Successful and outstanding blogging

A really fantastic piece of news: I have been awarded the title of SOB (successful and outstanding blogger) by M. E. (Liz) Strauss of "Successful and Outstanding Bloggers" (subtitle: a community of leaders) — for one week only. And among several others.

I can’t believe that Liz has even heard of Petrona, let alone reads and likes it. However, I found out last night that she’s included me in the 28 April week roll of honour.

Liz says of SOBs: "They take the conversation to their readers,contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger.
I thank every one of our SOBs for thinking what we say is worth passing on.Good conversation shared can only improve the blogging community."

When I found she’d included me this week,
I said:
Maxine Says: April 29th, 2006 at 4:50 pm
I can’t believe that you’ve featured Petrona on this posting. I am so honoured. I have no idea why you put me there, but thank you so much!
With best wishes —reeling off now

She replied:
ME Strauss Says: April 29th, 2006 at 5:08 pm
Petrona!You write well and with passion about things that bloggers need to know. Sounds like a successful and outstanding blogger to me.
Congratulations, Maxine!

Well, she said it, not me! It is so cheering and motivating to have someone think and say this about one’s blog. Liz even has these delightful "SOB" buttons that she invites winners to put on their blogs. Of course I can’t work out how to do that, but if I ever do, I’ll post it.

I hope anyone reading this does not think I am blowing my own trumpet too much — my excuse is that feedback of this nature is pretty unprecedented to me. I can’t recall winning an award before, and it is doubly nice to win one for an activity I enjoy so much.

Thank you, M. E. Strauss.

Minx said…

Blow that trumpet good and hard, well done you SOB you!!

7:58 PM

Lynne W. Scanlon said…

Excellent choice!!!!

8:44 PM

skint writer said…

congratulations you s.o.b.

10:28 PM

Jenny D said…

Good work!

Your previous post is v. funny, btw….

3:40 AM

Bonnie Calhoun said…

Well congrats on the award…ROFLOL…Those initials have a much…LOL…more profound meaning…LOL…here in the States…LOL

4:15 AM

Phil said…

Thanks for pointing out that blog and congratulations on the honor.

5:01 AM

Maxine  said…

Thank you all — how lovely of you all to write. Means as much if not more than the award itself.

Yes, Bonnie, we have SOB over here too — I am sure I know people who would not be surprised to know I have an SOB award 😉

2:18 PM

Maxine said…

PS Phil, I just noticed by looking at your profile that you are Brandywine books (with Lars). Hello to a fellow Tolkien enthusiast, and thanks for visiting Petrona. I do like your blog (as well as Lynne’s, Minx’s, Skint’s, Jenny D’s and Bonnie’s of course — we are a mutually discerning bunch.)

2:20 PM

Amy said…

Bravo!! You completely deserve it!

10:04 PM

James Long  said…


9:31 AM

Maxine said…

Thanks, also, Amy and James.

9:35 PM

Books, Words and Questions

Amy of Books, Words, and Writing has another blog called Amy on the Web. It is Sunday and I have just played yet another game of tennis so am exhausted at this unnatural effort. Before checking to see if Minx has given birth again during this interlude, as she did last time, I took a look at Amy’s blog and found one of those questionnaires on it. I think this has evolved from a nascent form that I saw a few weeks back, as I recognise some but not all of the questions. So, moment of trivia, I’ve filled out my answers. That’s it for quizzes for a while now, unless I find a really irresistible one. (the asterisks in Q1 are a spam avoidance tactic).

1.YOUR P*** (or romance) STAR NAME:(first pet and current street name)
Booey Canbury
2. YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME: (grandfather/grandmother on mother’s side first name, favorite candy)
Edith Crunchie
3. YOUR "FLY GIRL/GUY" NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name)
M. Rke
(don’t know what a fly girl is either, Amy, but mine sounds like a character from Alexander McCall Smith)
4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite animal, name of high school)
Cat Headington
5. YOUR OPPOSITE SEX NAME: (name of dad/mom, cell phone Company you use):
Adrian British Telecom
(6 missing!)
7. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (daily prescription medicine, make of car)
None Currently Thankfully Peugeot
8. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, street you grew up on):
Lavinia Sundial (OK OK, I didn’t give myself my middle name any more than I gave myself my first name, and until now it has been a dark secret)
9. YOUR FASHION DESIGNER NAME: (first word you see on your left, favorite restaurant)
Leon Wagamama
10. MY TRAGIC HEROINE NAME: (favourite flower, word off nearest book spine)
Speedwell Way Ahead

Disclaimers: I don’t ever go to restaurants unless it is with the girls, and they aren’t bothered about fancy eating, plus one is a vegetarian. So not much choice. And I haven’t eaten a Crunchie bar for ages and ages, honest!

