Monday, March 31, 2003

short one tonight

favorite Jonathan Winters line --"I love to go to the library after lunch and listen to the readers digest". a digest it is, packed with brevity.

War links:

Sunday, March 30, 2003

local influence(s) on lyme disease

This released 3/27: Forest fragmentation may increase Lyme disease risk:
Patchy woods—common in cities and suburbia, and even in rural areas—may have more Lyme disease-carrying ticks, which could increase risk of the disease in these forest remnants...The researchers found that smaller forest fragments had more infected ticks...

The study was done in the northeast, and I don't know much about how our lyme spreads (deer? mice?) (in NE they said it was mice) but given that deer are also "edge" species, ie do best with patchy habitat, I'd expect their result to be applicable here too.

This is older, but presumably still true:
[Western Fence] Lizard May Act As Lyme Disease Panacea (contact with the lizards' blood killed the lyme spirochaetes in the feeding ticks)

back from salt mines

well it does not look as though the war is going to end in the proverbial week or two, and my work which was not under control is now in much better shape, and it was either blog or clean the house, so...hello.

I am still not writing about the war. You should still go to The Agonist for that.

I keep thinking about Burke's (and others') disparaging of "me too" blogs, which seem/feel like the most natural kind to write, his point being that reading multiple weblogs that all pretty much point to the same old (or new) stuff - without adding significant value via original commentary - is a poor use of the reader's time.

And a whole lot of that does go on - which hearkens back to Who's your audience / What's the point of your weblog - if your blog is to be a summary of the most worthwhile web reading you've run across lately, there'll be a whole lot of commonality between weblogs. And since you don't (necessarily) know what else your reader is reading, you hate to omit these links. Plus weblog aggregators like Daypop or Technorati(?) are creating a new function of weblogs, as a gauge of popular opinion, which makes putting the links up on your weblog a form of "voting" for what you consider to be the important news of the day. (a function which will presumably soon be exploited and ruined by the morally challenged, who don't care what value they destroy if they can benefit)

And yet you do not wish to waste your multiple-blog-reader's time.

I think the solution is to still include those links but not to devote a lot of time or page space to them, or to quoting them at length, unless you have something new to say-- or if you have particular reason to believe that your readers have not seen it before.

With that said, here's my roundup for a mix of best and least-propagated of the web for a while --
  • Best: Josh Marshall in Washington Monthly on the true aims of this war
  • via Dan Gillmor a while back, Steve Kirsch on The six key lessons of 911
  • The incestuous amplification that occurs when your decision-making is done within a group of people selected because they think like you do.
  • Perspective from Agape, a vertical ("...Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven..." ) Christian's weblog, on the film and book "The Quiet American": (can't find the 3/15 post anymore, hence the quote)
    Greene was a serious Catholic, and this is only incidentally about Americans and Vietnam. It's essentially about the hell that happens when people try to force history in the proper direction "by any means necessary." Michael Caine's character is an adulterer, a dope fiend, a lazy reporter, and worse. But he doesn't arrange for setting off a plastic bomb that slaughters a streetful of innocent people. It takes a high-minded idealist to do that.

  • "In God we trust" first appeared on paper money in 1946
  • best of British overheard on the war is this:
    Soldier in Umm Qasr who has just heard Geoff Hoon's remark that the Iraqi city is similar to Southampton: "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr." Whereupon his colleague in arms says: "There's no beer, no prostitutes and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."

  • Saddam's bad taste may kill him -- another reason to think twice before widening and re-paving the historic streets of Nevada City. :-)
  • Journalism "Posterior of the Pack" award winner for fairness and balance:
    ...Most of the pompous would-be "human shields" have already run home crying to their cushy gas-guzzling lives in Europe and North America...

  • ...which brings to mind this Neal Stephenson quote via Electrolite, the Lois Weisberg of weblogs:
    For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter's is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you're trying to breathe liquid methane.

must stop now. filth and squalor are calling.

Friday, March 21, 2003

time off

I'm going to hold off on blogging for a week or two, it seems intellectually and emotionally dishonest to focus on stuff other than the war, and I don't have anything original to contribute there. The Agonist is doing a superb job of providing up-to-date news.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

moron humor

(see previous (next) posts for context)

was talking with someone the other day, and the subject of British humor came up, and he recounted having a conversation where he tossed off something about "dry british humor" and was corrected -- "it's not dry, it's mean."

