Archive for the ‘Weblogs’ Category

watching the convention

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I’m watching the convention with half an ear.  For some reason, I can’t get my local PBS station at the moment, and the CNN coverage is driving me nuts — I’d rather listen to the speakers than to James Carville.  They’re saying that there’s not much happening that’s of interest to the television audience, but there’s no way to tell from their coverage, since they’re not actually letting anyone hear the speakers.

I’m enjoying reading the twitters from Bitch PhD, but am not sure they’re really adding to my understanding of the convention.

Ted Kennedy looks damn good under the circumstances.  He’s far less jowly than my image of him — don’t know if he’s lost weight or what.

I read the draft Democratic Party platform earlier today. In some ways platforms are always fairly meaningless documents — they’re written by committee, and include something for everyone, so they don’t tell you anything about what the real priorities will be when the rubber hits the road.  But, as laundry lists go, it’s a fine one.

I don’t have much to say about the choice of Biden as VP.  I don’t think he changes the dynamics of the race much.  He’s got good foreign policy credentials.  NPR this evening had a long piece about whether his support for the awful bankruptcy bill was because the credit card companies are major constituents or because they’re major donors.  I’m not sure the distinction is meaningful.  It’s the same problem as Schumer’s support of tax loopholes for hedge fundsFred at Stone Court says that Biden was particularly disrespectful to Elizabeth Warren during the debate.

The Republican candidate for Congress in this district just ran an ad that says he’s the one to support for "real change" in Washington.  Choke.

Michelle did a good job.    T. walked in during the "ice cream" part of the speech and we both went "awww…"  If you’ve already read Dreams from my Father, there’s not that much new in her description of Barack, though.

Gaak.  CNN has been going on about Carville’s complaints that there wasn’t enough "red meat" in the evening, but they just admitted that they didn’t cover Pelosi’s speech which did get people in the convention hall rared up.  Why?  Because they were talking with Carville!!

Advertising, PR, reviews and Avatar

Thursday, August 7th, 2008
Cecily’s posts about lousy PR pitches reminded me that I wanted to go over my advertising and review policies.

Advertising: I accept ads through BlogAds.  I accept most ads that are submitted.  I reject them if I can’t tell what they’re selling, or if I’m offended by either what they’re selling, or how they’re selling it.  The most common reason I reject ads is that I think they’re preying on parental fears.  If I’m really enthusiastic about the cause or the product, I might mention it in a post, but buying an ad doesn’t automatically get you a mention.

PR: I can’t think of a single case where I’ve chosen to interview someone based on a PR pitch.  I’m can pretty much guarantee that I’m not going to discuss your product on the basis of a press release.

Reviews: I always disclose if I’m being paid to do a review (e.g. through MotherTalk).  But I won’t do a review even for money unless I think it will be of some interest to my audience.  I know I don’t want to read reviews of cleaning products, and I assume you don’t either.  (Trust me, no one is offering me enough money to pretend that I like housework.)  I’m not going to spend my money on $60 layettes, and I’m not going to waste your time with reviews of them. 

Books are a special case where I worry more about myself than my audience — I think book reviews are often interesting, even when I have no intention of reading the book — but I’m not going to take one on unless I think I’m going to enjoy reading the book.  If you send me a book to review other than as part of a blog tour, I’ll try to get to it, but I don’t make promises.  If the book doesn’t interest me enough to finish it, you’re probably happier if I don’t review it anyway, right?

On that note, here’s T’s review of the final disk of Avatar:

Avatar, Book 3 Fire, Volume 4, concludes the long-running series.
For those (like myself) who have enjoyed it very much, that in itself
is a melancholy and somewhat frightening notion.  Sad, because we won’t
get to watch any more new episodes, and scary because they might well
screw up the ending.  It’s been done before, with works substantially
less ambitious than Avatar.  So if you’re intently searching out
reviews, you’re probably wondering:  Did they pull out a cheesy deus ex
machina to resolve everyone’s problems and make everything happy
sunshine land?

