July 1, 2009

Everything Must Go!

Here's my last entry at Moveable Type. I feel ready to move beyond the auspices of the University of Minnesota - after all its been over a year since I graduated. Also I don't like the new format of the updated version at all. Its clunky and hard to work with. So I'm moving on to bigger and better things. Find me at wordpress here.

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So long and thanks for all the fish!

June 30, 2009

Damn it, man, I'm a doctor, not a linguist!

Word of the day: Snowclone

I learned this new vocabulary word a few weeks ago and then forgot it when I was trying to explain it to a friend recently so I'm using the multiple ways of learning theory (typing up an explanation in my own words for you all) to cement it in my brain. Thusly: A Snowclone is a word or phrase that is absorbed into pop culture and can be adapted to fit many varying situations while still retaining its recognizable structure.

For example:

Pink is the new black.

or, further modified:

Orange is the new pink.

Other examples include:

Have _______will travel.
Something is rotten in the state of _________.
The mother of all _________.

The best one I've seen is from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before


And, of course, there are endless variants of Dr. McCoy's "I'm a doctor not a ..." line, many perpetuated by himself and the rest of the Star Trek crew. (Incidentally a snowclone is a variant on a catch phrase which can also be spelled catchphrase and, according to wikipedia, is the only word in the English language with more than five consecutive consonants. )

June 24, 2009

The Plug In Wall

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This image comes from my latest blog discovery, Ironic Sans. The headder for the blog is the words Ironic Sans in a hand drawn font. The font is serif. Hence, I suppose, the irony. I find it delightful. About as funny as the content, of which the outlet wall is only one example.

Most of the posts concern cool or crackpot ideas (depending on your perspective) along with the photoshopped up images to accompany them. I think my favorite is the ant farm desk - a glass top desk that has a living ant farm in it. According to the author of Ironic Sans, he couldn't sell any of his friends on the concept but when he posted it, lots of people got interested. That's my favorite thing about the blog really ... the other people excited. If you follow the comments for any individual post, they show an entire discussion process of people hammering out the details on how you could a make this work. For the plug in wall, what would you mount all those outlets to? Where do the studs go? How do you baby proof this baby? A plug in chair rail was suggested. This is my kind of weird!

June 22, 2009

"A hard, conscious look at one's self-display strategies ..."

I came down with a nasty stomach bug last night which prevents me from focusing on any great insight. I shall therefor simply pass on another little chunk of excellent prose from this very dense book I am still working my way through (when was the last time I took more than a week to read a book I was enjoying as much as this one?) The text I have chosen is mildly self serving. See if you can figure out why.

The book: Spent by Geoffrey Miller

The chapter: The Centrifugal Soul

The topic: Ways to put a dent in our spending and signal our fitness in more productive ways.

The concepts (a partial list): Don't buy things, Use what you have, Borrow, Rent, Buy it Used, Make it Yourself, Have it Made Locally, to your Specifications, Wait, Ask for it as a Gift, etc.

The excerpt: "Many families buy mass-designed houses built in alienating new suburbs by huge developers. The structures are designed to the lowest common denominator of taste in the current fashion so their aesthetic value depresses quickly. They are built to poor standards - two-by-four stick lumber and half-inch Sheetrock on concrete slabs - so their physical integrity deteriorates quickly. The houses are not supported by adequate investment in surrounding infrastructure - roads, parks, schools well-planned retail - so their quality of life depreciates quickly. The result is that in many communities, five-year-old houses have lower equity value than new ones. A good alternative is to commission a distinctive new family house from and up-and-coming local architect on a vacant plot in and established community. The build cost per square foot may be slightly higher than for a mass-designed developer house, but the display value - and home equity - per dollar spent will be much higher. Instead of moving into a house built by nameless, faceless workers, you can move into a house that you codesigned with an architect who might become a friend, and a house that you saw being built by local workers whose names you'll learn and whose workmanship you'll admire. You'll also learn much more about the house, so its features and functions can be more knowledgeably appreciated by you and discussed with others. Whereas others live in houses they understand only superficially, you'll be able to understand all the systems - foundation, framing, roofing, flooring, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, storage, security, decorating - as functional wholes. You'll maintain them better and repair them more easily. And as the architect's reputation grows, your house's value will increase. This way of living makes a much more effective social display, because it grows social and narrative roots deep into one's local community, and so demonstrates one's creativity, openness, agreeableness, and extroversion much more credibly than buying a prebuilt mass-market house, which requires nothing more than a down payment, a decent credit score and gullibility." (266-267)

*Note: I'm not making this up to advertise Whole Trees. It's a real quote.

