Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Staples and prices

Friday, May 24th, 2024

I ran out of staples for my Swingline stapler. After replacing the strip with the last strip in the box, I needed to order more.

So, wondering what the price might be (since it’s probably been a decade or so since I last purchased a box of staples), I went to Amazon (we needed some other stuff anyway). I was shocked.

The standard Swingline-brand staples came 210 staples to a strip, 24 strips to a box: so 5,000 staples. 3.3oz., but free shipping anyway.

The price? $2.14. That’s two dollars and fourteen cents. For what will probably be enough staples for my lifetime (not for *a* lifetime, but…).

Of course, they come in a simple (and wholly recyclable) thin cardboard box, not the fancy plastic box the last bunch came in (that bunch must have been 4,000 staples or fewer–I couldn’t fit all the strips into the old box).

Oh, you can get by for less: A pack of 50,000 Amazon Basics staples (10 5,000-staple packs) costs $16.45.

Or I could get fancy and get “premium” Swingline-brand staples, but those cost (gasp) $2.68 for 5,000.

I wonder: just how much did these staples cost ten or twenty years ago? I’m guessing a lot more, especially factoring in inflation.

I also wonder how they can be so cheap. (Office Depot offered a 5-pack of 5,000-each-pack Swinglines for $12.99/pack, which is, what, $2.60/5,000. Their house brand is $9.79 on sale, less than $2/5,000.)

Anyway, that’s my outrageous pricing story for today.

Brief reminiscence

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023

I remember when there was an agency that offered pretty good first-year subscription prices for magazines, since people who subscribe tend to renew (at regular prices), and ran big but absurdly long-odds sweepstakes as an incentive.

I used this agency, which will go unnamed, several times.

Recently, I made the mistake of responding to an agency with the same name and sweepstakes approach. They keep pestering me to keep entering again…which requires paging through all the stuff they’re offering,

And that’s what it is: Stuff…and really what I’d call, well, crap.

I think of the agency now as the Prolific Crap Group (changing the last name to avoid problems). And I miss the old agency, especially since I might get a new magazine subscription. It won’t be through them.

American Graffiti 50 Years Later

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

Apparently the only major motion picture made about my high school graduating class is now 50 years old, worth a quick note. (OK, so it’s not explicitly identified as Thomas Downey, but that’s what it is.)

That’s pretty much it. My only connection with George Lucas is that we were both in the ’62 graduating class. I’ve been in the same room with him twice, at alumni reunions, but since we never knew each other in high school and he had lots of other attention, I’ve still never met him. (They were sizable reunions–around 560 seuiors graduated, and the 50th still had more than 200 attendees including significant others.) I could get another chance this year–a one-year-delayed 60th reunion, and AFAIK he always goes–but I’m not going.

Good movie, to be sure, and a string of others that seem to have had some small effect on cinema.

How high the fi?

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

What’s a reasonable price for a really good set of stereo speakers? What’s absurdly excessive?

I don’t have answers, but found it interesting to peruse a recent issue of a stereo magazine that manages to provide the needed editorial pages to justify all that ads by running an illustrated spreadsheet, a directory of loudspeakers from brands the deities that run this magazine consider worthy.

I was struck by how many models there were costing more than $100,000. (If I did have a personal limit, and was in the market, it would probably be, oh, say, $7,990, but I would never suggest such a paltry limit for anyone else.)

I thought it might be amusing to note, for each brand where it’s appropriate, the most expensive model; how many others (if any) cost $100,000 or more; and the cheapest reasonably full-range speaker in the lineup (defined as claiming to go down to at least 35Hz). In alphabetic order. And, after that, the most expensive model of a fewrands I believe to be well-regarded/well-reviewed that don’t offer such a$spirational $y$tem$. Oh, and boldface for the truly a$pirational models costing at least half a million…

