Archive for April, 2011

May C&I: A little advance commentary

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The May 2011 Cites & Insights, Volume 11, Number 5, will appear soon.

How soon? I’m not sure. Possibly tomorrow, more likely Friday, less likely over the weekend. Or, given unforeseen circumstances, some other time on or before April 30.

I’m wondering how many more people I’ll alienate with this issue. If, of course, I haven’t already alienated them with stuff on FriendFeed or with my stubborn manifestation of refusal to accept the “obviously correct” answer to the Monty Hall Problem.

(Interesting: The show’s back on, most decidedly without Monty Hall, but it’s not called the Let’s Make A Deal Problem… Is this implicit racism, given the skin tone of the new host, Wayne Brady? Probably not; the problem’s just been around for a long, long time. And, given the 15 minutes of “geez, I’m bored” daytime in which I’ve watched each of the two “how can you replace the original host?” shows, I have to say Wayne Brady does a lot better with LMAD than Drew Carey does with The Price is Right. But that’s not only just me, it’s also a digression. I do that a lot.)

As I was saying…

Those who read C&I regularly already know what part of the May issue is–the last “half” of the essay that took up most of the April issue.

My original plans was that this last “half” would be about two-thirds of the April issue, with some regular departments filling in for a nice, modest, 24-pager.

It was a well-laid scheme. It gang aft a’glee. (Geez. Websites that tell us that the classic phrase was written by John Steinbeck…arggh…)

That last “half” is now just over a third of the May issue.

Which means it’s a long issue. A llloooonnnnggg issue. 44 pages after all the copy-fitting and desnarking I was willing to do. More words than in my new ALA Editions book.

Solutions considered and abandoned

I thought about making it a May/June issue…but the chances of my going through mid-June, nine weeks from now, without doing another issue are fairly slender.

I thought about doing two issues…but the bigger part of the issue is something I wanted to get out there now, and doing two simultaneous issues (say, a May 2011 and a Spring 2011 issue) just seemed silly.

I thought about delaying the second “half” of the April essay (sorry for the scare quotes, but it’s a little less than 40% of the essay, especially after desnarking), but that didn’t feel right.

So, well, it will just be a long issue.

Not the swan song

A few of you may sense that I’ve been a little discouraged now and then, sometimes thinking I should really and truly retire–from the intellectual battlefield as well as from formal employment.

This issue could make a fairly decent swan song.

I don’t believe it will, although if it lands with a complete but silent thud, like a rose bush falling in an abandoned garden, as though it had never existed, who knows?

There are two “natural” stopping points for C&I in the relatively near future, if some possibilities still don’t work out and I finally decide to go away:

  • The gross point: Issue 144, which would be the September 2011 issue barring new irregularities. Unlikely, even though that’s also the date at which I’m eligible for full Social Security.
  • The sesquicentennial: Issue 150, which would appear around March 2011. A little more possible.

Or, who knows, it could keep going on for a while.


As previously noted, to some at least, I have sponsorship for ALA Annual (from a potential sponsor for the ejournal and/or blog–more when I know more), so I’ll be in New Orleans, to my considerable delights. (Yes, it’s hot & muggy. It’s also NOLA. I attended the first big post-Katrina conference in NOLA, and if you didn’t, that’s a shame: It was a great conference and a great help to the city.)

I’ll be there Friday morning through Sunday night (arriving via red-eye; leaving early Monday morning). I have no idea what my schedule’s likely to include. Suggestions welcome.

Part of me says it would be fun to have a 10th anniversary C&I celebration. The one time we did have a C&I meetup, in San Antonio, was fun, even though the dank historic bar at the Menger made it difficult to talk to everybody there.

I don’t know that it’s practical to plan such a celebration (I have no funding to sponsor one, for sure!), and I don’t know the bars and other not too terribly rowdy places well enough to suggest something. And, of course, the people who count all probably have lots of high-end receptions to go to…but, well, it’s a thought.


Coming soon. Maybe tomorrow. A biggie.

What’s the rest of the 44-page issue? A Zeitgeist piece.

Ask yourself: What would be worthy of a Zeitgeist piece at this time?

