Archive for the ‘Weblogs’ Category

Thinking blogger meme

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Suzanne at Mimilou was kind enough to select me as a "Thinking Blogger."  I gather I’m supposed to tag 5 more.  I think most of the blogs I read are by thinking bloggers, so I’m going to try to pick 5 who I think most of you won’t be reading already.

So my five, in no particular order:

Because of the house stuff, blogging is likely to be very light for a couple of weeks…

changing the culture of politics

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Because of the snow/ice I happened to home this afternoon to receive a call from the Obama campaign asking for a contribution.  The caller said that Obama of course cared about universal health care and getting out of Iraq, but that what was really different about his campaign was that he wanted to change the tone of politics.  I thanked him for the call, but said that the election was a long way away and I wasn’t ready to commit to a candidate yet.

I agree that the tone of politics is truly ugly these days.  I listened to a bit of the radio while cooking dinner tonight, and so caught a Republican Congresswoman saying that voting against the "surge" in Iraq meant that you were in favor of the terrorists winning.   Does she really believe this crap?  I’m not sure which horrifies me more — that she’d believe that half of Congress (and, more importantly, half of the country) supports terrorism or that she doesn’t believe it but thinks it’s politically effective.

And I’m truly appalled by the misogynist and frightening crap that Amanda and Melissa have been taking and that forced them to resign from the Edward’s campaign.  I want to repeat what Melissa wrote, because I think it’s important:

"There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation,
but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting
responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with
vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people
like Bill Donohue or Bill O’Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for
my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who
used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening
ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for
responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation."

Frances Kissling should not be the only religious leader who is speaking out against this, no matter what you think of Amanda’s original posts.

But I’m not sure that the quality of discourse can be elevated one-sidedly.  Obama makes a point in his book of how during his Senate race he told campaign staff to remove from his website language that suggested that all those who oppose abortion are motivated by a desire to control women.  And there certainly are those who truly care about fetal life.  But there’s also a bunch of people who seem to care a lot more about fetal life than about living women or children.  And always assuming that your opponent is decent and well-intentioned is as great a mistake as always assuming that your opponent is evil.

I want to tip my hat to Cecily, who does this about as right as anyone I know — keeping on talking with people who disagree with her on abortion, but consistently drawing the line at abusive language and behavior.  But you can ban trolls from your blog.  I don’t know what’s the right way to deal with trolls who get themselves quoted on NPR and the New York Times.

Edwards and bloggers

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

I’m fascinated to hear that both Amanda from Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister have taken jobs with the John Edwards campaign.  Amanda will be their blogmaster and Shakes will be their netroots coordinator.

I’m intrigued both by their choice of Edwards and by the Edwards’ campaign choice of them out of all the bloggers they might have picked. (Maybe it will put to rest for once and all that stupid "where are the women political bloggers" question.)  I’ve been fence sitting, but this might help push me off.  I need to think about it a bit.  (And yes, I know the election is nearly two years away.  My dad keeps nudging me that if I want to do something other than knock on doors, I need to pick a team early.)

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the internet affects this campaign.  It’s amazing how much the political landscape has changed just since the 2004 campaign.  Blogs weren’t ubiqitous and you tube didn’t exist.

picks of the year (a bit late)

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

I thought I had posted this at the end of 2006, but I just found it in my draft posts.  Whoops.  Anyway, better late than never, here are my picks for my favorite posts of last year (and why). 

  • Fair, not kind.  The right word matters.
  • The Endless To Do List.  I really like these posts where I pull together ideas from lots of different places.
  • TBR: The Woman at the Washington Zoo. In too many of my book reviews this year, I feel like I simply recapped the thesis of the book.  I think I did a better job on this one.
  • School spending.  I haven’t done as many data-driven posts since I’ve changed jobs (since they take a lot of time to research), but this is a post where I really learned something in the process of looking up the data.
  • Why register with the state? One where I feel like I added to the dialogue in a productive way.
  • School round-up.  This was not necessarily one of my best posts of the year, but it summed up probably the best conversation of the year, taking place here, in the comments, and in other people’s blogs.

