Flare-burning comments

This is by way of  a test post, as I am making yet another attempt to track comments. Debra Hamel at the deblog has got some great tracking facilities so I’ve been bugging her to find out how to do it (as she has put a feature on her blog where you can actually bug her in real time with idiot questions, don’t suppose she’ll leave it there for long if I am a typical customer). Well, it involves something called Feedburner, which I’ve now subscribed to (I think), and have worked out how to "optimise", so I am posting now to see if it works — if it does there will be a little line of tracking links along the bottom of this post.

I have always ("always" meaning for about 6 months) wanted to be able to track comments after I leave them on other blogs — I can’t usually remember many of the posts on which  I left comments, or it would be too time-consuming to keep them all in bloglines and check back manually. But I would like to see if any further conversation develops on posts I’ve found of interest. I’ve tried a service called co.comment, but that only tracks comments if other commenters are also signed up to it, which nobody much seems to be. Now, via the deblog, I’ve found out about co.mment (a confusingly similar name) so I am trying that — I hope, if all this flaring and burning works.

Update: yes it did (eventually)  ;-)

Reading around

Looking round the blogs today I find yet more summer reading lists everywhere (they seem to start around April). I’m not going to link to any here, but would like to note this post by Amy on Books, Words, and Writing about a website featuring author interviews. The site, center for book culture.org, features an idiosyncratic (even eccentric) list of about 30 authors, including Hubert Selby twice, Edmund White interviewed by himself, Manuel Puig, Carlos Fuentes and a wide international choice. There is also a readings and conversations program (sic) from September to May each year (for when you’ve finished your summer reading, no doubt).

The Superman haiku competition results are up on Bookshelves of Doom — and Debra was joint winner, as we all knew she should be! There were 5 winners, Debra’s featured in the "fave cape mentions" category.  I did write an entry myself, actually, but I couldn’t remember the haiku rules except for 17 syllables, but not how many in each line, etc. And I’m shy. And I wrote it in 30 seconds with no prior thought or consideration. So I just posted it in Debra’s comments (which have their own rss feed, incidentally).

Well, are newspapers dying or not? Joe Wikert (of the publisher John Wiley and sons) has written a sensible and informed analysis called the long slow death of newspapers. Essentially, Joe isn’t impressed by their attempts to "monetarise" content, and has a few more imaginative suggestions for them to stay in business in the online era. Here’s an interesting post on qwghlm, which starts out discussing the Long Tail, but is mainly about flaws in concepts/sites like Comment is Free (I agree, but they don’t base their business models on consumers like me), MySpace, Digg and other "wisdom of the crowds" concepts that can end up as "wisdom of the spam" or "wisdom of the press release", etc. I also agree with Chris (aka qwghlm) that the jury remains out on whether Web 2.0 is going to transform the mainstream media or whether it will be the other way round — and not just because, like Joe, I like to read my daily newspaper in print edition.

Here’s a nice idea: welcome new bloggers to the blogosphere by showering their first post with comments. Bloggers blog (Jenny D assures me that the first word has no apostrophe because it is a noun) has the full story. Also at the same adjective-free zone, you can find out how much your blog is worth.

I’m ending with a note that probably isn’t news to anyone reading this blog, that L. Lee Lowe has two (at last visit) chapters posted of Mortal Ghost on the blog of the same name. Not only is the sample so far excellent writing, but you can’t move on the blogosphere for links to it and admiring comments about it:  Frank Wilson (Books Inq.), John Barlow, Kimbofo (Reading Matters), Michael Allen (Grumpy Old Bookman) and many others. Congratulations to Lee, this is quality recommendation indeed, and well deserved too.

Oasis for Dumbledore

One of the many joys for Cathy on her recent visit to York was learning about "Dumbledore is not dead". See her posting on Oasis for the details, and please leave a comment over there if you have any theories to add yourself.

My fellow JKR fans will know that I do not believe Dumbledore can be dead; my view is that Harry has to think that Dumbledore is dead so that Voldemort (who shares part of Harry’s mind) is convinced of it. Thus in book 7, Dumbledore will be able to prepare for the final confrontation unimpeded, and also (maybe) help Harry in the quest to destroy the horocruxes. I also don’t believe for a minute that Harry is going to die in book 7. I am, however, prepared to concede that the death of my favourite character (book 5) is real, as absolutely everyone else in the world tells me with great assurance that it is, though I do have a sneaking hope that the veil was not the end for him.

But enough, please read Cathy’s post at Oasis.

(I am now going to have fun with these categories, having now realised the difference between categories and tags after a lesson from the deblog, and having switched on "advanced" display options — I think my fatal error previously was to have kept my options to "basic" as I didn’t realise there was an "advanced". It also looks as if "advanced" lets you split long posts into two, music to my fingers!)

Leave of blogsense

I have been away from my blog since last Wednesday night. Last week both my daughters were away for the week as the school holidays have started, but work holidays are not long enough to cover them all. When the children were younger this was not a problem as we had full-time childcare. Now they are older, we have to organise the holiday logistics accordingly.

Malcolm and I, to whom leisure time is not a known concept during the week (and consists of domestic and daughter support at weekends), were not sure what to do with our unfamiliar freedom (I think I am right in saying it was a first non-child week in 15 years). On Monday and Tuesday, therefore, we both worked late by default. By Wednesday we thought this was silly, so in the evening we agreed to watch something on TV, deciding on a "no children in the house" DVD, "Tipping the Velvet", a TV film of the Sarah Waters novel. The first episode of three was predictable and hammy, but we stuck with it and found the second two episodes much better — the story carried on being a soap opera but it had raunchy bits in it, with a cheerful lack of moralising that was quite refreshing. I can’t remember much about "Forever Amber" or "Moll Flanders", having read them both when far too young to understand them because I knew they were books of which adults disapproved, but if my vague recollections are correct, "Tipping the Velvet" is of similar ilk. Someone had watched it before, though, as the DVD had lost its wrapping before we viewed it. And it wasn’t Malcolm or me.

