Archive for July, 2006

50 Movie Pack SciFi Classics, Disc 11

Monday, July 31st, 2006

They Came From Beyond Space, 1967, color, Freddie Francis (dir.), Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin, Bernard Kay. 1:25.

I haven’t read The Gods Hate Kansas, the novel on which this flick is based, but it probably has a more coherent plot than the movie. That’s the only real problem: The plot just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Otherwise, well, a group of aliens stranded on the moon manage to crash meteorites on earth that take over people with mind control—except for one immune scientist (he has a silver plate in his head). There’s a plague (actually a way to get workers to the moon), travel to and from the moon in under a day, lots of silliness, and a warm ending: All the aliens had to do was ask for help. Well acted, well filmed (in Britain?), decent color…but the story needs help. Watchable, though. $1.50

Warning From Space (Uchûjin Tokyo ni arawaru), 1956, color, Koji Shima (dir.), Keizo Kawasaki, Toyomi Karita. 1:27.

UFOs in the sky over Tokyo! Strange star-shaped aliens with a big eye in the center of the star reconnoiter; finally, one gets transformed into a replica of a singing star, so she can warn a scientist that his new explosive formula is too powerful—and, oh, by the way, a meteor’s going to collide with and destroy earth. The aliens are from “mirror Earth,” the oft-used “planet exactly opposite Earth on the same orbit, so never visible,” but far ahead of us in most science. The world government won’t approve destroying the meteor with atomic weapons (I never knew that missiles typically have interplanetary range!) and it doesn’t work anyway—but after the climate goes crazy, the aliens manage to save the day with the formula they wanted to destroy. This is in semi-color: Inside, it’s nearly sepia; outside, it’s generally pretty good color. For its time, not a bad little flick. $1.25.

The Phantom Planet, 1961, b&w, William Marshall (dir.), Dean Fredericks, Coleen Gray, Anthony Dexter, Francis X. Bushman, Dick Haynes, Richard Kiel. 1:22.

We’re starting to explore space from a moon base, but a couple of ships disappear. A third exploratory vessel lands on this “planet” (a big, oddly-shaped asteroid) with little people, and the captain shrinks down to 6″ as soon as he breathes the local air. Lots of stuff about special gravity control, and a civilization becoming spoiled through too much technology that’s decided to go native (except when they need technology). And this self-controlled planet is being attacked by Solarians, doglike beings who travel in flaming spaceships that are not much larger than the aliens themselves and apparently almost entirely open. Lots’o’plot, no real sense. (Richard Kiel is a Solarian.) Not bad as a laugher. $1.

Planet Outlaws, 1953, b&w, Harry Revier (dir.), Buster Crabbe, Constance Moore, Jackie Moran, Jack Mulhall, Anthony Warde. 1:09.

This one’s truly strange. That first credit could be a tipoff: Buck Rogers in the 25th century, in suspended animation since 1938 (a dirigible crash) and instantly able to fly the aircraft/space ships of the Hidden City, trying to escape the domination of Killer Kane, evil ruler of… well, you get the idea. What this is, apparently, is a badly-edited reduction of a Buck Rogers serial, with a tiny bit of narration at the beginning and end trying to make it Important. Transitions don’t work—but boy, those aircraft/spaceships sure do, apparently flying to and from Saturn in a few hours whenever convenient. There’s an invisibility ray too. Incidentally, Wilma (Constance Moore) is not along as a Hot Girlfriend: She’s clearly more capable than Buck, and her outfit is pretty much the same as well. This is a mess, but a nostalgic mess. $0.75.

Friday on Monday

Monday, July 31st, 2006

I don’t go in for blind links all that much, but…this is an exceptional case.

Dave Pattern gets the Evil Genius of the Month award for July.

Say no more. Just don’t spend too much time generating new techniques and equations.

Bias and discrimination

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Now that I have your attention…

After going through another 50 candidate “great middle” liblogs, with more than usual where I couldn’t do the measures needed for full metrics, and after a couple of email conversations with bloggers who’ve volunteered to do translation (still needed: German), in which the terms above came up (not, oddly enough, in a pejorative manner), I’ve made one change.

