Archive for the 'blogging' Category

That’s so hot!

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Hot Or Not“. If you’re so inclined, you can subject yourself to the capricious judgment of passing strangers simply by uploading your picture to be rated on an arbitrary “hotness” scale of one-to-ten. The results are best taken with a very large grain of salt; sure, it can be a bit of an ego boost to get a high rating, but also a major blow to your self-esteem if your score is low. Still, most people who visit the site don’t take it too seriously, but rather as a fun and modern form of people-watching — something we all do subconsciously every day anyway. Cynics, however, might see it as a prime example of vanity taken to its superficial extreme; these folks are likely to find the idea of judging someone’s worthiness by viewing their picture for a few seconds to be quite offensive. I’m sure Paris Hilton would agree.

No matter what you think of it, though, the site is a huge phenomenon, and is enjoying quite a bit of media attention. Part of the reason is that the owners have largely been successful at keeping out the spam and porn that has infected similar sites. Also, while there are no doubt some fake pictures posted, all photos are screened by a small army of moderators before being made public and most seem genuine.

I am way too insecure and easily embarrassed to post my own picture, however the Hot-or-Not crew is branching out into other endeavors with a new service called “Blog Hot or Not“. As the name implies, readers can rate the blogs they visit on the same 1-to-10 scale; BHoN also lets blog writers tag their journal with keywords that can help steer new readers to their sites. So I’ve decided to take the plunge and give it a try. If you look over in the sidebar underneath my Blogrolling links, you will find a little icon that, when clicked, will allow you to express your opinion about whether you think my blog is “hot”, or “not”. Of course, I know all my loyal regular readers will give me a “10″.

I would do the same for you, honest.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Statistics showing the expotential expansion of the Blogosphere in the last few years are all over the place. The latest blog count on Technorati currently shows some 44 million sites being monitored. However, what is frequently overlooked is the huge percentage of these that are no longer active. Four years ago, when the Perseus Development Corp. conducted a detailed analysis of blogging trends, it found approximately four million blogs on eight hosting sites. Of these, a whopping sixty-six percent had been abandoned since their creation, meaning that their owners had not updated them in two months or more.

Even more amazing, over one million of them — a quarter of all blogs created at the time of the 2002 survey — were “one day wonders”, with a single initial post and no subsequent follow-up posts. Apparently, it’s easy to create a blog, but harder to think of something to write about afterwards. Only a tiny fraction (less than 2%) were being updated on a daily basis. Although the number of blogs has increased more than tenfold in the four years since the survey was conducted, it’s logical to assume today’s percentages are not all that different. For more information, including blogger demographics and other interesting statistics, see “The Blogging Iceberg” on the Perseus website.

Audioblogging

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s the Wind In The Wire Audioblog! Hot damn! Yes folks, follower of the herd that I am, I’ve decided to jump on the Audioblogging bandwagon. Unfortunately, I have to go out of town this weekend, so a friend of mine has volunteered to produce the first audioblog and will post it directly to the blog after he records it. As soon as he does so, you should see a flash media player box below this text, and can just click on the “play” button to listen. I can’t wait to hear it myself when I return to town on Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

[Personal note to Rev. Blair - please insert the audio link right here when you finish it, then remove this comment. Thanks, -Mr. T.]



Bloggity-blah

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I have nothing to write about today.

And in the true spirit that defines everything that’s good, decent and holy about the Blogosphere, here I am writing a post about the fact that I have nothing to write about. What a wonderful medium this is! But just as I was about to write about having nothing to write about, a flash of inspiration hit me: what if I wrote a song about writing about having nothing to write about? (You still with me? I think that was a triple-negative.) Yeah! That’s it! Then I can write about nothing, and still have written about something. Wait, isn’t that how Seinfeld became a hit?

So anyway, let’s bring on the band here … hey fellas … here we go, try to imagine in your head a little 8-bar walkin’ blues, maybe an E-A-B chord progression, kind of medium-quick tempo. Got it? Yeah, that’s it. OK, now we’re doin’ a funky little opening guitar riff here, and when it comes around again, lemme sing y’all this little ditty I call …

The Bloggin Blues

Sometimes we full of fire
Sometimes we wanna write
The woids flow through our fingers
Dey keep us up all night

But then the woids dey fail us
No matter how we try
We stare and wait and wonder
Why de well has done run dry

(Chorus)
I gots dem bloggin blues
Baby I just caint find my Muse
Yes I gots de bloggin blues
Sugar I cannot find my Muse
Nuthins shakin in the news
You know I gots dem bloggin blues

I’ve got a hundred web sites
That I visit every day
I loves to read dem stories
Bout whut peoples have to say

But when at last it’s my turn
To spin a clever word
My intellect deserts me
And ah’m feelin like a turd

I gots dem bloggin blues
Sugar I cannot find my Muse
Yeah baby I got dem bloggin blues
And I’m lookin for my Muse
If I only had some views
I would not have dese bloggin blues

(funky blues guitar instrumental break here – yowsah!)

