Archive for September, 2007

Deleted post

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

If you’re wondering: I took the supplies back to the store where I purchased them, told them the exact situation (the truth and the whole truth)–and they took back all the fresh-stock supplies (hey, I’m a regular customer, and the refund is in the form of a store merchandise card…), amounting to considerably more than $50–more than twice that, actually.

I don’t do commercials, but it’s fair to say I’m happy with Office Depot.

50 Movie Pack Western Classics, Disc 2

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

[In addition to Tex Ritter, star of the five flicks on Disc 1], two other singing cowboys also made loads of westerns in the 1930s, 1940s and beyond, winding up with their own TV shows: Gene Autry and Roy Rogers (who both died in 1998, Autry 91 years old, Rogers a mere 86).

This disc includes five more one-hour oaters, apparently with slightly better budgets and certainly more skillful production and acting than the Tex Ritter quintet on Disc 1. All five are Republic pictures directed by Joseph Kane; four of the five have dual timings on IMDB (original and a slightly shorter TV-edited time), and in most cases the version here is the shorter one.

It’s interesting to compare the three heroes, noting that these movies aren’t necessarily characteristic for their careers—particularly not for Roy Rogers.

Where Tex Ritter plays some character with the first name Tex, a cowboy who also happens to sing a little, Gene Autry always plays Gene Autry, a singing cowboy—who might also have some other job (he’s a ranch foreman in one of these but also an entertainer), and pretty much always has a group of singers with him. He sings far more naturally here than Tex Ritter does in his early flicks and also acts considerably better. Oh, and his sidekick’s always Smiley Burnette, clearly a costar with high billing and his “Froggy” character name and vocal abilities.

Then there’s Roy Rogers. In his early movies (1938-1939—there are earlier ones but he’s not credited except as part of the Sons of the Pioneers), he plays a character named Roy Rogers. In his later movies, from 1942 on (he did more than 100 in all), he plays Roy Rogers, frequently with his wife Dale Evans. In these three 1940 movies and in a group of other 1940 and 1941 movies, he plays entirely different characters—and he hadn’t met Dale yet. While Gabby Hayes is a costar of all three films, always as a boastful lovable old coot, he isn’t always Rogers’ sidekick (but always has the same character name, Gabby Whittaker). There isn’t all that much music in these; then again, none of Rogers’ characters are musicians as such.

If you remember the later Autry and Rogers, both consistently fine singers but a little more weathered, the young Autry and the very young Rogers (freshfaced and 29 years old) are remarkable. Rogers is instantly recognizable, particularly with that voice and smile. My last (and lasting) memory of Roy Rogers comes from 1990: His duet with Randy Travis on “Happy Trails” (written by Dale Evans)—and his voice at age 78 or 79 was still fine.

Round-Up Time in Texas, 1937, b&w, Joseph Kane (dir.), Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Maxine Doyle, LeRoy Mason, Champion. 1:03/0:54 [0:55]

Here’s a curious one. The title is the name of the song under the titles and elsewhere in the movie—but the movie, at least most of it, is set in South Africa. Seems Gene Autry’s brother has found a big diamond mine and needs horses, so Gene and his sidekick have to take a whole bunch over by boat. Naturally, evildoers intervene…and, sigh, a “native” tribe gets involved, with a bunch of kids who instantaneously learn five-part harmony singing flawless English. As with the next flick, this is supposed to be contemporary. While the singing is great and the acting’s decent, the plot’s even more ridiculous than most and the stereotypes are unfortunate. $0.75.

Springtime in the Rockies, 1937, b&w, Joseph Kane (dir.), Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Polly Rowles, George Chesebro, Champion. 0:56/0:54 [0:55]

Were cattlemen still fighting against incursion of sheep in 1937? I thought the range wars were pretty much over by 1920 or so, and maybe this flick is set slightly in the past (but it does mix seemingly 1930s-vintage cars and horses). Anyway, Gene’s the foreman at a cattle ranch and an entertainer; the young woman who actually owns the ranch shows up fresh out of college with an animal husbandry degree. Somehow she buys a bunch of sheep—and the cattlemen will gladly kill her and Autry to get rid of them. Autry convinces her that a dilapidated, worthless farm (which he won in a poker game and can’t give away) is her ranch and too poor even to raise sheep. Lots of action ensues, including the usual “frame the hero for murder” bit. Well played, and apart from historical issues the plot’s pretty good too—as is the music. $1.00 as a one-hour flick.