Amy said…

You know, every now and again you need a fluffy moment in a fluffy day–and quizzes like this are a good way to spend a fluffy moment. I had fun reading yours!

I’m relieved to know that I’m not the only person who doesn’t know what a fly girl/guy is.

10:02 PM

Libraries (should) rule

An excellent blog that has started fairly recently is The Good Library Blog. In it, Tim Coates is writing about the absolutely disgraceful, parlous state of UK libraries. Plagued by funding cuts and lack of support from politicians local and national, the reading habits of us all in the UK are under threat.

Maybe Tim Coates will provide a focus for action in our most notoriously apathetic nation (animals excepted). He has already provided statistics as to real cuts in funding in central London, outer London and boroughs elsewhere, in successive posts. He’s also articulated the scandalous fact that if you live in London, you can’t even have a library card that will work throughout the whole city, you need a different one (with all the associated bureaucracy) for each borough. As most people don’t work in the same borough in which they live, you begin to see the problem.

The situation seems very different in the USA, or so it seems from reading the many fearsomely impressive technical blogs out there, for example The Shifted Librarian, Information wants to be Free, that impressive guy from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and others. (See Petrona 2, or just key in "libraries" into Bloglines and see the riches.)

As Mr Coates points out, "One of the underlying causes of the collapse of the public library service is that it has lost contact with the people it is there to serve". The system has no public accountability, so what information is available tends to be that obtained by the media. As he says, "The Times discovered that publishers charge a higher price for a book if it is supplied to a library than if it is supplied to a book shop. There’s no reason, other than that they can get away with it." Why aren’t librarians themselves agitating about this, Mr Coates asks? And so do I.

This week, with local elections coming up and with politicians coming knocking at our doors for a brief few days beforehand (we won’t see them again until the next election) , is an opportunity to ask them what they are doing about local libraries.

Not only is it election time, but for many students across the UK, exams are coming up in the next weeks (two of them in this house for starters). The indefatigable Mr Coates states: "There isn’t a public library in London open on any bank holiday and hardly any of them are open in the evenings. Few of them have the books and other material that are recommended or discussed on the thousands of study courses that are available in London. London is the learning centre of the world, but our public library service is an international disgrace. The public library ought to be the place that everyone needs at exam time, but such is the low standard of service that is offered that no one even thinks of them as a place to use. Somewhere you can get out of the house, or your flat and a bedsit and make a little corner with your books and notes in a quiet well lit place. That’s what a library should be. "

If you are in the UK (or even if not), go and visit The Good Library Blog. It will rile you up, provide links to some interesting books, and maybe give you some ideas about what we can all do about this parlous state of affairs.

In the Royal Borough of Kingston, where I live, the council is always doing surveys and consulting residents (and then, it seems, ignoring what they say and introducing stupid residents’ parking schemes or selling off yet another piece of land for an office or luxury housing block, rather than a park or a school). A few years ago, RBK (as it calls itself) included in one of these surveys a comparative question in which local taxpayers were asked to rank services in order of value to them. On the list were schools, hospitals, care homes for the elderly and so on. But it was a monotonic list, i.e. all these facilities were listed and you had to rank them in comparison to each other. Of course, the library and museum did not rank that high when compared with your child’s school or your old granny’s quality of life for her final years. Guess what, the jobsworths at the council used these answers to cut funding to the museum and library, including closing them on certain afternoons of the week. They have now realised that they asked the question in the wrong way, as a result of much campaigning from the museum group, but I ask you!

Books are what we all need to provide colour and imagination to our lives, not to mention education in the broadest sense of the word. Not everyone lives with an Amazonaholic like me — libraries should be there to provide everyone with the chance to stretch their mental wings in whatever direction they like, most particularly children.

