Archive for November, 2011

Box Office Gold, Disc 6

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Callie & Son, 1981 TV-movie, color. Waris Hussein (dir.), Lindsay Wagner, Jameson Parker, Dabney Coleman, Joy Garrett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Andrew Prine, James Sloyan. 2:22.

The stirring tale of a mother who loved her son a little too much… Well, not incest, but that’s the key to this tearjerker that feels like (and is) a TV movie, but a very long one. Lindsay Wagner is Callie, who in the opening scenes is in a hospital bed after Being Wronged…and being pressured into giving up her baby for adoption without ever holding him (for $2,000 plus a couple hundred in prenatal expenses). She leaves Chillicothe and moves to Dallas, where she moves into an absurdly restrictive (and probably historically accurate for the 1950s) rooming house and takes a job as a waitress. Since she’s gorgeous and pleasant, she does well…including good tips from the wealthy newspaper editor (Dabney Coleman, in a wholly positive role) who never says much and always just has coffee. In a little side plot, she hires a sleazy PI to find her son—and he winds up decamping entirely (leaving an empty office) after taking another $200 from her.

Moving forward a bit, she learns to be a court stenographer; we then see her doing the stenography for a deposition involving—guess who? He suggests coffee, they talk, he realizes she’s the former waitress, and a little while later she’s the Cinderella who’s married the prince (and is received badly by the local elite). Further down the line, she becomes pregnant, then miscarries and can’t bear children; eventually, she reveals the existence of her son. In the most implausible bit (in my opinion) of the flick, the editor manages not only to find the son but to have him returned to his mother, apparently without difficulty. (What? The adoptive parents didn’t really want him?)

And she turns into SmotherMom. She wants her son to take over as editor. The editor had planned to sell the paper, move to his ranch and run a few head of cattle, but she talks him out of it—and when, shortly after the JFK assassination, he’s shot dead in the newsroom along with two other newspaper staffers, she takes over as editor (after rejecting her husband’s drawn-up but not yet signed plan to make the paper employee-owned). She tries to get her son, now a pot-smoking guitar-playing slacker (Jameson Parker), to get involved in the paper; it doesn’t work.

Third section of the interminable plot: She gets her son involved in politics—but instead of marrying the Suitable Prospect, he elopes with a very young Michelle Pfeiffer (23 at the time, but she plays even younger). A few years later, as he’s planning to move up a rung in office, there’s a big party at the ranch with lots of dove hunting—and SmotherMom winds up shooting and killing Pfeiffer after a struggle (but just a little too late to believe it’s an accident). And a determined local DA gets a grand jury to indict the son for first-degree murder (there was adultery and various other nonsense implied between the not-so-happy couple). The rest of the picture is courtroom drama, remarkably unconvincing, especially when the rotten PI (who SmotherMom had prevented from becoming a judge) lies through his teeth to convict the son and apparently faces neither effective cross-examination nor background checking. The movie almost ends with the son”s execution—but not quite: She goes back to Chillicothe, adopts a baby boy, and we start all over.

Long description because there’s a lot of plot. It’s not terrible, it’s not great. Really good cast, pretty good print. All in all, I’ll give it a middling $1.50.

Dear Mr. Wonderful, 1982, color. Peter Lilienthal (dir.), Joe Pesci, Karen Ludwig, Frank Vincent, Ed O’Ross, Ivy Ray Browning. 1:56 [1:52].

I’m all in favor of naturally-paced movies, but this one is so naturally-paced that it seems to fall apart repeatedly. I think the plot goes something like this:

Ruby Dennis (Pesci) owns a bowling alley in New Jersey, where he sings in the lounge and has apparent dreams of being a lounge singer in Chicago or Las Vegas. He also writes the occasional song. He lives with his divorced sister and her son. There’s some stuff involving a frequent dinner guest (?), an older Jewish man who barely speaks but insists on full observance of rites; also some stuff involving the ex-husband, who’s apparently a leech but trying to get back in touch: Dennis won’t even let him in the door (to his sister’s place).

The mob (I guess) wants to take over the bowling alley for a big new development, and make it clear that they’re going to get it one way or another, one favored way being that it burns down overnight and he collects the insurance. Meanwhile, he’s taken to a daughter of someone who’se involved with the mob (I think), is seeing that she gets singing lessons and dating her in his own awkward way. There’s a Tony Martin cameo, very much as himself. Oh, and along the line, his sister basically disappears, quitting her job in a garment factory to go work with—what? urban rehabilitators?—and, I guess, moving in with a family of them. The son is a cheap street criminal who presumably means well; he has a gang ripping chains off of people and sells them to another cheap criminal in a boxing gym, getting ripped off himself in the process.