Introspection (as to, like, what's funny) suggests that this is probably true.

supercilious hypocrites r us

On a metafilter thread at lunch today I ran across this wonderful bit of text
Bush sets in motion 48-hour timeline for Saddam and sons to flee the country. Then, Saddam Defies Bush Deadline and suggests that Bush himself resign. Wait a minute, I think I see a diplomatic solution here that is in the best interests of BOTH nations...

and the first impulse was of course "must - put - in - blog"...

then came a genuine thought, regarding my original noble intentions for this weblog -
"If you have an open mind and are interested in dialog, in learning from and discussing with others, in exploring ideas and viewpoints that may not match your own, civility is good..".
... under which I would count not using quotes like the metafilter one above. or frodo. :-(

So, it's one of those moments...

And the impulse is to say "yes but...this one's funny & should be shared"

but it's not going to be funny to everybody, and, again, it comes back to "who's your audience?". I am regretfully coming to the conclusion that political jokes are not appropriate in mixed company. even if I am the one telling them. this is difficult, because I want to tell them, it feels much more natural to want to inhibit others than myself. The struggle is a good thing: it fosters understanding, to find that I have the urge to become what I look down on.

speaking of moronic...

(see previous (next) post for context)

Good commentary from Slacktivist on the Dixie Chicks brouhaha -
We have apparently reached the point where any public criticism of the president demands an apology.

Ms. Maines' apology was uncalled for -- Bush is the freaking president. Making fun of the president is the fundamental right of every American. It is one of our finest traditions and rivals baseball and television as a national pasttime.

And if the president turns out to be a thin-skinned, vindictive hothead, then it is the patriotic duty of every red-blooded American to ratchet it up a notch and make fun of the president even more.

Kings are immune from public mockery. So are tyrants and dictators. Presidents are not.

Can't remember who linked to this Jan. 2001 The Onion article on Bush, and it's probably a little unfair, yet eerily prescient...

speaking of moronic...

(the problem with blogs' being in reverse chronological order is that time runs backwards)

It's inappropriate.

it's lame.

everyone in the blogging world has already seen it.

I loved what to do in an emergency

(everyone's also seen Frodo has failed)

weighing in

I've said nothing about the upcoming war because I don't know what to say
that hasn't already been said elsewhere, plus I've been on the fence for a
long time and in some ways am still there. I don't think sanctions will
work but I really wish we had a competent president in charge. Torturing
people is a really bad idea for a democracy. Abandoning a country after
conquering its ruler(s) is also unwise. Giving up our freedoms to protect
the land of the free seems oxymoronic. or just delete that "oxy" part

Contest! enter now, you'll probably win!

...fat lot of good it will do you personally.

ok - no web bugs, no referer logs, no trackbacks, but still some curiosity... so here's the deal: if you are the first person to send me an email with subject line "I win", containing one or more criticisms of this blog (preferably valid ones), I will contribute $50 to the nonprofit organization of your choice.

1. I get veto power; e.g. don't bother suggesting the NRA or or you'll have to choose again
2. The org can't be too obscure
2. Family, coworkers, friends and Yubanet staff need not apply. And if you belong to one of these groups, please do not attempt to sway the results.
3. Contest is only open for as long as this post stays up (or until we have a winner)

Thank you for playing.

(ed. note: as of 10pm PST, still no winner...)

Monday, March 17, 2003

our privacy policy

here at ncfocus we take your privacy seriously. that and sheer laziness (plus fear of discovering the truth) combine to ensure that we won't have the faintest idea you were here.

two horsemen down, two to go

title says it all

belated inspiration looks like it's available, if anyone wants it.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

war blogs

Salam Pax's Where is Raed? weblog from Baghdad brings to mind Bob Werman's posts from Israel (sorry, can't find most of them) at the time of the 1991 Gulf war. This post of his in particular seems timeless:
From the very beginning the war reporting has failed the
viewer. It is easy to blame censorship for impeding reporters'
progress, but censorship does not explain the lack of
seriousness - I do not mean in describing technical aspects of
the war - and the lack of morality that has characterized most
of what we have seen.

