Monday, March 31, 2008

Lists & Links: 101 Websites, 100 Books, and BookMooch

Just when I thought to myself, well, I suppose I should buckle down and focus on this afternoon's work, just when I'd approached that mythic uphoria of a distraction-free mind, I saw this:

The 101 Most Useful Websites (via iLibrarian)

Clearly, this is not a list to even think about reading if you have things to do and are remotely interested/amused by internetty things. Rather UK-centric, but still a good list.

and this:

The Top 100 EBooks Yesterday [at Project Gutenberg] (via Stephen's Lighthouse)

I find it vaguely frightening that yesterday's (3/30) 2nd most popular EBook was Manual of Surgery Volume First: General Surgery. Sixth Edition. I will accept any explanation that makes it less frightening. Anyone?

I've known about BookMooch for quite some time, now. I have yet to convince myself to dive in, and here's why: I love books, and I love owning them. The tiny Thoreau in my brain is agitated by my staunch biblio-narcissistic materialism, but I can't help it. The thing is, I cannot (yet) bring myself to give away my books. I've put a lot of myself into choosing them, and quite frankly, mailing them away to strangers seems a disconcerting and painful proposition.

That said, I hope to get there. Soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More thinking about this blog

The email notification of Lindsay's comment on my post Thinking about this blog still sits in my email inbox.

In partial:

I know what you mean about not always knowing what to write or having a given "format". Often I feel the same way because I want to get past the whole diary-blogging (though I still like to go back and see what I did/read/watched/etc). I'm interested to see what you come up with.

I haven't stuck with the format I created, though largely because last week was incredibly long. By the time this week finally rolled around, I was just out of the habit. I'd be lying if I said I felt a strong pull to go back to it, in its current(?) incarnation, but I'd be just as duplicitous if I claimed not to feel any pull at all toward a format of some sort (I notice, too, while typing that sentence, a kind of grating in my mind at the word "format". Interesting).

Either way, there was something missing. Some things, really. Poetry, philosophy, religion... I honestly don't generally care about the news. That's selfish and obscenely American, but a lot of it doesn't affect me, and I can't usually pretend to affect it; we're two ships passing in the day & night, I suppose. Sports, I love, but I can't pretend to have a lot of worth to add to that conversation, at least not regularly.

Thoreau, now he's a keeper. And, he brings me to my next point or rather Lindsay's: diary-blogging. I don't know if Thoreau would have blogged, so I won't pretend to know. What I do know is that blogging appeals to me in part as autobiography, especially in ways where bookmarking tools & sites fail: narrative (don't worry, del.icio.us, I'm not leaving you) . Seems to me there's a significant difference between knowing you can find a link, and knowing you can find the same link along with some of your thoughts from the day (or hour, or minute) you found it. History is important, even if it's only my life, and even if it's only important to me. That part of blogging is just for me, though I hope it occasionally amuses/interests others.

The format, I suppose, becomes the part of blogging that's just for everyone but me, or at least that's what it can become. And I think that's why I haven't rushed back to it. I still have the desire to shape what is essentially a hyper-journal (if you will) into something more... structured. What I don't have is the desire to manufacture that structure just now. My point, of course, is that the format will not be returning anytime soon; but I trust that any needed structure will become clear just as it becomes necessary.

The thing is, I'm not doing this for money, so I don't want it to feel like work, and a format feels like work. If you're doing something for free, you're either a slave or you don't think it's work; I know on which side of that fence I'd like to live.

What I hope you will see here is more poetry, more literature in general, more philosophy & religion -- though honestly, it's a lot of work to write thoughtfully on such deep topics, so don't expect high volume -- more focus on all of the things I think about regularly, as opposed to sound-bites and websites-of-the-minute. Expect those, too, but methinks Thoreau would be disappointed if such a journal as this contained little else.

That's all for now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Laffston

Q: How bored am I at work today?
A: I'm currently finding this very amusing: MyMiniCity.