There’s probably more to it. Eventually, Dennis does sell the place, winds up with the girl (I think), the mom moves back in (I guess) and…well, the movie ends. Frankly, if I hadn’t been down with a cold, I would have turned this off half an hour in and done something more exciting, like staring at the wall. But fans of Pesci might enjoy it. According to IMDB, the German version is 1:56 and the U.S. version is 1:40. This version was 1:52—and I’m sure cutting 12 minutes wouldn’t hurt. It’s a German production, which may or may not explain anything. Charitably, $1.

Twisted Obsession (orig. El sueño del mono loco, also The Mad Monkey), 1989, color. Fernando Trueba (dir.), Jeff Goldblum, Miranda Richardson, Anemone, Daniel Ceccaldi, Dexter Fletcher, Liza Walker. 1:43.

There are some oddities with this one. First, it’s in stereo—unusual for movies in these collections. And I do mean stereo, not reprocessed mono: The orchestral score underlying most of it is well-recorded stereo. Second—well, it’s in English, except for a few minutes of dialogue in French with no subtitles, and it was filmed in Spain (Madrid stands in for Paris).

The plot? The very tall and very strange Jeff Goldblum (he always seems to do best with semi-deranged roles) narrates the movie as an entire flashback about a movie he won’t see, that shouldn’t have been made, that he shouldn’t have written. That’s right: He’s a screenwriter, an American in Paris, whose wife leaves him early in the movie for no apparent reason, leaving behind a son whose apparent indifference masks his total need for his mother. None of which has much to do with the plot.

The plot? A producer wants him to write a screenplay based on a “treatment” that’s one line handwritten on a sheet of paper—a line, as it turns out, that’s from Peter Pan and used in front matter to the screenwriter’s failed novel. The very young director (whose previous experiences is music videos) who wants to make the movie points this out and hands him an annotated copy of the novel—annotated, we find out, by the very young director’s extremely young sister (16 years old, but a very mature 16), who also seems to make any difficulties in the way of the film go away, apparently by various acts the screenwriter summarizes with the word “whoring.”

The plot? Oh, let’s not forget the screenwriter’s agent, a lovely wheelchair-bound 30-year-old who pretty obviously has a thing for the screenwriter. And who we later find also has some backstory with the director and sister. Nor should we forget the screenwriter’s final development of exactly the screenplay the director wants, which the producer knows to be unbankable unless a major star is on board—and, oddly, the screenwriter knows such a major star.

The plot? I give up. There’s also drugs, death, various forms of love, the seeming absence of any deep human emotions on the part of most everybody involved—and, in the end, it felt like an art film, in the reading of “art film” that keeps them out of the commercial marketplace. To wit, after one hour and 45 minutes that seemed much longer, I had no idea what the outcome was, I didn’t know where things would lead, but…well, but I’d kept watching. For those who might enjoy this sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing they’d enjoy, and for them it’s probably worth at least $1.25.

Summing Up

So here we are at the first half—or, really, not quite, since this 50-movie pack lacks very short films and so is spread over 13 discs. The first six discs include the first 22 movies; the “second half” includes 28 over 7 discs. (For the other movies, see the posts for discs one, two, three, four and five.)

It’s a truly odd set, a combination of TV movies, foreign films that apparently weren’t headed for stateside DVD release, and at least one movie that should never have been in this bargain set. There’s one absolutely firstrate film, The River Niger, and two very strong contenders, Christabel and A Hazard of Hearts. I count four more good $1.50 flicks, seven at a reasonable $1.25 and five at a mediocre-but-passable $1, for a total of $25.25. Ah, but as I look now, the prices of Mill Creek Entertainment’s 50-packs have firmed up a lot—I see $44.49 at Amazon, about three times what I would have expected. At that price, the first half is neither a bargain nor a cheat. (Of the three other films—two at a weak $0.75 and one at a miserable $0.25—the less said, the better.)

Cites & Insights Special Issue now available

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A special issue of Cites & Insights is now available for downloading (or reading in your browser) at

This two-page unnumbered issue consists of one brief essay:

Not With a Bang …  (pp. 1-2)

Going on hiatus.

There will be no more issues in Volume 11. If and when there is an index, it will only be part of the annual volume available at Lulu, if and when that volume is available.

If you’ve written a real comment…

Monday, November 28th, 2011

…on one of my posts (especially one where I’m asking a question), and it doesn’t show up on the site, please send me email (waltcrawford at gmail dot com) noting the situation.

