Archive for December, 2008

The first-post semi-meme

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

And for the last post of the year (I do believe), why not pick up on a semi-meme/blog theme I’ve seen a couple of other places: Either the first post of each month (with comments) or the “best” post of each month.

No way I’m going to actually evaluate all of the year’s posts looking for “best,” but first–that I can do.


One small New Year’s Resolution (thanks, Dorothea)

The complexities of “hype email” and appropriate responses.


Civic engagement

On voting (the presidential primary) and civic engagement. I still won’t say who I voted for, but will say that I’m entirely satisfied by the outcome…


Does anybody (still) use Windows Me?

To my considerable surprise, the answer was “yes.”


Three years!

Since I started this “exercise in randomness” on April 1, 2005 (thanks to WP’s postdate capability), it’s reasonably predictable that this would be the first April 1, 2008 post.


Many distinctive local libraries

My grump about the “One big library unconference” and the idea of “one big library”–an idea I found dystopian at best. The post drew an interesting set of comments. (I just wrote but have now deleted a somewhat longer grump. Let’s just say I still don’t buy the idea.)

May was unusual in that there weren’t many posts–they all fit on a single WP archive page. (OK, so I was on vacation for the last week or so…)


Academic Library Blogs: Still available

Still true, still not selling worth a damn. So maybe it wasn’t a great idea…

Another month where all the posts fit on one archive page–and this included the end of the vacation and some rinkydink little library conference somewhere… Somewhere near Disneyland, if I remember right.


Back, sort of

A post-conference post, trying to recover from low preconference morale. Which I seem to be suffering again…


From awareness to funding-and more at PLN

An echo post. The next one was Part 1 of “Projects and rejects,” an extended navelgazing process.


Wikis and blogs-and more at PLN

Another echo post, and September was another “one-page month.” Not sure why (no travel), but maybe I was focused on, well, PLN and the book.


Liblog landscape: Opinions requested

I asked a question. I got good and consistent answers. I followed your advice. Good thing, too: the book would be unwieldy otherwise.


Listening and speaking, and challenges at PLN

A third echo post–and yes, you really should join PLN and use its resources!


Visibility and the larger blogosphere (Liblog Landscape 10)

You have 16 more days to buy Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 at the early bird price! (Yes, the download price will also go up on January 16.)

Oh, and happy new year…

A quick invitation and a small change

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Quick invitation

Deadline January 4 or thereabouts:

Got terms or short phrases that you believe would make great new candidates for a five-year update of the C&I “discursive glossary“? They do need to be terms or short phrases where you think I might have something either worthwhile or amusing to say…

Leave a message, send me email. I can’t promise I’ll use it/them; I can promise I’ll think about it.

Small change

There’s a change in Walt at Random, although you may only notice it if:

  • You’re running Windows Vista (or, I suspect, Office 2007/2008)
  • You’ve flushed the cache recently…

Anyone want to guess what–specifically–the change is? Leave a comment. (Or I’ll come clean in a week or so.)

The Liblog Landscape: Reviews and comments

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Just as I promised I’d post links to any reviews/comments on the two library blog books, without arguing over the negative comments/reviews (unless there were factual errors), so I should do the same for The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008.

And what better way to start than with “Initial thoughts on The Liblog Landscape” at Corporate Librarian? Steven provides a generous commentary on the first portion of the book and raises some interesting questions. (I really was striving for transparency, and that comment is greatly appreciated.)

As soon as I spot them (and remember), I’ll add to this post with other comments/reviews, positive or negative.

December 30, 2008: Jennifer Macaulay offers this commentary at Life as I Know It. Naturally, I’m delighted…and I really will have to think about “Walt’s Big Book of Liblogs”… Also good to hear that Lulu does as good a job for buyers as they did for me as an author: I too was surprised by how rapidly they moved.

January 12, 2009: Constance Wiebrands (CW) offers this commentary at Ruminations. Again, I’m delighted–and with reasonable sales or some form of sponsorship, I’d love to keep this process going on. I think the answer to CW’s questions is that probably at least half of those actively blogging now will still be doing so in two years (“actively blogging” being a tricky term, but one I’ll address in the February C&I and at OLA), and that the medium will still exist in five years. Beyond that…well, who knows? Interesting times.