Do the number “26” ring a bell?


Sometimes counterintuitive is wrong

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

New section added April 7, 2011; go to Original Post for the original post and earlier additions.

I lost a lot of sleep last night reconsidering scenarios and situations, to no good end.

And, eventually, found myself agreeing that–and this is the only way I can put it without getting a sudden headache:

In the Monty Hall puzzle, as discussed in this post (see below “Original Post”), in two-thirds of all possible scenarios, the contestant will gain by switching doors when the host makes the offer.

In other words, the post itself is wrong–which means I was wrong. Period.

The whole situation still gives me a headache. I’m not willing to use the wording that “the remaining door you didn’t choose has a 2/3 probability of being the right door”–that makes me want to scream. If a second contestant shows up, sees the two doors and is told which door the original contestant chose, I’d still assert that the second contestant is equally likely to win by choosing either door.

But I’m wrong as to the facts for the original contestant. Hell, I’ve been wrong before.

Note: I wrote this as the very first thing I did on my computer this morning–before reading two additional comments. Now, after pasting this same text into the original post, I’ll go read the comments and add another one, admitting that Seth (and others) were right and I was wrong.

And then maybe go take some aspirin.

Original Post

Reading one of the last issues of Wired before my freebie print subscription expires, I ran across another use of the so-called Monty Hall Brainteaser, which I’ve previously seen in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column (I think) and probably elsewhere.

If you don’t know the thing, here’s a version:

You’re on Let’s Make a Deal. The host shows you three doors. One of the three has a car behind it. The other two have goats. You choose one of the three (let’s say Door 1). The host, who knows what’s behind each door, opens one of the other two (let’s say Door 3) and shows you a goat. Now he offers you a chance to change your choice (that is, to Door 2). Should you change your choice?

The supposedly-right answer is Yes–that the odds of Door 2 being the right one have increased from 1/3 (when no doors were open) to 2/3 (because one door is clearly wrong).

That seems counter-intuitive. That’s because it’s nonsense. It’s using trick mathematics to make something appear to be the case even though it isn’t.

Let’s reframe the situation:

  • There are three doors, but you really only have two choices. Either you’re going to choose the door with the car or you’re not.
  • Whatever door you choose, there will be a door with a goat behind it, a door that you didn’t choose. Therefore, that door–which could be either 1 or 3–really isn’t part of the equation.
  • The odds of the door you chose being the one of the remaining two doors that has the car were 50% before the host opened the third door, and they’re 50% after the host opens that door.
  • Therefore, there is no advantage to changing your choice.

Essentially, from an odds perspective, one door with a goat is simply irrelevant. There are three doors: One door-with-a-goat-that’s-going-to-be-opened, one door with a car, and one door with a goat that’s NOT going to be opened. You can’t choose the first door.

Yes, I know, some statisticians/mathematicians and The Woman With The Highest IQ (And The Tiniest Weekly Column) In The World will say I’m wrong. I don’t think so. Fact is, the host’s decision to show you a door–and there is always a door with a goat behind it that you didn’t choose–cannot change the location of the car, and thus cannot give one of the two remaining doors an advantage over the other one.

Even in WiredWorld.

Update 4/6: I’ve now been pointed to a lengthy Wikipedia essay explaining in excruciating detail just why I’m wrong and the counterintuitive answer is right. To which I can only say: I guess this is one of those cases where I must be dumber than a pigeon, because I’m still not buying it. If the game’s fair, with the car behind one door and the host knowing which door is which (and always opening one non-car door), then the fact that the host opens a non-car door cannot change where the car is. The car doesn’t move because the host opens a door. In which case it can’t change the actual probability of whether you’ve chosen the right door, which remains 50% after the host has opened a door, whether you switch or don’t switch.

Fun with typography and Office2010

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Nothing earthshaking here, but a little fun for those who care about typefaces and typography and who don’t automatically sneer at me because I use Word instead of a Proper Desktop Publishing Program…

I knew Office2010 offered more sophisticated typographical options. At first, it seemed as though most of them (in Word2010) weren’t really available in any typeface I had; turns out I just needed to convert the documents from Word2007-compatible to native Word2010 (same .docx format, but more options). And, to be sure, needed appropriate typefaces.