Here’s what I did as a roundup last year [2005, that is] and in 2004.

2006: First lines

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

As seen at Raising WEG and Angry Pregnant Lawyer, the first lines from the first post in each month of the year:

The personal is (still) political

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

As Sandy noted, Elizabeth Marquardt posted an apology for assuming that the "dc mom" in my heading stood for "donor conception" mom rather than "[Washington], D.C." mom.  I was anxious to clear up her misunderstanding, not because I think that donor conception is a bad thing, but because I didn’t want anyone to attribute an inappropriate authority to my commenting on Katrina Clark’s essay

As futher evidence of how "the personal is political," I’d like to point to Mobian’s post about the FMLA.  She picked up on my FMLA post via the Carnival of Feminists, but then writes:

For LGBT employees, the issue may not be so much the “definition of an eligible employee,” but rather the “definition of a family member.” Employers are not obligated to give an employee FMLA leave for the birth of her child, if it is her same-sex partner carrying the child. Same goes for adoption if the state does not allow second-parent adoptions and it is the employee’s partner who is adopting. And if the employee’s partner is lying in the hospital dying of cancer? Too bad. Thankfully, many corporations are choosing to give LGBT employees leave that is equivalent to the federal rights, but many others still don’t.

I’m embarassed to admit that this issue hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote about FMLA, and I thank Mombian for pointing it out.

I’ve been reading some of the manifestos that Hugh MacLeod’s been collecting and one point jumped out at me from the Amiable Heretic:

"4. You’re only entitled to the opinions you’ve thought through. You can only do that if you use hard data. Opinions you adopt from others are other people’s opinions, not yours."

I agree, as long as "hard data" isn’t limited to statistics.  Real people, talking honestly about their own experiences, can be hard data too.

Hip parents

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Babble as RebelDad is.  Yes, I’m glad to see a parenting site that is making a serious outreach to dads.  But they seem to be trying a little too hard to be hip.  Earlier in the week, it seemed like every other post on their front page was gratuitously cursing or referring to sex toys.  Oooh how naughty.  It made me think about what Andi Buchanan wrote recently about "the escalation of cool" or how being a hipster parent can be as much of a confining role as being a saccharine mommy who just loves pastels.

I feel like the Babble people read that annoying SFChronicle article about how boring mommies are and want to show that parents can still drink, curse and wear black.  Er, yes, but so what?  Is that really still a radical concept?  And is it really that exciting?

I know I’ve linked to it before, but if you haven’t read Being Daddy’s Square: The Unhip Parent’s Manifesto, go check it out.  I agree with RebelDad that being a parent shouldn’t mean giving up everything else that’s important in your life (#4 on his list), but if you go into parenting expecting that your life isn’t going to change at all, you’re shortchanging your child AND yourself.

Maybe after Babble’s a bit more settled, the authors will stop defining themselves by what they’re not and start talking about who they are.  I’ll check back in a month or so.

Political blogs

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Alison asked me what political blogs I like.  That’s a harder question to answer than it seems.

A short answer is provided by my bloglines subscriptions.  As you’ll see, there’s a lot of blogs there, and no, I don’t read all of them every day — nowhere near that.  But these were all ones that I liked enough to think that I’d want to find them again, and the easiest way to do that is to add them to my subscriptions.

But, of all those blogs, which ones are political?  That’s hard to answer.  Majikthise and Pandagon were both finalists for Koufax awards last year.  But what about Bitch, PhD?  Does the fact that she sometimes tells cute kid stories make her less of a political blogger?  For that matter, what about me?  I don’t generally think of myself as a political blogger, because I write about a lot of things, but I’ve been interviewed by two different academics studying political bloggers, and was invited to participate on Gather’s election 2006 group. 

I tend to prefer bloggers who mix the personal and the political to those who are all politics all the time.  For one thing, I think it dramatically reduces the level of flaming — when you think of the words on the screen as coming from a real person who gets frustrated with their kids and likes to watch trashy tv, you’re less likely to tell them they’re a moron.  For another, the volume of postings tends to be more managable.