I called my friend in Jersey
He ask “what up wit dat”
Man you lost yo inspiration
You postin pictures of yo cat

I’ve lost my sense of humor
Got nuthin left to give
And if I can’t think o’ somethin
Ah’ll surely lose mah will to live

I got dem bloggin blues
Honey I cannot find my Muse
Yes I got dem bloggin blues
Sugar I sure have lost my Muse
Ah’m feelin so confused
Lord I got dem bloggin blues

(Repeat Chorus)

No I cannot be excused
Honey I gots dem low down
dirty rotten
mean n nasty
half-baked
refried
good fo nuthin
motherfuckin

(dramatic pause, deep breath, then big finale)

Baby you know i gots dem bloggin……
Bluuuuuuu …. esssssss

Thank you. Thank you very much. And don’t forget to tip your waitress, she’s workin’ hard out there for ya.

© 2006, Toasted Tunes Music; Woodlake Media

The writer’s prayer

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

As I’ve mentioned here before, I ain’t no writer.

That fact should be painfully obvious to anyone reading this.

But I do write. The topics may be pedestrian, my syntax may be fractured, and I overuse certain words and punctuation, mostly adjectives and commas (which this sentence already contains way too many of), but I still try to pound out something on a semi-regular basis. I do this mostly because it’s a creative outlet for me, and occasionally I feel like I actually do have something to say — not because I like to see my words on the screen or that I’m a comment-whore. (But hey, we bloggers do love the validation of those comments, don’t we?)

However, being part of the Blogosphere for the last eight or nine months has brought me into contact with a number of real writers, those with publishing aspirations and serious talent. They write well — I mean professional-quality well — and I have developed new respect and admiration for those who can string together words and phrases in such a way as to have an emotional impact on the reader. Some have even made the quantum leap from being simply “writers” to being authors, a major distinction.

The following story is particularly inspirational to me: a young man once professed a desire to become a great writer. When asked to define “great” he said, “I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, wail, howl in pain, desperation, and anger!”

Today, he works for Microsoft, writing Excel error messages. Dreams do come true.

It’s not that I was illiterate before discovering blogs, mind you, but I just never paid much attention to writing as a process or a discipline. Books and magazine articles were just there — like dishes or furniture, or any other household object — and I never thought much about what went into creating them. But now that I’ve developed an appreciation for the dedication that goes into the craft of writing, the following “writer’s prayer”, penned by one Rachael Sauer of Cox News Service and lifted from todays newspaper, makes sense to me. It invokes the memory of Christopher Marlowe, a Renaissance playwright and poet widely regarded alongside William Shakespeare as one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time, and is a plea that writers can recite to atone for their literary sins:

Hail Marlowe, full of truth
And the rightful use of adjectives
Give us this day our artful phrase
And cast from us all histrionics
And car chases.
Forgive us our Jonathan Livingston Seagull
As we forgive Erich Segal.
And yea, though we walk through the shadow of the Valley of The Dolls
We will fear no pulp fiction
For thou art with us.

I dedicate this to all the real writers out there. You know who you are. Maybe some day I’ll be able to join your ranks. I’ve got a hope, and now, a prayer to go with it.

Amen.


The Writer, by Diana Golledge

Zits blog-a-thon

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

The popular daily cartoon strip “Zits” has been on a roll all this week with its portrayal of blogging, and brings a smile to the face of those of us who have been regulars in the blog world for a while now:

It may be hard for us seasoned vets to realize that there’s still a lot of people out there who just don’t “get” blogging (like my sister-in-law, for example; I can safely single her out because I know she’ll never read this) but it’s likely that plenty of befuddled parents may look at their kids after reading these strips in the newspaper and ask “Honey, what’s a blog?” It won’t be that way for very much longer. Blogging is fast becoming part of mainstream culture, no longer just the personal hobby* of a handful. As of this month, blog search engine Technorati was tracking over 38 million blog sites, with another 75,000 new ones being created every day. 50,000 new posts appear every hour, and the Blogosphere is doubling in size every six months. The search site monitors over 2.4 billion links. Those are some pretty incredible statistics, and may indicate that we’re close to reaching what author Malcolm Gladwell calls a “tipping-point machine”, an engine of cultural change that happens so fast, it can cause a good idea to suddently tilt from obscurity to ubiquity. As Gladwell puts it, “Ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics.”

