Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How do you chose blogs to follow/read?

I always find it interesting to discover why people choose the blogs they follow and/or read regularly.  In my case, I have three general criteria, the order of which is subject to mood and whim.  I suspect that others have very different criteria.

One of my criteria is humor (even unintentional).  I am a big fan of those who can poke fun at their day to day lives and the oddities of modern life.  Given that I have a writing style that is stiff, formal, and pedantic - you might say I enjoy reading the opposite of what I write. {*grin*}

Another criteria is decent writing skills.  By that I mean that sentences are well formed, nouns are used appropriately, and verbs exist.  I am old enough not to enjoy blogs written in the style of texts or matchbook stenography school adds. I.e., if u cn rd ths, u cn mk $.

Yet another criteria is true geekiness or nerdiness.  Given I have spent most of my  adult career involved with science, technology and software development, I have a deep fondness for most things geek.  I am not, however, a big fan of "gadget of the day" blogs.  I have entirely too many gadgets already.  I would like to see the development of a master gadget - one the size of a modern cell phone with a pop-out full size keyboard, an IMAX sized holographic screen, the computing power of a supercomputer, and 3 days of battery life.  Oh, and it should weigh little and cost less. Got one for me? {*grin*}

A final criteria is regularity.  I like a blog to have at least a couple of entries per week.  Otherwise I tend to loose my understanding of the style and skills of the author.  That continuity is critical for my enjoyment of most blogs, since they build on a sense of history and shared disclosure of experience.

I have been reading and following blogs since they first came of age, but until this beast have resisted the temptation to have a public non-technical blog.  Now you get to suffer for my lack of will power!  The list of blogs I follow and/or read is constantly changing.  When I find a blog that I like, I usually then investigate the blogs the author follows.  My investigation is somewhat trivial, consisting of reading the last three posts and then making a yea or nay decision to follow or add to my reader list.  Any time the posts from any blog seem to be less interesting over a week or so, it then gets pruned from my reading list.

How do you chose the blogs you follow/read?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm dead, but don't tell the children

Have you ever noticed how some families regard everything as fair game for sharing? And other families regard information about anything as a top secret affair? That kind of oil and water mix is my and my wife's families.

My family regards anything as fair game for sharing and bringing out into the open. If Uncle Joe has a boil on his butt, you can be sure that all will get a chance to view and comment on it. If Aunt Susie thinks her exploratory surgery scar is neat, we will all get a chance to discuss it after dinner.  And if someone has a serious illness, it is nothing to be hidden, but is to be brought forth and shared.  And that sharing is powerful because it means the love and support is available to the afflicted and those who care for them.

Imagine my shock many years ago, when we were newlyweds, and I discovered my wife's family is exactly the opposite. Great Grandma may be in the hospital and dying, but no one will speak of it.  Many is the time when we have accidentally discovered someone was in the hospital or seriously ill after the fact.  I am still suprised that funerals are announced - after all the illness was hidden, why let on that the person died? When asked, her family always maintains they just didn't want anyone to worry about them. Needless to say, I would much rather know and share. My wife has come around to a similar view after spending all these years together.  I guess I could be considered a bad influence.

Now that my wife's mother is widowed and lives here in this small town near us, she cannot easily hide things.  That doesn't stop her from telling my wife "don't tell your brother"on a regular basis. It can be when she is ill, or in the hospital, or just feeling lonely. Thus, we plan to write a humorous book on dealing with the exasperating foibles of parents. And the title? You got it - "I'm dead, but don't tell the children." Look for it in your bookstore in a few decades when we have time to write it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is sarcasm a sex-linked trait?

The question that occurs to my twisted mind is simple - is sarcasm and a tendency to be sarcastic related to the sex of the group involved? There are clearly other factors involved such as size of the group, etc., but let's restrict ourselves to groups of less than 20 people here. This question comes to mind based on my own observations. 

The first observation is that when I am with a group of guys, sarcasm is both prevalent and well accepted. If the group gets large enough, sarcasm is still accepted, but is more and more subject to misinterpretation.