Friday, December 26th, 2008

Sorry about that…

Notice the total lack of “T”s there, and while one of those “F”s does turn into a four-letter word-part, it’s clean.

Based on the rapid and surprising feedback and consensus here, I have, with mild trepidation, opened a FriendFeed account.

FriendFeed, For What It’s Worth

Thus, FF,FWIW.

For those readers who can’t guess what my moniker might be or don’t know my email address (both of which should be null sets, but who knows), waltcrawford is the nickname (and email name) and gmail is the email domain.

My feed, such as it is, is public. Initially, it gulps down this blog and PLN Highlights. If I start a Facebook account–and based on that same set of comments, I’ll think about that one for a few days–it will, to be sure, be fed there, as would any potential Twitter account.

Without any of those, there are only three plausible reasons for me to open a FriendFeed account:

  1. To reach the universe of people who would love to read Walt at Random but (a) have never heard of it, (b) are among the seven million FriendFeed users. Estimated increase in readership: Zero, give or take five.
  2. To post direct questions/comments in FriendFeed, when they’re too short or strange to post here.
  3. Mostly, to see what else is happening–it’s clear that some worthwhile conversations among colleagues are happening there.

My comment at the end of the comments on that other post said I wasn’t going to subscribe to anyone up front. That’s just silly. I went back, took the “gmail contacts” possibility, and selected most of my 81 Gmail contacts who are on FriendFeed. Looks like it’s easy enough to unsub people later if it’s too much traffic, or to move them to a special room. (Or, conversely, to move a few hotshots to a special room and go there most of the time.) I also looked at the resulting “recommends” and chose a few. I seem to have 51 subscriptions and four rooms at this point.

Don’t expect me to be there that often–rarely if ever in the evening, not very often on weekday mornings, maybe two or three times during the day. If I ever find myself coming within one-seventh of Scoble’s time-on-this-stuff, I’ll stop.

My guess

…Is that if you subscribe to me, I’ll probably subscribe to you.

…Is that I won’t find this overwhelming, and that I won’t be a pillar of the virtual community either.


To those who responded so quickly. I think Steve, Dorothea and Laura were enough to convince me (I’d pretty much decided by the time Iris joined in and Daniel changed his original suggestion). These are all sensible folks, not bandwagon-jumpers (at least I believe that’s true)…

Thanks also to those who responded to this post (the kind of thing I might ask on FriendFeed as well in the future). The glossary revision is actually going quite well and will, I think, make a fairly good issue. I’m three-quarters of the way through the first pass (doing then-and-now on existing glossary items, deleting “personal name librarian” items, trimming some of the “then”).

Of course, I should be working on finishing that pass (and starting the next pass, and starting research for my talk at OLA SuperConference, and…) instead of messing around with FriendFeed, right?

Facebook? Twitter?

Again, we shall see. Not this year, I don’t think, but that isn’t much of a promise.

From yesterday through January 4…

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

…very little seems to happen. Liblogs quiet down, LSW Meebo’s essentially dead, “we are all” dealing with The Holidays, one way or another.

So let me wish you and yours good cheer and a better 2009. (If you’re one of those who had a great 2008–well, I still wish you a better 2009.)

I don’t expect I’ll blog all that much between now and then, although who knows? I doubt many people are reading, in any case. (Not that I’d ever suggest most of this “social media” stuff actually happens at the workplace…but in any case, it’s a good idea to focus on family and friends during this period.

We don’t do the season in a big way, even though our anniversary (31 years as of 1/1/09!) coincides with the peak secular holiday. We’ll spend part of tomorrow with my family. We’ll spend part of January 1 with one of our dearest friends. We’ll probably watch Desk Set (an old S-VHS copy of a broadcast version) tomorrow night (there’s a Christmas-themed Bones rerun tonight…). That’s about it.