June 19, 2009

"If you have the leisure time, education and inclination to read this book, you are obviously a member of the elite."

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Still reading Spent and the chapter I hit this morning before getting up sparked some interesting thoughts to kick off the day with. The chapter is titled "Conspicuous Waste, Precision and Reputation" and deals with the way humans demonstrate fitness in different ways.

This all based on the concept of "costly signaling" - basically the evolutionary advertising technique of showing that you are so evolutionarily fit that you can afford to waste energy on visible but useless attributes like a peacock's tail or overly elaborate nest of a bower bird. Such signaling is indirect - the peacock's tail doesn't actually indicate intelligence or high fertility or fill-in-the-blank item on a peahen's wish list - it merely shows that the peacock is so competent at finding food for itself, fending off opponents and generally managing his life that he can do all that and still carry around that ridiculous fan all day long. (90-111)

Humans use a lot of costly signaling to let everyone else know how fit we are. The thrust of this chapter is to break down the different types of signaling that we choose to make use of. Miller cites Thorstein Veblen's book The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he coined the term "conspicuous consumption" and proposed that the main human purpose in buying costly items is not to make the purchaser happy but to display to everyone else that they are able to. His theory is that "animals, including humans, often show off the most expensive signals they can afford, whether those signals are peacock tails or Hummer H1s." And that such those signals are made costly through "conspicuous waste" of the individual's available resources. (114-115)

Miller's point though is that there are multiple types of cost demonstrations. Human signals costs can include time, attention, diligence, physical risk or social risk. As he breaks it down; conspicuous waste, conspicuous precision or conspicuous reputation. (115-119) Where I really got sidetracked was his comparison of the moral and efficiency of these three forms. "Aristocrats differ from the nouveaux riches not in their freedom from consumerism, but in their preference for conspicuous precision and reputation ('the finer things in life') over conspicuous waste ('the crass and vulgar')." (120) And he warns that people are always least likely to recognize their own preferred type of display as cost signaling. Conspicuous waste is easy to recognize and deplore and for my purposes I'll call it the McMansion school of display. The most square footage with the fanciest facade and very little attention to genuine quality or provenance of material and workmanship. I have always identified this as conspicuous consumption and (therefore) bad. But conspicuous precision is also a fitness signaling tactic. We can call this the Not-So-Big-House school of display. As Sarah Susanka created the idea - not-so-big-ness means reducing overall space, both by making individual spaces more efficient and compact and by eliminating unnecessary traditional spaces from the house altogether, but also increasing the quality of each part of the house, in design, materiality and craftsmanship. Finally conspicuous reputation in housing choice is an historic, or better yet, famous house. Frank Lloyd Wright would be the obvious choice but I've rejected his works in favor of the Farnsworth house for my little triptych at the top of the page because he annoys me today (and most days). Each of these three types obviously involves some degree of both of the others but the point of living in a house designed by Wright isn't that you are so rich you can afford to heat it despite the notoriously leaky windows or pay for emergency room treatment every time the low lintel gives you or your guests a concussion but that you are rich enough to afford something quite rare that most people have heard of. So it still falls under the category of conspicuous reputation rather than waste.