The reporting of the war is often very abstract, as if
describing a spectacle in which people do not take part. The
role of technology increases from war to war, and in this war
we are treated to the technology of advanced camera techniques
applied to advanced weapon systems. It is easy to spend hours
watching smart bombs spotting the target, locking in and
finally striking and blowing up the building, bridge or tank.
But we learn little about the people under fire, about the
soldiers and civilians bombed, wounded, killed, miraculously

Never do the correspondents relate to reasons for the
war. This makes the war an abstraction instead of a purposeful
effort on the part of some countries to control what they see
as unprovoked aggression on the part of another country. This
plucking their reports from the conceptual anchor in which the
war takes place adds to the sense of spectacle.

Is it because they do not know the reasons for the war
that the reporters do not relate to them? ...

- and, for comic relief -
[A war] anecdote: following a kidney transplant operation, the
patient awoke in the recovery room to find the nurses and doctors
all wearing gas masks. He apparently was convinced by this strange
sight that he had died, not aware that an air raid siren had been
sounded and he began to cry bitterly. The staff attempted to
reassure him by telling him that his mother was waiting for him.
Since his mother had died 4 years earlier, this was the final proof
he needed to know with certainty that he was dead. The staff had
mistaken the patient's father's second wife for his mother. The
ending was, I am reassured, a happy one - once the confusion was
cleared up.

Off-road blogging

I'm a sucker for eloquence.

Took an evening off to go exploring, & found a couple of weblogs off the beaten track that I like very much--from Oregon, Notes on the Atrocities, of which its creator states:
The nature of politics is one of balance between public good and personal gain. Politician, federal agency, state, citizen--all must work to create just law from individual need. What results is either a well-organized polity or a looting.

This is another synapse in the neural net of progressive blogs that seeks to stop the plunder.

It covers current political events like many blogs but does so particularly well; no soundbites to quote though, so go read it yourself.

And De Spectaculis ("throwing myself to the lions"), whose creator speaks of him?self as follows:

A large part of what I do is conflict impact analysis. I work with organizations of all types (NGOs both international and local, donors both government and foundation, businesses and corporations both local and multinational) operating in conflict zones or potential conflict zones. They need to know about the context, of course. They also need to know about the impacts of their decisions and their operations on the conflict...
and has put up a Conflict Impact Analysis Primer online. Excerpt from his Powerful Rhetoric post:
Rhetoric is an art not to be dismissed. It can move mountains thought securely rooted, it can light fires best left unkindled, and it can stir up souls thought long dead. The very best rhetoric speaks the honest truth and speaks it in a way that truth passes through the ears and into the heart, moving men and women at their core and then moving them in the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

welcome to lovely scenic sodden nevada county

(oops, it got garbled when it Published. cleaned it up some, removed more over-the-top material, ie cheated and edited the post. not that you are likely to care.)

well I was going to just post this -

broken record

Too windy and too late to write much, so let me summarize--

Read Brad DeLong. Read Timothy Burke. Read DeLong. Read Burke. Read DeLong. Read Burke. Don't spend time here, read them.

And if you run across others of the same caliber, let me know.

but I can't now or you'll think I'm a whore. No slut though, no sirree, I only link to the top stuff. Mostly because as Brad points out it is so hard to find the the rest. (ed. note--not really, just hard to find the rest that hasn't already been blogrolled to death)

well while you're here, since you obviously didn't take my advice, a couple of questions for you and some links--

first the questions--

I'm up in smalltown/rural Nevada County CA where politics is a contact sport - and there was quite a battle last year for control of the Board of Supervisors, which the so-called conservatives won by 20 votes with the aid of $28k in mystery money (from 21st Century Insurance Group ? (la times, name and pw imahogg))

Fortunately we have the dedicated team at Yubanet for the county scoop online (The Union has had some good reporting on growth issues lately, but historically it has tended to be less informative), and KVMR news if you'd rather hear than read it, but it feels awfully lonely. Are there other communities going through these struggles and getting the word out with online news 'papers'? if so where are they? please email me if you know of any. Thanks...

2nd question - I keep vaguely remembering articles that I'd forgotten to save links to, and some of them are ones you'd need to search for by concept rather than by keyword (for ex. George Lakoff's metaphor of liberal vs conservative as family roles), so they stay lost for a long time or forever. Is there a metafilter-equivalent out there for the memory-impaired, where when we're being tormented by a lost link we can post a description of the page/article/post & get the URL from someone who knows?

