Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jerry Springer U.

One more reason why dating between Carolina and State students is a bad idea. I'm sad to say my Tar Heel boy comes off looking the worst between these two.

Jerry Springer U.
Even in this era of students posting intimate details of their lives online and in a season when students have shown no shame about posting photographs of offensive parties online, “The Pit Breakup” stands out:

Ryan Burke, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invites his girlfriend from North Carolina State University to meet him at the Pit, a central meeting point on his campus, for a Valentine’s Day surprise. She arrives and finds hundreds of students (some estimates top 1,000) whom he had invited via Facebook. Her boyfriend starts by introducing an a cappella group — not to sing some romantic melody, but the Dixie Chicks’ defiant hit “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice.”

When the song is done, Burke tells his girlfriend that she has been unfaithful and that he’s dumping her. They exchange harsh words — several of them four-letter epithets — while the audience watches, laughs and jeers. At one point, the crowd starts chanting “slut, slut, slut” at the woman. She fights back (verbally), telling her by-then-ex that if he needs an audience to break up with her, he must have the problem. Many of those watching have cameras and are filming throughout, and numerous videos quickly end up on YouTube, where in less than two weeks they have attracted more than 500,000 viewers — along with parody videos, Facebook groups pro and con, and much debate.

More at Inside Higher Ed, Jerry Springer U

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Zumbo Bites the Dust

Okay. I own guns. Plenty. But these people scare me. From The Washington Post, an article on the fate of Jim Zumbo:

The reaction — from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business and the National Rifle Association — has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a public apology and vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo’s career appears to be over.
And the nature of his blasphemy?

"Excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these
weapons among our hunting fraternity,” Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. “As hunters, we don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I’ll go so far as to call them ‘terrorist’ rifles.”

Okay, probably not the smartest thing to say. But he's changed his mind. Apologized. Says he'll even give hunting with one a try. But did it help? No. Final word from the NRA?
It is our hope that Mr. Zumbo will use his energy and talent to help preserve our Second Amendment, America’s First Freedom, by ensuring that no one else falls prey to the tragic demonization of gun owners.

Hello!? How's he supposed to use that energy and talent when you and everybody he might possibly have become an advocate for have pretty much shipped him off to NRA Gitmo? Nice job.

And Outdoor Life? Just as bad.

We respect Mr. Zumbo's First Amendment right to free speech, and we acknowledge his subsequent apology and admission of error. However, Outdoor Life has always been, and will always be, a steadfast supporter of all aspects of the shooting sports and our Second Amendment rights, which do not make distinctions based on the appearance of the firearms we choose to own, shoot or hunt with.
We regret this turn of events, as Mr. Zumbo has been a good friend to this magazine and lifelong advocate for hunters and hunting rights.

And what fine friends you turned out to be as well!

Who's being demonized? Who's an extremist? You people make Michael Moore look objective and reasonable.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I first encountered Audible.com when I purchased a Zire-72 back in 2003. The Palm M100 that I carried to Afghanistan didn't survive the dust. With the Zire, came a subscription to Audible. I fell in love. I've been lucky never to have longer than about a 20-minute commute to work each day, but that 20 minutes flies by listening to a book. On average, I can get through a book a month, though tomes like Master of the Senate, or Don Quixote, take a while longer. (I don't do abridgements.) In addition to books, they offer subscriptions (periodicals, TV & radio shows, daily newspapers). I found that, in addition to listening to a book during the drive each day, I could get through the weekly Science News during my runs.

What spawned this post was that this morning's paper contained an article titled, "MP3 Revolution: Teaching Tools Adjust to the Times." It's topic is the growing trend for students to put their MP3 players to work to help them learn. Books have long been available, but get this:

Schools including Stanford University and University of Wisconsin-Madison now belong to iTunes U, a service launched a year ago by Apple Inc. that lets professors post lectures and students download them for free.
In response, new products have been popping up.
Audible Inc., the biggest audio book seller, and Pearson Education, the biggest textbook publisher, teamed up last summer to launch Vango-Notes, textbook chapter summaries and reviews in MP3 form.
The companies declined to give specific sales figures. But they said thousands of students have downloaded the more than 100 titles, which should grow to 200 titles by fall.

