Archive for April, 2006

I don’t need no stinkin’ magazines

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

That’s a literal statement, one that Conde Nast would do well to pay attention to.

A couple of days ago, a thick issue of Conde Nast Traveler arrived–one of my favorite travel magazines, but my wife (who suffers from asthma) doesn’t read it partly because the paper/ink combination is a bit odoriferous.

This issue was different: As I unwrapped the wholly pointless resource-wasting plastic bag (not quite wholly pointless: It let Conde Nast bundle in full-sheet ads for other magazines that I have no intention of subscribing to), I nearly gagged: The magazine stunk.

The culprits were predictable: Two full-page perfume ads, with those foldover strips that supposedly release just a hint of the wonderful expensive perfume if you open up the strip.

Except, of course, that what they really do is shove the stink down your throat immediately, making it a whole lot worse if you’re stupid enough to unfold the strip.

I ripped out the two pages and took them out to the garage (and then to recycling). The magazine will eventually return to its normal low level of paper/ink smell. If my wife had opened the magazine, she’d be running for her inhaler.

Bad enough that Macy’s, which we sometimes shop at (for lack of better alternatives, and neither of us will shop at stores that regularly advertise fur coats), has taken to including perfume inserts in their Sunday flyers. Usually, it means that even after removing the insert, I just have to take the whole flyer out of the house; my wife can’t cope with the flyer.

I suspect there are a lot more asthmatics than there used to be, thanks to the chemical saturation we all deal with. Relatively few people around here wear heavy perfumes, fortunately (in 25 cruises, we’ve had one, but just one, case in which my wife had to leave the table during dinner because she couldn’t breathe, thanks to a perfume-soaked woman at an adjacent table). We really don’t need to be assaulted by perfumes in the magazines we buy. If it happens again with Conde Nast Traveler I’ll cancel the magazine, much as I like many of its articles and features. It’s just not worth it.

I wonder about these scent-heavy magazines in public libraries; I assume that “women’s magazines” have a lot more of these stinky ads. Maybe ventilation is enough more aggressive in public libraries that it’s not an issue? (Yes, my wife uses the local public library; no, so far she’s never had a problem there.)

SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 9

Friday, April 28th, 2006

The Astral Factor, 1976, color, John Florea (dir.), Robert Foxworth, Stefanie Powers, Sue Lyon, Elke Sommer, Leslie Parrish, Marianna Hill, Cesare Danova. 1:36.

IMDB says The Astral Factor was a working title, with Invisible Strangler the final title. In any case, it’s an odd little movie with a cast better than it deserves. Foxworth is a detective; Powers is his girlfriend (there strictly as eye candy, apparently, unfortunately given that she’s a decent actress). The rest of the women…well, a prisoner at a state hospital has figured out how to turn himself invisible (and kill people with his deadly stare, but that’s secondary), escapes, and sets about killing the beautiful women who testified against him after he murdered his beautiful mother, with his insane conviction that all of the other women are also his mother. He also kills anybody who happens to be in his way, but does that with his magic stare (and I’m guessing he has to be visible for the stare to work; the women, he strangles invisibly). The transfer-to-invisibility visual is like a low-budget version of Star Trek’s transporter effect. Elke Sommer, drink always in hand, survives; the rest don’t. The movie? OK—probably better with a couple drinks under your belt. Not the high point of anyone’s career. Damaged print brings it down to $1.

The Galaxy Invader, 1985, color, Don Dohler (dir.), Richard Ruxton and other unknowns, including several Dohlers. 1:19.

