No Fancy Name
Friday, September 30, 2005
serenity now earlier this evening
Went with my buddies to see it, been waiting for it for like...forever.

Joss Whedon can kiss my ass for [transitive verb] [insert character's name here].

Other than that, nicely done. The DVD will make a fine addition to the much-beloved series DVDs.

There. No spoilers.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005
mel is so smart!
Picture this: you're writing a [something important] and your computer freezes up. You know that if you restart you'll lose only the last paragraph. What do you do? Do you hope that maybe auto-save auto-saved the paragraph? Or do you resign yourself to recreating the paragraph?

Mel just phoned her voicemail and read it to herself, so that when she rebooted she could transcribe from the voicemail. That's pretty darn smart.

I would probably try to snap a photo of the screen with my cellphone, then mail it to myself, print it, and type from the printed photo. Of course, with my luck I'd probably get a horrible glare and not be able to read a word.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Dr. Free-Ride writes about her kick-ass Philosophy of Science class
Adventures in Ethics and Science: Teaching scientific reasoning: "Actually, make that 'Trying to teach scientific reasoning to a group of students, the majority of whom are kind of freaked out about science.'"

It's a really good post about the class that she teaches online. I loved the class. I actually took it one-and-a-half times, that's how much I loved it. Ok, that's not really why but it's fun to say. I took the traditional, in-the-classroom version of Philosophy of Science, taught by another prof. I loved it, but for several weeks in a row around midterm I couldn't make the class due to a project we were doing at my job and so I had to withdraw from it (and I had an "A" going, too!). Flash forward a few semesters later and I fit in the online version of it and away we went.

Dr. F-R describes some of the things she manages to do in the online version, and I reiterate what I've said before: I really liked the class. If you look back to a post I made exactly a year ago you'll see some comments I made about the people in the class...not very flattering to them, but the class was good...

more stories from grad school
Well, just one story.

Class: Modern Approaches to Literature, aka "the theory class"

Assignment: Prepare a 10-15 minute oral report, plus a one-page written summary, of "The Mode of Existence of a Literary Work of Art" from René Wellek & Austin Warren's Theory of Literature.

What would you do?

I bet I know what you wouldn't do; you wouldn't cast aside the assignment above and instead write a poem (a dreadful poem, at that) on ... gah, I don't even know what it was all about. Not René Wellek or "The Mode of Existence of a Literary Work of Art," that's for sure.

Looooooow bar. Low bar.

LibraryThing ... I like it
I like shiny new toys, it's true. But when those shiny new toys are web-based applications, I tend to get all hypercritical about them (because that's one line item in my job description, for those of you out there wondering what it is that I actually do) and can't enjoy them.

While there are definitely elements of the UI and overall user experience that I would enhance, the core elements of the LibraryThing application are really nifty and work well. I like it. It's free if you want to store up to 200 books, and although I don't even think I own 200 books in all, I paid the $10 one-time membership fee for unlimited use. In a few weeks when things calm down here, I'll put in all my books and tag them and get my own fancy tag clouds and blah blah'll be fun!

The basics (from the LibraryThing site) are:
* Easy. Catalog your books online; no software required.
* Powerful. LibraryThing mines the full Library of Congress catalog—ideal for collectors and scholars.
* Free. Enter 200 books for free; lifetime membership $10 (beta special).
* Tagged. LibraryThing allows blog/Flickr-style tagging.
* Shared. Show everyone your library, or keep your library private. You can even put a widget on your blog to show people what you're reading.
* Safe. LibraryThing's not going away, but you can export your data.

Good stuff. Give it a try! (Thanks to The Little Professor, for her updates on using the tool prompted me to try it for myself.)

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Monday, September 26, 2005
Pizza Fork
It's Pizza Day at Slashfood, and one Pizza-themed post concerns the Pizza Fork, pictured here.

Slashfood asks, "WTF. Is this really necessary? No. Does it even merit existing? Probably not. Should it be blogged? Hell yes."

This is EXACTLY the type of thing for which blogs were invented. Well, Pizza Forks and perhaps political and environmental awareness, human rights, other socio-political and cultural issues, Friday Cat Blogging, yadda yadda yadda.

I am not ashamed to admit that I would totally use a Pizza Fork when eating pizza that required such a thing (which would be just about any crappy West Coast or frozen pizza). New York style pizza, which I miss terribly, would not require a Pizza Fork. Some high-tech Pizza FOLDING GADGET perhaps, but not a fork.

update: I would just like to add that I would never use this in public and I would use it only when eating thick, chewy, crappy, requires-cutting West Coast "pizza" which often eat while standing up or otherwise attempting to balance pizza + knife + fork + plate. The Pizza Fork would streamline that process and I'd have one less utensil to wash. A win-win situation.