On Thursday evening we visited the National Theatre: what happened to be on was "2000 Years" by Mike Leigh. It was one of those sitting-room plays — the audience participated in the home life of a north London Jewish family and was privy to their opinions of modern Israel, Tony Blair, etc. I found it disappointingly banal. If there was a deep irony under the banality, it passed me by. The characters in the play (Mr and Mrs Average and their unemployed maths graduate son) had rejected modern Israeli values after being forced to spend time on a Kibbutz when young, and had opted for a comfortable life in Cricklewood instead. Cue lots of boring chit-chat criticising Israel, Blair, Bush, the Jewish religion, etc. Plot: son gets religion (delayed adolescent rebellion, geddit?), everyone has a go at him, daughter is a rootless hippie-leftie, everyone loves her, daughter’s boyfriend is Israeli new-generation Kibbutz-rejector, shrugs when asked about his time in the army, spends time aimlessly wandering round world (though clearly will be a merchant banker by the time he is 30 and the daughter will own a fitness studio, and they’ll have 2.4 children). Grandfather visits and argues with grandson about religious conversion. Long-lost sister turns up and does Alison Steadman (but thinner) "I’m mad" comedy stint, leaves. End of story. The most disappointing aspect to me was that I had just spent 2 and a half hours watching people interact about the Middle East question and modern day Zionism, with a bit of cheap Bush/Blair bashing on the side, without a single piece of insight. And not much of a laugh either.

On Friday we went to Rutland to collect Jenny, then drove on up to York to spend the weekend with Malcolm’s sister and family, where Cathy had been staying. Now I am back, this week I am on holiday from work based at home, so back to my senses and my blog, I trust. Typepad has had an upgrade while I was away, and my Bloglines page is no doubt bursting at the seams, so I will look at all that and probably be back soon.

Polygon 27, 28, 29 July

Polygon puzzle 27 July
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 11 words, average; 14, good; 18, very good; 22, excellent.

Polygon puzzle 28 July
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 14 words, average; 18, good; 23, very good; 28, excellent.

Polygon puzzle 29 July
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 11 words, average; 15, good; 19, very good; 23, excellent.

Source: the Times

Answers in the comments

Crime in the backblogs

The Harrogate crime fiction festival is over. Crimeficreader has started posting about it in a series of reports: A few points of interest; the New Blood panel; and the Harrogate Crime Writing festival 2006. More to come.

Sarah Weinman has posted a collection of links to some bloggers’ reports of the festival (including a semi-indiscreet reference to Crimefic’s blog), noting: "if I’ve missed out on anything, just add your voice in the backblogs."

"Backblogs" — is this a term for comments? Has anyone heard it before? I really like the word, and am wondering if Sarah invented it or if it is a known term. Or if it refers to some piece of the blogosphere I have yet to encounter.

While I was at Sarah’s blog, I picked up yet another book recommendation (help me! help me!):

"Daniel Woodrell: Winter’s Bone: A Novel
I’ve been saying how brilliant this book is for ages but why not make it official now that the pub date approaches: this is one of the best novels of 2006, bar none, and Woodrell demonstrates why he’s writing some of the best contemporary fiction going these days. What a heartbreaking, emotion-laden, stunning book this is. Read it, savor it and never forget it."

Polygon 25 and 26 July

Polygon puzzle 25 July
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of three or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 12 words, average; 16, good; 20, very good; 25, excellent.

Polygon puzzle 26 July
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of three or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 10 words, average; 14, good; 17, very good; 21, excellent.

Source: The Times

Answers in the comments.

Worst domain names

I discovered a list of the worst domain names today. It is funny but a bit off-colour so I am not going to give any examples here, but go to the link above if you like rude humour.

Here’s what the people who put the list together say:

Attn: Entrepeneurs
Everyone knows that if you are going to operate a business in today’s world you need a domain name. It is advisable to look at the domain name selected as others see it and not just as you think it looks. Failure to do this may result in situations such as the following (legitimate) companies who deal in everyday humdrum products and services but clearly didn’t give their domain names enough consideration.

The list of shame is here.

Polygon 24 July

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 14 words, average; 18, good; 23, very good; 28, excellent.

Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon

Source: the Times

Answers in the comments

Sunday brunch

Paperback writer highlights an intriguing theory about Pride and Prejudice, that Wickham is Darcy’s illegitimate brother. I agree that it does make events in the novel make sense — but then so do events make sense if it isn’t correct. Could it be true?

Happy birthday to Jenny D (Light Reading), who spent part of it experiencing a new genre, cat-sitting noir. (Remind me not to try dining at the Algonquin.)

If you fancy a 24-hour blogging session (for charity, natch) next Saturday, 29 July, Amy on the Web has the details. I’ll be in York and not on the Internet, so can’t be tempted.

Some time ago I mentioned the Bad Grammar Blog (full title My grammar could hit the target from that distance), the blog that fearlessly features all public displays of — you guessed it — bad grammar. Well, the inevitable has happened: Geordie has been banned from the Guardian blog Comment is Free for correcting its grammar. Is this a signal that the last bastion of civilisation has fallen? I rather fear so.

I have a printout of the new Pew study on Bloggers to read — it has a nice title "A portrait of the Internet’s new storytellers" — but it is long. I’ve already seen lots of comments on it on the blogs. Here is a nice summary on Bloggers Blog (no apostrophe, don’t ask me why – it has a "TM" symbol, though). Maybe I had better go away and start.