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October 26, 2004

Three cheers for Moe Lane

Moe of Obsidian Wings has got the blog blues and is quitting. Personally, I think blogging is a bit like being in Fairport Convention - you can join but you can never truely quit.
I want to thank Moe for setting up one of the best political group weblogs I know. For all my partisan venting over the past couple of weeks (which, by the way, will be toned down considerably after the US election), I admire him for the good-humored, temperate way in which he ran things, and the focused, honest way in which he stuck up for his conservative politics.
Gosh, this is beginning to sound like an obituary.
I hope the website will continue. It's really really good. Three cheers for Moe!

October 28, 2004

Hierarchy of blogs - who looks down on who?

I know my place.

January 7, 2005

A debate challenge from Von

Von of Obsidian Wings has a challenge to anyone willing to identify as a pro-torture blogger:

Resolved: As a matter of U.S. policy, torture should be used by the U.S. and its allies in fighting the war on terror.

If you are (1) a blogger, (2) support the foregoing position, and (3) you're up for a bit of fun, e-mail Obsidian Wings with your contact information (the e-mail is at the top of the front page).

I'll take the contrary position -- i.e., torture is not a wise and proper tool -- and debate the first serious respondent. For simplicity and my own sanity, I will only debate one person, and therefore will not respond to requests for debate via methods other than an e-mail. The debate will proceed, one post alternating and tracking the other, until one of us gets horribly bored. At which point it will end.

Incidentally, yours truly will be the sole judge as to who is "serious" and who is not. If I reject your challenge, I will explain why in an e-mail.

Before you send that e-mail, however, realize what this debate is not about:

1. It's not about the Geneva Convention, the Gonzales memoranda, or associated technicalities or legalisms.... This is a debate about policy; about what kind of country us well-informed citizens want.

2. It's also not about prosecuting soldiers on the battlefield, the ticking time bomb scenario, or what you saw last night on 24. If your position is going to be that torture may be defensible if minds are fogged by war, or if there's a terrorist ready to explode a nuclear bomb in thirty minutes and the guy you've just captured knows where it is and how to defuse it -- this is going to be a pretty boring debate because I'm going to largely agree with you. To paraphrase another, I can twist the utility knob and come up with a hypothetical in which most of us would enthusiastically advocate the slow torture and death of a seven year old kid. .... Rather, this is a debate about the wisdom of using torture as official policy where there is no apparent necessity.

3. Do not expect the debate to fall into the usual liberal v. conservative dog-and-pony show. ...Indeed, I'm relatively center-right; don't be surprised if, at the end of the day, you find yourself pretty far to left of me -- with other noted lefty torturers, such as Castro, Stalin, etc. [But I should keep the rest of my powder dry, no?]

Could turn out interesting...

January 28, 2005

Virtual communities, moderation

If I had a linklog (which I will, soon), I'd simply put this in there, but until then, I'll have to comment a little bit. Teresa Nielsen Hayden discusses how online communities deal with spam, trolls and stalkers.

Continue reading "Virtual communities, moderation" »

January 30, 2005

In the future, everything will be a blog

Talk About Comics has come back online, and is now a blog. It's looking like a mighty good'un, except that for some reason I have posting privileges there so I will spoil everyone's enjoyment with my wittering.
Fearless Leader explains the change.
I'll add it to the blogroll, and maybe plug it into my blog, or plug my blog into it. Or I'll plug both into my webcomic, which is also a blog.

In the future, everything will be a blog. We will fly to our blogging jobs at McBlogblog using rocket-powered blogs strapped to our shoulders and wearing silver suits that will also have blogs on them. We will spend all our time plugging every blog we can find into every other blog we can find and then go home plugging the day's work into our Livejournals and vice versa. This is good, because we will still be able to find productive work, for a new and somewhat loose definition of productive, while robots do all the farming and building. Together, robots and blogs are the answer to all social problems.

There are still forums to discuss stuff on. They too are pretty good, and should now be a lot more stable, but they are not blogs, yet.

