chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Archive for November, 2008

Mumbai? meh…

Posted by Jason on November 30, 2008

It’s not that I don’t think people getting killed in India is a horrible thing. Violence in the name of religion is always awful and shows us just how horrible and evil humans have the capacity to be. I know that Americans have a tendency to feel fat and happy and insulated from things that don’t happen to us, but this isn’t what I’m feeling right now about this India thing…

It’s more a numbness to all of these terrorist attacks. The news gives a tally of dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan pretty much hourly. Daily bombings in Baghdad. Major bombings in London, Madrid, Indonesia. I think the shock and awe is really wearing off. Could it be that the world, including peaceful Muslims is getting tired of the whole terrorism thing? Really, I don’t feel much terror in my life. I’ve stopped giving these whack-jobs the power over my fear. Is the rest of the world doing this, too? I hope so, because then I don’t look like as much of a calloused bastard.

But really, what if we stopped getting so freaked out by this stuff? Would that quell terrorism, taking away its power to cause terror in us? It’s like gangs, but on a global level. If all of the good people in the world got pissed off and fed up enough, we could easily defeat terrorism. In the ghetto neighborhood where I teach, there’s probably only about 10-20% of the population that are involved in the gangs. If all the good people started kicking ass and standing up for themselves, there would be no gang problem. However, they let their fear control them, and the gangs win. 

Here’s a problem with that scenario. Our political machines and media conglomerates will never let that happen. People get elected and people also get rich by using fear to control the masses. “If you don’t vote Republican, the Mexicans will take over…” or “If you don’t vote Democrat, the rich people will exploit you and take more than their fair share…”

So I’m gonna buck the system. I refuse to get scared because of a gang or because of a terror attack in India. I’m tired of this crap…


Posted in Musings, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Why I Blog?

Posted by Jason on November 30, 2008

I read this article by The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan during the dismal, awful Chargers game. It’s actually way longer than anything I would normally have the patience to read off of a computer screen, but the Chargers really sucked (I’m beginning to disconnect now: they’re officially out of the playoff picture. Shame it’s taken 12 weeks of my life and sanity to make that happen). Anyway, the article talks about blogging versus print-writing, and it brought me to ponder why I blog. I haven’t been at it very long, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying this whole thing quite a bit, much more than my actual job as a school teacher.

Blogging presents me with a challenge: a challenge to reach people. I’m sure that I’ll have an effect on some of my students’ lives, but I most likely won’t know about any of that for a very long time, if at all. Posting things on the internet that people will (might?) read allows me relatively instant feedback on whether or not what I have said does anything for anybody. About “reaching people,” you might ask me, “So you just want to make a blog site that will generate a bunch of traffic and have thousands of people read and comment about what you say?” A high traffic blog and a huge readership would definitely be welcome, but I don’t view it as a goal. Rather it will be an indicator for me that what I say is affecting people somehow, for better or for worse.

Blogging is an opportunity to connect with people like myself. By seeking an audience for my writing, why not start with people that are like me? Well, now I have to define myself, which I’ve been loathe to do all my life. The most concise way I know to define myself is a Jack-of-all-Trades. I know quite a bit about so many things, but I’m not an expert in anything, really. I know I’m intelligent, and that my brain has a huge capacity and facility to grasp ideas and learn new things. Combine this intelligence and curiosity with mild, inherited A.D.D. and you get somebody that knows a lot about a lot, but everything about nothing. There’s not many subjects in the blogosphere about which I care enough to read more than a 1000-word post about, so I can’t expect my readers (supposedly like me, remember?) to tolerate any gigantic posts in which I expound the virtues of anything, much less something they don’t really care about.

Blogging provides the world with food for thought. I can’t stand when people compose a blog post as if it were a scholarly journal, with references and footnotes… If you expect to gain credible knowledge from anything other than a newsblog, you’re either severely undereducated or just plain gullible. Sure, blogs can teach you skills like how to cook something or how to teach your dog to heel, but even then this information should always be suspect. Blogs are commentary upon the myriad “factual” knowledge that bombards us from dozens of media outlets. Maybe the reason why I hate reading blogs is that I expect to learn something from things that I read. Sometimes I glean a cool idea, but most of the time I just skip over most of the recent posts in my tag surfer because a mere glance renders soooo many blogs chillingly boring to me. There’s nothing that turns me off quicker than a post that’s a mile long and has a bunch of Bible quotes in it. I’m a devout Christian, but I hate all of the blogs that try to convince me or anybody else to believe something just because it’s in the Bible. I’m also a firm believer that anybody can make the Good Book support a billion different positions, so right there I have a hard time digging anything that uses the Bible to support a thesis. Just tell me what you think, and if it’s interesting I’ll read it and think about it, too. I’m not gonna believe anything you write, but I will think about it if you don’t pound me with reasons why you’re correct.

