A Map for Saturday

Don’t watch this documentary unless you are ready to quit your job. It’s about the joys and woes of long-term traveling. It’s impossible to watch this fun film and not confront the fact that you are here instead of there, out on the road, soaking up the mysteries of the world, with all-you-can-eat $3 dinners and $5 rooms, backpacking around the world for a year, as the filmmaker himself did. This kind of vagabonding is more a state of mind than a state of motion. Something weird happens when you travel longer than 10 days, and that wonderful transformation (which no one can explain to their family when they return) is what this superbly written, fabulously edited, deeply personal and wonderfully likeable documentary is all about.

This film explores the mellow subculture of (mostly) young people who trek along an invisible international traveler’s circuit. There’s a kind of endless distributed global party going on every day of the year (plainly visible here), and to join it all you need is a ticket to any country and the address of the local hostel. I was part of this mind-set for many years and boy, does this film nail the peculiar delights of perpetual cheap travel. Not just the highs (everyday is Saturday, each new person an instant best friend), but also the lows (always saying goodbye, and loss of connection).

This DVD won’t give you the how-to specifics of vagabonding. For that I recommend First-Time Around the World. A Map for Saturday works best as an orientation course, offering inspiration on why to tackle this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It’s the next best thing to having a good friend come back and tell you what really happens when you find yourself at the other end of the road.

– KK

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A Map for Saturday
Brook Silva-Braga
2006, 90 min.
$15 ($20 with shipping), DVD
Available from the filmmakers’ website

Trailer

Sample excerpts:

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Filmmaker Brook keeps track of his expenses for one day in Laos. He starts out with his $5 room shared with fellow traveler Kym.

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You have to get used to the squatty potties in Asia. The bucket of water on the side is used to flush the toilet.

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A game of beach volley ball on the sands in Thailand. Hanging around for weeks sipping cold beers at sunset is part of the plan.


A Map for Saturday

Quicker references with Google Scholar

This post is an ode to Google Scholar (GS). GS has a major advantage against expensive institution only academic search engines in that is free, which makes services indispensable to independent scholars wishing to get some access to research literature when they don’t have an institutional subscription. However, even though I personally have institutional access to indexing services like Web of Science and Scopus, I still prefer GS for the majority of my searches, and in this post I will explain why.

GS is not alone if offering free academic article indexing for a wide range of sources. This post lists a bunch of free and paid services. Microsoft live academic has a very similar system, using a slick interface, which has the advantage of providing paper abstracts where available upfront, and before both these appeared, Citesteer provided something similar. I prefer GS over these and other systems I have tried. In my limited testing, I found the MS live search and Citesteer to give a much smaller set of results to GS. For ease and speed of use I prefer the simplicity of the Google design over the paid alternatives.

GS is largely disliked by librarians, as Google is very cagey about what there index consists and their citation index is probably not to be trusted for serious reporting. GS gives citation counts, which might not always be exactly accurate, for most purposes an exact total isn’t necessary, as it serves as good measure of the importance and influence of a book or paper, and allows easy access to those references that cite it. By default, when you click to see articles that cite a particular article, the index is presented with the most highly cited articles first, which makes it very easy to see the important and influential articles in a field.

As Jose suggested in a previous post, one way to assess the productivitveness of reference managers is by how many clicks it takes to get what you want. GS is about as productive in this regard as I could imagine any reference indexer to be. Because it is free, there is no login and you don’t have to be on a university network to access search results or enter in passwords, or have your session time out like some other services. This means GS is always available. If you set up the preferences on GS you can setup a link to your reference manager of choice for an instant export. As I now use Zotero, this means it’s a one click operation to get a reference into my database, with no dialog prompts.

GS has the advantage that it often indexes PDF’s for the article, which may not be available by other means. If there is a link for your search result of “View as HTML” you know the link GS provides is for the PDF, otherwise it normally links to the abstract via various publishers websites or other indexing services. If there is a link at the side “all X versions”, this means there are various other places in which that article is indexed. If that X is a high number, it is likely that one of the other links will be the PDF, which is useful to check if the frontpage GS link doesn’t link to a PDF, or if the PDF that GS links to is missing. If the reference is a book, it will often link to the Google Book site entry for that book, which is handy.

For easier access to full text articles which GS doesn’t index, I use the OpenURL referrer firefox extension, which can work out your OpenURL referrer for your institution, and adds a link to GS search results. Google offers this service itself for many American libraries - just check the GS preferences page. If you click the link this service adds, it will use the OpenURL system to work out if your library has access to the full text version of the article on the publishers website or other indexing service, and take you to it. It also should show if you have the reference in your library.

