May 02, 2008

Like shooting conservative fish in a barrel

Radley Balko posts a link to the most popular 50 pages on Conservapedia under the heading Compensate Much:


Posted by Nicholas at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

Display issues

As you may occasionally find, we're having some CSS issues on the site at the moment (for instance, when I rebuilt the site a minute ago, I lost the sidebar at the left). They're not consistent, which makes it much tougher to track down. Jon and I are looking at our options: fixing the current site, upgrading to the latest version of MovableType, or switching to another blogging software package.

Sticking with the current software isn't likely: it's old and no longer supported by Six Apart. Upgrading is more likely, except that it will require a double-upgrade, once to version 3.5 and then again to version 4.2. The alternative is to switch to something like WordPress (which has the advantage of being already installed at the new ISP).

Short version: no matter what, expect a bit of odd-looking pages for the next little while as we work through the options.

Update: Argghhh! Still having time-outs on just about everything. Even saving and rebuilding doesn't fix all the posting issues (I've got one post that just plain refuses to appear, and another one with a graphic that won't display at all). Very frustrating.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

The nature of guilds

In a discussion on the technical writing mailing list earlier this week, someone proposed trying to organize technical writers in some form of union or guild. Kevin McLauchlan tackled the idea of a guild head-on:

Doctors and lawyers don't often work in groups of hundreds or thousands, but their guilds regulate them (a little) and keep their clubs exclusive (sorta), and collude with government, thereby keeping membership numbers controlled and prices up. For example, [in Ontario] the medical association just graciously "permitted" a new medical school to come into existence.

The other side of that is that they've been not permitting some/many to come into existence. This, in a province and a country that is becoming desperately short of doctors. Here in the land of socialized medicine, a large (and rapidly increasing) percentage of the population does not have a family doctor, simply because there are not enough licensed doctors to go around. Instead, people use the hospital Emergency room for every medical need, or they go to walk-in clinics (where they rarely see the same doctor twice . . . but at least some records are kept . . . but they don't always go to the same clinics because. . .)

Clinics are closing, or are going on reduced operating hours because they can't find doctors to work the time-slots. Lots and lots of our doctors (including my own GP) are foreign-born and foreign-trained, but many foreign-born, foreign-trained doctors are working as taxi drivers or other occupations because they are not permitted to practice medicine in this place that is so desperately lacking doctors.

Between government (that gives them the clout to enforce) and the medical association that does the enforcing, the number of doctors is kept artificially low. The newly arrived doctors from India, Malaysia, Arab counties, Eastern Europe, etc. are not permitted to become Canadian doctors. Part of the excuse that's given is that their skills need to be harmonized with the Canadian medical standards of practice . . . but there are not enough resources to process most of the applicants. But the lack of resources lies directly at the doorstep of the /g/u/i/l/d/ Medical Association that sets the numbers of med-school seats, the number of med schools that can be accredited, the number of programs and personnel that can mentor and supervise immigrant doctors until they get up to speed.

That kind of power and impunity can exist only when you've got government in your corner, supplying the legal clout to make your /g/u/i/l/d/ association pronouncements carry the force of law. The results are kinda harsh, when the turnaround time for a change of priorities is a matter of years or decades.

So, STC (or some other techwriter guild) would need to get government on-side in order to set quotas and price guidelines that could be enforced on the hundreds of thousands of companies that employ us in onesies, twosies, and small groups. They'd also need to enforce requirements for our services. Unlike engineers, we provide services that can be dispensed with, or that can be offloaded to non-professional, non-accredited techwriters . . . unless the law says that any product that is sold must be accompanied by documentation that carries the <STC?> seal of approval . . . having been created by <STC?> accredited writers. Of course, that kind of requirement would drive even more production offshore. Unlike the provision of medical services, product development and production can be done very far away from the people who eventually purchase the product.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2008

Hmmm. Must be something in the water

I ran the same test on the blog, once at the old location and once here. Apparently I've developed a written form of Tourette's Syndrome:

Old Site

New Site

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Posted by Nicholas at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

Advice for new bloggers

My usual piece of advice is to blog frequently, but Megan McArdle provides an even better word of advice:

Note to all new bloggers: this sort of thing is generally, at least in the blogging circles in which I travel, considered to be rather poor form. Worse, indeed, than accidentally neglecting to provide a link to someone you have already conceded to exist.