The Carson City Kid, 1940, b&w, Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Bob Steele, Noah Beery Jr., Pauline Moore, Francis McDonald, Hal Taliaferro. 0:57 [0:53].

The jacket copy says “Roy Rogers, posing as The Carson City Kid, is determined to exact vengeance on his brother’s killer, Morgan Reynolds.” The way it looked to me, Roy Rogers played the Carson City Kid, an “outlaw” who stopped stages only to look for a particular letter leading him to Reynolds. Unfortunately, his sidekick (not Hayes) is a thorough scoundrel. Fairly typical plot, but Rogers brings flair to the role and the rest of the cast is good as well. $1.00

Colorado, 1940, b&w, Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Pauline Moore, Milburn Stone, Maude Eburne, Arthur Loft, Hal Taliaferro. 0:57/0:54 [0:53].

Set in the Civil War, with Rebs posing as a Preservation of the Union group in Colorado financing Indians and renegades to keep the troops too busy to go fight. Rogers is Lieutenant Burke, sent to investigate. Among other things, he finds that his brother’s one of the problems—but Burke eventually saves the day. Another good cast, fine acting, a coherent plot, and Roy Rogers—who here as in the other pictures gets the girl (except that Rogers tends to marry the girl as well). Even for a short flick, this gets $1.25.

Young Bill Hickock, 1940, b&w, Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Julie Bishop, John Miljan, Sally Payne, Hal Taliaferro. 0:59/0:54 [0:53].

Also set in the Civil War, near its end. Rogers is Bill Hickock, sent with his sidekick Calamity Jane to investigate Indian uprisings that threaten to cut communications to the West Coast. The villain is a highly-respected townsman who’s actually an agent from some unnamed country, out to seize California and its gold while the Civil War’s progressing. Some great stunts and solid acting; if you can ignore the “history” it’s a nice little movie. $1.25.

Present at the Big Bang?

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Tomorrow I turn 62. It’s been (to put it charitably) an odd year–but hey, I produced two excellent books that everybody should rush out and buy, so it hasn’t all been bad. Anyway, I got a present of sorts that made me feel even a bit older…

Michael McGrorty posted this at Library Dust. It’s his non-contribution to a meme I haven’t contributed to. Here’s the money quote:

I write a blog; actually a couple of them, this being one. I am primarily and essentially a writer; I predate the Internet. In fact, I predate the personal computer and the electric typewriter. I do not predate Walt Crawford, who was present at the Big Bang and responsible for the current dimensions of the visible universe.

It’s a compliment, to be sure–an honor, even, given the high quality of McGrorty’s writing.

In keeping with which, I think this might be a good time to clarify my opinion of my own writing quality, given that I’ve called myself a hack writer more than once.

I believe I’m a pretty good writer–OK, I’ll say one of the best X writers in the library field, but don’t ask me to turn “X” into a number. (Somewhere between 5 and 100?) I think my zero-draft writing is clear and coherent–that’s what you see in this blog, which is, 99% of the time, written and posted in a single setting without revision. I think my 1.25-draft writing works well: you see that at Cites & Insights. The books? Second draft. And when I have the help of good editors, as at EContent (and soon, Online), I point with pride.

I don’t regard “hack writer” as a putdown. I regard it as a label, maybe the wrong one. I’m not a literary writer–I don’t consider myself an Author. I aim for clear, natural, idiomatic prose; I try to organize, analyze, synthesize and produce something that is both informative and interesting. I don’t agonize over each sentence and paragraph. If I produce memorable phrases at times–and I do believe it’s happened–that’s nice, but it’s not my primary goal. Michael is a prose stylist. I have a style, but I’m not a stylist. Both good, just different.

I started using an electric typewriter while still in high school, incidentally. (We had a magnificent old glass-sided Royal manual at home before that.) I started writing with a personal computer in, I think, 1983. The Big Bang happened 4,000 years ago–or maybe a few billion, if you’re fact-oriented.

