Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

Last year, I created my first brown-nosing list of my favorite bloggers. Well, it worked like a charm. A whole bunch of famous people wrote back with kudos galore. They were just being polite, of course, but insincere compliments are better than no compliments at all. Right? Right.

I still love the bloggers on last year’s list, but this year I’ve found a few new ones that enthrall me. In no particular order of preference, here they are.

Sin mordasas is a politically-oriented site in Spanish. The author is Ivonne Acosta Lespier, a noted Puerto Rican author and radio personality. A Facebook Friend recommended the site to me and I found it to be entertaining and informative with a political outlook roughly akin to mine. That the site is in Spanish may not appeal to all, but in my case, I overcame my linguistic shortcomings to some degree by using Google’s Translate tool. Yes, subtle meanings are often lost in translation, but it is nevertheless possible to understand a little bit about the politics of Puerto Rico, which is better than none.

The title Boricua en la Luna may be misleading since the site is in English. The author is a daughter of Ivonne Lespier. A professor of English at a university in Ohio, the author’s writings represent a wonderful look at the feelings and experiences of someone from Puerto Rico living in the middle of the U.S. Heartland. But more, she illustrates her writings with fantastic pictures of rural Ohio taken by her and her husband on their regular motorcycle jaunts. Spectacular!

On a lighter side, bordering on a part of me people rarely see, I stumbled across a site titled Love is an Exploding Cigar. This is a site that consists of comments by a group of seven authors of romance novels (I warned you about my quirk). The main thing that struck me about these women is the very ordinary, everyday, mundane (redundant?) lives they lead. Most of them have full time jobs and write when they have time. Yet, they produce a steady output of top-selling romantic fiction. I ran across this site after I read a novel by Jeannie Watt, one of Cigar’s authors, who, so far, has specialized in modern Western romances set primarily in Nevada’s Cowboy Country, a vast tract of emptiness populated mostly by cows, where Jeannie lives.

The Ax Files, authored by Alexandra Jones, is on the SF Bulldog site as well as on Open Salon. She is a captivating wordsmith already well known in the Bay Area who is now spreading her wings to a national audience with her recent, well-received debut on Open Salon. Check her out. I am sure you will like her. Lately, she has been chronicling her travels and has expressed a wish to travel more and record her impressions. At last word, she was on an Amtrak train out of Chicago bound for SF.

Give Peace a Chance is a site authored by Roseann Allen Mathews of Little Rock. She has a kidney ailment and is searching for a kidney donor. Several potential donors are being tested now, and it’s my fervent wish that the quality of her life improves measurably. On her site, she shares her experiences and her views on a variety of matters, including politics. When I found this site, I thought it amazing that anyone with a liberal political outlook lived in Arkansas. Happily, I was badly mistaken. The state isn’t quite as far to the right as I imagined.

In the first paragraph, I mentioned my last year’s list and included a link to it. All of the sites I mentioned are still on my preferred reading list. But a few need updating.

Sweet Melissa was a relative newcomer a year or so ago. Now, she’s at the pinnacle of political blogging in the Bay Area. She still maintains her Sweet Melissa site, but she is now syndicated in the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. But wait. There’s more. She participates regularly on talk radio programs and appears on television. She will go further one of these days.

Last year, I predicted that Beth Spotswood would someday become The World’s Most Famous Softhearted Blogger-Philosopher. I’m sticking with my prediction and expanding it. She will become The World’s Most Courageous Softhearted Blogger-Philosopher. Read her I’ll Flip You. Flip You for Real for her own personal account of her recent life. I am sure you will agree with me that she is a courageous woman indeed.

SF Willie is an outstanding philosopher-blogger whose insightful writings have remained at the highest level over the past year. I fully expect a continuation of his excellence. One thing to be careful about if you read SF Willie, he has more facts stored upstairs than an encyclopedia. Challenge him on a fact, and you will have dealt yourself a losing hand. Fold ’em before you watch all of your chips disappear.

The Fog City Journal remains my news outlet of choice for the in-depth analysis of political issues. Fog has a stable of outstanding writer and contributors, and their stories and analyses are often illustrated by the world-class photography of honcho Luke Thomas. One of the Fog’s top journalists is Elaine Santore, who writes the Crackberry Chronicles, a regular column about goings on among San Francisco’s political elite and City Hall denizens. She also authors occasional special features, and I would hope to see more of the latter in the coming year.

The CBS 5 Eye on Blogs site may technically be described as a blog accumulator rather than a blog. But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This is the go-to site for as complete a list of Bay Area blogs as you will find this side of Quadrant Four in the Galaxy M-40. But better yet, the site’s creator, Britney Gilbert, a transplanted Tennessean, selects the best of the comments from her list of indexed bloggers each day and summarizes them in her own captivating style. A serious blogger should check this site at least once a day.

Okay, I am exhausted. Time for a Diet Coke. Brown Nosing for Fame is hard work.

p.s Please let me know if one of these links doesn’t work. Attention to detail isn’t one of my strengths.