  • this might look new to you, it's old enough--remember Abigail's dream from 1995?
  • a couple of quotes on why intolerance of the fringe is bad for society-
    • From Tom G.'s comment on Shelley's post on Uncompromising Individualism -
      the 'cranks', the 'eccentrics', are the ones who make it possible for the wheel of the culture to turn: if everyone's sitting at the hub, no change is possible. Every society needs its questioners, its doubters, its devil's advocates, belonging by not belonging, supporting by not supporting...

    • From Brad Templeton's A Watched Populace Never Boils:
      The mainstream is often more comfortable with monitoring, just as it is more comfortable with censorship. What civil rights protect is not the majority, but the fringe. The fringe is often feared by the majority but it is the lifeblood of the society's future..."

  • Malcolm Gladwell, fount of much fascinating and retrospectively common sense, very much in the DeLongian-Burkeian vein. (I will confess to feeling a perverse pride in having helped him to write The New-Boy Network: What do job interviews really tell us?. or rather having helped Nalini Ambady (see section 2 of article) to do the research on snap judgments of teacher effectiveness that he cites. or rather having been one of the teaching fellows videotaped during the training program. And, according to student reviews, not in the correct tail of the distribution...)
  • the funny business.

hey, thanks for visiting.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

our animal friends

David now has a bear and a bobcat, and fewer chickens than before. Perished pet poultry plus peripatetic predators produces a pioneer perspective. As in a fervent desire to kill the buggers.

speaking of buggers, there was one hanging out in the kitchen doorway waiting for me when I got home tonight. It was a widder man, not a widder woman (smaller, no hourglass figure) - but a widder nonetheless. It makes you look at your clothes differently, & wish that see-through sleeves and legs were In, so you could determine who else was by visual rather than tactile means.

been working like a dog. would have something to say, maybe, but brain is dead, too tired, not enough sleep lately. recommendation - if you try Provigil, skip the caffeine that day, else you may be sorry late that night, and the next day.

Here. Go read Burke's crazy taxi piece -
What grips me is the sense that an extraordinary compound mistake is about to be made, the kind that shifts the forward motion of history onto a new track. It is like being a passenger in a car driven too quickly and erratically by someone who won’t listen to anyone else in the car. Even when you want to get to the same destination as the driver, you can’t help but feel that there’s a way to go there which doesn’t carry the same risk of flying through the guardrails and off a cliff.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

small, tasteful rant on email abominations

actually it is not my rant, it is the work of a revered technology pundit -
Unless I have specifically asked for an attachment, don't send one... Why do I say this? ...They're unsafe. File attachments have become the preferred virus carrier for the jerks who like to pollute people's computers.
They're unnecessary, except in the rarest of cases. Plain text will almost always do everything you needed. Cut and paste the prose from the MS Word document into the body of the message...
Please don't send HTML e-mail. It doesn't use as much bandwidth as an attachment, but it uses much more than plain text. It's also unnecessary, and has the potential to be dangerous.

(note that this is merely a prophylactic rant - you, gentle reader, have sent me nothing whatsoever.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

idea for new weekend tourist attractant

Nevada City's always looking for an excuse to throw a party/parade, especially in wintertime when business is slow, so maybe we should put out a call for volunteers to star in our own unstirring rendition of Frozen Dead Guy Days?

(found via Dave Barry's weblog)

Motto of the Month

David Weinberger's weblog, aka Joho the Blog, is

Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting for the Soul

Conservative psychology and politics II

Another possible reason for why conservative politics are dirtier (see previous post) - maybe the average conservative is more reasonable than the average liberal...
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
- George Bernard Shaw

...which would leave a power vacuum in conservative politics, which would be filled by individuals with more personal motivations. In fact I have data supporting this hypothesis (i.e. I read it on metafilter and didn't write it myself) --
...One thing I like about being more liberal is that liberals I have been involved with tend to take personal action on behalf of their beliefs; they get involved...The conservatives I know (I have many friends who...oh, never mind) are perfectly happy to let other people take those actions for them; their activism is in agreement.

another reason to keep your website up to date

Someone might visit your website in order to get an email address.

Someone might read on said website that email to said address would go to a person who was an acquaintance.

Someone might send email to said acquaintance at said address, and when a reply was not immediately forthcoming, send another with a subject line like "Excuse me, are you sentient?"