Sunday, September 25, 2005
It's a good thing. Of course the fact that the things I got done only scratch the surface of the things I need to get done, well, that sucks.

I completed the Author Review for the book.

I did all my reading for my classes this week. Side note to that: Mary E. Wilkins Freeman rocks! I'm going to write my AmLit paper on her stuff. Don't ask me about what, because that's as far as I got in the thought process.

While doing my reading for my theory class and dutifully taking notes on the assigned essays, I came upon the last one and immediately felt I was being punished for some sin in a past life. It was an excerpt from Barbara Herrnstein Smith's Contingencies of Value; while I have no problem understanding the content, actually getting to the content kicked my ass. Use a frickin' period, woman!

Now I must get back to work and what will likely be another three-days-in-a-row of non-sleep, based on the list I have in front of me. So it goes.

Friday, September 23, 2005
Hot Dog Art

Via Slashfood we have...Hot dog art.

Those crazy Japanese...

Like the the site says, click on an image to get step-by-step instructions on how to make each piece. (Really, that's what it says, give or take.)

more things I've learned in graduate school
As mentioned previously, last Monday it was my turn to give an oral report in my Theory class. I hate public speaking. Hate it with...the hate of a thousand hates. [thatsalotta hateballs!] Of course, it's the rare graduate seminar that does not have an oral presentation component to it, and I am technically "in training" to stand up in front of the class and babble on about things, so I thought I'd try and have a good attitude about it all.

Two factors played into a non-sucky presentation on Monday:
* I was presenting on a short and straightforward essay
* I was completely and utterly exhausted, in a highly sleep-deprived state

As some of you may know, the last several weeks have been chock full of work (that pesky "real job") and chock full of staying up for days on end to complete said work. Remarkably, I did not fall behind on any of my reading (other things, that's another story). I read the essay several times in the week between receiving the assignment and the due date of the presentation. But you see from Friday morning until essentially Monday at noon we were involved in a very time-consuming rebranding project for a company, consisting of no less than eleven different sites (public, internal, portal, supplementary apps, etc). Sadly, I had no time to write my one-page summary. Hell, we all barely stopped to sleep at all.

So when Monday rolled around (and I could not even begin to explain what Sunday/Sunday night/Monday morning was like) and all I wanted to do was cry and/or sleep and/or never work on the frickin' internet ever every again, we finished things enough so that my boss let me stop in the afternoon and work on my presentation/summary thing. Bless her. I had to leave for class at 3:30, and I started the writing around 3, and left for class at 3:30. I struggled through my Materials & Methods class—not with the discussion of readings but with the fact that I could not keep my eyes open...partially because I was so damn tired, but also because I had been inside in soft light for three days straight and the fluorescent lights were kicking my ass. But I made it through. I went to the copy center and made my copies, grabbed a sandwich and some coffee at the student union, and went to the meeting room for my 7pm Theory class...half an hour early.

At this point, I was so exhauseted that I had no strength left to stress about it. My summary was fine—unlike other people I actually used complete sentences and paragraphs. I wrote out my talking points and went over it in my head a few times. Then I just closed my eyes for five minutes and zoned out. When class time came, I was really hoping I could go second (two people present per week) because the other person doing a presentation was the Caliban/Taliban woman mentioned at the end of this post. I knew I would look good in comparison. But alas it was not to be, as the prof started with me. I took a deep breath, passed out my summary, and just methodically went through my points. It was painless. The prof didn't have a quizzical look at any point during what I was saying, just nodding along. When I was through he just used everything I said to launch into his own additional little chat, and it was all good.

It was much, much different than the people who had gone the previous week: one woman wrote a six page rambling I-don't-even-know-what and read from it, another woman also just read from her summary. Call me crazy, but I went with the actual instructions, which were to chat for 10 minutes and provide a one-page summary from which you do not read. Gah. How hard is that?

The woman who went second? She has to do it again next week because she was so far off the mark in what she did. But that didn't keep her from rambling for half an hour about what she did do. That's a really, really uncomfortable situation. I think the prof is giving everyone one chance to fuck up (I plan not to use mine) and then he'll start cutting people off and take more control of the discussion...or maybe not. Several times already I've played discussion-enforcer, which endears me to my fellow classmates (not).

But it's all kind of fun...

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things i've learned in graduate school
I have been so damn busy the last few weeks that I've neglected to write a "school has started and I really dig it" post. So:

School has started!

I really dig it!

Somehow I don't think I'll get away with writing just that...

We're four weeks into the semester and I've already outlasted my first go-round in grad school. At this point in the semester in Fall 1992 I was bagging groceries at a Winn-Dixie in Lexington, Kentucky and trying to figure out what the hell just happened (what just happened was that I quit school). I quit because it was painfully obvious (to me, at least) that I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I thought I had no scholarly training and had no business being in grad school. That, and it hit me while sitting in class one day that I couldn't reconcile sitting around discussing the importance of the color of some fictional character's socks (or the fact that the character was or was not wearing socks) with the real world and so I went off to find my fortune. Or something like that.

