A guide to my blogs I

Jan 31

I have so many blogs in my blog rolls that even I don’t know what’s there. I can’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed and scared at the idea of wading through them. Actually, I’m a little overwhelmed by them sometimes, which is how I came up with the idea of going through them and figuring out why I like them and nudging you in that direction too. Or deleting them off my blogroll, whatever.

So forthwith, I give you a tour of my blogs. It will take a few days to get through all of them.

Web Logs

This is the catchall blogroll, the one where I put blogrolls that don’t go in one of my other categories.

Boing Boing: Eclectic collection of links, primarily high-tech oriented. Also, everyone links to Boing Boing, and I hate to be left out

Bookslut: If I’m going to claim to be a “writer,” I should at least have one site primarily devoted to writing, no? Writing, writers, books, book reviews, snarky remarks about pseudo-intellectuals. Also: the term “bookslut.” What’s not to love?

Ceejbot Ceej’s weblog. What, I have to explain this?

Copyfight A blog dedicated to intellectual property issues. Happens to be an interest of mine at the moment.

Gawker A weblog devoted to Manhattan. Its self-description: “a live review of city news, and by news we mean, among other things, urban dating rituals, no-ropes social climbing, Cond� Nastiness, downwardly-mobile i-bankers, real estate porn — the serious stuff.” This is completely accurate.

Language Hat A blog devoted to language! Finally, my degree in Linguistics comes in handy. Actually, no, it doesn’t—most of the time I haven’t the foggiest what language hat is talking about, but this is one of those occasions where I like that feeling, because I might learn something.

Late Night Thoughts… A truly smart, excellent journal, filled with great writing. Lefty, with a highly personal slant.

Long story; short pier Excellent writing. Highly political and personal. Has thoughtful analyses like this.

Paper Bent A new addition, still being analyzed. To the good: writer, mother, good sense of humor, like me interested in homeschooling. To the bad: refers to self as “Household vice-president,” husband as “Household president.” Leaves me squicky feeling.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden A blog about random stuff, along with a lot of political stuff. More personal than a political blog, which is why it’s here instead of my list of leftie blogs. Plus: a great list of links.

Pepys Diary The required reading of the blog world. I should check it more frequently than I do. Probably that “should” feeling is what’s keeping me from doing it.

Peter David Writer, talks about shows I like. What’s not to love?

Political State Report A multi-poster blog keeping track of political developments around the nation. Not a daily check for me, but somewhere neat to check to see whazzup.

Rebecca’s pocket Definitely eclectic collection of links. The sort of blog I expect most blogs to be, only better.

Riba Rambles Rambling and ambling around, picking up links here and there, making personal comments on them. I’m not deeply in love with this blog, but I’m keeping it for a while.

Soapboxgirls Found this one by hitting a random button. It’s pretty much what it claims to be, “women’s passions and politics,” without being aggressive or in-your-face like so many political blogs.

Surfin’ Safari Dave Hyatt’s blog devoted to his work on Safari. My hubby works on Safari. Do the math.

The Flick Filosopher MaryAnn Johanson does it with style. “It” being watching movies and style being text like this: “Are there three more terrifying words in the English language than “Jerry Bruckheimer Presents”? (I know, you’re thinking, “What about ‘A Michael Bay Film’”? But that’s four words.)” She evidently sees all movies and has a witty word or two (or hundred) to say about them.

the talking dog Okay, for one thing, the font size is too small. And that dog pic: man, that’s aggressive. But it’s odd and funny and has lots of links.

While putting this list together I cleaned up my list of blogs (shortened it a bit) and figured out what I like about these. I know I have to split this up even further, I just can’t figure out how. So for right now the first list of blogs is the “random assortment list” and that’s how it’s going to stay.

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I (heart) the Guardian

Jan 30

This isn’t a political journal—basically, when it comes to screeds about politics you can find about fifty blogs in my list o’blogs over there that can do it much, much better than I can (and I’m not talking about the ones listed under “The Right”).

But I draw your attention now to an editorial in The Guardian newspaper, a reaction to the recent State of the Union:

We know, of course, that the pomp of the state of the union address barely hides another reality: an economically divided, unequal and uncertain country, with a substantial anti-war movement of its own, and whose citizens remain sceptical about their president’s wider strategies. Despite warm words about helping the poor with a system of “mentors”, and a big chunk of money to fund research into hydrogen cars to help the environment, his old conservatism shone through, with calls for an end to abortion. When he spoke of bringing forward his massive tax cuts, it was notable that only half of Congress rose to applaud: stone-faced Democrats sat that one out.

and this:

For Bush, the world community at the UN is interesting; but not very interesting; and certainly not essential.