Visit my city, Laffston, in all its glory.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Taking a Break

It's just one thing after another this week. I'm ready for Easter—the best holiday of them all— how about you?

I'm enjoying the new format, personally, but I'll be back at some point next week after a much needed break from the blogging world. Enjoy the NCAA Tournament.

Have a blessed Easter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thingish Things

"...when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

A. A. Milne, from The House at Pooh Corner

Riffs & Notes | 3.17

On this day in 1852, Thoreau wrote in his journal:

I catch myself philosophizing most abstractly when first returning to consciousness in the night or morning. I make the truest observations and distinctions then, when the will is yet wholly asleep and the mind works like a machine without friction. I am conscious of having, in my sleep, transcended the limits of the individual, and made observations and carried on conversations which in my waking hours I can neither recall nor appreciate. As if in sleep our individual fell into the infinite mind, and at the moment of awakening we found ourselves on the confines of the latter. On awakening we resume our enterprise, take up our bodies and become limited mind again. We meet and converse with those bodies which we have previously animated. There is a moment in the dawn, when the darkness of the night is dissipated and before the exhalations of the day commence to rise, when we see things more truly than at any other time. The light is more trustworthy, since our senses are purer and the atmosphere is less gross. By afternoon all objects are seen in mirage.
* * *

From the Sporting Bucket

It's Bracket-Time! Print it out! Fill it out! Pester your coworkers! March Madness is upon us!

And don't let anyone tell you the tournament isn't the greatest postseason in all of sports. That kind of talk requires a swift reply of fist-to-face.
* * *

The News & My Opinion

I don't care about St. Patrick's Day. I can't help it, I just don't. I'm not Irish, I don't drink, and I have no particular affinity for the color green. I think I need a shirt that says all of that so I don't have to keep explaining myself every year.

* * *

Webcomics

Dinosaur Comics: The Amazing Story of Edward S. Curtis

* * *

Thing(s) from my Google Reader that May Interest Only Me

Ten Sites for Finding Wonderful Things (via iLibrarian)

* * *

Video(s) that May Interest Only Me

Today's Subject: Tiger Woods. Seriously, he may never lose again.


As you were.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Riffs & Notes | 3.14

(Second crack at the new format. Mostly small tweaks.)

On this day in 1860, Thoreau wrote in his journal:

No sooner has the ice of Walden melted than the wind begins to play in dark ripples over the surface of the virgin water. It is affecting to see nature so tender, however old, and wearing none of the wrinkles of age. Ice dissolved is the next moment as perfect water as if it had been melted a million years. To see that which was lately so hard and immovable now so soft and impressible! What if our moods could dissolve thus completely? It is like a flush of life to a cheek that was dead.
* * *

From the Sporting Bucket

Bob Costas Things I'm a Loser (again, via Dan Shanoff). Seriously, Bob? Let's keep it above the belt and within reason, huh?

Also, I may have mentioned this before, but MLB Poetry Previews are where it's at (unlike the phrase "where it's at"). I was reminded today of its awesomeness and simply want to pass on a very clever combination of two of my favorite things: poetry and baseball.

* * *

The News & My Opinion

Let's be clear: this is not news. A woman in my office came in this morning all worked up about hearing something about Heather Locklear and "suicide" and I had to stifle laughter. I cannot understand the fascination with celebrities. Yes, some of them are very down-to-earth and decent people, but most celebrities just want us to gawk at them, which is just sad. As a general rule, they should all be beneath the attention of just about everyone. (Oh, and I realize this probably wasn't Locklear's fault, and I've got no beef with her; this just brought the subject to my mind, is all.)

* * *

Webcomics

Wondermark #390: A Reasonable Solution

xkcd: The Ring

* * *

Thing(s) from my Google Reader that May Interest Only Me

Solar Tower, Anyone? (via Jetson Green)

* * *

Video(s) that May Interest Only Me

Today's Subject: More Crispin Glover, because I'm not sure if I think he's cool or a train wreck, away from which I cannot look.



