If you blog it, they will come

This weekend this website (the blog and everything else on the domain) made it past the 1,000 visits in a month mark. I’d been expecting it to happen, but it came very close to falling painfully short.

Flashback to Thursday night, when I sat down at the computer to check the stats and see if the thousandth visit had occurred. The result? 999. Perfect; I just had to wait a little while, come back to check again, and then it would be celebration taco time.

But what did I see when I looked again? The server was down! So I sent an e-mail to Adam to tell him what a bastard he was for having a server that crashed at such an inopportune moment and then went off on my road trip not knowing when the site would be fixed.

Fortunately, I did come home to a working website. Adam’s bastardly status was revoked and the thousandth visit had been paid. In fact, as of this writing I’m up to 1,130 visits this month. This rapid growth is heartening for me, though I have to admit I find it surprising and even a little mystifying.

The increase in traffic has inspired me to revise the welcome page to give a better idea of what this site is about. It also includes my “Guide to Good Blogging.” (Not available in stores, act now!)

And Adam — thanks again for hosting the site and putting up with my lack of technical knowledge! I’m having fun with this.

Road trip

In which libertarians descend upon Brown U., Cato interns pass through NYC, and the Pontiac Aztek takes a few more knocksÖ
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Steven Pinker at AEI

I probably shouldn’t be promoting events at the American Enterprise Institute, but this one has me really excited. They are hosting a lecture by Steven Pinker, one of my favorite science writers and who is now in the psychology department at Harvard. The topic will be that of his most recent book, The Blank Slate, which debunks fears that a scientific understanding of human nature will undermine ethical and political values.

The event will be at AEI on October 7 at 5:30; registration is here.

(The Blank Slate was also one of the first books reviewed in The Torch last year.)

D. C. links

Added a new section of links to the sidebar tonight called “D. C. Links.” The most noteworthy is Tyler Cowen’s amazingly thorough ethnic dining guide. Cowen is an eccentric economist at George Mason who has written extensively on culture. His mini-reviews are often fun to read and he’s not afraid to speak with authority:

“[I]f you donít like [these restaurants], you probably didnít follow my advice for what to order. Or you are to blame in some other manner, I donít know which one, there are many possibilities.”

“How can I get good Mexican food around here? That is perhaps the most common query I receive. The answer: you canít. That being said, here are some options.”

Some of the reviews are more light-hearted:

“Formosa Cafť… Great, great, great. You wonít believe this place exists. Total mom and pop atmosphere, formica tabletops, real Chinese food, excellent prices. Beware the spicy dishes with chiles, even *I* canít really finish them or even get halfway through. Two red stars means the kiss of death here.”

I had the good fortune to have dinner with Cowen in the Georgetown cafeteria this summer at an IHS conference. Rather, I should say we students ate while he wisely declined to partake. Friendly though he was, I made a point to wait until he left to have my Lucky Charms for dessert.

Two of his books are In Praise of Commercial Culture and Creative Destruction. I enjoyed the first more than the second, but both are good and the second is more relevant to globalization debates.

The second new site I think is interesting is this blog map of the D. C. Metro system. It lists local bloggers by their nearest Metro (subway) stop, conveniently superimposed on the familiar colored map. My link is now listed in Rosslyn. I’ve yet to get any practical good from the site, but it’s a cool idea.

Hendrie Top Ten

In honor of the Phil Hendrie free website weekend, here’s a Top Ten list of bits from the show:

10. Art Griego: Top Gun (Maverick and Goose?)
09. Austin Amarka: Zerocks
08. R. C. Collins: Hamlet Soliloquy
07. Pastor William Rennick: Modernized Christmas Pageant
06. Chris Norton: I’ll teach your man to dance
05. Flashback – Bud Dickman: Pee Wee
04. Phil Hendrie (Just Mr. Hendrie): Phil Linton’s Kid Quiz!
03. Don (Others A-M): Easter Bunny staredown
02. Jeff Dowder: Chicks in Space
01. Bobbie Dooley: A dark hole

Phil Hendrie free weekend!

Good news, everybody! The Phil Hendrie Show website is available for free this weekend. It normally costs about $7 a month, and the last time they did this promotion we Vandy students were on vacation and away from high-speed Internet access. The timing is better this time, however, so now all can be exposed to the glory that is the Phil Hendrie Show. (Previously only my unfortunate dorm neighbors were exposed to it, often for hours on end.)

For the uninitiated, Phil Hendrie runs a radio talk show out of L. A. of which I am a fan (some would say I’m obsessed). Like many talk shows, his guests are often stupid or insane. What sets his show apart, however, is that his guests are actually him speaking in funny voices. Real people call in to the show not realizing this and Phil gets to moderate the arguments between the callers and his made up characters.

Sound fun? It is. Sometimes it’s pointed satire, sometimes it’s just silly, but it’s always humorous. The free weekend starts sometime on Friday, so check it out. (For the full length audio files click on the “Classic Clips” link on the main page.)

Note to D. C. friends: the show may air weekdays at 7:00 pm on WCHA 800 AM, but I don’t know for sure.