For purposes that may eventually become obvious, I’ve been going through my collection of typefaces and identifying those that (a) are serif text faces that might be suitable for body text, (b) are likely to be on most computers with Windows7/Office2010 (and, for most of these, earlier Office and Windows versions as well). I determined (a) by inspection in the Word typeface (ok, sigh, “font”) pulldown and (b) by going to the Microsoft Typography site and seeing whether the typeface was in the list. (I still have a bunch of typefaces that came with Corel’s Bitstream-supplied 500-typeface CD, and the licensed copy of Berkeley that I paid for.)

I found 22 in all. Without arguing aesthetics (is Times New Roman too familiar? Are Georgia and Lucida Bright and Cambria too ‘screen-oriented’?), I divided them into five groups:

  1. Nine typeface families with good kerning (checking such pairs as To, Wa, Vo–“Vo” as in “Vortext” seems to be problematic in lots of cases) and complete families supplied (or at least Roman, Italic and Bold–you can bold an italic without too much damage, but slanting Roman is always strange).
  2. Two typeface families with somewhat inadequate kerning.
  3. Six typeface families with either no kerning or very inadequate kerning.
  4. Three singletons with good kerning.
  5. Two singletons with inadequate kerning or no kerning.

As I was preparing samples of each typeface, I decided to turn on many, if not all, of the advanced typography features, specifically all ligatures.


Oh, not most of the time–most of the typefaces didn’t show any ligatures in the sample I prepared.

But then there was Palatino Linotype (which, unfortunately, has incomplete kerning: specifically, the “Vo” combination in Roman and Bold has an awkwardly wide space, and the “To” isn’t great either).

But the ligatures…well, more than I’d really use in modern text (the Word Font/Advanced dialog box includes five choices for ligature usage, and “standard” is probably what you’d normally use, not “all”), but, well… And, for that matter, old-style numbers are available, although the default is lining numbers (unlike Constantia’s default old-style).

Here’s the paragraph I used. See what you get with your system. Apparently, Prof. Zapf had some fun when preparing this version. Now, if only the kerning was more complete…

The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid florid offensive Vortex. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid Vortex. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid Vortex. Ours is a noble old house, and stretches a long way back into antiquity. The earliest ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the family by the name of Higgins. [Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Auto-Biography via Project Gutenberg]


Added at 2:05 p.m. April 5, 2011: Just for fun, I opened the same paragraph in LibreOffice (OpenOffice, basically) in Palatino Linotype. As anticipated, the ligatures are all gone–LibreOffice Text doesn’t have any of those advanced typographical features. On the other hand, the most egregious kerning problem (Vo) seems to be at least partly fixed, that is, it’s at least reasonably kerned. I find that very strange…mysterious, even.

Print on Demand Doesn’t Imply Forever

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Last Friday, as promised (sometimes as a secondary topic) in posts on March 28, 2011, March 25, 2011, March 15, 2011, February 14, 2011, January 22, 2011, January 4, 2011, January 2, 2011, December 28, 2010, December 6, 2010, November 4, 2010, and the original announcement on November 1, 2010 [omitting a number of other mentions of the limited-edition book], and on the front page of Cites & Insights December 2010, I removed disContent: The Complete Collection from sale.

This apparently took Jason Griffey by surprise, since–after never commenting on any of the dozen previous notes–he posted this comment on the April 1 post’s FriendFeed subject-line repost:

Question: why retire a print on demand title? I’m curious…even if it didn’t sell as you’d hoped, why not allow it to stay as a choice?

I snapped just a little when I read that, since I had the impression that I’d given at least one or two previous notices that the book would disappear and why that was so. I felt that Griffey was being deliberately provocative. My response was a trifle hostile; you can read it and the rest of the interchange, if you wish, here.

This post really isn’t about that discussion. There’s no reason Griffey or anybody else should pay attention to any of these posts; that’s entirely their choice. Paying such remarkably selective attention…well, maybe I’m guilty of uncharitable reaction, but I’m not offering an apology.