An alien (with green rubbery skin, a glowing white ball, and a white ray gun invisibly powered by the ball) lands in the woods near a drunken redneck and family. College student spots the landing, gets professor involved. Various shenanigans involving the redneck’s family (who hate him), his redneck buddy promising riches, the professor and student, grabbing the ball, grabbing the alien, freeing the alien, and generally running around in the woods. Awful acting (a cast that mostly only shows up in other Dohler films, presumably all filmed with zero budgets), absurd screenplay, one decent special effect, and an ending that…well, “Independence Day” comes to mind, but probably not the one you’re thinking of. (Think country music, not scifi movies). And yet…for some reason, I found this inept pile of trash likeable. Damned if I know why, although there is one tiny bit of good scriptwriting: The professor (in shirtsleeves, no tie) and student go to get something to eat at the dive/roadhouse that’s nearby. The waitress offers menus if they’d like them and takes drink orders. The prof asks whether he can get a vodka martini on the rocks, shaken, not stirred. Waitress: “No.” Prof: “How about a beer?” Waitress: “Sure.” That’s the highlight of the film…and yet it works. By any rational standard, not worth a dime; I give it $1, and can’t really explain why.

Battle of the Worlds (Il pianeta degli uomini spenti), 1961, color, Antonio Margheriti (dir.), Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Umberto Orsini, Maya Brent. 1:24.

One reasonably favorable review at IMDB calls this “very similar to When Worlds Collide.” Well, sure, in much the same way that hamburger is very similar to a good porterhouse: They’re both beef. Battle of the Worlds is a dubbed Italian flick with one name star, Claude Rains (in apparently his last movie role) as a bitter old genius scientist who can figure out everything through equations. He recognizes that a planetoid (“the unknown”) isn’t going to hit the Earth (as it first appears) but is instead going to go into a slowly declining orbit. Pretty decent special effects for the time, a truly strange interior section on the planetoid/spaceship, and a thoroughly empty ending. Not wonderful, not terrible. $1.

Unknown World, 1951, b&w, Terry O. Morse (dir.), Bruce Kellogg, Otto Waldis, Jim Bannon, Marilyn Nash, Victor Kilian (uncredited). 1:14.

Concerned scientists are sure that humanity’s about to blow itself up and want to find an underground refuge. They develop a “Cyclotram”—a nuclear-powered vehicle with a drill in front—and, thanks to funding from a useless young rich man looking for thrills, take off to seek out the refuge. They start out at Mt. Nelee, an extinct volcano in Alaska, and just keep going down, with various perils along the way. They find their refuge at an absurd depth (you didn’t know that the earth’s basically just a honeycomb of tunnels with temperature about the same all the way down to 2600 miles below the surface?), but Something in the Air means the test rabbits breed sterile. Some of the explorers make it back to the surface, thanks to that little-known portion of the ocean that’s 2600 miles deep. Most of this movie is actors walking around in Carlsbad Caverns, sort of like The Incredible Petrified World on disc 1. A bit boring, preachy and dull, but not terrible. $0.75.

Gasoline, numeracy, and journalism

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Californians use more gas than any other state.

Californians use less gas than inhabitants of 44 other states.

Those are both true statements (according to a story in this morning’s Chronicle), but only one of them is meaningful. Fortunately, although the story included them in the wrong order, it did include both. Unfortunately, most stories of this sort only include the equivalent of the first.

Glossing the two statements:

Taken as a whole, California consumes more gasoline than any other state.

Californians consume less gasoline per capita than inhabitants of 44 other states.

Statements in the first category are almost always meaningless, because they leave out the key fact (which people may “know” but tend to be fuzzy about): California has more people than any other state–and not just a few more. 2004 estimates are that California has nearly 60% more inhabitants than the second most populous state: just under 35.9 million people compared to Texas’ 22.5 million.

Thus, saying that California has the most X of whatever is usually a waste of ink, unless you’re comparing it to countries (e.g., “the sixth largest economy in the world”–compared to nations, not other states).

The second statement is interesting, particularly given that California is a long state whose inhabitants are used to driving long distance, with most cities really not designed for pedestrians. It suggests that all those Priuses and Civic Hybrids and regular Civics and the rest really do make a difference.

(Similarly, despite the fabled affluence of Californians and our reliance on air conditioners and all that other stuff, the 2004 figures for electricity consumption are pretty startling:

Residential: California average, 2367 KWH per capita. U.S. average: 4405 KWH per capita

Total (including industrial and transportation): CA, 7041 KWH per cap, U.S.: 12081 KWH per cap.

