30 November 2006

A short write up on an extended essay

I just finished Biz Stone's Who Let the Blogs Out? and found it overall an enjoyable read. However, it had the feel of being a really cool essay pulled like stretch armstrong to fill a novel. Chapters 3, 5, and 6 were insightful; the rest a bit better than filler, but filler nonetheless.

The most interesting piece of the work to me was Stone's review of Granovetter's article, "The Strength of Weak Ties." {Note to Stone's editor: get the spelling of this Prof's name right in the next version, ok? What is with editors lately...} I read Granovetter's article, and it is excellent but densely packed with academic jargon and not as accessible as Stone's representation - also, it is clearly dated, with references to 'Negro' instead of the more current "African-American" being used. The basic concept, to summarize the summarizer, is that weak relationships (such as a friend-of-a-friend) are more likely to lead you to new and actionable social contacts than are strong connections (such as your dad). In other words, it isn't who you know, it is who who you know knows.

After reading this, I was left with an appetite to go and reread Malcolm Gladwell's books, Blink and The Tipping Point, which are two favorites. I decided instead of reading to seek out the audiobooks for some commuting I have coming up - heck, my hopper is full as it is.

29 November 2006

Sometimes I spend too much time nailing trees to cliffs

I am finally, finally feeling better and the possibility of resuming my normal life does not seem so remote. I just love this kiwi video. It completely captures my life this month; I have been spending all my time nailing trees to the cliffside, but now it is time for me to fly. Let's just disregard that bit about landing for now, though; I'll figure it out when I get there. I always enjoyed improv.

28 November 2006

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I have been reading and very much enjoying Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier. Unfortunately, I have to return the book to the library now although I'm not done! I find library fines morally inexcusable on my part, especially when there are 181 other readers waiting on the book. I am finding the narrator very approachable, enigmatic, unusual - one of those types who would catch your eye in a crowded sandwich bar, wink, and inspire you to try and come up with an excuse to share a table with him. But I'll part from the book now, restore it to the library swap system, and see if I can bear to wait to get it back. Then I can get back to Lincoln. (I have no idea why this Lincoln book is such an effort for me, I like it well enough and the prose is flowing well - it is like my own personal Ulysses though, for now.)

I may not be able to wait for my turn to come round again at the library though, so perhaps I'll pick up a copy to gasp own. This is unusual for me; reading wise, I'm a libertine and will put eyes on anything - but when it comes to actually providing a home for a book I am very particular. Thus far though the book offers far greater depths to plumb than did Cold Mountain, and I don't know that I can be patient waiting for it to return.

In other news; we are putting up a tree tonight, which the boys are very keen on. And I am working a lead on a small short term opportunity that could be fun. Wish me luck!

24 November 2006

Lala widget

I was thinking recently of how well I like my librarything widget and that there should be similar widgets available for music, video, etc. I googled for something on a Lala widget and found the following courtesy of another blogger, jaXed - thanks fella. I modified it a bit, so blame me for any breaks - it works well on jaXed's site. I'll take a test run in this post before porting it to the sidebar; I'm being cautious since I just moved to Beta Blogger, also I figure discretion is the better part of valor when coding under oxygen deprivation, even when it is just HTML. I have to figure out how to slim this to a width of 80 for the sidebar, by dropping out some of the columns; just shrinking it makes it look like a sheet of microdots.

lala widget

February 22 2008 update: I was alerted by a reader that my widget (and the one I referenced by JaXed) are broken; sorry about that, they did work earlier. Here's what the lala widget used to look like. I wrote to Lala.com asking for help from them - I will post here again once they answer.

22 November 2006

Meming away on a day of gratitude

With courtesies to Liz at Fidoknits, I'm joining this meme to try and cheer me up. My life of late has been focused on trying to breathe and it is tiring. I am so very sick and tired of being sick and tired, and being sick on a holiday is such a double whammy. I am grateful today that I am able to breathe better now, after 3 weeks of not doing so well with this basic activity.

