mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea

October 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Spent spare time today reading about blogs and blogging. As I evaluate my efforts according to some of the experts, I give myself a grade of B+. Ignoring the experts, who probably would hold their noses and call L-HC a D+.

Because, of course, there are so few readers. And of course, there’s no monetization going on (just as well, since there are so few readers). So, why bother?

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that the millions of bloggers out there are primarily, with some gaudy exceptions, keeping personal journals. A custom, and habit, recently revived from the eighteenth and 19th centuries.

The difference is that what used to be kept locked up in a desk or closet is now published to the world in a technological tour de force unprecedented in history. And no quill pens, ink wells and blotters required.

Quantitatively, even with billions of potential readers out there, most of the millions of blogs and bloggers will go unnoticed.

Qualitatively, most of us deserve the lack of notice.

But, this newly awakened urge to write, for most of us, is probably not about notice. It’s about expression.

After scores of years passively accepting written and broadcast news and entertainment, we’re once again entertaining ourselves, by writing.

And our diaries, no longer locked away in desk drawers, hang out as strings of electronic plankton just waiting for an admiring public to suck them in through the baleen called Firefox.

For most of us a few people pop in occasionally, and once in a while a small fraction of those take the trouble to comment about what they’ve read.

Thanks for noticing!

And, thanks, also, to the experts, whose blogs about blogging make for interesting reading.

A few who made an impression (in no particular sequence), a couple of whom have today earned a spot in the L-HC blogroll blogroll2 :

Any of these are worthy of some time and attention, should you be interested in improving your game, or joining this phenomenon of the Naughts: the electronic diary.

And yes, I’m an easy grader. The B+ is because I enjoy reading what I write.

A hobby that gives one pleasure (and prevents one’s brains leaking out due to any exposure to “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”) seems like a worthy end in itself, regardless of its infinitesimal interest outside this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And if this hobby fills a few moments of a few intrepid readers’ spare time, sparing them from “CSI Omaha,” how bad can it be?

Not bad at all. B+ for sure.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm144: WIWICWLT #4

September 16, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Wow! I wish I could write like that!

We’ll keep this short. Almost choked on my lunch today while catching up with the best magazine on the planet, The Economist.

In an otherwise sober story about motorcycle gangs in England (who knew?) the following sentence appears:

… The victim, G[…], was a member of the Hells Angels, a biker gang that has a difficult relationship with the law (and with apostrophes)….

Wow! I wish I could write like that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm135: Process, again

September 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Couple of months ago, we wrote about the process of blogging, as we understood it after about 2½ months of consistent posting.

Not sure that understanding has increased, although the consistency has remained. At least in frequency, if not quality.

The quality thing can always be improved.

Received a modest number of hits in the past four months; averages about 16 per day, day in and out. A couple of times about 90. A bunch of times, a loyal few. Some of the early weeks — totaled 20.

Thanks, loyal few!

Where do those statistics come from, you may wonder? From our weblog host, WordPress.com.

What a terrific organization! Hosting at this site is free. Support has been superlative.

Two examples: Recently registered at a site that promised to promote this blog. (Early days yet and the jury is still out — so a more complete mention will wait for a future process episode.)

L-HC was rejected. Why? They reported that L-HC was not interpreted correctly due to a bug (go figure!) in Internet Explorer v6. We never saw it, because we run v7 at the CurmudgeonDungeon (say that 10 times quickly!).

At work next day, pulled up the site on the office PC (something we try not to do because we’re not at all sure that freedom of expression in a blogging context exists there) to verify the issue; sure enough, the sidebar contents fell to the very bottom of the lengthy page. A very ugly look.

So, I contacted WordPress support. Got a prompt answer: Yes, it’s a bug in IE6, usually caused by graphic elements of excessive width in the main panel. Maximum such width for our theme, Contempt (wonderfully appropriate for a curmudgeon — and one of WordPress’ most popular themes) was stated as 460 pixels.

Thus, I needed to go back into the bowels of history to find the offending post(s). A big task, that took some time to get to (this is supposed to be a hobby, right?).