Oh, and I don’t work on the web. I work in Mountain View, and use the web as one of several tools…

You want clouds, you get clouds

Monday, September 10th, 2007

I’ve never added a cloud to this blog or tried to do one for my writing in general…but, well

here’s one for my longform published output–that is, the items you’d find in WorldCat itself (not, which includes a couple hundred articles as well as these “27 works in 35 publications”)

Thanks to Thom Hickey for pointing out this new feature at WorldCat Identities. Hickey, Lorcan Dempsey and crew continue to do really interesting things… Note that the words (at least some of them) link to their own identity pages. (Hmm. “Library science literature–Publishing” and “Library science–authorship” are much more exclusive clubs than “MARC formats.” That surprises me.)

I bet the cloud for a true polymath would be a lot more interesting…say, Isaac Asimov. Well, no, not so much…I guess there’s a limit to the size of the cloud or the number of works included–I don’t see “Bible” or “Shakespeare” in little tiny letters, and Asimov wrote important works on both topics. (Other than economics, there aren’t a whole lot of major topics Asimov didn’t write about…)

Interesting stuff.

Another food post

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Three-quarters of a mile from my almost-former-place-of-work (I’m terminated as of 9/30 and in any case the remainder will be moving to new smaller quarters) is a block with two food facilities. One building (and big back lot, with a decent-size parking area) is a sports bar that’s mostly a restaurant during the day. I think I’ve written about it before: good food, inexpensive, particularly noteworthy for the $2 freshly-made “cup” of soup that’s most restaurants’ bowl-size.

The other building is a big rectangle with five food places: A Subway with maybe half a dozen seats (almost entirely takeout); Bueno Bueno, a very good burroteria (like taqueria but their specialty is burros) with no inside seating at all (but two outside tables); a small corner place that’s been through four different iterations in the three or four (?) years we’ve been here, most recently the second iteration of a Japanese restaurant; a fairly good-size sit-down place that was Indian when we moved here, has been a Hawaiian lunch-plate place (and a couple of others), and is now a wrap/falafel/gyros place.

And a big sit-down space, probably 150 or so seats in all, that was always New Ma’s, a Chinese Muslim restaurant that served very good food and frequently had busloads of tourists *from* China visiting. (By unfortunate happenstance, the first time I tried it must have had an assistant cook on a really off day–but after staying away for a year, I went back and found the food quite good, as did my wife.) No sweet & sour pork, of course, or pork of any kind; all meat Halal; they did compromise enough to have a beer & wine license.

About a year and a half ago, New Ma’s closed for remodeling. The process turned the light, airy space into more of a nightclub space–black walls, heavy curtains, flat-screen TVs up on the wall. Eventually, after what seemed like way too long (and with an incongruous permit application for a full liquor license), it reopened–sort of. As a Japanese restaurant with almost no menu. They said “Oh, we’ll have Chinese too, next week.” By “next week” it was closed.

Then it reopened as an Italian restaurant with the emphasis on 5-9 p.m. happy hour. Tried it once for lunch. Wholly dispiriting “buffet” (four items, I think) or half a dozen menu items. The only thing I could plausibly imagine eating was the burger. It was OK, but seriously overpriced. That restaurant lasted for oh, three or four weeks.

Now…well, last week the doors opened again, this time as a different Chinese restaurant, with its name followed by “@ Green Lantern” (Green Lantern was the name of the shortlived Italian restaurant), and with the Green Lantern “grand opening” banner above the Chinese restaurant “grand opening” banner. Oh, and the building still says “New Ma’s”–the other rapidly-changing spaces always manage to replace the building-mounted signs, but maybe the management(s) here know something…

So, to get to the second part of an absurdly long lunchtime post, I tried the place today…after all, I’ll still be here three weeks…

Huge menu, but the lunch specials were the usual list, most of them $6.25. Ordered one. What I got: slightly gloppy hot-and-sour soup (plenty good enough for many suburban areas, way below what you’d expect in Mountain View) with a standard metal soup spoon. Then, a platter of the chosen entree (really too much for one person) and a cup of white rice. Fork and knife: No chopsticks, no separate plate for dining, no hot tea offered. The food? Again, adequate for some suburban areas (I think), but gloppy and dreary by local standards. $6.25. I won’t return.