Zits is © 2006 by King Features Syndicate. Kudos to creators Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman.

____________________
*Feel free to use the word “obsession” if it applies to you.

Another blog comic

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Credits: Dean Young & John Marshall, © King Features Syndicate

Amen

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Today’s “Zits” strip hits a little close to home… (click it for a larger version)

Credits: Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman © King Features Syndicate

A writer, not a survivor

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Forward: As someone with an illness that may yet prematurely cut short my life, I was very moved by the following “My Turn” article by Donna Trussell of Kansas City MO, which appeared in the February 20, 2006 issue of Newsweek magazine. Ms. Trussell suffers from ovarian cancer, and the knowledge that the disease could take her at any time has reignited the passion of writing that had previously been a large part of her life. Although I don’t really consider myself a “writer” — my meager ramblings are much too insignificant to deserve this title of honor — I can nevertheless relate to her desire to find meaning in her life. The urge to leave some kind of legacy, some tangible proof of the fact that you were “here” and made a difference in the world (even if only slightly), is a basic human need no matter what one’s situation in life. One of the reasons I started this blog six months ago was my desire to create a semi-permanent “body of work” expressing my thoughts and emotions as I progressed through this journey into the medical wilderness. I wrote then that my disease did not define me as a person, that it was only one part of what I wanted to write about, and since then I have indeed received much enjoyment and satisfaction in pecking out these posts. (I hope, as a side benefit, that at least some of you have occasionally found them entertaining as well.) So, this is why I feel a special kinship with Donna when she says:

“Remember Me as a Writer, Not a Survivor”

by Donna Trussell

My Oncologist’s nurse found out I was a writer. “You must keep a journal!” she said. “I have nothing to say on this subject. I have no comment.”

“But it could help other women.”

“I don’t care about them,” I said.

That was true enough in the first few months after I discovered I had ovarian cancer, but what I didn’t say was that writing had long ago lost its glow. I often found myself remem­bering Marcel Duchamp’s last painting, “Tu m’” (“You Bore Me”). Even my work as a film critic for the local alternative paper suffered. I was often tempted to write, “Go see it and decide for yourself.”

If typing, revising and mailing literary manuscripts was tedious before, it seemed absurd now. Statistics gave me a 30 percent chance of liv­ing five years.

Breast cancer’s five-year survival rate is more than 80 percent, so it should not have surprised me when I thumbed through a list of local support groups and found plenty for breast and none for ovarian. Then it occurred to me: of course, they’re all dead!

Not that death was a stranger. My poems tended toward death, death, death, pet death, death, sex, love, death.

Still, I was unprepared for just how unprepared I was to face my diagnosis. I would say it hit me like a train except that would describe the violence and not the despair, which was more like the embrace of a frozen corpse.

Ovarian cancer recurs frequently, and I could not shake the belief that no matter how well I’d done so far, I would not live long. Hoping for an edge, I asked the doctor about my cell type.

“Clear cell,” she said.

“How does that affect my prognosis?”

“It doesn’t,” she said.

I soon learned she was a voice in the wilderness. Every researcher on the plan­et, it seemed, thought clear cell the worst ovarian malignancy.

Panicked, I found an online group of “ovca sisters” and asked if they’d heard any good news about clear cell. In a word: nope. But they were glad I’d found them. Every day I read messages from women who shared my limbo existence. Those of us in remission could imagine our futures in the grim posts of the ill.

Some members gave up good-paying jobs to become activists. Ah, civic duty. I just couldn’t hear the call. However, I did have a standing invitation from the local paper to write on any subject. I suggested a personal essay in time for Ovarian Can­cer Awareness Month.

The next day an editor phoned. “I hear you’re writing a piece for us.” “I already wrote it,” I said.