And site owners, operators, and writers, if I’ve misstated something about your site, let me know and I’ll correct it.


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Variety in Action

You’ll notice our new theme. Between now and the end of the year, we will be refining our site, trying new themes, purifying our blogrolls, and in general reducing the number of widgets in the right-hand column to produce (hopefully) a less cluttered look.

Suggestions are welcome as long as they aren’t of the “take a flying leap through a rolling donut” type.

But even as we are fine-tuning stuff, we will continue to comment on a variety of matters, although as we draw near to Christmas, our output may become more infrequent. We all lead separate lives, and our duties to family wil always take precedence.

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For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Windows Live Writer to write and publish blog posts.

I switched from Word 2007’s blog feature because it had become unbearably unstable. The program would crash at inappropriate times, requiring in some cases a complete restart. If any of you use Vista, you’ll know that it’s slow on the uptake.

So I started scouting the Internet for an alternative, stand alone tool. Live Writer came highly recommended by a number of sites dedicated to reviewing a variety of software. Based in these recommendations, I downloaded the program for free on my laptop and desktop. I haven’t been disappointed. Here are some of the features I like.

  • The ability to publish a post on on a variety of blog servers such as WordPress and Blogger, two of the most popular.
  • Easy insertion and positioning of photos. The process is painless and virtually automatic.
  • A feature called Live Search Maps powered by Virtual Earth. This tool is simplicity itself and permits the user to insert maps and adjust their size as desired. You can also add a red Push Pin to draw attention to a particular location, but I’ve encountered difficulties labeling the pin. I think it’s actually a hyperlink of sorts.
  • The map below illustrates the map feature.  You can reduce the map’s size and convert it to a Bird’s Eye View if you wish. The Bird’s Eye View is an aerial photo.

  • The ability to view your post as it will appear on your site. This feature gets your post about as close to WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) as I’ve encountered. Still, I’ve had trouble positioning the map above so that it appears properly when viewed in Web Layout mode.
  • A handy side-bar for inserting hyperlinks, pictures, tables, maps, tags (Technocrati), and videos.
  • An exceptionally simple method of setting your categories.
  • A Paste Special feature that includes an HTML code thinning tool that removes extra HTML code such as that found in Word-prepared documents. Word coded documents tend to result in odd layouts when posted to the Internet.
  • When everything is complete to your satisfaction, click the Publish button and viola! your post magically appears on your site.

Have I encountered any disadvantages? Yes, but the ones I’ve noticed are minor. Here are my pet peeves.

  • If you need to squint to read small type, you may be unhappy with Live Writer. I found no means of magnifying fonts for easy reading as you type while retaining your default font size when your post is published. The only workaround I’ve found so far is to format your Font in, say, 16 point type and then return it to 11 or 12 point before publishing your post.
  • I’ve also found that the spacing of bulleted paragraphs is perfect when I prepare my blog but somehow annoyingly inserts an extra line when published. I’m still looking for a workaround because I like my posts to look a little tighter.

Everything considered, the minor annoyances become irrelevant when balanced against the advantages of stability, ease of use, simplicity and speed. As a blogger who prefers a clean program without seldom used bells and whistles, this is the one for me at the moment. On the other hand, if you’re a professional blogger, Live Writer may not meet your needs.

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Do you suffer from a bunch of these symptoms?

  • Neglect of basic drives, Loss of a sense of time, Withdrawal, Anger, Tension, Depression, Desire for more computer equipment, Arguing, Lying, Social Isolation, Fatigue

If so, you may have a psychiatric condition known as compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder.

So says the American Psychiatric Foundation in a recent article that I fully agree with even though I can hardly spell the condition.

In fact, the symptoms named above fit me to a T. If someone else monopolizes my machine, I can go berserk. Violence is a distinct possibility on an exceptionally emotional day.

I’m probably not alone. Brittney of CBS Eye on Blogs has reported that she has about 700 Bay Area blog feeds pouring into her desk daily, and she expects that number to rise to 1,000 or more shortly.

The Bay Area is widely know for having the largest number of bloggers of any equally populated metropolitan area in the nation, so the figures provided by Brittney are hardly surprising. My guess is that at least 75 percent of the bloggers in her count have C-ISD.

Extrapolating the numbers, I firmly believe  many millions of people nationwide share my pathetic symptoms.

Maybe Dr. Drew will offer us a Bloggers’ Rehab program.

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You’re way ahead of me if you know about Eye on Blogs. I found it referenced in The Ax Files. A quick look at the site turned up a treasure trove of information about Bay Area Blogs. In fact, the site has the most complete listing of blogs I’ve seen, and that’s a feature all good bloggers should like. Even this site is on it.

Eye on Blogs is featured on CBS-5. Brittney Gilbert, a native of Nashville, TN, where she wrote a community blog for WKRN-TV, is the brains and sweat behind Eye. She presently lives in Berkeley.