I used to check every comment caught by Spam Karma 2. Unfortunately, there are now so many of these–typically 60 to 100 per day, sometimes more–that I just don’t feel I can spare the time.

I just did rescue a comment caught in the spam bucket, but only because I’d just flagged another new comment as spam, just half an hour after doing the daily spam-removal routine.


How many US public libraries have actually closed?

Friday, November 25th, 2011

When reading various posts and articles from various directions–some celebrating the promised end of public libraries, most bemoaning the decline of public libraries–I keep running into comments about so many public library closures.

Which got me to wondering: How many public libraries have actually closed permanently in the last year or decade?

Let’s be more specific: How many library agencies, defined as libraries that report statistics to their state library and/or IMLS, have shut down with no expectation of reopening, or have been closed two or more years?

One percent of the 9,000-odd library agencies in the US? Five percent? Half of one percent?

I can’t find good info at ALA. In fact, when I go looking for library closures, I see some surprising ambiguities. For example, you have the wifty claim that 15 states reported closure of “fewer than two” library outlets last year. Problematic on two counts: In what world is “fewer than two” anything other than one (unless it’s zero)–and what’s an outlet?

Going back a little, I see ALA press releases on the subject of the closure of the library in Colton, California in November 2009. Which is a tragedy–except that the Colton library was reopened within a year.

I didn’t find good info at IMLS either, although maybe I didn’t know where to look.

I’m certainly not trying to minimize budgetary problems. I know lots of branches have been shut down or had hours reduced; I also know that some libraries quite appropriately close some branches for the sake of the health of the library system as a whole.

(Where I live, two small branches are only open a couple of days a week, if that–but the result is that the main library, in a relatively compact city, has robust seven-day-a-week operating hours. Would we be better off if all three locations had reduced hours or no book budgets? Not in my opinion–but then, I’m closest to the main anyway. And I’m aware that one of the two branches is in a part of town where huge construction plans didn’t work out very well…)

I think the question deserves an honest answer because the assumption that libraries are closing like crazy hurts libraries–it makes it easier for those who don’t like public libraries to suggest that they’re anachronisms in any case.

Maybe there should even be two more refinements:

  1. How many public library agencies have closed in towns/cities that are still themselves viable communities? (If a town’s lost its schools, its businesses, its post office because nobody really lives there any more, the library’s likely to go as well…)
  2. How many public library agencies have opened in the last year or decade? Do library closures exceed new library openings?

If someone can point me to an authoritative and reliable source, I’d be pleased.

Texas and Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

A two-part post of no enormous import…


Just finished checking Zelienople Public Library, the alphabetically last library in Pennsylvania, for presence on Facebook and Twitter. That process began with A Hufnagel Glen Rock Library on November 17. Given the bad cold I’m finally getting over and other stuff like turning around the micropublishing book and helping (a little) get ready for Thanksgiving, I guess I shouldn’t be too unhappy with that progress. That’s 453 libraries in roughly four weekdays and one weekend; a little below my 100-per-weekday, 100 over the weekend goal, but not badly so.

Now on to Texas’ 561 [565: Seeing that the table I had was only showing city names, I found another table, showing 565 main libraries with population figures, and it has full library names] libraries, aiming for 50-75 today, the rest starting Friday. (For those who follow my activities closely, if there are any of them, the reason I’m posting this on a Wednesday morning instead of being out hiking is because I *am* about 95% over the cold and decided to take it easy–and because it’s threatening rain out there any minute.) I might miss the aim: As always, I’ll help with anything Thanksgiving-related my wife asks me to do, but I’ve found in past years that I’m usually most helpful by staying out of the way.

The Texas process will be a lot slower because November 25 is also precisely four months past the point at which I began the original 25-state/2406-library scan, and thus marks the start of the four-month rescan. So I’ll be happy with 25 or more new (Texas) libraries per day…

And somewhere in there I may put out a truncated little C&I issue…


I won’t scan any libraries tomorrow. We’ll be hosting a small dinner (brother & sister-in-law, sister & brother-in-law; none of the nieces and nephew and grand-nieces are here this year), with my wife doing, oh, 95% of the work. That may be a conservative estimate. It’s her choice, although it’s my immediate family. I doubt that I’ll even be on the computer tomorrow–and if I am, it won’t be until late afternoon at the earliest.