My productivity surprised even me. On Sept. 2, 2002, almost one year after my surgery, “Everything Changed” ran in The Kansas City Star. I got calls and letters. I helped form a local support group, but I warned the members I was not a “group person.” I might have only months to live, so I had to be choosy. Only one project real­ly appealed to me. On the Internet I found cancer poems and asked friends to read them at an event, “Women, Interrupted: An Evening of Music and Poetry Dedicated to Cancer Survivors and Loved Ones Lost.” The event was a success but I wouldn’t remain an activist long. Contrarian that I am, I started an argument.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” about an English professor dying of ovarian cancer, was, in my opinion, one long I-admire-your-bravery speech. So what if it put ovarian cancer on the map?

My ovca sisters were appalled. I was a traitor. But I was thinking like a writer again. I even wrote a new poem, ti­tled “The Oncologist and Her Ghosts.” On the anniversary of my diagnosis, I followed the lead of another group member: —I sent my oncolo­gist a gift with a card that read, “Do you remember what you were doing three years ago today? I do. You were saving my life.”

It was beginning to look like I would have to learn how to live again instead of how to die. I decided to apply to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, where I had won a scholarship in 1989. Bread Loaf required 10 poems, and I couldn’t just trot out my sleek, muscular, published warhorses. I had to write new poems and quickly whip them into shape. It was a humbling experience, but I got the application in the mail.

My ovca sisters don’t hear from me much anymore. They probably think I’m in denial, that I believe I’m cured. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Cancer may take me yet — next month, next year or in 10 years. Whenever death comes, my obituary will not call me a cancer survivor. I will die, simply, a writer.

Words of wisdom

Monday, March 20th, 2006

We’re back from Spring Break, and I’ll have some cute photos to post as soon as I can get myself organized enough to download them from the camera and sort them out. In the meantime, here’s a quote from one of the 20th century’s great under-appreciated poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, that has been particularly inspirational to me lately:

“I beg you… to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…”

Rilke was an interesting person. Born in Prague in 1875, he spent a number of years in Paris during the early 1900′s, during which time he composed his most significant works. He became involved with the sculpture of Rodin, and was profoundly influenced by this encounter with Modernism. In “The Life of A Poet”, Ralph Freedman wrote of him:

It is not difficult to imagine a setting for these remarks: the dingy room on the Left Bank of Paris by the flickering kerosene lamp, the poet’s pen scratching on paper pulled out of stacks heaped on table and chairs; or perhaps, as so often in the Bibliotheque Nationale, amid silence, clearing throats, and shuffling feet; or a few years later in a cottage near Rome, or later still in the dying Swedish summer, under a beech tree. Until the end, the poet knew that real life finally exists only within, waiting to become something other than itself.

Check out more of Rilke’s writing here.

I search the web so you don’t have to

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Free from artificial time constraints (i.e.,”a job”) I am able to devote countless hours each week scouring the dark, hidden corners of the Internet in search of the interesting and the bizarre, the strange and funny; those provocative items deeply buried in obscure web sites that most people are too busy to find. In other words, I have no life, people.

So when I do find something that makes me go “Huh!” I want to share it – which brings me today to Fafblog. I’ve been reading Fafblog for some time now, and Fafnir and his co-conspirators are consistently humorous and creative. Here are two recent samples (click the link for the full article).

From Our Omnipotent President:

Q. Can the president spy on Americans without a warrant?
A. The president has to spy on Americans without a warrant! We’re at war, and the president’s gotta defend America, and he’s not gonna wait for a permission slip from a judge or a senator or America to do it!
Q. That’s just the kinda tough, no-nonsense thinking I like in a de facto dictator! Now some crazy people say the president broke some silly old laws like FISA and the National Security Act and the Fourth Amendment. Are these crazy people crazy?
A. They sure are! Maybe those laws worked back in 1978 when Leonid Brezhnev was snortin coke with Ayatollah Khomeini and groovin to the hits of the Bee Gees, but in today’s dark and dangerous times they just aren’t enough.
Q. Things sure have changed since the innocent days of mutually assured destruction! Can the president spy on me without a warrant?
A. The president would never, ever spy on you, unless you’re talking to a terrorist.
Q. That sounds reasonable!
A. Or an associate of a terrorist or a suspected associate of a terrorist or a possible suspected relative of a member of an affiliate of a terrorist or someone with a name that’s spelled like a terrorist’s or someone who’s been mistakenly identified as a terrorist by an NSA algorithm.
Q. Can the president eat a baby?
A. If that baby has suspected ties to al Qaeda, then it’s the president’s duty to eat it – for the sake of national security.