The site is chock full of interesting information, featuring Brittney’s running summary of newsworthy blog items from around the bay. Her extensive coverage is a factor that appeals to me because it isn’t centered on San Francisco. Sometimes people forget that places like the North Bay, East Bay, and Peninsula exist.

I’ve added this one to my blogroll. Now, I’m going to review some of Brittney’s indexed blogs.

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Cindy Sheehan is now a resident of California’s 8th Congressional District and preparing to challenge Nancy Pelosi in this year’s election, a long time in the future, but it provides Cindy with ample opportunity to devise an effective campaign strategy. She may already have done so and is merely waiting to set it in motion. Her move into a Mission District home is a positive clue.

Even so, what are her chances of unseating Nancy? Slim to none is a reasonable guess. Nancy has the power structure behind her, money to burn, name recognition, seniority, and a reputation as the first woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. She begins her campaign for re-election with a royal flush.

Cindy, on the other hand, has a mélange of cards adding up to nothing. What’s a person to do against such overwhelming odds?

Her strong point in San Francisco is her active opposition to the war in Iraq coupled with a fearless approach to calling Bush’s hand at every opportunity. She also has a few recent Pelosi criticisms to work with, most notably Nancy’s perceived inability to lead a Democratic congressional majority in concordance with Harry Reid against Bush and the Republicans.

Regardless of the arcane technicalities hidden in the rules of Congress that prevent a political party from accomplishing much of anything without an overwhelming majority, Pelosi is weak on one charge: she hasn’t tried hard enough, she should have done more. Cindy could well profit if she repeats that theme endlessly. Nothing succeeds like constant repetition.

Pelosi’s weaknesses are all well and good, but how is Cindy to approach the task of getting people to recognize them and vote for Cindy instead?

For starters, she would be wise to cultivate the real 21st Century main stream media. The large, institutional media are losing readership and their editorial opinions and endorsement are widely regarded as serving an existing power structure, a configuration that fails to address the real concerns of real people.

Increasingly, the younger public gets its information from non-institutional on-line and print newspapers and magazines, from the blogosphere, and from social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Cindy would be wise to concentrate on this crowd, using on-line and off-line cadres to carry her message throughout the 8th District.

If Cindy can successfully tap the younger generation, which in the past hasn’t voted in large numbers, she will increase her chances of either winning or making a showing respectable enough to attract more attention and more support on the way to future elections.

Possibly, she has considered all of these approaches and more. If so, she’s ahead of the game. If not, the time to start is immediately.

Okay, Cindy, throw the first pitch of the season.

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You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.

We’ve been lurking in the blogosphere for several months now and we’ve seen a lot of good stuff. Much of it is comparatively obscure but still leaps and bounds ahead of some very popular blogs in quality. Check the Blogroll to the right to get a sense my favorites.

We’ve run across several sites that offer advice for aspiring blogsters. Some advise a coherent theme, such as humor, politics, cooking. Others suggest an eclectic approach. Our own preference is a combination of the two. We like a lot of different stuff and try to use a couple of threads to connect them.

One is humor. We find the seriousness of pompous asses to be so funny, we have to pop a couple of aspirin before watching a politician on television, especially the Texas Twerp. Humor and headaches often accompany one another.

Some topics defy humor, among them several of our “causes” if you wish to call them that. These are topics for serious contemplation.

  • Domestic violence. Whenever a 190 pound male beats the crap out of a 120 pound woman, it isn’t funny.
  • Child abuse. We cannot imagine humor in an innocent defenseless child who has been beaten to a pulp, limbs broken, cigarette burns everywhere, a child so traumatized it can only tremble endlessly. Or a child abandoned by its mother as she decides on another night of partying.
  • Suicide. How can anyone laugh at or trivialize the premature and unnecessary end of a human life?
  • Murder. 20,000 dead innocents a year in this country is an abominable number.

There are more but these will suffice to illustrate our leanings.

Another thread is cynicism. This is probably a natural outcome of working several years in and around politically charged environments. Politics by its nature is the practice of deceit and deception. These characteristics are aptly illustrated in two old adages by Rodney Dangerfield or SF’s own Mort Sahl or “anonymous.”

  • Sincerity is the key to success in politics. Once you learn to fake it, you’ve got it made.
  • How can you tell when a politician is lying? His/her lips are moving.

Or these, which happen to be original constructs of our own demented minds.

  • Super Pol. Faster than a speeding ballot. More powerful than a loco voter. Able to leap tall issues in a single bound.
  • We live in a democracy. We get to choose the gang we want to rob us.

We have many more original signs of terminal cynicism but they are for another day.

Anyway, blogging in our own case has been therapeutic (listen up Rube) because…well…it just is. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun sometimes. Met some interesting people in the blog-o-sphere; most are decent human beings.

Final thought. Ignore all advice. Write what you want. If no one responds, so what? You can always glow with satisfaction at the masterpiece you’ve created. It’s kind of like producing a porno flick.

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