What I am offering is some other reasons that print on demand titles can and will be retired. These may be of interest, particularly to those who assume that they can move to just-in-time collections because, you know, if anybody ever really wants something, they can just order up a copy, particularly whenif PoD systems are spread through every village and town.

This is certainly an incomplete list; it’s really a top-of-my-head post.

Reasons Self-Publishers Might Retire PoD Titles

  • Ongoing costs associated with the titles. Right now, Lulu doesn’t charge for maintaining PoD offerings indefinitely, an admirable policy that might continue or might not. CreateSpace does have an annual fee for all but the most basic level of availability; when that annual fee exceeds the annual revenue from a title, sane authors might very well retire those titles. I haven’t researched other PoD resources, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see annual carrying fees.
  • Obsolescence. I would be inclined to retire titles that I felt were outdated enough to be curiosities as currently-for-sale books (as opposed to library holdings or used copies). So, I suspect, would others–which might or might not mean that new editions would appear.
  • Frustration/Irritation. I’ve retired some Lulu books because I found the lack of response irritating and frustrating, and lack the marketing knowhow to do much about it. I’d bet that some other self-publishing authors feel the same way.
  • Explicitly limited editions. One of the (IMHO) absurd premises in Andersonomics or Freeconomics is that, for more than a tiny handful of well-known authors and maybe a larger group of musical groups, your devoted fans will pay for special limited editions, enough to make up for your other work being free. Limited editions have no additional value if they’re not limited. In this particular case, the book was a really neat item but also a test case. Breaking my promise to retire it on April 1, 2011 (originally March 1, 2011) would have been, well, breaking my promise.
  • Death or retirement. I don’t know whether Lulu has some cleanup process when authors’ PayPal connections or email addresses cease to function, either because authors have died or have given up on online or Lulu without bothering to do cleanup work. If they don’t, they should.
  • Disappearing services. This is a biggie, as it could result in the retirement of hundreds of thousands or even millions of titles at once. I’m certain there are already PoD operations that have gone out of business. I doubt that either CreateSpace or Lulu is enormously profitable. I’m guessing that very few authors host their own PoD systems (including all the fulfillment issues); to do so is to become a small publisher, with significant capital outlay. When the service disappears, all titles on that service are immediate retired until/unless the author finds another PoD service. Which authors probably won’t bother to do for titles that aren’t yielding significant sales.
  • Whim. When a book is made available as a PoD book, there is no explicit or implicit promise to libraries or anyone else that it will always be available. An author may properly choose to retire a book for any reason whatsoever or for no reason whatsoever.

Ah, but PoD isn’t just about self-publishers.

Reasons Publishers Might Retire PoD Titles

Pay particular attention to the final bullet here…

  • Ongoing maintenance costs. Yes, the cost of server space is trivial, too small to even measure for most PoD items (since a book-length PDF is unlikely to be more than 2-3 megabytes for a text book)–but there are other costs, including those of maintaining accounting for the book and some level of availability information. Once PoD sales fall below a certain level, publishers might well choose to retire the items.
  • Some of the same reasons as self-publishers. Specifically obsolescence and disappearing services–and, to be sure, disappearing publishers.
  • New reversion clauses. Sooner or later–and I’m guessing smart authors are looking into it now–authors will come up with new reversion clauses for books that remain “in print” through PoD but are neither being promoted nor have significant sales. Many book contracts have reversion clauses so that, once a book is out of print, the author regains full rights in the book and can take it to another publisher or self-publish it. This is particularly crucial when publishers let authors down, by failing to promote or adequately support titles. With PoD, it’s possible for a book to be “in print” permanently even though the publisher really isn’t supporting it…and authors need new reversion clauses. (I haven’t attempted to do this in contracts yet, but might. One possible form: When physical inventory is less than X copies and fewer than X copies per six-month accounting period have been sold on PoD, reversion takes effect…) Reversion requires that the publisher’s PoD version be retired.

I’ve probably missed a bunch of others. The key here is that PoD is no guarantee that a book will be available forever; it’s just a print fulfillment methodology.

Anniversary Post: Six Years!

Friday, April 1st, 2011

It’s anniversary day for Walt at Random; this thing’s been around for six years now.