Update: Comixpedia has got in on this "putting stuff inside other stuff" act early. They've got the headlines from TAC on their front page before I'd even got it to show up properly in Bloglines.

February 1, 2005

Yup, you could hear a pin drop.

Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy catches Michelle Malkin being presumptuous and sloppy with the facts:


Continue reading "Yup, you could hear a pin drop. " »

February 7, 2005

Brad, just give'em the rope to hang themselves

Much as I dislike Little Green Footballs' comments policy, Brad DeLong shows that it's possible to err too far in the other direction.

Continue reading "Brad, just give'em the rope to hang themselves" »

July 10, 2005

Wanna buy some SS memorabilia?

This text ad inside Opera 8.01 probably says something about the blogosphere, or blogging in general, or maybe the system was confusing this blog with Little Brown Shirts (placed below the cut because it was messing up page display in some places):

Continue reading "Wanna buy some SS memorabilia?" »

September 13, 2005

They'll be missed

Via Crooked Timber, I hear that Shot By Both Sides is calling it a day (I would have found out anyway – SBBS is only a dozen places down on my blogroll). John B explains:

For those of you who lied, twisted, cheated and bullied until the least worst choice available to me was to close the site, congratulations. You've won. I hope it was worth it. It would be ungracious of me to hope that bad things happen to you in return, so I'll merely take solace in my knowledge that you have to go through life having a personality like that... Good work, fellas.

And not on my blogroll, but visited occasionally in the past few months, objectivist libertarian blogger Arthur Silber is giving up, citing health problems, poverty and public indifference to his writing as reasons. His story seems familiar somehow.

Some of my critics tell me (to quote one of them) that I should "grow the fuck up." What they mean by that is that, instead of offering what I'm able to do–my writing–in exchange for voluntary donations, I should turn myself over to the state. In that manner, all of you will have to support me indirectly whether you want to or not, and I won't have to do anything at all in return. Of course, the state may not treat me very well but, after all, beggars can't be choosers. Today, that's what it means to "grow up."

But since this hasn't worked out and since there is no market for what I do, except one that is so negligible that it doesn't matter, I will now follow their advice. Next week, I'll turn myself over to the State of California. I'll let them figure out what's wrong with me physically, and decide whether and how they will deign to treat it. I'll let them decide where and how I should live, and how much money I should get, if any.


From what I've read of his writings, I'd say he deserves better.

January 8, 2006

Mainstream media recognition at last, mua ha ha!

Geir mentions in the forums that the Norwegian tabloid VG has quoted my Post on Rowling denialism in its weekend edition, as part of an article on conspiracy theories and the "Paul is dead/J. K. Rowling doesn't exist"-syndrome.
If you live in Norway, you can still pick it up on Sunday as it's in the weekend edition. The article is by Anders Giæver. No web version of the article exists, but Geir's report has the quote in Norwegian.

January 10, 2006

Bloggers the new punk movement?

My arse. Political bloggers are the new hippies. They think they're going to change everything, stick it to the man, put the world right. In twenty years, they'll be playing golf and boasting about all the dope they smoked even though they'll know by then that it was all oregano anyway.

*spits*

February 6, 2006

If only they knew when to stop.

Fafblog on the Mohammed cartoons:

"What if it's not really a picture of Mohammed," says me, "just a picture of a picture of Mohammed?"
"Metablasphemy!" says Giblets. "It is sacrilegious and pretentious!"

Don't read the rest, the above was the best bit.

May 18, 2006

Dear everyone on the Internet

The adjective form of "camp" is "camp", not "campy". It is not derived from the noun "camp" or at least not in the usual way. In fact, there isn't really a noun form of the word unless you mean a bunch of tents. "Nounized" forms of the word occur only very rarely, usually to allow speakers more readily to define or comment on the phenomenon. As "camp" is undefinable, this is a pointless activity that should be discouraged. Use the correct adjective and forget you've ever heard the noun used.

(Triggered by use of the wrong adjective form on the blog under Dominic Deegan, but could have been triggered by a million other occurrences.)

