Dead blogs create web litter
By DAVID NEWLAND | the Ottawa Sun
Dotsam and netsam are
cluttering up the web.
That's right, dotsam and netsam. The expression derives
from the nautical term flotsam and jetsam, which refers to man-made junk
that litters the sea, such as tangled fishing nets torn apart by storms, or
plastic cutlery tossed from cruise ships. Dotsam and netsam are the virtual
litter of the web.
Dead blogs have become a big source of this web litter.
Although the term blog was coined (from "web log") in 1999, most of the
millions of blogs online now are much more recent. In the past few years,
publishing tools like Blogger, TypePad and LiveJournal have made posting
material a simple operation. Blogging has boomed.
Bloggers are a diverse bunch, and blogs are too. They may
serve up commentary, poetry, photography, video or audio, and be published
monthly, weekly, daily or randomly. You can even blog via cellphone text
messages, using a service like Twitter.com.
Vast numbers of new web users are
coming online around the world, and lots of them are blogging. Chinese
actress Xu Jinglei's blog
has been online for just two years, but it's already the most widely read
blog in the world.
On the other hand, a
recent study by the tech guru firm Gartner predicts the blog boom may be
busting, or at least leveling off at a projected 100 million active personal
sites. The same study suggests there may already be 200 million ex-bloggers.
As the number of would-be bloggers goes up, so does the number of old blogs.
The turnover is referred to as "blog churn." It's an
evolutionary phenomenon in which only the fittest survive.
A truly successful blog depends on four factors nothing
can replace: something to say, a compelling way of saying it, an audience
willing to read it, and the commitment to keep on going.
blog on your own can be tiresome. Eventually many bloggers become
ex-bloggers. Their abandoned blogs float idly among the dotsam and netsam,
clogging search engines with dated data.
netsam. It has a great ring to it. It would make a perfect name for a blog
August 17th, 2007
Spam: More than Junk Mail or Junk Meat
NPR.org, July 4, 2007
which turns 70 this year, has been called the Holy Grail of canned meats.
Damning with faint praise? Not when you consider the source: Eric Idle,
Monty Python alum and member of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical,
Monty Python's legendary
Spam sketch, which
first aired on BBC television in 1970, turned this lowbrow luncheon meat
into a kitschy cultural icon. It attained such cult status among Python's
geeky, computer-nerd fan base that Spam became synonymous with unwanted junk
e-mails. (In the sketch, the word "Spam" is uttered 132 times, often
repeatedly and to the chagrin of a couple trying to order breakfast.)
Kitschy or not, Spam is one
of the longest-running anachronisms in the American cupboard. Created by
Hormel Foods in 1937 and promoted as "the miracle meat," it became K-ration
fare for American GIs and Allied forces during World War II. Former British
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher referred to it as a "war-time delicacy" and
former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev said it kept Russian troops alive
against the Nazis.
But the meat that
helped us win wars in the 20th century now feels dated and nearly extinct in
the 21st. Finding a can of Spam in any modern kitchen would be like spotting
the Loch Ness monster in your neighbor's trout pond.
What is that thing doing here?
See this at
July 7th, 2007
bears turned inside-out
Here's an interview with artist Kent Rogowski,
about his "Bears" photographs. Furry, huggable teddybears, gutted and
Q: I love these bears so
much. They remind me of my early sewing experiments. What happens when
you take such a beloved and iconic toy and transform it by literally
turning it inside out?
A: (...) Teddy bears are
designed to be innocuous and non-threatening creatures. Inside-out the
bears are still sometimes recognizable but are now much more complicated
and contradictory. The seams of the bear now look like scars, and some
bears lose their limbs and other appendages depending on how they were
constructed. When you look at the inside-out bears they appear to have a
history or a past. They no longer offer comfort but instead seem to want
These are fantastic!
This one's a favorite.
to interview by Nicole Pasulka at The Morning News; here's the
gallery show in NYC
through August 10, and here's an
Amazon link to buy the book
July 5th, 2007
Happy Birthday, Sam.
Carter is an extraordinary dog, who continues to delight and amaze us all by
simply "being". She is not particularly bright, nor has she ever been
particularly affectionate or obedient. However, she has an uncanny
power of being able to always makes strangers smile; women coo, and men
crouch down to pat her head.
So, Sam -- know that we have
loved you for 17 years. Although that is a long life for a dog, we
selfishly wish you many more years of jumping up on the bed and standing on
your hind legs begging for spaghetti.
July 1st, 2007
Good marketing, bad taste
couldn’t miss it if you were strolling through Chicago’s Rush Street
nightclub district, known as the ‘Viagra Triangle’ for its appeal to
middle-age suburbanites on the prowl. On one side of the giant billboard was
a voluptuous, lingerie-clad female torso bent forward in a provocative pose;
on the other, a buff male torso with a white towel wrapped at the waist,
equally ready for action. The billboard’s logo? “Life’s short. Get a
Ah, adultery, manna from
heaven for divorce lawyers Fetman, Garland & Associates, Ltd., whose
telephone number was displayed prominently underneath this come-on. The
billboard generated plenty of new business before it was taken down,
reportedly because it had been erected without a proper permit.