It would be unfortunate if the recipient of the two emails turned out to be someone else entirely.

note: this post could also be entitled "another reason to look before you leap"

Monday, March 10, 2003

Conservative psychology and politics

It seems a lot of people lately have been noticing a pattern of fundamental differences between liberal and conservative politics--that the conservative faction is far more often the one that, for example, cheats on polls and refuses interviews and debates, argues using fists, jams the Democratic "get out the vote" calls, harasses the opposition by eviscerating cats and hammering nails into tires, has hypocritical pundits, etc. Yet as individuals, certainly the conservatives I know are just as ethical as the liberals, so how does this imbalance emerge?

A few of us were talking about it in the bar Friday night while ingesting the usual epiphanogenic (merlot) and it came to us, it doesn't stem from ideology it stems from psychology, and ratchets, and discrimination or lack thereof. Conservatives seem to have, or need, certainty, absolutes--they're not the ones driving around town sporting the "I could be wrong" bumperstickers, they tend to expound rather than query. This is correlated with a tendency to see things in black and white--either you're with us or you're against us, either you're good or you're evil--there's no desire to see or weigh shades of gray. (For ex. I've been told by a (conservative) coworker that I have no business expressing the belief that driving an SUV is more harmful to the environment, because I also harm the environment by driving, period--in other words only those who are 100% pure should make judgements, everyone else shouldn't). Given that politics by its nature does not reward candid behavior, a certain amount of deception is inevitable, which leads black-and-whiters to say "all politicians are sleazy" and newspaper editorials to say "both sides are equally to blame". And if you can't/won't make distinctions, you won't be turned off by additional sleazy behavior on your side, so there's no force acting to restrain the flowering of sleaze in your faction.

I do not know how we could go about improving this situation--perhaps more merlot next week will reveal the solution...

(disclaimer: this is obviously a generalization, will not apply in all instances. "pattern" and "generalization" seem to be synonymous...)

Friday, March 07, 2003


Via Sisyphus Shrugged -
"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."
- Fred Rogers, Pittsburgh's mystic patron saint of children

And most heroic are those who come forward when others would fear to. Terry McAteer is a hero. So too, for other reasons, is Bill Drake.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

talk about obvious...

That "Belaboring the obvious" tagline doesn't seem to be very original. Slacktivist has been Stating the obvious since June 2002, and has been belaboring the obvious since 2001. Guess that makes us an obvious triumvirate...

Don't miss Slacktivist's series on daily devotions with our president ("Once again, let's read along with President Bush in his daily devotional of choice, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers...") e.g. March 4, March 5. From 3/4:
...Chambers' theme is the sovereignty of God. This same theme is expressed in the old gag about summarizing the Old Testament in five words: "God is God. You're not."

That's a useful mantra for any head of state -- even for a state governor -- who appears to wield godlike power over the life or death of others. It's a reminder that God's rule and God's rules apply even to "the most powerful man on earth." Even those rules about just and un-just wars.

Maybe that's why the president looked so troubled this morning.

weblog browse strategies and results

How do you find the good stuff on (or via) weblogs?

You read a few good ones (ideally ones with plenty of outbound links), and you check the Daypop Top 40 ("a list of links that are currently popular with webloggers from around the world") for anything else big that you've missed.

confession: the authority here is but a single step ahead of the reader(s), today was my first visit to Daypop. The reward was Joel on Building [online] Communities with Software -
In software, as in architecture, design decisions are just as important to the type of community that develops or fails to develop. When you make something easy, people do it more often. When you make something hard, people do it less often. In this way you can gently encourage people to behave in certain ways which determine the character and quality of the community. Will it feel friendly? Is there thick conversation, a European salon full of intellectuals with interesting ideas? Or is the place deserted, with a few dirty advertising leaflets lying around on the floor that nobody has bothered to pick up?
Nice comparison of different online communities, their character, what design decisions led them there. Good lessons.

now we're even

From Lance Knobel last week -
According to The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire (subscribers only), Michael Drosnin, author of the ludicrous hoax The Bible Code, "gets meetings with Pentagon's top intelligence officer and CIA's No. 3, on his theory that bin Laden's hideaway is revealed in the Old Testament's ancient Hebrew".