As you were.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Crack at a New Format

Brought to you by the number 320, and the word "Schmuck"

I've always liked the idea of blogging, but I detect somewhere in my thinking a dissatisfaction with a form that, while so promising and so much fun, can easily become a rather static thing (funny how that term has become web2.0-speak for "not good").

Anyway, my thinking about a format has reminded me that among my favorite things about recurring things (be they daily, weekly, every other day, whatever) are the anticipation and the routine itself. That said, I've created (translation: I'm working on, as Blogger is giving me issues with said creation at the moment) a more prominent spot for one to sign up for email delivery of my posts. Working in an office as I do, I realize that for many of us, there's something special about getting that one interesting/amusing email every morning or afternoon, and if that's a better way for one person to enjoy this blog, then mission accomplished.

But back to the task at hand. What follows is a first crack at a new, guiding format. It will likely not stick, but it's a place for me to get my mind going at it, and at the moment, that's about all that counts. (As I'm compiling the content below, I'm struck by the riffy nature of it. I don't know why, but I am. Riffs and Notes, I could call it. Nah, too... too something.)

Here goes nothing.

* * *

On this day in 1859, Thoreau wrote in his journal:

I see a small flock of blackbirds flying over, some rising, others falling,
yet all advancing together, one flock but many birds, some silent, others
tchucking, - incessant alternation. This harmonious movement as in a dance, this
agreeing to differ, makes the charm of the spectacle to me. One bird looks
fractional, naked, like a single thread or ravelling from the web to which it
belongs. Alternation! Alternation! Heaven and hell! Here again in the flight of
a birds, its ricochet motion, is that undulation observed in so many materials,
as in the mackerel sky.

* * *

From the Sporting Bucket

Dan Shanoff proposes a 340-team NCAA Tournament. Not sure how it wouldn't devalue the regular season a bit, but I'm intrigued and amused (but hopeful is nowhere to be found...)

* * *

The News & My Opinion

I know I'm a few days late on this one, but I've just gotta say, Eliot Spitzer is a schmuck. BUT... let's not go all crazy on him. Yes, the irony of white-collar crime's arch nemesis being brought down in a scandal of white-collar crime is delicious. That still doesn't give us the right to drop the hammer like blind monkeys. Assuming he does kind of feel bad about the whole thing, what he needs more than the scorn of a nation is the support of his family and friends, and as a follower of Jesus, I sincerely hope he's getting it. He's at rock-bottom, people; how about we let that be punishment enough (aside from actual punishment, of course, should there be legal repercussions)?

And can we all just stop being shocked and disappointed when politicians, you know, mire themselves in scandal? The people work in a system that seems designed for schmucks to get ahead, so we really shouldn't be surprised each time we discover that yet another politician is, you guessed it, a schmuck.

(That'll be all the preachifyin' for today, folks, don't worry.)

* * *

I Like Webcomics

Cat and Girl: Trinity

* * *

Interesting thing from My Google Reader that May Only Interest Me

Texting Generation Gap @ NY Times (via Library Link of the Day). Again, not exactly a recent idea, or even very unusually insightful, but I found it thought-provoking as a parent (of almost two!)

* * *

Video(s) that May Interest Only Me
Today's subject: Crispin Glover is (I think) both very intelligent and possibly insane.



I imagine it is, as Paul astutely observes, basically a conceptual piece, which I find interesting, if incredibly bizarre. Regardless, here is Glover (kind of approaching) offering an explanation of the above:





And this is just way out there (though I haven't managed to get the goofy theme out of my head all day:



(By the way, note that Mr. Farr is seemingly identical to the character that appeared on Letterman in 1987 in the first clip, which is several years before the creation of this video. I don't care enough to explore that more, I just found it interesting & odd.