He is the only person in the world who can afford to think this way. He has the muscle that no one else comes near to possessing. His menaces and his stare are easily mocked, but they are also impressively scary. I would not have liked to have been an Iraqi general watching that speech. We caricature today’s America as a flabby, divided and sentimental empire, led by an idiot; but it is also, at moments, the warlike republic of old, with a self-certainty no other country has known for generations. Today the UN is the flag and theory of the world order: but America, like its Coke, is the real thing.

I haven’t read anything similar on the pages of American papers. In the political blogs, yes, but not by leading opinion makers.

For Tony Blair it’s very different. Britain has not yet been attacked in the same way; indeed many people here believe attacking Iraq makes terrorism at home more likely, not less. The anti-war chorus is growing ever louder, both outside and inside the Commons, where the prime minister’s insistence yesterday that British troops would only be committed to war by “our government, our House of Commons, our country” was met with roars of disbelief.

I would love to have a country where the reported leader was made to face some opposition instead of getting softballs lobbed at him. Where he couldn’t hide behind the weaselly non-answers of his Press Secretary. Where pundits could ask hard questions without being asked why they hate America so much.

Can you imagine our Congress reacting with roars of disbelief, rather than scripted applause?

Didn’t think so.

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Questions, we get questions

Jan 29

Sally asks in the Comments section in “Poetry illiterate”: “Here’s a ? for your journal — in whose presence have you sensed that special immortal genius for personality?”

This is a good question. One I would like to answer, I just haven’t the time to do it right now.. Feel free to post in the Comments section if you have such stories.

Actually, if anyone else has any questions for me you’d like me to answer, feel free to post them. (Let’s keep it rated PG.)

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The $50 Hamburger

Jan 27

Yes. Civilization is now at an end. Why do you ask?

If there weren’t two crisp twenties under the bun, I couldn’t imagine what would make this worth it. But if you live long enough in a city where a first-grader’s birthday party can cost $3,000, you must remain sanguine in the face of absurdity.

I had started on a Saturday night with a $41 burger. By Sunday night, two miles on the treadmill later, I was at another restaurant uptown, face to face with a $50, 4-inch-tall tower of beef and bun, 2 inches higher than my black French pumps. This was not the launch of my Atkins diet. Rather, I had resigned myself to covering a competition between restaurateurs over who could reinvent the great American hamburger and charge the most for it.

Even though the bubble has burst and the country is facing an international crisis, New York City is fully engaged in a war over turning a low-rent food into something ineluctable.

This all heated up shortly after New Year’s.

For the first time, one of the oldest steakhouses in New York added a hamburger to its menu. Located in the meatpacking district since 1868, the Old Homestead offered 20 ounces of beer-fed Kobe beef on a bun for $41.

A few days later at DB Bistro Moderne, a top-rated French chef with a yen for publicity raised the stakes. Daniel Boulud began shaving $350-per-pound black truffles onto his regular DB Burger, raising the price from $29 to $50. This offering was good only for the four short months of the truffle season.

There’s a wonderful bit later on in the article about how

“Everyone has $41,” Sherry said. “Or everyone can raise $41.” After all, he bragged, he sold 200 burgers the first day, 140 of them takeout orders from the nearby financial district. So much for the bear market.

Man. Now that’s disposable income.

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Experts at getting A’s

Jan 27

According to a story in today’s LA Times (sadly, registration required):

Today’s college freshmen got more A’s than ever in high school while studying a record low number of hours in their senior year, according to a national survey by UCLA. But they may not be any smarter than those of past generations.

Instead, frenzied competition for college admission has inflated grades and trained students to become experts at winning A’s, say the survey’s director and college students and officials in Southern California.

“Students are more savvy about what it takes to get an A,” said Linda J. Saxon, the UCLA education professor who directed this year’s American Freshman Survey, which has been tracking students’ opinions and habits for 37 years.

In the classes she teaches, students now “focus more of their energies studying what it takes to get a grade.” They might be able to study less if they focus on that as the outcome, rather than on learning, which would take more time, she said.

Well, is anyone surprised? Christ, everything is so high stakes today, of course you need an A in everything you do. Competition for grades is killing any desire on the part of children to learn, as has been so well described by Alfie Kohn in Punished By Rewards, a book I cannot recommend highly enough. If you’ve ever wondered what’s wrong with incentives like grades, Kohn will explain it for you.

One change Kohn recommends to our system of grading is changing to a system where you get an A or an incomplete. You’ve either done the work, or you haven’t.

Of course, a great many people would howl bloody murder if their kid can’t have a much better GPA than the next kid. The current grading system enforces the notion that some children must be left behind. As the article in the Times goes on to say:

At one prestigious Los Angeles prep school, which he asked not to be identified, Poch said he had found every student in an English class earned either an A or an A-minus.

Well, you know, maybe everyone in the class did the work to get an A, you know? Should we have a system where some kids are forced to fail?

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