Well … yes and no.
They do not change the rules as regards the conflict we’ve seen
coming from day one:  The fight against the Firelord and his armies is
HARD.  Everyone pulls their weight, everyone puts their life on the
line, everyone makes sacrifices.  You get the matchups you expect and
require:  Aang vs. the Firelord, Zuko vs. his sister.  The loose plot
threads are tied up so neatly, and with such precision, that toward the
end I was able to predict the dialogue word for word on more than one
occasion, simply because there were only a few possible things left for
people to say to each other.  That’s not to say that it’s stilted or
trite … the stuff is heart-warming and incredibly powerful … just
that it proceeds with a powerful sense of dramatic and emotional
necessity.  As General Iroh puts it:  people are compelled to meet
their destinies, and they do so with the tools we’ve seen them honing
throughout the series.
But there’s another item that’s not so well addressed … because
the writers actually tacked on more ambition as the series was coming
to a close.  They opened up a can of worms I never thought they’d go
near:  the hard reality of fighting leading to violence and death.
It’s a kids show.  They’re allowed a pass on this subject … they
really are!  If they wanted to say "Aang is a wise, peaceful, loving
soul who would never hurt anyone, and who uses his avatar powers to
kick butt for justice" and leave it at that, they’re allowed.  So I was
impressed when an episode early in the disc ended with the following
Zuko:  Violence wasn’t the answer.
Aang:  It never is.
Zuko:  Then I have a question for you:  What are you going to do when you face my father?
I’d been expecting that the series would end with Aang defeating
the Firelord, who would then self-destruct in some fatal last attempt
to enact vengeance.  But it becomes clear that’s just not in the
cards.  If Ozai is defeated, he’ll want to live, in order to plan yet
more world-stomping mischief … and letting him live will ensure that
nobody ever has peace.  What’s a decent, caring person with the weight
of the world on their shoulders to do?
Aang’s attempts throughout the remaining episodes to answer this
question in a way he can live with create conflict in places I didn’t
expect it:  Particularly a serious and powerful conflict with the past
Avatars.  The series becomes once again, at the end, what it was at the
beginning:  A coming of age story.  Aang is torn between himself, the
needs of the world, the pressures of his friends, and the well-meaning
advice of the past Avatars who are the closest thing he has to parents.

In the end, the answer that he comes to is imperfect, and yeah
maybe something of a gimmick.  You can hear a lot of back and forth
about it on fansites if you go looking.  But you won’t hear it here:
The writers asked a question that, in the abstract, has no good
answer.  Heroic violence vs. respect for life … if they had an answer
that fit the bill in all times and all places, without resort to
gimmicks … well, that’d be great, but surprising.  As it is, I’m glad
just to have seen the question so well addressed. 


Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I spent some time updating my extremely out of date blogroll.  I think I got rid of all of the blogs that aren’t being actively updated, but if you see one that I missed, please let me know.  If you’re a regular reader here and have a blog that I haven’t included, feel free to give a shout out in the comments.


Monday, April 7th, 2008

Can you see the sidebar on this blog?  And what URL are you using?  I’m not seeing it on, but it’s there on  And I don’t understand how they could be showing different things.

Clarke’s 3rd law

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

… as a Venn diagram, at indexed.

T. showed me an article last week that pointed out that there’s a reason that geostationary satellites are in what’s called the Clarke orbit


Thursday, January 31st, 2008

A couple of posts that you should all go read:

  • Lauren at Faux Real On Having Goals.  This made me cry and grin at the same time: "Somewhere along the way, I became the parent I wanted for Ethan. Strip
    away the 1950’s ideal that typified the family life I pictured when I
    felt so helpless, strip away the myth of preparedness, and it’s clear
    that what I wanted for Ethan was me, but stable."
  • Flea at One Good Thing writes about Home, meaning South Carolina.

Looking back: 2007

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Jody reminded me of the meme I did last year where you post the first line of the first post of each month.  It’s an easy post to do on a night where I’m distracted watching the caucus results.

  • I’m usually into New Year’s resolutions, but somehow can’t come up with
    ones this year that I’m both excited about and can really commit to.
  • Feeling frazzled, so you get some bullets tonight.
  • So, N’s preschool has a casino night/auction every year as its major fundraiser.
  • Ok, I’m coming really late to this discussion, but I really liked Penguin Unearthed’s comments on the research about how it’s better to praise effort than results.
  • We’re in the new house.
  • Jody and Phantom Scribbler and chicago mama all have thoughtful posts up about the NYTimes article about redshirting kindergarteners.
  • N is at a stage where he desperately wants to be a big boy, or even an adult.
  • I wanted to pick up on Dave S’ last comment about the role of peer groups and selection in schools.
  • I’m still on the email list for D’s old school, because I still care a lot about the students and the school.
  • Some interesting conversation going on at 11d, Asymmetrical Information, and Raising WEG about the ethics of hiring people to clean your house.
  • Based on a few posts that looked interesting from the TPM Cafe bookclub, I requested Daniel Brook’s The Trap.
  • T and I got a babysitter last night and went out to a preview showing of The Golden Compass last night.

What strikes me most in looking at this list compared to the previous  year’s is that I’m posting more about my personal life, and more about schools, less about work-family issues per se.  Some of it is that after 3+ years of blogging, the audience I have in my mind when I write is no longer a random stranger from the blogosphere, but the group of commenters who post here regularly. So I figure that you’re at least somewhat interested in what’s going on in my life.  I also feel like I may have run about things to say about the mommy wars…

TBR: The Argument

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

In honor of election day, this week’s book is The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, by Matt Bai. 

