December Rambling: Affluenza; the folly of Facebook

“Bitching about what people post on social networks is rather like going to each individual table in your high school cafeteria and demanding that everyone at each table only discuss the topics you want to hear discussed.”

People don’t actually like creativity.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Why it’s lousy for the environment and food safety and US sovereignty, not to mention creators’ rights, and why you’ve probably never heard of it.

In this clip, Carl Sagan passionately defends science, with a grave warning.

Secessionists on the ballot.

I mentioned the FOCUS church’s long struggle to feed the hungry. Here’s a print news story and TV story about the cut in food stamps affecting local pantries.

Rev. Frank Schaefer was found guilty by The United Methodist Church for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding; his response.

Teenager’s Sentence in Fatal Drunken-Driving Case Stirs ‘Affluenza’ Debate; my, when I saw this story on TV I got really ticked off. Will they also accept povertenza as a defense? Didn’t think so.

The former editor-in-chief at the New England Journal of Medicine believes it is no longer possible to believe much of clinical research published.

I didn’t write about that Duck Dynasty cable TV guy, mostly because of time, but also because I didn’t have a fresh angle. Arthur wrote about him, and about his reluctance to write about the issue at all, and it’s pretty much my position too.

How fashion can be used as camouflage from face-detection technology.

There’s a new film about Walt Disney and the making of the movie Mary Poppins: watch Harlan Ellison on “Saving Mr. Banks”. For another new film, Philomena, read this article from three years ago, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, for background.

This Man Rescued Over 600 Jewish Kids from Nazi Camps. He Doesn’t Know It Yet, But He’s Sitting with Them.

So you’re feeling too fat to be photographed… And Pioneering Photographer Robert Cornelius Credited With World’s First Selfie, c. 1839.

If physical diseases were treated like mental illness.

Melanie: Reading, Russian, and the Soviet Union.

Sit Still, and Follow the Stick.

Always hated end-of-the-year lists that come out in early December, because the year isn’t over. Still, 45 powerful photos and NPR’s 100 favorite songs and the best and worst media errors and corrections and worst words and phrases and the Jibjab piece
what brought us together.

21st Century Punctuatio​n; this is a non-issue for me. The frontiers of American English usage involve Death Metal English.

Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults, and 5 Reasons To Stop Checking Facebook At Work.

Jaquandor: “Bitching about what people post on social networks is rather like going to each individual table in your high school cafeteria and demanding that everyone at each table only discuss the topics you want to hear discussed.” I agree with that. He also mentioned SamuraiFrog’s situation, linked therein.

Speaking of SF: 50 Shades of Smartass, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, which you should check out, even if you don’t read the others, because now the truly awful stuff is being eviscerated. Or wait until Chapter 8, when the sex stuff starts. Would someone who liked this book please write me and tell me why?


The status of Jaquandor’s Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title).

The “radio call” of the miraculous Auburn win over Alabama, both a faux one and the real thing.

Another Kennedy Conspiracy Theory, involving a Superman comic book from around the time of JFK’s assassination, with a happy ending.

Don McGregor on Marvel Comics’ First Interracial Kiss.

Now I Know: rabbit show jumping and the history of flatulence humor.

Michael Feinstein talks about the Gershwins and play some of their tunes for an hour.

Tony Isabella’s birthday wish list.

Amy Biancolli has a new blog. She’s a writer for the local newspaper I’ve met once or twice. As she noted in her first post, ” In 2011, my beloved, brilliant husband, Chris, committed suicide. This left me and our three unbelievably spirited, beautiful children with a task ahead of us: to live.” So she’s FSO, Figuring Stuff Out, such as Things. Except she doesn’t say “stuff.”

Of all the noteworthy people who died this month – Ray Price, Eleanor Parker, Peter O’Toole, Joan Fontaine, Tom Laughlin – the only obit I link to is Harold Camping? OK, here’s one for Price, and for O’Toole.

Food Fight Muppet episode featuring Gordon Ramsey.

Mark Evanier has been blogging for thirty years! I didn’t even have Internet access at work TWENTY years ago.

Unexpected singers: Run Joe by Maya Angelou from the Miss Calypso album. And Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out by Richard Pryor.

Arthur answers my question about Maori representation in New Zealand government and religion and genealogy, among other things.

I wrote: 50 is the new 65, and not in a good way.