Breaking expensive housing types down into these three categories was enormously helpful for me because it identifies the underlying unrest I've always felt about the Not-So-Big-House movement. It seemed like it was indicating a move away from conspicuous consumption and yet still the homes Susanka featured were still enormous in comparison with those of any other country and filled with costly features that still seemed somewhat superfluous. The fact that it is simply a shift from one type of fitness signaling to another makes it much more understandable. We've been making that shift consistently through the twentieth century, as Miller puts it, we have "shifted status away from the engineers of the very large (trains, battleships, skyscrapers) to the engineers of the very small (electronics, biotech, nanotech)." (122)

To conclude, "it seems unlikely that people will ever relinquish their runaway quest for self-display, as the failures of communism and hippie utopianism showed all to clearly. (Note that Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR and Kiety Richards of the Rolling Stones are now both appearing in ads for Louis Vuitton luggage.) Yet, people's modes of self-display are quite flexible, ... [and] ... may one day be shifted from our current antisocial, irresponsible unreliable forms of conspicuous waste, precision and reputation to more pro-social conscientious, reliable forms that still let people make a living." (127)

June 16, 2009

"Let's Perform a Thought Experiment - Something Exotic, With Time Travel and Lasers."

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I'm reading a fascinating new book by Geoffry Miller called Spent: Sex Evolution and Consumer Behavior (Viking, 2009). The main thrust of the book is to apply evolutionary psychology (a sort of What Would a Cave Person Do or WWCPD view of the world) to the consumer choices and their consequences that create the world we live in. I'm interested and appalled and can't really tell which I feel more. He points out that Marketing, the power behind the throne in this worldview is not a fancy type of advertizing but rather a bona fide scientific revolution. In the business world this all began in middle of the century and "came with that wonderful sense of inevitability that accompanies all scientific revolutions. That a company should produce what people desire, instead of trying to convince people to buy what the company happens to make, was a radical idea that seems obvious only in retrospect." But the principals of Marketing have been around much longer than they have been applied to business. He identifies democracy in the political realm and the protestant reformation in religion as marketing oriented concepts which redirected a top down producer focused system into consumer friendly people power arrangements.

The above mentioned thought experiment is from the preface of the book which asks us to imagine going back in time to explain our current way of living to our Cro-Magnon ancestors and see if "the prospect of ever-greater prosperity, leisure, and knowledge motivate them to invent agriculture, animal husbandry, walled towns, money, social classes and conspicuous consumption?" In the Q and A, Caveman Gerard (this is prehistoric France, after all) asks if this money stuff will allow him to buy 20 wives, greater intelligence, longer life, advanced personal weaponry to defeat his rivals, the undying loyalty of his love or at least more tolerable personalities for her mother and sisters. You have to answer: no, no, no, no, no and no. His mate Giselle is interested in "a handsome, high-status charming lover who wil never ignore me, beat me or leave me," better childcare, the respect of her teenage children or a mammoth carcass that never rots and you have to disappoint her as well. Finally when Juliette, Cro-Magnon Matriarch asks what it takes to get all this supposedly great stuff anyway and you answer "All you have to do is sit in classrooms every day for sixteen years to learn counter intuitive skills, and then work and commute fifty hours a week for forty years in a tedious job for amoral corporations, far away from relatives and friends, without any decent child care, sense of community, political empowerment or contact with nature. Oh and you'll have to take special medicines to avoid suicidal despair and to avoid having more than two children." Then they kick you out of the campfire circle.
The most fascinating thing to note at this stage of the book (I'm only on page 45, btw) is that all this marketing doesn't seem to lead to materialism. Because the focus is on brand identification and the power of association, or as he puts it, "a narcissistic pseudospiritualism based on subjective pleasure, social status, romance and lifestyle, as a product's mental associations become more important than its actual physical qualities." These associations, then, with their brand specific characteristics, are all that a company can use to get you to pick their product as opposed to any other. His example is bottled water which I consider to be so much of a case in point that I won't bother to go into it. The end to which all this marketing appears to lead, then, isn't a house groaning under the weight of mountains of stuff but a sort of Neil Stephenson future in which we detach from reality and move into self created alternate realities formed the better to identify ourselves with the appropriate associative characteristics.

All of which is by way of saying that now that I'm done with Michael Crichton I'm needing to read Snow Crash again.

June 15, 2009

Star Trekkie ... Star Trek ... ish

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I love the new Star Trek movie. I've taken to checking its box office ratings on Monday mornings to see how it has shaped up against the competition after each weekend. The better it does, the sooner Hollywood will see fit to finance a sequel. I'm pleased with its progress. I'm eager to see where they go next with the plot when they aren't shamelessly mining out Wrath of Kahn.

