Friday, November 30, 2007

A Pavlovian Response to Comments

Amidst the general nonsense posted on this blog about things like politics, cooking, cats, hamsters, football, etc., I'm doing a much less accessible series on bringing blogs and wikis into your workplace. As those are aimed at a very narrow readership, those receive very few comments. Contrast that with the other posts where the usual crew of beloved commenters pile in and leave their 2, 4 or even 6 cents with the occasional extra visitor adding their views. The difference is quite striking.

Without comments, blogging can be a pretty lonely sport. I would bet that once a blogger finds a theme which causes their readers to leave comments, there's a significant motivation to continue that topic almost to the exclusion of others. I know that happens with me.

There was a story (it may have been an urban legend) about a university professor whose students played a trick on him over the course of a semester. Every time he moved to his right during his lectures, the students sat up straight and paid attention. Every time he moved to his left, the students slumped down, looked bored and let their eyes wander. By the end of the semester, the professor was giving his lectures leaning against the right hand wall.

I wonder if you could do that with a blog and conspiring as a group to leave comments on one kind of post or another.

Can You Stay Home Today?

It's a rainy day today and our Maximum Leader can't go outside and have her usual fun. As I got ready to leave today, I got this forlorn look from her.

Would you stay home and play with me?

For more plaintive pussy cats, visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Just Call Me Coach

So I've just been named my daughter's school soccer team's coach. Yay!

I've managed three Little League baseball teams and they all ended up in first place. Yay!

I know very little about soccer. Yay?

After a season of my expert coaching, I fully expect the girls to look like this.

Part of the Logistics of Illegal Immigration

Millions of Mexicans and other foreign nationals enter this country every year across our southern border. When you read the numbers, they don't tell the whole story. For one thing, the immigration is not evenly distributed across the entire border. For another, what do all those millions of people do with their trash and other waste?

Wollf has the story and the pictures.

Where's the Sierra Club when you need them?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The YouTube Republican Debate Circus

So last night as I drove around I heard a bit of the beginning of the debate while listening to our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt. When I got home, I cruised over to Ann Althouse's blog, pointed there by the Puppy Blender, and participated in her brilliantly conceived liveblogging of the debate.

Ann put up an introductory post and then liveblogged it along with her readers in the comments. I thought that was ingenious. Once I decided to play along, I tuned in to the silly thing on CNN. I think I lasted through about four questions before I wandered off to watch some of my favorite scenes from The Road to Bali for the umpteenth time. Bob and Bing were infinitely better than that creepy metrosexual, Anderson Cooper. (Incidentally, is he a woman?)

Here's my take on the debate.

1. CNN, completely mystified by anything to the right of Noam Chomsky, picked questions that played to a caricature of conservatives. "Why do you hate Mexicans? Why do you hate Muslims? Do you believe every word of the Bible?"

Here are some analogous questions for the Democrats.

Hillary: What's better, a sale at Nordstroms or an outlet store?


John Edwards: Can you draft behind an ambulance like they do in NASCAR?

If the goal was really to help voters make a decision, then the Republicans got awful questions. Of course, the whole format isn't designed to do anything other than create brief, content-free conflict on a stage because...

2. No one works like this in real life. Can you imagine a CEO walking into a meeting and finding out the topic only after he has sat down? I can just see President Fred Thompson's agenda put together by CNN.

0800-0830: Review why you hate Mexicans.
0830-0930: Exchange 30-second insults with others over randomly chosen subjects.
0930-1030: Read the Bible and plan your theocratic takeover of the world.

There's no way a voter can get a sense of the philosophical foundations of the candidates when they have at most 90 seconds to answer and the question comes out of left field. For me, there are really only five topics worth hearing about from the candidates.

  • The Islamofascists both in terror cells and host nations want to kill us all and are trying to obtain nuclear weapons. What should we do?

  • The nation will be bankrupted by transfer payment obligations in about 20 years. What should we do?

  • As Senator Edwards says, there really are two Americas, the rich and the poor. What's the cause and what should we do?

  • Describe the cost-benefits trade offs for illegal immigration. What should we do about it?

  • Developing nations like China are poisoning the globe with pollution. It's affecting us in a variety of ways. What should we do?
Can any of these be answered in 90 seconds and then countered in 30? Seriously, can they?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mac vs. PC

The Wall Street Journal is currently auto-running one of those incredibly irritating Mac vs. PC ads on it's front page. I have to turn the sound down every time I go there to get away from the thing. In honor of that event, here's another of Laurie McGuinness' great Mac vs. PC ad spoofs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Call Godzilla! Giant, Prehistoric Jellyfish are Attacking Japan

No kidding. Dig this (but excuse the preliminary ad from the WSJ site).


Jellyfish that are 6' in diameter?!? Don't be surprised if you see this photo from Tokyo very soon.

Godzilla stops for a snack on his way to Tokyo Bay to fight off the jellyfish.

Here's the original story from the WSJ.

Can a Dolphin be Snakebit?

I suffered through a good deal of last night's dreadful Steelers-Dolphins game, hoping to see the Dolphins finally win. I'm not a Dolphins fan, I just don't want to see them go 0-16. Of course, they lost, 3-0 on a last-second field goal. In the course of the game, the Dolphins, already wracked by injuries, lost two of their three running backs to more injuries. In a mud-clogged game where running was just about their only option, they lost almost all of their running backs. Unreal.

Is this the snake that bit the Dolphins?

If it wasn't for bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all.

Photo hosted and owned by naturephoto-cz.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Floundering With a Post About Foreclosures

In today's Wall Street Journal is a page one article about political activists pressuring lenders to stop foreclosures on borrowers who are part of the subprime loans mess. One activist group is ACORN whose 10-point plan for dealing with the foreclosures includes no consequences for the borrowers. I've struggled for over an hour trying to write this post, but I just had to give you this tiny tidbit from the WSJ article.
In Granada Hills, Calif., Natalie Brandon is fighting to keep the three-bedroom ranch house she bought in 1985 for $105,000. Mrs. Brandon, 51, does medical billing for doctors; her husband is a dispatcher for a local gas utility. Last year, she got a $625,500 mortgage from Argent, now owned by Citigroup. Her 7.99% interest rate isn't set to rise until next June, but she already is behind on payments.
The house was bought for $105K about 22 years ago and they now owe $625K?!? Where did that money go? That means they took out over $500,000 in cash on the property. They didn't buy a house back in 1985, they bought a bank they thought they could withdraw from endlessly. Had they just paid their first mortgage, they'd be 8 years away from owning the house outright and their payment, assuming a 30-year, 7% mortgage, would be $764 per month.

What's wrong with this picture?

A New Photo Spread!

The other night, our human blogger and I had another photo session and let me tell you, I was on fire. We got some great shots of me helping in the kitchen which will go into an upcoming post with our household spaghetti recipe. In the meantime, here's a tease.

One of the keys to good cooking is making sure you have good ingredients. Here, I'm checking out one of our home-grown red bell peppers.

My Parking at Work Song

When my MG B is finally on the road again, I'll need a sound system with a phono jack so I can play this song every time I pull into the parking lot at work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Texans Win!

Note: As a result of a lost bet, this post must stay at the top for a week. We are still blogging, so you'll have to scroll down a bit to see the newest posts. Justin's Houston Texans beat my New Orleans Saints on Sunday, so it's time for me to pay up.

No question about it, they were the better team as they beat the Saints, 23-10. Go Texans!