We don’t decorate the house (and we’d never have a live tree in a house with two foolish indoor cats), and fewer houses on our block are decorated this year than last. (Last year, quite a few houses were really overdecorated.) There’s one true oddity:

Across the street, a house has a big white angel with bright transparent yellow wings, which is what it is during the day. At night, though, it’s lit from inside with the blue-white LEDs that are probably the most efficient and cheap LED variety. Those lights, essentially the color of a glacier’s face, are great for icicle strands. In this case, however…well, the phrase “angel of death” somehow came to both of us quite naturally. That, and the feeling that the decoration belong at Halloween.

OK, for both of you who made it down this far, a mild question.

I’ve been toying with joining Facebook and/or Friendfeed…and maybe even restoring my Twitter account.

Working at home may be making me more of a hermit than I’d really like. I’m never going to be a social butterfly, and I’m not going to spend Scoble’s seven hours a day with Twitter/Friendfeed (or even one hour a day, if I can help it), but I’m wondering whether I’d find these worthwhile, used in moderation.

Good idea? Bad idea? All three? Just Facebook? Just Friendfeed? Why? Why not?

I do plan to prepare my skeleton schedules for ALA Midwinter and the OLA SuperConference before the new year and probably post them somewhere, in case anyone wants to get together. If I do restore Twitter, I’d probably have it feeding to my pay-as-you-go cell phone during the conference(s)…but I wouldn’t have it on all the time, and either Virgin or Twitter seems to clump some varieties of text messages in a way that makes them less immediate. I think.

Anyway: Your comments welcome, and they will be read. Even if they’re variants on “foolish old man.”

Freebies and price history

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Here’s an odd little story…


My wife’s working on a two-volume family history–more specifically, doing touchup work on old pictures and maps to include in the books.

She tried GIMP. Hated it. (I just find it incomprehensible.) So…well, I had an 11-year-old copy of Corel Photo (8, I think); it came with Corel Ventura. Amazingly, it loaded under Vista (although there’s no help, since it uses a Windows Help file, which Windows has since abandoned)–and runs just fine. She’s been getting good results from it, but I do keep thinking…well, geez, it’s 11 years old, there’s no help, and there must have been a lot of progress since then. And at one point, she accidentally saved a modified picture over the original; the program didn’t ask for confirmation.

But we’re also on a budget…and she was reluctant to spend $80-$90 for Adobe Photo Elements or Corel Paint Shop Pro, which I’ve been led to believe are the two appropriate products on today’s market.

Last week, Best Buy had Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 on sale for $49. We talked about it. I bought it. (She hasn’t loaded it yet…you know how it is when you’re working on a project… But she will. I’m sure it will offer more help; I suspect it will be a lot easier to use; I hope it will be more powerful–but PhotoPaint was a pretty good program for its time.)


But that’s just background. The package itself had three interesting characteristics:

  • There’s actually a user manual–a paperback book, and a decent sized one.
  • Although the box says “CD” and the system requirements panel mostly talks about RAM and hard drive space, the software doesn’t come on a CD: It comes on a DVD. Fortunately, both of our notebooks have DVD players (and burners, actually)–but is it really a safe assumption that every PC these days has a DVD drive?
  • Included in the box as a free extra: A Corel-branded 2GB flash (thumb) drive.

That third one is the story. In a $50 software package was a 2GB flash drive…as a freebie.

It’s hard to pull up a good recent price history, but I could locate a couple of price points:

  • In August 2005, a 2GB flash drive would cost about $200
  • In August 2006, it looks as though you could buy one for something like $60
  • In December 2006–and this is an actual price history–a no-name 2GB drive had a median selling price of $40.
  • I was really pleased to buy a 2GB Sony flash drive at Target in early 2008 (or maybe late 2007) for $20.

I remember that a 256MB flash drive was one of the benefits we received for giving Microsoft a day and a half of free consulting during Search Champs v4 in early 2006. (Oddly, my notebook doesn’t recognize that drive…although it recognizes all of the assorted low-capacity drives that don’t have Microsoft branding. Hmm.)

So in December 2008, a 2GB flash drive is…a freebie. In a $50 software package. (Yes, I know it lists for $100. I doubt that Best Buy is taking a loss on it.)


Times change.

Things I pay for online

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

John Scalzi posted this–and it got me thinking about just what I do and don’t pay for as online subscription/recurring-fee items.