I always pay attention in movies to the way the timing they talk about stacks up to the actual run time that a scene gets. For example in a heist movie they may say that the police will show up four minutes after the first alarm is tripped but in actual fact the plot lags there so they pick it up and the police are banging on the door in 90 seconds or, conversely, they decided to get in some heavy character drama and stretch the clock to six minutes. I always appreciate it when a movie actually takes the time it says it will take and I understand that this involves a bit of a commitment on the part of the editors. I was ridiculously pleased therefore by the intro in which Kirk's father has a meaningful last conversation with his wife and names their son in the 20 second period being counted down by the collision alarm.

But this brings up a nerdy complaint later: all this careful observance of timing goes out the window a few plot twists later when Kirk, Sulu and Red Shirted Engineer Olsen jump from space to stop the drilling device. They land on the thing and immediately remove their helmets and hats the better for us to read their facial expressions with. Shortly thereafter Kirk and Sulu fall/jump off the drill platform (what has happened to Olsen) and fall for 50 - count them, fifty - seconds until Checkov beams the back to the enterprise just before they touch the planet surface. It feels like a long time to fall. I feels like a very long time to fall. So I went home and looked up that good old kinematics equation: d = vt +at(squared). Their initial velocity is zero. They fall for 50 seconds. If we assume a gravity roughly compatible with earths - Spock never seems ill adapted to earth side or ship board gravity - we can use the one we're used to 9.8 m/s/s or 32 ft/s/s. That gives us a fall distance of 80,000 ft. That's nearly three times higher than Mount Everest. And yet there they were dancing around and engaging in hand to hand or sword to sword combat without breathing apparatus. Sigh. Well if action movies were realistic they would be much less interesting.

June 11, 2009

I Live in the Best Place! *

* According to US News and World Report

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Who knew I was living in one of the 10 best cities in the country. And without even trying too - its pretty impressive. According to the most recent US News and World Report, out on monday, La Crosse is one of the 10 Best Places to live in 2009. Based on their description it actually doesn't sound all that great and I can't believe really that it's even the best city of 50,000 people in America let alone one of the 10 best places altogether but ... I can agree that its nice. There's probably a fairly large margin of throwing a dart at the map in these things. Also they are calculating economic factors and we aren't suffering much from the housing crash. We also have two large and excellent hospitals and two four year colleges as well as a pretty good tech school. And it is gorgeous here in all seasons. OK, well I'm convince its very nice here - just not maybe that its nicer than everywhere but 9 other places in America. How about Madison, for instance? Here's how they said they were choosing: "In selecting our Best Places to Live for 2009, U.S. News took a thrift-conscious approach: We looked for affordable communities that have strong economies and plenty of fun things to do. The cities we selected are as distinct as America itself—ranging from a quaint suburb to a live-music mecca. But whether you prefer hiking through the Rocky Mountains, pulling a fish out of the Atlantic Ocean, or grilling hot dogs at a college football tailgate, here are 10 places that will fill up your daybook without emptying your wallet."

Here's what their article says if you 're interested and would rather follow this link than the one above ...


Continue reading "I Live in the Best Place! *" »

June 10, 2009

Spot the Bunny

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I've been noticing a lot of wildlife lately. The creepily tame rabbits that stare blankly at you from the lawns in town don't count. But this little wild bunny that was hiding in the weeds outside my office window certainly does. He has designs on the farm garden veggies I'm sure. And this morning on my run I passed by a pretty huge tortoise fellow - dark mud brown and perfectly motionless, although his path through the undergrowth was pretty apparent. He seemed baffled by the asphalt running trail which was so rudely interrupting his marshy terrain. That guy seemed to be a big old grandaddy turtle, more than a foot long in just his shell. But two days ago I came across his much smaller cousin. That tiny little fellow was parked in the middle of the running path again, apparently struck into stone. I thought of him as a baby but perhaps he was just a small kind. In any case I circled back and used a leaf to scoop him up and set him down off the path facing in the same direction. It felt a little presumptuous but a bike tire would have squashed him. Hopefully he'll pardon the indignity.