Y is for Yahtzee

The strategy comes when one gets a roll that could be used in more than one box.

There’s a game that involves five dice and a score sheet called Yahtzee, which I’m teaching to my daughter. I like it because, while it involves an element of luck, it also requires some strategy.

“In the upper section, each box is scored by summing the total number of dice faces matching that box. For example, if a player were to roll three ‘twos,’ the score would be recorded as 6 in the twos box. If a player scores a total of at least 63 points, [which corresponds to three-of-a-kind for each of the six rows], a bonus of 35 points is added to the upper section score.

“The lower section contains a number of poker-themed combinations with specific point values
Three-Of-A-Kind (At least three dice showing the same face) – Sum of all dice
Four-Of-A-Kind (At least four dice showing the same face -Sum of all dice
Full House (A three-of-a-kind and a pair) – 25 points
Small Straight (Four sequential dice: 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-5, or 3-4-5-6) – 30 points
Large Straight (Five sequential dice: 1-2-3-4-5 or 2-3-4-5-6) – 40 points
Yahtzee (All five dice showing the same face) 50 points
Chance (Any combination) often acts as a discarded box for a turn that will not fit in another category”

The strategy comes when one gets a roll that could be used in more than one box. For instance, if one has rolled 2-2-6-6-6, should it be taken as three sixes in the upper box, as three of a kind in the lower box, or as a full house in the lower box? One has to guesstimate how likely it is to get another roll in the categories not chosen. In other words, math probabilities are involved, though one does not have to be a human calculator to enjoy the game.

Given the number of years the game has been sold, it’s possible that you have a copy of the game in your attic right now.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

Reluctant, late BOOK REVIEW: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

The premise of the book is that the town had lost its library, and that the 12-year-olds had gone their entire lives without ANY library.

The intrepid New York Erratic asks:

What’s the most recent fiction book you’ve read?

You ask a simple question, and I have a simple, then complicated, answer.

The book was Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, which became a New York Times Bestseller.

Lucky Kyle wins a spot as one of the first twelve kids invited to a gala, overnight library lock-in filled with of fun and games. But the next morning, when the lock-in is supposed to be over, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the others must follow book-related clues and unravel all sorts of secret puzzles to find the hidden escape route if they want to win Mr. Lemoncello’s most fabulous prize ever.

Which I’m not sure is quite accurate, from the book I read, but no matter.

It’s gotten good press.

I received a review copy of this book in February of 2013 and read it in a couple of weeks. Then I was trying to write that assessment of the book, but I just couldn’t. The reason was that there were elements of the book that just irritated the heck out of me, and I didn’t know if I were being overly critical, or that Young Adult fiction just wasn’t my genre. Nah, I’ve read other YA books and didn’t have that reaction.

OK, the things that bugged me:

1. The premise of the book is that the town had lost its library and that the 12-year-olds had gone their entire lives without ANY library, but then the benefactor, the toy guru, builds this beyond state-of-the-art structure. I know it’s pretending, but could not this guy had SOME temporary structure operational in the interim?

2. For young people without a library, they know astonishing detail about the Dewey Decimal system, far more than this librarian could glean off the top of my head.

3. The conflict that Kyle had at home was actually quite appealing, but once he got into the library, he wasn’t that interesting a character to me.

4. A minor point, but this was supposed to be a game designed by a toy and game guru. Yet there was a reference to the real game SORRY, with a character going back three spaces. There’s no such card in SORRY; one can go back four spaces with a 4, or one space with a 10. Took me right out of the match.

5. The relationship of one of the other 12-year-olds with a famous librarian was just too convenient for me.

6. There were rebus puzzles that I simply did not understand; it may have been rectified in the actual store printing, but what I saw confounded me.

This obligation to write this review hung over me for months, with the publisher’s representative periodically nudging me, and me trying to write it without finding a satisfactory angle that wasn’t negative.

It wasn’t that it was all bad, though a tad convoluted, but it just didn’t engage me enough, and I couldn’t tell if it were the book or me. And the review hanging over my head prevented me from reading ANY book for three months, figuring if I started reading something else, I’d NEVER write the review. Finally, I gave up.

When there is a nonfiction book for general audiences, or a music album, or a movie, or any number of other items I could be asked to review, I could do it. And if I had LOVED this book, I probably could have written something about it, too. Dissing it, though, when I didn’t feel versed enough in the genre was just not something I was comfortable with.

