Saturday, June 08, 2002

From the Dept. of Just Plain Neat

Check out Weblog Bookwatch . It's a fellow who has set up a routine to scan through weblogs (using for his source list) and track when various books are mentioned. So you can look at Snow Crash, for example, and see that TTLB mentioned it (which is how I found the site -- I got a referral from them).

Paul Bausch, the fellow who runs it, also has a blog with a few very nice photos of Yosemite that are making me jealous.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden is leaping to Coleen Rowly's defense from meanies Jeff Jarvis and Matthew Yglesias :

"From here it looks like the problem is that the people in charge of our security think pretty much exactly like Jeff Jarvis and Matthew Yglesias--which is to say, like a well-connected East Coast media maven and a smart Harvard undergrad. For people like them, or like Robert Mueller and George Tenet, someone like Coleen Rowley is and always will be the sort of person you ignore...Jarvis and Yglesias are good guys, but (wittingly or unwittingly, I can't quite tell) they're offering a window into exactly why we're where we are. "

Well said. I listened to a bit (only a bit) of her testimony and I was frankly charmed. She seemed like a very practical, down-to-earth professional who knew her job and was patiently trying to explain it to folks who didn't. And the Fargo accent works for me, unlike for Mr. Jarvis.

I haven't examined her full testimony, but the parts I did hear were pretty straightforward: notably, the section where she testified that the FBI's search engine only works on single words, so you can search on "aviation" but not on "aviation schools". I think there's quite a legitimate question to ask why it has taken this long for somebody to testify to Congress about that basic a failing, but you can't fault Ms. Rowley for that, and she seemed to do a fine job of it to me...

Meryl has an interesting referral to a Village Voice piece with statistics on Israeli and Palestinian casualties over the past few years. It says volumes about those doing the killing on each side; funny how actual facts can do that sometimes.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Did you think there could never possibly be an upside to a nuclear war between India and Pakistan?

Think again.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

First liberals -- and now Christians. Seems like TTLB is becoming a haven for... well I don't know what, but certainly not what I thought it would be.

Dean, the nice fellow over at Heal Your Church Website, asked politely for a link, so I figured I'd oblige, as his page is (probably) unique and is at least out-of-the-ordinary for a non-practicing agnostic like me to be linking to. And I like to keep people guessing.

While I strongly suspect Dean and I might have some amusing and/or infuriating theological and philosophical debates were we to meet in person (said debates preferably to be served with a decent wine), I think I can endorse his --- dare I say holy? --- mission to bring good web design to Christian pages. If for no other reason, than at least from a clean-up-the-virtual-environment kinda perspective.

Hearkin unto his mission statement:

"Yes, I know most church sites are developed and maintained by volunteers. However, this doesn't mean they have to look or feel cheap, cheezy and/or down right stupid. This website is here to 'preach good design ... to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction' on how to design church and para-church websites that are effective, fast-loading, informative, edifying and hopefully a bit fun. To do this will mean critiquing various sites in hopes of removing the splinters so we can view our sites in a new, more 'prophet-able' way."

Yeeech. I was with him until that prophet-able thing. Didn't Moses say anything about bad puns? Should be at least venal, IMHO.

Anyway, if you are looking to exorcise the demons of painfully bad design from your most holy pages, then head on over to Heal Your Church Website.

And while you're there, don't forget to put in a good word for the Bear. 'Cause, you know, Pascal had a pretty good point...

Aha! Suman over at The Kolkata Libertarian finally responded to the article I mentioned last week regarding India's detailed plans for a limited war against Pakistan. After hearing about the plan last week, it sounded pretty realistic, but I wanted to hear some analysis from somebody who knows better than I. Having read Suman's assessment, I'm convinced: Barring some unforseen and bizarre turn of events, this is what is going to happen. It just makes too much sense, from the twisted logic of the region, not to.

Suman's money quote:

"A sense of the dramatic plays very well in the subcontinental psyche. Furious and explosive exchanges across a relatively stagnant front-line provide for much drama, but make little tactical sense in this age of modern warfare. Keep in mind, however, that the goals of this war are very different from traditional wars of aggression and defense. It's not how much land the armies can grab, it's how well they can soothe the jingiosm of the people back home without crippling themselves in the process. "

Whether this little adventure stays the nice, tidy limited conflict that India has planned is another question entirely.

PS - Incidentally, if my implicit recommendation wasn't clear enough, here's an explicit one: you should be reading Sumit if you have any interest at all in the India-Pakistan mess. And if you don't have any interest in what may turn into a nuclear war, well then there's just no helping you.

Map of Kurdistan
Dan over at Lake Effect wrote in with some additional info on the item I posted yesterday regarding al Qaeda making contact with Islamist Kurds:

"The Ansar al-Islam connection was discussed in some detail as a small part of the Jeffrey Goldberg article on the gas attacks in Halabja, which is probably where the CSM guy is working from: [link]

This isn't really a *shocking* revelation, not if you've been keeping up with all the little nodes like Fred at Rantburg [link]. And frankly, just about every little "cell" of unemployed hookah-smokers has had *some* contact with *somebody* that you can parse as an al Qaeda connection.

This is really just another example of how they glom onto every little flowering of conflict, or each flowering gravitates toward the al Qaeda blob (see Tim Blair). And how Saddam will cynically ally with anyone in order to fuck with his enemies. As a casus belli it's pretty weak."