The instructions for the meme are: you can only type one word, no explainations. Go!

1. Yourself: Breathless
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): Monkish
3. Your hair: Panacheful
4. Your mother: apart
5. Your father: Absent-minded
6. Your favorite item: PowerBook
7. Your dream last night: none
8. Your favorite drink: custardchino
9. Your dream car: FX35
10. The room you are in: Dining
11. Your ex: unremarkable
12. Your fear: forgetfulness
13. What you want to be in 10 years? Content
14. Who you hung out with last night? Family
15. What You're Not? Religious
16. Muffins: Pumpkin
17. One of your wish list items: Ahisma
18. Time: fleeting
19. The last thing you did: Childrearing
20. What you are wearing: Levi's
21. Your favorite weather: clear
22. Your favorite book: many
23. The last thing you ate: Cookie
24. Your life: changing
25. Your mood: Down
26. Your best friend: Husband
27. What are you thinking about right now? oxygen
28. Your car: Red
29. What are you doing at the moment? Blogging
30. Your summer: Unpredicted
31. Your relationship status: Married
32. What is on your TV? CyberChase
33. What is the weather like? 7-up
34. When is the last time you laughed? Yesterday

In other news: I am trying and mostly liking OmniWeb, however I am peeved that I have to keep blogging in Mozilla because Blogger acts wonky in OmniWeb. I like Mozilla well enough, but I wanted to use OmniWeb. Darn.

Kudos to another pal, Karen, for joining the blogosphere - I have no idea why I'm surrounded by Blogging Knitters, but if you need more knitting knews check out T-Town Knitiot!

19 November 2006

How geeky is this?

This morning, the monk and I were IMing from either end of the computer room simultaneously having an inane chat, too. On the vocal level, we were discussing the merits of coffee. This type of conversation is generally a war of attrition in more peaceable terms; the victor erodes the loser's sense of patience enough to cajole them into being the one to make the trip upstairs to refill the cups. On the IM, we were discussing my recent illness (a nasty lingering respiratory infection type thing, that has sapped all my patience and energy as well as my oxygen.) "How geeky is this?" he asked me. My response: "I dunno, I'll google to find out." So, I suppose *that* settles that question.

So, returning for the nonce to the subject of books; I read recently an essay by Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln the Persuader. This excellent essay covers not merely the scope and tenor of Lincoln's literary achievements, but describes the methods and attitudes Lincoln had towards writing:
Writing was often a form of refuge for Lincoln, a place of intellectual retreat, where he could sort through conflicting opinions and order his thoughts with words.
Sounds like Lincoln might have been an interesting blogger. My favorite part of this concise essay is Wilson's analysis of Lincoln's response to Horace Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions," which Greeley published as editor of the New York Tribune in August of 1862. Wilson provides all the necessary context for understanding Lincoln's response - that it was the nadir of his presidency; that he had to postpone the issuance of the emancipation proclamation due to the poor military results; and the burden of the precedence of the presidency on his actions. In spite of these limitations - or perhaps because artistry can flourish when confined - Lincoln's response accomplished an "piece of ingenious jujitsu" by deflating Greeley's errors and insults and ultimately rendering them unimportant, and instead speaking to a matter close to his heart - emancipation. Lincoln left no doubt in his statement that emancipation was a dear goal; however, he also respected practicality enough to know that emancipation could not be declared until it could be made real.

Another point Wilson makes very neatly is that Lincoln was working, through the media, to bring about the change he wished to see in the U.S. He was notably the first president to so address the public - directly, in response to criticism offered, and as clear explanation of his intentions and goals, without verbal subterfuge and trickery. His actions could serve as a model for our president today.

Now, I really need to finish Team of Rivals, so that I can next go back and further explore Wilson's other writings.

Lovely British mugs were a gift from Big Tomato Co.

13 November 2006

Roguish adventures? Not likely.