And, NYE, if you hadn’t forced the issue, I STILL would not have written about it. (The pain and pleasure of Ask Roger Anything.)

Beard, or no beard: that is the question

This picture from the May 2010 does not look like me to ME.

Jendy, who I’ve only known since 1987, asked:

If you were to shave your beard, would Lydia recognize you? Would I? ([Paul [her husband] says his kids would do a double take every spring when he used to shave his off!)

I don’t get to see Jendy as often, now that she has a new job. When she worked in a public setting, I’d see her once or twice a month. So she didn’t know that, in fact, I DID have my beard shaved off, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It had become a scruffy mess, and I needed to get it trimmed. But once in the chair of a new barbershop, I let the whimsy of the moment carry me off, and had all the facial hair, save for the mustache, removed. Lydia seemed to recognize me, and I’m sure you would too.

Know who didn’t recognize me? I didn’t. Back in 2004, and before, I had a medium-dark complexion. (That’s me on the left in a picture taken in April 1997 for Bill and Orchid Anderson’s wedding.) Then I got the vitiligo, which, not only created lighter patches on my arms, hands, legs and elsewhere but generally lightened the skin on my face. And because I am afraid of sunburn, or skin cancer, even with sunscreen, I tended to avoid direct sunlight whenever I could. This made my face considerably lighter, to a point that I did not even recognize myself in photos. There’s one in my church newsletter from three or four years ago, in which the only way I knew it was me was seeing the outfit I was wearing. This picture from May 2010’s Free Comic Book Day does not look like me to ME.

It’s not just that I think I look better darker, it’s that it’s how I see myself in my mind’s eye. It’s not like realizing I’m grayer or heavier; it’s something much more fundamental that I cannot describe except that it was my SELF-IDENTITY.

Then, either I stopped worrying as much or something, because I guess I spent less time hiding under umbrellas in the summers, and some of the color has returned to my face, as you kinda can see in the picture below, taken in early February 2013. When I got the shave in November, I could see this odd streak of skin where my beard had been, lighter than my skin color in the 2010 pic. It looked WEIRD, freakish. I almost took a selfie, except that I actually had no idea where my cellphone was. So now the beard has returned, and while I’ll trim it, I doubt I will cut it off any time, certainly not in the near future.

This ties in nicely with a question by New York Erratic:

What’s your favorite weather?

Partly sunny, or partly cloudy, with high clouds filtering the sun. Never liked the direct sun, even as a kid. The heat index, that combo of temperature and humidity, starts bothering me at about 90F.

Not crazy about the cold at the post when the condensation on my mustache freezes. Don’t mind the rain, though I’d rather be indoors. Some snow is fine. I’d find San Diego weather boring.

Welcome to ABC Wednesday, Round 14

Bloggers, consider giving ABC Wednesday a try


Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before six months ago, but consider this my now semiannual plug for something called ABC Wednesday, in which people, literally from around the world, post an item – pictures, poems, essays that in someway describe each letter of the alphabet, in turn. I’ve been participating since the letter K in Round 5.The meme was started about six and a half years ago by Denise Nesbitt from England.

At some point, she recruited a team of her followers to do some of the intro writing and visiting, which eventually included me.

Then three rounds ago, she was getting a little burned out. So I became the administrator, assigning who reads which posts, making sure somebody is writing the introductions (and writing them myself, when necessary) and inserting the link that allows everyone to participate. The team is pretty good at noting when someone grossly violates the simple rules.

Read about the significance of this round’ logo by Troy here. He’s designed the logos for eight or nine rounds now.

The Netiquette for the site is this:

1. Post something on your non-commercial blog/webpage having something to do with the letter of the week. Use your imagination. Put a link to ABC Wednesday in your post and/or put up the logo.

2. Come to the ABC Wednesday site and link the SPECIFIC link to the Linky thing. It’ll be available around 4 p.m., Greenwich Mean Time each Tuesday, which is 11 a.m. or noon in the Eastern part of the United States.

3. Try and visit at least 5 other participants…and comment on their posts. The more sites you do visit, the more comments you will probably get.

Bloggers, consider giving it a try if this sounds interesting. We’ll be starting with A again in a couple of weeks. And I actually will have a theme for the posts this time through, which will become quite evident soon.