Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The ol' Swedish girl's still holding in there. Barely..., a photo by emaggie on Flickr.
No visit to my childhood home would be complete without checking on the status of our Swedish barn (built in 1890). She's still got that aching lean, as if the clock stopped just before she let go. The romantic in me hopes it stays that way forever. The realist, however, just loves to look. And shoot more pics.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
First up, the high speed rail system between Beijing and Shanghai is supposedly all good to go once again. Whether or not anything has been re-engineered following the collision that killed 43 people back in July is an open question. For a nation that plans to build thousands of miles of new high-speed track by 2015, getting that system back on track has to be a nerve-wracking story for a whole lot of people.
Secondly, the explosion in car sales in China is unavoidable if you just look around the streets there. Oops, maybe that's a crude word choice to follow up a train crash story. Still, the Chinese love their cars. And they also apparently love to categorize those newly-coveted cars. A Mercedes, apparently, equals an old fart. An Audi means "bureaucrat", so just get the hell out of the way if you see one. I'm sure there are others - the handful of ridiculous Lotuses and Lambourghinis I saw speeding around the cities certainly indicate a very particular kind dickish customer. But where I was surprised in this piece was in the news that one of the hottest luxury car lines in China is actually the Buick - the oldest American car maker, and one that's recently even been dissed by GM's execs. Nevermind that Buick is also partly the namesake (derived from a favorite Midwestern cliche') of my prior blog. Buick's back, baby. At least on the streets of Beijing. I don't know why, but that makes me happy.
Monday, November 14, 2011
- I've written about my interest in the case of Ai Weiwei in China. I'm certainly not alone. Enough donations have flooded in (nearly $1.4M) that an appeal of his ridiculous, intimidating tax bill ($2.4M) should be possible. Not surprisingly, the complexity of Chinese bureaucracy makes things far from transparent and new roadblocks have emerged. I'm still fascinated by this artist and the emerging showdown between his hilariously named design firm (Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd.) and the Government. If you don't see it elsewhere, please expect that I will keep you posted when things catch my eye as the plot continues to thicken.
- I've gotten my first digital review copy (DRC) for a book coming out in January. Big shout out to Edelweiss (a preview and catalog service operated by Above the Treeline) for seeing fit to tag me as...I don't know what. A book reviewer? Book blogger, maybe. Writer with way too many distractions? All of the above, in fits and starts. Regardless, my first effort in this realm of read/absorb/review will wrap back around (at least somewhat) on the larger canvas I'm working on. I promise.
-As an important aside, my Kindle has just knocked my proverbial socks off. The struggle for a coexistence between the digital and the dead tree in publishing is a well-worn, expanding trope. But when these tools aid in the access to books that can then benefit both sides of that divide, the results are pretty darn nifty.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Since as far back as 1863, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has tracked and estimated production numbers for a wide array of agribusinesses. Basically, the USDA surveys the amount of crops and animals raised in the U.S. I'll imperfectly compare this tradition of gathering and reporting stats with the way the NCAA supposedly tracks and governs a whole wide world of sports. Even though everyone focuses on football and basketball because they generate the overwhelming majority of cash. When it comes to what's produced by agribusinesses in the U.S., cows and corn are essentially football and basketball. But don't forget about goats, sheep, honey, mink, catfish - the list of agribusinesses surveyed in the U.S. is diverse, fascinating and occasionally controversial. These categories may provide the anecdotal equivalents of baseball, soccer, gymnastics, fencing, crew and any other redheaded stepchildren sports still kept under the watchful eye of the NCAA. They'll never get the same exposure or impact, but what if no one bothered watching out for them at all? I'd apply that same question for those agribusinesses that will no longer be covered by these annual inventories. Which begs the larger question - what's the cost savings of eliminating all these statistical measures used to estimate what's produced in the U.S.? A massively underwhelming $11M buckaroos, annually. Even though the folks that do this work - the National Agriculture Statistics Survey - hail from the sort of agency even good ol' boys like Rick Perry would probably deem worthy of saving.
I expect no champions to arise in praise of this USDA program. Which is a pretty sad state of affairs for a nation built on farms that certainly didn't just raise cows or corn. Maybe we are so fully diluted and withdrawn from the nation's agricultural roots that we no longer care about what those still in the business of raising things actually do. Still, we're willing to just quit tracking what happens in these and so many other categories of American endeavor for a measly $11M? Lame.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
I've not been operating here specifically as a "book blogger". That's a category of reviewer who is increasingly important to the reading and writing communities found via the web. That's not been my gig, although I've offered plenty of reviews elsewhere in the past. But I'm now modifying my plans to include reviewing "digital review copies" (DRCs) of new books. DRCs are advance copies, generally meant for reading months in advance of a book's upcoming release. DRCs aren't exactly lying around out there in the ether - I need to request access and do so with a purpose. Basically, this is how booksellers and certain enterprising bloggers keep an eye out for books they then read and - waa-lah! - review for smartypants readers such as you. Maybe before they're even out there in the bookstores. The rub being that I'm assuming bloggers need an established record of doing so to get access to these DRCs. A bit of a Catch-22, I would be say. Cyclical enough for you? Don't worry - my work on that front's all done now. Like one of those surreptitious immunization shots I imagine doctors gave back in the day when they rarely even put down their cigarettes in the exam office. Now everything's so carefully proscribed and above board. It probably hurts the kid more to know what's coming. But that's a thought to belabor another day.
Check back for book reviews on things that are new and interesting. I'll always identify them as such. I've even got my first request in. Expect things generally related to "Pelting Out" and what I'm writing there. Whatever that may be. Wink wink.