Minx said…

We have a library, it has about five books and they were all published in 1969. One of them is ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence’- I read it about sixteen times before I discovered Amazon!
My small town lacks the bigger chains of bookstores and WHSmith’s only stocks the bestsellers, as does Tesco’s and the like.
We do, however, have an awful lot of shops selling Cornish Tales and mystic stuff which is fine if you’re a Cornish Piskie!

12:24 PM

Maxine said…

Explains a lot, Minx! Thank heavens it wasn’t Mein Kampf.

Can you order books via your library? In my poverty-stricken twenties when I could not even afford many books I used to go to a pathetic local library but at least you could order books for about 60p — as long as they existed somewhere in the borough.

5:34 PM

James Long said…

The point about not having a single library card for the whole of London made me laugh – I have five library cards because I’ve lived in two and worked in three boroughs in the past two years!

9:29 AM

Maxine said…

Watch out that the thought police don’t come along and arrest you, James, for having more than one simultaneous card.

9:27 PM

Google 0 Google 2

Hooray, the increasingly unstable Blogger is allowing postings and comments again!

A quick update/link: Darren Rowse has finished his series on blogging credibility over at Problogger. There are a total of 11 tips. It can be read and enjoyed irrespective of one’s views on the subtitle of Darren’s blog "helping bloggers to make money".

And a bit of nice googley stuff — I had noticed a week or two ago that they’d launched Google Calendar but inwardly shuddered and ignored it in favour of my 100 per cent reliable A5 notebook week-to-a-view office diary. But Ian Hocking of This Writing Life is using it and says it is quite good so I thought I’d at least set it up to see for myself, which I’ve now done (v easy). Cathy and Jenny have both enthusiastically joined in, so our 3 calendars are now synchronised in multi-colour format (luckily, Google’s palette is similar to Jenny’s approved colours, or the application would not stand a chance in her book). Only problem now is Malcolm, who is probably far too independent to want to switch over from the system he currently uses. As the main point of having the diary in the first place is to ensure that he or I leaves work in time to pick up Jenny from childcare, synchronisation of some kind is necessary. Bit difficult for two independent beings, so maybe we’ll continue on with our current system of a weekly Sunday manual synch. of Malcolm’s Outlook with my A5 with all the numerous school letters, etc. Cathy and Jenny will no doubt increasingly use Google calendar to check whether the taxi and chauffeur are available before fixing up social events at "point of invitation"….

The other application announced a day or two ago is Google sketch-up (or SketchUp (R) as Google calls it). A three-dimensional modelling tool for designers, architects et al., Cathy and Jenny have both immediately downloaded it and got stuck into the video tutorials. They are both very keen — Jenny has already created a wave. Next stop, theme parks. On a more serious level, a Mac version is said by Google to be available very soon, and the whole thing will be mashable upable (I know all the correct terminology, you see, even though it reminds me of potatoes) with Google Earth before too long. Google Earth, incidentally, is now available for three other European countries as well as the UK.

So Google is not doing well in my book at the moment with Blogger, Gmail or Reader (seems always to be down), but Calendar and SketchUp(R) seem good so far — maybe the problem is that these applications are fine at launch, but can’t cope when millions of people sign up. And as they are all firmly labelled "beta", they are not exactly "supported". But they are free, so one can’t complain too much — and they are a whole heap better than not being able to blog at all or having to put up with all those hotmail irritations to get a free email account.

Blog help wanted

On my travels in the world of the blogs, I frequently (let’s be honest, almost always) admire and wonder at the beautiful blogs people have. Certainly aesthetically, but perhaps more important (to me), functionally: most particularly in terms of tagging. What I would like to do is to be able to tag (and hence categorise) articles on my blog so I can aggregate them for various purposes — not least as a traditional index so I can follow my own threads of logic.

I am not very technically able myself, and don’t have any time to get into this. So how about some help? Can anyone refer me to an organisation or better, a knowledgeable person who could come and visit me to set up a blog for me along the lines I envisage, and show me how to use it? I will pay the going rate! (Time is money).