That doesn't excuse me for forgetting the link — I shouldn't be so careless on that score. But if you use substantial parts of another blogger's post, you should mention that you found it somewhere else. Direct paraphrase without even attempting attribution is regarded with less horror by bloggers than it is by English professors . . . but not all that much less horror. Especially since linking a source is a lot faster and easier than footnoting.

The answer to the question I posed in the title is, basically, "Always!" As Nick Gillespie noted yesterday, "there's no cost to acknowledging sources—if anything, it's a sign of erudition and plugs an author into a broader network of thinkers." Besides, as he also noted, if you go over the line you're very likely to be caught.

I'd add to what she says about linking being "a lot faster and easier than footnoting" that it's also significantly more useful for the reader. That argument seals the deal every time for me: if I want you to have to work hard to understand what I'm writing, I'd be an academic, not a blogger.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The origin of the name Canada

"Canada" [. . .] is the ancient Ojibwa word for "kick me"

Kathy Shaidle, "I missed 'Pingu' for this?", Five Feet of Fury, 2008-04-30

Posted by Nicholas at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

Book reviews . . . of DOOM

You know those books you read but would prefer that nobody knew that you read . . . no, not those ones. The worst trash you read. Everyone seems to have some reading vice like that. David Hines knows exactly what you feel:

You think that paragraph alone would make this book awesomely bad, but no. IT GETS MORE SO. Yes, you will be horrified by a lot of this, because Mike Harmon's adventures are by turns awesomely horrific and horrifically awesome; I freely confess that I cannot stop reading these books, because *I have to see what Ringo does next.* I do, however, have a finely-tuned defense mechanism: whenever something trips my circuit breaker, causing me to cringe away from the page, I utter aloud a cry that resets my noggin. You will probably need it yourself, so I provide it here, as a public service: "OH JOHN RINGO NO."

GHOST is Ringo's own admitted Lord King Badfic, his id run wild. By his own account, he was trying to write several books he was actually contracted for, but GHOST kept nudging at him, and finally he just wrote the damn thing to *make it go away* so he could get back to fulfilling his contracts. Ringo locked the spewings of his id away on his hard drive, until he mentioned in passing on an online forum that yeah, he'd written another book, but it was *awful* and would never see the light of day. Naturally, folks were curious, and when Ringo posted a sample, nobody was more surprised than him to find that the response was, more often than not, "Hey, man, I'd buy this."

So his publisher put it out, and the books are now doing pretty well for them. I'm sure this is a pleasant surprise if you're Ringo or his publisher, but it's also got to be a little embarrassing; he's committed the literary equivalent of charging money for folks to watch him roll naked in a pile of dead and smelly fish. And then being begged for encores. As of this writing, I have only the first three books in the series, because dammit, I will buy crap, but I refuse to buy crap in hardcover. That's *expensive.* I mean, I could be spending that money on *guns.*

I've read a few of these, and David is being very precise in his review. Ringo is a very good writer . . . and this series is gut-churningly disturbing. David continues:

I feel about the PALADIN OF SHADOWS series the way that a lot of people feel about ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN: it is so horrifically awful that it becomes TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME. Unless, of course, you have triggers about some or all of this stuff, in which case my recommendation is TO RUN AS FAR AND AS FAST AS YOU CAN. I will, however, say that GHOST and its sequels are *excellent* for reading out loud to people, particularly friends who are horrified and actively begging you to stop. (And you will be inclined to disregard such pleas, because you will need to share the pain.)

Amusingly, John Ringo himself liked the review.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

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