The second observation is the continuing contention on the part of my lovely spouse (of the female persuation) that sarcasm is both unpleasant and never an appropriate response.  This seems to be a response shared by most females in mixed groups.

Finally, I have no direct experience of the all female group dynamics, but my informants tell me that sarcasm is not held in high esteem there either.  Thus it would look a lot like the sitation is

Sarcasm OKSarcasm IffySarcasm No
All Male GroupX
All Female GroupX
Mixed Group

Since I am by nature and temperment a sarcastic person, I have had to work hard to overcome my natural tendencies. One of the things I have learned in my years of dealing with the press and the public is that sarcasm does not work well in public bodies  In fact a sarcastic "You bet!" can be taken by the press or a public audience as a serious reply, usually with disasterous consequences.  For example, if asked "Do you support requiring all people to drive blindfolded?" and you answer with the obvious sarcastic "You bet!", you can be assured that the headline in the next days paper is "Mayor Supports Blindfolded Driving".  (In fact, you can be sure that not only a headline in 24 point bold screams across the masthead, but that an editorial will appear on the op-ed pages decrying what an insane idiot the mayor is. Ask me how I know.)

I guess that leaves me with only one place to be my standard sarcastic self - in small groups of my male friends.  Oh well.  I might manage to train myself to hold it in with other groups before I die.

Comments? (And can someone enlighten me of a method of creating tables in the Blogger interface without hand coding them?  Preferably built into the Blogger interface. Thanks.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Recycling in the boonies

Today I was part of a group on a local radio station announcing the start of a new recycling plan here. The supervisor of the county landfill, the program director for prison labor at the prison and myself spent a half hour talking about the program.  This is a new approach here, the coalition of the city, the county, the prison, and private industry (WMI).

Just so you understand, recycling here is a ticklish proposition since there is a low population density (less that 22,000 people in the slightly less than 2000 square miles of the county) and the nearest recycling uptake plant is ~125 miles away.  In these days of $4/gallon or more diesel fuel, it is almost impossible to collect enough recyclables to pay for the storage during accumulation, baling, and the transport to the uptake facility.  Couple that with the low cost of dump fees and the high availability of isolated land here for late night dumping if the dump fees are raised and you have issues.

There have been ongoing municipal and public service recycling efforts in the area for the last few decades, but most have been temporarily successful at best.  The recycling of newsprint and corragated paper seem to have the best track record.  WMI operates this program with all proceeds going to the Boy Scouts in the area.  Depending on the cost of transport, the number of rejected loads, and the price of the paper, the scouts can make out OK.

The new program adds #1 and #2 plastics and steel/tin cans.  The collection point is at the county landfill several miles outside of town in bins supplied by WMI. The material is sorted and then bailed for transport by labor supplied by the state prison system.  It is then transported to the uptake plant. We hope to cover the transport cost with what we get for the recyclables.  The city is involved via an the information campaign, including quarterly information and how-tos included in the monthly water bills of the citizens. Since we provide water service more than half the population of the county we have a very broad reach. One of the reasons for the out of the way location is that the landfill is a manned facility, so that there are people there to keep an eye on the collection areas during operational hours.  Outside of operational hours, the entire facility is fenced and locked. We have had an ongoing problem in past programs with contamination of recycling materials in unattended areas that this will hopefully prevent. (The main problem is people dumping their garbage in amidst the recyclables, contaminating them and resulting in transport to the landfill as garbage of the entire mess.)

I really hope that this works.  Our (the city, the county, the prison, and WMI) hope is that we get sufficient levels of participation to increase the program.  We'll have to see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Start of the end

This is nothing more than an initial blog post to see if I have a clue about how this interface works. Pretty much content and thought free (somewhat like my mind most days).

Just to establish some cultural bookmarks here:
USC just lost to Oregon State - let the battle for number one resume.
The lawn mower is giddy-up-gone - so guess how I'm spending the weekend?
Fall approaches - when will the first freeze arrive?
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