The Six- (or Seven-) Digit Wonders

  • Acora Acoustics: $218,000; none; $28,000
  • Alta Audio: $200,000; none; $5,000
  • Audiovector: $249,700; none; $3,350
  • Avantgarde Acoustic: $481,000; two; $35,850
  • Burmester: $375,000; one; $23,000
  • Clarisys: $146,000; none; $46,000
  • Estelon: $269,000; one; $19,900
  • Focal: $279,998; one; $10,998
  • Gamut: $165,000; none; $5,900
  • German Physiks: $185,000; two (and three”inquire”); $23.600
  • Gershman Acoustics: $129,000; none; $5,500
  • Göbel High End: $549,000; three; $89,000
  • Goldmund: $249,950; one; $84,550
  • The Gryphon: $343,000; one; $46,250
  • Kharma: $940,000; eight; $25,000
  • Lansche Audio: $290,000; one; $35,000
  • Linn: $105,000; none; 44,490
  • Magico: $750,000; one; $9,400
  • MartinLogan: $100,000; none; $3,500
  • MBL: $398,000; none; $39,900
  • McIntosh: $140,000; none; $11,000
  • Meridian: $125,000; none; $11,500
  • Metaxas & Sins: $330,000; one; $82,000
  • Nola: $500,000; two; $3,500
  • Piega: $350,000; none; $1,995
  • Raidho: $227,000; three; $45,000
  • Rockport Technologies: $190,000; one; $38,000
  • Rosso Fiorentino: $140,000; none; $40,000
  • Siltech: $545,000; none; none
  • Sonus faber: $140,000; none; $1,999
  • Stein Music: $500,000; six; $65,000
  • Stenheim: $740,000; two; $33,950
  • TAD: $160,000; none; $29,900
  • Tidal: $1,100,000; three; $64,000
  • Von Schweikert Audio: $365,000; five; $9,000
  • Wilson Audio: $875,000; two; $19,700
  • Wilson Benesch: $255,000; one; $15,500
  • YG Acoustics: $359,300; two; $14,200
  • Zellaton: $595,000; one; $28;,950

A Few Less Aspirational Brands

  • ATC: $36.999
  • Bowers & Wilkins: $38,ooo
  • Canton: $29,995
  • Dali: $24,999
  • DeVore Fidelity: $88,900
  • Dynaudio: $50,000: $350
  • Elac: $22,000
  • GoldenEar Technology: $12,500
  • Harbeth: $22,500
  • JansZen Audio: $21,500
  • JBL: $75,000
  • KEF: $28,000
  • Klipsch: $36,000
  • Magnepan: $39,995
  • Monitor Audio: $17.900
  • Paradigm: $37,000
  • PSB: $11,999
  • Quad: $17,995
  • Revel: $22,000
  • Spendor: $33,700
  • Tannoy: $54,990
  • Wharfedale: $9.995

My apologies to the deserving companies I left out of the second list.

There’s one speaker there that’s about the price of a four-bedroom house. In the Bay Area. Maybe more than one.

A Few Quick Reading Notes

Saturday, July 22nd, 2023

Nothing significant here, but just for fun…

In the second half of each year, I typically read a lot more (mostly fiction), since I’m not working on OA scanning. Until last year, I also watched a lot more old TV and movies–but so far, as was true last year, I haven’t felt the urge to do that. That could change, but…

Anyway, I just went through an odd mix of four library books and had odd reactions to each. I rarely write Goodreads reviews (I’ve done that, but it’s rare), and these definitely are not reviews.

That said…

China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

This is an acclaimed novel–Hugo- and Nebula-nominated, winner of other awards, a Big Book. And, trying to read it, I could credit its stature while finding that it just didn’t work for me. So, more wisely than usual, I set it aside after about 40 of 710 pages. Will I try another Miéville novel? Quite possibly. Will I try this one again? Unlikely. There are no books, no matter how good, that are must reading for everybody.

Sara Paretsky, Critical Mass

I’ve read a bunch of Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski mysteries, not always in chronological order, and always enjoyed them, while grumping here and there about aspects of them. The one I read before this (but was published after it), Fallout, was by far the most satisfying of the lot. And this one’s also satisfying. V.I. still seems to be too frequently at death’s door by her own doing, but–as with Fallout–this was just plain first-rate. Why? Dunno.

David Baldacci, Long Road to Mercy

I’ve always enjoyed Baldacci perhaps more than I should, and this one’s no exception. What was interesting about this one, which introduced a new protagonist (that I hope has appeared in later books) was that it would have seemed a little too improbable to be coped with…except that it was published in 2018. That made it a little too plausible. (Safe to say that it would be wildly implausible, I think, before 2017 or after 2020…but that all bets are off after 2024.)

Isaac Asimov, Extraterrestrial Civilizations

In my youth I loved Asimov’s fiction and a fair sampling of his nonfiction, so I picked up this 44-year-old nonfiction book on a whim. I would not speak ill of the dead, but Asimov’s style (or lack thereof) has not aged well for me. The book has been a great soporific, but a slog to get through–and I became aware that Asimov was “proving” things that he maybe should have been a little more circumspect about. For example, he embarked on an absolute proof that there can’t possibly be any water on the moon. His reasoning seems bulletproof. But, well, he was wrong. Not the only case, to be sure.

And now I’ll do the next in my second reread of the Discworld books. I know that will be fun. [Moving Pictures, if you’re wondering. Oh, and I finally purchased and read/looked at The Last Hero. Which was, of course, just lovely.]

 

 

What’s so terrible about introversion?