Well, I'm not suggesting it's cause to immediately freak out: I agree with Dan that it is not surprising that al Qaeda is attempting to slime their way into any possible conflict area. But the Kurds strike me as a particularly dangerous group to allow to fall into the Islamist orbit. They've been fighting for their own homeland for ages, and have already been screwed over by the United States at least once in recent memory (when they rose up against Saddam in the early 90's at end of the Gulf War, and got squashed, mistakenly assuming that we were actually going to help them).

Miraculously, though, my understanding is that the main groups of Iraqi Kurds still are pretty positive towards the United States (even if they will be somewhat more cautious trusting us the next time around). And so I think a group like Ansar al-Islam bears close scrutiny. If "Kurdistan" (i.e., Northern Iraq those pieces of Turkey, Iran & Syria that the Kurds claim) were to go Islamofascist (not likely, but certainly conceivable ), that would certainly give al Qaeda another very nice base of operations.

And I think we'd all agree that would, well, suck.

My Minnesotan friend tips me off that today's edition of Future Tense from Minnesota Public Radio is about weblogs. They don't have the audio up their site yet, but if you get the actual primitive old electromagnetic waves flowing over you, catch it on air. I'll post a link when the web audio shows up.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Double Hmph. I noticed a few days back that Patio Pundit has rather kindly given me a link on his blogroll (thanks!). But I'm ambivalent about my classification: I'm under "Comedies", grouped with the likes of "The Onion".

So I guess I'm funny sometimes. Or at least I try. But "Comedies", you know; it's a bit limiting. I do try to do some serious stuff around here. (And btw, I'm working on a major new piece, kinda similar to Back in the Day, which hasn't got a funny word in it. Maybe you'll see it soon).

But I shouldn't whine unless I'm going to propose a solution (see, my management consulting background is good for something!). So let's see what we can do here. Martin likes to go with the whole movie-genre thing on his links, but I really don't think any of his existing ones fit. So let's brainstorm.

Rock Opera?

Nah. I'm not deaf dumb or blind, and I sure don't play a mean pinball.

Tear-Jerker ?

My blighted prose may make you cry, but I don't want to brag about it.

Western ?

I am in California, but that's probably beside the point.

Teen Sex Comedy ?

You must be thinking of someone else.

Now when I think about it, I've always thought the whole "fu" thing was kinda cool --- the moniker you hear flung around Ain't-It-Cool-News for martial arts flicks. You know, Kung Fu, which led to Wire Fu, which led to Matrix Fu. So why not ... you guessed it...

Pundit Fu!

I like it. So what do I do here, start a write-in campaign to badger Martin? That probably wouldn't be very nice. Is there a form to fill out? Some kind of test? Inquiring minds wanting to know and all that...

Hmph. The Force is strong in Jedi Reynolds tonight... that Instamention is driving lots of folks my way. Who would have thought so many people would be interested in listening to the Left ?

Scott Peterson, a reporter and photographer for the Christian Science Monitor, was on Fresh Air today discussing his reporting in the Middle East.

Peterson's most interesting information is that apparently there is a splinter group of Iraqi Kurds called Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq who have adopted a militant Islamic position and have made contact with Al Queda. Even more interesting is that Peterson reports that this group is being funded and supported in part by Saddam himself, in an effort to counterbalance the main Kurdish opposion groups and generally destablize the north. Of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan -- the group from which Ansar al-Islam evolved --- he said the following:

"I did speak to sources in Northern Iraq during my recent visit in which they described how Al Qaeda members had worked very hard to try and recruit some people from this organization and try and bring them onto there ideological wavelength. They apparently were successful in doing that. And also, I spoke to people too who described that there had been a lot of support for this group from Saddam Hussein in Baghdad: his purpose was to find any means possible to help destabilize the situation in Northern Iraq, and he felt that this was a worthwhile tool for that."

I unfortunately can't seem to locate any particular piece on the CSM website corresponding to this story, so you'll just have to listen to the RealAudio --- the discussion of the Kurds is at the very beginning of the interview. If anyone finds a link, send it to me.

Hmmm. I'm being nice today, but I just don't know what to make of WarBloggerWatch's annotation of a Max Power post in which he extols the virtues of collaborative blogs.

They've annotated his quoted words with odd images, including this shot of Nazi swastikas.

Now I'm not in N.Z.Bear-The-Insult-Pundit mode today, so I'm going to remain polite here. But could someone please explain to me just how I'm supposed to interpret this charming little link? It's been a while since I've actually seen Godwin's Law in action --- most folks have smartened up that stuff like that only makes you look foolish. So surely there's some wise message buried in WBW's annotation that I'm just missing.... right....?

Lest anyone think I'm closed-minded, let me state it clearly: TTLB is a forum for all opinions.

All opinions, as used in that sentence, are defined as:

1) My opinions

2) Opinions of people I think are intelligent or are at least old friends of mine

A slight revision on the Webster's standard definition of "all", I grant you, but I make the rules around here, as I think I've mentioned.

With that firmly established, I present to you an opinion that falls in Category #2, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous --- let's just call her L.

L, who is both intelligent and an old friend, put up with me during my high school days and that should at least earn her one free soapbox here at TTLB. She is, in addition, a card-caryin', tree-huggin', Democratic-votin' flaming-and-proud-of-it liberal. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Er, wait a minute, maybe there --- well, nevermind.

Anyway, L chastised me severely for the original Creative Dream Team posts, pointing out (accurately) that it was a fairly impressive list of Old White Guys. Why no chicks? (Ok, she didn't use the word "chicks"; I think she said "dames" or "broads"). All are welcome, I responded, but nobody nominated any. So I challenged her to throw her fave's into the fray.