I know that it is possible to tag on Blogger without driving the clicks away to an alien site like Technorati, but I can’t work out how to do it. I can see from other people’s Blogger blogs that you can do lots of interesting things with tags and categories, as well as design.

I have played around with a Typepad blog, as I think the tagging functionality is built-in, but I have not got very far on the prototype — I can’t seem to make anything happen. SixAlert (Typekey) is highly thought of if you believe what you read, but you have to pay them up-front (they say you can have a free trial but you have to pay first), and though I am happy to blog via paid subscription, I want to be sure that this will give me the features I want before signing up. Then there are blogs on platforms I haven’t heard of, such as Tribe’s, which have tabs as well as lots of other nice tagging/categorising features.

All sane suggestions for what I can do are more than welcome. (I live in Surrey, UK, or "outer London" as it can otherwise be known.) Please provide some contact details in the comments in the wonderful event that you are reading this and are a person who could come over and show me what to do! But even if no such person reads this posting, I am sure there is collective experience about how to find a technical expert who can help you to set up a blog, so I do hope very much to hear about it. Thank you.


what are you looking to do 🙂

4:49 PM

Tribe said…

Maxine, Typepad isn’t bad and its not all that expensive. The tagging comes about by the blogger being able to place articles in categories. On the other hand, you can also open a free account over at and start a blog using WordPress. I started Flashing In the Gutters there, but the problem is that they have frequent server issues, so I transferred it over to my own server.

Another problem with (and this is different from using WordPress to blog, mind you… is a server, WordPress is the software used to blog) is that you don’t have a lot of freedom to of templates.

The most freedom that you’ll have is buying your own server (well, you don’t actually buy it, you pay a monthly fee for server space) and then use WordPress or Movable Type to set up your own blogs.

4:57 PM

Dr Ian Hocking said…

Maxine, I’m not sure if this what you mean, but I add tags to my posts using my blogging application ‘Ecto’ (a Mac program, but I think it’s available for Windows too). It adds Technorati tags to the end of my posts and then ‘pings’ (i.e. notifies) the Technorati server. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

2:57 PM

Maxine said…

Thanks, Ian. I did try the Technorati thing a while back, but could only manage to get it to work manually (by pasting in code for the tag at the bottom of each posting) which was a drag. Also, if you use Technorati then the link takes you to their site. What I want is a searchable (via tags) index on Petrona. I know this is technically possible as I’ve seen it (even on Blogger)… I was/am hoping that by this post someone will contact me who knows some company or person or way of doing it..

Thanks also, Tribe. I think you grossly overestimate my technical competence/time constraints! I have got a wordpress version of Petrona but can’t seem to make anything work on that at all.

I don’t mind paying for the service, but I don’t want to pay and then find I can’t make it work.

I’ll keep trying!

5:34 PM

Time off for good behaviour

No time to post tonight: I went straight from work to an "Arts Evening" at Jenny’s school which over-ran by an hour. It was very pleasant to wander round the classrooms looking at the displays of art and sculpture; to watch the drama group and all the various talents on display, as well as the pride and engagement of all the teachers. Wonderful. Jenny and her friend Lydia sang a duet, the "Fruits Basket" theme, which was unaccompanied as the piano teacher had never heard of Fruits Basket (what?! where has he been all his life?) so did not know the tune. Lydia is a very assured singer who has an operatic voice, so she and Jenny were very sweet to listen to.

I’ll just ask the question: Can newspapers do blogs right? (via USC Annenburg Online Journalism Review). Robert Niles has emailed this question to several prominent journalists in the wake of a couple of recent scandals: plagiarism at and posting comments under false identities at the Los Angeles Times.

Read the answers by Anthony Moor, Xeni Jardin (of Boing Boing), Lisa Stone, Chris Nolan and Nick Denton (links to their blogs or publications are provided on the source blog), plus, of course, the comments. I agree with Xeni Jardin (who must have one of the coolest names in blogging) : "I think the fact that people make such an unnatural distinction between blogging and writing for a newspaper is part of the problem. Behave in your blog as you would in the paper. "

That’s it for tonight. I’ll hope to return tomorrow.

Book sites and more

Please delve some more into some of the treasures I have found on the internet — accumulated while I was away.