In the last month, I've come to realize that my perceived lack of preparation for grad school way back when wasn't out of the ordinary if I use the students here as a comparison. Some people are really...unprepared. I guess it's just how fast you ramp up on your own, or if you even really want to, that makes the difference. Way back when, I certainly didn't want to ramp up on my own—not [entirely] because I felt I didn't have to, but because I truly just did not want to. Flash forward thirteen years later and I do want to, and I'm glad that I'm a place where I can do so without a great amount of stress.

Although I've only had contact with five or six faculty members, I've found each of them to be accomodating, available, patient, and very much concerned with ensuring that we learn something rather than simply getting up in front of the class and "teaching." That last part might not make sense; my brain tends to make weird distinctions between things. But my point is that while this fair-to-middlin' state school has an MA program, the vast majority of people are here to get an MA in order for the corresponding pay raise as secondary teachers, and only a handful of people each year (if that) go on to PhD programs. I believe this causes a wide range in the expectations faculty have of the students, and when a student shows that they want to learn how to do good, scholarly work, the profs do jump at the chance for to have those "teaching moments" but don't automatically hold all students to a high standard because of this variety of backgrounds and what not. It's definitely a make-of-it-what-you-will kind of program, which is perfect for me at this point. This is the minor leagues as far as I'm concerned, before I make a run at The Show some other year. So, I plan to make something good out of it, and that means working with the faculty members I've determined I already like quite a bit. I'm glad they're available.

My seminars are all very cool, even Materials & Methods because I dig the materials, and I dig the methods. I think I'm the only one. That's ok, though. Three students from that seminar are in my Theory seminar right afterwards, and two more people are also in my AmLit seminar the following day; there are also a few other people from Theory who are in AmLit. You get the picture—a nice, cozy bunch. Except, of course, I don't particularly like many of them. There are some folks who are really smart and really nice, and they like me too (!!). That's cool. The people I don't particularly like, it's because they act really dumb. Note I said "act" which leaves room for them not to be dumb and for me to change my opinion of them, but...they act really dumb.

Some examples:
* "what exactly do you mean by a secondary source?"[no, I'm not kidding]

* It took a good half hour out of two consecutive class periods for everyone to understand the assignments in my Theory course. First assignment: select a target text and write four 6-8pp essays over the course of the semester, each essay being a critical analysis of the piece using theory T (where T is one of four specific ones). Instead of handing in a fourth distinct essay, roll the previous three together with the fourth and edit so as to create a cohesive paper. [how is that hard to follow??] Additionally, prof will randomly assign to each of us a critical essay and a book of criticism to read, which we will then discuss in a 10-min oral report with a supplemental 1-page handout. [I'm going to write a whole post about this one!]

* Four weeks into the semester and one woman still thinks that our scholarly book review in Materials & Methods is simply a book report on some novel she gets to choose.

* In the Theory course, one of our target texts is The Tempest, meaning that each week we read critical essays as examples of T theory (where T is one of eight specific theories) as applied to The Tempest. Ok. So. Someone made a comment about what one of the authors said about Caliban. Loud, annoying, dumb woman (same woman as the point above, actually) says "oh yes, I was just going to mention Osama bin Laden!"


I couldn't stand it, so I turned to her and very clearly said "CAL-i-ban," leaving out the "dumbass" at the end that my wee brain really wanted to slip in there. No, I don't have the foggiest idea how anything we were talking about could have prompted her to want to say something about Osama bin Laden. I didn't stop to think about it, either, for fear my head would explode.

I have a personal goal of winning some sort of prize from the department for each of the next two years. I'm a little less concerned about the competition. I know, I'm going to hell/going to lose karma points for saying that, but whatever.

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on my other blog: the Intro to Sams Teach Yourself Blogging in a Snap
On the blog for the book, I have added the text of the Introduction. See, turns out the "In a Snap" series doesn't include an Introduction and I wrote those two whole pages for nothing. Nothing! I kid. It's useful.

If you're interested, the text is here. I am not sure of the exact publishing date. Sometime in November, I believe. What a lovely holiday gift for yourself or a loved one, yes indeedy!

Azar Nafisi Speaking at SJSU
Note to Self: Be available for at least one of these events:
Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, comes to San José State University Wednesday, November 9 and Thursday, November 10, 2005 for two events sponsored the Student Union, Inc. of SJSU:

7:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 9, 2005, Reading and book signing, Morris Dailey Hall. Free admission.

