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Weekend plans

Weekend plans

In my new daily planner, I made a list yesterday of the things I need to do. They are roughly in order of priority:

  1. Get a present for my nephew
  2. Go to my nephew’s birthday party
  3. Learn how to use Gantt Project
  4. Create a master plan with timeline, resources, and subtasks for work
  5. Take down the Christmas tree – yes, really
  6. Get an oil change for my car
  7. Do laundry
  8. Call Mom and Gramma
  9. Pack away the clothes I’m not wearing
  10. Clean the house
  11. Install new light fixtures at the front door
  12. Pack up some kid clothes to send off for my other nephew
  13. Pack up some books for Mom and Gramma
  14. Pack up some books to bring to work
  15. Get a new filter for the furnace
  16. Measure the screen door to replace it
  17. Empty the calcium crystals out of the faucets and showerheads
  18. Get an estimate from plumber: three new toilets, water pressure issue
  19. Pick out the flooring for the kitchen
  20. Pick out the paint for the kitchen
  21. Buy the paint for the kitchen
  22. Paint the kitchen
  23. Buy the kitchen flooring
  24. See if I have any barter-strength left from freelancing
  25. Tighten the screws on the back door
  26. Get an estimate for non-fiberglass insulation
  27. Pack up all the non-family items in the basement
  28. Clean the basement Get the basement cleaned
  29. Reorganize the garage
  30. Reorganize the kitchen
  31. See how much it would cost for broadband to be cabled in a couple more convenient places
  32. Sell, give away, or toss all the stuff that needs to go away
  33. Find out how much the hot tub repair might be
  34. Flip the mattresses
  35. Tally up lightbulb needs, buy, install
  36. Watch The Prestige so I can finally get my next Netflix
  37. See how much it would cost to replace the upstairs carpeting
  38. Work on the novels
  39. Read stuff I should read
  40. Read stuff I want to read

So, for this weekend, I’ve done 1 and 6 already. I’ll do 2 shortly. 3, 4, 5 and 8 are non-negotiable and must be done.

Most of the rest of the stuff will probably not happen – again. Maybe the laundry and some cleaning, if I don’t get too tied up with the work stuff, or suddenly get inspired to write (that’s when it’s bound to happen).

There is a kind of a disconnect in my priority structure. I’m pretty selfish with my time, I guess.

See? I’m blogging when I have all this other stuff to do. I’m supposed to be at the party in 45 minutes, and I haven’t even taken a shower yet.

Better scurry.

5 Questions about VirusHead

5 Questions about VirusHead

Lin at Telling It Like It Is has shot me right in the head with what she’s calling a 357 magnum meme. Assembled over at Home with Heather, this one asks some basic questions about blogging. Far be it from me to refuse such a sweet request from a fellow former JW… so…

1. How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging four years ago (November 2003). I actually had a couple of other blogs – one at Blogger and one somewhere else that I’ve forgotten – but this is really the only one that counts. My domain – woo-hoo!

2. What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?

There wasn’t any one reason that I started blogging. I wanted to bookmark things that I enjoyed, mark life events, comment on politics and culture and so on. My first posts were a couple of poems, a celebration of the birth of my nephew, a collection of funny religion products like the Huggy Jesus, an ex-JW take on Michael Jackson, thoughts about Bush’s campaign discourse, and wondering if snipers had “nests” before Oswald. So it’s always been an eclectic blog.

Mentors? None, really, not for blogging. I’ve enjoyed many different kinds of blogs, but I just do my thang. Where I’ve needed the most help is for design and coding issues, and fortunately other bloggers are very generous with information and assistance – too many to name.

3. Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?

Neither. Once or twice a year, I get enough commission from Amazon to get myself a book. Not for the money, then. On the other hand, it’s not just for fun. There are a lot of different reasons that I blog. It’s a ritual that helps me stay grounded and in touch with myself and the worlds that I inhabit (and that surround me). It’s a personal journal – although somewhat censored – about important events and thoughts. It functions as outreach to other former JWs and people who are dealing with various issues having to do with Jehovah’ Witnesses – and that is very healing to me, too. It allows me to have the feeling of having some small voice with regard to what has happened and is happening in the United States, and to support activism, however small.

