New Job

I’ve always made it personal policy to never write about my work, but for this I’ll make an exception.

For what it’s worth, I have a new job. I have been retained by The Mozilla Foundation as a Technical Publications editor/writer and Project Manager for the developer side of the world. I’m pretty excited by the prospect, as I feel like I’m finally getting back into the game.

I’ve been spinning my wheels for quite a while waiting for an opportunity to come up, and when it did, I grabbed it with both hands. Life’s just funny like that.

A Quote, from TIFF

The following is an excerpt from a letter I received from Timothy Findley in 1992.

“Keep fighting against the uninformed who think writing – here or anywhere – is a waste of time and effort. If anything will save us, it’s the imagination – and there’s no way better way to keep the imagination alive than to write or to read. My mentor, Thorton Wilder, once said that cruelty is nothing more than a failure of the imagination — and all I can say is that there’s a lot of that going around these days…”

If you’re out there with a drink in hand, give a silent toast to Hunter, TIFF, and Elliott Smith tonight, would you? So much brilliance, too soon taken from us.

The last word, revealed.

I would be remiss if I failed to post a link to the following story, given what I’ve linked prior to this.

I’m not happy about what’s revealed in this article. I’m not sure how to feel about it at all, actually. He did what he did for whatever reasons. It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it understandable or justifiable or honourable or any of that. But it is part of his story.

It’s the ugly part of this story.

“See,” I said, “I didn’t want to know that particular part of this story.” I still wish I didn’t. But I do.

My respect for the man’s writing remains undiminished. Of the man himself, I can only ask, “What the fuck?” What could you possibly have been thinking, Hunter, to have rendered yourself so much hamburger while your six year old grandchild was in the house?

Here’s the story. Make of it what you will. I…still don’t know how to react.

“You idiot kid, you don’t have a clue…sometimes you just get caught in the eye…you’re pulling him through…” – Elliott Smith

ALA President and Me, on Blogging

Apparently the American Library Association president isn’t a huge fan of bloggers.

I don’t consider myself a “blogger” in the mainstream sense of the word — I have a website of which the core is a diary-like text (you’re soaking in it) which I happen to update more-or-less daily. I too have an intense dislike of “the ugly neologism blog“, and refuse to use it in reference to myself (Merriam Webster bedamned). I also do not, in any way, think that this website makes me a “journalist”, a “columnist”, or really anything that could be accidentally or otherwise confused with some sort of professional, peer-reviewed writer.

Now, that said, Mr. Gorman (the ALA President in question) has penned this article which honestly has the feel and quality of an average “blog” entry. Here are some excerpts (for those of you who cannot read complex texts more than 2-3 paragraphs long):

The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of “hits” (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.

Here problem is the statement that Google is “hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval”. Google is a search engine. It is, by far, currently the most efficient means of finding data and information on the web. It is nothing more than that. It is not a library. It does not do anything at all to help us organize, synthesize, or make sense of this information. I don’t know nor have I read about anyone who thinks that Google is anything more than just a really good tool for finding stuff on the web.

There is a difference between information and knowledge, and the keepers of human knowledge shall, I believe, always be human. If anyone thinks otherwise, then they’re wide-eyed fanatics who really don’t understand this sort of thing. Until we have proper AI, forget about replacing librarians. When we do have proper AI, we’ll all be holed up in glowy red bubbles generating electricity for our new robot overlords, so we won’t have to worry about it anyway.

All that said, I’m not really sure what bloggers have to do with Google in the first place.

It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.

Another sweeping overgeneralization written in anger and intended to paint “bloggers” in a bad light. There is nothing in this sentence that is a) true, or b) not intended to be a direct and ire-rousing insult to the blogging community. This is a combination of a troll and a flame, and not a very good one at that. How is this particular piece of intellectual discourse any better than what we see on blogs every day? (Hint: it’s not.)

Mister Gorman continues with this loaded bit of bait:

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gorman wrote something in the past that “The Blog People” disagreed with, and now he’s lashing out. The article he has penned here accomplishes nothing, being little more than an obvious flame and a clumsy troll. It’s already a week old, so maybe I just missed it on its first run through “the blogosphere” (where stories burst forth and die like stars in a time-lapse galaxy), but right now it’s the top story on Slashdot. It’ll peak on blogdex again, I’m sure.

For what it’s worth, I’m somewhat off-put by the growing sense of wide-eyed breathlessness surrounding “the blogosphere”. I’ve found my inner curmudgeon grumpily reading about bloggers suddenly referring to themselves as journalists, or about the strange mob-effect that has caused at least two real journalists (and one fake one) to recently lose their jobs. Dan Rather (and his team) made a mistake. Later they admitted to that mistake and apologized. The man resigned his post, proudly held, in disgrace. The “blogosphere” counts this as a victory.

I do not.

Personally, I’m still working out why I’m being curmudgeonly about blogging and the “blogosphere”. I’ve been reading about journalism and accreditation. I’ve been reading about journalistic ethics and responsibilities. I’ve also been reading about Hunter Thompson and the “New Journalism” that emerged from the 1960s. Reading a lot, and thinking. Thinking about gatekeepers and elitism, about peer-review and “many eyes make all bugs shallow”, about writing and editing, research and fact-checking.