Liblogs that meet the other criteria (not “official,” clearly either library-related or from a “library person,” at least one post between March 1 and May 31, 2006…if there are others, I’ll spell them out in the article), but where I can’t really determine the total length of all posts in March-May without doing too much work, will be included, but with partial metrics. I’ll have to do a second spreadsheet to make this work, with a smaller universe than the first spreadsheet, but I think it’s worth it.

There are just too many really interesting liblogs in the 21 (so far) that follow archiving practices that get in the way of word-count measurement.

It will still only be a chunk of the middle; how could it be otherwise?

Now, back to the cutting-and-pasting–well, after lunch and more yard work.

Update Monday, July 31: I’ve finished the first-round metrics. (A brief second round will follow, not related to individual blogs but gathering some overall information.)

The final tally: 197 blogs with full metrics and 16 blogs with partial metrics. For some reason, when I went back to the 21 blogs, I could run full measures for two of them. One turned out to be not remotely library-related or librarian-related. Three were organized such that I couldn’t even gather partial metrics (such as the starting date and number of posts during March-May 2006). And one of the remaining 30 blogs also fell into the “partial metrics” category.

So: For start date, number of entries, number of comments, comments per entry, and some other miscellany, I’ll be covering 213 blogs. For total length and average length of posts, I’ll be covering 197.

With luck (cross fingers), I’ll separate out the non-English taglines and post titles and send them to volunteer translators tomorrow; I’ll either find someone who knows German (or other languages I’ve ignored) or maybe post those phrases here…

The obligatory DOPA post

Friday, July 28th, 2006

I haven’t posted about DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act, another victory for the Congressional Acronym Formation Office) for the same reason I don’t post about most political/congressional issues: Too many other people do it, and they do it a whole lot better than I ever could. And sometimes I’m not even sure as to what tack to take.

While other reasons apply, the last one doesn’t this time. DOPA is a thoroughly bad idea. The 410-to-15 House vote is astonishing. I was hoping I could say “my congressperson Zoe Lofgren was of course one of the sensible 15,” along with Mike Honda of San Jose. Unfortunately, duh, Zoe Lofgren isn’t my congressperson. Anna Eshoo, who damn well should know better, is.

Sure, this legislation was rushed through; that’s the way it is with Bills To Support The GOP’s Fall Agenda–in this case, scaring people to death of all those Online Predators Out To Get Your Kids. As we know, “Protect the children!” as an excuse for overreaching legislation that restricts reasonable liberties is right up there with “There’s a war on!”

For those legislators who paid any attention (and I won’t go there), I’m sure they heard loud and clear that opposition to DOPA would result in loud cries of “Your Congresscritter Encourages Pedophiles and Protects Perverts!” from the hard-line operatives in their district. It’s tough to fight that kind of stuff from the “family” organizations and elsewhere.

The truth–that DOPA potentially makes libraries the least useful place to use the internet, because so much of the internet (probably including this site) would be blocked–involves thought, demonstration, facts. “We must protect the children!” just requires shouting.

Senators have one big advantage: Two-thirds of them are not up for re-election in November. Whether that’s enough of an advantage to overcome the Protect-the-Children-at-All-Costs brigade is another question. I’m guessing, unfortunately, that California’s senators will split on this one–at least I’m hoping that Barbara Boxer knows better.

It’s thoroughly bad legislation. And you can find more about it at all the usual places and some others, so many that I won’t provide links.

Now, back to my usual apolitical stance. Sigh.

Looking at liblogs: Yet another in-process comment

Friday, July 28th, 2006

In the post announcing the cancellation of the special design-and-typography issue of Cites & Insights, I closed with this bullet and this paragraph:

  • My sense is that nobody much cared about the mini-issue, maybe including me.

I’ll probably have another post about the progress of the “research” a bit later. “A Chunk of the Great Middle” is as descriptive as it will get, since I’m losing blogs during the process for various reasons, one of them a decision rather than a necessity. Right now, I’d guess the final article will include around 180 liblogs, but the total could be anywhere from 150 to 217.

This is the promised post, and a comment about that last bullet.