4. Tell me 3 things you LOVE about being online.

Three things? I love meeting and communicating with people I would never have known otherwise. There are at least a dozen people that I’ve met through this blog that I consider to be good friends, notwithstanding the fact that in most cases we never have met off-line.

I love reading other blogs, and I feel strongly that blogging has encouraged a wide variety of people to do more writing… and thinking. This encourages me and contributes to a feeling of hope about the future. Even when I vehemently disagree with someone’s thoughts, the very fact that they are writing means that they will do more writing. The more you write, the more you think, and the better you become at both.

I love the social aspect of the internet. I’m a little isolated these days, working part-time as a consultant, being a mom, and now without my own car again. One of my last close girlfriends here just moved out of state. Through the blog, Facebook, Care2, MySpace, and so on, I feel like I’m keeping up – at least a bit – with friends, old and new, and they each have extremely fun things to do beyond social networking. I digg Digg. I love to StumbleUpon things. I love to find things on YouTube (see Salvadore Dali on What’s Your Line – of course he’s an artist, but also an author, and according to him, an athlete too (hee-hee).


5. Tell me 3 things you STRUGGLE with in the online world.

The main thing I struggle with is having time to do all things I love to do. I sometimes have trouble with just playing around instead of writing something substantial in the blog.

I also get overwhelmed by how much information there really is – news items, blog posts, political actions, petitions, votes, bookmarking, weighing different viewpoints and perspectives. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up – even with just the things that really matter to me.

Last, as you may have seen in posts before, I struggle with being fair, ethical, compassionate, caring. It’s a high value for me, but it is sometimes very difficult to hold myself to my own high standards.

Ok, so that’s how it goes.

Now, as far as tagging five more bloggers, I’ve become a bit hesitant. On the one hand, a link from this blog to another blog is almost always a good thing – it gives you another little bit of reputation at Technorati and it might bring more readers to your blog to see all the other cool stuff you’re writing.

On the other hand, some people are tired of the memes, have too much else to write about, and so on.

So we’ll do a win-win. I’ll tag 10 people from 9 blogs – only people I’d really be interested in knowing more about and who haven’t already answered these kinds of questions as far as I can tell (that lets you out, Todd, and Jolly Roger, it’s up to you). “The tagged” are then completely free, with total diplomatic immunity, to participate or not. No worries.

Now, just because I haven’t named you doesn’t mean you can’t participate!

VirusHead Thoughtful Blogger Award

VirusHead Thoughtful Blogger Award

I’ve been awarded the “Thoughtful Blogger Award” by Jolly Roger at Reconstitution 2.0. JR said the most lovely thing:

Virus Head is one of the most gracious people I’ve encountered in my years of blogging. She has a gentle patience that almost makes me feel bad for the chainsaw approach I take to some of my more notable commenters. I DON’T feel bad, of course, but seeing her way stops me dead in my tracks from time to time.

VirusHead Thoughtful Blogger Award

For those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.

This means a lot to me, all the more so because at times I really have to struggle to maintain civility. It is very comforting for me to know that some readers notice (and care) that I try to be as gracious and understanding as I can (even when provoked). I don’t always succeed. It is very tempting for me to give in to my flair for a kind of wicked wit; it’s fun! I enjoy argument more than dialogue, and I really, really enjoy winning an argument. It’s true. What can I say?

When the urge comes, I try to remember that I can’t see the person, so I miss all sorts of nonverbal cues in the communication. I can’t adjust my rhetoric or style when I am missing vital information. I can’t add a smile or convey a sense of irony. Words on the page come across differently. You can’t broadcast the tone of voice, the facial expression.

