when’s the last time we offered a public solution to that sort of problem? We need to create and use technologies that enable and value a multitude of voices, and foster collaboration between folks with varying experiences and expertise. We need to value above all else that we use these technologies to collaboratively solve real problems in real libraries.

Earlier, Chrystie expresses a surprise at the lack of reaction to Stevie C’s “lists are dead!” proclamation. I would swear that I did take Steven on at the time, but can’t locate it at the moment. Perhaps I just thought, “Well, that’s Steven M. Cohen oversimplifying for the sake of emphasis again,” or “Well, lists are dead to Steven…” Certainly, when I wrote The Dangling Conversation, I worked on the assumption that lists were and are far from dead.

By the way, when you’re at BlogJunction, go back to yesterday’s posts about real libraries and virtual services. As one who’s been saying “And, not or” for more than a decade now, I can’t help but agree. (Wouldn’t it be nice if folks like, say, Barbara Quint recognized that, at least for public and academic libraries, real librarians working in actual physical libraries with real collections continue to be important for their “placeness” as well as for the, ahem, “information” locked up in those collections?)


Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

I’m a little slow to comment on this, but Dorothea posted a comment on why CavLec doesn’t have a blogroll. (Or, rather, why it doesn’t currently have a blogroll. Read the post.)

I’d intended to comment, either here or in email to Ms. Salo, way back on May 7. Did I mention that these are strange and busy times? (I didn’t comment directly on the blog because CavLec doesn’t do comments either. Dorothea notes that, since it also lacks visible TrackBacks–as do I–“Some go so far as to say it is not a blog because it lacks these features.” Right.)

Here’s part of her commentary–part of the reason she dropped her blogroll:

I ditched my blogroll quite some time ago, when I discovered that revising it was a social act with social consequences. One of the principles in the current blogroll debate had swamped my (often inadequate, conceded) ability to cope with moodiness, angry chaff, incessant conflict, and “if you’re not 100% with me you’re 100% against me–AND YOU SUCK!” all-or-nothing thinking. Nice person (fundamentally), excellent blog, but I’d had all I could deal with and more. So I de-blogrolled the blog, admitting both then and now that it was a speech act; I did indeed mean to send a message by it.

More recently, she’s been persuaded by

an argument for diversity of voices. If folks like me hide their blogrolls, then only echo-chambers will have blogrolls, or something like that. I’ve got plenty of blogs on my Bloglines subscription that other people ought to read, and I’m missing out on a chance to connect those good blogs with good readers. That is, indeed, regrettable

Hmm, I sez. Bloglines makes it very easy to populate a blogroll with your set of subscriptions. I knew that when “I” started this here weblog. (“I” in quotes because Blake Carver did the heavy lifting and Dorothea Salo provided the crucial suggestions; I just made choices and did a bit of hamhanded template editing, of the “little knowledge is dangerous” variety.) And I deliberately didn’t use that option.

For that matter, there’s nothing on the site called a “Blogroll,” and that had to be intentional, since the heading comes packaged as part of the LetterHead template. Instead, I have two headings: Library Folk and Other Folk (also Places, so I guess that’s three). I populated each one sparsely–Library Folk with just over a dozen library weblogs that I thought were less well read than they deserved to be (OK, so I had to include LISNews…), Other Folk with a few other interesting blogs.

The entries under those headings are supposed to appear in random order (do they?). I planned to update the set of entries every month or two–take a few out, put a few new ones in–although I haven’t done that. One or two people grumped slightly about not being in the list of “Library Folks,” but I didn’t catch any serious flack.

Now? I dunno. Part of me says I should drop the sections entirely, or at least the “Library Folk” section; it’s not as though it’s difficult to find librarian weblogs. Part of me says I should stick with making a few changes every couple of months, just offering a sampling of “interesting weblogs I pay attention to.” None of me wants to put all 120+ of my Bloglines subscriptions in a Blogroll. After all, there are some blogs that I track but really don’t agree with or particularly support…although I’ve given up on some of the most extreme.

Am I failing to point out interesting weblogs to you because I don’t have a comprehensive blogroll? Does my “just an interesting sampling” strategy make sense? Should I drop blogrolls altogether?

Or, just as likely, is this a totally inconsequential issue?