From If You’re Tired of Coke You’re Tired of America:

No matter what happens to America, there will always be Coke. When the terrorists strike again, we will still have Coke. When a neo-fascist government takes over the United States, suspends the constitution, and imposes permanent martial law, we will still have Coke. When the genetically-engineered underclass is forced into slave labor camps to build neutron bombs to fling against enemy empires, they will sit back after their toils and enjoy Coke. When aliens sift through the ashen ruins of human civilization centuries hence for some clue to who we once were, they will find a shimmering red can beneath the sands, pop it, guzzle, and understand. This was our gift to one another, our gift to the world. Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, all of us everywhere can join in the dream. All of us can Enjoy Coke.

There’s lots more where that came from; surf on over and check it out. And remember: while you’re slaving away at your thankless day job, rest assured that you can count on moi to be your Web Watchdog, prowling the dirt roads and back alleys of the Information Superhighway to report my discoveries back to you. Hey, it’s the least I can do.

Fusternut

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

…is my new Favorite Word. Thanks and a big shoutout to Moose for adding it to my meager lexicon. Before this, my prior favorite word was “asshat”, an all-purpose word so totally cool that it even has its own official website. But, other than in reference to the current occupant of the White House, I haven’t had much occasion to use it in casual conversation lately, so when “fusternut” came along I latched onto it like a pit bull to a pork chop.

The best part of “fusternut” is that it has no specific defined meaning, so you can use it pretty much any way you like. Here are but a few suggestions:

“You’re such a silly fusternut!”
“Dammit, I better turn that little fusternut of information over to the proper authorities, toot sweet.”
“Hey! Has anybody seen my fusternut?”

I encourage everyone to feel free to use it in whatever way seems appropriate to you.

In my opinion, however, the absolute best use of this word would be as a name for a candy bar. Frankly, I’m amazed that so far no corporate genius at Nestle or Hershey has seized on this, but I think it’s just a matter of time. So even though I thought up this idea, Ms. Moose coined the word to begin with so I hereby publicly cede all rights and royalties that may result from such crass exploitation brilliant marketing to her. Hey, that’s just the kind of swell fella I am. All I ask, Moose, is that after it becomes the top-selling candy bar in the world and you’re rolling in the big bucks, swing your Lear Jet down to Texas some day and cook me up a nice big fat juicy steak.

And I’ll have one of these for dessert.

Friday Catblogging (updated)

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Introducing a new feature here on WITW, which seeks “to provide a non-political respite from the vehement echo chamber that the Blogosphere spins itself into during the week, demonstrating that even the mightiest and meekest of pundits have a love of cats in common”. Even though it’s been around for a while, I’ve recently discovered Friday Catblogging, where posts only have a few simple rules:

(1) They should be on Friday (well, duh!)
(2) The post should be about cats (double duh!) – either pictures of your cat, someone else’s cat, or something to do with cats.
(3) Snarky political commentary, even if somehow cat-related, is discouraged. The “respite” thing, and all.

So here’s my first Friday Catblogging photo:

The sweetie in the middle is Miss Cotton, who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a year ago Thanksgiving at the ripe old age of 22. There’s a story about that, but I’ll save it for another day. In the meantime, if you want to get into this catblogging thing, here’s a few links to get you started:

The Oubliette

When Cats Attack!
Sharp As A Marble
The Daily Whim
Way cool Catbloggers Frappr Map
Finally, use caution when visiting IMAO and The Conservative Cat, who totally ignore the “no snarky political comment” rule.

CatBlogging Friday should be much easier than Half-Nekkid Thursday, as no semi-embarrasing exposed bare flesh is required. The phenomenon has even resulted in the following article which appeared in the New York Times last year:

The New York Times

October 28, 2004

On Fridays, Bloggers Sometimes Retract Their Claws

By DANIEL TERDIMAN

IN the vitriolic world of political Web logs, two polar extremes are Eschaton (atrios.blogspot.com), a liberal, often anti-Bush site with a passionate following, and Instapundit (www.instapundit.com), where an equally fervent readership goes for hearty praise of the Administration.

It would seem unlikely that the two blogs’ authors could see eye-to-eye about anything. Yet Eschaton’s Duncan Black (known as Atrios) and Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds have both taken part in a growing practice: turning over a blog on Friday to cat photographs.

“It brings people together,” said Kevin Drum, who began the cat spotlight last year on his own blog, Calpundit (www.calpundit.com). “Both Atrios and Instapundit have done Friday catblogging. It goes to show you can agree on at least a few things.”