Well, weeks passed, and I finally goaded her into providing a brief blurb, at least, for her nomination for a wise lady we should pay attention to: Molly Ivins. L writes as follows:

"Looking for left-leaning comments? Then, please, read the latest from Molly Ivins, one of the best and most straightforward commentators from the left/centrist political spectrum. Her latest article about the Administration's refusal to enact any reforms to diminish the effect of global warming are on target. At least the Bushies acknowledge that humans cause global warming."

Well, there you have it! Commence link following, or at least commence standard blogospheric conservative Ivins bashing. As always, comments that sufficiently amuse will get posted... but be nice! L's an old friend, as I said, and anyone caught being mean to her will anger the bear.

PS - With this, I think TTLB has now completed its ideological loop-de-loop round to the liberal side of the world. I better start linking to The Corner again quick before people start getting ideas...

Hmmm. I am attempting to put up a little poll widget (see left) but it doesn't seem to be working. Anyone with suggestions, let me know...


More linking to people who don't need it

If you're interested in the latest census data that came out yesterday, but can't stomach slogging through a tedius Times or Post piece, go read Mickey's assessment today. He gives you the goods, and although it doesn't quite reach the time-saving level of a SeriesSkipperTM, it'll save you at least a few minutes of tedium.
Lefty Blog Roundup

I've received quite a few emails from folks suggesting lefty / liberal blogs that might be of interest. I have to confess that thus far, I've yet to find one that has struck me with complete clarity and brilliance that I feel comfortable annointing as The Chosen Leftie. But there sure is some interesting stuff out there, so rather than inflict my prejudices on you, I decided to at least do a roundup of everything I've received, and let readers browse as they wish. This list is pretty inclusive of what I received; I only dropped a few that I thought were really lame or were already popular enough to not need the attention. (And I'm not relisting those that I did full posts on; scroll down for those...)

I'm attempting to behave myself today, and maybe go 24 hours without insulting anybody, so I'm going to restrict my comments to honest-but-polite assessments. If you seek snarkiness, look not here.

The list:

Armed Liberal - Another liberal warblogger, and a good one at that. Check out his takedown of a fellow critical of the SFSU blogburst effort, in particular.

Eschaton Sometimes heavy on the insult-tactics, but also sometimes pretty darned sharp.

Charlie Stross - Cthulhu plush toys and links to squirrel fishing photos. Not sure about his politics, but how bad could it be? And he's a SF-writing Scot, so there's two extra points. (Hey Charlie, go ask MacLeod why he hasn't responded to my email, would ya? Thanks.)

Cogent Provocateur - Hmmm. Interesting, but here's a quote: "Terrorism is not a strategic threat to the US. It wasn't on September 10, it wasn't on September 11, and it isn't today. Terrorists can harass us, they hurt us, they can cost us lives and fortunes, but they can't knock us over or turn us around." Well, yes -- sort of. There is one low-probability scenario that could lead to the actual destruction of the U.S., and that's a well-executed bioterrorism attack, but in my view that's pretty unlikely. And barring that possibility, I can't see anything else the terrorists can throw at us that would lead to our "defeat" in any real sense of the word (no, not even a nuke attack). However, I'd quibble that just because they are highly unlikely to defeat us, that doesn't mean that they aren't a strategic threat. They can still do us great damage, and I think our "strategic interest" should clearly be defined to include preventing great damage, not just preventing total defeat. (Bottom line: blogged something I felt the urge to respond to, so that must be a good sign... see for yourself).

Demosthenes/Hegemon - Straightforward lefty commentary with a particular focus on refuting the CW of the libertarian/conservative blogosphere; insults light to nonexistent.

Dr. Menlo - Let's put it this way: three of the images prominently displayed on his page are of Edgar Allen Poe, Lenny Bruce, and an automatic weapon that looks to my untrained eyes to be an M-16. I have no idea what that means, but go see for yourself.

Ethel the Blog - Quotes Harlan on the top of his page, so how bad could it be? Also, much linkage and quotage from interesting sources: check out Umberto Eco on Ur-Fascism

The Hauser Report - I think this one is a bit better known, but it wasn't to me, so here it is. News media link & commentary from a "politically obsessed, self-righteous, fanatically liberal law student"

Jason Rylander - Sharp guy. And he points us to an absolute must-read essay by, of all people, E.B. White on New York City, which is simply chilling in its prophecy.

Public Nuisance - Pleasantly high intelligence/insults ratio (might even be dividing by zero, there). Most recent post is a critique of MWO-Watch, which makes it a weblog commentary on a weblog devoted to monitoring the activities of a weblog devoted to monitoring the activities of the mainstream media. It's a meta, meta world.

The Serenity- A lot of well-intentioned stuff here that I don't agree with, but zero on the obnoxious meter and high points for good intentions, so go judge for yourself.

The Stationmaster - I'll just stick with the self-assessment he emailed me: "I'm a revolutionary communist. Maoist even. That hard enough for you?" Yipes. Uh, yeah.

The Poor Man - Just damned funny. A must read for the chuckles, at the very least.

WarBloggerWatch - - I approve of the concept here, really I do (not that I suspect they care). I mean, it would be a bit hypocritical of the warblogger community to object to someone attempting to fact-check their asses, right? (That "their" should probably be "our", strictly speaking). As for the execution: well, a bit heavy on the insults and light on the well-reasoned analysis for my tastes, but they do hit some good points at times. Judge for yourself.

War Liberal - Smart stuff, but most folks know that. Almost didn't make the list because I don't think Mac qualifies as "small", but oh well.

Welcome to the Sideshow - - Intelligent stuff, even if she (he?) does say some slightly mean things about my fave Christopher Hitchens (not entirely undeserved things, for the record). Most notable page factoid: the three "resources" listed on the right navbar are the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Bible.

