Category Archives: Meta-blog

More on the Big Move (hopefully) is redirecting the domain to the old domain. Hopefully this is completely transparent to all of you, although (near as I can figure out) it might play havoc with anyone silly enough to use a feed-reader to keep up with my scribblings. But that would be — how many people? Four? Five?


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Same Blog, New Digs

For no good reason what-so-ever — other than to see if my limited UNIX chops are up to the task — I’m moving the blog off the host to Laughing Squid in San Fransisco. This will allow to me use the various WordPress plugins and widgets and googaws and doodads that aren’t available to the users of the free blogs. I’ll also get a chance to get my hands dirty with FTP and PHP and MySQL and all that fun stuff. Hey, if I can muddle through set theory, I can learn me some HTML.

Of course, this means that you may not see the blog for a while as I change the domain pointers in the deep dark belly of the interweb. Or, I might not be smart enought to get everthing working properly. Or I might just get frustrated and quit — I find that I start investing time and money in a project just before my short attention span fastens onto some other wildly foolish plan.

So, for those few handful of people who have stumbled onto this blog (I couldn’t tell you if anyone has ever been here twice) — keep checking back to see if I have everything up and running. If you never hear from me again, well… it’s been a moderate amount of fun.

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How to Fix Your Writing

“The Economist Style Guide: 9th Edition” (Profile Books)

While I like my complex, structured style, it might be time to explore other ways to communicate using the written word. I do this for two reasons. One, my complex, structured style sometimes becomes a labored, leaden style. Two, complex subjects deserve to be explored simply. When you wrap complex concepts in baroque language you risk alienating your audience. When the subjects are important this is a disservice both to the concepts themselves, but also the people who could otherwise benefit from a clear exploration of the topic.

So I’ve been perusing the Economist Style Guide. It’s helping — some. Here’s how the above is phrased on the back of the book:

Clear thinking is the key to clear writing. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.

Readers are primarily interested in what you say. The way you say it may encourage them either to read on or to give up.

That’s good. Clear. Short. Pithy, almost. Someday I want to write just like that — nice and clear. But my head thinks in m-dashes & ampersands; semi-colons when ideas need to be piled up for effect; long lists of similar phrases to chart shifts in texture and tone.

So maybe there will be ancillary benefits. Perhaps learning clear-writing will lead to clear-thinking.

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Reasons Not to Blog #7, 8

I’m still not convinced blogging is a worth-while activity, for me or for anyone else. For one, it takes up too much time. To blog effectively one need to spend too much time dredging the internet for useful stuff — but, much like dragging a river for bodies, all you usually end up with are old tires and abandoned appliances. I have more important and more interesting things to read than the dreck posted on blogs.

The only good bit about blogging is the fact that it happens in real time. It’s like they’re almost interactive! A post today justifying the morality of torture gets a devastating response form Andrew Sullivan tomorrow — and we were there! We saw it happen! Reading blogs is much like watching the car chases on the California news; the vast majority of them are boring and uneventful, and a waste of time compared to watching Gene Hackman race around in The French Connection. The only thing that makes blogs interesting is that they’re happening right now!

Blogging also requires a writing style for which I am constitutionally unsuited. I like to pile on subjunctive clauses, to wind my way through complex sentence structures, to use rhythm and tone to point out the interesting or important bits. But blogging is different. It requires short sentences. Punchy, declarative sentences. Can’t loose their attention! Subtlety be damned! Make your point and move on. Any point that needs more than three sentences should be abandoned.

This very post is an example of both problems. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I finally just wanted to get it out of my head. And it should be much longer; I have more to say on the subject. But a blog doesn’t seem like the place to say it.

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Reason not to Blog # 6

If I do decide to start blogging, I’ll have to do something about the name. My original plan involved writing about analytic philosophy and bicycles — ‘cos that’s what I’m studying and what I used to ride. The biking is reflected in the title and the (now gone) banner jpeg.

But this was all before I found out that Florida eats bicyclists alive, through both heat and crazy homicidal drivers — so I never got around to building the sweet Surly singlespeed of my dreams. My expanding waist is testament to the need to drive everywhere in Tallahassee.

So if I do start to blog, maybe my blog name shouldn’t reflect a bicycle and a lifestyle that never materialized.

I’m thinking of going with “As The Worm Turns” for no reason other than I think it’s funny.

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Reason Not to Blog #5

Internet Explorer.

Look, if everyone in the world used Firefox (or Safari for the Mac) life would be easy and happy. But for some odd reason — and one which acts as a counterexample to Hayek’s belief in markets appropriately distributing goods — most people use Internet Explorer. Even though it’s evil. As is everything from Microsoft.

So, if you are one of those foolish enough to use Internet Explorer — even though a a few minutes of download time would improve your web experience immensely — I apologize for the fact that your web browser can’t display my site properly at the moment. If you want to see my blogroll or recent posts, they are somewhere near the bottom of the page. I will work towards making sure my site appears properly in your technologically-backwards browser.

Even though it looks pretty damn good in mine.

Update: to hell with it. I just changed the theme to something more basic.

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Is Blogging Dangerous?

Here’s my brief, contrarian question: are we, as a representative democracy, well-served by allowing just anyone to blog about anything they want?

Take the (mal-named) War on Terror: to win this war we need — as opposed to a conventional war where winning just means killing more of them than they kill of us — to eradicate the very source that give rises to the mujaheddin and Al Qaeda. To simplistic thinkers on the Right (Michelle Malkin, Robert Spencer, Ann Coulter) the source of terrorism is the ideology inculcated by Islam. To simplistic thinkers on the Left (Michael Moore, too-smart-for-his-own-good Noam Chomsky) the source of terror is purely economic in origin — usually viewed as a shallow story about us exploiting them for oil.

But the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. To defeat Al Qaeda, to solve the Palestinian crisis, to bring stability to Iraq, to convince Iran to act like a grow-up country rather than a spoiled, impetuous teenager — all of these require a nuanced, wonkish approach, sensitive to the subtle interplay of the forces involved. Which means we need leaders capable of being sensitive and nuanced.

But the Internet fosters political polarization. People can use Google searches and blogrolls to find their political fellow travelers; and this reduces the amount of cross-ideological debate between different world-views. Finding their like-minded comrades means people aren’t required to justify the fundaments of their belief to people with whom they disagree. And this means that people are less likely to choose leaders capable of nuance, subtle thinking and negotiating the compromise the real world requires between rigid political positions — as evidenced by some of the events in the current primary races.

Which means that — if my simplistic analysis is correct in outline — that the netroots movement is bad and (at least partially) responsible for our current mess. Perhaps the new power of the net and political bloggers, more than Karl Rove, can be blamed for electing a President incapable of the fluidity of thought required by the modern world.

So this is certainly an argument against blogging. But it’s not just an argument against my blogging, but against anyone blogging. So it doesn’t really help me with my decision; after all, being more subtle and nuanced than the average, perhaps adding my voice to the din might be a net benefit.

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