One advantage and disadvantage of GS is that it includes many articles that wouldn’t get included in other indexing services. One nice advantage is that it gives you access to books and articles in a single search. The articles GS indexes includes manuscripts in preparation and working papers. This means you can access articles not accessible by other means. However, this means you don’t get the benefits of peer review, but I think the benefits of getting recent papers outweighs this disadvantage. Another problem is that GS will sometimes export reference data which isn’t properly formatted, or missing fields. This will unsurprisingly occur for unpublished papers, but for regular papers it doesn’t happen regularly enough to be a major problem for me. GS gives the index source underneath the link to the reference, so you can figure out whether the exported reference will have the full information, and you can check other sources if GS shows them to be available.

While GS is useful for the reasons outlined above, the best feature of GS is the search. GS uses the Google simplicity of search principle. There is a just one search box, with no fields. There is a link to an advanced search field which allows you to limit searches by year, by publication, and author. This may seem very limited compared to other services. For further information on these options see the GS help page. However, with GS I don’t use advanced searches, apart from the occasion “author:”, as the power of GS is that you don’t need to. I typically put a few uncommon words from the title and the most uncommon author name, and the vast majority of the time I get what I am looking for. One feature of Google search syntax that you might not know is that if you string words together by dashes it is equivalent to a search string. e.g. “war is peace” is the same as war-is-peace. Doing this for a few words from the title of the reference you are looking for ensures a high success rate.

The ease and speed of searching is enhanced for me with other tools that make instant search easier. I use a keyboard launcher, Slickrun, which means I can execute searches from a command line accessible via a hotkey. Other keyboard launchers can provide a similar service, or you can use the keyword feature of Firefox. The means that whenever I see a reference, such as in a PDF article, I copy the reference, type my GS keyword, paste the search term, and a second later my GS search term is loading. An alternative method is to use the firefox extension Conquery . This means I can select text in the browser (e.g. name of an article) and send the text as a search term to google scholar. I also have an AutoHotKey command which will instantly launch selected text as a GS search.

The speed and ease of which I can access to references has changed the way I work. Its quicker for me to get a reference via a GS search then it is to find a stored copy in my own reference manager, and I can’t ask for much more that that from a reference indexing service.

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Quicker references with Google Scholar

Eating Strategies

Do you eat the best thing first or save the best for last?  Most people fall into one of these two categories and according to Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating there is a simple economic explanation.  The people who eat the best thing first tend to have grown up as younger children from large families.  The people who save the best for last are more often first borns.  Need I say more?

Mindless Eating, by the way, masquerades as a diet book but it’s really about research design!  Highly recommended.


Eating Strategies

The most absurd sentence I read today

I am proposing that the Son and the Father Singularities guided the worlds of the multiverse to concentrate the energy of the particles constituting Jesus in our universe into the Jesus of our universe.

That is from Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Christianity.

But wait, there is competition for the honor:

If Jesus indeed rose from the dead using the mechanism described in Chapter 8, namely electroweak tunneling to convert matter into energy, and if indeed this was done with the intention of showing us how to use the same process, then we ourselves should be able to learn how to turn matter into either electromagnetic energy or neutrinos within a few decades.

You choose…


The most absurd sentence I read today

Top Ten Books Scored at MoCCA!

#10: BEM

This is from Iceland by Matti Hagelbergia. The cover delivers, the inside is just as wonky! I love the fact that foreign Indy publishers and comic dealers are setting up at MoCCA. I hope MoCCA encourages more of this, it’s so very kewl.


(click for a closer look)

#9: ALINE THE ALIEN

T. Motley is one to watch. Strong on concepts and one of the better draftspeople in the Indy scene. He’s committed to comics and moving from Denver to Brooklyn to get deeper into the comics and illustration world. Can’t wait to see what else this guy comes up with!


(click for a closer look)

#8: WASCO’S WEEKBLAD

Another foreign job. Artsy-fartsy, kinda surreal, a little Chris Ware influence, maybe. More like a sketch book of comic book or magazine covers from, I gather, an imagined publication called Wasco’s Weekblad. Whatever the heck it is I LIKE IT! Lots.


