A Third Blog Reboot

So it’s been a bit of a hiatus here at This is Not a Dinner Party Marching Under Banners. I would like to say that I put the blog on hold because I was completely occupied by having started graduate school, but as I really stopped blogging in July of 2010 (with a few quick outliers in September and November), the explanation lies elsewhere. I suspect the real reason that I stopped was because twitter and FaceBook were fitting the personal expression bill. But I never really made an explicit decision and am not actually sure what the reason was.

Whatever the case, 140 characters sufficed for a while, but I am increasingly finding that the character counter block has turned a verbose-threat-level HIGH color long before I have completed my thought and even the usual cleaver pairing down doesn’t suffice to squeeze the idea into the allotted space. So maybe it’s time to resume the blog.

This will be the third iteration of my blog. The original blog, smarties, I developed myself in PHP in 2004 and it was pretty basic. In its second incarnation, it was an attempt at a group blog using an installation of b2evolution (also PHP) hosted by a friend. This time around, I’m giving up on the DIY thing and just going with a WordPress blog. An explanation for the new title and banner can be found on the About page.

I have ported over the July 2007-November 2010 This is Not a Dinner Party archives. The June 2004-July 2007 smarties archives are stuck on a currently deactivated RAID array or a tape backup somewhere. I hope to have them recovered soon enough because there are a number of currently dead links throughout this blog to those old posts and there’s a lot of important thinking and personal history there.

Oddly enough, in my first year as a graduate student, I didn’t write a single piece for any of my seminars with which I was adequately satisfied to make a post out of it. I hope that will change over the next few months and I this blog will serve as a place to do some thinking towards academic work — some background thinking, some preliminary studies, some finished work and so on.

Anyway, enough with the preliminaries: I’ve got a few things queued up already so back to the blog trenches.

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My First Hate Mail

Awesome! A blogging milestone: my first hate mail. I’m a little tardy on this as I don’t check the e-mail address behind the blog all that often, but 17 April 2008 I prompted enough ire in a stranger to intrude on their schedule:

To: “Donald Taylor II”
From: [REDACTED]
Date: Thu, April 17, 2008 5:51 pm
Subject: Re: The Destruction of Barack Obama, Part III

I want to hear more about your cat, Mogli. Mostly because your views about Obama are sad.

Sad. You make me want to cry. Its unsatisfying to believe that America is screwed. Not that Obama is a the messiah or the savior, but that the system is broken beyond repair and America’s future is the same as that of an overgrown, syphilitic determined to drink themselves to death and all the while justifying their recklessness and self-destruction with cowardly simplifications.

Is that the future of America? An overburden social insurance system that demonizes those it means to uplift, a prison system that robs the youth and vigor from huge swathes of the population, a government that is purposefully inept, a political system that has no sense of the national interest, an economy built for and maintained by a global moneyed elite and a population so consumed by the immediate needs for survival that engaging in the necessarily ugly process for national rebirth (short of revolution) is met with irrelevance and cynicism?

Is that your America?

Tell us more about your cat and your crockpot. The rest is too sad.

Is that you, Chris Crocker?

This guy fell out of the chiché tree and hit every trope on the way down. It ought to go without saying in a fragmented, saturated media market — and one entirely public — that requests to desist are unnecessary and will not be respected. Simply turn your attention elsewhere.

This is some pretty weak tea, but I guess thankfully so. I need to toughen my hide for the real trolls.

Four Years

21 June 2008, Fourth anniversary as a blogger spent in Atlanta, Georgia workin for the man

Saturday, 21 June 2008 was my four year anniversary as a blogger. I made my Inaugural Post that Monday in 2004. I had intended to post on the day-of, but I spent the day in question in Atlanta, Georgia on a business trip, running myself ragged for someone else’s year-end bonus. Colorless bureaucrat by day, intrepid blogger by night. Here I am at the Atlanta Peachtree Westin conference room A “continuous refreshment service” helping prospective linguists fill out the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Oh MedWatch 3500 where hast thou gone?

I lead a life devoted to little boxes. Mostly to making sure that people have correctly and completely crammed a continuous record of the last ten years of their lives into a series of little boxes over eleven to thirteen pages. But also comparing in meticulous detail the boxes on the sheets of paper to the corresponding boxes on a computer screen. And then checking off a list of little boxes to record that all content-bearing boxes have been adequately verified. I hate to admit it, but I think it’s my calling. I know that my record of spelling on this site has done nothing to prove the case, but baring the spellings, I am nothing if not meticulous. I am a relentless machine of attention poured into little boxes. I am a tireless warrior against the omission and the oversight. My favorite admonition is that “you have to write N/A as the investigator cannot tell the difference between an omission and a negative response.”