12:00 noon, Thursday, November 10, 2005, Conversation followed by public Q&A, location t.b.a. Free admission

Such a good book.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
i have selected a story...
First, thanks to every single one of you who commented on this post, with short story suggestions. I have so much more on my reading list now! As I said in the comments, "Bartleby" was actually my secret first choice of a text to work with for this set of assignments.

But I didn't select a story from any one of the suggestions. I'm going with Charles Chesnutt's "The Wife of His Youth."

i got a new sticker!

i got  a new sticker!
As you can see from the numerous photos of the FSM stickers I sent out, we're all a bunch of kids who like nerdy things. I got a surprise in the mail today because Kathy sent me a "Charles Darwin Has a Posse" sticker in return!

It's like being in the 5th grade and trading puffy rainbow stickers, only way WAY better.

Kathy, you rock. But the Dodgers still suck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
will possibly be able to blog again on Friday
That would be lovely.

It's a goal.

Right up there with edits to the book, schoolwork, sleeping, and not getting my company in trouble with our clients.

Actually, my goals are in reverse order as displayed here. Blogging is fifth. I'm not an idiot. Just tired.

Monday, September 19, 2005
Arrrrrr, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
can't blog. very busy.

meanwhile, check out the Corsair Ergonomic Keyboard for Pirates.

Thursday, September 15, 2005
on monday, i'm giving a presentation...
...and Monday just happens to be Talk Like a Pirate Day. No, I'm not giving a presentation on talking like a pirate. It just so happens that Monday is my randomly-selected-day-by-the-prof for a wee presentation on a essay-also-selected-by-the-prof.

So, I'll be discussing T.S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and providing a short written summary for my classmates. I have had two classmates offer five whole dollars each if I gave the talk in lingua piratica. I don't think I can pull that off, but I will provide a Pirate translation of my written summary.

My buddy said I should bring a parrot.

best. blog. ever.
52 Cupcakes.

Come on, who doesn't like cupcakes??

'Has the place blown up?'
From Yahoo! News:
The president asks 'Has the place blown up?'.
John Bolton's reputation as a difficult diplomat gave his boss, U.S. President George W. Bush, an opportunity to tease the new American ambassador to the United Nations.

"How's he doing? Has the place blown up?" Bush asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the president and Bolton arrived at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday for a world summit.
The man really has no grasp of...anything. Sensitivity not a gift he possesses.

and then there were two
One of my fishies died this morning. S/He was a good fish. Didn't show any signs of being sick, and the other two fishies are just fine.

I had this fish for four years. I think I'll keep just the two that I have now and not try to replace this one. Maybe the other two will get a little bigger now that the biggest fish is gone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
there's a doctor in the house!
Not my house. Rhonda's house. Call her "Dr. Armstrong" now.

Congratulations! Everyone go on over there and congratulate her.

If you're on a hiring committee, she's on the market you know. Hire her! Even if she is one of them thar bloggers....

FSM stickers are in the mail...
Those of you who requested FSM stickers should see them in your mailboxes shortly. Unless you're Dr. Free-Ride, who got hers yesterday when I took it to her office, the lucky dog.

Speaking of which, now that she's blogging again I highly recommend you wander over to her blog and read it. It pains me to no end to see such lengthy and thought-provoking posts go uncommented upon.

For those of you late to the I-want-a-FSM-sticker game, I have at least two extras and perhaps four, so leave a comment if you want me to reserve one for you and I'll contact you for your address via email.

UPDATE: I'm all out of stickers!

google's blog search
Note to self: talk about Blog Search.

Note #2 to self: re-screenshot some images for chapter 2 of book (dashboard).

Note #3 to self: re-screenshot some images for chapter 7 of book (navbar)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
weigh in with your favorite short story (to read, to study, to...whatever)
In my theory class, we need to select one target text to work throughout the semester. We will produce four essays, each applying a different critical approach [formal, memetic, intertextual, and poststructural or a cultural critique, if you really want to know] to said text. Hooray that we get to choose our own, but boo because I suck at deciding. While I have five or so texts that are floating around my brain (lest you think I'm asking you to do my work for me—I'm not!) but...have you noticed how many freaking short stories there are out there? The only requirement is that the original work is in English (no translations).

Off the table: "Benito Cereno" and "The Yellow Wallpaper" [Those are part of the target texts for the class in general.]

On the table: anything else. I reserve the right to go with something from my original list, which currently includes texts from 19th C American authors because that's what I like. I also like other things, and in fact would like to work with something unfamiliar to me.

See how this gets me out of writing a real post? My readers are nothing if not opinionated, so I'm looking forward to seeing the comments. You don't need to be one of those crazy academics on my blogroll to weigh in—people who, you know, just read have just as much voting power here.