From BBC News, Nov. 2001 article on Dr Bashir Mehmood, past director of the the Khushab nuclear reactor in Pakistan -
In the 1980s he was ridiculed for putting forward a method for calculating the temperature of hell and for suggesting that genies could be controlled and their energy harnessed.

He is the author of the book The Mechanics of Doomsday: Life after death.

According to the online retailer, the book is "a most interesting scientific analysis of the actual mechanics of Doomsday and the fate of the various planetary bodies, based on signs derived from statements in the Koran".

improving childrens' education

Just ran across this retrospectively obvious idea (as in, fascinating but makes you feel dumb not to have thought of it) on Amitai Etzioni's Personal and Communitarian Reflections weblog (via Lance Knobel) -
Small town America still sometimes comes up with ideas all should consider. Pass on the word: The Lebanon, Pennsylvania school district plans to include evaluations of parental involvement with student report cards. The evaluations may include sections on whether the parent attends parent-teacher conferences, returns forms that have to be signed, and whether the child comes to school healthy and properly dressed. Those who receive negative evaluations would be offered suggestions and their child could be assigned a mentor (e.g., community volunteers or high school students). (Harrisburg Patriot, 2/11/03)

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

more journalism links

The Coming Plague author Laurie Garrett goes to Davos as reporter for Newsday, fires off candid email about her perceptions to her friends, which propagates all over the net, much to her dismay. Scott Rosenberg has the story -
...I think what irked a lot of people on the Net was the feeling they got that the story she told her friends was very different from the one she was likely to tell readers of her "official" work.

Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people feel that reporters know a lot more than what they actually put in their stories -- that the "real story" of our times is the one that reporters tell each other over beers, and in for-private-distribution-only e-mails, rather than the one they tell in their formal stories...her reaction of outrage and violation at the viral-like spread of the e-mail ...reinforces readers' hunch that they've just gotten a fleeting glimpse of how journalists talk to each other when they think the mike is turned off.

Great lazy journalism example - this excerpt doesn't do it justice -
..."The point this study makes," says McKenna, "is that when given a choice, more voters prefer investing regional transportation dollars in a new monorail system...."

Pelz, a light rail advocate, denounced the poll as "fraudulent." Pelz believes the poll used false information. According to Pelz, the poll implies that monorail will relieve congestion, but Pelz insists monorail will not relieve congestion; the poll claims light rail will cost more than monorail, but according to Pelz, the monorail will be as expensive as light rail; and Sound Transit does not agree that light rail will average 20 mph...

name that tune

The Yubanet link (here) re the Preserving the American Dream (anti-smart growth) Conference led me to this other report, with quotations. See if any of this sounds familiar -
The emerging assault on smart growth does not appear to have the laudable aim of getting planning to function more intelligently and effectively. Instead, it appears aimed at discrediting the entire notion of using government to promote beneficial development patterns.

One of the speakers in the "Preserving the American Dream" conference, David Strom of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, urged opponents of smart growth to "be relentless in undermining the credibility of your opponents." Strom said a campaign that the Taxpayers League ran against a mass transit proposal in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area depicted pro-transit leaders as practitioners of social engineering. "No one knew what social engineering was," Strom said, "but it sounded bad. We made it sound like they were a bunch of commies."

Strom told smart-growth opponents to wage merciless attacks. "We often make the mistake of assuming this is a battle over who has the better facts," he said. Quite the contrary, whether smart-growth policies are adopted will hinge, he asserted, on whether voters can be persuaded that the typical smart-growth leader is "a pointy-headed intellectual fascist" trying to ruin people's lives.

Michelle Thaxton, executive director of the South Carolina Landowners' Association, told the group to avoid engaging in complex discussions about smart growth. "You don't give any human more than three to five points, or you lose them," Thaxton said. "The press likes sound bites, phrases," she said. "They write that thing [newspapers] on an eighth-grade level."

Monday, March 03, 2003

Responsible Journalism II

The Union published the results of last week's online "poll" today, and sure enough, it showed 70% were in favor of impeaching Gray Davis. So the interesting thing to do now is to randomly survey Nevada County households and see how the "online" and "random" percentages compare. In other words, quantify the amount, if any, of online "poll" bias (which could be an artifact, or could be deliberate) & the direction in which it is skewing the results. This would be news.