A Manly Paradise

For the next three hours I shall experience Manly Nirvana as I work on my MG B, listen to the New Orleans Saints game over the Internet through my mammoth sound system in the garage and keep the garage TV tuned to the Tampa Bay - Washington game with the sound down.

Is there anything better than working on a British sports car?
Glorious!

Early Episodes of Sesame Street are Unsafe for Kids

Remove all hard edges from your house and encase yourself in pillows! That's the only way you can stay safe and safety, after all, is the most important thing in the world.
As reported the the NY Times today, two volumes of old “Sesame Street” episodes recently released on DVD come with the following helpful warning label: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
Fiat Lux has the whole story. Stop by and check it out.

Update: If you've got a comment to leave, would you mind leaving it at Fiat Lux? Comments are manna from heaven for bloggers and she found the story and deserves a little manna.

Movie Review: Dan in Real Life

Short version: Dan in Real Life is a funny, touching movie with strong pro-family messages. It's so clean you could bring the Pope to it and not be embarassed. Some of the movie is contrived and corny, but so what? So was It's a Wonderful Life and that's a classic. Dan in Real Life gets a big thumbs up from the 'Post.

Longer version: Whoa! Dan hit me right between the eyes. The lead character is almost taken from my life. As I watched it unfold, I heard dialog from my family and watched scenes from my past. It was a very loving and accurate portrayal of being a single dad, trying to make things work. The film is very strong morally and shows a side of Hollywood I hadn't seen in years.

Incidentally, in the trailers prior to the movie, there was an ad for a movie where a high school girl gets pregnant and goes through the process of deciding whether or not to give her child up for adoption. The trailer alone had a strong pro-life message, showing the girl watching sonograms and so forth. Hooray for Hollywood!

Dan lacks a villain, but does not lack a plot or a brisk pace. You can see most of the plot turns coming a mile away, but that doesn't make the movie any less enjoyable. I suppose that's a great credit to the cast, who play their parts with such energy that the whole movie is suffused with a sense of joy.

I had some nits to pick and one issue with the main character, but in retrospect, they're not worth writing. The cast and the crew gave me a fun two hours. How perfect do you have to be, anyway? The movie is worth seeing. If you go see it, stop by and let me know what you thought.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dirty Sexy Money

I just saw an ad for the show with that title. It's an ABC drama series and I have no idea what it's about other than the clues the title gives me. The promo had attractive rich people pouting, posturing and necking. There was also some old geezer, I think it was Donald Sutherland, looking ominous and evil.

I think they're being too subtle. I'd like to see a new series with the title, "Totally Hot 20-Somethings Take Their Clothes Off and Have Car Chases."

I think that would be a hit.

Hillary Clinton - Bringer of Bone Marrow

Hillary's campaign is now running this commercial:


Over at Ann Althouse's blog (where I found this thing) a commenter remarked that a bone marrow transplant runs about $372,000. The hospital didn't absorb anything. All of us did. And no, their insurance companies didn't pay for it. The insurance companies get the money from your employer who gets it from you. You paid for this kid's bone marrow transplant. Hillary didn't do any more than strong arm the hospital in the manner of the great dictators of the past. Which leads us to Hillary's theme song!


The message here is that if we elect Hillary, even bone marrow will be distributed by the government.

Update: There was a time when it was a matter of pride for a man to earn what he received. Note the complete lack of humility in this fellow as he brags about getting the rest of us to pay for his kid's treatment. Can you imagine Jimmy Stewart delivering lines like this?

The more I think about it, the more I wonder what the real story is here. Why didn't his insurance company cover it? One would think that he'd have catastrophic coverage for his kids. Did the insurance company just try to screw him out of the payment? Did he not have proper coverage? Whatever happened, it's hard to see how it's the hospital's fault.

Maybe instead of passing the costs on to us, the hospital laid off a nurse, a janitor and a doctor to pay for it. These three could appear in Hillary's next ad where they talk about the delicious government soup they received at the downtown kitchen in Skid Row, thanks to Hillary.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Passing 100,000 Visitors

The Scratching Post will pass the 100,000 visit mark some time this week. Hopefully, it will occur on this week's World of Good post.

I want to thank all of you for coming by and reading the 'Post. Your visits, comments and participation mean a lot to me. I've learned a great deal through this blog, but without your visits, I would have quit a long time ago. I owe a debt of gratitude to every one of you, even the anonymous visitors who came in via Google searches. It's been the traffic counts that have kept me going and trying new things.

My life is richer because of you.

Update: Here's my live hit count. Yay!

Update 2: Around noon on the 23rd and we're just inches away!

Update 3: Whoohoo! Visit 100,000 occurred at 11:41AM on November 23, 2007. It was from Lewisville, Texas by someone searching Yahoo for "feline scratch post" and coming in to this Carnival of the Cats. They must have been completely confused. Hooray for confusion!

Thanks, everyone. And Wollf? You can have a hairball any time. :-)

A Little-Known Fact About Embryonic Stem Cell Research

In the NYT article discussing the recent scientific breakthrough that makes the harvesting of embryonic stem cells obsolete is this important passage:
Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate.

And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo.

The fact is, Dr. Thomson said in an interview, he had ethical concerns about embryonic research from the outset, even though he knew that such research offered insights into human development and the potential for powerful new treatments for disease.

“If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough,” he said. “I thought long and hard about whether I would do it.”
Amidst all the screaming about how important it was to harvest stem cells from embryos, I had never heard that the originator of the technique had serious moral misgivings about it. From what the press reported, it sounded like the scientists doing it were racing eagerly to throw as many embryos as possible into the Cuisinart to get at the stem cells.

H/T: The A VC blog.

On the Moral Value of Post Secret

The Idea Festival blog turned me on to the Post Secret blog. Post Secret publishes anonymous post cards that reveal some secret about the sender. As I wrote a comment at Idea Festival, I came to the conclusion that Post Secret is fundamentally in support of evil. Here's why.

Some of the cards at Post Secret provide a very sad and distorted view of the world. We are all sinning creatures, but to gain a view into the internal mechanisms of sin warps reality. Yes, most of the postcards deal with people who have done or thought wicked things, but the fact that they're writing these anonymously and not shouting them, it reveals some concern for the feelings of others.

Also, the PostSecret site seems heavily skewed in favor of evil. No one's going to write a post card to them that says, "I've passed on 18 oppotunities for infidelity to my wife because she is worthy of the most sacred love I can give" because they can simply say that out loud.

And they do say that in words and deeds, every day, all around you.

PostSecret supports evil by making it seem far more common that it really is. By making things like infidelity or lying seem more common, you give individuals excuses to do those things themselves. At some time in our lives, we have all seduced ourselves into bad deeds with the rationale, "Everyone else is doing it, we shouldn't I?"

Post Secret also has some beautiful cards, like the ones where the guys says he's going to propose to his girl at certain a place and time or someone writes a corny, but heartfelt statement of faith.

It's kind of a mixed bag, but I still get the feeling that it provides a basis for the acceptance of evil. Am I over-reacting?

A Facebook and LinkedIn Update

Facebook may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I just don't have time for it. One of my new Facebook friends keeps posting things for me to look at, but I haven't gone to see them. I'm too busy doing other things to go there. LinkedIn is far less frantic. With LinkedIn, I get invitations to join networks and once I've linked to someone, the traffic stops. I think LinkedIn has a more profession-oriented clientele. Facebook seems to be focused on socialization. My time for socializing online is already filled up, so Facebook is just an annoyance.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Tangsgiving!