Right on.

Last spring, I used something similar in my own class. I was teaching Shakespeare's As You Like It, in my lit survey class, and recommended to my students that, especially if they were having trouble grasping the Elizabethan English, they listen to the play. That's what I did nearly 30 years ago as an undergrad. I still have a box of cassette tapes made from the library's LPs of the BBC series. You can grasp the nuances far better if you can hear the lines read. You can tell what's funny, what's insulting, what has lewd second meanings far better when you can hear emotion in the lines--something you can't do, just reading them, at least not as a newcomer to Shakespeare's tongue.

Happily, Audible had the full play. I sent all my students an invitation for a free trial. (Here's Audible's spiel for that trial: "They'll let you try a free 14-day trial of the Audible Listener Platinum plan, which includes two free digital audio downloads. You'll also get other benefits like free audio samplers and a 30% discount off the non-member price on all digital audio purchases. You can cancel anytime and keep your free downloads.That's a $22.95 value-free.") That may be available to anyone, or you may need an invite. If you need an invite, drop me a line, and I'll send you one.

My point: Anyone who loves books, has a computer, iPod, or Palm, and spends time commuting or working out every day, by vehicle or by foot, will love this service. And if you need somewhere to start, ask me for a recommendation in any category (non-fiction, classics, science-fiction, biography, self-help) and I'll be happy to make a recommendation. If you're curious where my own listening has gone, there'll be a new frame in the sidebar shortly dedicated to the books I've listened to, vice read.

Happy listening. Doc.

Lucky's Scrotum; or, Good Grief, Charlie Brown

This article about a new low in censorship caught my eye this morning. There's been plenty said about it already. Here's a blog with several posts about it, and some good links to further discussion in at least this one.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Edmund Ladouceur, one of my heroes

The last news article to attract my attention in today's Gazette announced the retirement, again, of one of the true heroes from my youth.

Edmund Ladouceur was the director of the Cadet Catholic Choir at the USAF Academy and probably one of the reasons I survived that four years. Every Sunday morning, and one night during the week when we would practice between the evening meal and Academic Call to Quarters, I shared the pleasure of his company with the rest of us who were fortunate enough to call him, simply, "Mr. L."

I came late to Mr. L's fold, having been reared a Lutheran in a part of North Carolina where there may have been one Catholic church in the whole county. I sang in choir from the time I was seven until I left for Colorado. Once there, I immediately joined the Protestant choir. I spent two years in that choir, singing every Sunday for a "non-denominational" Protestant service that didn't really much resemble what I was used to. But the setting was beautiful (the Cadet Chapel was once the most visited architectural landmark in all of Colorado; pictures here) and singing was my chosen mode of worship back then, so I was happy enough.

Then, during one evening rehearsal, the Protestant choir director threw a mini-temper tantrum not much worse than many others we'd learned to take in stride. The difference this time was that a particularly gentle-spirited soprano--on whom I had the kind of crush that just watching her elfin face from a distance was enough to make another week at The Blue Zoo tolerable--did not take that tantrum in stride. She walked out of the rehearsal. She didn't come back. Not to Protestant service and not to choir. In a supporting action, the exact motivation of which we won't begin to dissect here, I quit as well. But, for us both I suspect, choir was, as I said above, the way we worshipped. A couple of weeks later, I learned that she had joined the Catholic choir. "Why don't you?"

Catholic? Me? Uh, isn't that in Latin? It seems funny now, but remember, I wasn't yet even 20, and I don't know if I'd ever been within five hundred yards of a Catholic church before arriving in Colorado Springs.

So, one Sunday, I sort of snuck in the back to see what a service was like, fearing at the time, I think, that I might be captured and sacrificed before the service was over. It was like coming home. The service was much more like the Lutheran service I had grown up with than anything I'd seen in almost two years upstairs (the Catholic population at the Academy being smaller, the Catholic chapel is one floor below the much larger Protestant space). Having made that first step, I next found the courage to ask the Catholic Choir Director, Edmund Ladouceur, a man my father's age, if, perhaps, I might be allowed to audition for the Catholic choir. The rest, as they say, is history.