Dear everyone on the Internet and quite a few people in book publishing who really ought to know better

That introductory bit in the front of a book that an author or publisher typically invites someone else to write is called a "foreword" not a "forward". If you get a book in the mail and then send the package on to someone else, that's a forward, from the verb "to forward". A foreword, by contrast, is a word, or rather a lot of words, that comes/come before the main bit. It's not that difficult.

Yes, I'm cranky today. If you had spent the day fighting Paint Shop Pro, you'd be cranky too.

(Triggered by Comixpedia where I do actually have an account, possibly two, that I could use to comment, but I haven't been able to log in there in months.)

June 7, 2006

Rilstone decodes Daily Express reporting

Sometimes I feel like I should just use my RSS scraper to stick a copy of Andrew Rilstone's blog in mine (to do so without his permission, though, would arguably be a form of plagiarism). He doesn't write much but he's always a great read. Today, he reads the Daily Express so you don't have to. Or rather, he read it for a week last month, but has now recovered enough to post an analysis. Drop what you're doing and read it. The blog post, I mean, not the Daily Express.

July 23, 2006

Roundup of stuff: blogroll, comics

I am feeling the pull of the political blogs again, for the first time since the US Presidential elections of 2004. I've been reading them a lot, and have added Red State Son, The Whiskey Bar and Wisse Words to my blogroll. The former two are essayistic blogs rather than quote-and-link blogs. The latter does a bit of both, and has been a consistently reliable source of stuff for me to quote-and-link. I ought to apologise to Martin for taking so long to add it.
I fear this renewed interest in political subjects will turn out to be a precursor to me writing about politics again myself. I'm not happy with the idea, not yet anyway. I don't think of my own opinions as being particularly trenchant, interesting or well-informed. But as a writer and artist I also know that sometimes when you get an itch you must scratch it. At least, I hope that the next time around I won't be pulling my punches or putting up any pretence of being balanced or reasonable. Seeing both (or all) sides of an issue is something my readers are smart enough to do themselves, in their own time, and if they can't, then they're pretty much part of the problem and not worth talking to.

On Lebanon: I think Juan Cole continues to be the most readable pundit. His enemies on the American right have called him anything from a Chicken Little to an Anti-Semite; the one label they haven't been able to pin on him is "wrong". As a result, I'm very alarmed by the same things that alarm Professor Cole Justified defensive war, my foot.

On the crossroads of politics, blogs and comics, Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money, John Holbo at Crooked Timber and countless others have commented on recent Day By Day comics making very uninformed references to German philosophers such as Immanuel Kant. I have nothing to add except that if I ever hear "Why is the NY Times so anti-American?" as a conversation starter, I'm going to assume I've got heat stroke again and am hallucinating.

More on right-wing comics in a separate post.

September 15, 2006

Selling to SEOs

An interesting way of doing business: Cartoonist Ampersand has sold his domain to a Search Engine Optimiser who lets him continue to run his (excellent) blog and cartoonist pages in exchange for a link on the blog's front page and the ability to put whatever he wants (presumably link farms, but I haven't been able to find out yet) on new pages on the website.

I suppose it's as legit as any other form of sponsorship, and it sure beats having SEOs spamming their links on other people's blogs against their will. But one wonders if it wouldn't have been more effective for the SEO to buy a traditional sponsorship. What's one link to a blog about, in this case, handbags, on Amptoon's blog page worth in comparison to a well-placed ad, possibly drawn by Ampersand himself and integrated into the website, pointing directly to the product? Presumably the other stuff the SEO adds is worth more.

There is a risk involved that could cause Amp trouble for a long time to come. The reason I'm interested in this story at all is that the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Search Engine Optimization is spam. Comment spam and forum spams, the two blights on the Web that have caused me to spend many unpaid hours to clean up Waffle, Talk About Comics and, before Mithandir installed his latest honeypot-based comment spam blocker, the comments to Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. I know that's not entirely fair; there are forms of Search Engine Optimization that don't involve spam, and what Amp's buyer is doing could be one of them. But if the buyer is putting link farms on new pages within the amptoons.com domain, then these will themselves only become valuable if they're widely linked to, and that means there's a strong incentive for the new domain owner to spam. Actually, that applies to anything else he might put there - it can only be valuable for SEO purposes if it's widely linked to.
You don't want to be associated with a domain that's spammed in blog comments or forums. Or associated with spam in any form at all. It got the makers of the blogging software Wordpress in quite a bit of trouble and could end up doing the same to Ampersand.