I could provide a gratetude (Jon Carroll’s marvelous term) of things I’m thankful for (John Scalzi’s been doing a wonderful “Thanksgiving Advent Calendar” series of daily gratetudes at his Whatever blog), but I’m not much of one for lists. At a start, there’s my wonderful wife (we met not much more than 34 years ago, and we’ll celebrate our 34th anniversary on New Year’s Day). Then, there’s good health (this cold being a rare exception–I’m 66 years old, not taking any prescription medicines and not having any real complaints, so I’m extremely thankful to my father and other ancestors for great genes!). And, to be sure, being in a country, state, and community that I love, despite all their failings; having not only a roof over my head but the nicest house we’ve ever owned; good food (much of it local, most of the produce from farmers’ markets) and having not gained the habit of eating too much of it; good wine (some of it very local, nearly all of it from within 200 miles); good music; good friends locally and the many good virtual friends of LSW (and others); good books and a great local public library to borrow them from…

And more, but I think that’s enough. On to Abernathy, Abilene, Alamo…

Dreaming out loud: An ideal ongoing sponsored project

Friday, November 18th, 2011

As I’m continuing with the 38-state, 5,957-library survey of current public library Twitter and Facebook practice, with 850 libraries left to go (but 2,406 to revisit beginning 11/25, four months after they were first checked), recognizing that it’s a heck of a lot of research for one book (a book that will not be entirely or even primarily research results)…

I think about what I’d like to do in the future–if there was an appropriate sponsoring and facilitating agency.

Sponsoring: To pay a modest sum (at least a modest hourly sum) for the research and writing. Facilitating: To make sure the results reached the appropriate audience–and maybe to extract the nationwide set of public library data (OK, so I could buy Access and extract it myself, or install a robust enough programming environment to extract it from the flat files…)

Not that I’m expecting anything like this to happen–it’s too small-scale for typical grant situations and I don’t have the institutional credentials or backing to seek such grants. Still, I think it would be highly useful to the library community, although that may also be misguided.

The idea

A true nationwide study of public library use of / presence on social networks, with possibly a few extensions on library website findability. Involving all 9,000-odd public libraries/library agencies. Ideally, done every year or every other year for at least two or three cycles.

For this to work as a one-man “crazed researcher” project, the sponsoring agency and I would have to agree on a set of data that’s plausibly gatherable in, say, three to four minutes tops for each library. At three minutes, that’s 450 hours of data gathering (but you go nuts spending more than 3-4 hours each day on this kind of work). At four minutes, it’s 600 hours. At five minutes, it’s 750 hours. I figure data analysis and writeup at 150 hours or more.

What I’m gathering now probably averages 90 seconds to 2 minutes per library, and I find I can do at most 125, maybe 150 libraries a day. Here’s what I’m doing now:

  • Finding the library website if there is one, using Google and the name provided by the state library with the state name added, cleaning up some oddities as I go.
  • If there is a website, following Facebook and Twitter icons or text links if they exist and work, to get the specifics below.
  • If there isn’t a website or if one or both icons/links is either missing or doesn’t work, searching the first 100 results in Google for “faceb” and “twit” and, if appropriate sites are found, getting the specifics below.
  • If this doesn’t work for either or both, searching within Facebook and/or Twitter to see if I can find something for the specifics below–and here are those specifics:
  • For Facebook: How I got there (homepage, Google, or Facebook); the number of Likes (or Friends or Group members in special cases); currency of the latest and fifth most recent post (divided into categories of day, week, fortnight, month, quarter, six-month, year, and beyond: so, for example, libraries checked today would have date boundaries of 11/18/2011, 11/12/2011, 11/5/2011, 10/19/2011, 8/19/2011, 5/19/2011, and 11/19/2010 respectively); and whether there’s visible evidence of engagement (defined as at least one non-spam post, comment or like), recording “y” if there’s at least one comment, “l” if there are post-level likes but no comments.
  • For Twitter: How I got there; the number of followers, number being followed, and total tweets; then the same currency notes; and obvious evidence of retweeting or responding (but I don’t spend a lot of time looking for this).

I’m not sure what would make sense for a longer-range, broader project, if indeed any of this makes sense at all. I think the measures so far are all useful (total tweets primarily for followup purposes–e.g., for the 380-odd libraries with Twitter accounts among the first 2,406 libraries I studied, I’ll know the tweet frequency fairly exactly). Possible additions:

  • Existence of a  working MySpace link; unsure whether any visible MySpace measures are worth tracking at this point. Yes, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of libraries with MySpace icons.
  • Existence of a working Google+ link (assuming this is done in late 2012 or later) and key visible measures, if those are available. Unsure whether checking for Google+ pages within Google search results or within Google+ would be useful–it’s a time sink, and for Facebook and Twitter I think the added yield for searches within the application comes out to about 0.1%-0.2%.
  • Maybe existence of a working Flickr link and key measures, although Flickr is (I think) less of a social network than these others.
  • Ditto YouTube…
  • Possibly a number for relative placement of the library’s homepage within the Google result, although I’m not sure whether that’s meaningful.
  • Maybe there are others I haven’t thought of. LinkedIn? Worth the trouble?