Blog metablog. This link is to a posting on an ultra cool, tecchy blog that seems to be called Unqualified offerings. You must scroll down the comments on the linked post to get the full effect (well, maybe not all 1046 comments to date, the first 10 or 20 will probably be enough), but it is just so much the wittiest comment on blogging that I’ve yet seen. Is it dry or is it dry?

Another site I have discovered, and I am afraid I have forgotten how, is Armchair Interviews (TM symbol– yes, really!), a site that is a "fun, convenient way to access your favourite author or learn more about those who write in a specific genre" (I quote). Despite this marketing air, the site is a really useful resource, though I think still rather nascent. It is a searchable index of book reviews by genre — 181 for mystery/suspense, for example. The reviews are listed alphabetically by book, which is a bit odd: if you are like me you are more likely to remember the author than the book title. There are also audio interviews, publishing news for authors and readers, rss feed, etc. Well worth a look for the bookaholic of whatever persuasion.

Here’s an article from the BBC about the virtues of offline life — er? and they might be what? I like the parts in the piece about how the author Bill Thompson and his daughter coordinated their calendars despite different platforms. Malcolm and I coordinate our calendars each weekend to arrange who takes Jenny to school and who picks her up (a lot of logistical challenges re. work meetings and so on). I always get out my battered A5 office diary and pen; he gets out his latest notebooky palmy thingy and accesses his online calendar — if the internet is there! Despite the many advantages of fast connections and the plethora of associated new products that add to the joys of life, Bill says, "while these new services are clearly exciting, and the sorts of integration they offer are providing a great example of how standards and openness encourage innovation, I’m not convinced that the time is right to move my entire life online. The most obvious problem is what to do when connectivity is limited, since if your e-mail is all on a server somewhere in the continental US, it is rather hard to get your hands on it without a reliable internet connection." He’s also concerned about the confidentiality of information one uploads into social services such as Flickr and so on. You can see his point, as many of us have struggled recently with Blogger (I find gmail less reliable now than it was when I first signed up to it). Use the internet as a toy rather than something you have to rely on to run your life, is Bill’s message.

Here is a site, sudoku craving , that claims to be sudoku for web 2.0 but I don’t see how it is more 2.0 than other sudoku sites. Sudoku craving is a free daily puzzle by Australian web developer Adam Lyttle. It is great of Adam to provide this site, but I don’t really "get" the 2.0 angle. I have had Wayne Gould (Sudoku king)’s programme downloaded onto my computer since November 2005, and it is great. Well worth the very low price (a few dollars) . Adam’s site is free, and might be good for those of us who don’t think sudoku is for creatives (yes, Minx!) to try it out. However, I see that you can also link to a daily sudoku puzzle now via Deblog — a brilliant blog in which Debra Hamel links to some daily puzzles and keeps you posted as to her scores. Note to said creatives: you don’t have to be able to add up to play sudoku. It is a game that you do best at if you are good at intuitive pattern recognition — which is a description that certainly fits creatives, I think…….see what you think, Minx, give it a whirl! (Deblog’s link is to a pretty fearsome level of puzzle, I warn you, though.)

Finally, for this post, here is a link to Lee Lowe’s blog "into the lowelands" (good title), which goes by the description "original and eccentric fictions for young adults of all ages". Lee was kind enough to comment on my posting about InfoNeoGnostic’s futuristic visions (Evolution of Books) , and I’m now going to keep an eye on his blog for any fiction he (she?) writes about this vision of books as evolving organisms in their own right. I’m also going to ask Cathy, my favourite young adult, what she thinks of Lee’s blog.

Dr Ian Hocking said…

I’ve just started using Google calendar – surprisingly, it seems to work better (even though it’s contained within a browser) better than the iCal app on my iBook. Hopefully my girlfriend will see the benefits too, then I can stop asking her when we’re going on holiday…

8:54 AM

Maxine said…

I had noticed Google Calendar on some of the tecchy (as I call them) blogs but I am a bit wary of e-calendars compared with the pen and paper variety. I find that the pen and paper variety is good becuase you can put in the stuff about who has to pick up which child from where each night, and who has to remember to take their trombone on which day, etc, without your colleagues laughing at you if they see that as well as all the stuff about which meetings you are attending, etc.