People are also at all sorts of levels in different areas. They are from all sorts of backgrounds, and a wide range of personal, community, and cultural experience. You have to take people where they are to get anywhere… if it’s worth bothering at all. Online, it is sometimes difficult to get much of a sense of where someone might really be “coming from.”

It’s the teacher in me that usually wins the battle over my inner debater and warrior. Sometimes it’s a strain. I can get a little derisive from time to time. But I think less of myself when I do.

So – thanks, Jolly Roger. The admiration of a pirate is a wondrous thing.

Yes, this is another of those “Create-a-network” meme awards. You can link this back to me if you wish, you may choose to name others, or not. It’s up to you.

Can I toss it back in your general direction, JR? I am so glad to have met you online.

Todd at Postcards from Hell’s Kitchen is my earliest blogger contact on the net. He gets out there and explores everything there is. He is kind and caring and witty and very gracious.

Maria has a MySpace blog. She is a doll (I mean that in the good way). I first encountered her through the site Women Evolving. I can’t find it on the net anymore, but I used to visit the site years ago to be refreshed. She’s so very sweet and kind it almost kills me sometimes. We are contemporaries from Massachusetts, but we’ve never met.

Actually, I’ve never met anyone on this list. If I were to list people I knew, the list would be unmanageable.

Vance’s Meditations on an Eyeball illustrate the value of quality over quantity. He wrestles with difficult religious and philosophical questions. His posts are somehow both opinionated and open. In correspondence, he is a thoughtful and gracious writer. I’m putting him on the list because I hope that he will get more comments on his blog and have more of a chance to let his inner hospitality shine.

Don at Life Cycle Analysis posts on environmental change, archaeology, and human interactions with the environment. He always gets a fair number of comments. Here’s a “moonbat” who rises above it all (note the url of the blog – I know that “moonbat” is meant to be an insulting word to signify a crazy liberal, but I love the sound of the word). His blog has some interesting things you won’t see elsewhere.

Some of the most thoughtful kind people I’ve encountered online don’t blog at all, or not much.

For example, Elainna is a long-time online friend and Care2 buddy (her site is The Wild Side). She is a tireless worker for spirituality, the environment, progressive politics, and a host of other causes. I get a whole bunch of leads from her on petitions to sign, letters to write, news to read, things to do. She is always gracious and caring, and I am rather fond of her.

Dennis doesn’t post very often at his blog, but he does post at his Care2 group Love, Tolerance, and Ridiculous Stuff. Do you really want to see the thoughtful and hospitable response? He’s got it down to a science. I think he even means it.

The Edwards Blogger Controversy

The Edwards Blogger Controversy

This morning, I read a great article at Salon by Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise) on why she refused the Edwards campaign blogging job the others accepted. I think her analysis of the issues was dead-on, and she figured it out in advance. I also thought she was perceptive about the issue of off-the-campaign surrogates:

Unfortunately, as the Edwards campaign learned the hard way, the right wing has a large network of surrogates, like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Donohue, who can propel virtually any story into the mainstream media. These professional blowhards are supported by a lavish infrastructure of publishers, partisan media outlets, think tanks, grants, lecture circuits and more.

Republican benefactors lavish funds on the conservative message machine because they recognize the value of a good surrogate. Candidates don’t pay their surrogates or give them orders. Instead, they rely on them to say all the outrageous things they can’t say themselves.

So far, the left doesn’t have much in the way of institutionally supported partisan counterweights. We’ve got Bill Moyers, they’ve got Bill Donohue. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Progressive blogs have the potential to become the left wing’s open-source counterpart to the right-wing noise machine. But that doesn’t necessarily mean using money and a title to yoke an established blogger to a specific candidate.

The Edwards campaign wants decentralized people-powered politics. Ironically, by hiring well-known bloggers to manage a destination Web site, it was actually centralizing and micromanaging. Every campaign needs a blog, but the most important part of a candidate’s netroots operation is the disciplined political operatives who can quietly build relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. And the bomb-throwing surrogates need to be outside, where they can make full use of their gifts without saddling a campaign with their personal political baggage.