There are probably several other reasons that I blog, like the possibility of earning money some day, the catharsis of daily writing, or practice for my hopefully future career as an author, but the aforementioned are most important to me. Really, the second and third reasons are just sub-reasons of the first. So, why do I blog? I want to reach somebody with my ideas. I want to know that I make a difference to the world, even if it’s a cyber-world. I want something I write to make somebody think something, since there’s a major drought of thought that plagues the world today.

Only time, hard work, and my stats page will tell if I accomplish this…

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Title FAIL!!!

Posted by Jason on November 29, 2008

I was cruising some blogs and I found this post that some guy in Vermont published about putting up his Christmas tree. There’s nothing bad or funny or weird about the post, but the title reads

“Christmas Tree Erection.”

Seriously? I thought it was a joke and so I clicked on it. But it was a completely legit posting… All I could think of was, “What species is your pinus?” Or I just got a picture of the little angel on top and it was a bad picture. There’s so much we can do with this, people. Feel free to put any other jokes that come to mind in the comment box…

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Will Blog Revenues Ever Reach a Critical Mass like Amway?

Posted by Jason on November 28, 2008

When my wife told me that people actually made money at blogging, I did some research and found that there are many people who are professional bloggers (not just ad-bot type scammers, but real people who write real stuff). Many people make a living, and a decent one at that, from their blogs. Some people pull in up to $9000, that’s right 9K a month!

I don’t understand much about the whole pro-blogging world, but I do get that it’s basically an ad-revenue thing where you get such and such an amount of money per X-number of views on your site. Now, an excellent way to boost traffic (since that’s how you get paid) is through networking sites and linking to other sites in hopes that people link to you, etc. 

It vaguely reminds me of a multi-level-marketing or pyramid scheme or whatever you want to call it, but much more legit and overall way more interesting to me. You link to two people and those two people link to two people, and so on until you go viral. Now I know we have this notion that the internet is unlimited and that it’s as infinite as our universe (which we now know isn’t infinite), but that’s what a lot of people who get sucked into these pyramid schemes think as well. However, after hundreds of levels, the market is so saturated that one can’t possibly hope to make any money because the entire USA is either an Amway distributor or has been asked and already rejected it flatly.

I know that pro-blogging is not a multi-level, pyramid system, but I’m using MLM’s as an example of mathematical market saturation that can occur when too many people go for a sweet gig. Can the blog money be compared to that? If so, how? Is there any bursting bubble in sight?

So my question to the internet/information systems think-tanks (I’m pretty much only a think-tinkle) is this: Is it truly possible for anything to saturate the internet market -specifically blogs and other ad-based revenue streams- to the extent that newbies can never hope to make decent money off of this?

I think and I really hope that the answer is NO. If not an absolute never ever, at least not in the foreseeable future. The rate at which global internet access is expanding, as well as the increased connectivity of existing users, seems to keep the online world ripe with opportunity. I would love to hear someone’s thoughts, especially if you actually know anything about this.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Be Thankful…

Posted by Jason on November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful that we have all of the blessings that are in our lives. I don’t need to make a list, because it’s way too long. All two of you reading this should be thankful that you have internet, because that way you can read this wonderful blog!

Have fun and eat turkey. Help somebody out and don’t get in fights with your family.


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Bonsai: Illusion or Impression of Ancient Trees?

Posted by Jason on November 26, 2008

I’ve read in many books, internet articles, and forum postings that the main idea of bonsai is to create an illusion of an ancient tree. I know that bonsai is not scale modeling, in that it really would be impossible to reduce the leaf-size to be proportionate with the tree. If you have a tree that normal reaches 50 feet tall, and has 1 inch needles, by the time you reduced the tree to say 1 foot tall, each needle would be 1/50 inch and nearly impossible to see and work on. So I get that, and now you do, too.