Read More at Lawyer's Weekly
June 16th, 2007
Is there a God?
or not to believe
May 31st 2007 From
The Economist print edition
A writer who believes in science not God;
a scientist who believes in both. But why are they that way? Nobody knows
SINCE arguments about God
have run for thousands of years, it is a little peculiar to ascribe
overwhelming importance to the publication of Darwin's “On the Origin of
Species” in 1859. Yet the book did have a soul-sapping effect on
unsuspecting Christians. In “Father and Son”, a memoir about loss of faith
published anonymously in 1907,
describes how it drove his father, himself an eminent zoologist, to take him
to live on top of a cliff, cutting him off from the world in an attempt to
protect him from this heretical notion. The plan didn't work. Some spirit of
rebellion stirred in the son, sending his mind wandering during marathon
prayer sessions, and he broke free in his teenage years. His father,
disappointed, stuck with the God of Abraham.
Looking at the recent crop of
books on God and religion, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that whether
people end up like Mr Gosse or like his father depends on whether they have
an intrinsic feeling for religion or not. Christopher Hitchens, a polemicist
whose tone is that of an erudite straight-talker, does not. Like Mr Gosse,
he started non-belief young. Near the beginning of “God is Not Great” he
describes his rebellion when confronted with an effusive divinity teacher at
school who pointed to the beauty of hedgerows in the English countryside as
evidence of His creation. Mr Hitchens has been skewering the syllogistic
arguments of the religious in the name of science ever since.
Francis Collins, on the other
hand, has it. Like Mr Gosse senior, Mr Collins is a scientist and a
Christian. He confronts Darwin daily in his work as head of the human genome
project. He writes well about how, as the code on which DNA is written began
to reveal itself, his faith and sense of wonder increased. He stood by Bill
Clinton (and worked with his speechwriters) when the then American president
talked about DNA as “the language in which God wrote creation”. Mr Collins
has no time for intelligent design but conceives God to be of the
non-interfering sort, a kind of divine CCTV camera. Yet he believes that
Jesus was His son and he prays regularly.
Belief in God and
subscription to a religion are not quite the same thing, although both books
treat them as if they were. Mr Hitchens makes the untestable case that the
world would be better off without religion altogether. Stupid religious
people would stop fighting stupid religious wars and a new enlightenment
would ensue. The book is entertaining, meandering and at times disingenuous.
Nobody ever went to war for atheism, says Mr Hitchens. But atheists tend to
find other reasons to kill each other. To the objection that irreligious
fascists and communists found plenty of non-religious reasons for murder in
the 20th century, Mr Hitchens retorts that these beliefs were types of
secularised religion, and as such do not count.
What is missing from the book
is much sense of what a world without religion, or one that had not had
religion in it, might look like. Lots of the principles that Mr Hitchens
holds dear, like tolerance and justice, are secularised versions of
religious ideas. Religious folk often do the right thing for what Mr
Hitchens would call the wrong reasons. Taking faith away would in many cases
take away the will to do them. That cost is worth considering.
Mr Collins argues for what he
calls “theistic evolution”, which he reckons is yet to catch on because it
has such a terrible name. Though the mechanism of the origin of life is
unknown, he says, once evolution was under way no special supernatural
intervention was required. As for those parts of the Old Testament that bend
the laws of physics, they are symbolic and should be read as such.
This is a God that would be
almost as unfamiliar to Edmund Gosse's father, to John Calvin or the pope as
it would to a Roman sacrificing a bull to Mithras. And for all their
clarity, Mr Collins's arguments about why he believes in God do little to
explain why he is a Christian. To understand that, it is probably enough to
look at the Gosse family and conclude that either you get it or you don't.
Read the book
here (at Project Gutenburg)
June 6th, 2007
Calif. man scarfs more than 59 hot dogs in 12
minutes, shattering record
Published: Saturday, June 2,
2007 | 9:20 PM ET
Canadian Press: BOB CHRISTIE
PHOENIX (AP) - A California
man smashed the world record for hot dog eating at a contest Saturday,
gobbling up more than 59 franks in 12 minutes.
Joe Chestnut, 22, of San
Jose, shattered the record held by Takeru Kobayashi of Japan by downing 59½
"HBDs" - hot dogs and buns - during the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating
Championship at the Arizona Mills Mall in suburban Tempe.
Kobayashi's old record of 53¾
was set last year at
Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Coney
Island in New York, said George Costos, who helps runs the regional contests
Chestnut placed second in
last year's world championships, consuming 52 hot dogs.
"He's unbelievable - he just
keeps on going," said Ryan Nerz, who works for Major League Eating, which he
describes as "a world governing board for all stomach-centric sports."
"These guys' numbers have
just been going up at a tremendous clip," Nerz said. "I always thought there
was a limit - a limit to the human stomach and a limit to human willpower -
but I guess not."