Mr. Drum has moved on to write a blog for The Washington Monthly called Political Animal, which, despite its name, features no cats. But for him, watching bloggers step back from partisanship in favor of the warmth of cat pictures is a reminder of the March 2003 day when he discovered that his cats offered an antidote to stressful blogging.

“I’d just blogged a whole bunch of stuff about what was wrong with the world,” Mr. Drum said. “And I turned around and I looked out the window, and there was one of my cats, just plonked out, looking like nothing was wrong with the world at all.”

Grabbing his camera, Mr. Drum photographed his cat, Inkblot, and posted the picture (calpundit.com/archives/000597.html). He soon began doing it each Friday, attracting fans who just wanted to see the felines.

“I had a lot of people who were looking forward to it,” he said. “I started getting e-mails on Friday mornings where people were like, ‘Where’s catblogging? What’s going on?’ “

As often happens in the blogosphere, other people latched onto the idea and ran with it.

These days, all kinds of bloggers are Friday catblogging, often playing around with the concept, even as Mr. Drum has stopped.

Cosma Shalizi is one of them. A postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, Dr. Shalizi sometimes devotes Fridays on his blog, Three-Toed Sloth (www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog), to what he calls “Friday Cat Blogging (Science Geek Edition).”

In those entries, interspersed among his thoughts on various academic disciplines, Dr. Shalizi ventures into scientific discussions related at least peripherally to cats.

On another blog, Spocko’s Brain (s88172659.onlinehome.us/spockosbrain.html), the author wrote in one Friday posting: “I’m new to this blogging stuff, but from what I understand all the really cool kids post pictures of their cats on Fridays. Here’s mine.”

It was a giant Caterpillar tractor.

Even NASA has played along, posting a picture one recent Friday of the Cat’s Eye nebula (antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap040910.html).

Some participants take Friday catblogging very seriously. Laurence Simon, a 35-year-old Houston technical support engineer, decided a while back that with so many people catblogging, it would be good to have a weekly compendium of the best of each week’s entries.

So he began to post what he called the “Carnival of the Cats,” a roundup (www.carnivalofthecats.com) of that week’s Friday catblogging, available the following Sunday.

“The reason why I do it on Sunday evening is that most people aren’t online,” Mr. Simon said, “so on Monday morning, when people get into the office and are facing their first horrible cup of coffee, they can look at pictures of cats until they get screamed at for the first time of the day.”

For a while, Mr. Simon was the host of Carnival of the Cats, but he decided to pass along the honor. Now, a different person handles the Carnival of the Cats each Sunday, compiling a healthy group of Friday postings for that groggy Monday morning audience.

One recent host was Sharon Brogan, a poet from Missoula, Mont. Ms. Brogan is new to blogging, having been at it for only three months. But it didn’t take long for her to become a Friday catblogging convert (www.sbpoet.com/friday_cat_blogging).

“I enjoy it because it pulls together folks who wouldn’t even read each others’ blogs otherwise,” Ms. Brogan said. “People from all across the political spectrum, Web diarists and serious craft people. As long as you are into cats, you belong in the group.”

In any case, given the nature of the blogosphere, others have adapted Mr. Drum’s inspiration for their own purposes. There are a number of Friday dogblogging and Friday birdblogging sites. One can even imagine Friday mongooseblogging.

To some, the point is that posting pictures of their animals provides a chance to introduce a softer personality into blogs that are often hard-edged.

“It’s just nice for bloggers to do things that show themselves as ordinary people,” Mr. Drum said, “not just partisan political writers.”

Mr. Black agreed. It’s a “way to humanize me and a way to put a little bit of me into the blog without going into my personal life,” he said.

Of course, while Mr. Black’s readers usually come to Eschaton for his takes on the political landscape, many visit on Friday to check for cats.

“It’s the one thing that readers demand that I do,” Mr. Black said. His cats “generally get positive comments,” he said, although “some people think that they’re fat.”

WARM AND FUZZY – Kevin Drum at his office in Irvine, Calif., with Inkblot. One Friday last year Mr. Drum began a custom of turning over his Web log to cat photographs. “It brings people together,” he said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

So there you go, everything you ever wanted to know about CatBlogging Friday. Happy CBF and have a great weekend, y’all.