Anyway, the murderously mundane, death of a salesman workaday aside, the blog is great. I really feel like I’m in my groove. The goals no longer seem burdensome and I frequently kick it in confidence that any lull now will be more than made up for in a burst of activity later. And it’s stimulating. I spent almost the whole of today in a state of heightened agitation over the ideas that were swirling around in my head. The only problem is time, stick-to-it-ivness and the adequate eloquence to the task.

Part of the anniversary is the annual review, with an emphasis on the analytical. I switched to a third party product this year and turned over admin rights to John, so I have a helpdesk ticket in with him to get the permissions and whatnot necessary to produce the stats. Hopefully I can produce a more full assessment of the last year in a couple of days. For now it’s off to Miami this weekend: more errands in service to the man. Maybe some mile-high blogging though.

Monkey Contributors

The purpose of switching to a group blog format was to upgrade from my existing two to five posts per week to the sort of high-volume blog that would reward regular refreshing the browser. But alas K. and J. are weak oarsmen. So I’m thinking of a strategy more like that of Mad Magazine:

April 2008 Mad Magazine, monkey editorialship

I would hardly be only in the company of Mad. The New Yorker obviously has had similar thoughts:

23 December 2002 New Yorker, the Fiction Issue, chimps on typewriters on the cover

And The New Yorker cover shows that the editorial staff at that magazine is actually thinking through the practicalities of the program. On the other hand, The New Yorker is just involved in a raw numbers game. Mad is trying a strategy of mixing it up.

Back when I worked in IT I actually used to fret that my employer would fire me in favor of a monkey. I’m sure that a chimp could have been at least twice as productive as me when it came to pulling new cables through the suspended ceiling. Perhaps the same would be true of blogging.

Blogger Karōshi

The New York Times has an article about blogging yourself to death (Richtel, Matt, “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop,” 6 April 2008). The Japanese, for whom this is not a new phenomena, actually have a word for death by overwork: Karōshi.

Matthew Yglesias asks what’s the big deal? (“Death by Blog,” TheAtlantic.com, 6 April 2008). “…[T]o me the most draining times are really those times when I’ve undertaken substantial work on top of the blog.” I, on the other hand, have undertaken a blog on top of substantial work. I’m not a full-time blogger. I have a 40 — okay, more like 50 or 60 — hour a week job. I blog over my lunch break — when I take one — and in the evenings. Often times I feel like I have two jobs. Writing even a few posts is, for me, very time consuming. I get home in the evening and think, “Now it’s time to start my second job.” It frequently takes me a couple of late nights to finish a post and when the end is in sight, I often chase the mirage of finishing until dawn and the horror of birds chirping (Quoth the raven, “Time to get your ass to work”). Back in 2005 I ran a few queries and found that my average post was made between 10:00 at night and 6:00 in the morning (“Hundredth Post: Taking Stock,” smaties (first series), 18 January 2005). I would provide some current stats, but the new blog has a lot more complex a data model than what I developed.

I’m not griping — I’m just riffing. I do it to myself: I’m a wannabe intellectual with a boring day job. I wish I were a writer and I am desperate for a little intellectual exercise. The problem is that by depriving myself of as much sleep as I am, I am incurring as much brain damage as I am engaging in brain stimulation.

And Mom: I turned off comments not to thwart open thread on your concern for my health, but because of a recent rash of comment spam.

And Humble Too …

We’ve been down for two weeks because our admin’s internet provider, Clearwire, cut off inbound port 80 with no notice. New policy: no internal web hosting. Admin had to switch to Comcast, with all the headache that entails. In case your experience with Comcast has to date been without a hitch then it’s just dumb luck. I have had a number of run-ins with their customer service which is not merely bad, but more in the category of egregious or maddeningly bad or not the sort of thing that a conscionable company desirous of success would do to its customers. But I guess it’s the sort of thing you can get away with when you are a partial monopoly

Anyway, after merely the entry-level runaround, we are back up and hopelessly dated. We’re up a little ahead of anticipation owing to Admin’s genius. As he reports,

It appears that DNS is picking up pretty quickly. (I had proactively dropped the time-to-live for DNS, knowing there would be an IP address change–’cause I’m so fucking brilliant.)