Interestingly, the percentage of all electricity devoted to residential use isn’t much different: 34% in California, 36.5% U.S. as a whole.)

Updated a few minutes later: One other calculation would make the energy-efficiency of Californians (drummed into us for years, successfully, apparently) a little more obvious. Namely, taking residential power consumption for the rest of the country on a per capita basis.

That yields 4688 KWH per capita.

Which means that Californians, on average, use barely over half as much electricity as non-Californians in the U.S. (50.4%).

Recycling numbers would be interesting (Mountain View substantially exceeds California’s 50%-diversion target, that is, manages to recycle considerably more than 50% of what was formally trash), but I haven’t looked for them.

Survey on library community-building

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

There’s a survey on libraries and community-building that Chrystie R. Hill and Steven M. Cohen hope you’ll complete, to assist them in producing their book on libraries and community-building.

Since I’m not in a library, I’m not answering the survey. I’m posting this because Steven Cohen is asking for broad posting, linking back to this post.
Hmm. Library Stuff has just over 4,200 Bloglines subscribers (at least those using the feed I use). This blog has 138. I suppose a few of those 138 aren’t among the 4,200+…

Anyway, if you’re in a library, take a look.

Cites & Insights 6:7 available

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Cites & Insights 6:7, May 2006 is now available.

The 22-page issue (PDF as always, but each section is available as an HTML separate from the home page) includes:

  • Perspective: Books, Blogs & Style – Comments (my own and others’) about the relationship of books and blogs (and “blooks”!).
  • Following Up and Feedback
  • Trends, Quick Takes & Good Stuff – Five trends, two quicker takes, and two article commentaries.
  • Bibs & Blather – Tweaking the sections, C&I and YBP Academia, two resources you need to be aware of, and a tentative plan for the next four issues.
  • Library Access to Scholarship – Almost half the issue, but it’s been six months…
  • Perspective: You Just Can’t Comprehend – Maybe off-topic. Maybe not.

Counting the spam

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Actual site visitors may note that, after an initial period of light activity, the Spam Karma 2 spam count is moving up relatively rapidly, on the order of 10 to 50 “eaten” posts per day.

It appears (although I’m not quite certain) that most of this spam was being stopped by WordPress’s “block list.” It’s still being stopped, but counted by Spam Karma 2. (I could be wrong, in which case there’s just a whole lot more spam, mostly repetitive.)

Sigh: One managed to make it through as well, although it’s now been disappeared.

If there is a hell, I’m comforted that there will be a special ring of it reserved for spammers and crackers. I should at least be in a less horrific ring.

[Yes, I know, it’s another metablog. I do have a few “real” posts that I want to do. Somehow, time and energy are lacking. We actually went to a live play this weekend, for the first time in years–“The Sisters Rosenzweig,” a first-rate play in a first-rate performance (Actors Equity professionals, not a local theater group) at Mountain View ‘s Performing Arts Center–then spent most of Sunday afternoon planting a second Blenheim apricot tree to replace a plum tree that didn’t survive… But after one more C&I essay, I’ll do some real blogging. Maybe.]

LISHost rules the library world

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Have you been noticing similar posts from a fair number of library (and related) blogs–TameTheWeb, Hangingtogether, and a slew of others?

About losing some posts and comments and how they’d restore the posts but maybe not the comments?

OK, for W.a.r. it’s obvious: The URL includes “” If I’d started the blog a month later, after I finally set up, it wouldn’t be so obvious (given 1and1’s pricing, I’d probably just buy as a domain).

Blake lists some of the customers on the LISHost pages–but not all.

And does a fine job. Every system has hiccups once in a while. Rarely do you get the kind of personal feedback and attempts to correct the hiccups that we-all got at LISHost.

Minor note: It’s taking me a while to get used to the semi-WYSIWYG editor in WordPress 2, which Blake installed (at my request, before we realized that the hommas4000talat situation–still there at Technorati, but give it time–was a Bloglines problem, not a LISHost problem); if there are more aesthetic irregularities than usual, blame my slow-learner status.