HNT Twofer

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

Oy, zuch a deal I’ve got for you: not just one but two hot bodies today…

I managed to talk Mrs. Toast into exposing herself (tastefully, of course) for the camera, and hope to coax her into more, er, compromising positions in future weeks. However, she insisted that I promise to edit the photo to not show her knees. Can someone explain the logic behind this for me? Do you other ladies have a “thing” about your knees? Ah, yet another mystery of the fairer sex. She didn’t seem to mind revealing her blackened left big-toe nail — the unfortunate result of an object being dropped on her foot — although I’m certain she’ll now be pissed at me for pointing this out to everyone. :^)

OK fellow bloggers, it’s time to whip it out (your camera, that is) and post your own HNT pics. No more excuses!!

Stupid Toast Tricks

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

When I began this blog waaaaaaay back, er, last month (it seems like longer), I had some initial trouble figuring out what to call it. The original name I dreamed up was “The Toasted Times”, with the word “toasted” in this context intended to mean “strange”, “twisted”, “odd”, “bizarre”, etc. I was all set to run with this concept until I happened to mention it to a few of my friends, and every one of them had the first impression of “toasted” as implying a drug reference. This should give you an idea of the caliber of low-life, degenerate scum I hang out with. Still, heaven forbid that I should (even inadvertently) promote the recreational use of controlled substances to any young, impressionable minds who might read this blog – even if such shameful activities have been made into a “hit” (get it?) musical on Showtime. Whoa, like far out, man.

OK, what was I talking about? Damn that short-term memory loss. And I seem to have the munchies, too. Oh yeah, Mr. Toast. That was a logical nom de plume considering the original blog name, and I didn’t see any reason to change it once this opus became “WiTW”, especially since by that time I had already made a couple of entries under the Toast moniker. So try to imagine, if you will, my surprise and amusement today, weeks later, as I’m noodling about the Internet and discover a cartoon character who inhabits The Imaginary World of Mr. Toast. Golly-Bob, who’da thunk it? At this point you may be wondering, as I certainly did, just how many wacky adventures a grilled slice of bread can have. The answer, apparently, is “more than we could possibly imagine”, as creator Dan Goodsell has been drawing this strip on a weekly basis since at least February of 2004. The humor is somewhat, shall we say, oblique – here’s a sample:

Interesting. What does it mean? Hell, I don’t have the slightest idea. It ain’t Dagwood & Blondie, that’s for sure, but it is rather creative and strange, and I do admire those qualities in just about anything. So maybe I’ll adopt this little guy as my unofficial mascot. At least I can say “been there, done that, got the T-Shirt to prove it”.

This is not a hoax, honest

Friday, November 4th, 2005

No doubt you’ve seen a number of hoax sites on the web; these and “Googlebombs” are two of the more clever forms of humor in our modern digital age. (The most popular Googlebomb: go to Google, type in the word “failure”, and hit “I’m feeling lucky”.) Satire has been with us since the dawn of man, but was refined to high camp in the mid-20th century by publications like Mad Magazine. The internet has since honed it to an art form, and the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) part is that virtually anyone can do it: you don’t need to be Megabuck Publishing Corp. to expose your cunning parody to a potential audience of millions. Since we’ve come to depend on the Web for so much of the information we get these days, it’s only natural that good imitations of legitimate sites get so much attention. Here’s some well known spoofs, along with their genuine counterparts, for your entertainment and amusement:

World Trade Organization:
spoof site
real site

DOW Chemical:
spoof site
real site

The White House:
spoof site
real site

Other Spoof Sites:
Journal of Historical Review
RYT hospital
Huckleberry Finn
Lord of the Rings

Many of these are done so skillfully that unless you look very closely, it can be hard to tell the difference between them and the real sites they’re lampooning. A close but dim-witted cousin of the spoof is the Urban Legend. The modern equivalent of the chain letter, these folk tales are forwarded via e-mail from one group of friends to another as if they were gospel. The granddaddy of them all has to be the “Neiman-Marcus charges woman $250.00 for chocolate-chip cookie recipe” myth that’s been circulating in one form or another since the 1950’s, way before the Internet allowed these rumors to spread like wildfire.

Fortunately, there’s a few websites dedicated to exposing hoaxes and breaking the e-mail chain that perpetuates them. The all-time best hoax-buster site is without a doubt the Urban Legend Reference Pages – nearly every myth ever to hit the web is listed here in searchable form. It also references some stories which are so odd that you’d swear they were made up, but are in fact true – like this story of an orphaned squirrel “adopted” by a mother dog who treated it like one of her newborn pups. Other interesting items, both fake and real, can be found at the Museum of Hoaxes and the Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Bottom line: it’s OK to have fun when you know something is bogus. But the next time you get an email that says cleaning your floors with a Swiffer Wetjet can kill your pets, or that some college student named Jen engaged in cyber-sex for over a year with a man who turned out to be her father, and then urges you to forward this shocking tale to all of your friends – be skeptical. It only takes a minute to check it out, and in most cases, debunk it. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.

