The Versatile Blogger Award is a casual honor, bestowed by any one blogger onto whomever else that blogger deems worthy. I have mine thanks (lots of thanks!) to SodStar, over at her eponymous blog: http://sly0208.wordpress.com/. The Versatile Blogger Award comes with certain obligations which, as I know them, are as follows: 1) the recipient is to attach the image you see here to his acceptance post; 2) the recipient is to post 7 random facts about himself; 3) the recipient is to nominate other recently-discovered blogs. (This is similar to a game of blogger tag that was going around a few years back.) I happily accept the award and will gratefully fulfill the attendant obligations, but oh the chaos into which this simple nomination has thrown poor Alamanach! I almost don’t know what to do.
To explain the problem that faces me, I need to start with, of all things, the 2012 presidential election. There is a certain candidate on the Republican side who has been sharing his views on immigration, Israel, and various other issues of the day. (If I wanted to, I could identify him by name, and then either praise him to the skies or lambast him, and either would probably yield me hundreds or thousands of hits. But if this were that kind of blog, then the half dozen of you who follow me, wouldn’t.) I dislike him as a candidate and would not want him as president not because of his particular stance on any of those issues, but because of a lack (so far as I can see) of a unifying vision, a lack of an underlying philosophy that guides his thinking. In any enterprise, it is very valuable to have some fundamental assumptions, some operating principles that inform our approach to the various practical work that we seek to do. For example, Ronald Reagan had some very clear ideas about capitalism, democracy, human freedom, and God, and from these general ideas he came up with philosophically consistent answers to problems such as the Soviet threat and the air traffic controllers’ strike. One may vehemently disagree with Reagan, but the man had some broad ideas and he tried to follow them.
A different example might be more elucidating. I wrote recently about my aid work in Afghanistan, and the runaway success of one program in particular: http://alamanach.com/2011/11/25/aid-for-labor/. The only difference between that program and the other, unsuccessful ones was the set of ideas that were driving it. My program was based on some very clear notions of freedom, justice, and property rights, and my notions are very different from those of the people managing other programs. A different general philosophy at the outset led to different solutions to the particular issues of the day, with results significant enough for me to write about. Ideas matter. The ideas upon which America was founded resulted in a country so advanced and so prosperous, it actually put people on the Moon. No one before could even dream of such a thing, and America did it. Read Democracy in America if you want to see how incredibly far America has traveled from her values. It stopped being recognizably America decades ago. We are going to have to relearn our founding principles if we are ever to have a great country again.
This has everything to do with blogging. This blog has certain operating assumptions, and I discussed them on the About page:
(T)hese posts… are not about me, or my life, or the funny thing my toddler said while we were driving to the grocery store this afternoon. There are plenty of other blogs that do that; I don’t want to read them and you probably don’t either. While you will sometimes learn a little about me by reading these pages, the emphasis is clearly on other topics. Who I am is not important.
Such have been the assumptions, for better or worse. After four years of doing this, I can state that they are not true: you do want to read those other blogs, and as it turns out, so do I. I like SodStar’s blog. I like some other blogs that I am going to tell you about. It turns out that the baby really did say something funny on the way to the grocery store. That lightweight stuff makes for enjoyable reading, I’m sure it is far easier to write, and it attracts readers. Readers would be nice. But such have been the assumptions, and a small readership has been the result.
Small, but high quality: I see from the comments how smart you readers are, and the genuine value that you get out of the posts I write. That’s more important than racking up numbers on my stats page, and if I have shared any ideas that have stuck with anybody, then the blog has been a worthwhile endeavor. I have started with my assumptions, and I am happy with the result. (And here is as good a place as any for me to publicly thank TiEsQue, the man who cajoled me into starting this blog. Thanks, TSK; you were right.)
So I have my blogging philosophy and I am sticking to it. How I wish we had a presidential candidate who would do the same. My immediate issue of the day right now is that I need to post seven random facts about myself. Ah, but that is in total contradiction to the philosophy! What to do? Such is the chaos into which this simple nomination has thrown poor Alamanach!