Not much, it turns out:

  • Netflix, at the two-disc level. Yes, I could go to the library (our library has a huge selection of DVDs), but the Netflix process has led us to a number of interesting flicks we would never have seen otherwise…
  • AT&T for broadband (DSL, lowest level ’cause we’re too far from the switching station for faster service–but it’s fine). One question my wife raised as we’re looking more closely at moving: “Do they have robust, affordable broadband?” (For the area we’re considering, the answer is almost certainly yes–and, equally important, there’s competition to keep prices low.)
  • 1&1 for domains. They seem solid on making sure you’re reminded well before the auto-renew; they don’t seem to be in the “Oops. You didn’t renew, so we’re replacing your site with a bunch of ads” business, their domain pricing used to be rock-bottom and is still reasonable.
  • LISHost for hosting. Personal service, no explicit limits, and a very reasonable price for the domains I host here. Besides, Blake’s a good guy. Highly recommended for library-related websites.

And I think that’s it.

What about you?

Going out with a whimper

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

A few days ago, I posted something about PC Magazine going purely digital after the January 2009 issue. They see it as a transition, not the death of the magazine, and will only refund subscribers’ money if requested (but have offered to do so on request). I see it as the end of the magazine, although what continues on the web might be more valuable than what was left of the magazine at this point.

I guess I was expecting that the final print edition would be something special–maybe a thicker-than-usual edition with some closing thoughts.

It arrived today, and the title of this post gives you a clue. What a pathetic final issue! The thinnest issue I’ve ever seen, and actual articles (as opposed to “First Looks” and columns–with another reminder of why I won’t miss John Dvorak) don’t begin until Page 57 of 98, and are done by Page 72.

Sad. Maybe not surprising, but sad.

A few years ago, I’d have to devote two or three evenings to getting through the wealth of material in each issue of PC Magazine, and there were 22 such issues a year. Lately, one evening’s been more than enough (and they dropped to monthly last year). I guess that leaves another evening for books (or a shorter lag-time on other magazines); that’s OK by me.

Sam, our elder (not elderly) cat

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

A few months ago, I posted a couple of pictures of Oz, our kitten, and his remarkable yawn.

Oz ain’t that slender any more, but still has the damnedest yawn I’ve ever seen.

But I’ve neglected Sam (sometimes Samwise, sometimes Sam as in Samuel Pickwick or some other Dickens character, mostly just Sam), who’s now our older cat. As with any cat we’d have, he’s a “rescue cat” and certainly not purebred, although he appears to be largely Maine Coon, including the remarkable Furry Feet (lots of fur under and between the toes).

Well, my wife the librarian and photographer has been using her Nikon digital camera from time to time, and caught Sam in these two pictures, which are wholly unretouched:

Sam 1


Sam 2

He’s 10-12 pounds, and has lost most of his paunch as Oz has gained one. Yes, there’s a connection…

What? A blogchain?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I won’t call it a meme; it’s more in the nature of a chain letter (but with no curses on anyone who doesn’t follow the chain, and you don’t get back 96,428 copies of your responses…)

I saw this on Ruminations (Hi, CW) and am just in the mood, for some reason…maybe it’s the (silly) season. Notice the utter lack of “tagging.”


Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to – leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog.
Really hard to participate in this blogchain if you haven’t…

2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band.
Last time was clarinet in a Modesto marching band of some sort. Four miles of a July 4 parade with that reed moving back and forth against my teeth, coupled with a singular lack of serious musical talent, cured me…

4. Visited Hawaii.
But, oddly, we’ve never stayed Honolulu. First time was around the islands via cruise ship (also our first cruise); second time was a week on Molokai. Third…well, one of these days.

5. Watched a meteor shower.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity.

7. Been to Disneyland/world.
Three times to Disneyland–once as a child, once by myself as an adult, once as a married couple. Always wanted to visit EPCOT, but never have.

8. Climbed a mountain.
Well…I’ve certainly climbed in the Sierra Nevadas, and those are certainly mountains, but I’ve never done serious mountain-climbing and don’t plan to. Sliding nearly-uncontrollably back down loose shale at Camp Jack Hazard as a youth was more than enough for me…

9. Held a praying mantis.

10. Sang a solo.
Hmm. Maybe at some point I did. In the Berkeley Community Chorus, I shared the bass “solo” part on one major piece (Verdi’s Requiem? Handel’s Messiah? Bach’s B-Minor Mass? One of those…) with another bass because neither of us had enough projection to do it alone.