Monday, September 12, 2005
i updated my other blog
I wrote a post on my Blogger in a Snap blog, about what point we're in re: the editing/printing process.

I'll spare you the repost here, just click through if you're remotely interested in such things.

Sunday, September 11, 2005
two new (academics-related!) websites
As Miriam [The Little Professor] recently noted, Paul Douglass and Frederick Burwick have put together some CDs of Romantic-era songs, which you can learn about at his website. Additionally, Douglass put together a lovely little website "devoted to the life, work, and circle of Lady Caroline Lamb," found here. Makes sense, since he wrote Lady Caroline Lamb : A Biography.

Dr. Douglass is an overachiever (in a good way!) which makes me want to work even harder in my courses. He's the Graduate Coordinator in my department, is the Director of the Steinbeck Center, and he's teaching my cool AmLit seminar this semester. He is one of the most organized profs I've ever had, and is very helpful and kind. So, three cheers for him, and check out his sites if you're interested in such things.

[Yes, I'll actually write some sort of post about the fact that school did start a few weeks ago and I like my seminars even though when I make a comment people look at me like I'm speaking swahili and/or am insane. That's ok. Everyone needs a niche.]

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - New Search Engines Help Users Find Blogs
[aka "the article for which I was interviewed"]

First (and this is a serious pet peeve of mine): I am not a web designer. No way, no how. I am the Technical Director at my company; I make things "go." We have a creative director who makes things pretty; together we make things usable. Although it is true that I am the CSS person (when that is something we are able to implement for clients, don't get me started on why we sometimes cannot), I get an already-designed JPG of what the thing should look like and I go off and CSS-ize it. I am an application developer, database designer/developer/administrator, I make static sites dynamic whenever and however possible, but I am not a web designer. That's a whole other job description, and it isn't mine. But I am 31 and I do live in San Jose. But anyway...

Here's the link to the WSJ article about "blog search engines," in which my quote is something along the lines of "feel the buzz." I swear I said more relevant things. The woman who wrote the article called me up out of the blue based on this post in which I said I use Technorati "to find current discussions about timely subjects relevant to web design." It's true, I do. But the context of that post was how I was asked to provide a list of links for the newsletter at the school where I teach—a design school.

I spent almost two hours on the phone with the article author (over a few calls) giving her the rundown of how I use Technorati vs a traditional search engine, as well as why I use Technorati versus some of the other ones mentioned in the article. The distilling of the conversation was accurate ("You can watch the buzz happen."), but dammit I'm not a designer! Ok, I'll get over that, really.

Niall Kennedy called the article It is a pretty good overview of the industry and the various search services that will introduce people to the concept of searching for information as it happens" and that's
just what it is. I hope that it gives people a reason to try out the various searching services, and helps people realize the importance of utilizing a pinging mechanism after publishing their posts (here's one!).

I don't get into the "Technorati sucks!"/"shut up you suck!" matches because I don't have the time and it's like arguing about politics...except with blog search engines you have more viable alternatives and their actions don't typically result in death. But I digress. Here are some of the things I've written about Technorati:

- technorati's blog finder
- molly talked to the Technorati folks and I dig what they had to say
- let's talk about Technorati tags

Additionally, Technorati is discussed in Chapter 8, "RSS, Indicies, and Folksonomies" of my upcoming Blogger book.

technorati tags: , ,

Sunday, September 04, 2005
gzombie's teaching carnival #1
GZombie started a Teaching Carnival and last week published the first entry in the carnival. I wanted to give a little shout out because not only is the content really, really good (hooray, academic bloggers!) but the presentation of the carnival post itself was well done. Good job, GZombie!

In other blogging news, Dr. Free-Ride is posting again at Adventures in Ethics and Science, thus narrowly avoiding a confrontation with me; I planned to pop by her office and refuse to leave until she posted something new. I would like her to talk about her online Philosophy of Science course sometime, because it was one of the best courses I've ever had at any school. The content was great, the structure of the class and the assignments used were really relevant, and I thought her participation in the discussion portion of the course was important with regards to tone, information provided, and how the discussion was carried on. Then again, I might have just been in a really good class and all subsequent ones sucked for her, I don't know. I hope that Dr. Free-Ride is thought of highly by her department and the administration at large, because I think she's a gem of a teacher in a school that has a lot shall I put this....coal? Yeah. We'll go with coal.

i'm using a new pinging mechanism
I wish I could remember where I got this link; it's been in the last few days and I bookmarked the service but not the source. Anyway, I'm now using Pingoat instead of Ping-O-Matic to ping services after updating my blog.