But it is history that literally mists my eyes even as I type this. I have never known a kinder man in my entire life. He was like my own father in that regard. And for the next two years, if I needed a fatherly ear in that era when a call from Colorado to North Carolina cost enough that I only made them every other week, Mr. L. was always happy to provide it--for me or for any of the hundreds of us who, through the years, have found ourselves so fortunate to owe him so much.

The happiest moments of my four-year career as a cadet were spent in his company in one way or another. I suspect most of us who knew him would say the same. From my first taste of Bailey's Irish Cream after a dinner with his family at his home to opening our road show with my best Neil Diamond impersonation, that choir and its director were the only things I ever missed about life at that place. He says in the article that his years at the academy were so busy that he "sort of neglected" his own kids. I hope they didn't feel that way. He seemed to me then, and now, like a man whose heart was more bountiful than the loaves and fish.

There are rare people you meet who touch your heart and make you a better person, the world a better place, and your life a richer experience in every way. Edmund Ladouceur is one of those people. I'll be surprised if there's room for everyone to get in the door at his final service next Sunday.

I'll let you know.

News of Note (to me)

I may have been offline, but I wasn't dead.

Among the articles that got my attention but weren't among the headlines, here are a few from the week in review:

  • From the "Oh, lighten up!" file, there was a story in Thursday's Gazette about an e-mail making the rounds with neighborhood-specific Barbies (you really have to follow that link, and look closely at those two babies with Widefield Barbie) for southern Colorado. "Experts in human behavior say it’s juvenile, mean-spirited and a perpetuation of hurtful stereotypes. It could, some suggest, harm the self-esteem of children — and even adults — in the targeted neighborhoods." If the shoe fits . . . and believe me, as stereotypes go (founded in generalization based in fact) I have to admit, these hit pretty close to home. I would love to have a BMW convertible, Shallow Ken that I am. And stereotypes can play an educational role as well. I didn't even get Trinidad Barbie until my 18-year-old explained to me that Trinidad, Colorado, was the "Sex Change Capital of the World." Seriously people, laugh at it, get over yourself, and forward it to seven friends in the next hour or you'll have bad luck for a year.

  • This piece from the "Yeah? Well read this!" file goes out to Nate, who's skepticism regarding global warming may be real or may be make-believe, but is a convenient target nonetheless (as, I suspect, he intends). Tucked away on page 10 was this little jewel, pointing out that, "Spurred on by an unusually warm Siberia, Canada, northern Asia and Europe, the world’s land areas were 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than a normal January, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. That didn’t just nudge past the old record set in 2002, but broke that mark by 0.81 degrees, which meteorologists said is a lot, since such records often are broken by hundredths of a degree at a time." Yeah, it was cold here, but just wait for summer baby.

  • From the "Things you don't notice until someone points them out, then see all around you" file, comes an article on how we keep track of time. I've worn a watch for as long as I can remember. Too long to even fathom at what point it became a part of my flesh. Without something on that left arm--a self-setting, sun-powered, dive-safe, Casio G-shock for everyday--or an Eddie Bauer classic for dressier times--my wrist looks naked and scrawny. But according to this article, "In a survey last fall, investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co. found that nearly two-thirds of teens never wear a watch — and that only about one in 10 wears one every day." Wow. I live with teenagers, but I hadn't noticed this. Fascinating.

  • From the "Goings on back home" file, this article about an English-only movement in Beaufort County, North Carolina, caught my eye this morning. It made for a particularly interesting read, arriving as it did, on the same day as an e-mail from a friend bearing this article on "the Amnesty Trail" from Wednesday's Tuscon Weekly

Finally, I have truly saved the best, from today's news, for last, but it is so important, it will get a post all its own. Stay tuned.

The Real World

My apologies for my absence this last week, but Valentine's Day and my lovely spouse's birthday fall within the same seventy-two-hour span and demand my full attention. It's worth it. But it puts a dent in my attention to the digital world.