Wisse Words - Gets points if for no other reason than drawing my attention to a Nation article on criminal charges being considered against a U.S. official in the 1973 Chilean coup -- demonstrating that sometimes, the left is indeed right.

The Beeb has this story on the Internet in China.

This is a bit of an "evergreen" piece --- it seems like every year somebody does a story on how the Internet is changing China, but how the government is still cracking down on freedom of expression. But I mention it because it brought two questions to my mind:

1) Are there any bloggers in China? How about political ones?

2) If there are, would I be doing them a (potentially life-affecting) disservice if I actually did draw attention to them?

The second question is certainly not one I'm used to asking myself before linking to blogs... attention = life in the blogosphere, right? But in the light of China's attitudes, it is one that I and anybody else thinking of mentioning such blogs must consider, in good conscience. And it's not just China, of course: I'd love to hear from bloggers in other not-so-democratic states. (In particular, I would be very very interested in hearing from anybody in Iran --- even if you're not a blogger, and even if you just want to say 'hi' and don't want any public attention).

Anyway, given that line of thought, I guess we have a new policy here at TTLB: I only link to bloggers in totalitarian states by request only. And no, the EU doesn't count.
Given that a) I've been a bit obnoxious lately and b) I am still a new kid on the blogger block, I find this somewhat appropriate:

:: how jedi are you? ::

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

There aren't too many rules here at TTLB, but one I generally follow is this: Make me laugh out loud, and you get a link. So when I hit this:

ORRIN JUDD seems to think that my article talking about the greater danger posed by neuroscience relative to cloning means that I have something in common with Francis Fukuyama. Well, at an appropriate level of abstraction, I do. We're both carbon-based bipeds.

it gets linked. Even if it's Glenn, and he really doesn't need it. Read the whole note; Glenn is proving yet again why he's top of the heap: the man can cram more intelligent prose into a minor rebuttal to someone else's foolish post than some essayists have in an entire collection of works. And I couldn't care less if that makes me sound like a suck-up; rest assured I'll be there to tweak Prof R's tail next time he slips up, too...

You know, some people are just plain mean.

Seriously, what's gotten into them? I can't understand it; their actions are incomprehensible.

To put it clearly: how could it possibly be that I haven't said anything obnoxious enough to piss them off yet?

Clearly, I'll have to try harder... maybe that piece I was toying with on the Ellen Ripley solution to Saudi Arabia might work out after all...

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That's the only way to be sure."

Since I'm already at it...

Might as well go all the way. Has anybody else concluded that Andrew© has delegated his blogging responsibilities to one of those mysterious interns he allegedly has?

I know he's got the juice in him, but really: when was the last time you remember reading something really good on his page? (That he wrote, that is: quoting doesn't count). And the whole publish-once-a-day thing is just so... old media.

I might feel slightly bad for being mean to a guy who's obviously branching out and exploring new things and all (i.e., budding career as Shakespearean actor -- see below), but heck, he can take it, and besides, I'm on record as saying I think he's great when he wants to be. Come on, Andrew, show us the magic!

(Well, there goes my chances of ever getting a Sulliblast of linkage... ah well...)

The sound you just heard was that of the newest Prof on the block openin' a can of whoop-ass on the latest offhand Sullivan remark o' the day. Observe:

So I stopped by Andrew Sullivan's weblog this morning to see what's what, and was confronted with a short item which read, in its entirety:

SELF-PARODY WATCH: "Special Report: Zambian Copper," - a headline from this week's Economist.




Why, I wondered, does Andrew Sullivan consider this--interesting and important--story to be a big joke?

But then I began to imagine what the inside of Andrew Sullivan's mind must be like..."What wonkish fools those writers and editors at the Economist are! Why are they writing about the failure of neoliberal development strategies in southern Africa when they could be writing about my career as a Shakespearean actor? "

Ouch! There's more; read the whole thing for the complete effect. But hey: I thought slamming Sully for one-line attempts at pithiness was my beat. Back to the bloated Federal bureaucracy with you, Prof D, before I have to swing up north to Moscow on the Bay and give you a little what-for !

PS - I know, Prof D has been around for a while, but he's new to me, and that's all that matters on this page.

Speaking of which: how's this for a "Duh!" headline of the day (from the AP wire):

White House questions Arafat's trustworthiness

In other news:

Pope May Be Catholic, Bush Concedes

Cheney: Yes, Bears Do Shit in the Woods

Israeli tanks are attacking Arafat's compound.

Update: Lair, in a private email, casually tossed off the following assessment which bears reprinting (with his kind permission):

"I suppose I'll just have to salute Arafat's impending demise with a shot of tequila. Just as the Palestinians celebrated the World Trade Center deaths with candy, then I will acknowledge that one evil man's death with giving treats to the cats and remembering all of the innocents on both sides lost to his bloody reign, and I shall pray for those who have yet to die for those tyrants who would take his place until those that would support them are either crushed by their own errors or made to see the light of reason."

Amen, brother.

Major Whoops

In an earlier post today I referred to J. Bradford Delong's weblog, and indicated he was the author of a rather hilarious Corner spoof. This is flat out wrong: Delong was simply quoting / linking it and the true author is The Poor Man.

So now you have to go visit both of their sites.

Apologies for the error, and thanks to Jeff over at Protein Wisdom for pointing out my blunder.
I'm debating whether to rename the Hall of Link Sluttage.

I don't mind tweaking PC sensibilities for a good cause, but I'm not convinced the joke is actually all that funny.