October 12, 2006

Selling to SEOs part 2: ramifications

The controversy over Ampersand's sale of his domain to a Search Engine Optimiser has re-erupted, leading Amp to post a comment-enabled version of his original post. In my earlier report, I focused on the spammy side of the issue. There's an interesting asymmetry here: from the point of view of an SEO, buying a domain for its pagerank is a lot more ethical than many of the other things they could do and so one should commend SEOs for doing it. From the point of the domain order, it's still smelly to say the least. Today, I learned that Google thinks so too: Maxspeak, for example, was delisted for similar practices in September.

But this new flare-up is all about the porn, the porn and the porn. And the lack of disclosure in advance to the community using the blog. But mostly the porn, the misogyny of the porn, the racism of the porn, the violence of the porn and the porniness of the porn. It's not readily visible for a human being investigating the SEO-owned pages on amptoons.com (you need to click the quasi-hidden "reviews" link on the home page and then scroll, but from a search engine's point of view, the site is devoting quite a bit of linkage to porn. This has naturally divided the overwhelmingly anti-porn, feminist audience of the blog, leading to accusations of Amp being a sellout or, possibly worse, only ever having been interested in riding the feminist waves for his own personal gain and status in the first place. A lot of posters feel that the blog was and is as good as it is because of the community underpinning it - and it has to be said that it is one of few blogs where the comments don't make me run away screaming - which raises the issue of how much a person like Ampersand can still claim a blog that is arguably a group effort. On the other hand, if the community had its way, Alas would not have been the inclusive place it is, and a counterargument could be that the group effort only works because Ampersand spends a lot of his time protecting the community both against trollish intrusions and against itself. Also, the community process is consistently initiated by Ampersand, in his own time and at his own expense.

I'm sure there are things that Amp could have done differently. I'm sure he now thinks that this deal wasn't a smart thing to do. But it's done, it's not going to be reversed soon, and from reading the responses of some of the folks who have pledged not to come to the site again, I can only recommend that they don't let the door hit them on the way out.

Alas, A Blog is one of few weblogs that have changed the way I look at the world, even, no, especially on issues about which I disagree with the stances taken. For example, I don't agree with Ampersand's stand on the science concerning obesity, but his writing has made me more aware of the problem of fat hate and how it manifests itself in the media. Likewise with the recent spate of postings on disability by guest blogger Blue, which for me were a starting point to explore disability rights issues more. From where I'm standing, Ampersand's karma can take a few knocks.

An overview of the flamewar can be found at Creative Destruction. My previous post on the sale is listed under "Posts critical of Barry" (which I suppose goes to show that more people read my posts than I think - gosh, maybe I should do some more substantive writing again, some time), but compaed to some of the other posts listed, my criticism is very mild and cautious.

Update Amp was robbed. The SEO didn't keep his side of the bargain, which involved hosting amptoons.com on a dedicated server (scroll to bottom of post).

November 4, 2006

Uh, I think those Zdenek Burian drawings are public domain...

A while ago, I got an email request asking for permission to use a Zdenek Burian painting I had posted on my blog for a presentation.I told the requester that permission wasn't mine to give, but that I thought the work, having been made in a country that at the time was under Communist rule and not a signatory to the relevant international conventions, was probably either public domain or the property of the current Czech government. On second thought, I have no idea if that's actually true.
When I posted the images back in 2005, I did so because I had made the scans anyway, there seemed to be very little of his work online, and I liked showing them to my readers.
But today, during my routine cruise of Europe's most important news sources*), I saw one of my scans popping up in the Bulgarian Post, with a link back saying rocr.xepher.net was the source of the image. I don't particularly mind having one of my scans used as a source image, but it really should be credited to Zdenek Burian who made the art, and/or to whoever owns the rights to it now, if anyone does.