My discussion is this: illusion or impression? By saying that bonsai creates an illusion of an old tree, I feel that we are trying to trick our viewers, via magic or drugs or good horticulture, into truly thinking that are trees are much older than they may or may not be. Some bonsai are in fact several hundreds of years old. Does that mean that they are not creating an illusion anymore? 

I prefer to say that our bonsai must give the impression of a wise old tree. The idea is to make the viewer feel the same way viewing a bonsai as he/she would when viewing a true ancient tree. The art side of bonsai must have a communication with the viewer. This communication is the response that occurs when someone sees our trees. I don’t think it can ever be, “Wow, that is a giant old tree or my name is Mickey Mouse!” That would be the response to an illusion. Our goal should be for viewers to think/say, “Wow, that reminds me of those trees in the Sierra Nevadas.” The difference is that one evokes a belief that our trees are really giant and old, whereas the other evokes a feeling similar to the feelings around the real thing.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs and being a semantic stick in the mud, but it really bugs me when people say bonsai artists should aim to create the illusion of an ancient tree. I honestly think that we should strive for a representation that leaves viewers with an emotional impression of that which we are representing. Even if English-speaking bonsai artists have been using the word “illusion” for years and years, “impression” is just a way more accurate word for my tastes. Could it be that a translation from Japanese brought us the not-quite-as-accurate word? It could be…but that would require me or someone else really doing more than just grazing on this topic. Furthermore, even if this bad translation idea proved true, I’m pretty sure that most bonsai-ists would keep on using “illusion” instead of “impression.” I probably would, too!

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“Top Posts” stat inflation?

Posted by Jason on November 25, 2008

I recently saw a blog with the list of recent posts along the side, and then the list of top posts just below it. I restrained from clicking on it. Won’t that make the top posts just way more top-posty? I would assume if you put a list of Top Posts, it would say to a reader, “Look! This is what everyone’s clicking, so I’ll make it easier for you to click on it as well.” 

Now I’m questioning myself… who the hell cares if your top posts get even more traffic? That’s why they’re the top! And why should my blog traffic be egalitarian? My posts don’t have feelings or anything like that, right? They’re not going to revolt if they see that one section’s stats are getting padded from the whole “Top Post” thing, are they? What’s my problem?

I guess I’m thinking that the blog stats are used as tools to figure out what’s bringing in traffic and what’s not. If people read my bonsai posts way more than any other posts, maybe I should write more bonsai posts! If nobody reads stuff that I think is hilarious, then I’ll stop putting up funny things. If I put something on my page that creates an unprecipitated change in those stats, do they cease to be relevant tools for my blogging growth?

That’s why I’m going to do an experiment. I’ll put up a Top Posts section and see what happens. I’m hypothesizing that the top 5 or whatever will have a huge growth whereas the others will not see that same growth pattern. That’s a pretty easy one to figure out, eh? But is it possible to determine if the top 5 are “stealing” views from other posts? Does it matter?

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Book Review: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories

Posted by Jason on November 25, 2008


Woman Hollering Creek

Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros

I finally finished Sandra Cisneros’ short story collection. I was surprised that it took me a few weeks to read, since it’s only about 200 pages long. For some reason, I just could not get rolling with this book. It’s a collection of short stories by the acclaimed writer and poet, mostly set in the Latino areas of San Antonio, Texas, that I thought would rock my world like House on Mango Street or My Wicked, Wicked Ways. 

Cisneros does some wonderful descriptive work. She can paint beautiful, heartbreaking pictures with flashy yet terse brushstrokes that really open up her world to the reader. That said, she didn’t do a great job with narration in this book. Even though they are all different stories, very little was moving in the collection. By moving I’m talking about progression of story, not so much action or adventure. There were some amazing vignettes and character portrayals, but I rarely felt like I cared about what happened to any of those characters. It seemed like the author just cleaned out her writing closet and donated all the scraps to the publisher to meet a deadline or something. 

Overall, Woman Hollering Creek was a disappointment. It does have some worthiness as a style portfolio in which we can see all of the techniques Cisneros uses, but apart from that this book is most definitely NOT a must-read.

Posted in Literature | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »