Lots of Things to Blog About..and No time!

I’ve been behind on blogging, but actually have a lot to blog about.  Here’s a longer-than-usual post to satisfy your daily Nagle fix.

This may be the first year that the North Pole will be ice-free reports CNN’s Alan Duke.

Will someone please explain to me why William Kristol is allowed to write for the NYT? Here and here are some reasons for him not to.

I know people are panicking about gas prices, but keep in mind that in the last year, prices went up from $3 to $4.  Worrisome, but not enough to get in a tizzy about.

Another screed by Michael Dean. Tidbits:

It has been said that democracies generally exist for around 200 years, 300 tops, before they collapse. That they are theoretically a great form of government, but with a major flaw. Democracies allow lazy people who don’t want to work to vote in people who will let them not work. We are at the beginning of the end of this. At best, it will morph us into some sort of half-broken version of socialism. If we’re unlucky, a malevolent dictatorship.

But I would love to see media producers and programmers have a little more self-policing, in the form of creating useful content that educates, promotes love of your fellow human and contains far less “kill everyone, blow stuff up, get thin, get laid, get rich” B.S. (If anything they’ve got it backwards, if it HAS to be regulated, I’d rather see more sex and less violence. You can show people dying graphically brutal deaths, get a PG rating, and get on TV. But if you show a sweet couple romantically making love, you get an R or NC-17 rating, and can’t get on TV.)

I’m far more offended by a diamond commercial than a nice art film with a little nudity, because the art film is honest and diamond commercials lie. Diamond commercials basically say “If you don’t give us four months salary now, you’ll die sad and lonely.”

WriterRiver, a Digg for Technical Writers. Here’s a great technical writing blog by Tom Johnson.  Here’s what he says about what users really want:

When it comes down to it, here’s what I think most users truly want:

  • A comprehensive online source they can search and quickly find answers.
  • Short quick reference guides (about 3-5 pages) in an attractive format.
  • Short 2-minute video tutorials for the most confusing tasks.
  • An ability to interact or contact a real person either virtually or physically.

(On a somewhat related topic, see my piece on why users don’t read documentation).

In his piece about myths of technical writing, Johnson comments:

1. Technical writers spend most of their time writing.

Totally untrue. Most tech writers spend about 10% of their time writing. The rest of their time they spend learning applications, noting bugs, providing usability feedback, structuring their content, setting up styles for their help files, troubleshooting their tools, strategizing help deliverables, training new users, formatting and laying out their content, updating existing content, meeting with project team members, and occasionally playing ping pong.

(I’ve written about this before on my thoughts about technical writing ).

a few days ago the NYT had an article about a laptop bag that is checkpoint friendly for airport security. Several other sites wrote similar articles, all touting the groundbreaking design. Notice anything missing from the article? That’s right–the bags haven’t been produced, and they don’t even have a picture of the new design. Horray for vaporware!

Liquidlogic, a weblog by a fiction writer and videographer

Jamendo has released 10,000 free albums. I’ll be doing a major blog post about that soon.

2 weblogs which have great things for webloggers (free templates, tools, plugin announcements, etc).

Weblog tools collection and Daily Blog Trips.

I saw 4 terrific films in the last week. two by Harold Lloyd (Gun Shy and Safety Last). One-armed swordsman, an amazing 1967 Hong Kong martial arts flick. Last night I saw another hilarious swashbuckling classic Army of Darkness by Samuel Raimi (who directed the Spiderman movies). 

Kate Aurthur on a front-page longish personal essay on the NYT about blogging:

In reading the essay "Exposed," I felt the biggest problem with it was not the fact that it was too long (it was), nor the accompanying photos (slightly creeped out, don’t really care), nor the score-settling (so much!), nor that someone like my mother, an NYT reader of 5000 years, wouldn’t understand a word of it because there was so little context provided about this bloggy world – the biggest problem, to me, is that the formula for provocative magazine stories is so rote, and we all (or I) fall for it every single time.

That is: Developed over the years, the formula at its core paints a picture of a joyless, pathological universe that is so uncomplicated by nuance or ambivalence, that rather than being The Way We Live (as coined by Adam Moss long ago, and evoked by Gerry Marzorati here), it would more accurately be The Way We Die — it’s always that awful.
The subject can be technology (as it is here) or Britney or date rape on college campuses. It seems to always be written by and about young women (and perhaps edited by older men?).

