Archive for December, 2006

Speaking of New York: A quick post on definitions

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

As I was plowing through 600+ posts on Bloglines (a couple hundred of them phantom posts, the already-read posts that seem to show up in clumps of 25 from one blog every so often), I encountered one in which, in passing, the poster asked whether New York City was the 4th safest large city or the 1st–because of a statement from New York politicians saying they were #1 (where the published rankings show them as #4 and San Jose, the largest city in Northern California, as #1).

Not a contradiction, probably; rather, the joy of definitions. The New York claim is based on reducing “large cities” to the ten largest cities in the U.S., where the published ranking is based on the 31 cities with more than half a million people.

Heck, if the tenth largest city becomes safer than NYC, the NYC politicos can always redefine the population of “large cities” again…until maybe it’s “cities with more than three million people that happen to be situated on an island,” and then they get to keep the safest large city rating forever.

Nothing new here. For years, Holland America has bragged about being the highest-rated “large cruise line,” and the definition of “large cruise line” is always one based on number of ships, so as to exclude the cruise lines rated much higher than Holland America (Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Silverseas, and Holland America’s corporate mates Windstar and Seabourn have two to five ships each; Holland America has quite a few more).

Did you know that Cites & Insights has the most readers of any ejournal*? I suspect that’s a true statement; it’s just not a particularly meaningful or interesting one once you read the footnote. The key is to come up with an apparently meaningful broad definition, with the details in the fine print…

*In the field of librarianship produced and edited by a single person

Boutique hotel in Manhattan: Run away!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

That’s not fair, of course: There are doubtless wonderful hotels in Manhattan that carry the “boutique” label. But I thought a quick post might not be out of order after returning from a quick speaking trip.

I’m not naming the organization I was speaking to, because they’re not really to blame for the hotel problem and absolutely not to blame for the other problem (see below). They offered three possible hotels that were reasonably priced and not too far away from the conference venue and suggested reserving very early. I failed to reserve very early, and the other two hotels were unavailable.

First, the other situation: Be wary of SuperShuttle in Manhattan. I use it in other cities, almost always with very good success. This time, with a prepaid voucher (thanks to Orbitz’ recommendation), I arrived at the pickup point at 4:35 p.m. (SuperShuttle doesn’t actually have airport stations, at least not in JFK Terminal 9). I arrived at my hotel at…7:25 p.m. Yes, part of that was Manhattan’s grotesque rush hour; a lot more, though, was loading up the van with people going to six different places–and, as I didn’t realize until my return to the airport, almost perversely bad choices as to routing. (Going by the same buildings in the same direction two or three times didn’t give me a lot of confidence either.) When I asked at the hotel how early I should book a SuperShuttle return on Saturday (I had a prepaid voucher for that as well), in order to be sure of reaching the airport by 7. a.m., they said “4 a.m.–if they show up.” I booked a sedan, which took 25 minutes to get to JFK from the hotel. Sure, it was $50 instead of $17–but my time’s worth something.

Now, as to the hotel (and I use the term loosely): That one I will name–the Union Square Inn.

Here’s the description on their website:

Welcome to Union Square Inn, the finest affordable boutique hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Great rates, great location and great service make us the best New York boutique hotel choice.

Not merely a boutique hotel, but the “finest” and “best” New York boutique hotel!

I suppose “European-style” and “cozy” elsewhere on the site might be warning signs. Despite the claim of rooms as low as $99, the rate wasn’t that wonderful: $357 for two nights (including tax), for a room with one double bed. The rest of the site talks about first-class amenities, “modern, comfortable rooms” with private bathrooms, and even has a menu for their hip Cafe Samantha.