The idea would be to gather this over a reasonable period (3-4 months), write up a variety of results (and possibly make extracted spreadsheets available), and then redo it every other year (or every year), adding or deleting new social networks as appropriate.

What it would need

Some form of sponsorship and distribution method so that the results were widely available–and so I’d be getting some kind of remuneration for the work. (How much remuneration? Certainly in the five-figure range, with an actual figure depending on what’s feasible, whether the results would appear under my name or not, and, um, special arrangements for one or two institutions that are highly unlikely to go for this anyway. And no, MFPOFTW–my former place of full-time work–is not one of those institutions: I’d be delighted to work with them.)

This is mostly dreaming out loud. I think it would be worthwhile–but that may be wrong. I find the research fascinating (if slogging), but certainly not worth doing beyond the book’s publication if no money is involved.

If anyone’s interested and knows of a way to make this happen, you know how to contact me–comments here, mail to waltcrawford at

I won’t be holding my breath. I just wanted to get this down for the record.


Done Wisconsin

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

To continue a series of progress reports almost nobody will (or should!) care about…

Although a couple of those posts combine progress reports with other things–in one case, the second part of my probably-two-part Relevance and Reward, in another case some notes on the “computer game” I actually play…

Wisconsin done

More reporting libraries/library agencies than any state I’d surveyed before–381 of them in all. And almost all of them with web pages (certainly not true for every state). Probably just finished in time: Twitter’s now showing me Wisconsin tourism ads for every search that includes the word “wisconsin.”

The decision

I’m now at the point where I was going to make a decision on just how much I’d expand the original survey of 25 states and slightly more than 2,400 libraries (but more than half of the people).

The eleven states I’ve done now add another 2,537 libraries–which means I’ve now checked more than half of the 9,000-odd public libraries (not physical locations, but reporting entities) in the U.S.

There are two more states I could reasonably survey (the rows are in my spreadsheet but not yet checked): Pennsylvania and Texas. Each of which has a whole bunch of reporting libraries–1,014 between the two of them.

If I stop now, I’ve covered 72% of the states, just about two-thirds of the population, and around 55% of the libraries.

If I add PA and TX, I’ll have covered 76% of the states…but also about 80% of the population and about two-thirds of the libraries. Pennsylvania and Texas combined have almost as much population as the 11 states I just finished surveying…

As very populous states with lots of independent libraries, they also add to the incredible diversity of the states I’ve included (although Massachusetts also fits in this category); California and Florida have relatively few–or at least fewer–reporting library agencies. (New York is one of the dozen states that just isn’t going to be part of this survey, both because of time and because the state library doesn’t show a spreadsheet of library names and LSAs on its statistics website. Illinois and Michigan are also in that group.)

The book really doesn’t need the extra data, but having it will add a little more richness to the picture.

So, well, I’m 99% certain I’ll continue with those two. Not that it matters.


That I’m formulating a newer “ideal job” picture, one that might be worth posting. I don’t know that it has any more real-world chances than other pipe dreams, but it might be worth fleshing out. Maybe in another post, before or after a stub issue of C&I (yes, I think there will be another 2011 issue; no, I don’t think it will be a substantial one).

How many more Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have I surfaced this time around? Dunno; I haven’t done any analysis of the 11 states. “A bunch” would be one fair summary, as would “certainly not present in nearly all libraries”–but that’s nothing new.


Spam or legitimate promotion?

Monday, November 14th, 2011

As I’m scanning public library websites and looking at Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, I’m finding a growing number of occurrences of a message.

The same message, on each page. I’ve seen it already half a dozen times this morning, and probably at least two dozen over the past few days. Currently, I’m seeing it in Wisconsin libraries, but that’s because those are the libraries I’m looking at–there is nothing in the message specific to Wisconsin, as far as I can tell.


Without quoting the message directly, it’s a pitch for a new book, posted by the author; the book is related to the Human Genome Project, supposedly in plain language, and published by Xlibris (a PoD house that charges several hundred to several thousand dollars in advance, making it a vanity press by my standards).

The message is identical on every Facebook wall. It’s either attached as a comment on some library post (none of which have anything to do with the HGP) or offered as a standalone comment, presumably on pages where that’s easy to do.