Bai is (was?) a reporter for the NY Times Magazine, and the book is based largely on his experiences covering the 2004 and 2006 campaigns.  Much of the book was vaguely familiar to me, but Bai provides more details on some topics, such as the origins of the Democracy Alliance (a group of very rich individuals who are making a concerted effort to build a progressive infrastructure).   He provides nice sketches of Markos (whom he describes as a natural entrepreneur who built Daily Kos into the leading Democratic political site almost by accident) and Jerome Armstrong (whom he describes as a jack of all trades who discovered his calling in campaigns).  He’s scathing about the bloggers at Firedoglake, and glowing about Gina Cooper.*  All this is very well written, although there’s so many characters that I started to lose track of them by the end.

But the meat of the book is Bai’s claim that Democrats don’t stand for anything in particular, other than being not-Bush.  And by "Democrats," he doesn’t just mean the presidential candidates, or the Congressional leadership, but the whole left-wing apparatus — bloggers, billionaires, think-tanks, etc.  And from where I sit, that’s just not true. There’s a bunch of organizations laying out progressive agendas. I think EPI is doing the best job of articulating the overall vision in their Agenda for Shared Prosperity.

Bai seems to dismiss all this as "same old New Deal."  As far as I can tell, his litmus test for something being a new vision is that it has to involve substantial change to Social Security.  If you’re not willing to slaughter the sacred cow, you must be trapped in old think. (At the same time, he seems to think that Mark Warner is a visionary, for reasons that are never quite articulated.) But Social Security isn’t really in all that bad shape. Yes, there’s a funding issue, but it could be resolved with relative small increases in the cap on taxes and the retirement age, and decreases in benefits.  (Medicare’s a whole ‘nother story.)  And Democrats and progressives acknowledge that, by and large.

More good discussion at TPMCafe.

*  I had never heard of Gina Cooper — she’s the person who took the lead on organizing the first YearlyKos.  I’m thrilled to hear that she’s getting some recognition, because from Bai’s description, she seems to have taken on the classical female role of doing the critical behind the scenes work while Markos was running around chatting up reporters. 

All the news I don’t have time to read

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Yesterday, I saw an article somewhere about Brijit, a new website that abstracts newspaper and magazine articles down to 100 words or less, and rates them.  The idea is that it’s news for people who don’t have time to read, or something.  Anyone can sign up to write abstracts for them, and they pay $5 a pop if they use them.

It’s certainly true that my to-read pile grows far faster than I can keep up with.  But I’m not convinced that this is a solution.  For one thing, it covers mostly sources that I actually do keep up with — I don’t read the NY Times cover to cover, but I usually look at the front page, and scan the list of  "most emailed" articles, and I think I get as much out of that as I would out of the Brijit summaries.

My favorite source for telling me what I would like to read if I had another 5 hours a day is Jenny Davidson at Light Reading.  She almost never suggests things that I’ve already read, and often includes a few paragraphs that capture the heart of the article.

On a related note, she recently linked to an interview with Pierre Bayard, the author of the wonderfully named book "How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read."

(No book review today — I’m in the middle of 3 different books, and not far enough along to talk about any of them.  I did watch the movie of Maurice last week; I think it was a mistake to watch it right after reading Birdsong, because all I could think about was that they were all doomed.)


All around us

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot about a couple of bloggers lately.  I’ve never met either one in person, but their posts have gotten under my skin.

Flea, at One Good Thing, wrote a pair of posts this month about her family’s experiences with poverty, bankruptcy, and nearly getting arrested for money laundering.  As she notes,  she didn’t post about it much while it was going on.   She left enough slip that regular readers could tell that they were having some trouble, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.  (For what it’s worth, Flea is my nominee for most likely to write that Great American Health Insurance Novel that Phantom Scribbler suggested.)

Meanwhile, a month ago, WhyMommy at Toddler Planet was posting about her mother-in-law’s surgery for breast cancer.  Less than a week later, she was reporting her own breast cancer diagnosis.  She’s been posting regularly about what it’s like to have chemo, her feelings, plans, and more.

As I said, I haven’t met either of these women in person.  I don’t know what they look like.  It’s not likely, but WhyMommy could be the woman behind me on the grocery store line.  Or, more probably, that woman has her own set of issues on her mind — a shadow on a x-ray, a teenager failing all her classes, overdue bills, yet another miscarriage, a parent who doesn’t want to go into a nursing home but needs more help that she can provide, a job that may not be there next month.

No one gets a free pass through life.  And people don’t have flashing signs over their heads that tell us what they’re dealing with. So it’s probably safe to assume that who ever you’re bumping into, they’re probably having a hard day.