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Hat tip: Halcyon

Back to the future

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

Yes it’s Half-Nekkid Thursday again, w00t! If you recall last week’s pic, I’m definitely making progress in exposing more skin today. There’s a practical limit to this, however, as decreed by modesty and good taste. Not that I’ve ever been accused of having either…


OK fellow Bloggers … the next move is yours. Lets see those HNT posts! Aw, shucks

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A little close to home

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

After yesterday’s heaviness, I think today’s post could stand some comic relief. Literally. Something tells me this Zits strip is being widely circulated in the Blogosphere. Credits: created by Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott; syndicated by King Features.

New Name, New Layout

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

My blog-identity crisis has been solved. After chewing on it for a while, I’ve decided to rename this sucker from “Name This Blog” to “Wind in the Wire”. The name slipped into my brain as I was drifting off to sleep the other night, and the more I thought about it the more I liked it. It’s sort of abstract so it can mean whatever you perceive it to mean, and has a slight alliteration to it which makes it a bit easier to remember. Of course, after Googling the name, I discovered that it’s not exactly original, having been the title of a 1993 made-for-TV movie and album by Randy Travis. But dammit, I thought of it before I ever knew this, so I’m using it anyhow – unless Randy threatens to sue me, at least. Really, it’s been said that there’s no original thought left in the world; every philosophy is a slightly-altered regurgitation of something that’s been expressed previously (and usually better) by someone else. Still, I think most all of us continually wrack our brains trying to come up with our own unique perspective on life.

The phrase “Wind in the Wire” means a variety of things to me. Free thought is like the wind, and the wire is the internet link that connects my mind as I write this to yours as you read it. If you’ve ever been out in the country and heard the sound the wind makes as it blows through telephone lines, it’s haunting, lonely, yet beautiful. Another piece of music that comes to mind is the seminal country-pop tune “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. Frankly, I’ve never much cared for the song itself but I do like the image it creates. And of course I have to mention Warren Zevon’s farewell album “The Wind”. I was very moved by this record when it came out in August of 2003. As you may know, Warren suffered from a terminal lung illness and knew he was dying as he recorded this work; through determination and sheer will he stayed alive long enough to finish it. It was his way of saying goodbye to the world, especially to the people he loved. It’s not likely that I’ll leave a Grammy-award winning album as my legacy after I’m gone, but I hope I’ll have at least some of the grace and dignity Warren had. God Bless you, my friend. I’ll really try to enjoy every sandwich.

Just a-lookin’ for a name

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

OK, now that I’m here, the first order of business is to pick a name for this puppy. This is an exercise that I’m sure anyone who has started an online journal before has gone through. Sure, maybe some folks have pet names they’ve nursed all their lives, or something that’s been revealed to them in a blinding flash of inspiration. But I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired lately so I’m stuck searching for a name that’s unique, clever, memorable, but not too damn cutesy. None of the names I’ve thought of so far really click. I’ve gone from banal (“Bob’s Blog”) to oblique (“The Electric Pillow”). I originally was going to call it “The Toasted Times”, but the more I thought about it…ehhhh. I live in East Texas where there’s lots of pine trees so maybe “The Pine Tree Times”, “Journal O’The Pines” or “Behind The Pine Curtain” might work. Dunno. I suspect musicians go through this sort of thing when they first get together and try to come up with a name for their band.

Anyway, knowing that far greater minds than mine are out there, I thought I would use this first post to ask for input. Does anyone like any of the names I’ve thought of so far, or care to offer a suggestion? I’ve found a couple of random blog name generators online, like this one but the results have been pretty lame (“Empty Confessions”? Sounds more like a soap opera.) Then there’s this site that generates a name based on a single word input. And my blog identity crisis is evidently not an uncommon occurance, as this guy has tried the same approach. (“Birth of A Notion”? “Grump Up The Volume”? I don’t think so.)

So please, suggest … something. Anthing. And if this blog goes on to achieve international acclaim, you will feel the thrill of knowing that YOU helped christen it. Now wouldn’t that be more satisfying than a lousy royalty check?