At which point I thought about the little (50-60 seats) shopping-strip Chinese restaurant I went to last Friday, and will probably go to every week or two from the end of this month until we move out of Mountain View (if we do that, which we might if job possibilities continue to, um, pan out so well–we can take some money out of our house), and what I got there for $0.30 less:

  • Cup of light, non-gloppy egg flower soup (with porcelain spoon)and
  • Nice little salad and
  • Plate of fried wonton strips.

after which, you get

  • Slightly oversize dinner plate with a rational-size serving of your chosen entree, fresh, not gloppy, nicely prepared
  • Plenty of vegetables added to the entree if needed–and the broccoli, at least, is just properly cooked, still bright green and al dente
  • A good-size scoop of either white or vegetable fried rice
  • A crisp, light, small egg roll
  • A small serving of vegetable chow mein

and, of course, both chopsticks and fork–and tea unless it’s a hot day and you indicate you don’t need it.

Oh, and with the check:

  • Orange slices
  • Fortune cookie

Let’s see. Big-deal big restaurant versus inconsequential little neighborhood restaurant. No contest. At all. China Cafe (the one near home) actually belongs in Mountain View. The new place might just belong in Modesto…I give it a month, two tops, but I won’t be around to find out.

[We have Saturday dinner fairly frequently at China Cafe, even though it’s a slightly shorter walk than we might prefer, 0.7 miles each way. All of the dishes we’ve had are lively, fresh, well-prepared, “ungloppy”…]

Hmm. Wonder how the neighborhood Chinese places are in Fremont or Livermore or, maybe, McMinnville or Portland…

What’s wrong with this picture?

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Making a mistake is human. Being wrong is quintessentially human.

Failing to admit that you’ve erred, failing to correct a clear mistake–also human, but a whole lot less admirable.

I’ve discussed this before and probably will again.

Right now, there are two examples that I find troublesome, both relating to the same story–that is, the AP/Ipsos poll that showed 27% of adult Americans not finishing a book last year. A poll with no historical context that resulted in a surprising number of doom-and-gloom stories–even though the only obvious context (the NEA “reading at risk” survey of 2002 reading habits) seems to show a substantial increase in the percentage of American adults who read at least a book a year–from 57% in 2002 to 73% in 2006, an increase of 28%.

The first example will, for now, remain anonymous–because I still have hopes that this blogger (affiliated with a very prestigious university) simply isn’t getting her email and will eventually correct the story. A blog entry got the story 100% wrong, reporting that only 1/4 of Americans did read a book last year. That would be pretty appalling, taking us back to pre-WWII numbers (supposedly, a 1937 Gallup poll showed 29% of Americans reading books, that percentage dropping to 17% in 1955). Fortunately, that’s simply not what the story says. (This particular blog only accepts comments from some in crowd; I’ve sent email but the post still has it wrong, several days later.)

The second example isn’t a blog, and the professional journalist has had two days to fix it, so I’m going to name it explicitly: Michael Rogers’ news item at LJ Online, posted early Thursday morning. The brief story is OK–but the headline is simply not supported by either the poll or any other information provided in the story:

“Book News: AP Poll Says Reading Is Down”

The poll said nothing of the sort.. I know. I’ve read the entire report. It simply does not provide historical context. Go read it yourself if you don’t believe me (or search “AP/Ipsos Reading” at Google if you want an HTML version instead of the PDF just linked to).

I left feedback Friday morning pointing out the error. That feedback has not been acknowledged; neither has the unjustified headline been changed.

Postscript, 9/14/07: It’s been a week. Neither case has been corrected. I will henceforth assume that LJ Online’s “feedback” mechanism isn’t actually intended for feedback–or at least not feedback that questions the original report. As for the blogger who got the story 100% wrong: She still has it 100% wrong; maybe she doesn’t read email. Or maybe she just doesn’t care. Sad either way.

Woodchuck Friday

Friday, September 7th, 2007

John Scalzi’s daughter just made a shiny dime by knowing the answer to that old question,

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The answer is not 42. The answer, as explained in a fascinating earlier post at Scalzi’s Whatever, is 35 cubic meters or about 700 pounds–and, according to Cornell, woodchucks do chuck wood, if you give them wood to chuck.

That wasn’t the trigger for this post, though. That trigger came down in the comments (Scalzi gets great comments), to wit a followup to the question

Yes, but what’s the difference between a duck?

The answer, which you should memorize, is:

One of his feet are both the same.

Have a good weekend.