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things by Cy Tymony was profiled a few weeks back on Science Friday with Ira Flatow. I found the show's discussion pretty interesting, so looked up the book. (Exerpt available from Google.)I was hoping to find some kind of happy-fun Saturday morning type activities for me and the boys, a'la Bill Nye the Science Guy's cool and easy physics experiments.

Unfortunately, this book didn't really fit that bill. The writing was solid, but the experiments weren't all that interesting. For example, I could make a videotape rewinder. But then I'd have to explain what a videotape is to my digital-generation offspring, and that might lead to inconvenient questions about my LP collection, or heaven forbid my 8-track tapes be found! Why would I want to make a manual videotape rewinder anyway? And how long would it take to rewind a VHS tape by hand?

The most interesting items, like an automatic door opener, required the cannibalization of remote control car parts. I would rather have the car to play with!

So, skip this book if you aren't interested in one of the particular experiments listed in the TOC. I'll stick with My Guy Mr. Nye.

10 November 2006

Stop the Pain

Stop the Show by Brad Schreiber

Inane. Stupid. And me, I kept slugging through it hoping for redemption. I laugh easily, and am not ungenerous where humor is concerned; yet this book had me frowning in concentration, struggling to complete the darned book.

Get this poor guy an editor! Check this out:
One performance, in the Hippodrome Theatre, Osborne knocked and Atkins did not reply, With curtain time approaching, he whipped open the door in anger, only to find Miss Atkins in the process of inserting a sanitary napkin. (p 119)
This is an example of "the funniest, most frightening, and most truly bizarre stories" per the back-cover blurb? I've heard more interesting walking-in-on-a-private-moment stories from Bea Arthur. And inserting a sanitary napkin? Poor Miss Atkins indeed. That would be quite painful. Mr. Schrieber, a sanitary napkin is not inserted. Any woman would know this; I wonder did you have no female friends who could read this book and point out your gaffe? This guy must walk around with spinach in his teth, too,if his friends are so stingy with criticism. There is a 2-page list of acknowledgements at the end of the book, did none of these people notice this book's flaws, and mention them to the author?

Lest you think I am overly harsh, the author also includes distinctly unfunny episodes in theatrical history such as the historical Iriquois Theatre fire (p 75) and the 2002 Moscow Theatre disaster (p 115). These incidents, at the least, seem out of place in a book about "improvised lines; accidental pratfalls; falling scenery...." as listed on the blurb.

Is this guy related to Avery Schreiber? I like Avery's work, especially his Second City material. This author, OTOH, took an excellent idea - that often the behind-the-scenes actions in a play are as interesting as what happens on stage - and developed the idea so poorly that it became a tedious read.

08 November 2006

Better luck next time?

I batted 1 out of 5 for the RIP Challenge, but hopefully I can do better for the From the Stacks Winter Challenge. Thanks to the Overdue Books Blog for instituting this challenge!

This Challenge will be particularly difficult for me as I am addicted to my library card and often set aside purchased books or loans from other bibliophiles (with no formal due date) in order to take up something that just arrived at the library in response to my interlibrary loan requests. However, I embrace the challenge as there are some sadly neglected - and excellent - tomes hovering in my hopper.
  1. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
  2. 1491; New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (not purchased, but Mom loaned me her autographed copy and she'll want it back eventually)
  3. More Tales of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov. I rescued this from the $1 bin years and years ago at a used book store and haven't read it yet.
  4. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, because A Dance with Dragons will surely be published at some point. Right, George?
  5. Ten Colloquies by Erasmus (translated by Craig R. Thompson) because he has some interesting things to say about war and warmongering. Almost 500 years later, and still relevant.

07 November 2006

A very very bad dog

The new dog is doing quite well. The boys re-christened her "Slime Hound" due to her enthusiastic tongue-based greetings. She has also taken over the lower bunk bed, but is willing to accommodate the transient occupant nocturnally, so all is well.I am foolishly considering adding another pet to the house, since this one has fit in so nicely, and am resisting temptation. However, this guy at the Indy Humane Society has a photo that just calls to me. Something about that nose.