First, the bullet: I’ve received three emails from people saying they were looking forward to the special issue. Assuming the 1% rule (in this case, at most 1% of those interested in something in a publication will write to the editor[s] about it), that suggests that two or three hundred people might actually download and read the special issue (there wouldn’t be an HTML version, as it would make no sense). That’s enough to consider doing it later on, under the right circumstances…and noting that it’s not a general primer on design and typography, but only a commentary on what I’m doing at C&I, and why. (I wrote about design, typography, and other related issues 15 years ago, in Desktop Publishing for Librarians. Lots of obsolete specifics, but still some worthwhile overall commentary. I don’t urge you to go out and find copies…)

Now, the post itself. And an admission: I actually wrote that followup post earlier, here, and just plain forgot that I’d talked about it. (Pathetic, isn’t it?)

To bring things up to date, however:

  • The candidate pool is down from 252 to 209, with metrics done on 135 blogs. That means I’ve lost 43 of 179 blogs; projected to the remaining candidates, that would result in 190 blogs. Such a projection is sheer nonsense, to be sure.
  • I’m aiming for 200 blogs in the final roundup, give or take five or six. If in fact I do lose more than 14 of the remaining 74, I’ll add some candidates from the initial pool (ones with slightly higher or lower “reach” numbers). Why 200? Why not?
  • Some musings on some of the failed candidates may be part of the article; other reasons for exclusion might not be. In any case, here’s what actually causes blogs to be excluded–and it’s worth noting that these are all blogs with at least 19 Bloglines subscriptions and ones that, at the beginning of July, I could reach in order to initiate or check a subscription.
  • In one case, an apparent blog actually resolved to another blog that’s already on the list.
  • In a small number of cases (one or two, I think), I could not reach the blog in at least three tries over at least two days.
  • I concluded that a few blogs were “official” and thus excluded, although I’ve been pretty liberal in my definition of “official.”
  • One or two blogs had no relationship to libraries or library people that I could figure out, and were excluded for that reason. Here again, I’ve been pretty liberal.
  • Some blogs were defunct or badly stalled, with no posts since February 2006.
  • Some blogs were too new, having started in June 2006 or later.
  • A few blogs (two or three so far, I think) were and are active, but with no posts in March, April, or May 2006. That can happen.
  • The most common problem, unfortunately, and it’s only a problem for this article: Quite a few blogs are set up so that it’s nearly impossible to run the metrics I wanted. For example, some blogs just don’t have organized archives; you’d have to page back through a very large number of pages. (I did that in cases where there weren’t too many pages.) Some blogs have archive pages that only show the first X characters of each post, followed by an ellipse; I’m not willing to expand each and every post in order to come up with word and comment counts. Some blogs–very few–have archive pages that just list the titles of the posts. As a reader, I’d say that all of these hinder any attempt to “catch up” with a new blog, and that includes the fairly common ellipse situation–but that’s a design and practice decision for the blogger, and I’m not about to argue. Oh, and one blog (I think only one) somehow resisted any efforts to highlight the text of more than one post at a time, including the usually-reliable Ctrl-A fallback…

I will attempt to make it very clear that this year’s look is a look at “A Chunk of the Great Middle,” not an exhaustive study. It looks to be about 75% of the candidates, but my methodology for choosing candidates is arguably lousy. It is undeniably the case, though, that I’ll be looking at a couple hundred blogs with enough readers to matter and apparently not enough readers to be “A-listers.” I think that’s the most exciting area of liblogs, and certainly one where I can point out a few interesting blogs that people won’t have seen.

I’m thinking that it might be reasonable to list some of the “excluded for metrics” blogs as a “you might also find these blogs interesting, but I chose to exclude them for reasons you might not care about” list, either in the article or as a post–but I wonder whether bloggers might consider that to be negative publicity, which I’m trying to avoid. Feedback?
There’s still a lot to do between now and the article (including, to be sure, writing other articles in the issue and earning a living). I think it will be worthwhile and fun. A couple of final points:

  • I’d still love to have volunteers to translate a few phrases in languages other than English: French, German, Danish, Spanish, at the very least. (I think I have Swedish covered.) If I don’t have volunteers, I’ll either use Babelfish or InterTran, or just give the original phrase with no attempt to translate.
  • I’d still love to get more May numbers–average daily visits and unique IP addresses for May 2006–from libloggers, whether they’re in the Great Middle or elsewhere. As comments here (if you don’t mind being public) or as email to, by August 7 if at all possible… Your blog will not be named individually; I’m looking for correlations.