UPDATE: Mr. (Rubin) Farr is apparently a character Glover played in this movie. So there you go.)

As you were.

Thinking about this blog

I never know quite what to do, here, on this blog. I post things as they come to me, but I have no idea who, if anyone, reads them. I'm sure people who know me meander by from time to time, but I don't pretend to think I have a large readership, by any means. I suppose I tend to think of blogging as simply a place to get down things that interest me, if occasionally only so I can remember them again at some later date.

Perhaps, then, it's time for a change. I'm a fan of, shall I say, programmed material. That is, I like the idea and experience of a blog (or whatever) following a certain format, including the same kinds of material, possibly in the same order, on a recurring basis. As such, I am toying with the idea of doing that here. I may test out a few different formats, and regardless of the result, I will likely continue to insert, shall I say, un-programmed material along the way.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Be Where Now?

Dwelling in Possibilities, an article by Mark Edmundson, is one of the best articles I have read in some time. His myriad thoughts on the frenetic lifestyle most now embrace are eerily similar to my own (though I will admit I am likely to err even more than he on the side of Wordsworth's Old Cumberland Beggar).

Simply a great read. Perhaps because I'm in the right frame of mind—thinking a lot about pace of life (and minimalism) today, perhaps because his perspective is frustratingly refreshing, not because it is new, but because it is so seldom heard.

Take a few minutes and read it. Slowly.

(I cannot help the thought that Edmundson's perspective is largely lost on, well, almost everyone. That said, the timestamp of this post—something I normally tweak slightly but did not have to today—made me laugh.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Free Rice

I'm late with this one, but it's still cool: Free Rice. Improve your vocabulary and donate rice through the United Nations World Food Program. I like good vocabulary, and I like reducing hunger. A+ for you, Free Rice!

Friday, March 7, 2008

On Nietzsche

"That there is no God is proved by Nietzsche pragmatically, on the ground that belief in the existence of God would have made him uncomfortable. Not at all for the reason that might first occur to us: to imagine himself a lost soul has always been a point of pride with the romantic genius. The reason was that if there had been any gods he would have found it intolerable not to be a god himself. Poor Nietzsche! The laurels of the Almighty would not let him sleep.

"It is hard to know if we should be more deceived in taking these sallies seriously or in not taking them so. On the one hand it all seems the swagger of an immature, half-playful mind, like a child that tells you he will cut your head off. The dreamy impulse, in its inception, is sincere enough, but there is no vestige of any understanding of what it proposes, of its conditions, or of its results. On the other hand these explosions are symptomatic; there stirs behind them unmistakably an elemental force. That an attitude is foolish, incoherent, disastrous, proves nothing against the depth of the instinct that inspires it. Who could be more intensely unintelligent than Luther or Rousseau? Yet the world followed them, not to turn back. The molecular forces of society, so to speak, had already undermined the systems which these men denounced. If the systems have survived it is only because the reformers, in their intellectual helplessness, could supply nothing to take their place. So Nietzsche, in his genial imbecility, betrays the shifting of great subterranean forces. What he said may be nothing, but the fact that he said it is all-important. Out of such wild intuitions, because the heart of the child was in them, the man of the future may have to build his philosophy. We should forgive Nietzsche his boyish blasphemies. He hated with clearness, if he did not know what to love." (source)

I don't even remember where I found this. I've always had a problem with Nietzsche; it's not just that I think he's wrong (he is), or that there is a lack of decent criticism of his ideas (there isn't), but the second of these two paragraphs, I think, finally made me realize what it is: stupid and abnormal as he may have been, he was predicting whither society was headed. Look around and just try to tell me people don't live as though the world was their "idea, new every day." It's the sickening inevitability of his prophecy that bothers me, and likely always will.

While contemplating a return...

I've been down and out for a while. Here's something to think about while I think about my return to the blogosphere:

When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. (trans: Trotter)

(via Conblogeration)