So while I’m here, already thinking about it because of this fascinating article, here’s my take on the thing.

I thought that there would be no problem for a progressive blogger to put on the “professional hat” and work for a campaign. The Edwards campaign picked two great bloggers: Melissa McEwan (Shakespeare’s Sister) and Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon). Both women are solid workers for progressive causes. Although the genre of biting wit (and occasional vulgarity) may put off plenty of Americans, it is possible to change genres – and people do it all the time.

The objections, smears and attacks were to be expected, especially considering that both bloggers were involved with projects like the Big Brass Alliance. The “swift-boating” smear technique seems to work, and the right-wing likes it (they think it’s a good thing).

Well, Edwards fired, then rehired the bloggers. Ultimately, both bloggers resigned. Victory to the machine.

What surprised me was the first accusation, and its source. The leader of this “politically correct” (!) attack was President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue, known for such statements as “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity,” “Hollywood likes anal sex,” and Catholics “cooperate in evil” by voting for Kerry.

This paragon of virtue (note to the rusty: that’s “irony,” “sarcasm,” and “ridicule”) accused the two feminist bloggers of being “anti-Catholic bigots.”

I have no problem with tagging certain pseudo-christians as “Christofascists” – that’s exactly what they are. I don’t see how that is anti-Catholic per se, nor is it even anti-Christian. I myself don’t find the attitudes or behaviors of dominionists and supremacists very Christian at all. Those who seek power and control in the name of God and Christ are missing the message (that is the most benevolent interpretation). If the Spirit is characterized by love and caritas and forgiveness and goodness, then… you finish the sentence for yourself.

There are many groups who rally for religious preference, discrimination, and control over other American citizens.
As feminist progressives, these two bloggers (and many others) criticize policies that oppose women, homosexuality, abortion, contraception – and so on. They each use their own kind of wit to do so. For them to criticize these things does not make them anti-Catholic, just as to criticize the political actions of a government does not necessarily mean that you hate that country or its people.

Most Catholics (even many evangelicals) are not fascistic theocratic supremacists or dominionists. Some recognize that freedom of religion is exactly what allowed them to thrive in America. There are many progressive religious people – who care about the stewardship of the earth, for example, or issues about poverty and helping others and compassion. Some even take peace seriously, like the Quakers. There are feminists who have serious issues with abortion. There are even right-wing homosexuals (something I’ve always found difficult to understand).

The point is, the possible religious and political viewpoints are many in the “land of the free.”

Well, I suppose the smear machine couldn’t really go after their support of, could they? They didn’t really want to attack feminism straight off. So they went for the bigotry charge. The media swallowed it.

The smear tactics are basically just operant conditioning (your basic Pavlov, Skinner) applied to language: Create the association between “Edwards,” “bloggers,” and “anti-Catholic” and “bigots.” Spin. Disseminate. Repeat.

There is no “debate” about word association memes. Kerry… Swiftboat. You try one… how about Columbine?

It’s all about making a noise, a viral repetition that sticks. Ultimately, if it is successful, then it becomes a meme existing simply to replicate itself. Contagion. Spread. Mutation. If you want to debate, it’s best to reframe the terms or you’ll simply spread the meme even further. These days, memes can travel faster than the cold virus.

Somehow, I thought that some of the right-wing bloggers might want to preserve some blogging leeway, if only to be hired themselves in a similar capacity for one of their candidates. Nah – they’ll just do it anyway. As Beyerstein points out elsewhere, right-wing bloggers can do such things as calling for murder without damaging their credentials much. There is so much hypocrisy here that it can start to wear you out just contemplating the many examples. And that’s the point.

The strength of the right-wing machine’s method (including the blogosphere) is the collective and coordinated aspect of viral smear campaigns. In line with that, there is little feel for irony, nor is there much regard for honest debate. It is strategic.