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Tangsgiving!

Tang. A Tangsgiving tradition.

Err, Jacob?
Yes, K T?

It's Thanksgiving, not Tangsgiving.
It is?

Yep.
Then why do we have the Tang?

Coincidence.
Coincidence?

Coincidence.
Well then, that changes everything. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

From all of us at The Scratching Post!


Update: The Modulator included this in this week's Friday Ark. What a nice guy!

The Navy Rescues North Koreans from Somali Pirates

I don't know how many of you heard this story, but this is a great testament to America in general and the US Navy in particular.
Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia...Three corpsman, accompanied by armed Sailors and a Williams crew member who spoke Korean, boarded the Dai Hong Dan from a rigid hull inflatable boat. The corpsman assisted wounded crew members and attackers. Three Koreans were transported to the Williams for medical attention before being returned to their ship.

Go Navy!

There's been an ongoing discussion with new commenter aon in this post. Aon implicitly questioned the accuracy of the theme of the great US Torture and Atrocities blog and instead links to this Forbes story about American torture of prisoners as more symbolic of America's behavior. I'd direct the pleasant and well-informed Aon to this blog post as well about the US Navy's involvement in the recovery of Banda Aceh following the tsunami a few years back.

In this story, we see the Navy helping North Koreans whose government has threatened us with a "sea of fire" as well as giving medical aid to the Somali pirates who murderously prey upon shipping in the area. That's America. Fantastic military power managed by deeply moral people guided by Christian beliefs.

Hat Tips: Photo from NavSource Online. Thanks to Captain Ed for his link to the story above.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

World of Good, Outside In Style

If you're a child or young adult and your parents abuse you, what do you do? Driven to depseration by the pain meted out by the people who should love and support you, you might decide to run away and live on the streets. Sometimes being homeless is a better option than staying in a home that has become a nightmare. Outside In is a group in Portland, Oregon that tries to give just such youth a chance to get off the streets.

At BlogWorld Expo two weeks ago, I met a young woman who worked with CNRG Portland, "a resource network for engaging people in the nonprofit community." She recommended I highlight Outside In in a World of Good (WOG) post. That was a great suggestion.

Outside In is a charity organization that tries to help the homeless youth get off the streets and into productive, healthy lives. Here's a good introduction to who they serve and how.


I usually post excerpts from the website of the subject of the WOG, but Outside In has such an elegant and well-written one that I'll just link to them and let you surf over and check them out. They boast an excellent success rate and seem to truly care for these kids.

What struck me as I watched the video was how few survival skills teenagers have when they're in this situation. I've often wondered what I would do if I were homeless and for me, getting off the street would be pretty easy. As I watched the kids' stories in this video, it occurred to me that my life skills in everything from healthy habits to financial management are things that an abused teenager would lack. Heck, the kids from fatherless homes I coached couldn't even catch a baseball. Imagine how unskilled a child from an abusive home would be. The primary skills you would develop would be avoiding punishment and escaping reality.

Outside In brings these homeless youth back into the real world and productive society. That's got to be considered doing a World of Good.

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

They Must be Italian Birds

I've been too lazy to pick and dry the leaves from my basil plant, so it has gone to seed, much to the delight of the local birds.

You'll probably have to click on the photo to see the bird well.

The young lady in that photo was happily munching away on basil seeds right above my oregano plant. All I could think of was Rod Stewart's great song, Italian Girls. Unfortunately, the backdrop for that photo is the junk heap on my side yard where I keep my scrap wood and trash can lids. Not very elegant for such a lovely Italian lady, but there wasn't much I could do about it without scaring them all away. Her beau was right nearby and he wore a splendid red cravat, but his photos didn't come out well at all.

Telecommuting may Solve our Energy Problems

...but the bed still won't get made.

I worked from home yesterday because my daughter was out sick. She was probably well enough to go to school, but she had a bad sore throat in the morning. She never complains so I decided to let her stay home rather than risk her suffering during Thanksgiving. I had constant feline supervision as I worked.

Our Maximum Leader kept me under close watch to make sure I wasn't messing around.

Of course, if your boss is laying on the bed, you don't dare tell them to get their fat, lazy butts off so you can make it.

For more felines managing the world, visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Her Birthday, but the Troops get the Gifts

Linda over at Something...and Half of Something is celebrating her birthday and is asking for presents. For others. That sounds like a World of Good.

A Change in Terror Alert Levels

I just received this crucial information that I felt I had to pass on to you.

From Reuters in London, dated 19th November, 2007:
Our London correspondent reports that, in light of recent terrorist threats, the British authorities have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." It would appear that security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out.

In the meantime terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance". The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning was during the great fire of 1666.

In France, the French authorities also announced that it had raised its terror level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's only white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the French and English that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing". Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides".

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany has increased it's alert from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress In Uniform And Sing Marching Songs". They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they have to worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are in a high state of excitement following the deployment of their new submarine fleet. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a good view of the old Spanish navy.

Washington has announced that there will be no change to the strategy that has served the country so well over the last 100 years. A spokesperson confirmed that the guiding principles remained as "Sit on the fence until you know who is winning" followed by "Bomb everything to rubble and then find out who's side they were on".
You're welcome.

Catfish Gumbo

Welcome to another recipe review here at The Scratching Post! I'm Jacob the Syrian Hamster, scurrying this way and that across the kitchen counter to bring you hints and tips to make some online recipes even better.

Last night we made Catfish Gumbo from this recipe over at The Catfish Institute. The end result was delicious and both of the children in this house ate it with delight. Here are my modifications to the recipe.

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil to saute the vegetables. That is way too much. 1/8 cup would have been just fine. When I saw that amount of oil, I cut it down, but still not enough. The liquid released by the vegetables as they cook will provide enough lubrication to prevent burning. I used a red peper instead of a green one since that's what I had in my garden and I pureed the onion to accomodate the kids' concerns about seeing them.

The recipe calls for vegetables measured in cups. To me, that's an irrational unit of measurement for vegetables. I used 1 onion, 1 pepper and 3 celery stalks. That gets you close enough to the measurements they give to produce the desired result. This is cooking, after all, not the DuPont chemisty lab.

I did not use the cayenne pepper, but allowed everyone to add Cajun hot sauce to their bowls. That worked fine and accomodated those who don't like anything spicy.

Lastly, we were short of time, so I simmered the vegetables for only 30 minutes instead of 30, but I cooked the gumbo with the catfish added for the full 15 minutes the recipe called for. It turned out just fine.

All in all, the recipe gets a big thumbs up from us.

Fred Thompson on the War on Terror

Fred gave a great interview to Roger Simon and Bob Owens of Pajamas Media. The video is available here at Pajamas Media. As far as I can tell, this video cannot be embedded on other blogs. In any case, it's another great performance by Fred where he emphasizes being honest about the costs and sacrifices necessary to defeat the terrorists. He has a bunch of great points. It's worth taking the time to watch it.

Compare and contrast this with any of the other candidates, specifically the Democrats' vapid rhetoric.

Update: I got a link from the Fred File! Yay! Let me share with you some of the reasons I am a strong supporter of Fred.
  • He is a strong supporter of Federalism. I don't think I should be telling the people of Maine what to do any more than absolutely necessary and I don't want them telling San Diegans what to do, either. We're all pretty smart and we can figure out what works for us.