Noodging that “top 25 list” a little more

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

So I had a little fun with the somewhat nonsensical notion that this blog has the 8th highest reach of any librarian blog. (Let’s just ignore the fact that I’m not a librarian, shall we?)

A fair number of people have pointed out various flaws in OEDb’s methodology–and in the whole idea of an objective list. Having done “reach” metrics in the past, I’m acutely aware that they are, at best, SWAGs–statistical wild-assed guesses.

But they’re also a little irresistible if you’re looking at lots of blogs. I do have a “visibility” metric in Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples and I’ll have the same metric in the Academic Library Blogs book I’m working on. The visibility metric bears a vague relationship to the OEDb metric, but uses fewer measures and different ones.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a lateral study of liblogs once the current project is done–seeing how the blogs in both of my previous studies (and those that could have been in the first, but weren’t) are doing a year or 18 months or two years or 30 months later. I even put together a spreadsheet containing all of the blogs that would be part of that study (359 of them, as things stand now). And, at some point early this summer (I think), I ran my “visibility” metric for those 359 blogs.

So today, just for fun, I sorted that spreadsheet by descending visibility, printed out the first 25, and checked to see how many of those are in OEDb’s top 25. What would you guess? Half? Two-thirds?

Four. Count them, four. Certainly not including this blog!Part of that–maybe most of that–is that I used entirely different methods to prepare a list of candidates, mostly relying on self-nomination in one of the two wikis that contain lists of liblogs and library blogs, and adding a few that I was aware of through other means. DMOZ (“DMOZ?”)? Not so much.
Here are some of the ones that would place high on my list–but, of course, if I do the study I’ll redo the metric and might find a way to refine it, and it’s quite possible that I’ll avoid a “top 25” list:

MaisonBisson, ResearchBuzz,, Tame the Web, beSpacific, Information Wants to be Free, Archivalia, Text & Blog, ALA TechSource Blog, Library Stuff, Catalogablog,Stephen’s Lighthouse, blogwithoutalibrary, Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog, Kids Lit…

As to which four are on both lists? No great surprise: The top four on the OEDb list–but they’re not the top four on my list, although two of them are among the top three and all four are in the top, oh, 16.

The moral to this story? Rankings are fun, we’re going to get “graded” whether we like it or not, and it’s also all a little silly. But fun.

Woohoo! I’m Number Eight!

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

This one’s just too…whatever…to pass up:

According to OEDb, the Online Education Database, this here blog ranks #8 in the list of “Top 25 Librarian Bloggers.”

Have to admit that’s the first time I’ve seen DMOZ’ listing of “librarian” blogs used as a primary source in quite some time…

Read the criteria before you start snorkling too hard. I agree with what you should be thinking (“That’s ridiculous!”): Far as I can tell, I’m somewhere around #25 to #60 (and that may be optimistic)–I may (or may not, considering how the job hunt is going) have influence, but it’s not primarily through this here blog.

Anyway, an honor is an honor. Woohoo.

Emma–the musical

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Or, “what I did for fun over Labor Day weekend.”

Yes, there is a musical version of Emma–and my wife and I both thought it was first rate. It’s not a beat-you-over-the head, huge-cast musical; the cast numbers roughly a dozen and the orchestra all of four. But that works very well here. The book and score are by Paul Gordon, who did the Broadway version of Jane Eyre in 2000. The songs vary from good to showstoppers (the title song, sung by Mr. Knightley, is a stunner)–and they make up the bulk of the two-hour musical. About 70% of the dialogue and lyrics come from the novel.

You’ll find the San Francisco Chronicle‘s review of the musical here and a background piece here

This is the world premiere of Emma (TheatreWorks has premiered 50 plays and musicals), and the run ends September 16. It’s not clear where it will go from there. TheatreWorks is a fine company (and yes, it’s an Actors Equity company). The acting, direction, musicianship and stagecraft all worked well. We had what should have been awful seats–the furthest left in the third row–but the theaters of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (next door to the library) really don’t have bad sightlines or acoustics, so we were happy.

I won’t go into great detail; you can read the review. Well written, well played, charming, funny, and (I believe) reasonably true to the novel. It wasn’t cheap (TheatreWorks productions never are, particularly not musicals on weekend matinees), but well worth it. [To tell the truth, I have no idea whether it was cheap or not. Two tickets plus handling cost us $136. That strikes me as reasonable for a professional performance, but what do I know?]