Technology tops politics

Bloggers Blog: Tech Blogs Bump Conservative Blogs From Technorati Top Ten. Yes, techhy blogs are becoming more popular than political blogs, according to Technorati’s rankings. The top 10 lists for January 06 and 07 are available at the link above.

Mind you, Technorati itself (the supreme blog search engine) is now being outperformed by Google Blog Search, so it would be interesting to see Google Blog Search’s lists (or maybe list, if GBS wasn’t around as many blogaeons ago as Jan 2006).

My new year’s day party with you all

Now I know that not many of us are admirers of the source material, but today I saw this quote on Bill Peschel’s blog:

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. — J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye. "

To me, this very much sums up the blogging experience. Most particularly today, 2 January, the first day this year I have had time to go round the blogosphere (aka my rss subscriptions). Reading all the lovely, friendly and stimulating new years’ messages on everyone’s blogs — individually varied — is the best kind of new year’s day party. I don’t have to go out, and I can interact whom I want: like-minded people, and/or those who share some common interest, no party bores.

Happy new year to you all (you are all on the left-hand side of this blog, plus Dave, Susan and Eric — Blogless but Delightful). Thank you all for being such good reads in 2006. I am looking forward to more of the same: reading , commenting and laughing with you, in 2007.

Bill Nighy finds approval

An excerpt from another post from Grumpy Old Bookman, especially for Susan Balée:

"The Constant Gardener

The Sky film in question was The Constant Gardener, adapted from John Le Carre’s novel of the same name. I enjoyed this film, not least because of Bill Nighy, who has a habit of nicking every movie he’s in.

In this case, Nighy had two scenes which I guess were taken pretty much verbatim from the novel. In one, he gives the hero lunch in one of those gentlemen’s clubs which you might have thought had disappeared. In a masterly way, the Nighy character tries to flim-flam our hero, but fails, because the hero is quite smart enough to figure out what’s going on.

In the second scene, Nighy delivers a eulogy at our hero’s funeral in a posh church. This eulogy is, again, a masterpiece of euphemism and lies, of the kind that one has heard all too often, in a certain kind of church, for a certain kind of man.

Le Carre is so good at writing that kind of dialogue or set piece. But then he has, of course, mixed with the kind of people who do that sort of thing in real life."

I did not find the "lunch scene" as convincing as did Michael Allen: I feel that in the modern world of spin,no person in the Bill Nighy character’s position would have written a letter that was so damaging and could potentially be used against him. But of course, I do agree completely that Bill Nighy played the part to perfection, and all-in-all, the film was as good as Mr Allen says (though not as good as the book). Although I don’t hold any particular brief for multinational drug companies, I believe the book/film were far too simplistic and black/white in their treatment of these issues, but taken as a piece of fiction, the story was a good one.

Fast-moving books and science

Michael Allen writes in a characteristically insightful and informative way about the bestselling novels (in the UK) of 2006: Grumpy Old Bookman: UK fast/bestsellers of 2006.

The post is very well worth reading, but among the excellent points made by Mr Allen I was struck by the fact that the books on the list are not necessarily the "best" selling but the "fastest" selling books. Hence, tomes like The Bible don’t get much of a look-in despite having obvious advantages over "An extra half an inch" if one takes the long view over a period of years.

This method of assessment has parallels with the scientific publication ranking system operated by Thomson-ISI, called the infamous "impact factor". The formula for calculating the "impact" of a scientific paper (a rounded piece of original research) is based on the number of times the paper is cited over a two-year period. In an era of mushrooming publications and everyone being increasingly pressed for time, this measure is increasingly being used to assess a person for all kinds of purposes: awarding of a grant, tenure, promotion being but three.

By this criterion, Josephine Cox and Mary Jane Staples would be winning the Nobel prize, and Martin Amis would be washing the test-tubes.

Grounds for optimism?

"I recall Chekhov’s story because of a link Dave Lull sent me to a brief essay by Rebecca Goldstein at Edge. She is one of 160 people – scientists, journalists, psychologists, academics of various sorts – asked to respond to this question: “What are you optimistic about?” Her answer, in short, is that humans have the capacity to understand one another." Thus writes Patrick Kurp in a new year’s essay.

So what are you optimistic about in these first few days of a new year? Putting aside world peace, and end to hunger and a stop to all beauty contests, what is the one best thing that has a good chance of happening this year?

So far, our newly acquired and rapidly accumulating knowledge of genetics and "genomics" has not translated into demonstrable benefits for human health and wellbeing (eg agricultural improvements). I’d like to think that in 2007 such a direct benefit might be found.

I’d also like to think that the seventh and final "Harry Potter" book will be published this year, and that it will be as good, and as satisfying, as the others.

What are your optimistic predictions for the year ahead?