Here’s the reality. Cafe Samantha doesn’t exist–well, the teeny-tiny space does, but it’s only used for a “continental breakfast” (apparently coffee and one variety of sweet roll, maybe two). Maybe the Cafe did exist as a breakfast-lunch place at some point, but it doesn’t now. No big deal. There was a decent 24-hour restaurant two blocks away.
My room was on the fifth floor. There is no elevator. Not a broken elevator–no elevator. Funny how the website doesn’t mention anything that might suggest that. (Maybe “European-style”?) The room was large enough for the double bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a chair–“cozy” is probably the right term. Modern? Well, the paint was in good shape and there were electric lights.

No closet. Only a short hanging rod (half of it over one of the bedside lamps). Yes, there was a bathroom–but if I’d been two inches taller, it would have been very difficult to use the toilet without banging my knees on the opposite wall.

As for first-class amenities–those did not include either a radio or an alarm clock (or room service, or anything indicating phone charges, or…). So, down those five flights of stairs again, ask at the front desk, they say they’ll be happy to program in a wakeup call. Which I asked for. And, the next morning, called to cancel since it hadn’t happened, at least by five or ten minutes after the hour. It was critical that I get the 5 a.m. wakeup call on Saturday, so I’d get my transportation to the airport, but they assured me that I’d get that wakeup call. Fortunately, my sleep was sufficiently affect by premonitions that I woke up before…there was no wakeup call. (Are alarm clocks that expensive, that at $180 a night they can’t afford to have them? The TV, such as it was, was hospital-style, locked to a wall mount up in the corner, so maybe that’s the case.)

I suppose the first-class amenities meant that there was soap and shampoo in the bathroom. That’s true. (No handtowels the first night, but that’s being picky.)

Again, I don’t blame the conference organizers. They probably checked the same first-level reviews that I did. Only one of those reviews mentioned the lack of elevator (and even then didn’t mention five stories). Since I know from reading user-submitted reviews elsewhere that some very negative reviews have to be discounted. (I remember sailing on Crystal Cruises once, a magnificent line with superb service, and hearing one couple starting to complain about this and that even before the ship had left the dock–I think that mostly boiled down to their Not Being Recognized as Very Important People and being treated as well as the rest of us…) If I’d read more assiduously, I would then have had a problem: there were no other available choices that suited the group’s apparently tight budget, or at least none they’d suggested.

My “speaking page” on my website includes among my requirements “lodging at the conference hotel (if there is one) or a business-class [or better] hotel,” After this trip, I may do a little rewriting to clarify what I mean by business-class (think Hilton, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Westin, Sheraton…). It’s fair to say that I assume a business-class hotel will have elevators if it’s more than two or three stories tall and will have radios or alarm clocks, maybe even closets. Heck, it’s fair to say I’d assume the same of a Motel 6. But, of course, there are no Motel 6s in Manhattan.

Would I go back to Manhattan? For the right arrangements, sure–but those arrangements would absolutely include a name-brand business-class (or better) hotel. And taxi, not shuttle, fare to and from the airport. (Which the inviting group’s paying: Again, this isn’t aimed at them.)

C&I Feedback Invitation 4: Interesting & Peculiar Products

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

See this post for background on this series of feedback invitations–of which this is the last.

4. Interesting & Peculiar Products

This ongoing section is somewhat unfocused. Some of the products may be applicable to libraries; some probably aren’t. Sometimes it’s clear that I’m poking fun at a product; sometimes I’m not sure whether I find a product more interesting or more peculiar.

I&PP appears every few months–and “every few” has resulted in patterns of five, four, five, four per year since the name changed from “Product Watch.” (Anyone remember when almost everything in C&I was Something Watch?) This year, I&PP appeared in the January, February, June and October issues.

The choices here (and, of course, I welcome any response) are a bit different:

  1. Drop this or move the items to this blog; it’s too random for C&I
  2. Keep the interesting library-related products and drop the rest.
  3. It’s interesting as it is: Don’t mess with chaotic success.

Comments and responses either as comments on this post or as email to waltcrawford at

Again, don’t expect real speedy responses; this is a postdated post, and I’m presumably returning from New York today.