11. Bungee jumped.
I won’t say “there isn’t enough money in the world,” but that’s close.

12. Visited Paris.
We’ve been in Orly, but I don’t believe we’ve been in Paris.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
The closest I really come to art is writing, and I certainly had help there…

15. Adopted a child.

16. Had food poisoning.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

18. Grown your own vegetables.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.

20. Slept on an overnight train.
On the California Zephyr, from Oakland to Chicago and back, four nights in all, on the way to/from ALA in 1978 or 1979. In a compact compartment…but the food was good and the scenery was better, and there’s nothing like the rocking of the rails to put you to sleep.

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.

24. Built a snow fort.
No–but, oddly enough for a Modesto boy, I did help build a two-foot-high snowball on the one day in 50+ years that we had snow (two inches?) stay on the ground, in the winter of 1961/62. We (the Honors class, on our early-lunch break between two hours at Modesto Junior College and five at high school) rolled it into the Honors home room. The teacher was not pleased. But, of course, since we were the graduating Honors students and all but three of us (me and two others) were children of the town’s elite, nothing happened…

25. Held a lamb.

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon.

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.

29. Seen a total eclipse.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.

31. Hit a home run.

32. Been on a cruise.
More than two dozen so far. And certainly intend to take many more of them…as (if) time, money, health and itineraries allow.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.

36. Taught yourself a new language.
Sure. PL/I, COBOL, BAL… Oh. You mean human language? Nope. No facility for it. I’ve tried.

37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
For a while, at least…

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.
But only very casually.

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.

41. Sung Karaoke.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.
Albeit only Morocco and Tunisia (on very different occasions).

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.

47. Had your portrait painted.

48. Gone deep sea fishing.

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.

52. Kissed in the rain.

53. Played in the mud.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater.

55. Been in a movie.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China.

57. Started a business.
Technically, yes. Realistically, no.

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.

62. Gone whale watching.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason.

64. Donated blood.
I had scarletina as a child, and I’m a fainter: I’ve been advised more than once, by doctors, not to try.

65. Gone sky diving.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.

67. Bounced a check.

68. Flown in a helicopter.
Once, many years ago–and never again if I can help it.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

71. Eaten Caviar.
Didn’t care for it. My wife loves it (in very small quantities). By the way, California produces sustainable “caviar.”

72. Pieced a quilt.

73. Stood in Times Square.

74. Toured the Everglades.

75. Been fired from a job.

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.

77. Broken a bone.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
Motorcycle, yes. Speeding, no.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.

80. Published a book.

81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.
Oddly, given that we treat cars as transportation, I’ve never owned a used car.

83. Walked in Jerusalem.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper.

85. Read the entire Bible.

86. Visited the White House.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
But I’ve certainly watched it done at close range.

88. Had chickenpox.

89. Saved someone’s life.

90. Sat on a jury.
Twice so far. Foreperson both times. I recommend it.

91. Met someone famous.
Talked to Grace Hopper, shared a first-class airline compartment with Shirley Temple Black, had lunch with Brewster Kahle, shared drinks (on several occasions) with Cliff Lynch… I suppose it depends on your definition of fame.

92. Joined a book club.
The Science Fiction Book Club. Many years ago. For about a year.

93. Lost a loved one.
It would be extremely difficult to make it to 63 without ever losing a loved one…

94. Had a baby.
Hmm. There seems to be a gender bias here…

95. Seen the Alamo in person.
With San Antonio being the best venue for ALA Midwinter (sigh: it seems to be off the list) and having attended TxLA in SA, how could I not? It’s smaller than you might expect, and eminently worth doing. (And it’s only two minutes from the Riverwalk.)

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.

97. Been involved in a law suit.

98. Owned a cell phone.
Reluctantly, on a pay-as-you-go basis, and it’s usually turned off and in my wife’s purse.

99. Been stung by a bee.