But — call me old-fashioned! I’ll take a look at Google calendar in light of your recommendation, Ian — though I am not very pleased with Google’s performance over the past few weeks (blogger and gmail).

I don’t think I’d manage to persuade Malcolm to switch to anything I suggest though, he’s too independent — so I could coordinate myself with Google calendar I suppose — I have never succeeded in being internally coordinated yet, so maybe this is my chance.

9:27 PM

Debra Hamel said…

Thanks for the mention, Maxine!

11:11 PM

Jim Henley said…

Thank you for the link! I just posted an entry having some good-natured fun with it. I hope you don’t mind.

4:36 AM

Maxine said…

Typo in my post — of course I have had Wayne’s sudoku generator on my computer since November 2004 — I claim to be one of the earliest post-Wayne sudoku addicts in the UK.

You are welcome, Debra, I love your blog.

Thanks so much for the link, Jim, although I have to admit my defintion of "tecchy" is anyone who can tag their blog, or anyone who isn’t on blogger basic design template — you get the picture! If you come back here, take a look at Debra’s blog, that is a great example of a high-tech blog that is not only full of interesting (book-related) content but also lots of interactive puzzles.

8:09 AM

While I was away, part 94

OK, I’m going to just zoom through these bookmarked posts otherwise I am never going to make it to the finishing post.

Grumpy Old Bookman has rightly praised Skint Writer’s writing — go for it, Skint. He has also told the story of the Star Wars fan’s "tribute book" which was all over the blogs at the weekend but has probably all disappeared now for legal reasons. The GOB has some telling observations about Amazon sellers’ tactics revealed by this book’s listing.

Via the Big Bad Book Blog, I discover a site called Self-Publishing, and a posting about why one can’t make money out of print-on-demand publishing. It is a very useful post about the financial perils of POD (as it is called), and advises authors instead to use a "self publishing" service or advice. As Ron Pramshufer, the blog author, says: "As a self publisher, you will put in the time as the author as well as the money as the publisher but remember, you are not only making the royalty, you are also making the profit." There is a healthy debate in the comments.

Incidentally, look here if you want to know why there is no comma in Big Bad Book Blog.

Here is a beautiful site on book cover design, via Books, Words, and Writing , a blog whose title has a plethora of commas (to English English eyes, that is). Books, Words, and Writing is a lovely blog which I came across via Books, Inq, who featured an article on it about gardens and reading. Here is an entry about rogue agents and other nasty life-forms — there sure are a lot of sharks out there preying on poor authors. What a life.

A more upbeat entry on the same blog concerns a reading list to help you save the world. Dave Pollard lists "80 books and articles that have forever changed my worldview and my purpose for living. The fifteen most critical readings have a numbered triangle in front of them, with the numbers reflecting the order that, I would suggest, it makes most sense to read them in." Very useful, also useful is the one-sentence summary of the books on the list ;-). Dave Pollard’s blog is called "how to save the world", consisting of his environmental philosophy, creative works, business papers and essays. Impressive stuff.

Via Brandywine books, I discover the WritingFix site, which among other things provides automatic plot creator. I think I’ll just set it up and send off the result to those rogue POD publishers and agents…. The Brandywine books posting is worth a look, as it is Lars Walker’s first anniversary blog, and he lists the sites from something called "writer’s digest 101" that caught his eye, as he puts it. The links are in his posting, and many of them look well-worth checking out. One of these is "bookcrossing" — Minx and others have commented about leaving books behind after one has finished them and lurking to see who picks them up. Well, bookcrossing is an actual organised site for this activity, with labels, stamps and indexing, so that a book’s journey can be followed after you leave it. A really lovely idea.

How am I doing? There is one of these "memes" on Collected Miscellany (list at this link) which looks quite fun. You have to look at a list of books, make the ones you have read bold, italicise the ones you might read, underline the ones you have on your bookshelf, and put parentheses round the ones you have never heard of. I don’t often like doing these memes, as they often tend to be rather too self-referential for my taste, but this one looks quite interesting, if I could ever find the time to do it.

Mapletree7 over at Book of the Day has a great review of Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I laughed at the part about her mother (Mapletree7’s, not Rebecca’s or DuMaurier’s). I know just how it feels. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did not remember how many of Muriel Spark’s books I had read until I read the obits.)