Chestnut won a free trip to
New York, a year's supply of hot dogs and a US$250 gift card to the mall.
June 3rd, 2007
Keeping it unreal
by Jeff Sharlet
Published 16 April 2007 | New
We consider the "primitive"
music of blues singers such as Leadbelly to be more authentic than that of
the Monkees. But all pop musicians are fakes.
Faking It: the quest for authenticity in popular music
Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor
Barker and Yuval Taylor, two publishing professionals who have turned out
their personal record collections to produce a persuasive defence of
inauthenticity as the defining characteristic of great popular music, borrow
the title of their book, Faking It, from a suicide note - the most
authentic, and also the stupidest, genre of all. "The fact is," wrote
Nirvana's singer Kurt Cobain shortly before eating the muzzle of a shotgun
in 1994, "I can't fool you, any one of you . . . The worst crime I can
think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm
having 100% fun." (The italics are Cobain's.)
Like many people of a certain
age, I remember where I was and what I was doing the day Cobain died. I was
in my third year of college, I was in a dorm; friends and I were drinking
40-ounce bottles of Colt 45 malt liquor, and when we heard the news, we
laughed. Cobain, the gold standard of rock-star sincerity since his suicide,
had long seemed to us like a joke, a poseur, a pretty-boy pop singer for the
high-school teens who gathered in herds of earnest weeping within hours of
the news. We slightly older boys and girls were past that kids' stuff; we
listened to 1980s art-punk and traditional blues - two of the fakest musical
genres ever presented to the public as revelations of the real - and it was
to the forgotten pain of dead black men, Skip James and Son House and
Mississippi John Hurt, that we raised our 40-ouncers.
Little did we know that these
musicians had been served up to us on platters, literally, resurrected 30
years before by another generation of white college boys who had looked up
and recorded the old men as stand-ins for their fantasies of the romantic
savage. They had at least bothered to produce some records; all my friends
and I did was listen to them and drink malt liquor, a beverage manufactured
to exploit poor black people and winos of all races. For us, it was liquid
Read the rest
April 30th, 2007
America's Love Affair with Drugs
A Review by Andrew Benedict-Nelson
"Review a Day"
Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug
by Richard J. Degrandpre
Anyone who has ever quit
smoking soon discovers that gaining weight is often an unavoidable part of
the deal. In 2001, the United States seemed to experience this realization
on a collective level, as the Surgeon General, who many Americans had last
encountered in a warning on their last pack of Marlboros, foretold a
different sort of public health crisis: a national obesity epidemic.
It hardly seemed fair.
Cigarettes, after all, had recently been exposed as delivery devices for a
highly addictive and unnatural blackguard of a drug: nicotine. And while
certain parties began to point fingers at trans fats or carbs, there was
simply no nefarious substance to blame for obesity. It really was just too
much of a good thing, food.
But perhaps we had set
ourselves up for this frustration. Perhaps our obsessive pursuit of criminal
chemicals -- not just nicotine, but its nastier cousins meth and crack --
had blinded us to more fundamental problems weighing down our society. This
is the thesis advanced by Richard DeGrandpre in his book The Cult of
Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture. In
particular, DeGrandpre argues that Americans have an almost religious faith
in the chemical essence of "demon drugs" (as well as "angels" like Ritalin
and Prozac) while completely ignoring the social circumstances in which
these avatars intersect with flesh.
Cigarettes are the example
most accessible to the average American, and DeGrandpre has no trouble
burning a hole through the traditional narrative of nicotine withdrawal.
Studies of people trying to quit smoking do not show a clear correlation
between the amount of nicotine they once consumed and the difficulty of
quitting, he writes; instead, factors like personality play a much stronger
These facts are corroborated
by the history of cigarettes, which only enjoyed their greatest popularity
when tobacco companies had successfully minimized and masked the nicotine in
their product. The addictive potential of the drug might have been part of
the reason Americans had been hooked for so long, but DeGrandpre suggests
that the ubiquity of the cigarette, its insinuation into every culture and
color and class, might have just as much to do with it.
These cultural factors become
much more significant when applied to "hard" drugs like cocaine -- and, as
DeGrandpre would like to suggest, Ritalin. As long ago as 1975, DeGrandpre
writes, scientists could show that rhesus monkeys preferred Ritalin and
cocaine equally when given unlimited quantities, suggesting that the drugs
produce similarly pleasurable and addictive effects. More than two dozen
studies since have documented that the two drugs yield similar outcomes in
animals. Why, then, has cocaine become a "demon" and Ritalin an "angel"?
Read the rest
April 26th, 2007
Time to Start Posting
Has it been 6 months
already? Goodness -- it's true that time flies when you're having fun!
I'm going to change things up a little; posting less frequently and writing
more about my work, my music, and other interests -- and how these things
intersect and interconnect.
My work and travel
schedule remains hectic, but I promise to start posting again regularly.
March 20th, 2007