That’s it. One of these days I’ll do a “normal” post–but in this blog, that can mean almost anything. (Actually, this afternoon I’ll finish the fourth movie on Disc 11 of the SF Megapack, and you know what that means…)

Doing several things badly…

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

I know this marks me as a Hopeless Old Fogey, one who doesn’t understand that The Millennials (the “largest generation” by dint of making the “generation” open-ended) are actually mutants whose brains work differently. I’ve heard that often enough, one way or another

But I continue to believe that multitasking–whether under that name or under the fancy name Continuous Partial Attention–is a great way to do several thing badly rather than doing one thing well.

I go so far as to believe that, if some reasonable level of quality is part of the definition of “doing things,” you can accomplish more through focus than through multitasking–in the long run, you’ll get more done.

That includes, by the way, enjoying the music you listen to more because you actually listen to it, enjoying movies or TV more because you’re actually watching them, enjoying books more because you’re actually reading them instead of making them #1 amongst all the distractors…

Paul R. Pival at The Distant Librarian posted this item linking to a study that seems to show that distractors actually do distract. Or, to put it another way, that you don’t learn as well when there are all sorts of other things going on–that CPA results in less effective learning.

I don’t know whether the gurus of gengen, those who proclaim that Today’s Generation Really Is Different (and will never change, and we must transform everything we do to cater to their preferences, and too bad if it alienates non-mutants) will ignore this report, say it doesn’t apply to the real mutants, or argue that it doesn’t matter, or find some other way of dismissing it.

I feel confident that they won’t agree that multitasking–while it may be necessary in lots of cases, and while some people (but, I suspect, not “some generations”) do it better than others–is not the preferred condition for high-quality accomplishment or enjoyment.

Feed readers: Dorothea Salo points up a key omission in my grumpy comment–that, frequently, there’s just no single task that deserves your full attention. In those cases, multitasking makes perfectly good sense. Some people are better at this than others… Go read her comment. She’s right.

Cites & Insights 6:10 postponed, special issue cancelled

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

The special “design and typography” issue of Cites & Insights for August 2006 has been cancelled. Yesterday’s “10% probability” is now 0%.

My expectation had been that most people could and would skip this mini-issue. Now you (we!) all will.

C&I 6:10, August/September 2006, will appear in August, probably late August. It will be a more substantial issue, almost certainly featuring “Looking at Liblogs: A Chunk of the Great Middle” (title not final).

Why the change from my original summer plan? In no particular order:

  • The heat wave is letting up a little bit, but the net effect was to trash productivity for the past five days. It’s still 85F inside at the moment–better than 91, to be sure.
  • When I formulated the plan, I was working 75%-time with predictable medium-range plans and had other semi-ambitious recreational summer plans. Since July 1, I’m back to full time, with more uncertainty than usual as to what that full time will entail in the long term. Life’s still a little chaotic.
  • It’s now clear that (barring real disaster) I can do the “research” for the full candidate list of liblogs from the “great middle”–but that process is slow, and there’s a lot to do after that “research” is done. The week+ of what’s left of spare time needed to do the mini-issue would make that process rushed or eliminate leisure reading. I’m not willing to do either one.
  • My sense is that nobody much cared about the mini-issue, maybe including me.

I’ll probably have another post about the progress of the “research” a bit later. “A Chunk of the Great Middle” is as descriptive as it will get, since I’m losing blogs during the process for various reasons, one of them a decision rather than a necessity. Right now, I’d guess the final article will include around 180 liblogs, but the total could be anywhere from 150 to 217.

Blogging, C&I, and heat

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

It’s about time to get going on the “irrelevant” August issue of Cites and Insights that I’d been planning to do (in light of diminished “serious” reading in general during mid-summer). You know, the one where I “discuss and illustrate the typography and design of C&I (both the PDF and HTML forms)”–or at least that’s how I put it in the current issue.