So my question can be boiled down to: where is the love? Are our lives so gloomy and sad that the fun of Gawker (which serves as the main foil both here and in Vanessa Grigoriadis’ much more interesting New York Magazine article last October) is not worthy of examining or, if you see no fun at all in Gawker, debating? Why does a story need to construct a fake world of blackness and illness and panic in order to get people riled up?

Or am I wrong? Please say I’m wrong!

(I don’t have any opinion about the original essay by Emily Gold–which I didn’t read. Kudos to NYT for publishing it though, and for heaven’s sake, let Emily have her 15 minutes of fame).

Speaking of Kate Aurthur, she’s been publishing tv criticism about American TV (I think I’ve read a few of these before).

Aurthur on TV couples who take forever to hook up:

Movies and books have it easy when it comes to romance—whatever push-and-pull they peddle can tie up near the end, leaving the viewer or reader to imagine what happens next. But on television, writers who deposit a couple in each others’ arms for the season finale must then write their way through the morning after—and the second date, and the 15th—come September. As a result, they go to great lengths to keep promising couples apart. The obvious strategy: extremely protracted wooing. On the 1980s detective show Remington Steele, for example, the workmanlike, anti-fun Laura spent four seasons infuriated by Steele’s flash and charm before she finally succumbed to it. And even Josh and Donna have occasionally been outdone. On Frasier, for example, the effete Niles pined after Daphne for a full seven years. During most of that time, his efforts to pursue her were so pathetic that she didn’t even notice; it was Frasier who finally blabbed.

Aurthur on the "very special virginity" episodes:

The conventions of the Very Special Virginity episode are by now well-established: Articulate kids fret about the decision, and parents usually learn of it in some way, giving them the access they need to become the moral arbiter of the situation. Sex tends to be represented by both the parents (and the show) as forebodingly destructive—to the teens’ future, to their mental well-being, to the family unit. Needless to say, the relationship usually doesn’t last very long after it’s been consummated, with the reasons for the breakup ranging from unreturned phone calls to nervous breakdowns. (And occasionally they are a bit odder: On 7th Heaven, Simon’s minister father reminded him he wasn’t capable of casual sex because of his "more than casual relationship with Christ.")

Old writing buddy Julie Checkway has a filmmaker’s blog.  Her waiting for Hockney documentary came out recently, I think.

Matt Groenig cartoon on how to be a clever film critic. (Notice film’s greatest paradox mentioned on it).

Some things I’m encountered while doing research for my trip:

Claus Valca on the wierdness-spam of AVG Free. Dwight Silverman and Claus recommend NOD32, a $60 product.

Barry Bearak on being locked up for being a journalist in Zimbabwe. Here’s a line by a human rights lawyer to a police lackey:

“This is a police state,” Ms. Mtetwa said brassily. “The law is only applied when it serves the perpetuation of the state. How does it feel, Inspector Rangwani, to be used this way by the state?”

It’s funny. I’ve started to quote comments on people’s blogs just as often as I do on the blogs themselves. Here’s a comment on a NYT blog:

Facebook will meet the same fate as MySpace. It will live at the top until a big corporation buys it. Then as it becomes more mainstream, the more the targeted trend setting demographic will rebel and migrate to the next cool site. Valuing these companies as “platforms” for advertising only drive the migration to the next thing. As soon as MySpace was bought by News Corp, the migration to Facebook started. When Microsoft or anyone else buys Facebook, the migration to the next site will begin…if it has not already. Social networking sites are like night clubs. The cool kids will set “the where” and the sheep will follow trying to drink from the same fountain. Same scene, different address. It is just an IP address in this case. Studio 54, Club Life, MySpace, Facebook, Bon Jovi, Panic at the Disco…and the beat goes on.

Although I really haven’t mastered my HDV videocamera yet, I am planning to buy a mini-camcorder for my Europe trip. I was going to buy the much-touted Flip Camera (for $150), but after reading Michael Arrington’s article explaining why the Canon Power Shot SD 750 is the better deal, I am seriously tempted. Why? SD 750 functions both as a point and shoot as well as a videocamera, uses SDHC cards and has optical zoon. 

From this article, a rather hilarious rebuke to MacFans:

Recipe for success:

1/ Take a general purpose device
2/ Focus on a specific usage, remove the extra features
3/ Hire a designer
4/ Market the “Beautiful Simplicity” of the result
5/ For version II, restore some of the removed extra features!

Apple has been doing that for years I think.



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