I will say though, for my thousands of readers in Colorado Springs (I could be overestimating that by 999 or so), there's a new restaurant on the block that is going to be a success and then some. Plate Cuisine opened back around November and it is, by far, the best thing going on the north end of town. We've been there for drinks and made dinner of the appetizers from the bar menu while tucked into a cushiony corner with friends and racking up a respectable bar tab. And Wednesday, we visited for Valentine's dinner, having made reservations a month ago. I can't recall having had, ever actually, so exquisite a meal for so reasonable a price.

We began (well, okay, I began with Woodford Reserve, it having recently begun to rival Russell's Reserve as my favorite bourbon, since a friend recommended Woodford during a rum tasting a few months ago at The Blue Star) with appetizers of lobster bisque for her, Ahi sashimi and seared foie gras for me. We followed that with a jicama salad with cilantro/habanero dressing for her and a more mundane yet delicious traditional Caesar with white anchovies for me. Normally, we would have ordered different things as a main course and shared, but neither was willing to budge from the Chilean Sea Bass in an ever-so-delicate lobster cream sauce, which turned out to be the right call, since neither would have really wanted to sample or share had the other ordered something else. For dessert, a chocolate torte and a classic creme brulee with coffee was a perfect finish. The entire meal was complimented by glasses of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (there are few wine cellars in Colorado Springs to rival The Blue Star's, and Plate's doesn't begin to, but the cooks--ah, they're really on a par, I think, and Plate may even have an edge). The more I think of it, the more impressed I am with this new kid on the Colorado Springs culinary block. I've paid twice or three times as much for meals in Napa or Sonoma that weren't a whit better, and maybe not so good. Plate Cuisine wins my highest recommendation.

Monday, February 12, 2007


If you've ever wondered why Indexed is in my blogroll, it's because it's better than Doonesbury. Just as insightful, but funnier. Here's a great example for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Who needs a seat warmer?

One of the most bizarre stories of the past week had to be that of Navy astronaut Lisa Nowak's diaper-clad drive to Florida. Personally, I had strong suspicions from the beginning that her choice of underwear wasn't driven so much by saving time as by denial of her request for an upgrade to a car with electric seat warmers. There was a tremendously cold air mass parked over most of the country that week, wasn't there. And any SCUBA diver whose spent time in the frigid waters around Monterey will tell you there is a way to warm up that wetsuit.

At any rate, for the curious, this Newsweek article will probably tell you more than you want to know about Lisa's seatwarmers. But you know you really want to know. >-)

Hat tip: Neo-neocon

(The) Gender (and) Gap

Valentine's Day approacheth. As it does, there's plenty of advice out there on how to get it right, or wrong.

An article on the worst gifts seemed only partially right to me. I like beer, but I might like chocolate just as much. Ever since reading Generation X, around 1990, I've occasionally referred to myself as a lesbian trapped in a man's body. (For some reason, the lesbians I've known have never been amused. Unapologetically heterosexual and married to a beautiful woman, I sometimes feel like their prime candidate for the anti-Christ.)

There was also an article on the right gifts to give. That one came closer to right on.

My favorite from the past week though, at least so far as pointing out the differences between men and women, had to do with clothing. An article on Reuters about women and clothing said:

Sixty-one percent of women polled said it would be worse to lose their favorite article of clothing than give up sex for a month.
Could there be any better illustration of the difference between men and women? Ninety-nine percent of the men I know would give up any article of clothing you asked for rather than give up sex for a month. If you could guarantee them sex every night for a month, they might tell you to help yourself to the entire closet.

"Industrial Organic" vs Farmers' Market

A few days ago, I mentioned that Michael Pollan was going to be speaking at Colorado College on Thursday night. We went, and we took our 15-year-old daughter along. It was a great talk. I'll buy the book soon. In the meantime, we know more about the food we eat, and we know more about organic food than we did before.

A note about that. An article in today's Gazette opened with the claim that organic food may not be better for us. Right. And global warming is just a myth.