I may lose my blogger credential for saying this, but I think that for most national political issues, the much maligned mainstream media generally does a better job of covering things than bloggers do.  Where blogs shine are the issues and races that get overlooked by the mainstream media.  So I love reading Not Larry Sabato who covers Virginia politics down to the delegate and state senate level.  The now defunct Democracy for Virginia used to highlight specific bills.  Nathan Newman writes about labor issues.

For the high volume political blogs, I mostly depend on others to point out the most interesting posts.  I usually only read Kevin Drum or Matthew Yglesias when Laura at 11d sends me over to them, but then I almost always find something else there that’s interesting.  TAPPED and inclusionist are other blogs that often point me to interesting content elsewhere. 

It’s worth noting that the biggest "political blogs" aren’t exactly blogs.  They’re community sites, like DailyKos and MyDD.  I generally don’t read these unless someone points me to a specific post, because I haven’t figured out how to handle the huge volume on them.  I do check out TPMCafe every week or so. 

Books, ebooks, and the internet

Monday, October 16th, 2006

I regularly get offers of books and videos sent to the email address on this blog.  At first, I was so thrilled by the prospect that I said yes to almost everything, but then I felt compelled to actually read them.  So I’ve gotten more picky.  But I was sufficiently intrigued by the email I got a few weeks ago for a book called "Pick Me Up" that I requested a review copy.  The email promised:

Are you ready to pursue knowledge through the coolest graphics and pop culture references around? Then you and your site’s are ready for the reference-book revolution!  From Beethoven to dinosaurs to Bangali facts, PICK ME UP explains the world around us through smart, witty writing and a fun and modern design. This captivating reference book serves more as an unencyclopedia for the internet generation, and teems with fascinating information about history, science, nature, geography, and culture. These cool facts, inspired by pop culture, serve as a serious boredom eliminator, and their arrangement is inspired both by video games and the internet. PICK ME UP appeals speicifically to modern kids and teens, and mirrors the multimedia world in which we live.

The book is certainly visually impressive.  It’s got a 3-D effect cover that creates an amazing illusion of depth, and the individual page layouts are well-designed and convey a significant amount of information, combining graphics and text.  D is well younger than the target age range for the book, but immediately asked me what it was and could he have it.  I think it’s the perfect book to leave in the bathroom, since you can pick it up at any page and read for a few minutes.

But, as a reference book, it’s got some huge holes.  The topics are clearly chosen based on what they had interesting graphics for, with no attempt at comprehensive coverage.  I have no idea how the pages are ordered.  (There will be an index in the published version, although it wasn’t in the uncorrected proof they sent me.)  And the attempt at creating hyperlinks (by listing keywords and the corresponding page numbers in bold) mostly made me wonder why this information should be in a book, rather than online.  For reference and graphics, the internet has a strong comparative advantage over print books.  (For proof, see Phantom Scribbler’s contest of yesterday.)  I have a feeling that this book will be mostly bought by parents and other older relatives for preteens who don’t read very much, and it won’t change that pattern.

By contrast, books are far superior to computers for portability and for ease of reading for long periods.  T is fascinated by the "e-ink" technology in the new Sony Readers, but so far I’ve seen absolutely nothing that makes me inclined to give up my wood pulp books for them.  The only applications I can think of that have any appeal are if I were in school (and all of my textbooks came in etext versions) or for long trips where I don’t want to schlepp a lot of books.

Update: Does anyone reading this own a kindle?

I’d love a review from a real person who has one.

Back online

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Well, I can’t say I had any epiphanies while I was gone, but I think I benefited from taking a step back.  I enjoy blogging, but sometimes it just feels like another thing on the to-do list.  There have been some horrific stories in the news, and I can’t imagine what I could have said that would have been meaningful.

The details are a little up in the air, but I’ve been invited to post several times over the next month as one of a group of political bloggers at  Gather seems to be something of a cross between a social networking site and a set of community blogs.  I’ll let you know when things firm up.  In the meanwhile, tomorrow (e.g. Thursday), their front page poll question is going to be who do you think is going to win the Virginia Senate race, Allen or Webb.  At this point, I think it’s probably too close to call — Allen is still ahead in the last set of polls, but Webb has momentum and finally enough money to get on TV.