OK, I will make you a deal: I will list seven random facts about myself if you allow me to first speculate on the problem with American politics today and the need for a philosophical grounding in all we do. That already being accomplished, here are the seven facts, all of which I am sure you will want to skip:
- Yes, my IQ is really freaking high. The most careful measurement of it that was ever made involved two one-on-one sessions with a psychometrician, each a few hours long and separated by about a week. I don’t want to give you a number because 1) I’m shy, and 2) The margin of error overlaps the limit of the test; I border on the unmeasurable. They can’t really say what my IQ is. But guys, don’t worry about that. Intelligence, while nice to have, is an overrated commodity. Having it is no guarantee of success, and lacking it is no guarantee of failure. Far more important in life is persistence. The person who knows how to not give up will beat the person with all the brains every single time. Here is maybe the single best piece of advice on worldly success I could give a person: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPnudujlBZI&feature=related. Maybe the biggest mistake in my life came about when I let slip away a woman whom I believed, incorrectly, I could never have. You see something you want, go get it. Also worth considering is this: http://www.birdsnest.com/garcia.htm. IQ doesn’t matter. What is needed, and needed badly, is a man who can get a message to Garcia.
- I think the Rolling Stones are a better band than the Beatles. In fact, I don’t know how there is even a debate about this. The Stones have the better drummer, the better lead vocalist, the better bass player, and a pair of guitarists who, together, are better than the one other guitarist. (If Lennon was a better singer than Jagger, then show me a demonstration of technical virtuosity equal to Emotional Rescue.) The Stones have been around longer, they have the larger catalog, and they have songs just as good as the best songs of the Beatles. The Beatles have sold more records, but that does not make them better; the Beatles were one of modern mass marketing’s first really successful attempts at brainwashing a whole population into buying something. The Beatles were not a bad band– they were good– but they were not as good as the Rolling Stones.
- On my web browser, I have the dictionary set as my home page. True.
- I have a public appearance coming up. I will be attending the World History Association’s 2012 Annual Symposium in Siem Reap, Cambodia, January 2, 3, and 4. Anyone seeking kisses or assassinations attempts, you now know where and when to be.
- When I was a kid, I had a really bad fall from my bicycle– the bike and I did three somersaults together– and tore one of my nostrils open. A plastic surgeon had to put my nose back together. Does this mean I have had a nose job? I suppose so.
- I like riding my bike. I like it like women like chocolate. (Come to think of it, I also like both women and chocolate– but let me not get sidetracked.) I don’t get all kitted out as though I’m in the Tour de France; I’m not, and all that equipment seems pointless to me. I’m not racing for speed or training for exercise or athleticism. I just like riding my bike. I prefer a two-speed bike because all those gears are a hassle. I like fat tires and wide handlebars. I like to have a basket and a back seat, so that I can carry cargo or a person. I’m not in a hurry. If I am, I’ll just peddle faster. I like riding my bike.
- I recently went almost a year without updating this blog because I have fallen in love, very much in love, with the most wonderful, incredible, amazing woman I have ever known. This is the same woman mentioned in point 1. Dealing with that tectonic shift in my life kept me a little busy, and the ground is, even now, still moving beneath my feet.
So much for the tedium of my dull and uninteresting personal life. On to the nominations. I have three. (There was a fourth, but I lost the link.) In accordance with the rules, these are all blogs I have come across recently. For blogs that have stood the test of time, see my blogroll. In reverse order of the estimated age of the blogger:
- Kayla’s Wonderland by Dranyamalyak first caught my attention with a short story titled Killing You. With a title like that, how could I not be interested? Dranyamalyak has a sizable collection of critics, for reasons I have yet to figure out. She is, if I have inferred correctly, a college student with the sort of rambling, thoughtful blog that one often sees from college students. This sort of thinker is a lot of fun to engage with, and fun to watch. And I really liked that short story.
- Assia’s Kaleidescope by Assia recounts the recipies and adventures of an expatriate living in Singapore. Yes, recipies– my very first blog post mentioned wine, and ever since, WordPress has been pushing me to a bunch of cooking sites. Assia’s background is too complex for me to reliably describe, but it sounds like she’s living a nice life.
- Fr. Ted’s Blog by Fr. Ted, an orthodox priest. He and I got into a lengthy discussion about the morality of incandescent light bulbs, and I disagree with most of the things he says. I’ll certainly defend to the death his right to say it though, and I am happy to nominate him for the Versatile Blogger Award.
If I could, I would nominate SodStar for an award, but since she is the one who nominated me, I have to assume it doesn’t work that way.
So, that’s that. Thank you all for coming, and be sure to visit again next month for an exciting discussion on the autorecombinant biochemistry of immunoglobulin DNA. You won’t believe what my daughter had to say about it during our drive to the grocery store…