Comments? Thoughts? Alternative taxonomies are most welcome --- you know where to send them.
Okay, minor digression from my bottom-up blogrolling this week: if you think the major American newsweeklies suck (and who doesn't, because after all, they do) you must check out Lileks' Bleat o' the day, in which he delivers a thorough thwacking to the 'zines and the cretinous fools who waste barrels of perfectly good ink on their pages.
Note: This post was seriously wrong the first time I wrote it, so it has been rewritten heavily. Sorry!

Ok, I'm still examining J. Bradford DeLong's weblog to see if it gets the totally-un-sought-after, not-particularly-valuable, and overall generally dubious honor of being the TTLB Leftie Blog of the Week, but he definitely gets a link for his referral to The Poor Man's post The Cornier, in which TPM shows us what the conservative bloggers over at NRO are really thinking. A small sample:


Slate claims to get 3 million different hits a year. Well, I'm certainly not one to begrudge another's success, but whoop-dee-doo-da! I mean, Slate just gives away all their content free! I mean, so do we, but Slate gives it away on a Microsoft site. If The Cornier was on Microsoft, we'd get like 3 million hits every single day! Probably half the people who go there are fat middle-aged housewives trying to go to MSN's Special Valentine's Day Soft-Focus Soap-Opera Porn Sex Quiz, but too drunk off of Arbor Mist lemon-lime Chardonney at four in the afternoon to hit the right link. And Mickey Kaus is gonna regret it when MS goes under and he lives in a box under a bridge. Maybe he can write his blogs on a cardboard sign he uses to panhandle traffic on the interstate! Try THAT information superhighway, sell-out! Not that I'm jealous at all. And not that there's any such thing as homelessness.

Beautiful. Surely someone must have linked to this gem before me, no?

Addendum: By the way, lest you think Prof. Delong is simply a goofball, he also provides quite a bit of serious political & economic analysis as well. Not suprising, since he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Clinton administration.

Hey Lynn !

And everyone else. I'll repeat a few basic principles of the 'ecosystem' thing, just to keep them clear in everyone's mind:

1) When links are counted on your page, only the links you have to other bloggers on the list are counted. So you can have links to CNN, Yahoo, AOL, etc --- but none of those will count in your total, or have any effect on anybody else's total inbound links.

2) Conversely, your total number of inbound links only represents the links you are getting from other weblogs on the list. If there are twenty other blogs that have links to you, but none of them are on the list, you won't get 'credit' for them.

3) Keep in mind what others have observed, which is that strictly speaking, this is not the whole blogosphere by any means --- it would more precisely be called the ecosystem (and map) of the political blogosphere (and who knows, maybe only a small chunk of that). As I mentioned in the original post, I started with Glenn and Stephen's lists --- hardcore politicos both --- and worked out from there. So if your blog is a hardcore technical blog, don't be surprised when it doesn't rank that high on this list --- because right now, at least, there aren't many other techie blogs on the list to give you links that would be counted. You may have the most linked-to blog in the technoblogosphere, but that only helps if all the other techies get on the list as well.

There are several other interesting projects going on that are doing similar work to mine in 'mapping' the blogosphere; I'll do a post sometime today with a roundup --- there's definitely some cool stuff out there.

Anyway, getting back to the political vs. techie distinctions: I'm toying with another idea that may explore those "subworlds" of the blogosphere in a more interesting way, so there may be Part III of the ecosystem project up sometime this week.

But I really want to do some writing. Honest. Damnit, my left brain and right brain keep pulling me in different directions. Interesting geek project or meaningful prose? Please fate, don't make me choose!

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Update from the Marsupial Anti-Defamation League

I received the following from a certain fellow hanging upside down by his tail from a tree. I reprint it here utterly without permission:

Dear Mr. NZ Bear:

I recently came to your site via a link from Dr. Reynolds' Instapundit blog. I notice that in your ingenious list of blogological specimens, you completely ignore marsupials. I would like to recommend that you view Possumblog, one of the finest specimens of Didelphis virginiana currently blogging today.

Possumblog is well-written, insightful, thought-provoking, and is the only blog written with the use of a prehensile tail AND opposable hind toes.

Whereas most of the better known blogs concentrate on topics such as current events, political controversy, science, dogs, and sewing, (and often require the reader to be educated and literate) Possumblog takes a fresh and different approach, choosing to string long words together with no discernable reason or method. The effect is stunning and occasionally readable without the use of illegally obtained (and often dangerous) Schedule II narcotics.

On behalf of The Board of Regents, the Publisher's Consort, and the humble Staff of Possumblog, I wish to thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours truly,

Terry Oglesby


Well what are you waiting for, a formal invitation? Go check out the furry little critter's blog, already.

Blogosphere Ecosystem: First Update Complete

OK, since everyone got so excited about the first pass, I moved up my schedule for the update and have done another sweep through the list.

Updates / Improvements:
- Added about 40 blogs to the list
- Fixed the bug where links redirected to top-level pages instead of actual blog pages on non-blog-only sites
- Fixed a bug that, believe it or not, was causing Glenn to get undercounted (related to all his different addresses during his move)
- Added categories "Flappy Birds" and "Slithering Reptiles" so that the big ole' Microbe bucket wasn't too huge

What's Still Broke:
- The routine reads most pages just fine, however, a few pages are not being read correctly and hence their outbound links are not being included. Not sure why this is, but it may have something to do with setup to prevent spidering. Any suggestions are welcome, but this one is going to have to wait to be fixed for the moment.

What's Totally New
Since we have the Ecosystem list tracking who is getting the most (or least) inbound links, it seemed only natural to create a similar list which shows who is providing the most outbound links. I call it the Hall of Link Sluttage.

