Weekend browser tabs

Bringing closure to many of the week’s best intentions to read further, to focus, to write and so forth…


Obama is sure as hell not Harry Truman, but neither is Big Mouth Stan McChrystal any kind of “Fade Away” Doug MacArthur.

General Petraeus is no Doug MacArthur either, and that’s a good thing. He’s not likely to repeat the insubordinate nonsense that brought down Stan. On the other hand, I’m concerned about his health. A week ago he collapsed in front of the Senate. What caused it? Dehydration? Stress? Did he have some foreshadowing of the fate that would soon befall his subordinate? If so, was he stressing about the demotion he would have to take in order to set things right?

Three years ago MoveOn sponsored a controversial ad regarding Petraeus’ performance in Iraq. The ad said,

General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2024, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Petraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”
Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed. Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear: a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.

The substance of the ad was never questioned, but the appropriateness brought a world of hurt down on MoveOn. Someone in the MoveOn camp discovered the unfortunate rhyme of “Petraeus” with “betray us,” and, with McChrystal-like adolescent glee, MoveOn hooked their criticism to that silly rhyme and lost the power of the argument.

Another week another link list

Today’s tabs from my browser, tabs that have somehow remained unclosed until today, when I shall surely close them, tabs that reflect my good intentions and my short attention span:

The tweeting of Ronnie Lee Gardner

Ronnie Lee Gardner had his surf and turf, a couple of days of fasting, and then he was executed. This made the news.

To assure complete coverage, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff tweeted the event. twitter: complete coverage of the World Cup, the Lakers, and deaths by firing squad. All the fits that’s news…

and a one

and a two

and a three

tasteful to a fault.

Weekend Bobcat

Lots o’ lynx…

Michael Pollan Food Polemicist

From the Financial Times via @jayrosen_nyu

“…Pollan’s winning way with food polemics is all his own, coloured by an easy-going humane generosity. The reader never feels hectored into gastric virtue. Guilt is not his trip. This is a writer who wants to restore the culture of true eating but who can own up to a shot of pure pleasure at a home-cooked plate of fries.”

Write What You Know

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time,” said the pithy poet Howard Nemerov.

Elmore Leonard published “Ten Rules of Writing” a few years ago. The book repackaged Leonard’s 2024 New York Times essay, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points, and Especially Hooptedoodle”. Today, on the Word Count blog, Michael Lydon takes issue with Leonard’s rules. While admitting that eight out of the ten rules “are matters of personal taste or make some sloppy sense…” he demonstrates that Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, Anthony Trollope, Leo Tolstoy, Raymond Chandler and (modestly enough) Michael Lydon himself ignore two of Elmore Leonard’s rules to the benefit of readers everywhere. The broken rules?

  • 8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  • 9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

I think I understand Lydon’s point. These rules are made to be broken. A few simple props, like a harpoon, or a parrot and an eye patch can make all the difference between Ahab and Long John Silver. Throw in a crocodile, a clock, and–well… a hook and you have a different sailor altogether. So I get it. We really do need a little detail about people, places and things. Except for that, Elmore Leonard’s rulz are dope. For example, number one,

Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

A few months ago Leonard’s rules served to introduce a lengthy feature in the Guardian, a compilation of lots of writers’ rules for writing. Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Annie Proulx are among the dozens of contributors. The aggregation of advice is overwhelming. Some rules ring true (“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” — Zadie Smith); some are silly (“Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.” — Roddy Doyle); and some are simply self-serving and tedious (“Ted Hughes gave me this advice and it works wonders: record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.” — Michael Morpurgo).

Ultimately, we can each only write we know. But what we know changes moment by moment. We can learn as we go along, researching scant minutes before putting crayon to paper. Or we can make stuff up. The penalties for making stuff up vary by genre, of course; so too do the rewards. But, whether we have a deep and certain knowledge informing our scribbles or we simply wing it, it’s nice to have rules. We could do worse than leaving out most of the adverbs and almost all of the hooptedoodle.

Weekend sausage

More tabs from my browser:

  • International Association of Time Travelers
    At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
    Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl’s cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

    At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
    Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

  • Five Reasons Obama Should Take Over BP–Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes, “If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP’s north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.”
  • Welcome to the Culture of News–I think Karoli buried the lede in her post titled “News, bloggers and oil spill coverage: You get what you pay for”. This is a story about the nuance and complexity of reporting a story like the slowly unfolding drama in the Gulf of Mexico, a meta-narrative. Hooking the “who” on sad-sack Mark Bernstein and his expressed desire for simplistic coverage takes the punch out of the central idea that Mr. Bernstein’s problem isn’t science bloggers; rather, it’s the Culture of News.
  • Hamas
  • FutureWeb
    “Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project delivers a keynote on the Future of the Web and answers audience questions. Rainie’s initiative is a “fact tank” known around the world for its assessment of the influence of Internet evolution on every aspect of global life. He and his team release new reports nearly weekly, detailing our use of the Internet and the impact it has on our lives.”
  • Using Social Media to Increase Civic Engagement in US Federal Agencies–Yasmin Fodil and Anna York share insights on public policy development at Yasmin’s blog about Government 2.0, “We the Goverati”.
  • Wisconsin: Whistling Past the Graveyard, by George Lightbourn
  • Burn Canvas–”A simple test of local pixel-based modifications of an HTML5 canvas drawing area,” from Chrome Experiments dot com.
  • HTML5 and Web Standards–This is a demonstration that, according to Apple, shows “…how the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser, new Macs, and new Apple mobile devices all support the capabilities of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Not all browsers offer this support,” the Apple PR machine continues, “but soon other modern browsers will take advantage of these same web standards — and the amazing things they enable web designers to do.” The irony here, the giggle, is that this “web standards” showcase can only be accessed using Apple products. Other products such as the Google Chrome browser, a product already able to “take advantage of these same web standards,” are excluded. That Steve Jobs! What a kidder!
  • America Speaks–National “town meeting” on the budget and the economy.
  • arXiv vs. snarXiv–an addictive little game. Try to guess which title in the pair of titles offered is from a real paper published in a scientific journal.
  • Visual Thesaurus
  • “The Shallows”–NPR reporting on Nicholas Karr’s take on what the Internet is doing to our minds.
  • Does the Internet Make You Smarter? by Clay Shirky–the opposing perspective to Nicholas Karr’s concern about the great dumbing down.
  • Griper News, the bearer of bad tidings–blogging the way blogs should be blogged, by Terry Canaan.
  • Slate–it ain’t Griper news, but it pays better.
  • Aldiko–”…an ebook reading application that runs on any Android phone and which enables you to easily download and read thousands of books right on your smartphone.”
  • arstechnica Week in Apple: pre-WWDC edition–the Apple World Wide developers Conference is just around the corner. The WWDC is a gathering of those who write code for the six percent of information appliance owners who have tied themselves to the closed Apple architecture. That’s six percent of a gazillion users though, no small number.
  • Hulu: Life–a TV series about a cop who was framed and went to prison for a long time. When he is exonerated and released and given a $50 million settlement he returns to the LA police force, bringing a fresh if somewhat demented perspective to his police work.