  • Three words: honesty, honesty, honesty. Fred is the only candidate out there talking about the fiscal crisis we face because we are spending too much. Unlike certain Mitt Romneys I could mention, Fred is not suggesting we audit the government only to find out we spend too much. Fred is talking about concrete reductions in spending.

  • Did I mention honesty? Fred talks about the responsibilities that parents have in educating their kids. More and more and more education spending isn't going to do it.

  • Fred understands the need to recapitalize our armed forces. Our platforms are old and getting older. They won't run forever and as they age, the maintenance costs go up. Fred gets it.

  • I am strongly pro-life, but I am against the constitutional amendment to protect life. I don't think a civil war of screaming like the one that would come from an amendment debate is necessary to change hearts and minds.
There's lots more, but that's a first list off the top of my head. Go Fred!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's a Football Feeding Frenzy!

I'm listening to the Saints-Texans over the Internet, watching the Falcons-Buccaneers updates on NFL.com, watching the Chargers-Jaguars on TV with the sound off and Twittering trash talk with Justin about the Saints-Texans game.

Glorious!

Update: The New Orleans Saints make me nauseous.

Cheezburger of the Day

This one made a bunch of us at work laugh out loud. I guess that makes it an lolcat. Say, someone should get on top of that idea right away!

Here's a great alternate caption for that picture.

The Feline Theocracy Rejoices Yet Again!

Let the bells ring out with joy for another blogger is about to enter into the Theocracy!

Well, let's make them dinner bells, have them ring quietly and herald the arrival of tuna. Lots of tuna. Lots and lots of tuna.

Greetings to all who thirst of knowledge, wisdom and guidance! The Feline Theocracy is here to satisfy your hunger for the truth. Today we announce another member of the Theocracy, someone we regard as a very close friend.

Our Maximum Leader in full Theocratic regalia.

Without further ado, we hereby grant Todd from Mobloggin please the title of Apian Apostle. There are two key features to communicating with Todd. The first is that conversations with him are the equivalent of following a swarm of bees. They're going somewhere and going there with purpose and determination, you just can't tell where that is until they arrive. The second is that no matter how oblique his attack on a problem may be, in some strange, non-Euclidean universe, Todd is always right.

Each member of the Feline Theocracy is given permission to post this handsome graphic on their blogs, designed by the Official Artist of the Theocracy, Justin.

Long live the Theocracy! Tuna and sunbeams for all!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's Caturday!

...and today's festivities began with the traditional Rolling Around on the Cement!



For more feline fun, visit this week's Carnival of the Cats.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wow

As a Catholic, this moved me deeply.

Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”
If you haven't seen this image yet, you need to. It's our generation's version of the Marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi.
The story is here.

Henry the Eighth

I was just listening to some Herman's Hermits on YouTube while composing a post when I came across this gem. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Momentous Day of Joy in the Feline Theocracy

Greetings to all existing Feline Theocraticians, penitents, novitiates and wanderers of the blogosphere thirsting for the truth! You are all warmly welcomed to the headquarters of the Feline Theocracy to join us in a momentous occasion. Today we announce new members of the Theocracy and proudly display a new honor bestowed upon us.

Our Maximum Leader in full Theocratic regalia.

First, in gratitude for loyal service to the Theocracy, we would like to grant new titles to the following bloggers.

Wollf of Howling at the Moon is granted the title, Pater of Prowling. He will doubtlessly be prowling very soon, so we're hoping this title gives him confidence in his pursuits.

For her tireless pursuit of polticial corruption, Rose of WatchPaul is named our Grand Inquisitor.

The team blog, Beers with Demo, ably maintained by Dean and B-Daddy, is hereby named the Feline Theocracy's Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings. No vows of poverty or celibacy are required, but an occasional tribute of tuna to our Maximum Leader wouldn't hurt.

Christine of The World IMHO has offered to link to our World of Good posts and is therefore warmly welcomed into the WOG Squad with the title of "Holy Scholar".

Lastly, we are pleased and humbled to unveil our most recent award, granted to us by Wollf. Posted proudly on our left hand sidebar, it is Wollf's Good Conduct Medal for Knowing When to Keep Quiet which was granted to us with the following inscription:
I hereby using absolutely none of any powers vested in anyone, 'cepting being a former Marine, do hereby bestow upon K T Cat a Genuine, Replica of the USMC Good Conduct Medal for Keeping his Lip Zipped and Refraining from Cursing Profusely at Left Wing Snarky Moonbats, and for Heroically Defending Jacob the Syrian Hamster from All Foes, Furry or Domestic.
Wollf, we are deeply honored.

Each member of the Feline Theocracy is given permission to post this handsome graphic on their blogs, designed by the Official Artist of the Theocracy, Justin.

Long live the Theocracy! Tuna and sunbeams for all!

Need Some Blog Layout Help

Does anyone know how to center the images on my left sidebar? My Thinking Blogger image and Wollf's Good Conduct Medal are both left justified right now and I don't like the way it looks.

I Think I Should do the Recipe Blogging

K T, since I'm the one who gets to run around on the kitchen counter from time to time and you're not allowed up there at all, I think it only fair that I do the recipe blogging from now on.

OK?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pork Chops in Applesauce Gravy

Two nights ago, I cooked our chops using this recipe from Cooks. As an aside, Cooks is the only recipe site I use any more. I used to use Epicurious, but I found their recipes to be too complicated and I tried recipes.com, but all they seem to do is give you ads.

In any case, the end result was outstanding. The dish was very easy to prepare, but I've got two modifications to suggest. The first is just a note that the purpose of adding the boiling water to the pan where you browned the chops is to clean all the yummy, partly-burned pork off the bottom of the pan. You'll feel that happening as you stir the gravy.

Second, don't try to mix the dry gravy components in the pan before adding the water other than the garlic. The dry stuff will burn or stick to the bottom. After browning the garlic, add the water and then the dry ingredients. Stir or whisk for a bit, but don't sweat it if the gravy doesn't form well. Instead, once the burned pork bits have been released from the bottom of the pan, pour the hot mixture into a blender, then add the applesauce and lemon juice and blend until smooth.

Pour that over the chops and cook as the recipe recommends. The result is fabulous.

World of Good, Big Brothers Style

...and no, we don't mean it in the George Orwell sense. :-)

Welcome to another World of Good here at the Scratching Post! This week we're going to highlight one of my favorite charities and one I look forward to participating in when my own children have moved out.

The Big Brothers program brings together adult men with children who do not have a father present in their lives. Here's how they describe themselves.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States. We have been the leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century, developing positive relationships that have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of young people. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country - including yours.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters Mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that have a measurable impact on youth.

Wild parties are a staple of the Big Brother program. Here, two partners rock out over cookies and milk.

In my own life, I've managed several Little League teams and worked with young boys who don't have a father in their lives. From my experience, absent the support and guidance of a caring, adult man, these boys lacked the confidence that came with masculine skills. On my teams, the fatherless boys were always the poorest players and everyone on the team knew it. That was not a fun environment for them.

I found that a little extra effort on my part in the form of private lessons on pitching or hitting gave these boys the skills they needed to participate as peers on the team. The resulting confidence changed their attitudes and many who had been head cases became friends with their team mates.