Speaking of dogs, I finally finished one of my RIP Autumn challenge entries: The Hound of the Baskervilles (link to complete text). I have been meaning to read this and a few other Doyle writings for years, and this finally got me motivated to do it - although not quite in time for the Halloween deadline. As dogs are top of mind right now, I couldn't help but read the book focusing instead on the poor animal so cruelly misused by the evildoer:
"The beast was savage and half-starved. If its appearance did not frighten its victim to death, at least it would paralyze the resistance which might be offered."
The author assumed that a dog such as this had no redeeming qualities, and in this fiction of course that is true enough. But I am put-off by the assumption of so many that certain breeds of dogs are destined to cause harm; personally, I was bitten once by a poodle (ouch) and another time by a rabbit (OWWW!) and find both far more scary nowadays.

Read this book sometime when you can notice the subtleties of engagement between Holmes and Watson (are they possibly more than friends?), reflect upon the now-ridiculous infatuation of Dr. Mortimer on skull shapes, and review the role of women in British society as represented by Miss Stapleton and Mrs. Lyons. Enjoy!

06 November 2006

A very bad dog

I heard an interview with Jon Katz on my WFYI, my NPR local station recently and was intrigued by his story of being saved by his dogs; he was not able to keep up with their daily needs which finally forced him to visit a doctor, although he was normally quite averse to medical attention. Literally, he said, the dogs saved his life by keeping him active and then sending him in where heart trouble was diagnosed and treated. I decided to try and read one of his books to better understand the dog-centered life he lives.

I found A Good Dog to be a compelling read, and finished it in about 4 hours - half of it during a road trip. It is immensely sad at the end; anthropomorphically, I kept waiting for the dog's redemption until it slowly dawned on me that the dog was not after redemption, never would be. I know no one who would have put as much effort into this animal. Katz did an excellent job of stringing me along through the process he went through in reaching this conclusion, without forcing it on me. Having a new canine companion in the home, and trying to adjust to her as well as give her the now-requisite obedience training etc., this was a heck of a timely read. Of course, my Perl's mischief has been thus far confined to merely puppyish acts of destruction, not the wanton acts of chaos that so derailed Orson's life.

There is a good Exerpt available from Slate, an interesting segment but not one characteristic of the work as a whole. I'm curious as to whether his other works tend more towards the human-philosophical (as occurs inthe exerpt) or the canine stories that I think are of more interest - share your comments if you've read any of his other works.

02 November 2006

There goes some of my 15 minutes

I managed to startle my husband today when I wasn't even in the room. He sure puts up with a lot from me. I'm sure his hair was standing on end. (After all, he needs a haircut.) Here's his reaction (overheard at a forum):
Oh .... my .......... God.

I just got a chance to finish listening to this episode, and when you mentioned comments at podcastalley, I wondered if mine would be brought up. (These guys make plays! They make plays!)

It wasn't, but MY WIFE'S WAS. *sigh* First, anyone who is married knows that you can't really force your wife to do something like listen to a sports podcast. Not if you want to sleep soundly, anyway. And now I have to let her know that, with about two minutes to go, she gets her name mentioned on a podcast.

I'm not sure how this will go ...
Thanks to the guys at Bang! Cartoon Radio Hour, my PodCast Alley comment was featured on their weekly program as an outro. It led to a frank and funny discussion of humor in relationships, which I thought was pretty good fruit to bear for a little seed of a comment. I'm still amazed that they pronounced my name correctly, too. Here's a link to a clip from their 'cast: Clip.mp3

Note to the listening public: PodCasting is hard work, and if posting something to the Alley helps a Podcaster keep on with their work, it is the least you can do to post a vote!

Artwork and audio credit to the fellows at Bang Productions.