But I haven’t started, and unless there’s a sharp break I’m probably not going to. The “sharp break” isn’t work related or even site related. It’s the weather.

I know, I know, it’s ghastly hot everywhere in the U.S., and living in paradise, I have no reason to complain. Heck, it’s only 94 degrees outside at the moment, or maybe 96 (except that we’re usually a couple of degrees warmer than the official measuring point in town); I’ve been through a lot hotter than that, particularly growing up.

There’s a little problem with living in paradise, where we very rarely get a string of 90-plus days (this is the sixth, I think): Houses around here typically don’t have air conditioning. Ours certainly doesn’t. So, right now, at 1:30 in the afternoon, it’s 83 degrees inside–and likely to keep moving up to at least 86 or 87, maybe higher before it’s cool enough outside to get any relief. (The outside temperature’s supposed to drop below 90 around 6 or 7 p.m.–but the roof and walls soak up heat, and what there is of an attic is too full of insulation to have an attic fan.)

Every morning this past week, the first thing I did on waking up at 5:30 was to open all the windows and doors, start the ceiling fans, and start the column fan. That typically helped to get the temperature down from 75 to 72, or 76 to 73, or…well, this morning it was 79 when I got up, and we never got the house below 78. At 9 a.m. It’s been 80 or above since 10:30. Sure, it’s not as bad as it is lots of other places–and I’m glad I’m here, not there.

The net effect of several days of unusually hot weather is much as it was just before ALA New Orleans (when we had a string of hot days, but not this hot): I get worn out. More specifically, I find concentrated mental effort difficult.

Oh, I suppose the return to full-time work has something to do with it as well: I was getting used to the extra (unpaid) ten hours a week for writing and relaxing.

But I think the major factor is the heat. I can make progress on the blog metrics: That requires very little mental effort, just lots of time. Of course, I’m looking at four times as many blogs this time around, which means a little more effort…but I can do a few, rest, do a few more, and move forward piecemeal.

Geez, I’m blathering here. Another effect of the heat (hey, it’s an excuse…)

Anyway: unless there’s a big break in the heat by Tuesday, there just won’t be an August issue.

Of course, even if there is such a break, I might skip the issue. The blog metrics process is really interesting–but also time consuming. I won’t link back to the three posts so far about that process; you can find them. I will say that the final set of blogs will definitely be “a bunch of librarian blogs from the great middle,” not an exhaustive survey or anything claiming great social significance. I’m now losing candidate blogs as I go along–some because they’re defunct, some because they’re too new, a couple because I can’t reach them in three tries over two days, one because the blogger didn’t write anything from March through May.

But I’m also dropping a few because I can’t run the metrics–either because the archives store each post in abbreviated form, or because you have to retrieve each post individually from a list of titles, or because the blog somehow resists efforts to highlight-and-copy more than one post at a time. Unfortunately, that includes one or two blogs I’d like to include. But since this is clearly “a couple of hundred liblogs” with no claim to exhaustiveness. it’s not worth the efforts.

I am, still, including non-English blogs. I may issue a call for help in translating a few key phrases (the blog’s motto, the name in some cases, and either one or two post titles) at some point, particularly for the Swedish, Danish, and other blogs where free machine translations are proving to be utterly useless. Stay tuned.

Oh good. Now it’s up to 84. Inside. At 1:50 p.m.

Followup Sunday 11:30: It did reach at least 100 yesterday (that’s the official number, but the weather location’s usually a couple of degrees cooler than we are). It peaked at 90 inside. This morning, it was 83 inside when I got up–and we never got it down below 81. It’s 84 now, inside, at 11:30 a.m. But it’s supposed to peak a few degrees cooler today, and we do see wisps of clouds in the distance. Of course, portions of the Bay Area hit 110 and above (it wasn’t too pleasant in Pleasanton at 113!)–but most people in those areas do have air conditioning. Now, if the power doesn’t go out…