Of course it didn't hurt to have two or three extra mashers in the lineup and another starting pitcher or two. I wrote that as a joke, but now that I look back on it, I'm realizing that every child likes the feeling that they are constructively contributing to a group effort. There's a solid self-confidence that comes with performance distinct from the self-esteem that comes from just knowing that someone cares.

Despite an extensive screening process, some New England Patriot fans sneak in.

Enough about that. Here are some stories gleaned from the Big Brothers site that I think you might like.
Mitchell and I have been matched on September 8th, 2005. There are many things we have done together and now have a lot of memories. One day we got up early and headed to Arlington's Portage Creek Wildlife Area to volunteer at Earth Day Tree Planting event. It was a hot, sunny summer day full of hard work, and in the end a newly renovated piece of environment. There are many other get-togethers that stand out: going to the Wild Waves, going ice skating, attending Silver Tips games, hanging out at a local park, and watching a movie together are some of the things that both of us enjoy a lot.

"The match is perfect!" said Jennie, Mitchell's mother. "I could not have asked for a better Big Brother for Mitchell. Mitchell always has something fun to tell me when he gets home from spending time with Anton.

The fine art of leaning on a lamp post checking out the girls is a learned skill.

Here's another story.
"We were walking along and Brad saw a dead jellyfish in the muck. I said 'Why don't you get that stick over there and poke it.' He looked at me with eyes as big golf balls and asked, 'Can I do that'? At this point I realized a male perspective had been absent in his life. I said, 'You bet, you can even throw it back into the ocean and toss some rocks into the water.' The rest of the day was spent with him digging and climbing and throwing rocks and poking dead stuff with sticks. I returned him to his mom dirty," writes Kurt.

For nearly 3 years, Brad and Kurt have biked through new scenery, explored beaches, caught a flick or two, and hiked the damp forests. Kurt's shop provides the tools and space for the two to create bird houses, a pinewood car, and an excuse to play with ferrets.

Brad is a very intelligent and talkative child. He has particularly enjoyed the chance to ride bikes and build projects. Brad's mother Becky said, "It's hard to remember all the activities that they do together." Brad is always happy to see Kurt. "He is able to talk to Kurt about everything," Becky commented, and added, "they are a perfect match and Kurt is awesome."
And what are the results of the Big Brothers program?

Bigs and Littles have fun together — and create memories that last a lifetime. We call it “Little moments … Big magic.” Research on our volunteer programs points to the powerful, positive, lasting impact Bigs have on children’s lives. Littles are:
  • 52% less likely to skip school

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs

  • More likely to get along with their families and peers
Mom's favorite vase is quietly buried in the back yard after some horseplay inside.

You know, as I think about it now, there are some weekends where I've got some extra time. I wonder if I should just start volunteering now? If I do, will I see you there, too?

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blogging is a Little Like Creating Art and a Little Like Hosting a Party

I've been deleting one or two of my old posts and portions of just a few others lately. For me, this blog is as much an artistic expression as it is a recording of thoughts and interactions with friends. Painters remove some unwanted brushstrokes and poets rewrite lines. The end goal is a work that expresses you and not the steps it took to get there.

I've been going through my comments lately and getting rid of some of them as well. A blog is kind of like a party in that you prepare entertainment and (intellectual) food for your guests (readers) and they respond socially through the comments. At home, I love to cook and entertain. I've had parties where I've served outstanding food and provided excellent entertainment and mistakenly invited guests that ruined the event for everyone else. I've had no problems never inviting them back. In the same way, I don't mind removing unwanted guests from this blog.

I was recently asked in an email to defend this practice and it took me a while to figure out just why I didn't have a problem with doing this. That's how I came up with this analogy. I would bet that my regular readers don't feel like my excisions have changed the overall content of this blog at all. They know me through this art/party and probably don't think that I've hidden any part of myself through this process.

Is that correct?

Mrs. Murphy and Crozet, Virginia

A few years back, while wandering through an airport looking for something to read on my next flight, I stumbled across one of the Mrs. Murphy mystery books. I think it was Catch as Cat Can. The heroine of the story is the postmistress of tiny Crozet, Virginia and she's assisted in her sleuthing by two cats and a dog. Mrs. Murphy is one of the cats and is the real brains of the outfit. The stories are marvellous. Written by Rita Mae Brown, she manages to anthropomorphize the animals in a fun, but believable way while maintaining an adult writing style, a very neat trick indeed.

On a recent trip back to Washington, DC, I found myself with most of a day free and decided to drive up into the Appalachians. Once there, I took a look at a park map and saw an icon for Crozet. It was in the opposite direction as my hotel and a bit of a drive, but I jumped in the car and blasted down there as fast as I could. By the time I got there it was dark, but I did have time to stop at a lovely little family diner (with tiny, attached bar with only 4-5 stools) and have some good, down-home cooking. Despite the darkness, I managed to get a photo of the post office where the human heorine, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, works.

I must have come at a bad time. I didn't get to meet Mrs. Murphy, the lead cat from the stories.

If you're ever looking for a fun set of books to read, check these out.

On the Proper Maintenance of Clocks

As my regular readers know, I struggle with insomnia from time to time.

A few nights ago, I went to bed very early and managed to escape feline predations until I woke up on my own the next morning. The first thing I do every morning is roll over and peek at the clock. If it's beyond a certain time, I feel like I've managed to get enough sleep. That morning it was right on the threshold, but I felt good because I had fallen asleep earlier.

I got up, made my coffee and then sat down at my computer to blog.

Then I noticed that the actual time was an hour earlier than I thought. I hadn't reset my bedroom clock. I sat there, staring at my screen and my coffee cup with a stupid look on my face, wondering what to do. Dang! Once you make your coffee, the game is pretty much over.

Of course, if I had properly maintained my clocks, none of that would have been necessary.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Political Online Community vs. the Non-Political One

I've been very fortunate to receive links from some of the big-time political bloggers to my post on the political session I attended at BlogWorld Expo. Hundreds of visitors came by to read what I had written. Some left comments. Some of the comments were unpleasant. I was pretty snarky to both sides in that post, but only the lefties became vicious.

Contrast that to the comments I received on my first Dove Real Beauty post.

I used to read Hugh Hewitt's blog several times a day. I even posted comments there, or rather, Jacob the Syrian Hamster did. Despite the fact that almost all of the commenters were conservatives, the comment threads were very abusive. I confess I did my share of abusing. Why is it that the political threads get so nasty and the others don't?

These days, the only political blogs I read regularly are Captain Ed and the Puppy Blender. Gateway Pundit was nice enough to link to me, but his posts are too harsh and his comments are too aggressive for me. I just don't want to spend my energy on things like that. Rose and howlls and Kelly and Justin and foxfier and all the rest of you bring energy to me when they leave comments. Participating in a forum where everyone is screaming at each other takes energy away. The difference in the tone of the sessions at BlogWorld really brought it home to me.

Update: Of course, immediately after posting this, I stopped by Gateway to see what was being said, looking for corroboration on my thoughts, found an interesting post at the top of his blog and left a comment. Help! I can't stop!

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty: Onslaught

Thanks to Rose, I found this video.

My kids go to Catholic schools, one to an all-boys high school (that would be the boy in case you're wondering) and one to a grade school. Dress codes are strongly enforced and the parents are very involved in the kids' lives, particularly in a moral sense. As such, the high school girls from the local all-girls Catholic school are not dressed like skanks in the same way as most of the girls at our local public school.