All Consuming

I found a website today that just makes me giddy with its niftyness. That’s because it’s all about two of my favorite activities, blogging and reading. That’s because I’m a real dork sometimes. OK, most of the time. Precision is not the issue here, so let’s move on, shall we?

The site is allconsuming.net. It makes it easy to list books on your blog and also tracks what books are most frequently mentioned throughout the blogosphere.

Check out the “Currently Reading” section on my sidebar to see the improvements made by All Consuming. It used to be just plain text; it was either use that or include gaudy ads from Amazon. Now the cover, title, and author all appear pretty much automatically — I just input the book at the All Consuming website (easier than rebuilding my index template in Movable Type) and voila, there they are.

The site allows comments to be included, but I’m not currently using that feature. You can also document an entire collection of books or a list of favorites.

Clicking on the links doesn’t just take you to the Amazon item page anymore. Instead you get a page with a purchase link (incorporating the Amazon Associates ID of your choice), additional info, mentions from other blogs, and related pages from Google, among other things.

The last features I’ll mention are a listing on the main page of the most talked about books and an option to track books mentioned on other blogs of your choosing (either people you know or who may have similar taste).

So there you have it. If you have a blog and would like to list books on it, this site makes it very easy to do.

Will on DC vouchers

George F. Will has an excellent piece on the DC voucher proposal in today’s Washington Post. Legislation to fund the school choice program here in the District narrowly passed the House and is headed to the Senate. Will handily dismisses the criticisms usually applied to voucher programs; this study by Cato’s David Salisbury (whom I’m now interning for) shows that the students fortunate enough to receive them will find affordable private schools to which they can apply them.

Thanks, Zhubin

On his blog today, Zhubin describes me as “a terrible libertarian, with heinous views on the morality and sustainability of capitalism” and this site as a place where “Jacob chronicles his hard work funneling wealth to the upper-classes.” If you know Zhubin, you realize what a compliment this is coming from him.

Those glamorous libertarians

When your movement’s most famous celebrity spokesmen are Drew Carey and Penn Jillette, “glamorous” and “radical chic” are not words you expect to hear describing it. Yet those are the words chosen by The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum in her new column about how young globalization protesters are turning towards free trade.

Applebaum cites Sweden’s Johan Norberg and France’s Sabine Herold (picture) as the fashionable new faces of the pro-capitalism crowd. Norberg (who was a faculty member at the IHS seminar I attended this summer and is a really nice guy) modestly claims he is “not sure about the specific flattering remarks” (even though his first question from the IHS audience was “are you single and looking?”). I’ll leave that judgment to you, but will note that his new book In Defense of Global Capitalism is a good read– straightforward, direct, and supported with lots of evidence.

All of which leaves two questions. 1) Should, I too, grow my hair long and acquire a Swedish accent? 2) Is the possibility of someday meeting Sabine Herold worth the pain of taking a 5 hour French course when I return to Vandy?

Vandy media update

There’s a new Slant out today and it’s a really good issue. No articles from me this time around. (Please don’t infer any relationship between those two sentences.)

Orbis, The Torch’s left-wing rival, also published their first issue today. The first Torch under new EiC Dave Maynard is in production and will be out soon. Vanderbilt, get your lighters ready!

Cafe-philo D. C.

In Nashville cafe-philo is still going on, but I am here in D. C. and missing out. So, this Thursday night there’s a new cafe-philo meeting for the first time in Arlington. Looks to be a good group and I love the coffee house we’ll be at.

It starts Thursday at 8:00 pm at Common Grounds in Arlington, 3211 Wilson Blvd., just a block from the Clarendon Metro. To be added to the e-mail list click here.

I’m not a car guy…

… but lately I’ve had to pay attention to the things, since I came home from Vandy to find out I needed a new one. My first choice was the Mini Cooper, but that was too small for the cross country moving I needed to do. I liked the Jetta Wagon, but it was out of my price range. What did I end up with? The Pontiac Aztek. Hey, at least it’s not the Element.

Like most people, when I first saw the Aztek I thought it was a monstrosity. But unlike most people, I also felt deep down that someday I would own one. Now I do, and I like it a lot, despite its rhinoceros-like body and weird angles. I’m willing to believe that ugly = innovation. This guy, however, isn’t quite so forgiving.

The second car aspect of this post is this ad for Honda (“Cog,” third link from the top). This 2 minute ad was aired in April and is a wonder to behold; it required 606 takes to get it right (read a “making of” article here).

Bonus link 1: race a Mini Cooper!

Bonus link 2: Canine infedility and the importance of having good tires.

This concludes the car talk portion of jacobgrier.com.

Organization Man

Iíd decided in advance that I was going to write a blog entry describing my first day at Cato. As it happens, a description of my first day would be pretty damn boring. Both of my department heads were too busy to discuss work today (one had a last minute call to be on CNN), so I only had about twenty minutes of actual duty. Even my desk was occupied, so I couldnít so much as set up my voice mail. (I do have an official e-mail account though: jgrier@cato.org).

Nevertheless, I think I think I’m going to like it here. The intern director is giving us the freedom to set our own schedules and in the brief time I met the departments I’ll be working with the people seemed very pleasant.

I’ll simply note the irony of a libertarian think-tank having assigned seats and bring this entry to a close.