Not surprisingly, I am way way up near the top of this list --- since, duh, by creating these lists I've put a huge number of links on my page. I may have to take myself 'out of the running' for this category.

Finally: If you believe your site is being counted incorrectly, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know. Be as specific as possible about where you have links from other weblogs on the list that you don't think are being counted. (Remember: only links coming to your page from other weblogs on this list get counted, not any links that sites that are not on the list might have to your page.) The more precise you can be, the easier it will be for me to track down any issues that exist.

And finally: remember, kids. It's all in good fun. Don't take this all too seriously.

Matthew Yglesias has thrown his hat into the ring as a liberal blogger, writing:

I dunno if my site ( counts as "small" -- I'm a rodent by your calculations -- but I'm certainly a liberal (in a Matt Welch kind of way, not a Noam Chomsky kind of way)

Good, 'cause I did say no idiots.

...and if you want socialist I'll write a post about my nutty scheme to have the government own all the land and grant it out on the basis of long term leases to real estate developers -- the revenue could be used to costly social programs -- hooray!

Dude, rock on! I dare ya! Coming out for public ownership of capital and big government meddling in social policies in one post will definitely get you on the flaming liberal list...

Speaking of the left...

I've been meaning to do a Christopher Hitchens post, 'specially since he got a bunch of bloglinks for one of his recent Nation columns.

Hitchens, in my view, is one of the most interesting and intelligent journalists / thinkers we have around today. I don't always agree with him (but frequently do), but he's always worth reading. His strong and consistent admonishments that it is the responsibility of every person to hold their own beliefs, and form their own judgments, rather than following the herd of conventional wisdom, were in fact part of my inspiration to join the blogging crowd and lend my voice to the din.

Anyway, praising Hitchens is easy, and practically everybody does it. But what I wanted to pass on are a few links that show that there is something equally enjoyable and enlightening as reading Hitchens: listening to him.

Hitchens is a phenomenal public speaker, and damn, he's got the hardcore Oxford accent to make everything he says sound brilliant, too. So here is my little version of a "Hitchens audio primer". There's quite a bunch of audio interviews and / or lectures with Hitchens out there on the net, but here's a few of my favorites to start with (many of these can be found at the unofficial Hitchens home page as well, or at this page devoted to Hitchens audio. ).

A good general interview with Hitchens (in two parts) by Danny Postel can be found here and here. In particular, Hitchens discusses his dim view of Mother Theresa, thoroughly debunking the conventional picture or her as a great friend of the poor.

Hitchens main claim-to-fame in recent years is his relentless attacks on Henry Kissinger, who he believes has both committed war crimes and violated the laws of the United States. I just found an entire page devoted to The Trial Of Henry Kissinger , so you can choose your own interview there, or start with this interview if you want my choice. Hitchens makes a convincing case indeed.

And finally, Hitchens has been one of the most outspoken critics of the left's dismal reaction to the war; a longtime socialist and frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy himself, he nonetheless completely condemns the onslaught of "Islamic fascism" and is a strong (but not uncritical) supporter of war in Afghanistan and against terror more generally. For a primer on his view on the war and the left's reaction, check out his address at the University of Chicago, "Is Bush's War Our War?" (where he affectionately addresses his audience as "the beaten rabble that constitutes the remnant of the American left")

Check him out, and judge for yourself. Because I assure you Hitchens wouldn't want you taking my --- or anybody's --- word for it.
It basically doesn't matter to me what actual content e-pression has to offer, because it's written by Zorak, Lone Locust of the Apocalypse. And that's just too cool not to link to. Not to mention that he quotes Kierkegaard.

Justin Sodano's The Weigh In makes the list today if for no other reason than a rather disturbing "separated at birth" post.

Wanted: good flaming liberal blog

OK, I'm doing my little lesser-known-blogroll scan, and running across quite a few good neocon / libertarian blogs.

But what about the left? I have an urge to link to some good liberal thoughts. (Anybody reading this page consistently will probably recognize that I might well disagree with said thoughts, but that's what open debate is all about).


- Must be a 'small' or 'new' blog. A squishy requirement to be defined by me as I see fit, but let's put it this way: TAPPED need not apply.
- Must be a self-professed liberal or lefty. Libertarian doesn't count. Bonus points if you actually claim to be a socialist.
- Well articulated, intelligent argument is key. As mentioned, I don't have to agree with you, but I do have to conclude that you're not an idiot.

Nominate yourself or someone else by dropping me an email. But fair warning: I don't promise to link to you, but I do promise to at least check out your page.

Looking for a roundup for the latest news with a libertarian slant and a strong dose of punk runk thrown in? Check out The Blue Button at Popshot. Nice collection of links to recent stories of interest, with concise, sometimes pithy commentary. Example:

The European Union Wants to Tax You. Come on, it costs a lot of money to run a socialist dystopia.

Nice. The weblog is an extension of PopShot itself, which describes itself as:

"a indie/punk-rock music and culture magazine printed and distributed in Nashville, Tennessee. We differ from the majority of indie/punk magazines in our editorial perspective which is capitalist/individualist/libertarian. Our mission is to bring the ideas of limited government, personal freedom, and individual rights to young people, especially to our peers in the independent music community where these ideas are typically not covered."

Libertarian capitalist punks. Neal Stephenson, call your office! (And page Ken MacLeod while you're at it).

Taking My Own Advice

Sometimes, the obvious thing to do just slips by me unnoticed, and I have to go running after it to catch up.