Despite the fact that the boys and girls go to different schools, there is a large number of the girls who make their way over to the boys' school every afternoon to socialize. If I was my son, I would be falling in love 23 times a day. (Before you start wondering, rest assured that much younger women don't interest me. At all.) In any case, those girls are absolutely drop dead gorgeous. They're not statistical anomalies and the school doesn't pick for beauty, they're just a whole lot of cuties. Maybe it's a reflection of their parents' love. Who knows.

My point is that for my taste, these "beauty" campaigns are anything but that. These girls don't need push-up bras and short skirts, they just need to smile and the guys are goners.

Flirting is a howitzer. A WonderBra is a pop gun.

I'm so glad that Dove is doing this that I'm going to blogroll their link. You can find it on the right hand side under "Friends."

Update: Pete's View argues that Dove's parent company, Unilever, can't have it both ways and that they'll lose some luster when people realize that the same corporation running these ads aims some products at the unpaid prostitute community. So what? Why would I care if there's cognitive dissonance? Unilever is giving me a resource to help my daughter love and respect herself. I don't begrudge Unilever's attempt to make a profit off of the skanks of this world.

In a way, this is a lovely example of fighting the system from within. Unilever is using profits from the sluts to try and guide them to greater self-respect. To me, that's positively brilliant. Pete has a more technical review of the campaign as well.

Some commenters over at Adverblog have missed the point entirely. One said, "they have crossed a line in having the nerve to Deign (sic) themselves as advisors to parents." That is dead wrong. Dove is reinforcing my morals and my love for my daughter. Abercrombie and Fitch have fought me tooth and nail. I will go out of my way to buy Dove products and I will never forgive or forget what Abercrombie have tried to do to my daughter's generation.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

When my Daughter is Older, I Want her to see This

I Just Joined Facebook

After being inundated with value propositions for social networking at BlogWorld last week, I finally joined Facebook, both as K T Cat and as me, the human. If any of you want to add me as a friend, I'd welcome it. You can contact me through the Facebook link on the lefthand sidebar. I'm interested to see where this leads.

The other near-term change I'm making is to consciously choose the blogs I read and the ones where I comment. It's an act of joining a community, not spraying out opinions randomly. I'll still leave comments in as many places as I can, but I will be trying to form connections in a few, select places. In the past, I just followed links from the Puppy Blender.

Lastly, I'd welcome suggestions for which IM group to join. I don't have an IM client or ID and would love to know which one is recommended.

Update: In blundering around with Facebook, I accidentally joined the San Diego network. As much as I love America's Finest City, I don't want to belong to this group. I've clicked around facebook, but I can't see how to leave a network. Argh!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mom's at it Again!

I swear, Momma Daisy is absolutely unstoppable! Here it's November and she's got no less than six blooms!

ESPN's Chris Berman: You can't stop her, you can only hope to slow her down!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Blogworld Expo 07 - Conclusion

My brain is full. I want to go home. I want to turn the computer off and stare off into space for a while.

Having gotten that out of my system, let me ask all of you who have been following these posts (yes, both of you) what you liked and what you wish you'd seen more of from my BlogWorld series.

My own summary is that the Expo was fantastic. I'm very glad I came and it exceeded all of my expectations. I had a couple of concrete goals related to my real job that BlogWorld satisfied perfectly.

The one drawback to the show has nothing to do with the show, but everything to do with blogging. While I was able to meet Hugh Hewitt, Captain Ed, Michael Medved and a couple of others here at the show, I'm sure that some of my favorite bloggers were here and I walked right by them. You have no idea what any person around you blogs about. You end up sitting down at the lunch tables and asking what everyone does. The results are fascinating, but I would have liked to have met my favorite bloggers. I guess I should have set this up ahead of time by email, but I didn't think of it until I was confronted with this problem here in Vegas.

All in all, this was a fantastic experience. I really hope to see you all here next year.

Blogworld Expo 07 - Milblogging from the Front

The panel consisted of Ward Carroll (moderator), Tim Boggs, Thomas Nichols, Chuck Ziegenfuss and Gordon Alanko. Uncle Jimbo was in the audience. The audience was very, very sparse. Fewer than 20 people came.

Chuck got started blogging when he got fed up with the lack of complete reporting from Iraq. He was very unhappy with what he saw and how he felt it was inaccurate.

Tim was deployed in the initial invasion of Iraq. The week after he got back, the Abu Ghraib story broke and he saw how totally inaccurate the reporting was. That drove him to blog when less than a year later he was deployed again. It gave people back home a chance to have a conversation with him and ask about the things they saw in the media. He is setting up a team blog at his site.

Tom Nichols got started while in recruiting back in 2005 and was getting ready to go back into the infantry and started a blog after finding wizbang. When he deployed, he began milblogging. He was trying to give an idea of what they saw and did.

Was there a stigma among their peers from being a blogger? Being a writer in the army was not something good. The bloggers didn’t feel any such thing. Chuck felt that his blogging doesn’t affect his job. He was cautioned only once not to portray the battalion in a bad light. I could see how this would be going around the chain of command.

Tim started out doing interviews with soldiers. He then got flak from people he didn’t interview.  Fox News found his blog and he got interviewed by then. When he got back, the command found out about his blog, but no one really bothered him about his blog or what he wrote. When he was interviewed by Fox, he had no Public Affairs interface.

Gordon had both good and bad experiences with it. His commanding officer started a blog as well. Because of that, he had someone he could go to as a sanity check. Within his platoon there was a wide range of opinions.

Tom found blogging in Iraq was a challenge. He felt his battalion CO was sour on blogging in his command. He made sure that his command had permission to stop him from posting and he made sure not to mention anyone in his unit until they heard what he was going to post first. It limited what he wrote, but it was ethical.

What was the mission statement of their blogs? Chuck was unhappy about the reporting from the MSM. Journalists that he escorted were writing articles that were completely out of whack with what they had seen together. For him, the blog was also cathartic following his patrols. It was also a way to communicate with his wife.

Tim’s mission statement was to provide an equalization to the MSM. Michael Ware said that soldiers don’t know what they’re talking about because they see such a small subsection of the war. Tim agrees to a point, but in the aggregate, the milbloggers at the front certainly give a good take. What disturbs the milbloggers is not the context so much as the facts are being reported dead wrong. There is an ongoing friction between the MSM and the milbloggers. Of course, there’s an ongoing friction between the MSM and all of us. The milbloggers are upset at being too stupid to be doing the same job as the journalists.

Gordon’s mission was to tell the story. He started writing for friends and family and then discovered that he was writing for a bigger audience. He was in Anbar during the transformation of the province. The Ramadi PAO was killed while escorting a journalist mentioned that the PAO was killed, but didn’t bother to write about the great work that the PAO had done before that. It was all about the statistic and the death and not about the accomplishments and the life.

Tom expected his blog to go into hibernation when he deployed. He didn’t think he’d have time to write. He wasn’t there to put a spotlight on what they were doing, instead it was a description of what life was like at the front.

The panel discussed the Army’s crackdown on the milbloggers, but I have to admit I’m not that interested in the subject. Apparently, the PAOs got in the middle of things and mucked things up. There was friction between the milbloggers and the PAO establishment over the content and quality of the information that was released. I have to agree with the milbloggers here as the PAO-released information is stunningly dull. I’m sure there were some cases of milbloggers doing inappropriate things and this crackdown was an overreaction to those events. That kind of pendulum swinging happens all the time in large organizations as they try to find general solutions to specific cases.