I’m doing this post for two reasons–and will link to it in a message on Publib and Web4lib for both reasons:

  1. If you’re an administrator for a public library Facebook page and you see this message and wonder what it’s all about: You’re not alone. It’s popping up all over the place. It’s not specific to your library, although I suppose it’s indirectly arguing that you should buy the book. If you choose to treat it as spam and delete it, you’re probably making a sensible choice. (By the way, for libraries whose Facebook pages are largely inactive: Do you check them once in a while to delete the make-big-money-at-home spam that pops up on such pages?)
  2. A tiny little part of me wonders whether what this author is doing could be considered legitimate self-promotion? That tiny little part notes that I’ll have a book–from Information Today, Inc., definitely not self-published–out early in 2012 that is directly relevant to every public library and its relations with its community. Should I be posting a notice about that book to every public library Facebook page? Even more interesting: The reason I’m looking at all these Facebook pages is the other book I’m working on, which should be out later in 2012 from ALA Editions–and I suppose you could make the case that it would be directly relevant for me to post something on each and every public library Facebook page (that I’m aware of) about the book. After all, the Facebook pages are the major basis for the study, and the book will allow libraries to see how their Facebook page compares to their peers.

Don’t worry: I have no intention of doing either one. It strikes me as inappropriate and maybe a little unsavory. But I’ve always been a terrible self-promoter, and maybe I’m wrong here. What do you think?

Relevance and reward, 2

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Has it really been that long since “Relevance and reward, 1“? Apparently so. How time flies…

Progress report 1: From Abbott Memorial Library to Woodbury Community Library, I’ve swept through Vermont–another state I’ve never visited but feel as though I know better than I did a few days ago. No large public libraries at all, not even one serving 40,000 or more…

Next up: Wisconsin, and that’s gonna take a while–381 libraries, more than any state I’ve done so far, and a warmup for the final two (if I do them), Pennsylvania’s 453 libraries and Texas’ 561.

As for the rest of the book: Done with the draft of Chapter 6, the penultimate chapter before the second geographical chunk and the four-month followup. Also getting much better title suggestions from ALA Editions.

The first part of this post was about my writing and where it makes sense to spend time and energy–the need for some relevance and possibly other rewards.

As part of that post, I noted that my speaking invitations have dried up, as have my print columns. It’s quite possible that there will be some speaking invitations in the future related to the books I’m doing now, particularly the micropublishing book. But otherwise, I think both of those areas require a different kind of whine:

Younger and more involved voices should be doing these things

Maybe that’s all I need to say. But, being Walt Crawford, I’ll drone on with an expansion.

If I get invited to speak on community micropublishing, or for that matter on public library use of social networks, it will be because of books–and not me-too books. Nobody’s done what I’ve done with micropublishing and library involvement. Nobody’s done as broad a study of actual public library use of social networks as I’m doing. In those areas, I have unique things to offer–at least for a while.

In other areas, not so much.

And, frankly, if a conference planning committee wants a speaker on most library-related topics where I could do a bang-up job, I’m fairly certain that there are real librarians actually working in the field (in libraries!) who are younger than I am, have spoken less often than I have, and would do a better job.

They’re the ones who should be speaking. The field needs to hear from a range of voices, including those who aren’t On The Speaking Tour, those who don’t seem to pop up at every conference. And the field needs to hear real experiences and arguments based on real library experience, not just theory and broad assumptions based on narrow evidence.

And, in general, to the extent that there are still columns in library-related magazines, they’re the ones who should be writing them. Ideally, for a few years–then stopping (or moving to a different outlet) and letting someone else take over.

Hi, Brian Mathews (with one t). Congratulations. You did good.

I love state and regional library conferences–with almost no exceptions, I’ve enjoyed speaking at them and attending them (I habitually went to the whole conference and as many programs and events as made sense). Ontario, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Alaska, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Connecticut, New England, Michigan, New York, Victoria (Australia), Minnesota, Ohio (ALAO), Maryland, British Columbia, Georgia (COMO), Arizona, Tennessee, Nevada–all great. (Well, Nevada was difficult, but that had everything to do with health and nothing to do with the conference.) Also a bunch of conferences at different levels…military, marine sciences, New York regional groups, AALL, Music Library Association (I’d say MLA but there are so many MLAs…), AMIGOS, Harvard College, University Circle, NCCIHE…and more.

And I’m not angling for invitations back to any of them or to the states I haven’t visited–unless they want to hear about these current projects. For pretty much all the topics I’ve addressed in the past, I believe they’re better off with other voices…more relevant voices, especially those who can use the professional rewards.

So, apparently, do they.

That’s a good thing.

Progress report 2: Cites & Insights is still dead in the water. It’s not formally on hiatus yet; it’s not actually gone. There may yet be a November/December issue. Or maybe not. And, based on reactions to date, it appears that it really doesn’t matter to much of anyone. Which may also be OK.