Why? It's freakishly quick and, unlike the results I've had using Ping-O-Matic, it appears the pings actually get to where they are supposed to go. Crazy, I know! Secondary reason? I love the logo. It's crazy little goat head. I don't know why. Also, the guy that developed the process is an overachieving young fellow who has some serious skills, and I like to support people like that. Good job, Kailash Nadh!
Pingoat is a service that pings or notifies a number of services that keep track of weblogs and publish them. By pinging, you let the services know that your blog has been updated and hence, they crawl and index your site, publishing your blog contents, thus increasing your blog's popularity.
Cool logo and funny helper text throughout is just a bonus!

technorati tags: , ,

technorati's Blog Finder
A few days ago, Technorati announced Blog Finder, which is something like a self-managed directory with results filterable by rank, alphabet, or content freshness. It extends the concept of tagging posts to the tagging of entire blogs. Just like tagging blog posts, tagging your blog is up to you, and you can apply up to twenty tags to your blog when configured through your Technorati account. In the words of the Technorati Weblog entry describing the release, "Blog Finder takes the power of the folksonomy—bottom-up, user-generated tags—and applies it to the Blogosphere".

So, how do you do it? Simple. Very, very simple. If you are a Technorati member: login to your account, click on "configure your blog" and you will see twenty text fields waiting for you to fill things in. Do so, then press the "save changes" button at the bottom of your page. You can check your work immediately by going to the blogs page and entering a tag in the search field. You will see a list of results by rank (by default), but you can click on tabs to display your results in other ways (recently updated or alphabetical). For additional information, including information on how non-Technorati members can get in on the action, visit the Blog Finder help page. Niall Kennedy summarized it thusly: "Technorati Blog Finder helps authors better define how they would like to be discovered and helps readers discover new sources."

At the Social Software blog, Barb Dwyard writes that this is an attempt by Technorati to "solve the 'show me the best blog about knitting/auto racing/insert topic here' that folks have been asking for" and I think that's true because by default the results of a Blog Finder search can represent "the top n" in a topic. But the "top n" is still based on Technorati's count of incoming links (the accuracy is as disputed as any other index, although I personally find Technorati to be the most accurate), and the "topic" is self-determined. In other words, there's a high possibility of rogue self-tagging for the purpose of spamming. Mentioned in the Social Software post is Rojo's reader-driven tagging and how the lists might differ.

Building this sort of look at the content of blogosphere is easier than tagging posts (but that's not difficult!) because you only have to do it once and then modify it as needed. I would recommend that anyone with a claimed Technorati blog go on and configure your categories. I've tagged myself as such: Academia, Blogger, Blogging, California, General Musings, General Ramblings, Life, Literature, Personal, San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Silicon Valley, Stuff, Technology, Writing. If you search via Blog Finder for "general ramblings" you get these results, with this blog currently (at time of writing) 3rd (by rank) of 59 tagged as such [#1 is I Am Dr. Laura's Worst Nightmare, written by Grace Davis, a very nice and smart lady whom I met at BlogHer].

Go on, tag yourself and then use Blog Finder as appropriate. I dig it, hopefully you will too.

technorati tag:

so much for not talking about Katrina
At JMP, a few people on opposite sides of the political spectrum are having a civil discussion. I know, be still all our hearts! But it's true, and it's possible. Michelle posted a short response to the sitution, after following links in my post yesterday. We're discussing, essentially, what it means to "protect," "prevent," and "respond" and the government's role in doing so.

I'm reprinting my initial comment below, then I'm following up after other people followed up in her comment thread. Basically, I'm just going to trackback ping my second comment because I've already filled up her comments with 500 words once, I don't need to do it again!

My First Comment, in context here:
First, please put me squarely in the camp of "differing opinions are great and dialogue is good and blah blah blah". So there's that.

I don't think it's a question of _protecting_ us from natural disasters, it's more like putting into place (and keeping in place) a regulatory/procedural/whatever infrastructure that -- as a government function -- can spring into action when disasters hit (natural or unnatural), and pull together all the bureaucratic details to help affected people. For instance, overseeing the coordination of intra/inter state agencies and local government.

I'm not comfortable with that oversight position being given to a private company; I'd rather it be a federal agency which is (through an admittedly convoluted path of appointments and what not) ultimately beholden to the people through a democratic process. I agree that "mass preparation" often results in a lot of unthinking people doing stupid things like duct-taping houses like you mentioned. Quite frankly, I think there are a number of federal agencies which are pretty screwed up right now, and I'd think the same thing if the Democrats had configured things this way and not the Republicans (sparing your readers from the list of cuts and reappropriations of funding related to domestic issues, as that's neither here nor there now). Heck, tonight I thought hell had frozen over because I agreed with something Newt Gingrich said: "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

I realize I'm sort of rambling around here, but basically I think the key thing for me is not that the government should _protect_ its citizens to these sorts of things, but it should be there to _respond to the needs_ of its citizens AND do whatever it can to _prevent_ as much of the tragic aftermath of disasters as it can. Because if there is not a federal overseer, then you have a private overseer beholden to no one, or you have no overseer and that would be anarchy. All manner of government agencies, at all levels (local, state, federal), and for a number of years, have known that New Orleans was, well, THIS, waiting to happen. This Scientific American article from 2001 is just downright eerie. So yeah, there are things the government could have done in the recent past to protect its citizens, and there's a lot of stuff happening now that is a example of bad reponse from the government, and those are not good things.