For some, off-on/right-wrong/us-them thinking is very compelling and comforting. If nothing else, it relieves them of the burden of self-determination and complex reasoning. It also blocks insights and compassion, though, especially in a context of meme-association conditioning. It results in severely limited focus, if not always outright misrepresentation.

However, you can only roll hate and smear for so long. It’s wearing thin. Attentive Americans across the spectrum are really getting tired of it. I believe that Americans long for something more positive and energizing than that, despite our tendencies toward scapegoating.

There’s nothing wrong with a campaign hiring a blogger – not at all. They should get someone witty, and someone who already agrees with most of the policies and goals of the politicians. It’s a PR job, basically, and there are some good people who can craft messaging, frame the terms of presentation, and all that. Still – that’s PR delivered in blog format. There are other, probably better, roles for journalistic and activist bloggers.

Although I was disappointed that the bloggers decided not to stay on, I also feel that it is probably better for most political bloggers (if not all!) to be independent. Bloggers are providing the kind of debate and discussion that is conspicuously lacking in other forms of media. The blogosphere is a democratic development comparable to the printing press and the copy machine. Freedom of speech – and debate and argument – produce better citizens and a better democracy.

Yes, there are hateful, horrible diatribes. Yes, there are also simple repetitions of talking points.

What I personally enjoy, though, is seeing a whole range of people trying to think things through and figure out where they stand. They get a better feel for language. Some are more compelling than others, some are better writers. The ones who write often, and think, get better and better at untwisting the spin and mutating the memes.

This is the kind of skill that can raise our collective levels of thinking toward something that can respect debate, honor a variety of perspectives, and start finding and implementing more credible and effective solutions to our problems.

Do Political Blogs Change Your Views on Issues?

Do Political Blogs Change Your Views on Issues?

In answer to NOW’s Question of the Week: Do you read blogs? Tell us if blogs change your views on political issues.

Blogs are of many kinds: scrapbooks, personal journals, advertising spaces, photo logs. Political blogs are only one form of the blog. The blogosphere is about freedom of expression – dittoheads, propaganda portals, soap boxes, fake identities, but also debate, discussion, original ideas, and scrapbooked information/evidence/argument.

Some political blogs actually investigate and report news. Some are focused tightly on one specific topic so that there is a constant flow of targeted and detailed information. Others are like a scream of despair, or a series of billboard advertisements.

Blogs do affect my political views, if for no other reason than that they are a valuable supplement to the information and perspectives that I am able to glean from other media. If you are interested in a particular topic, you can search for related keywords (using search engines or more specific tools like Technorati) and get the latest range of feedback and opinion. Subscribe to your favorite blog rss feeds, and it’s like building your own newspaper. Through a service like Feedblitz, you can even have the feeds delivered via e-mail.

What is still more powerful, however, is that because of the ease of blog publication, more people are writing and publishing. There is a sense of political empowerment that comes from dwelling with your thoughts and observations long enough to claim your own distinct perspective – and then to express it, to “offer it up” to others. Blogs encourage this. People who might never write an article or book for print publication can still have a syndicated column as a blogger. Blogs are used for political opinion, activism and reporting. Blogs can distribute information, and calls for political action. Bloggers can report on things that even investigative journalists never observe – and they offer the viewpoints of many who are otherwise never heard.

Blogs encourage people to read, think, write and debate – all in mutally reinforcing feedback loops that make them better at doing all of them. What’s not to love?

As opportunities for real political discussion in public spaces dwindle, the blogosphere offers one form of the social arena for information exchange, conversation, and debate that in other times and places might have been held at the local pub or cafe or quilting bee or bowling night or barbeque. In many cases, we simply don’t have the places or the occasions for those discussions, but we need them more now than at any other time in my life’s memory.

We need more debates in the public sphere. We need politicians to debate in front of us rather than simply reading their statements to the press. Pundits and spokesmen and think tank representatives aren’t enough for us anymore. Americans do smell mendacity, and we are working it out for ourselves as best we can. Political blogs help us to do that.

What’s your view on this question? Post it there, post it here, post it at home.

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