One important note from the Q&A. Asked which he recommended between industrial organic (the large chain variety) and buying local (farmers' markets, etc), Pollan recommended buying local. He explained that much of it is organic anyway, but warned not to ask in those terms. The government owns the "organic" label now, and many small farmers won't or can't pay for the certification. Rather than looking for a label, he says, talk to them. The beauty of a farmers' market is that the farmers' are right there. Ask how they raise that cabbage, what fertilizers they use, do they use pesticides. Face-to-face communication beats a govt label any day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Razormate: Take the Razor, Save on Blades

Over on Enrevanche, back in November, Barry posted a nice piece called "Give Away the Razor, Sell the Blades." Its genesis was his receiving in the mail a new Fusion razor from Gillette. Well, the sales gimmick must have paid off in New York, because now they're getting to the rest of the country. Check this out:

No, really, check it out. Especially that little tray that my current razor is sitting in. I've had that little tray, called a Razormate, since around 1996, when an article came out about them in The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, VA. It wasn't an ad; rather, it was a full page story about the Razormate. The author, a regular staffer for the paper, had been using one for about two months. He hadn't changed blades in all that time. Hmmm. Rarely does a newspaper article take the form of a testimonial, but here was one, complete with a plausible explanation for how it might actually work. I was a physics major before I decided humanities would do me more good as an officer, so I thought I was a pretty good judge of what was and wasn't snake oil. This didn't seem to be.

Here's the principal, in brief. Razor edges don't actually dull, they bend. They bend because they're so fine. Because they're so fine, a good strong magnet, properly oriented, can straighten them out.

But don't take my word for it. Follow some of the links from this page, and read about it yourself. I couldn't find a link from that page to buy one, but I did find it for sale here, near the bottom of the page. I get no money from this folks; just passing along something that works for me.

As for whether it really does work or not, you can take my word for that. I change blades every couple of months. No. Really. Every couple of months, more on principal than out of necessity. I gave one of these to my dad, my father-in-law, my best friend, my brother-in-law. I knew that my colleagues in the English department, over-educated as we all are, would be skeptical, so I loaned one to a friend about a year ago. He wouldn't give it back.

I can't say how well it will work on this newest blade configuration (angles matter, composition of the metal probably matters). But if you're using a Trac-II, or an Excel, which they were giving away before the Fusion--trust me, it'll work. Stay tuned to this site, though, and in a couple months, I'll let you know how well it works on the Fusion, and whether or not I've had to fork over $13.29 for a pack of blades or not.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Web 2.0

First, see this video:

Then, if you're interested, see this article from Inside Higher Ed, on its genesis as a teaching tool(which is how I came across it, and one more way it's spreading).

Some Blogging Basics

Or, "What I've learned about blogging in my first 45 days." If you're a serious blogger or blog reader, you can/probably should skip this one. If you're just starting a blog of your own, this will be somewhat useful. If you're here because I invited you, and you've never made a habit of visiting blogs and aren't sure what the whole Blogosphere is all about, then this post is really for you.

Because some weeks ago I sent out invitations to friends and family that I thought might be indulgent enough to care what I have to say about random topics, most of whom I know not to be blog addicts, I thought a little Blog 101 might be in order. Especially since I went looking for something like this a month ago, and didn't really find it already out there--no doubt a result of my just not putting the right search parameters in Google, as the long list of links at the end of this post attests. But most of those links at the bottom of this post are for budding authors, not readers, and the few that attempt to do both are not quite basic enough. I hope this will fill that gap, at least for the folks I blindfolded, shoved into the back seat, drove around for an hour, and then dropped off on this digital corner. Here goes.

Why read a blog or blogs? First, that's two questions really. Why read a blog is an easy question, simply because only the reader can answer it. The person who reads just one blog religiously, does so because there is something special there for them. The topic or the author have some special attraction for the reader that makes them return every day. It's like a favorite comic strip. Here's an example: I have friends, geographically separated from family, that keep a family journal as a blog. Their parents and siblings read it. I don't know that they read a single other blog out there, but they read that one. Similarly, I have a family blog of my own. My parents gave away their last computer two years ago and my wife's parents have yet to log onto that blog. So it goes. I write anyway.