Lots of thinking, trying to formulate a sensible opinion backed up by reasoned thought before writing it up. When I publish it, does that make me a journalist? No. A columnist? No. It makes me a woman with a website and an opinion, nothing more.

New Layout, Again

I’ve cobbled together a custom CSS for WordPress 1.5. If what you’re seeing looks significantly different than the screenshot below, please send me a note so I can fix it.


I will be tweaking the layout over the next while, but it should only be minor stuff.

Tom Wolfe on Hunter S Thompson

This one’s worth reading.

The blogosphere has turned to other things now, but I am still sitting here, sad and angry. The bright point of the story so far is that Hunter’s friends are hoping to blast the old man’s ashes (his remains were cremated Tuesday) out of a cannon at Owl Farm. I think that would have made him laugh.

More on Hunter

I’ve read a lot of articles about ol’ HST in the past 24 hours. Most of them are cheap hack jobs written by people who don’t know, don’t care, and are too lazy to do any research. News is like that, I guess — if it’s a breaking story, just cover it. Forget about covering it well, or comprehensively, or even putting an interesting spin on it. If nothing else, the general quality of the reporting of Hunter’s death should make us realize just how much we still need the old bastard.

Don’t get me started on the webloggers who write about Hunter while trying to write like Hunter. You can’t, so don’t. Just stop it before I reach through here and stab you.

I’m still angry, obviously. I’m still very, very sad. I want to know the “why” of this, but there are no reasons forthcoming. No one’s saying. No one’s telling. The old man had become a bit of a recluse in his last months, I guess, and people are respecting that.

“Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family,” said the statement released on behalf of Juan and Thompson’s wife, Anita.

Fine. Fine. Maybe there is no “why” at all. Maybe he just finally lost a game of Russian roulette. Boy, wouldn’t that be a pisser.

“The savage…the savage…the savage…the savage…” This keeps running through my head when I think about all of this, like a skipping record. The savage. Read like “the horror…the horror” in Apocalypse Now. I don’t know why. I keep getting angrier.

I have three people who I would call my literary heroes: Timothy Findley, Hunter Thompson, and Leonard Cohen. I wanted always to meet all three, going so far as to write to Mr. Findley a couple of times one summer. He responded. Those responses remain tucked away in my copy of Inside Memory. They are one of my few prized possessions. He’s dead now, too. Only old Leonard’s left, holed up in a Zen monastery somewhere in California.

Anyhow, I’m interested to see how the Rolling Stone memorializes Hunter S. He better get a whole goddamned issue. He deserves that much, at least.

Hunter S Thompson

I own and have read every book the man has written, save The Curse of Lono. I am very sad, and very angry.

The writer himself, Hoag said, will be missed. “There’s no one in the world these days who writes the truth … as he seems to, to me,” he said. “He spoke to the world and said what people were afraid to say.”

His death really isn’t a shock. If you had seen him interviewed in the last few years you could not help but be surprised that he was still alive. The man fried himself in his youth, and drowned himself in booze in the later years. And the smoking.

Suicide, from him, seems surprising at first, but then you realize that it may fit perfectly. It would not come as a shock were it to be revealed that Hunter dealt with crippling depression. His genius would almost make that an inevitability. It also wouldn’t be suprising if he had recently been diagnosed with some painful and lingering disease. He really was a walking poster child for the dangers of drinking and too much tobacco.

I don’t know if the Estate of Hunter S Thompson will ever reveal with “why” here, even if they know. For now, and for me, I will leave my respect for Hunter undiminished. He killed himself, yes. He probably had a good reason.

On Grocery Lists

Earlier today I did some grocery shopping. This is something I do 3-4 times every week, since the grocery store is right over –> there, and it’s easier for me to go more-or-less daily than it is to do one big trip every week or so. The flexibility of this is great, because I can decide on what to make for dinner/lunch/whatever and then just walk over and get the stuff. No pre-planning headaches here!

My brain is such, however, that I am wholly incapable of remembering what I want to get at the store without a list. If I don’t write it down, I will forget it. This is something I’ve just learned to live with over the years, and I just always make a list before I head out. Seriously. If it’s not on the list, I’ll forget it.

Today’s (first) grocery list looked like this:

  • 3 lb chuck eye roast
  • carrots
  • celery
  • lg white onion
  • beef broth
  • chicken broth
  • thyme
  • ketchup

The first attempt was semi-unsuccessful. I got everything at the Loeb, except they didn’t have any chuck roast. I wandered over to the Glebe Meat Market to get this, but it was (shock and surprise) closed. Woe. My plans for pot roast were for naught!

Back home, I quickly revamped the list and headed out again, this time for brisket.

  • 3 lb beef brisket (point cut)
  • yellow onions
  • tomato paste
  • garlic
  • clamato juice
  • limes

As we speak, I have 3 lbs of brisket braising in the oven in a hearty broth of onions, garlic, beef and chicken stock, and some beer. It should be done in a few hours or so (longer is better here), and I’ll be serving it sliced over broad egg noodles with a bottle of Italian cabernet sauvignon. Yum!

All this just to post a funny little link I just found:

We’ll have potroast sometime when I can get a proper hunk of boneless chuck.

Update: the beef brisket is awesome. Rich beefy oniony sauce, and fork-tender beef. 3lbs is enough to feed the two of us at least 4 times. Very yummy.