Finally, a couple of weeks later got around to rooting around in the past, a job made reasonably easy by WordPress and a member of MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame, Windows Live Writer.

Found a couple of potential offending graphics, resized them with an ancient, paid for version of Paint Shop Pro, and all seemed okay in IE6. Reapplied to the promotion site, was accepted this time, and am gradually figuring out what makes that site tick.

But the point: the rapid response from WordPress support, considering that their census of blogs they host is up substantially from last reported on 21-July-2007:

wordpress7721

Take a look at today’s stat:

wordpress7909

A 20% increase in 50 days!

And yet, got an answer within hours to my query.

Last weekend, WordPress was experiencing some kind of problem, because several posts did not land cleanly. The result, a lack of synchronization between Windows Live Writer and the blog on WordPress. Thought it was me.

Sent off a query. Got a response within hours seeking further information. Replied with a clarification of the incident, and received a response to the reply within a very short time, promising some research.

Received another response shortly, admitting a WordPress.com server timing issue, since repaired, and all has been well since.

The point is not that they had an issue on their side. The point is, with nearly 1.5million sites, they still could respond so promptly, courteously and effectively.

Thus we proudly announce an update to MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame:

blogginghallv2

WordPress.com has vaulted to the top of MUDGE‘s list, not to make any less of numbers two and three, used to great effect every post.

And, the price for the entire suite is right: $0.00. Can’t beat that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm133: Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books

September 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The concept of electronic books has always been promising, and never yet delivered in a practical, affordable form.

But, they keep trying:

nytimes

By BRAD STONE

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 5 — Technology evangelists have predicted the emergence of electronic books for as long as they have envisioned flying cars and video phones. It is an idea that has never caught on with mainstream book buyers.

Two new offerings this fall are set to test whether consumers really want to replace a technology that has reliably served humankind for hundreds of years: the paper book.

In October, the online retailer Amazon.com will unveil the Kindle, an electronic book reader that has been the subject of industry speculation for a year, according to several people who have tried the device and are familiar with Amazon’s plans. The Kindle will be priced at $400 to $500 and will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site.

That is a significant advance over older e-book devices, which must be connected to a computer to download books or articles.

Also this fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users.

Amazon and Google would not comment on their plans, and neither offering is expected to carve out immediately a significant piece of the $35-billion-a-year book business. But these new services, from two Internet heavyweights, may help to answer the question of whether consumers are ready to read books on digital screens instead of on processed wood pulp.

“Books represent a pretty good value for consumers. They can display them and pass them to friends, and they understand the business model,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research, who is skeptical that a profitable e-book market will emerge anytime soon.

The concept is wonderful: in a package the size of one book one could tote around an entire library.

The reality: this has not been a product that has rewarded early adopters.

Let me count the ways: Too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive.

But, electronics keep getting: smaller; lighter; more energy efficient; cheaper.

So, why no world-beater e-book yet?

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books – New York Times

Were MUDGE a road warrior, an e-book would be tempting. Indeed, the older of two official younger brothers of MUDGE, a globe-trotting road warrior if ever was (actually both brothers maintain 7-digit frequent flyer miles accounts — a way of life older-bro would run screaming away from), glommed onto the RocketBook (I’m recalling) a decade or so ago.

Wonderful concept; okay execution for the late 90s. Probably soon discarded.

But, we know that there are zillions of road warriors out there, but who else, really, is a potential consumer of these products, even should [too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive] get solved? Amazon’s “Kindle” seems like an optimized version of a tablet computer — again, the road warrior’s weapon of choice.

But, if I’m at home, or at the office, wouldn’t I rather open up a book or magazine, and read that black type on white paper?

Of course, what does it mean that so many people spend so much time reading on their computers?

It’s different. I consider this short-attention-span reading, provided by folks like yours truly, a short-attention-span writer.

(BTW, the younger of the aforesaid official younger brothers is said to be working on a novel — a long attention span feat well beyond MUDGE‘s capacity or ambitions. I’m impressed!)

Case in point: a favorite read, Gregg Easterbrook, writing as ESPN Page Two’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback, is good for 9,000 words per week during the NFL season. TMQ I print and read offline. It’s just more comfortable.