Monday, July 17th, 2023

Last week, the Washington Post had an oped from a writer who basically said introverts really needed to Shape Up and become Proper People–that is, extroverts. The editors were so taken with this that it appeared in the weekly Washington Post Week in Ideas email.

I deliberately didn’t remember the writer’s name (I guess she’s really an  Author, not just a writer), and I’m not attempting a fair summary–but the gist was clearly there: There’s something wrong with introverts, and if they [we] just tried harder, we could be real people.

This is nothing new. I read a few of the comments, and after one from a self-labeled introvert who has apparently had a 12-step moment and is determined to Shape Up, there were several who noted that, well, it’s interesting that it’s perfectly appropriate for people to call for other people to change attitudes and behaviors that are causing no harm to anyone to themselves. Yes, of course, there are similar cases–but I rarely see WaPo cheering on advocates for other nondestructive behavioral changes. But introverts are fair game.

And I don’t much like it. I can deal with people just fine, but it can be exhausting. Still…I remember one year when my performance review had one big negative: I didn’t schmooze enough. Not that I didn’t work with people when that was appropriate, and not that I didn’t get the work done: just that I wasn’t spending enough time and energy chatting.

I also remember when I was president of LITA, and at an executive committee meeting the [paid] director insisted that we all take the Myers-Briggs nonsense. She then announced that of course we were all Exxx [I think she assumed values for two of the four indicators, but E was definite.] When I said I scored as an Ixxx [I think INTJ, but it’s been a long time and you can’t pay me enough to take that “test” again], she said that was impossible. I believe another board member was also an Ixxx…

Yes, I went to social events and vendor receptions at conferences–and returned to my room exhausted. But it was needful to do a little pretend extroversion. And I’ll still do it if it’s needful.

What I will not do is accept the notion that introversion is a character defect, that there’s something wrong with me. And I frankly resent other people saying that i (and other introverts) really need to Shape Up.

 

Artificial “Intelligence” and the Zeroth Law of Robotics

Monday, July 10th, 2023

I recently had the mixed pleasure* of reading the first third of the Second Foundation Trilogy, and was either reintroduced or introduced to the 0th Law of Robotics, an overriding successor to the first of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (First law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.). The new law says, paraphrasing, “except when it’s for the greater good of humanity.” [Not even close to the actual wording, which appears to be “A robot may not injure humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” Still, the fact that this takes precedence 0ver “don’t harm a person” boils down to “the greater good over all**.”]

Which means, of course, that there are no laws–only, presumably, a massive background of learning material on which robots would base their decisions as to how best to serve humanity.

For some reason, I flashed to current “AI” and even my own experiment with ChatGPT. (I asked it to write about me. Three paragraphs, only one containing facts, every one of the “facts” wrong.) And other experiences with the superior wisdom of these massively-trained AIs, like the one that wrote a timeline of Star Wars movies/shows–badly wrong.

Piling more and more frequently-noxious “data” may or may not improve outcomes. Where ethics is concerned, I’m not convinced that time will help that much. If the 40% of America that (apparently) believes things I consider not only obviously false but harmfully so makes a lot more noise online and elsewhere than the others–well, where does this all end up?

The Three Laws posed problems. Asimov and others got some good stories from examining those problems. The Zeroth Law…well, I believe you could easily make a case that the greater good of humanity would be improved by eliminating most people.

*The pleasure was so mixed that after checking Goodreads for the other two, even though they’re apparently both better than the first, I’m not planning to read them.

**I was sorely tempted to write “uber alles” there, but that’s unfair–maybe.

GOA8: Two questions that need feedback

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

Unlike the longer-term question of whether I should do the country book, these two questions need to be resolved before I start datagathering (on or about January 1), as they’re about gathering data. As always, you can comment here (for two weeks), or send email to waltcrawford@gmail.com, or reply to the tweets I’ll do on @goajwcc.

1. Should I rely on DOAJ for fee data in almost all cases?

That is: rather than going first to a journal’s website, looking around to see what it says about charges, and going to the DOAJ info only if I can’t figure things out directly, should I do it the other way around: Start with DOAJ, and unless the journal has had fee complications in the past (e.g., requiring membership. charging a variable fee, charging for submission or charging for both submission and processing), use the DOAJ data?

For GOA7, I wound up using 470 fees from DOAJ because I couldn’t determine the fee otherwise, and there were about 570 special cases. In those 570-odd cases, I would of course continue to base fees on the website itself.

I’ve seen very few cases where the DOAJ information contradicts what’s on the journal’s website, and relatively few journals seem to add complexity to their fees. If I make this change–which would save a fair amount of time–I’d guess a couple of dozen journals would wind up with slightly less accurate fee information (but that info would necessarily be more consistent with DOAJ). Since most complex cases are also relatively small journals with relatively low fees, I can’t imagine that discrepancies would change overall figures much.