I may not be an A-lister, but I have been getting a heck of a lot of traffic recently. And so I do have the ability to take my own advice, and direct a little attention on the lesser-known spots of the blogosphere.

So, my blogrolling scan this morning will be from the bottom up. Today's links shall be devoted to the microbes of the Blogosphere. Sorry Glenn, Andrew; Stephen --- you boys all got enough linkin' lovin' coming your way; it's time to shed some light on the little guys.

And where better to start than at the absolute bottom of the food chain? Nanodot is a specialty blog devoted to -- what else -- nanotech. I haven't paid nearly enough attention to nanotech in recent years, other than to note that practical uses of the technology seem to become more and more likely every year. I'll definitely be returning to Nanodot to dive deep and refresh my science-fiction addled mind with the latest realworld developments...
I'm trying to put aside the Ecosystem stuff for a day or two, but Meryl makes a good point that I do want to respond to. She says:

"Da Bear has a new system for rating bloggers, something to do with links. And when I saw it, the first thing that hit me was guilt (I needed to update my links page), then ego (hey! I want to be a mortal human!). But now I've thought it over, and Bear, you're doing it backwards. We should be promoting the less-linked blogs, not the most-linked blogs. The big guys should be on the bottom, and the little guys on the top. That's partly why on my links page, Instapundit, Lileks, Den Beste, and a few others are at the bottom of the page. They don't need the link-love. But people like Da Bear and File13 do."

Meryl has a great point (leaving aside the nice compliment she tosses my way). But I would turn it on its head. The list can be used for exactly the purpose she proposes: to help promote the lesser known bloggers. The list on my page itself won't, because even if I flip it upside down a new blog being listed in the the sea of "microbes" isn't going to get them much attention.

But I do hope that the more widely read bloggers will scan the bottom of the list, and see "Oh! Blogger X is doing great stuff, but isn't getting any links. I should remember to link to him more often." Or, as Meryl alludes to: it can serve as a reminder to update your permalinks to those blogs you genuinely do think are great.

The list is meant to be a map of reality. But that doesn't mean reality has to be static: it can be also be used as a guide to which spots in the blogosphere aren't getting the attention they deserve. My hope is that it will be: because after all, the ego trip is fun for everybody, but a more noteworthy accomplishment would be improving what the blogosphere does best --- filter --- by encouraging folks to pay attention to their links, and ensure they truly represent their opinions on who and what is worth reading.

Monday, June 03, 2002

navel gazing haiku

dreaming of writing
my living earned as a geek;
endlessly i blog

Random navel-gazing of the day:

So am I a geek pretending to be a writer, or a writer pretending to be a geek?

You decide, fair readers, you decide...

PS - Anyone who emails me with zen meanderings about dreaming of being a butterfly will be thoroughly thwacked.
Huge response to the Blogosphere stuff today. Just as a FYI: thanks to all those who have dropped me mail asking to be included on the list. You will be, next time around, but I'm probably not going to do an update for a few days; I want to refocus my blogtime back on actual writing for a bit. Your patience is appreciated...
Hey, neat! Somebody else has a picture of the blogosphere. Check out Casey Marshall's A Picture of Weblogs.

It is an actual Java applet, so it has some cool features, it appears, like being able to search for a particular blog. Check it out!

(PS: Found out about this one via a comment from Craig Schamp over on VodkaGuy's page).
BTW: I know Bill Quick is Daily Pundit; several folks have already pointed out that he appears twice in the list already (thanks to those who did).
Lots of folks are excited about the Blogosphere Ecosystem, it seems. Many many links are coming my way this morning. Cool.

Hmmm.... I just caused myself to get a lot of links by producing a list which showed how few links I was getting. Do I get the recursive metablogging medal of the day?

The Blogosphere Ecosystem Part II: A Pretty Picture

OK, I alluded to a Part II coming today, and sure enough, here it is.

The picture to the right is a smaller version of a map of the blogosphere that I've created based on the linkages which I previously analyzed to produce the ranked list. Click on the link above to see the full-sized version.

The map is a graphical representation of the relationships between weblogs in the Blogosphere; each weblog is represented by a node, with links between weblogs shown as lines. The size of a node roughly corresponds to how connected it is to the other nodes in the blogosphere.

It also uses the same data set that was used to produce the Blogosphere Ecosystem list. The full list of tools to perform all this magic is as follows:

WinHTTrack Website Copier
Spadix Software's Extract Link
Microsoft Excel
Pajek, a program for large network analysis & graphing from Vladimir Batagelj and Andrej Mrvar at the University of Ljubljana.

I may keep playing around to see if I can generate an even-more readable version of the graph; there's lots of fun options to tweak in the Pajek drawing program (Pajek, by the way, is the Slovene word for "spider". So don't go saying you never learn anything from reading my page, eh?)

Also: I'm a bit bandwidth-constrained right now, so even the big version of the map is very compressed. If anybody with a lot of bandwidth to burn wants to volunteer a spot to stick a higher-quality version, let me know, and I'll send it to you.

So I'm reviewing my referral statistics to see who's linking to me lately, and I see the following towards the bottom of the list (emphasis added):


"", it turns out, takes me to the Shonen Knife Home Page. And, well, that's kind of self-explanatory.

Not suprisingly, neither of these pages seem to actually have a link to me... but got me interested there for a sec...

Wow. I thought the Salon piece had peaked on Daypop when it hit #14, but I think it must have bounced up into the Top 10 sometime when I wasn't looking. It's at 11 now, with a little downward arrow.

BTW: Am I just an idiot, or is there no actual explanation or key to the graphics you see on DayPop? Somebody enlighten me, please: I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the symbols all mean...