*)Lie. I was looking at my referral stats.

March 5, 2007

Quick links for monday

Chris Lightfoot is dead. I liked his weblog. He dropped off my radar a bit when he stopped posting frequently, but had he returned, I would have found out from many other bloggers linking to him enthusiastically. He only wrote when he had something to say, and when he did it was almost always good. I wasn't aware of his many other online roles (he was involved in Pledgebank and mySociety. I can only second mySociety's recommendation to

sift through his blog and marvel at the quantity of primary research and original coding that went into it. Documenting and exploring his work would provide material for many years of research, and yet all this was accomplished by the age of 28.

Chicken Yoghurt finds Britain’s bookworms misanthropic and death-fixated.

Digby on the latest round of bullshit claims that "Teh Left" is uncivil and hateful because, oh my stars and garters, Teh Left uses swears:

I have to admit that I'm even more surprised, however, that the manly warriors of the rightwing blogosphere are so genteel and restrained, which they seem inordinately proud of, as if they've won first prize from the Boston spinsters crochet society or something. There has always been a particular type of prissy conservative male who shares certain characteristics with fluttery Victorian ladies who get all breathless (and aroused) in the presence of muscular, earthy language. I didn't realize that the alleged he-men of the rightwing blogosphere were like this but I suppose I should have. It certainly explains why they haven't joined the military.

Me-ow!

And The Poor Man, a few days ago, ran a blogger's style guide to civility and seriousness.

Speaking of civility, read The Greatest Cliché: The Unexamined Propaganda of "Political Correctness" (via)

March 13, 2007

Not Safe For Prudes.

Reminder to self and others to read Susie Bright on NSFW warnings. Also, read comments. But first, bed.
(Via Pharyngula)

Update: What you really need to read is this earlier post in which Bright brings up the classism involved in deciding what does and does not get branded NSFW. Again, the comments are good.

April 23, 2007

Take Pharyngula to number one!

Sure, I'll help Pharyngula become the number one Minnesota blog, no problem. It's one of my favorite blogs, covering atheism, evolutionary biology, adorable cephalopods and lately, the thorny subject of how to talk about science (he's in favour of the revolutionary approach of letting scientists be scientists). There's the occasional bit of Internet drama, which also helps, and Professor Myers has got a good sense of humour and pulls no punches. Go read it. You will enjoy it. I ORDER you to enjoy it.

In the latest blog redesign, I ended up declaring "to hell with the blogroll day", but I still follow all the blogs that used to be on the published blogroll, and more. Never mind. I just about qualify as a Z-list blogger by default, because there aren't any more letters in the alphabet unless you start using the Scandinavian alphabet, in which case I'd be an æ-list blogger by default. And anyway, I like linking inside a post better.

April 27, 2007

Jon Swift has a drawing assignment for you

Jon Swift:


If Chris Muir drew Charles Schulz's Peanuts, for example, he wouldn't have bothered drawing a panel showing Lucy pulling the football away at the last minute when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. That would be too Old School for him. Instead, Muir would just have Lucy say, "Democrats always pull the football away at the last minute when you are trying to kick it, Charlie Brown." Lucy and Charlie Brown would also probably be in their underwear.

Internet meme in 5... 4... 3....

May 27, 2007

No more tentacled abominations, Denialism, Dispatches from the Culture Wars for now...

Someone forgot to renew a domain name, and that someone is Seed Magazine, who own Scienceblogs.com. The domain has already been snapped up by another organisation, who I shan't link to because they must have been preying over it like vultures to pick it up so quickly. Scumbags.

I hope someone's at least archived Pharyngula. There was a piece by PZ still showing up in Bloglines that I wanted to read, but it wasn't a full feed, so I kinda needed to be able to go to the site.

Let's hope this is resolved quickly.

November 5, 2007

Unspeak

Via Pete Ashton, I heard that there's such a thing as an Unspeak blog, a blog about "state-of-the-art rhetorical weaponry". So I check it out, it is there, and it is fantastic. I'm not going to single out any one post - just go read the entire archive.

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