Oh: And linkbacks, which I’ve always allowed, are actually showing up now. I’ll monitor them. If I find they’re being used for spam purposes, I’ll simply turn them off: Managed to live with them being invisible for a year.

Mary Ghikas becomes a liblogger

Friday, April 21st, 2006

I’m probably about the tenth to mention this, but Mary Ghikas at ALA has started blogging.

I’ve known Mary for, well, more years than either of us would necessarily admit to. She’s one of the (many) good people. It’s a pleasure to see the Green Kangaroo.

A note to my newly-cozy readership

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Note: this post confused two things that turned out to be separate: A LISHost problem that caused two days of posts and comments to disappear, and a Bloglines problem that caused the “hossam4000talat,” not only here but on some other blogs. Bloglines seems to be OK again. [Note added 4/21; post retained because that’s standard practice hereabouts.]

“Newly-cozy”: Not only are the RSS feeds now named “hossam4000talat,” they’re also not working.

So both of you who come here directly are the only ones who will see this, until this gets fixed (I’m an optimist: I wrote “until,” not “unless.”)

Many thanks to David King for suggesting a way to retrieve and restore the (2) missing posts (although not the missing comments to any and all posts).

Since I can’t seem to FTP to the wp-rss2.php file that may or may not be causing this problem, the next step may be a “kick it in the side” attempt: Moving to WordPress 2 and seeing if that move restores the RSS.

That may have side effects, of course.

If that doesn’t work…well, there are two routes:

1. “It’s been good to know you.”

2. Cutting-and-pasting all 288 posts and trying to figure out what to do with the nearly 900 comments that didn’t get lost in the process, to build a new, working blog, presumably called “The ‘umble pseudo-librarian’s random notes.”

Meanwhile, back to my day job…

Additional followup Friday morning: While the lost (and restored) posts and the lost (and unrestored–I’ll look into that) comments were because of a LISHost problem, the “hossam4000talat” was apparently a Bloglines problem, one that also affected some other blogs. Bloglines was down for maintenance last night. The problem seems to be fixed, and I note a very large number of posts this morning.

Blog readership

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Originally posted 4/19. Reposted 4/20 after host failure.

Is there a case to be made that a rising tide of blog readership lifts all boats blogs?

Maybe. All I can do is add to the confusion by offering up a few Urchin figures for this odd, random, infrequently-updated, heavily-conversational blog.

Let’s look at average daily sessions and pageviews (noting that this blog isn’t updated once a day), and number of unique domains for the month, starting with the first month of the blog (April 2005) and using some representative months.

April 2005: 161 sessions/day, 275 pageviews/day, 689 visitors (domains)
July 2005: 226 sessions/day, 519 pageviews/day, 469 domains
October 2005: 453 sessions/day, 854 pageviews/day, 644 domains.
January 2006: 821 sessions/day, 1,856 pageviews/day, 908 domains.
March 2006: 1,064 sessions/day, 2,337 pageviews/day, 975 domains
April 1-17: 1,048 sessions/day, 2,601 pageviews/day, 736 domains so far

Given that W.a.r. provides full-text feeds, it’s fair to assume that most RSS readers only come to the blog when they’re commenting. Stuck at around 140 Bloglines subscribers, I continue to assume “around 600″ readership. But maybe actual readership is growing; maybe the overall tendency is up, at a moderate rate (the big jump came last fall, in November and December).

These are, of course, tiny numbers compared to Name Blogs even within liblogging. As they should be.

The most intriguing figure: 3,598 distinct domains in the one year and 17 days since this blog started.

That doesn’t compare to the 21,446 unique visitors to Cites & Insights between December 19, 2005 and March 31, 2006 (or the 87,336 unique visitors from 12/18/2002 to 1/6/06: 12/18/2002 is when C&I moved to Boise State from the now-defunct AT&T site). But it shouldn’t; I’d expect C&I to have about five to ten times the visitors/visits of W.a.r., and having 25+ times the distinct visitors (over several years) doesn’t surprise me.

Comments, if any, have been lost, and I didn’t attempt to restore hyperlinks. Note that these numbers are provided as additional information on how ordinary blog reading is increasing.