Additional comments from others followed, and this is my follow-up response:

* I agree that it is idealistic and naive to consider this or any country prepared to withstand any attack. I never considered it the gov't's job to do that. I think we can and should expect the gov't to take reasonable measures to protect its citizens, and then make reasonable efforts to respond quickly and comprehensively to the aftermath. Between the "protect" and "respond" is the assumption that a tragedy will take place. It's inevitable. But, I don't think that's expecting too much. I think it's expecting a the bare minimum.

* People were moving to support relief efforts, you're right -- peple/the Red Cross/similar agencies. These people/orgs were in place and trying to do things before FEMA -- who is supposed to be in charge of these things -- even had a clue as to what was going on or what to do, despite having four or five days of warning at which time they should have been busting out the scenario binders and getting ready to deploy as soon as disaster hit, not four days later. Once they got there and tried to take over, everything was already in disarray. Take the situation of the National Guard units in other states; while under the control of their home state government for deployment within their state, in order to deploy out of state they must be ordered to do so by the federal gov't. The Michigan National Guard, for example, had fewer units deployed in the Middle East and thus had more troops to go help in Louisiana. That state made the official offer of help on a Monday -- paperwork which goes to Washington and not to Louisiana with its communications problems -- but no one signed the papers (which the gov't admits should have been a five minute process but is a required formality) until a Thursday. So troops were sitting there ready for search & rescue or crowd control or just basic support, for four days.

* The above situation regarding the federal gov't's failure to accept domestic offers extends worldwide as well, as profgrrrrl mentioned.
Here's a post that is attempting to list all the offers/non-offers and their status in one place, as reported by CNN and other sources (like the White House). As of this moment, it appears that the only offer tentatively accepted by the White House is Germany's offer of airlift, vaccination, water purification, medical supplies and pumping services. An offer from France of disaster-relief workers, tents, camp beds, generators, and portable water-treatment plants already in the Carribbean (e.g. closer than France) has not been accepted. These things don't have to go to NOLA, they can go to Houston, Baton Rouge, other cities with refugees. They're needed.

* The Lousiana state and local governments can only do so much regarding the mitigation of the effects of a hurricane when the federal government cuts their funds used to do so.

* Survival of the fittest. I can only ethically support the notion (those would be my own ethics, not anyone else's and it's not a judgement statement on anyone else's personal ethics, please don't interpret this statement as such) if the playing field is level -- and it's naive to think it is level and thus impossible for me to say that anyone not fit should be trodden upon. Now, people with the means to get out when warned, who didn't out of arrogance or whatever, in that situation they're their own responsibility. But people without means to get out -- and in an area where 30% of families are below the poverty line that's not an insignificant number -- the government has to help them, at least provide the means for them to rise up to the same level as others with means, so they can attempt to survive on their own. Personally, I pay an amount in taxes each year that is equal to bringing two entire families above the poverty line. I am completely fine with paying all that money out, in exchange for my citizenship in this country, when it can be used to directly help people in need, e.g. with government services. Those services should exist to level the playing field, and from that point people have to take over for themselves. But we, as a country, have to be able to give them the means to fend for themselves.

* Looking at a cross-section of news reports and the relative political leanings of each outlet, I agree with Wolfangel that regardless of political leanings there area numerous facts agreed upon by people on both sides -- both good things (e.g. Houston seriously stepping up and doing a super job so far of dealing with refugees) and bad things (FEMA being handcuffed, the Red Cross not allowed into affected areas, staged photo-ops, etc).

* Unlike you, I am not upset by the implications "that the racial and socio-economic demographics of the victims played a role in the speed of the recovery" because I do believe that they play a part. Hastert wouldn't have said "bulldoze it all and damn the rebuilding effort" if Katrina had hit Cape Cod. If this were some massive disaster that hit, say, Salt Lake City, I do think there would have been a better effort made. I truly do think that there are racial motivations at play in various parts of the current administration's reaction and efforts made regarding a city that voted 75% blue and contain(ed) the fifth-largest African-American population in the country. I really do.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005
katrina current/aftermath: ways to donate
Not like we don't all know to send money to the Red Cross, but here are a few more links to various interesting donation methods—not that the non-interesting methods are any less worthy! [I am not at all criticizing anyone who doesn't donate, because the economy does suck, but if there's any way to squeeze a couple bucks out of a budget, think about doing it...and if you can't, then think good thoughts for everyone.]