I would say that I’m posting less now because FriendFeed gets more attention, and that might be true—but it’s a hard case to make, given that my annual output (adjusted for the weekly Library Leadership Network posts that I removed once they removed me) really hasn’t varied much—and if I keep going at the same rate in 2011, I’ll wind up with around 224 posts, which would be a typical year.

Still, I feel like I’m posting less now, and certainly being a lot more active on FriendFeed. As for Twitter…well, I have an account, and I check maybe twice a day, but I still don’t seem to have many things to say that fit in 140 characters or less (“I’m a wordy bastard”), so there it is.

Walt at Random continues to be, well, random: A mix of announcements for Cites & Insights (and my generally-failed experiments at Cites & Insights Books), brief comments on old movies & TV movies as offered in Mill Creek Entertainment megapacks, and posts on a strange variety of topics…once in a while even relevant to libraries and librarianship, although most “relevant” stuff winds up in Cites & Insights.

I can’t provide stats for the past year, because my brief experiment in “paid blogging” (which never yielded any revenue) means there are no stats for July 1 through September 30, 2010. For the nine months excluding that quarter (and excluding most of yesterday, since Urchin seems to run a day or so behind on this blog), I show 321,353 sessions or an average of 880.42 per day (but that’s averaged across the entire year, so meaningless), and 1,105,677 pageviews. Really? More than 1.1 million pageviews? It’s possible that most of those are either spiders or RSS feeds or spammers (I get typically 40 to 80 spamments a day, and that’s with comments locked down two or three months after a post).

Let’s look at the last six months, for which I do have stats:

  • 276,057 sessions: 1,517 a day.
  • 998,680 pageviews: 5,487 a day. There are a few true spikes in that set, one day apparently up around 16,000 hits.
  • Ignoring category and monthly pages—which do seem to account for most of the “most popular pages” along with the home page, supporting the possibility that these numbers are mostly meaningless—the most viewed pages include “Public Library Blogs Posting Frequency” (March 2008) with 1,741 views, “Bandwidth of Large Airplanes Take 2” (June 2010) with 1,474, “Liblog Landscape Opinions Requested” (August 2010) with 1,469, “Of Chaos and Stability, Two Minor Mini-Posts” (November 2008) with 1,455…and, two years after the post had any meaning whatsoever, “Bloggers Salon Palisades Not Avila” (June 2008), 1,441. That first page is actually the 109th most “popular” page…but then, I’d expect that the bulk of actual post reading happens in RSS (FeedBurner says I have 900 subscribers at the moment, but a day with two posts may cause a couple of people to leave).

I have no deep comments to offer. Hmm. That could even be a new subtitle for this blog. To close, here’s the liblog profile, as it would appear if something like 300 more copies of the book ever sold…

Not going away. Post frequency will continue to be wildly erratic.

Walt at Random

“The library voice of the radical middle.” By Walt Crawford. US. WordPress. Began April 2005; lasted for 62 months (through May 2010). Group 1.

Overall Posts


Per Month






























Post length




















Conv. Intensity











It’s gone

Friday, April 1st, 2011

As promised, none of you will have to suffer through more attempts to publicize and sell my “Freemium” test and, so far, only hardcover Cites & Insights Book.

disContent: The Complete Collection has been retired.

To those who purchased the book: My thanks–and you now have a true collector’s item, one of the five existing copies of this book. (Four purchased, and I have one.)

To those who claim that Andersonomics can work for any but a few superstars and motivational speakers: A special salute, one I never give in public.

The four purchasers have what I believe to be a great collection, with updates for nearly every one of the essays. It’s possible that a handful of those essays, with updates, will appear in Cites & Insights, but at this point, I don’t think that will be more than half a dozen to, at most, a dozen of the 73 columns.

Now to go remove the dead link & cover image from the C&I site and my home page…

Added at 10:20 a.m. PDT:
For those who have ignored every previous post and article in Cites & Insights regarding the special character of disContent: The Complete Collection

It was announced as a special signed limited edition, limited both in the maximum number of copies sold and in the sales window.

That limit was restated oh, maybe a dozen times? It was stated in Cites & Insights as well as here.