And then there are these little buggers that hang out by the Membership and Donation Office (or loo) at work. I have no idea what they are but if I had to guess and attach a bird name I've heard to these little guys I'd call them Thrashers, because of the the noisy way they thrash about. They also flit about like hummingbirds, popping back and forth between several locations on about a twenty second cycle. This guy on the tree was there for three or so seconds at a time maybe 20 times during the period I was snapping him. I didn't bother to try to follow him with the camera, just trained the lens on his branch and snapped every time he popped into view. I got a lot of blurry shots. But in the end I also got this. There seemed to be two of them going round and round but it didn't necessarily seem like they were antagonizing each other, more just hanging out. And a third was on a nearby branch dangling a worm. Threesome anyone? Well if anybody knows what this bird is called, I'd love to be told. He seems to also be able to raise his crest up into more of a mohawk deal. I may try photographing him again.

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As for Waldo here outside my office, I don't anticipate doing any thing for that guy but yelling if I see him amongst the carrots.

June 8, 2009

When You Care Enough To Hit Send

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Up to now I had yet to meet an e-card I didn't hate. But I have to admit that Roshni just sent me a great one. I followed it back to its home website and found that all their cards are both funny and well designed. Impressive. I love websites with good graphic design and a self depricating humor. My title here is their tag line "when you care enough to hit send."

This particular one struck me as funny, especially in light of the rather depressing book I was reading last week, Midlife Crisis at 30, all about how today's generation of successful, college educated women is psychologically crashing and burning at thirty because they think they are supposed to have it all figured out (career, happy marriage and happier babies) on that birthday and so they try to. It was interesting but pretty grim. Especially as most of the panic feelings the authors (both driven young women in their early thirties) all sounded so very familiar. So I guess the only question is ... can I get all my ducks in a row in three short years ... or should I just start my midlife crisis early?

Here's a further sampling. They are worth glancing over, certainly.

Continue reading "When You Care Enough To Hit Send" »

June 5, 2009

"The morphine is making me philosophical."

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The book of the week (day?) is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I haven’t read it in several years but it is just as good as I recalled – chock full of colorful language, dangerous dinosaurs, greedy corporate muckety-mucks and smart people snarking their way out of desperate situations. Actually it follows the Crichton formula to a T but I don’t really mind as I like the formula.
It runs through so many of his books I can write a recipe for it. Take one technology related company and mix in one or two ruthless and short sighted executives who break the laws of nature and the United States to turn a profit and achieve their ends. Add one to four really smart scientific specialists who will get roped in based on having accepted grant funding from the aforementioned corporate creeps. Include the merest hint of a romance between two of these but don’t go anywhere with it. Some initial crisis with the corporate enterprise will involve all of the above and a few intermediately moral characters in an incipient adventure, usually in some geographically (or temporally) isolated location. Allow the whole thing to stew for something just shy of a week while the situation progresses from bad to worse and the clever scientists try to save themselves and everyone else while the corporate scumbags deny that anything is going wrong and generally make things worse. Eventually nearly everyone except most (but not all) of the scientists will die – usually in rather dramatically painful ways. A certain amount of cosmic retribution will be dealt out to the corporate entity. But in the end the survivors shake it off and return to their research (supported by the huge payouts they get to pad their non-disclosure agreements) and the company covers its ass and claims none of it ever happened. Off the top of my head I have just perfectly described Jurassic Park, the Lost World, Congo, Timeline and Prey. It’s a less perfect summary of Airframe but that is harder to fit into the type as the whole thing takes place in California. But still … you take my point.

Continue reading ""The morphine is making me philosophical."" »

June 4, 2009

Newsflash: "A Separate System is Not an Equal System.”