I've emailed Richard Somerville the editor suggesting that they do the story.

another Blogger lesson learned

Compose your posts somewhere off in a text editor, then copy and paste them into Blogger. If you compose within Blogger, and you make a minor mistake (for example, you hit the Post button when no longer online) you may find your post is gone for good.

and perhaps, depending on what was in it, it is good. Generally it will not make you happy though.

I hate this

Hell is a place where you have to make phone calls to hostile strangers for eternity.

...which I was going to do tonight. but I lost my nerve, or rather was mistaken in believing I possessed it in the first place. could pick up phone but could not dial etc.

It was a grand plan though. Too bad we are only graded on the implementation.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

how would *you* explain the internet?

From Net tech saving the world, a metafilter thread
talking about bringing pedal powered wireless access to rural Laos and digressing to an African village -
At the time, we explained the Internet to them (I had to explain what I did for a living). In the end, we settled for describing it as a system whereby you could ask any question, and get ten answers back. You didn't know whether the answers were right - or whether any of them were right. But you'd get answers.

Blogger tips

Today I helped Eric set up his Booktown radio show's blog using Blogger; he was using Netscape on a Mac, and while it worked ok there was a hitch, namely the "Post" and "PostAndPublish" buttons were invisibly "offscreen" to the right, and in order to see them he needed to type in a long line of text (which could be just all spaces) that caused the frame to scroll itself leftwards. So if you're doing things on Mac and/or with Netscape and you can't see these buttons you may need to do likewise.

Also you might not be able to use Blogger if you've set your security settings to be more stringent than the defaults (disabled cookies maybe?)--if so, you won't ever get to the "edit your blog" page, it'll just keep redirecting you to log on (without saying why). If this happens, reset your security settings to default then try again.

And if you've turned off image loading, you won't see the tabs. you will feel that something is missing; you will be right.(ed.)

And don't start your post with curly brackets, which I think was my original sin. Special characters in general can be dangerous. (I am in a position to know, having written code that barfed on them myself)

If you publish your post but it doesn't show up on your webpage, click on the "Options" button on "Edit this Post" and see if it's posting to the future. Sometimes it decides to do this, for no reason that I can see.

BTW (which BTW stands for "by the way") putting up a weblog costs you nothing if you stay with normal blogger (ie not Blogger Pro) and you host it on'll be an ad on the page but as you can see it's tasteful, or for $15 you can make the ad go away. So we are not talking a big (or any) investment of money here. Just time...

Saturday, March 01, 2003

your weblog's target audience

If you write a weblog, it'll have very different content depending on who you're writing it for--and, if it's a "one size fits all" blog, it'll have the usual problem of not fitting anyone well. As I see it these are your possible (and possibly overlapping) target audiences--

  1. Yourself. A weblog can be your commonplace book, where you store interesting links, quotations and ideas for later reference, and you don't necessarily put much energy into gluing disparate thoughts and URLs together with text. So it could just be a list of links with a few words describing each.
  2. Your far-flung friends and relatives, who'll be interested in what you're up to these days. They'll care about your insomnia and the loud neighbor next door.
  3. Your neighbors (loud or otherwise), who may be newcomers to the web and to weblogs. They'll care (a little) about what a weblog is, why to have one, who the Grand Olde Persons of blogging are. And if they're not reading other weblogs and you're writing for them then you can fill yours with interesting links that you found on other weblogs, and they won't complain that yours is yet another rehash of the Same Olde Stuff.
  4. Your mother. 'nuff said. Expect it to happen.
  5. People who share your subculture and opinions, with whom you can rant and ditto and feel united and powerful and in general rouse the rabble as Michael Moore did when he appeared at the Bowling for Columbine screening at the Nevada Theatre last fall (presumably not realizing that the oft-maligned (including by M.M.) Union's publisher was also present (and lashed out in response from a more powerful pulpit, which was followed by a decisive 20-vote margin on election day. (success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan...)). This strategy can backfire.
  6. People who don't share your subculture and opinions, which is where you & they get the most learning done. One of my favorite weblogs in this category has been Andrew Tobias's -- enough columns on finance to keep the wealthy visiting, enough on issues of social justice to keep them thinking. And a tone of respect throughout.

And all of this I guess brings up a question...who are you? I'm curious...for all I know you're nobody (note absence of web counter on page) but if not, feel free to drop me a one-line answer.