I didn't start reading multiple blogs until I started my own. At first, it was curiosity. What were other people doing. Like the two-minute rule in a conversation. (It doesn't apply on the web, btw. You can just jump right in there. But I have a real faux pas phobia, so I spent some time listening/reading to see what the rules were. Bottom line: there aren't many. But there are some conventions that are useful to know as a blogger or reader, thus this post.) So, you end up reading multiple blogs, if you get to that point, because of multiple attractions. In my own case, my reason for reading and my reason for writing are much the same: I enjoy intelligent conversation, and blogs, in general, are two-way streets. (See the paragraph on comments below.)

So, how do you find interesting blogs? Well, if you find one, through invitation or through serendipity, you'll find others. Blogs take advantage of just about everything web publishing has to offer, from their instantaneous publication to their persistence (provided the host site survives) to that thing that makes the internet an internet--the hyperlink. While every blog has a homepage where the newest posts appear, each post is likely to have multiple links, leading, well, God only knows where until you at least mouse-over them, and then make a decision as to whether you want to go deeper. You can get lost like that, but you will never suffer from a deficit of information. Additionally, the homepage for most blogs will be set up so that the most prominent elements are the newest and earlier posts, but there will be sidebars along the left or right margin. In some blogs, these sidebars will be crowded with ads. In others, the ads will be few. But either way, you can expect to find some or all of the following:

  • A "BlogRoll": Whatever name the author chooses to give this list (BlogRoll, The Water Cooler, or any variety of cute titles specifically appropriate to the blog itself) what this consist of is a list of other blogs. The list is composed according to the whim of the originating blog's author. Maybe these are sites the author finds interesting and visits him or herself with some frequency (my particular schema), or maybe they're sites that link back to the author's blog. Some are short; some get long enough to sprout categories and classes (see Chapomatic's right margin for an example of this). (If you're brimming with curiosity, see the second Dean's World post or the Electric Venom post below for more about blog rolls than you probably care to know at this point.)
  • An Archive: that should be pretty self explanatory, but I mention it here lest you think that the posts you see on a blog's homepage are all there are. One of the parameters an author must set in his or her blogging software is how many posts to show on the opening page. Obviously, a blog that has been around a long time can't display all of its posts there. So, depending on how long-winded the author is in each individual post, he or she will set the blog to display a limited number of posts or a limited number of days. Older posts remain accessible though, through the archive.
  • About Me: if this requires explanation, you need more help than I can provide.
  • Recent Comments: Whether or not a blog's sidebar carries this feature is partially the choice of the author and partially driven by the software used to publish the blog. I have one, and I like blogs that do have them, because they enable you to see at a glance whether or not a particular post has spawned an ongoing conversation. Clearly, this would be impractical for a blog like Instapundit (the godfather of all "linker" blogs), but it can be a wonderful tool for the "thinker" variety (again, see Electric Venom below for a good explanation of the difference if you're new to blogs). Many of us aspire to be thinkers, but resort to creative linking on those days when nothing really inspires us.

I should say a word about comments themselves. A word of caution: comments are a starter drug. One day you're commenting; the next you have your own blog, or two. Any blog author of the "thinker" variety will tell you that the posts he or she considers successful are those that generate a discussion in the comments section, maybe even spawning a few full posts on friendly (or not so friendly) other blogs. So, if you're reading a blog regularly, or even rarely, if commenting is an option, and you have something to say, jump in there. Even if you don't have anything to say, if you found a post itself interesting, be sure to pay attention to that little "comment" icon at the bottom of most posts. Most of those icons will include a number indicating how many comments have been made already. Especially on those blogs without a "Recent Comments" element in the sidebar, you may want to click on the comment icon to see what's being said. Just because you click on the comments icon doesn't mean you have to say anything. But you will have to click on it to see the conversation in progress. Sometimes it's worth it; sometimes not. But you never know until you try.

Finally, a quick word about RSS feeds and e-mail subscriptions. Basically, these are two different ways to have blog content brought to you when it's updated, saving you the trouble of visiting a blog to see what's new. Which method you prefer may depend on how web savvy you are, or on just what platform (computer, cell phone, PDA, etc) you prefer to read your favorite content. Some blogs offer neither, some both, some one or the other. On this blog, just below the "About Me" frame, you can subscribe by e-mail. Eventually, I'll add an RSS feed. Hey, I've learned a lot in the last six weeks--I'll get there.