Maud Newton has a very interesting post about Affluemza, a link to an excellent deconstruction of the "mommy wars" debate, by Sandra Tsing Loh. "Twenty years later, gone are big hair, big diamonds, and big shoulder pads. In their place, among America’s most affluent mothers, is a kind of gnawing, grinding anxiety and a mediacentric conviction that this fretfulness is somehow that of every woman. Or so it appears in the just-published Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families, edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner. " See here for a link to the full review in Atlantic Monthly — and at Maud concludes: "The review includes some unfortunate generalizations about red staters and about "rabidly focused women." Also, the conclusion is confusing and it doesn’t present a solution. (Universal child care, anyone? Financed by repealing all those tax cuts for the rich?) But there’s some powerful writing here, and I share the disgust she leads with."

I’m almost there now! There is a fascinating account on that wonderful blog Deblog (discovered via Ian Hocking of This Writing Life) of what happened to Debra Hamel when she posted a negative review of a book on Amazon. But not as bad as the legal action threatened to Read Roger under similar circumstances. Amazing.

My head is spinning from this whirl through the many, many interesting blogs and posts that happened during my absence. There may be one or two more, but for my own sanity I have to stop here. Back soon (maybe)!

Tillerman said…

My head is spinning too. Thanks for all the great links.

11:58 PM

Bonnie Calhoun said…

Bravo! That was an impressive list! My eyes are crossed trying to keep up!

3:51 AM

Keris said…

Thanks for the comment, Maxine. I’m off to check those sites out now.

(I got the idea from Sara Nelson’s book So Many Books, So Little Time – A Year of Passionate Reading.)

6:03 AM

Minx said…

You have a reading age of 150 now!!

4:38 PM

mapletree7 said…

Thanks for the nod!

It’s crazy how our perspective on books changes over time.

I’m sure in high school I thought Rebecca was a horrible witch who deserved what she got.

7:00 PM

Maxine said…

Thanks very much everyone for your too kind remarks, I am so pleased that the links are useful.

On Rebecca, I think I too thought that Rebecca was a witch when I read the book aeons ago, so I really must read it again now, Mapletree, in light of your perspective. I remember being completely in sympathy with Maxim but now you have focused my mind, you are right, he is pretty dreadful. I bought it at Christmas for Cathy (15 now) but she could not get into it. Modern teenagers like modern books! So it is sitting waiting for someone to read it.

7:55 PM

James Long said…

Coincidence: watched the Hitchcock film of Rebecca for the first time last weekend (it was in the pile of free newspaper DVDs – don’t you find it funny how newspapers now advertise their worth based on which DVD they’re giving away, and not on their news content?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film made me worry for Rebecca and hate her alternately, depending on which plot twists were being revealed – I would hope the book is a bit more subtle about R’s character.

9:53 AM

Maxine said…

Know what you mean about the DVDs, James. JAMES? Where did GGB go, I miss him!

This week the Times is "giving away" a free children’s (BBC) DVD every day but you have to text them at £1.50 a go to collect. I keep forgetting of course, as I read the offer on the train and think "I’ll send a text tonight", but with my short=term memory being what it is….. (also I am not very good at texting either, being, as Minx so kindly points out, about 150 years old).

I thought the book of Rebecca was excellent, have read it twice, but a very long time ago, so I don’t know if it has dated a lot. I think it is a lot better than the movie, but then books usually are, don’t you think?

9:32 PM

Blinded by science

Lablit is publishing a series of "science in fiction" short stories by Harrison Bae Wan, following the career of a scientist called Fluke "from graduate school to Nobel prize". (Arrowsmith, anyone?)

The first episode is called "The Coomassie Blue Kid" and the second, just out, is "The CBK and the plasmid of doom". I haven’t had time to read them yet, but they look good, so, in link rather than think mode, I’m bookmarking them here so I can return.