Not as wordy as last time, at least. Now, on to Abbotsford and a bunch of other Wisconsin libraries…


Virginia and something entirely different

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Alexandria Library has both a Facebook page and a Twitter account–although the Twitter account doesn’t show up on the library’s homepage and seems somewhat neglected. York County Public Library appears to have neither (although, as with so many others, there’s a Facebook page that the library probably had nothing to do with).

And that’s Virginia from start to finish, with lots of interesting stuff in between.

Now, on to Vermont. Meanwhile…

Too Many Words on a Favored Break Pastime

When I’m in the middle of writing a chapter, I alternate between working on the chapter and checking groups of libraries/visiting FriendFeed and gmail, usually aiming for 25 libraries at a time. (I’m current at 1,975, planning to get to at least 2,050 by the end of the day. Technically, of course, all those counts are one too high, since there’s a label row.)

But when I’m not writing a chapter–either because I’ve done enough for the day or because I’m done with this week’s installment–I do something else for a break. (Not the long breaks, where taking walks and reading are involved, but the short breaks sitting at the computer.) For quite a while, that break was frequently an ongoing game of five-card draw video poker, jacks or better, using a years-old Masque program that could be set to suggest which cards I should hold (and has a printable table of the too-many combinations to think about). I still have the program, but am unlikely to use it much in the future. For that, you can thank New Orleans and a website I discovered after ALA Annual.

New Orleans?

Yep. I think I mentioned in another post that, along with going to various programs and spending a lot of time in the exhibits, I spent a few hours at Harrah’s in New Orleans, always playing video poker (the only slot machines that involve some degree of thinking and skill). Planned to spend $50 to $70 max. Ended up walking out with $250 of the casino’s money. And found that I was almost always playing either three-hand poker or some subset of a ten-hand game, and that I enjoyed that a lot more than single-hand poker.

For those who’ve never encountered it, multihand poker (it can be anywhere from three to 100 hands, usually either three, five, ten or 100–and with three, five or ten, you can usually choose how many hands you want to play) works like this:

  • You place your bet–with coins (or, rather, numbers based on the bills or slip you deposited) going to each successive hand first, then adding to them. If you want to get the best payback, you bet five coins for each hand (massively increasing royal flush payoff–this is true for virtually all video poker, and makes up about 1.5% of the extremely high payback of such machines); I almost never do that.
  • When you click on Deal, the bottom hand is dealt.
  • When you hold cards in that hand, they pop up on all of the hands you’ve bet on.
  • When you click on Draw, the non-held cards are replaced in each hand–but each hand is a separate deal. Thus, if you’re playing five hands, you see five different results of drawing from the same held cards. You win on each hand if it’s a winning combo.

The virtues: More action and it’s interesting to see how things can play out. The vice: More action–if you’re playing a quarter five-hand machine and want that big royal-flush payout, you’re wagering $6.25 on each deal. That’s way too rich for my blood. I was typically starting with $0.50 (one each on two hands) and increasing hands & bets as I was winning–or, playing a dime machine, starting with $0.30 (one each on three hands) and doing the same. I’m guessing 100-hand games are typically penny games, but that still means you’re wagering $5 each time (5 coins each on 100 hands).

Coming home

We used to go to Reno two to four times a year, mostly visiting surrounding attractions in the mornings and playing slot poker in the afternoons. We don’t do that any more because the second-hand smoke is too much for my wife’s asthma and also irritating for me. There’s an Indian casino about two hours from us that had a substantial true nonsmoking room, but it also has lousy odds and the town doesn’t have a good hotel (the casino’s building one now). We went there a few times (my wife’s sister lives in town, and her niece is a financial person at the casino), but not recently…

I was missing casinos–not to gamble, which would imply the possibility of winning, but to game as cheap entertainment. And I realized that the Masque video poker wasn’t doing it: I wanted multihand, and it wasn’t enough like the real thing. (I was also finding double-bonus poker, where you trade less of a payoff for two pairs for more payoff for many other hands, including *much* more payoff for some 4 of a kind hands, to my liking, and the advice on holding is necessarily different for that version.)

A little investigation…

I wasn’t about to sign up for an offshore gambling website, any more than I’m ever likely to visit either of Livermore’s two “casinos” (that is, poker parlors–legal in many California cities since poker is a game of skill): Too rich for my blood, and I’d be a terrible live-poker player.