Milbloggers have seen a big change in the way in which the soldiers are perceived. They have also seen changes in the way the public supports them through things like Soldiers’ Angels.

The MSM is catering to the enemy. No matter what the milbloggers do and no matter what CENTCOM puts out, if Osama puts out a five year old video, the MSM covers it completely. That’s where the customers still are, but that’s changing. The MSM is getting nervous that the DoD is reaching out to the bloggers. Chuck said, “The Ernie Pyle of today is the milblogger.” That’s a great quote.

There are lots of soldiers on MySpace posting pictures of themselves at the front, trying to impress their girlfriends back home. The underlying background information in those photos and stories are what concern the PAO.

The milbloggers loved the commenters who would write to them and show their support. It was also great to show the non-blogging members of their units how the people back home cared about them. Chuck was injured in Iraq and when he got back from hospital he received a ton of care packages from his blog readers. The care packages got shipped off to his comrades at the front, but he was deeply touched by the outpouring of goodwill from his readers.

The milbloggers are very aware of how this is changing the way in which history is recorded. It’s a big change from the controlled, MSM view of wars in the past.

Blogworld Expo 07 - Friday Keynote

Leo Laporte from Tech TV gave an excellent talk. He came from the MSM, from TV and radio. He speaks exclusively on technology. He started “This Week in Tech.” It was something they were doing anyway in phone calls with each other, talking about technology. The podcasts are these conversations recorded. This echoes what we’ve discussed at my work for getting podcasts from management, a capture of conversations they’d have anyway.

Their podcast is done by two people in a tiny office. They’re getting about $250K per year in advertising. That revenue is going up all the time. He shares the revenue with everyone he talks to on the podcast. He’s not a businessman, he doesn’t understand the business model, it just works.

The Wealth of Networks is recommended. In the MSM, there is a high barrier to entry and the conversation is all one way. The post-Vietnam generation disbelieves the MSM because they’re not very good at facts or selecting stories. It’s very expensive to run the MSM. It costs next to nothing to participate in the New Media. Furthermore, the audience is now global. In the MSM, the audience is only where you can get the signal or buy the newspaper.

The most important part of the New Media is that the conversation is two-way. It’s all about the conversation. Contrast this with the global emails from management at your work. There are more and more interesting forms of the New Media coming out. It makes a difference that we’re now getting a generation that grew up with it and are thinking of new things to do with it. The MSM sees the Internet as just another distribution channel for their broadcasts. They still don’t get the bidirectional nature of the medium.

He categorizes the world as straights and the hip. He wants to undermine the old media. He’s talking about our Blogger Underground where I work! Collaboration for the Masses, man!

Video is monkey media. It appeals to the primitive part of your brain. Blogging is really good for the cerebral cortex because it requires thinking. Podcasting and audio is more intimate. You’re living in their brain as you talk to them. Radio is very good at abstract concepts, but TV is not. Video frequently has images marginally related to the voice over. Imagine discussing WW I, but just showing an old tank rolling along.

The comments on YouTube are moronic compared to the comments on the blogs. Wow, is that true! I have to admit that I don’t understand how people talk back on podcasts. I guess it’s like radio talk shows, but since the conversations have to occur serially, it just doesn’t seem as thorough as the blogs. If you blog your podcast and take responses there, that would seem to work.

Podcasts are limited by the medium. His most popular podcast has 150K listeners and it doesn’t seem to go up. All podcasters hit some threshold. I would argue that the serial nature of the thing is the problem. I can have n browser windows open simultaneously and flip through all of them. When I listen to Hugh Hewitt’s podcast, I find I have to stop reading anything else and just sit and listen.

He partly blamed iTunes for the problem as well. It’s a chokepoint for the medium. He had nice things to say about the new Zune and was glad to see that Microsoft is doing podcasts as well. If everyone has a blog and everyone has a podcast, who is listening? Well, we all are. The book Linked was recommended as well. He discussed the meaning of the wisdom of that book and what the Long Tail is all about.

If you are an expert in woodworking, your goal should not be on CNN, it should be to be a hub in a network of woodworkers. The Long Tail is independent of scale. There is an overall long tail and then there is a long tail for woodworkers and then there is a long tail for African hardwood woodworkers. Then, by reaching out to other networks related o yours, you can draw them into your universe. That’s how the New Media is different.

He is convinced that in 20 years, the broadcast media will be old fashioned and out of date. The MSM is dead and/or dying. The New Media is in the community business, not the broadcast business.

Update: Patrysha over at My Name is not Herb has a well-reasoned rant on this subject. Check it out.

Blogworld Expo 07 - Raising the Level of Political Discourse

I'm here at Blogworld Expo this week and will be posting notes from the sessions I attend. This session was about making the political conversations in the blogosphere more cordial. I took a lot of snarky notes that I deleted halfway through. It just didn't feel right to do that. Instead, I'll just give a summary and analysis.

First off, the people in the room all had unhappy looks on their faces. They also sat away from each other. It looked like a prison yard where no one knew who among them had the bed spring that was sharpened into a knife point. This contrasted with the fun and friendly atmosphere of the marketing sessions I attended.

Michael Medved was the moderator and did a good job of it despite finding out he was going to be the moderator only a few minutes before the session started. The panel included Gateway Pundit, Roger Simon, Jeralyn Merit who runs Talk Left, Natasha from Pacific Views and Captain Ed.

Much of the conversation circled around what was and was not acceptable conversation on their blogs. There were varying levels of moderation. From time to time one side would try to cast the other as the real reason the conversation was so hostile. Gateway Pundit pointed to a blog analysis that showed that lefty blogs have 18 times as much cursing as righty blogs. The lefties didn't deny this fact, but claimed that the Bush administration policies were the real obscenities. Michael Medved asked if obscenities coarsened the tone of the conversation on the blogs, but the lefties weren't bothered by it.

Well, !#^!&#*&!(&%@#! Me neither.

Actually, I think it does. I am easily the most foul-mouthed person at work and I dislike what it does to my conversations and the way people react to it. It's just a habit that I have failed to take the time and effort to break. ^@*@(! I need to get to work on that.

There was more conversation on how things were moderated. Natasha tried to get Michael to disavow Michelle Malkin and Misha the Rottweiler over their attacks on the Democrats' poster family for S-CHIP. Michael said he did not agree with their methods, but said if you were going to be used as a national prop by a political party, you pretty much had to take what came with it. Just for the record, I dislike both Malkin and Misha for the reasons the lefty bloggers enumerated.

As the session neared it's end, an interesting thing happened. Each of the bloggers talked about how they didn't like to be categorized. Roger Simon said he was socially liberal and a war hawk. Jeralyn Merit from Talk Left was pro-gun. Michael Medved talked about how he was pro-immigration and Captain Ed said he was disappointed in how the Republicans were obsessed with sex. What it showed was that these opinion makers of the blogosphere don't fit into pigeon holes and they are not tools for one party or the other. That is a huge sea change in the political environment. Political parties are watching the populace pixelate into smaller and smaller, semi-disjoint subgroups.

Before I go farther, I want to respond to Captain Ed's assertion that sex should be way down on everyone's list of priorities. I'm a single father. I live with the results of loose morality every day of my life. Society's attitudes towards sex should be #1. It's not even close. Still think it doesn't matter? Live it up, guys. Enjoy.