According to lablit, you don’t have to know about science to read and enjoy these stories. Worryingly, though, they provide a glossary. Now when was the last time anyone had to have a glossary to understand a piece of, say, science fiction? If you don’t understand the technicalities, you gloss over them, you don’t need to get a degree in the subject before you can read the next sentence. Much of my education about the USA has come from reading crime fiction novels and picking up alien cultural references, it is all part of the fun. When I first visited New York, I fulfilled a longstanding ambition of going into a deli and asking for a "pastrami on rye" (which at that time you could not do anywhere in the UK, though you probably can now). Of course the guy there did not understand my stupid English accent and I could not do a passable Jimmy Cagney, but it was great to give it a whirl.

I’ll reserve judgement on lablit’s glossary until I’ve read the stories myself, but I don’t think it bodes well for unfettered reader enjoyment.

Improve your blog!

Back on track, I want to write about some excellent postings on the Problogger site. I discovered this site via Dave Lull, and though it has the off-putting (to me) subtitle of "helping bloggers to make money" I find it has many excellent posts about how to improve your blog and your blogging techniques, which are applicable whether or not one wants to make money out of one’s blog ;-). It has been on a roll recently.

Here’s a posting about sending readers deeper into your blog. In this post, Darren Rowse (Problogger) links to a page offering advice to new blogs on Liz Strauss’s "Successful and outstanding bloggers". Darren continues: "Simply search through your archives for key posts that would be relevant to first time readers and put them together as a post that ties them together. Then it’s a matter of linking to that page in key places on your blog." Well, I couldn’t agree more, though I imagine it will not be easy to do, but I will try. I still have not managed to collect postings on Petrona by tag (Tribe’s blog does it fantastically), but Darren’s method sounds possible for the technically marginally competent. So I will give it a go, as I would like to collect up my themed posts.

Another of Darren’s posts is on how to grow your blog’s readership. (See what I mean: another worthy goal irrespective of trying to make money.) In the post Darren provides comments on each of 10 things Guy Kawasaki has learned on "evangelising" in his first 120 days of blogging. These include: "think book not diary"; collect email addresses and links; acknowledging and responding to commenters, and so on. The posting is worth reading for its common-sense advice, even if some of it ("getting a scoop") is a bit ambitious.

Next in my collection of Problogger posts is on blogger credibility. One of Darren’s readers asks this question: how to make yourself a credible source? For example, when I came across your site, I got the impression that you had no experience with blogging, but found your niche in making money from blogging. But since you had never actually done it, I’m curious as to how you made yourself the source that you are now. You have very good tips and information, but obviously didn’t have them to begin with.

Darren’s answer: "I think it gets to the heart of a really important issue for bloggers and one of the things that is often at the heart of a blog’s success or failure – the credibility of the blogger."

He says : "Obviously when I started blogging three and a half years ago I had no experience in blogging and started out like a newbie like everyone else – but my first blog wasn’t actually on the topic of blogging. It was a personal (ish) blog. Then over time I added new blogs to my blogs and learned as much as I could about blogging and blogging as an income. Gradually over a number of years I built a way to make a full time living online through a variety of blogs. It was at this point that I launched (in September 2004) after I’d been blogging almost two years."

Darren says that over the next few days he is going to post on items that can add to a blogger’s credibility.

First up: longevity. The "money" question here is whether you are committed to your blog for the long haul.

Second: experience. This is the "write what you know about" advice we all received at school — but this does not make it less true, particularly for those of us who are not regular writers.

There will be more of this series ("expertise" will be next), so if you like the style, follow it on Problogger.

The last Problogger posting I want to mention for today is on two styles of blogging. My subtitle on Petrona is "linking and thinking", as that’s essentially what I like to do — find interesting material on the internet and write about it. Darren discusses the two "classes" of blog, the "linker" blog (I think of Instapundit, for example) which is largely an information-provider collecting up links on a topic of interest for the reader to get a snapshot of an area and save time; and the more personal, "thinking" site — many of the literary, library and science blogs I subscribe to (see Petrona 2) are like this. Darren calls these styles of blogging "referential" and "experiential", and posts his thoughts on them and their various degrees of overlap.

Minx said…

Really good tip Maxine, I found some very useful stuff here. I fall into the ‘experiential’ catagory (of course) although I might say that I am experimental – it feels like it!
And as for your Sudoku obsession…what can I say, we creatives just don’t do numbers!!!

8:55 PM

Bonnie Calhoun said…

That’s a great post …lot to think about…I like to make people snort coffee!!! 🙂

5:58 AM