But then I found a website that’s explicitly not a gambling site (there’s no cash wagering of any sort) and offered video poker looking and sounding almost exactly like the real thing: There’s a reason the poker games look and sound realistic: is operated by Action Gaming, a division of IGT–and Action Gaming makes those multihand video poker slot machines.

The win-win situation…

You can play video poker, in an absurdly large number of variations, absolutely for free–if you don’t mind flashing and changing ads around the edges of the virtual machine. After a while, I found that annoying enough to sign up for the “silver” level: $25 a year, and the third-party ads go away. (There are still a few ads, but they’re static and out of the way.) There’s a much more expensive level, something like $8/month, that allows you to chat with other players and keep track of your scores, but I’m not interested in that.

There’s also something else. On each of the first 20 days of each month, there’s a daily contest, using some “machine” from the large collection. (A machine might be Game King or Three-Hand Poker or Hundred-Hand or one of the many extra-action variations; within a machine, there are still quite a few choices–e.g., jacks or better, double bonus, deuces wild, and anywhere from three to a dozen others.) Unlike the regular games, where you start with 10,000 credits, bet what you want (all of it non-$) and go up or down until you stop playing, these ones are fixed: You always bet the max, you start with 0 credits, and that number goes up as you win. You play 100 deals (which may be anywhere from 100 to 10,000 actual hands), at which point your score is recorded. You can play up to five rounds per day–or, if you played five the previous day, up to eight.

And the high score for the day gets a $50 Visa gift card, plus a month of free Gold membership.

(The last third of each month is a single contest for the whole period, with a few prizes running to a little more money, and as many entries as you like.)

I started doing this, keeping track of how I was winning or losing on various game variations. Seeing that the leaders for each day were almost always dealt at least one royal flush, I figured I’d never win, but that was OK: It wasn’t costing me anything.

Until, somewhat less than a month ago, playing hundred-hand and actually winning (that is, I was well on my way to having more than 50,000 credits after 100 hundred-hand deals), I was…dealt a royal flush. Which, of course, you hold all of (actually, that’s the single hand that you don’t get choices on), turning it into 100 royal flushes.

Yes, they do send you the $50 Visa card. I know it was somewhat less than a month ago because my player status hasn’t yet reverted to silver. It will soon.

I see this site as a win-win-win situation. Players win because they can play for free and maybe learn to be better players. (There’s now a $20 software option, which plays full-screen and offline, and it *does* offer the option of advising on what’s best to hold.) Action Gaming wins because players are far more likely to seek out Action Gaming machines when they do go to casinos.

Casinos win because multihand poker, especially with some of the options, gets past the problem casinos might have with full-odds video poker: The payback is *so* high–around 99% for jacks or better, actually slightly over 100% for deuces wild and some other options *if* you always hold correctly–that players really don’t burn through very much money. But if you’re always playing maximum coins and you’re playing three or five or ten hands at a time, you’ll be spending a little more. (If you’re an addict, you’re probably not playing $0.10/$0.25 video poker anyway–you’re probably playing something that doesn’t require thinking and offers more bells and whistles.)

On the other hand…

The effect on me is a little different. The play is realistic enough that I have very little interest in going back to casinos. Oh, if we went to Vegas to see the architecture, I’d play; if Reno ever gets rid of smoking in casinos, we like the town enough that I’d play some–but otherwise, well, there’s absolutely no second-hand smoke at home, there’s no loud music, there are no drunks or over-perfumed women sitting down next to me, and if I really want a glass of wine, it will be a whole bunch better than what I’d get at most casinos.

And, to be sure, I can play for 15 minutes when I choose to.

Well, there’s one other negative: I’ve played enough of the extra-action games (which require more than five coins per hand to offer a number of higher payouts, usually involving more luck and less skill) to know that I would probably never play them if and when we do go back to casinos (or I play aboard ship on a cruise).

Anyway, that’s my story. Oh: While hundred-hand poker is just too rich for real-world playing, it’s a great way to check what makes sense to hold and draw, as you’re seeing 100 sets of results for each attempt. I’ve been refining my own playing based on hundred-hand results. When I do eventually show up at real machines, I’ll be a better player…although, y’know, I’m probably enjoying it more at home. Even if that 453,000 point total wasn’t worth the $4,530 it would have been on a penny machine. My regrets for that not being real money are nonexistent: I simply would not play at $5/hand, even if we won the lottery. Not before I saw it was possible to win so much; not after.

Comment situation

I’m not allowing comments on this post for two reasons:

1. I neither need nor want lectures on The Evils of Gambling (even when no money is involved.)

2. I know Spam Karma well enough to know that your chances of having any comment accepted that includes words like poker or gambling are nearly zero. That’s even true for my own comments.