Is there potential value on the back end? Sure, in the same way that, in a perfect world, a fee for purchasing music on iTunes might be smaller for the buyer, and potentially more lucrative for the creator, since there’s less costly production and distribution between artist and consumer. Might. Sigh.

A way for writers to achieve readership without someone’s investment in the industrial revolution’s basically obsolete bricks and mortar of production, distribution and retailing?

Well, it’s called blogging. This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere just crossed 2,000 total lifetime (active for exactly four months today) hits. Obviously, and with my gratitude, a few loyal readers.

But more exposure than this curmudgeon ever expected to achieve in his short-attention-span writing career.

How would I look on paper? Certainly not worth the trees, even if paper is totally recyclable.

And how would Left-Handed Complement look on a “Kindle?” I wouldn’t spend $400-500 plus media fees to find out.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm122: Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations. – By Evan Eisenberg – Slate Magazine

August 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

Did you ever read a novel, a newspaper or magazine article, a blog posting and say: “Wow, I wish I could write like that!”?

I had one of those WIWICWLT! moments the other day, when I encountered this outstanding music review in Slate. And, I don’t usually read music reviews, in Slate, or anywhere else.

Evan Eisenberg absolutely made me want to get out there and buy the music CD described. And believe MUDGE when he tells you that purchasing a classical music CD is probably the least likely act he might have been tempted to commit in these budget constrained times before reading this story.

Move over Glenn Gould, here’s Simone Dinnerstein.

By Evan Eisenberg
Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 3:54 PM ET

Goldberg Variations

slate

The year was 1955. Three things happened: Albert Einstein died, and Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations.

It is difficult to describe the impact of the second event, in part because I was a fetus at the time. (The third event, of course, was my birth.) But I will try. For those of us—beatniks, philistines, fetuses—who thought of classical music as something powdered and periwigged, that slab of vinyl struck with the force of a meteor. The stegosaurs who played Bach as if he were Lawrence Welk sniffed the heady, pomade-purged air and keeled, metaphorically, over. The Cretaceous Age of Music had ended. The Age of Gould had begun.

We hear a lot about meteoric careers, but Gould’s—his concert career—really was. In 1964, at the height and breadth of his fame, he renounced the stage to devote himself to making records. Two years later he set forth the method to his madness in an essay in High Fidelity titled “The Prospects of Recording.” In prose of a puckish fustiness as distinctive as his playing, he made three predictions: One: that recording would supplant live performance. Two: that much of the real action, musically speaking, would take place in the studio. Three: that, as technologies of sound manipulation got better and cheaper, the line between artist and audience would be smudged and maybe even—in a distant, Gouldtopian future—erased.

During the course of the lengthy read (well worth it) there are several illuminating recorded samples (I just love the the linking capabilities of the web! But you know that about me — you haven’t forgotten about the sequitur already, have you?).

Please read and enjoy.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations. – By Evan Eisenberg – Slate Magazine

My current Pandora.com addiction notwithstanding (and, I do mean an addiction — it was on all day at work, and on now as I write this; find out more here and here and even here), I am, have been, and always will be a classical music person (listener — not performer!).

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler: my desert island fare. And, Glenn Gould was a god.

Everything else is commentary.

Sounds like the topic for a future blog post or 60.

Anyway, open up your mind and listen. Soon as post this I’m heading over to Amazon to buy the reviewed Simone Dinnerstein recording of the Goldberg Variations.

And isn’t Evan Eisenberg one hell of a writer?

Another thing: One feels that Dinnerstein was, from the start, playing for someone—unlike Gould, who played for himself and maybe, if he was in a sociable mood, Bach. Gould was one of the first classical musicians to master the mode of phonography I’ve called “cool”: Rather than reach out to the listener, he lets the listener come to him. Dinnerstein’s performance is anything but cool; it glows with a warmth that I will, with difficulty, restrain myself from calling maternal. Yet it has its own profound inwardness. Dinnerstein sheds some light on this: “When you’re pregnant, you’re aware of having somebody else there, but it’s also very much you. In a way, the most playing for yourself you could possibly do is playing with a baby inside.”

WIWICWLT!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.

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