(click for a closer look)

#7: PROJECT ROMANTIC

I can vicariously pretend I’m a twenty-something Indy comic book artist in love through this one. It’s lots of alternate guys and gals doing this, but the production is superlative and it’s in full color throughout. You can’t go wrong with Adhouse books.


(click for a closer look)

#6: OUT OF THE WOODS

School of Visual Arts must have some kind of kick-ass cartooning department because I’m way impressed by this student portfolio/comic book, and I’m not easily impressed ;o). I’m actually thinking of contacting some of the artists here when I finally do a “Contemporary Arf”. And don’t you just love that cover with its great lettering? You don’t see much good lettering from the Indy crowd, hell, from the mainstream crowd either. I’m a sucker for hand drawn type this wonderful.


(click for a closer look)

#5: I SMELL AND REMEMBER

Marianne R. Petit can be counted on for interesting concepts. Here she illustrates friends’ memories that have been touched off by smells. Fascinating stuff and I love the cover with it’s tied-on fold out. This is the kind of stuff you can only find at small press gatherings ike MoCCA.


(click for a closer look)

#4: Bosko.

John Holmstrom, editor and publisher of Punk magazine, has long cracked me up with his signature character, Bosko. The perfect blend of laugh generating art and story. And, as you might expect from the genius behind Punk, lots of rebellion and anti-social behavior demonstated here. Yeah, baby!


(click for a closer look)

#3: BLACK GHOST APPLE FACTORY

Heartiest congrats to Top Shelf’s Chris and Brett for their ten exemplorary years. And a tip of the Yoe hat for publishing one of the best Indy cartoonists: Jeremy Tinder. I’m quite taken with Jeremy’s work–I’m a big gushing fan. Jeremy’;s comics are compelling, quirky, full of gentle humor. Totally engaging. I also snagged a terrific mini-painting by Jeremy at the festival, remind me to show it to you, Arf lovers!


click for a closer look)

#2: UNATTACHED

Maybe J. P. Coovert is a big part of this scene, I dunno. I was totally unfamiliar with his work. It’s very unassuming, so normally I would have passed it by. But, as the cover hints, the guys a real thinker, willing to take risks with his simple style. And this super simple style makes it easy to get into J.P.’s work and then you find the rewards. You find you’ve been told a nice little story, and experienced some real creativity (I won’t spoil the the delightful surprise format of this little book that is revealed when you turn the last page). This is the one book I read to my wife when I got home and she love it, too. I want more J. P. stuff (and was sad to learn I somehow missed at MoCCA a collaboration comic he did with anothe fantastic Hope Larson).


(click for a closer look)

#1: ELVIS ROAD

MInd blowing, this book folds out to a full 45 feet to reveal a bizarre panorama of cartooning psychotic madness. Buenaventura Press puts the art in comic art. I thought my “Life is Short, Arf Is Long” book would be the longest book at the festival–boy was I terribly mistaken. Elvis lives and lives and lives in THIS one!


(click for a closer look)

Another great MoCCA fest, congrats to al the hard working volunteers that made this baby happen! Thanks to all the Arf fans that came by to my table and were effusive in their praise of the Arf books. I had great fun at the Arf talk over at the museum with a great crowd attending. I enjoyed being interviewed by Comicolgy for their teevee show, too. Finally, a big thanks for making the book “Life is Short, Arf is Long” a sell-out. See you next year!


Top Ten Books Scored at MoCCA!

Nelles Maps

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Nelles Maps are the best foldable maps for travelers I’ve seen. I favor them for six reasons: 1) They come at a good practical scale for traveling, fine enough to show most small rural towns. 2) Each map displays shaded physical relief of mountains, highway numbers and even “places of interest” - which are often not listed in guide books. 3) The maps are printed on both sides to maximize coverage. 4) They are printed in a form that folds neatly into a shoulder bag, with cover. 5) They are reasonably priced. 6) Best of all, Nelles seem to keep them very up to date. I haven’t found any Nelles maps in print that are more than a few years old.

These qualities may seem expected, but most maps of third world countries are uselessly vague. Nelles maps shine in particular for Asia and Africa, and remote places where good maps are hard to find. I know from personal experience they have the best ones (in English) for China (in 3 maps, a North, Central and South), for India, and for the Himalayas as a whole. And they have the only useable map for Papua Maluku (Papua New Guinea) that I’ve been able to find. You may be able to find maps that are better for specific countries, but try Nelles (based in Germany) as your first stop.

–KK

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Nelles Maps
$8-$11
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Nelles Maps


Nelles Maps