Christmas, Solstice, and New Year’s holiday wishes

We Quakers do not observe any liturgical calendar. (Nor do we have a liturgy.) But here in the US we are part of a culture that is very Christmas-oriented, and it anyway feels good here in the northern hemisphere to mark the turn of the solstice and the fact that the days will now, finally start to get longer again.
Let there be light!
Anyway, according to the traditional western-church calendar, we are now in Christmas Season– on the Third Day of Christmas, indeed. So can I wish a Happy Christmas and/or a Cool Yule, or a Light-filled Solstice, or (belatedly) an Eid Mubarak or Happy Hannukah to all JWN readers.
Bill and I have been blessed to have a house full of family for the past few days: Nine people in all. Being able to hold regular family get-togethers is such a privilege, I know. Our family members came here to Charlottesville, Virginia from Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Dorset (UK.) All that bad, high-emissions air travel…. sorry about that.
Anyway, I’ll try to get back to more frequent blogging either later today, or tomorrow.
May 2008 be a great year for all readers, and especially may it bring about the radical de-esclation or resolution of the many conflicts now burdening humanity. (Sadly, not good news today from Pakistan, about Benazir B’s assassination.)

Note for readers using Internet Explorer

Two or three of you have recently written that you can’t get the whole JWN front page when using the upgraded IE browser, which I guess is IE-7. I don’t know what to suggest you might do. I vaguely recall a while back some readers had a similar problem with IE, and other readers suggested a fix for it. All I can suggest is to steer clear of IE and use Firefox, my own browser of choice.
If anyone else has suggestions, please post them as a comment here. Thanks!

Calling JWN’s readers from around the world!

Just over a week ago, my son put Google Analytics onto JWN, so i now have a week’s worth of their great data on who YOU, the readers, are.
I am thrilled that during the past week, readers from 107 countries (1,281 cities) visited JWN. I love the mapping gadget. I could travel from the Cape to Cairo through countries where JWN has readers. Can’t quite make it right down the Pan-American Highway through central America… Laos and Myanmar are the only standouts in East Asia. We had visitors from all the states of the US except North Dakota, with California very evidently leading the pack.
I’ve been very interested, ever since I first started writing JWN, in developing a global readership. (Remember back when I tried to use the non-English options for the date-stamps here?) It turns out that 42% of the visits this past week came from non-US-based readers. Well, I know there are some US-citizen readers who visit us from outside the US, and some non-US readers who visit from inside the US, so maybe those two categories more or less balance each other? The top five locations among non-European-heritage locales are India, Egypt, Pakistan, China, and South Africa, all bunched together with each having around 0.6% of the total visitorship.
So it’s still not a totally global forum here. But I’m really delighted to find how international it is.
I realize that over the past few months, while I’ve been working on this latest book of mine and doing a few other things, I haven’t been as systematic or intentional– okay, some might say “obsessive”– as I have been at various earlier stages of publishing the blog. I was starting to feel a bit burned out with it, or feel it wasn’t achieving very much, or whatever. I even thought of closing it gracefully down. (Or ungracefully. Bam! Just like that!)
But seeing the Google Analytics maps has been a real blast. And I’ve even started to think about various ideas for ways I could make JWN more effective. I think it will always be fairly idiosyncratic, or as the Lebanese say, “mazaji.” But there are probably things I could do either with the layout or with a better organization of the content, or by trying to be a bit more intentional in planning the content, that would make it more interesting for more readers.
What do any of you think? Would you like more shorter posts? (Please don’t ask for photos.) What other ideas do you have? What do you like about JWN? What might make it more interesting or useful for you? What would make it so much more interesting that you could recommend it to more of your friends?
Actually, instead of sitting here enjoying looking at the maps and thinking about the future of the blog, what I should be doing is finishing the revisions on the book manuscript. I really do need to get it done within the next two or three days….
If you put your ideas here in the form of a comment, could you just tell me your home-country as well when you do so? Thanks!

JWN sidebar: what do you think?

In my relentless desire to improve the sidebar here at JWN I spent a bunch of time today doing just that. I rearranged some things, instaled a proper search button, did a littl minor editing… But the main thing I did was install my tagroll there, right under “Recent posts”. It’s still not working perfectly… Actually, I think it’s Delicious itself that’s not working perfectly since it keeps cutting off the “notes” that I write there (the text in black).
Anyway, I’m hoping the tagroll will work well there. It might cut down on the main posts I feel I need to write since it performs the archiving function for me and also allows me (or should allow me!) to make notes on each item of– as they promise– “up to 255 characters in length.” What the tagroll doesn’t allow, of course, is comments and dicussion. So I’m thinking of it as very much a subsidiary to what happens in and with the main blog posts and their subsequent discussions, etc.
So as of now the sidebar gives you links to the 25 most recent blopg posts and the eight items that I’ve most recently tagged for “jwn”. Does this balance seem about right for you? Are there sidebar features that I’ve moved down that you would rather see back up in their old positions?
Tell me what you think.

