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Bloggers Feed On Pizza Man's Plans

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

A pizza man's plans for a new town he's financing have at least one blogger switching to Papa John's. Find out why. And, while politicians discuss Shiite-Sunni strife in Iraq, bloggers in Iraq describe what conditions there are like. Hear what they have to say.

Is Ville de Papa John's Next?

One of the most blogged about stories over the weekend was Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan's plan for a new Florida town he's building, Ava Maria. Initial reports were that Monaghan said the town would be governed according to strict Roman Catholic principles, with no place to get an abortion, pornography or birth control. The pizza magnate is bankrolling the project with at least $250 million and calls it "God's will."

But last Friday, Monaghan backtracked from his comments, and said the strict Roman Catholic principles apply only to the Catholic university.

Vargas at Minutiae et Obscura says if anyone has a problem with Ava Maria, they can leave. "The people choosing to live there most likely agree that these things should be outlawed anyway and it doesn't stop one from leaving the town and getting what you want from another city or town…I have no idea whether this is feasible but they have every right to try and make it work," she writes.

Christopher Scott Sarno disagrees. "Cordoning off an entire city so that its residents will never have to be exposed to things they don't agree with only perpetuates and even facilitates an anti-pluralist belief system that will most definitely lead to trouble. What we'll ultimately be left with is a society that devalues diversity, children that do not understand the faith and values of people different from themselves, and a breeding ground for hate-filled dogma," Sarno writes.

"Besides, I've always been partial to Papa John, anyway," he says. Ouch.

Katherine at Cut to the Chase simply labels it "another reason to avoid Florida."

Other bloggers had little problem with the religious edicts, but with the fact that Monaghan was pouring so much money into the deal. As The Impolitic writes, "Gotta love the ownership society. If you don't like the America you have, you can just build a new one for yourself. This has to be the ultimate in gated communities."

Baghdad Blogging

By simply scanning, it's easy to imagine that Baghdad isn't the easiest place to live these days. But what is it really like to be living in Baghdad while sectarian violence rages? For Iraqi bloggers, questioning whether the country is hovering at the level of civil war is hardly a political debate. It's the difference between whether they can leave their house safely or not.

"The last few days have been unsettlingly violent in spite of the curfew. We've been at home simply waiting it out and hoping for the best. The phone wasn't working and the electrical situation hasn't improved," an Iraqi female writes on Baghdad Burning. She continues: "We are at a point, however, where things like electricity, telephones and fuel seem like minor worries. Even complaining about them is a luxury Iraqis can't afford these days. I'm reading, and hearing, about the possibility of civil war. Yet I'm sitting here wondering if this is actually what civil war is like. Has it become a reality?...It is like a nightmare in that you don't realize it's a nightmare while having it - only later, after waking up with your heart throbbing, and your eyes searching the dark for a pinpoint of light, do you realize it was a nightmare."

For Zayed, a young Sunni dentist, the rattle of guns means it was a peaceful night. "I stubbornly refused to go to work today, although it was a semi-peaceful night before, with only the random AK-47 rattle nearby, or the distant mortar shell disturbing our well-deserved sleep," Zayed writes Healing Iraq. "I went out for a stroll in the neighbourhood, meeting friends and neighbours, exchanging gossip and stories of the continuing carnage…I guess I am just sick and disgusted of it all."

What does it feel like when you can't even leave your home to go to work? Omar at Iraq the Model writes, "I was just about to leave home to work when I heard a big bang… Uh, oh...I won't be able to reach the clinic today, I told Mohammed. The explosion was probably less than a mile away so I knew the roads around us would be soon blocked. And minutes later I found they were."

Nancy, an Iraqi student living in the U.S., reflects on her war-torn native country in her blog. "These beautiful memories are much stronger than all the car bombings, civilian killings, and bloodshed that are currently taking place," she blogs. "No matter how powerful they may be, these acts of destruction will not succeed in stripping me from this one thing that I deeply treasure: Memories of my beautiful Baghdad!"

Published Authors, Beware

Think your blog is worthy of publication? New Book-Smart software from Blurb is making it simple for bloggers to publish their words. The software, which is expected to be available free later this month, features a "slurper" tool that automatically downloads and reformats the contents of a blog into a "blogbook" that can be purchased online.

Not surprisingly, this is music to many bloggers' ears.

Mip's Scan is a big fan. "First, it allows you to extend the intellectual capital you've created by bringing it into the offline world. I see it as a nice compliment to what gets created online. Secondly, I think it's a powerful and effective way to extend the conversation so to speak."

Geeklike calls the software a "revolutionary blog to book converter." And Squelly writes, "I have not tried the Booksmart software yet but I am certainly going too. I can see the Blurb books competing with the photo books offered by Ofoto (I just can't call them Kodak Photo Gallery — stupid name) Shutterfly, Snapfish and their kin."

But for bloggers like Lifehacker, the glass is half-empty. "While the thought of a million muffled hyperlinks subjected to the non-clickable imprisonment of actual paper makes me sad, self-publishing blogs jives with the whole scrapbooking/DIY media phenomenon," he blogs.

And others bemoan the consequences of bloggers-turned-published-authors. "As if owning a blog is not narcissistic enough, you can now turn your blog into a *real* book," Marcus Mooi writes. "Wow. No but yeah but no ... Huh!?"

Ad Pulp adds some practical concerns. "I love the idea, but negotiating the print rights to images and content lifted from news sources around the globe seems like a Herculean task. On the other hand, if all blog content is totally original, or paid for by a sponsoring brand, then the book idea truly has legs."

Still Have Your LEGOs?

How do you know you may have too much time on your hands? When you spend your day looking at other people's LEGO creations. Well, at least some of the day, that is.

But, I'm hardly alone. Techblog's Top Ten Strangest Lego Creations was the ninth-most-cited link on Monday. The LEGO-builders who made the coveted list, in LEGO circles at least, put some serious time into their creations, which range from a harpsichord constructed entirely from LEGO parts (over 100,000 parts, in fact) to a LEGO replica of a Volvo XC90, the official car of Legoland, California. Yes, there actually is a Legoland (there are four, in fact). Coming in at number 10 is a BrixPod Classic iPod Shuffle case, which gives your Shuffle the appearance of a full-sized iPod made of Lego bricks.

There are many LEGO-lovers online. GremSpot gushes over the list. "You can use LEGO to build almost any thing… these are all amazing LEGO creations. Amazing and strange, but true."

Dustin at Nano News Bites calls it, "a fitting tribute to all us little geeks who spent collective years in our rooms trying to think of things to make with those magical pieces of plastic."

And what better tribute to a favorite movie than…well, a LEGO-ized version of it, Daniel Brown has found. He writes "I can't quit you, Lego" at the top of his plastic tribute to LEGO Brokeback Mountain. BottleImp also created his own display, though more practical than Daniels. The photos on his blog show a Lego firetruck, firehouse, and an equipment room.

But perhaps Obilog sums up the LEGO displays best. "Very cool indeed!!," he writes.

By Melissa McNamara