Additional followup Monday 7:30: And here I was complaining about only getting the house down to 78 on Saturday! “A few degrees cooler” turned out to be one degree–at the somewhat-cooler spot where temps are measured, it “only” hit 99 yesterday–and the house got up to 91 inside. Which meant it was a lazy Sunday, but not a comfortably lazy Sunday… On the other hand, some clouds did creep in last night. Between that and getting up earlier to open everything up and the like, it was down to 79 (from 82 at 5:30) when I left for work at 6:45. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem so bad…

And today’s weather page provides an official definition for “heat wave,” at least around these parts: At least five days in a row of temperatures at least 10 degrees above normal in inland areas of the Bay Area. By that definition, we’re now in the 11th day–as, to be sure, is much of the rest of the country. I think it’s a bit cooler this morning, but that could be wishful thinking.

Current chances of C&I 6.10 coming out as an August issue: about 10%.

Pew and RSS

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

The latest Pew study on blogging seems to be turning up everywhere, and thanks to LiB I even took the online followup survey.

And I’m even more suspicious than usual about one reported figure–noting that, with a sample size of 232 people willing to engage in a lengthy telephone survey, I’d treat all of the numbers as vague guesstimates anyway.

The really suspicious number: That only 15% of bloggers provide feeds.

Which, in the online survey at least, is specifically worded as “RSS feed.”

Want to bet that some significant percentage of bloggers don’t turn off the default feeds that are set up by most blogging software, but aren’t aware that they’ve enabled something called “RSS”?

Want to bet that loads of Bloglines users don’t know they’re doing “RSS” when they subscribe to blog? Particularly a blog with an Atom feed? (Or a Feedburner feed, or…)
If the question was worded “Can people subscribe to your blog?” it might get different answers. Or it might not: I’d guess many bloggers don’t even know their blog is available via aggregators.

[Then there are questions that involve navel-gazing beyond my level, e.g., How many other blogs link to mine? I put “15,” since “I have no idea, but some do” is a bad answer. Also, for those of us, ahem, who don’t have blogrolls but do link to our public Bloglines lists, the question as to how many blogs we link to is a little tricky…]

Anyway: Interesting stuff. By Pew’s own admission, this one requires considerably more than the usual grain of salt that most surveys require: Remember that 10% of a 232-person sample is 23 people, no matter how much fun it is to scale it to 30 million Americans. And no matter how many newspapers report it in the latter form.

(For those questions with 2,000-person responses, if the question’s a yes/no question, there’s some plausible reason to believe you can project the answer. Maybe. If a whole bunch of other assumptions are correct–and, statistical methods aside, these are “social science” issues more than they are mathematical issues. For questions with 232-person responses and multiple answers…well, they’re interesting responses. )

Bandwidth of a 747 hauling Blu-ray discs

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Go read this post at Peter Murray’s Disruptive Library Technology Jester.

And then go read the comments. Specifically the second one, where Peter Murray responds to my offhand suggestion that the bandwidth of a station wagon full of computer tapes pales compared to that of a 747 (in cargo mode) full of 50GB Blu-ray discs.

Murray, being a librarian [and, full disclosure, a long-time friend], actually did the research to determine the effective bandwidth of such a delivery vehicle. It stands up pretty well to any current network plans.

Go on to the third and fourth comments. I upped the ante. Peter had assumed slimline jewel boxes to hold the Blu-ray discs, taking half the space of regular jewel boxes. Because of some work I was doing with my CD collection, I was aware of Office Depot CD Double Slim Jewel Cases (although I didn’t use the formal name), which actually hold two discs in a slimline case.
That ups the ante, making the effective bandwidth 74 terabits per second. (I noted that you could nudge that up past 100 terabits per second by using Tyvek sleeves instead of jewel boxes, but at the expense of unprotected discs–see Peter’s response, with which I fully agree.)

By comparison, the new and improved Internet2 backbone will offer 100 gigabits per second bandwidth.
The lesson here: If you really have huge quantities of data to move, there’s still a lot to be said for physical transport.

Now: Anyone want to figure out the weight of all those Blu-ray discs and jewelboxes, and whether they’d exceed the carrying capacity of a 747?