Traveling; connections hard

I’m in NYC for a couple of days. High-speed connections are hard to come by. Plus I’m extremely busy: family stuff; setting up my Uganda trip for July; checking page-proofs on the Atrocities book…
I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to post anything new before Tuesday or so. But if people want to discuss the many importabnt and interesting developments in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, why don’t you do so here?
(Plus if you put in links to helpful articles on the topic that wd be v. helpful for me!)

New additions to Golden Oldies

I just put all those links to the 2003 Golden Oldies that used to clog up the sidebar here, over onto a separate web-page. Then I went through the January 2004 archives and culled the GO’s from there. So now you can find those on the sidebar.
It was quite interesting to go back and do this. I got a strong sense of, “My gosh, that was 29 months ago, but already so much of the havoc and violence that we have seen since then was becoming quite evident to me.”
I never thought the struggle to end of US-UK occupation of Iraq would be an easy or quick one…

New parallel blog for JWN commenters

The Comments posting software here has not been working for the past 2.5 days. I apologise to all who’ve tried to submit comments since then.
So here’s what I’ve done. I’ve set up an entire parallel blog for JWN comments over at Blogspot.
You need to register as a Blogger user to submit comments over there. Many of you have already done that, since I see you commenting over at Juan Cole’s blog. Anyway, it’s easy to do.
Unlike Juan, I do not intend to pre-moderate comments that are submitted. So the discussion at JWN COMMENTS can hopefully be just as rich as we have been having over here. I require commenters to stick to the same discourse-enhancing guidelines there that I have developed over here. And there will be the same level of continuing moderation of the Comments discussions there.
The parallel Comments blog may or may not be a longterm thing. Comments-handling over here with my Movable Type software has become much, much harder recently. I’ve been thinking of putting a visual screening system into the Comments template here, but haven’t yet figured how to do it. Blogger software already has one. That should cut out most of the spambotting that has been clogging up the Comments software here.
So here’s the URL again: Head on over and let’s try to resume our discussions over there.

A co-poster here for the summer

I’m going to be traveling quite a bit this summer. I’m going with Bill the spouse to some pretty nice places in Europe, then I’m going to Uganda for a conference on ethics and development. Anyway, I probably won’t want to be chained to the task of keeping the posts here on JWN fresh ‘n’ up-to-date while we’re in Europe… And while I’m in Uganda who knows what the internet access will be like?
Meantime, quite a lot might continue to be happening in the US-Iran sphere over the months ahead…. Which is one of the reasons I’m particularly happy to be able to announce that my friend Scott Harrop has agreed to post pieces here between now and mid-August. In addition to being a very good neighbor, Scott has a lot of experience analyzing contemporary Iranian politics and society, a field he knows a lot more about than I do. He also knows a lot about Middle Eastern politics, international affairs in general, and who knows what else…
I’ve told Scott he can post about any or all of the subjects that JWN has traditionally covered. Heck, while I’m away maybe he’ll even create some entirely new “Categories” here. Who knows?
While I’m away, Scott will also be moderating the comments boards.
I’ll still be posting here with my usual frequency through June 20 or so, while Scott finds his sea-legs. Then between June 20 and August 15 I’ll post when (1) I feel like it and (2) I’m able to do so.
Maybe having this break from the ball-and-chain aspect of the blog will give me a chance to think more about future directions for it. All (constructive) suggestions are welcome!
Meanwhile, big thanks to Scott for doing this for us all.

Back on the (blog) beat!

This morning I finished my current round of editing/reviewing tasks on the Atrocities book manuscript. Phew!! That was hard work– especially since the copyedited version came in both later than planned and at a time when i was anyway very busy.
Btw you can see the book listed in the Fall 2006 catalogue of Paradigm Publishers. (PDF version here.) I love the cover of the catalogue– no clue yet what the cover of the book will look like…
So anyway, this morning, in addition, the webhosting service went down yet again. I read in the paper that the global spamming problem is rising to new levels, so I’m imagining that might be what’s been happening over there at Cornerhost…
But sorry about that.
Anyway, now I and Cornerhost are both back in action here. I have a couple of good posts coming up– and will then wade thru my backlog here and see what I could still salvage.
Tonight, Cindy Sheehan is coming here to Charlottesville, which I’m really looking forward to. (We’re also having a little family dinner here before the 7 p.m. Cindy event, since Bill and two of our kids and I are all at home, but Bill’s going to NYC tomorrow. I think I’m up for cooking… )
Enough rambling. Watch for the upcoming posts.