Okay, I think that pretty well wraps up the first (and likely only) lesson of Blog 101. This post won't make you a blogger, but I hope it will at least demystify the "Blogosphere" if you're completely new to it. If, by chance, all of this hasn't made you sick of hearing about blogging, and has whetted your appetite instead, below are some useful posts of a somewhat similar nature from other bloggers out there, but directed more at blog authors than at new blog readers.

And with that, I'll bid you adieu.

For more on blogs and blogging, check out the following (listed in no particular order):

  • Simon World: "Everything You Wanted to Know about Blogging, but were Afraid to Ask"; my favorite quote from this post has to do with getting started in the blogosphere: "You know that movie where the guy built a baseball field and waited for some dead folks to turn up and play ball? Blogging's like that. Prepare to slog at putting up brilliantly crafted, accurate and to-the-point insights that will proceed to make no difference to anything at all." Yeah. Exactly like that. My second favorite has to do with what life is like for the people you live with during those initial months: "Blogging is like renovating: you find it endlessly fascinating, but no-one else gives a sh!t." :-) Overall, aside from a few language glitches that read a little like the instructions to a fountain manufactured in China, this particular post is worth reading before you start, a month later, and probably monthly after that. Same post; new eyes each time.
  • Dean's World: "Blog Traffic"; more for blog writers than readers, but interesting if you're thinking of building that baseball field and looking for ways to raise the dead.
  • Dean's World: "Asparagirl Vs. Instapundit: Peddling Cool Stuff for Free"; a great meditation on blogrolls and some provocative thoughts about the blogosphere as a "gift economy."
  • Electric Venom: "Blogging Thoughts and Philosophies"; a little bit on blogrolls, but a great piece on the types of blogs and bloggers out there--"linkers" vs "thinkers" and three useful terms: isobloggers, extra-bloggers, and intra-bloggers. Definitely worth a read!
  • WordPress: Introduction to Blogging; WordPress, like Blogger, TypePad, MoveableType, and others, is blogging software. Most have intros to blogging. I recommend this one.
  • WordPress: Glossary; a great quick reference if all you're looking for is some particular blogging term.
  • CopyBlogger: The 5 Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging"; a short post, aimed at a more focused blog than this one. If you're blogging for a cause, or a business, take a look. (Hat Tip: Enrevanche)
  • CopyBlogger itself, though, looks like a good place to go from time to time for hints of all sort on effective blogging. See especially the "Popular Articles" list along the right sidebar.
  • Church of the Customer: "Small Businesses and Blogging"; Thinking of starting a small business blog? Then check this post out. Thinking of starting a small business? Check out the site as a whole.
  • Adido-Solutions: All about Blogging: a fairly short article, aimed mainly at a wide audience of potential authors rather than potential readers.
  • Technorati Help: "Blogging 101": Structured like a FAQ, this is another good quick reference to blogging and blogging terms--useful for authors or readers.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Carnivorous Morality

From today's Gazette, an article on Michael Pollan: "Think about what you eat, author urges. Consider processes, health benefits."

On Thursday at Colorado College, Pollan will talk about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Searching for the Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World.” The title of his talk is a takeoff on his latest book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.”

The book explores the three food chains that sustain us: industrial, organic (broken down into largescale organic, such as Whole Foods, and local organic) and hunter-gatherer.

In his book, the perfect meal is the one he hunted, gathered and grew himself.

“It was perfect,” he says, “not because it represents any sort of practical solution to the problems we face around food, but because it was a completely transparent meal. It was one of those rare meals that I knew the prominence and the true price of everything I was eating.”

He’s not advocating everyone hunt down a wild boar for dinner as he did. “I really don’t think that a world with more people like me in the woods with guns is what we need.”

But he would like us to think about the source and true cost of our food.

“Our food chain has gotten very long and complex and brutal when it comes to animals for food,” he says.

And on Thursday night, I plan to be there.

I might have missed this article, but name was familiar to me because only days ago, Enrevanche posted a brief excerpt from Pollan's recent article in the NY Times. (If you want to read the whole article--and I highly recommend it--surf on over to the Enrevanche post and follow the link.)