This just in. New Hampshire governor, John Lynch, has restated for the record that separate does not equal equal. I could quibble about the merits of originality and also mention something along the lines of "duh" if I weren't so busy jumping with joy AND being jealous of all the lucky people who live in New Hampshire. In case you took a vacation under a rock yesterday you're probably aware that yesterday the New Hampshire legislature passed and Lynch signed into law a same sex marriage bill. That makes them number six. I can only wish I lived in as enlightened a state. However, we are making some progress here too. I got an email just this morning from Fair Wisconsin reminding me to contact my state representative about the upcoming budget decision which will affect same sex partners. That is an issue I always have time for and, really, it couldn't be any easier - just fill out a form, add your own personal appeal and click send.

If you are a Wisconsin resident, please follow this link to contact your state assembly person and ask them to support the proposed budget that protects the right of committed partners to visit each other in the hospital and make end-of-life decisions together.

Read about New Hampshire's good news in the New York Times here. Also follow up with Fair Wisconsin and their uphill battle to encourage protection for domestic partnership in Wisconsin, here. You can read more here about our current hate-filled amendment which "prohibits marriage for gay and lesbian couples. It also prohibits civil unions or any "substantially similar" legal status that would grant all of the rights of marriage to gay couples or other unmarried couples. The full scope of the amendment will likely be determined over the course of many years by Wisconsin courts." Fair Wisconsin was formed to fight that amendment and I first heard about them through my sister who worked tirelessly to fight it. In the end the "Fair Wisconsin Votes No" campaign failed but the organization reformed itself into a continuing advocacy group which lobbies for the increased right of all committed partners. They are great! (Also I think they have a very nicely designed website.)


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June 3, 2009

Number 100

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Wow. My one hundredth post. Its a centennial of sorts so it feels like I ought to mark it in some way but mostly what it proves is that I have maintained this blog somewhat sporadically in the nearly two years since I started it. Ah well. There's always room for improvement. As per usual I am inspired by my mother's diligent example. And now ... on to other things of greater interest than the number 100.

June 2, 2009

Round-timber Round house

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I came across this project a long time ago and can't imagine why I didn't post it here at the time. In any case this is a delightfully back-to-nature neo-hippy natural building. It was built in England (where building codes clearly work somewhat differently) and reminds me very strongly of the wonderful alternative community in Withiel, Cornwall that I visited in 2002 when I traveled around the world. There was a thriving culture of crafting and creating in Withiel and this seems perfectly in line with their desire to get off the grid and back to some basic ideas about what is important and beautiful. This is something I really struggle with - I am a member of the iPod generation without a doubt but I sometimes still feel like I also have a foot in both worlds. How can I describe this other world? Well not too put it too delicately, it is living off the grid with less than conventional sanitation systems and placing a much higher premium on friendship and being in the natural world. I can see them both from where I sit right now - at my laptop but overlooking the outhouse which is our corporate bathroom (forward thinkingly unisex) here at Whole Trees.

Continue reading "Round-timber Round house" »

June 1, 2009

"But, perhaps, I keep no journal."

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As big an Austen fan as I am, I have to admit I never really had any interest in Northanger Abbey. In fact I never bothered to read it at all. But watching the truly delightful recent PBS adaptation with my sister last week finally piqued my interest to the point that I got my hands on it. I was almost immediately laughing out loud. Here's a sample of the dialogue - a conversation between Mr. Tilney and Catherine at their first meeting:

“I see what you think of me,” said he gravely – “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”
“My Journal!”
“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday went to the Lower rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings – plain black shoes – appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed my by his nonsense.”
“Indeed I shall say no such thing.”
“Shall I tell you what you ought to say?”
“If you please.”
“I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him – seems a most extraordinary genius –hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.”
“But, perhaps, I keep no journal.”
“Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenour of your life in Bath without one? How are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal? How are your various dressed to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, without having constant recourse to a journal? – My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies’ ways as you with to believe me; it Is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is particularly female. Nature my have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.”
“I have sometimes thought,” said Catherine, doubtingly, “whether ladies do write so much better letters than gentlemen! That is – I should not think the superiority was always on our side.”
“As far as I have ad opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”
“And what are they?”
“A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.”
“Upon my word! I need not have been afraid of disclaiming the compliment. You do not think to highlight of us in that way.”
“I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”

For journal, lets put in "blog". Although, for that matter, I do keep a journal.