Worried that the Catholic Church isn't taking firm enough action to address the current pedophilia crisis?

Worry no more, at least if you are in the Diocese of Los Angeles. 'Cause they've hired a high-priced public relations firm.

This is a bit of a fish, barrel, gun story in terms of the opportunity it presents for bashing on the Church. But I'm going to attempt to restrain myself and step back a bit. Is there a legitimate case to be made that the Church does actually need such advice?

I think the case could be made if you believe that the Church is doing the right things, and is simply getting pilloried in the press unfairly. Picture a scenario where the Church genuinely is doing all the right things, is helping people in all different ways, but is being attacked by the press, just because the press corps is a bunch of meanies. Would it make sense for them to get advice on how to improve their image then, so that they can regain their popularity and continue to help more people? Probably.

So I don't think it is fair to dismiss totally out of hand this kind of a move --- although I do view it with grave suspicion. It comes down to exactly how you view the actions that they are taking to address the crisis itself. If you feel they're doing all the right things now and are still getting bashed by the media, then a step like this might make sense.

But if they really aren't addressing the core issues and are taking this action instead of true reform: then, there's just no excuse for it. And I'd say go ahead and pull the trigger on that little fishy in the barrel.

Footnote: I originally heard this story on NPR yesterday in the early evening. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find it on their website. If I do I'll add a link; perhaps they just haven't archived it yet.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

The Blogsphere Ecosystem

Well, everybody else has a "blogroll", a "recommended" list, or some other such assemblage of links which guide their fair readers to other interesting spots around the blogosphere. Now I've joined the fun, and have created my Blogosphere Ecosystem list. (It's on the left nav bar if you hadn't noticed. Scroll down a bit).

I concluded I didn't want to just put folks up alphabetically, but I also didn't want to deal with the headaches of keeping track of who's said nice things about me lately (thereby guaranteeing high placement) and who's been pissing me off (whoops, was that link broken? My bad).

Therefore, I decided to try to develop a way to measure, somewhat more objectively, where the most "interesting" spots in the blogosphere were. One measure of doing this would be to capture who is being linked to by other bloggers the most. Easier said than done --- but not impossible, as it turns out.

So, after a few days of screwing around with lots of different tools, I found a way to do it. The methodology, in a nutshell, is this: I started with a fairly large list of about 175 blogs; mostly, I stole from Instapundit and Vodkapundit's lists, since they are pretty comprehensive, especially when taken together. Then, I built a process to do the following:

- Download the front page of each blog to my local machine
- Scan through each page and extract every link (URL) found in the HTML of the page
- For each of the original list of blogs, scan through the total link list and count how many links go to that blog
- Sort the list of blogs in descending order of their number of inbound links, and include the number in parentheses next to the blog link

There's a bunch of gadgets involved to do all this, and way too much manual effort (at the moment). When I finish Part II of this little project (which will be even cooler, if I get it to work right), I'll elaborate more on the process and tools used.

But for now, there it is. To further clarify, here's a FAQ list:

I assume the list is absolutely perfect and has no errors in it, right?

Wrong. I'm pretty confident it is reasonably close, otherwise I wouldn't be posting it. But I'm still working the bugs out, so some blogs might show up higher or lower than they would in a "perfect" list. If you see yours (or any other) looking way off, drop me a line and let me know. I'm officially classing this list / process as "beta" for the time being.

About this number of links thing. So are you like obsessed with finding out who is "the best" blogger ?

Nope. There's tons of different ways to define "best" or "success" in the blogosphere. Some might say having lots of folks link to you is one of them, but there are plenty of others (and if you're gauging your own blog's success by any measure other than how much enjoyment it gives you, well, that way lies madness). I think it is interesting to measure links because it certainly shows what other people in the blogosphere think is interesting at a certain time, but I don't think it necessarily tells us much about "best".

Hey, I clicked on one of those links and it took me to the site's home page, not the blog on that site. What gives?

That would be one of the little bugs that needs to get ironed out. Think of it as a feature for the moment. (The links work perfect for sites whose top-level page is the blog --- i.e., anything hosted at blogspot, plus lots of others --- but for the few blogs that are sitting on larger sites, you'll get taken to the main page, not the blog).

So are you pounding the heck out of everybody's blogs by spidering and screwing up their tracking statistics?

Nope. Finding a method which would involve the absolute minimum possible load hitting folks' pages was a key goal. Every blog on the list is hit exactly once each time the process is run, to download the front page to my local machine. All other processing then occurs on the local copy. (And if anyone truly objects to that, feel free to drop me an email and I'll take your blog off the list).

Does the process count all links between weblogs?

No. It only counts links that appear on the front page; so links that are older and are on your archive pages (or on any other pages of your site) won't be included.

My blog isn't on the list, and it's way cooler than the ones that are. How do I get added?

Send me an email. I make no promises as to how fast you'll get added, but I'll try to have a reasonably short turnaround. Figure I'll probably do an update batch once a week.

Are you going to update the list periodically, or was this a one-shot deal?

I'd like to update it at least weekly, to take the "pulse of the blogosphere", so to speak. But we shall see. I've automated much of the processing so that hopefully it won't be too painful, but it's still got some manual work involved each time I run it, and adding blogs to the list is purely manual.

Anyway, hope folks find it interesting / entertaining, so enjoy...

PS - And in case anybody plans on getting their knickers in a twist about being called a "lowly insect" or one of the other, shall we say, "lesser" categories --- look close and check out where I am at....

Blogging likely to be light today. Working on a couple of projects; hopefully by eod today or Monday morning I'll have some cool stuff posted as a result.