But the real reason for this post is that Pollan's brief interview in the Gazette captured an important moral rule for me: if you're not willing to kill it, you ought not eat it. And if you are willing to eat it, you sure as hell ought not cast any stones at those willing to kill it themselves.

This became a rule for me back in 1990, when, living in Chapel Hill, I had an opportunity to go dove hunting with some of the boys from the fire department where I was a volunteer (answering fire department calls in Chatham County was about the only exercise I got while finishing a Master's thesis). I'd been married about three years at that point, and I might have gone hunting once before in that span, and if I did, I didn't bring anything back. This time, I brought back my limit. Not a bad day for a guy using a single-barrel 12-gauge that once belonged to my great-grandfather (great-great-grandfather of the author of Enrevanche). I was pretty proud. In the end, we had the next-door neighbors over for corn-on-the-cob, new potatoes, and four dove each, wrapped in bacon and broiled in a shallow pan of white wine. Before we got to that point though, we had one of those pivotal marital moments.

I swear to you, the look on my bride's face when I told her, beaming, of what I'd brought home, would have wilted all the corn in Iowa. You would have thought I'd just shot our Cocker Spaniel. I was flabbergasted. This woman was no vegetarian. My father still ran a general store that included a butcher shop, and there was no shortage of meat in our freezer--just not meat from animals that I'd personally killed.

What saved that evening was that our neighbors enjoyed the meal as much as I did. But before they arrived, there had been a tense moment or two as I pointed out the moral contradiction in that initial withering look. You can't condemn a man for putting meat (okay, morsels of meat) on the table, yet feel no compunction about buying Frank Perdue's chicken breasts at Winn Dixie. What saved the next week was that I knew better than to worry that our newly vegetarian menu was going to be permanent.

Bottom line: if you don't have the heart to take life to sustain life, then you need to embrace beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables. That's what Pollan means by a transparent meal, by knowing "the true price of everything [you are] eating." That's not knowledge everyone can live with and continue to eat the way they do now. It's why our family's grocery bill is higher than most. Because I've read Fast Food Nation and Deadly Feasts, and I've lived near turkey and pork processing plants, and I prefer not to be a party to that brutality so far as I can afford not to be. There are alternatives other than giving up meat, but as Pollan points out in that NY Times article, "real" food isn't cheap.

And just for the record, I'm okay with the people who condemn me for my rare hunting trips, provided they live their convictions. I can respect that. But no casting stones at the hunter if your glass freezer contains meat you wouldn't be willing to kill yourself. Beams and motes, brother.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Breakfast View

Most Saturdays, I'm up before dawn and on my way to a dropzone. But not when the temperature is in the single digits and the wind is already in the double digits not even counting gusts. Those days, I can sleep in. But yesterday morning I was at least consoled by the view of the peak from the breakfast nook. So, I thought I'd share.
This is my 12th winter in Colorado and it's unlike any of the other 11. I haven't seen my back yard since mid-December. Any other winter, the snow hasn't lasted a week. Normally, it melts, sublimates, or blows to Kansas. Not this year.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Jacket

You know, I don't think the critics did this movie justice. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Somewhere in Time (Keira even has a line, "Come back to me, Jack") meets The Butterfly Effect and you have The Jacket. I give it a solid B-. But then I'd give just about anything with Keira Knightley at least that (even Domino had its moments). So add Adrien Brody and Kris Kristofferson and you have a decent film. No masterpiece, mind you, and not up to the stature of either of the first two that it borrows from, but worth adding it to your Netflix list, if, like me, you've seen about every really good thing in the theater already.

If you're looking for reasons not to see it, read Steve Murray's review. He catches the connection to at least two of the earlier films, and I have to say that as I read his review, I remember thinking, "Oh yeah, I noticed that too" . . . but none of it bothered me enough to stop my enjoying the movie. Sometimes my suspension of disbelief is more willing than others (and yeah, I mean that both ways). Call it "the Knightley effect."

Of course, if you just want the plot synopsis, read Ebert's. I've quit expecting anything resembling real critique from Roger.

Did I mention Keira's in it?