- Donate money, get a prize! We shouldn't need any incentive besides the tug of compassion toward our fellow humans (and animals) but some bloggers are offering goods and services in exchange for proof of donations. For instance, gzombine is offering "a bag of absolutely incredible stone-ground grits (along with instructions for what to do with said grits, including a N’awlins-appropriate shrimp 'n' grits recipe)" and Ted at Crooked Timber offers a mix CD. I'm sure there are a ton of others. If I could think of a service to offer, I'd do the same thing.

- Colleges and Universities across the country are opening their doors to displaced students, to various degrees. Some schools are accepting only Tulane students, some are only admitting to specific departments, some are only accepting students from their home states who were going off to school in an affected area. Find out what's up on your campus, and see if there isn't something you can do for these students (besides, of course, letting them into your already-overloaded classes). For instance, the entire Cal State system is essentially welcoming anyone remotely resembling a student, taking a "just get here, we'll work shit out later" approach. Also, service-oriented schools are organizing response teams to go and do something, like Warren Wilson (awesome school) which currently has a couple trips lined up in the next few months.

- Network for Good lives up to their name and lists fifty or so organizations for which you can earmark domations through their site. You can target resources, animals, children, rebuiding efforts, etc.

- Crafters United, a shop that is "a partnership between Craft Revolution and Etsy with a goal of raising funds for the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund." IOW, crafters getting together and selling goods to other crafters or regular folks, and all proceeds go to the Red Cross. Some cool stuff, all for a good cause. [via pesky'apostrophe, who is knitting up some hats

- At Flickr, the Katrina Relief Auction Group is raising funds for American Red Cross Emergency Relief by auctioning off images of prints to the highest bidder. It's a really grassroots affair, operating mostly on good faith dealings. View the listings of current offerings via the discussion thread, or in the group pool. Here's a random example of a print being offered.

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it wasn't a self-imposed hiatus, just the way things go
Bloggers often declare a hiatus when they specifically plan to step away from their blogs for awhile, if for no other reason than they don't want their loyal readers to worry about them—like profgrrrrl did last week. She declared a hiatus and then was back to posting well before I (who declared no such thing) was! I didn't go anywhere, and with the use of my absolutely outstanding Firefox-plugin feedreader (Sage) I kept up with everyone in my corner of the blogosphere. I've bookmarked a lot of things I want to write about, and I want to talk about school (it started last week), and I will get to that.

I didn't go anywhere, I was just working and working and working and working on a few different things at my job. In the six days between blog posts, I think I got a total of ten hours of sleep. Basically it was six days of work minus ten hours for sleep and about ten hours of school-related things. That left no time to blog (or grade any of my students' exercises, oops!). However, my boss and I have really improved our working relationship over the last few years (we don't talk about it though, so it could be that we just both gave up on making it better, which in turn made it better, but whatever) so the working was freakishly not a terrible experience, just a long one. The working/projects aren't over but the people breathing down our necks are off vacationing, so we can regroup. I'm sitting at my co-workers' house right now because they're off to a soccer tourney with their kid and I'm watching the dogs, and when I got here she said "you just gonna watch football all day" [because I love college football and they have a large, hi-def TV] and I said "sure, but from the table with my laptop and the working" and she looked at me and said "it's a three-day weekend. just watch football all day today." What a cool boss. I will still get work done today, but I won't feel so pressured to do so, which makes it all better.

Anyway, so my non-hiatus hiatus...really, what would I have said last week? Sure, I have some techy things to talk about, and school things, but Mr. Badger died on Monday (his family's situation discussed previously), and then a hurricane wipes a city off the map. So yeah, big freaking deal that I was working and not sleeping. In my house. With my food and water. With my electricity and gas. With my friends and family a phone call away.

When I write my posts today, the ones not talking about the wrath of natural disasters or the laundry list of governmental failures [ping says the things I would have said, so go read his post], don't think I'm insensitive or putting my fingers in my ears and running around all "la la la la I can't hear you" because that's not the case. I just wrote a bunch of checks, which is what I'm best at in situations like this.

Friday, September 02, 2005
It's the little things...

working ... back soon

get your archive on...
04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


job / books / new blog

04/04 · 05/04 · 06/04 · 07/04 · 08/04 · 09/04 · 10/04 · 11/04 · 12/04 · 01/05 · 02/05 · 03/05 · 04/05 · 05/05 · 06/05 · 07/05 · 08/05 · 09/05 · 10/05 · 11/05 · 12/05 · 01/06 · 02/06 · 03/06 · 04/06 · 05/06 · 06/06 · 07/06 · 08/06 · 09/06 · 10/06 · 11/06 · 12/06 · ???


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