I’m inclined to make this change, but I’m certainly open to your thoughts.

2. Should I look at DOAJ first for article counts?

As things stand, I look at a journal’s website first to do article counts–but if it’s not easy to determine the counts, I go to DOAJ and use that count if there is one and if it seems reasonable.

If I switched that, then for the journals that report metadata to DOAJ at the article level–by no means all of them. (DOAJ no longer reports that count on the homepage: my best guess is that about two-thirds of journals report at the article level.)

I would only use the DOAJ article count for a journal if it seemed to make sense–usually only for journals that have been around at least since 2021, where I can compare the DOAJ count with the GOA7 count. If in doubt, I’d try to count the articles directly.

This could save a lot of time (and as DOAJ grows and I get older and slower, time becomes more of an issue). I’m not sure whether it would decrease the accuracy of the figures–and, again, the figures would necessarily be closer to those in DOAJ.

[When nearly all DOAJ-listed journals provide article-level metadata and simple pricing, I’ll stop doing the GOA series, probably, if it doesn’t stop before then.]

Again, I’m inclined to make this change, but definitely open to persuasion.

Doing another project this year?

Saturday, June 4th, 2022

I’ll be done with GOA7 in a few more weeks (late June or early July barring major surprises), and will probably spend a few months reading a lot more, watching a little more TV, possibly dealing with some household and personal maintenance issues, and determining whether to propose GOA8.

That last depends on whether I believe I can do a good job (am up to it mentally, physically, and in terms of other demands), whether it still seems to be valuable, and whether I’d still have funding.

Meanwhile–let’s say in the time between July 15 and December 15–I could take on another project, if there was one that made sense for all concerned. That is: something where my remaining skills would yield worthwhile results, that wouldn’t be stepping on Proper (Paper-Oriented) Research, that would be financially supported, and would interest me.

I don’t know what that might be, if anything, but thought I’d put it out there. I thought about investigating the “rest of ROAD,” that is, what are all those other OA journals, why aren’t they in DOAJ, do they publish a lot of articles…etc, But ROAD doesn’t appear to have downloadable metadata, and I’m not sure where such a project would lead.

That’s one example. There might be others. If you’re interested, get in touch (waltcrawford@gmail.com). I won’t be holding my breath.

NHT: An antidote to NFTs?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

This is probably a stupid or unworkable idea (unworkable because I don’t have enough followers who would find it intriguing), but here goes:

Non-Harmful Thingies

So you have money and you want a unique digital image that might have some artistic or aesthetic value? But you’d just as soon not contribute to global warming by using vast amounts of energy for cryptocrap? Oh, and you’d like to actually have something, not just a token?

I have a collection of 200+ high-quality original 8×10 photos from around the world, and a list of 25 paint.net transforms that still yield interesting images.

You contribute at least $500 to one of these ecologically or socially positive charities: Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, World Wildlife Fund; any Feeding America affiliate; ACLU, Americans United, Doctors Without Borders, PPFA.

You email me a copy of the dated receipt and deposit $5 in my PayPal account.

I take the next print in the stack, scan it, apply one of the transforms, add a tiny NHT number in one corner, and send you the JPEG as an attachment. And then delete the transformed scan. I keep track; if (as seems unlikely) all the prints get used once, I use a different transform the second time around. Or you can contribute at least $600 and send a transform number (1-25) with your email. Not that you know which transform is which, to be sure.

You get a probably-unique digital print and a $500 tax deduction (at least in some cases).

At the end of the quarter, or when there have been at least 20 such transactions, I take the PayPal amount and contribute it to one of those charities. (I get that tax deduction, but since I have to report the added income it’s a wash at best.)

Oh, two caveats:

  • Your donation must be in some real-world currency.
  • If you choose to sell the digital print to somebody else, that transaction must also be in real-world currencies. [If I find out that cryptocrap has been involved, I will post a new image that uses the same original and same or similar transform and shame you for violating the terms of the agreement. Not that I’d ever find out…]

So there it is. Probably silly because I have at best a few hundred followers, and I’m guessing most of them with a desire for original artwork that doesn’t increase global warming would use this alternate technique:

  • Go to an art fair or gallery, find something that pleases you at a price you can afford, and buy it.

But there’s the idea. If at least two or three people say “Yes, I might go for that,” I’d , set up a tracking spreadsheet, negotiate one required permission and start filling orders.

An update about energy consumption: scans, transforms and email would all be done with zero energy from the grid–during the day, we’re almost always generating more (solar) power than we use.

I’ll probably delete this when comments close after two weeks, unless there are responses.