When immigration came up, Natasha told the audience that if they had eaten food in the United States, they had hired an illegal alien. That's the same kind of illogical reasoning as the whole chickenhawk argument. Statistically speaking, if you're over, say, 40, then you are virtually guaranteed to have executed a financial transaction with a child molester. I guess that makes Natasha a pedophile supporter. She should be ashamed of herself. If not, she can rest assured that I was ashamed for her.

During the Q&A session, one of the lefties in the audience asked why there weren't more working-class families blogging. Hidden question: "Where is the enraged proletariat in all of this?" The panelists all responded that in all likelihood, working-class families didn't have the time to blog. Captain Ed hit it out of the park by mentioning how low the barrier to entry is for blogging. He was the only one who did so. Before I asked the question described below, I responded to this. I told them that there were plenty of working-class bloggers. Most of the momblogs out there and the contributors to the Festival of Frugality were working-class. They just aren't a pack of angry political cranks. They're happy people who share stories and tips with each other. They have fun, they don't spend their time angry and outraged. Try Scribbit if you want to see someone who does it well and then look at all the mombloggers who leave comments in her posts.

As I watched the discussion unfold, I kept being struck by the incongruity of it all. At the end, I finally got to ask them my question. Weren't they struck by the irony of the whole thing? Here they were, living in the greatest nation on God's green Earth (to borrow Michael's tag line), blogging on computers across a sophisticated network in houses and offices unmatched for comfort and luxury in the history of Mankind and they were endlessly carping and whining and being outraged.

After a full hour of discussing how people on their blogs were behaving like distempered wolverines, the collected panel engaged in faster backpedalling than unicycle-riding bears at the circus. Oh, no, they weren't outraged, they were educating and discussing and illustrating and guiding and ...

Oh, get over it. Look at the audience and read the comment streams. There is a constant sense of rage and unhappiness on these blogs. Yep, I engage in it, too and I hate what it does to me after I blast someone over politics.

Michael Medved followed this up with an outstanding observation that there is a huge gratitude deficit in this country and we spend way too much time being outraged. Amen, brother!

The whole thing made me want to eschew politics forever on my blog. I won't, of course, because from time to time I'm moved to blog about it and the posts are just so darned easy to write.

I'm sure I'll think of more on this topic later, but I'm going to go work out now and watch ESPN. If the TV in the gym is set to CNN, I'll change the channel. I can do without all the negativity, thank you very much.

Update: Despite my snarkiness, Captain Ed linked to this! Yay! Thanks, Captain Ed. The Feline Theocracy will soon welcome you into the fold.

Update 2: Gateway Pundit linked, too. Hooray!

Pulling an All Nighter

Our Maximum Leader pulled an all nighter in her outdoor biology lab and decided to study her electronics by osmosis in the morning.


For more studious felines, visit this week's Friday Ark, Carnival of the Cats and the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blogworld Expo 07 - Milbloggers, the DoD and the Media

I'm here at Blogworld Expo this week and will be posting notes from the sessions I attend. This one was about how milbloggers are changing the way wars are reported. It was a mediocre session, but the panelists were great. Later in this post I snark about what the DoD and the White House guy had to say, but let me be clear. The kinds of things that are interesting as you work out CONOPS for supporting milbloggers are not interesting to a general audience. That was the problem, not the panelists or the moderator.

Furthermore, those of us who love the milbloggers and folks like Michael Totten and Michael Yon were hoping to hear more about what they saw as the future of milblogging vs. the horrific reporting of the traditional media. There was a bit of red meat for us at the end, but for the most part this was a "how did the policy come to be" kind of session. That just isn't very compelling stuff.

Here are my notes from the session. I'll be happy to respond with greater detail in the comments of this post if anyone is interested.

Panelists included Blackfive, Michael Totten, a DoD blogger outreach fellow and someone from the White House. I'll track down the names later. In the meantime, here are my (occasionally snarky) notes.
  • The DoD was interested in outreach to milbloggers because there were many stories that needed to be told that didn’t get the attention of the MSM. This topic is bureaucratic and kind of slow.

  • If you really want to know what’s going on in Iraq, look at the aggregate of the blackfive interviews with the reconstruction teams. They have made an effort to reach out to people on the other side (what does that mean?), but they have not responded.

  • Michael Totten went over as an individual and was given access to all kinds of things and his visit was not managed.

  • This session drags from time to time with bureaucracy-speak and name dropping about this general or that. In any talk, organizational charts are death whether they're verbal or displayed.

  • The administration and the DoD were looking for independent witnesses telling the soldiers’ stories. I’m looking for caffeine. Military journalists are less trusted because they’re, well, military journalists.

  • Update: In retrospect, I clearly did not understand the purpose of the session. This is a key point right here. In a previous post, I complained about the staged nature of the CENTCOM press releases and videos and compared it to the YouTube work of the soldiers on the ground. Both the Bush administration and the DoD saw this same thing and that's why they're working with the milbloggers.

  • There’s a long discussion about how the idea of allowing milbloggers into the mix was sold to higher authorities like the military brass and the administration. The resulting incredibly dull conversation is an excellent argument against big government. Government meetings and government decisions are about as dull and slow moving as one can imagine. Here we’re talking about private citizens going into a shooting war and it couldn’t be duller if we were discussing how paint is mixed at Home Depot.

  • These folks met with President Bush to discuss the role of milbloggers in getting the word out about what the troops are doing in the field. Blackfive was a part of this and experienced all kinds of trouble afterwards, being accused by left wing commenters of being a tool for the administration. However, the families of the soldiers and the soldiers themselves really appreciate their blogging.

  • The biggest problem with the traditional media is that they don’t embed. Many of the journalists are not allowed to embed by their editors. Totten saw all kinds of things while he was embedded, but very little violence. It’s not the kind of thing that the AP would publish. Michael Totten met the people of Iraq and the soldiers themselves. You can’t make headlines out of this. Instead, the MSM stays in the hotels in the Green Zone and uses Iraqi stringers to collect data so that they can create a story every day. Stories of people aren’t published on a daily basis by the AP. They’re looking for explosions and death every day because that’s what the newspapers publish.

  • Blogging, being liberated from such requirements, gives the blogger insights. Reporters also don’t like to embed because they get too close to the soldiers to write objectively.

  • Analysis a day later: The underlying fear is that the reporter will grow to morally differentiate the American soldiers helping the people Iraq and the insurgents and terrorists blowing up civilians indiscriminately. This is a problem with the underlying philosophical foundations of modern journalism, that they deny the existence of good and evil and instead cast everything as differing, equally valid points of view.

  • The reporters write about what goes on outside the wire when they never go outside the wire themselves.

  • Now we’re back to talking about the administration. No! Help! I can’t take any more! Milbloggers were important to the President because he, too wanted access to the troops without a barrier or interpreter. That was interesting. Why did it take 5 minutes to say this?

  • More bureaucracy talk. I’m surfing the net thanks to the free wireless connection provided by blogworld expo. I think it’s time for a cheezburger.

  • The DoD guy is telling a story about how a Marine Corps general wasn’t able to get his story out about what was going on in Iraq until he held a bloggers’ roundtable phone conference. The quality of the questions asked by the bloggers were way past anything the Washington Post was asking. The WaPo took the transcript of the conference call and wrote stories out of it.

  • The traditional media freaked out over the bloggers having a meeting with the President and the interviews with the Marine general.

There. That's it for this workshop.