August Rambling II: Smart is sexy and stupid is not

A reference to my piece about David Cassidy made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :)”


The New York Times’ prophetic 1983 warning about the NSA, which naturally leads to Glenn Greenwald killed the internet.

My Feelings About the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape in 10 GIFs.

Invisible Disabilities Day is October 24. I have this friend with rather a constant neck pain, but she doesn’t LOOK sick, and therefore feels diminished by those who actually don’t believe her. Conversely, The Complexities of Giving: People with Disabilities as Help Objects.

Photos of the worldly goods of inmates at the Willard Asylum. I backed the Kickstarter for this and wrote about it a couple years ago.

“Each week, TIME Magazine designs covers for four markets: the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.” Often, America’s cover is quite, well – different. I had noticed this before. I don’t know that it’s “stunning,” but it IS telling.

The Peanuts gang meets The Smiths, in which This Charming Charlie masterfully blends Charles Schulz’s comics with lyrics by The Smiths.

Mark Evanier’s Tales of My Father, featuring Tony Orlando. Also, Tales of My Cat.

A friend’s letter from his brother. (Can one read this sans Facebook?)

Yes, smart is sexy and stupidity is not.

Eddie, the Renaissance Geek is cancer-free!

So I have survived my first grown-up move. Moving as an adult, it turns out, is radically different from moving as a student.

John Scalzi: To The Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist.

Air New Zealand celebrates marriage equality.

Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI: “Worship at the Edge” PRIDE Sunday.

My old buddy Matt Haller has a new blog and writes about lies my shampoo bottle tells me about dating.

Arthur challenges his own snap assumptions.

SamuraiFrog writes about the list of best movies that EW had on the list in 1999, but which had fallen off the list by 2013 and also other great films. Re: a comment he made: that will require a blog post from me. He’s been musing on the early Marvel comics, which have all been interesting, and I was glad to play a small part in his understanding of Thor.

21 Jokes Only History Nerds Will Understand​.

German, not Swiss, Orson Welles.

Marian McPartland, ‘Piano Jazz’ Host, Has Died. I loved how she way she not only performed but, probably, more importantly, INFORMED about music.

The late Elmore Leonard’ TEN RULES FOR WRITING. His New York Times obit.

David Janower has passed away. He was the choral director of the fine Albany Pro Musica, and I knew and liked him personally, so I am sad. He had surgery a few months back and suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered.

A worthy neologism found by Dustbury.

The God of SNL will see you now.

Dolly Parton’s original recording of “Jolene” slowed down by 25% is surprisingly awesome.

Paul McCartney “In Spite Of All The Danger” & “20 Flight Rock” (Live), the former a cover of first Beatles record. Also, the Beatles’ final photo session, August 22, 1969.

Chuck Miller has posted every day for four years, over 2,000 blog posts on the Times Union site.

Dueling banjos: Steve Martin, Kermit the Frog. Sesame Street does Old Spice parody with Grover.

No ukuleles were harmed in the making of this video.

What did I write about in my Times Union blog this month? That annoying JEOPARDY! Kids Week story and Should ‘citizen initiative and referendum’ come to New York? and The prescient David Cassidy song. Cassidy got arrested locally for felony DWI, and a reference to my piece made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :),” FWIW.

If you are an NYS homeowner, read Tax Department Launches Statewide STAR Registration. The Data Detective blog has some other interesting stuff – if I do say so myself – such as On being ‘right’ in science.

Jaquandor answers my questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and unfriending.

Spontaneous​s goat manure fire.

Responding to “How to Be a Good Commenter”

The lack of civility on some pages doesn’t just concern me in the moment; it makes me worry about us as a species.

John Scalzi, at his Whatever blog, wrote a very interesting piece called How to Be a Good Commenter. In the main, I agree with his points, though I do have somewhat different priorities.

1. Do I actually have anything to say?… A comment is not meant to be an upvote, downvote or a “like.” It’s meant to be an addition to, and complementary to (but not necessarily complimentary of) the original post.

Well, yes, but… I go to a lot of ABC Wednesday posts, and they’ve posted a picture of a flower, or a waterfall, and if I like it, I might indicate its beauty. And I don’t mind, frankly, an essentially “like” comment to what I write; beats indifference. Maybe I want to thank someone for doing something I can’t do, or say something I wish I had said; I want to affirm the creator for his or her efforts. That noted I do try to abide by the complementary notion. I think the fear of this first rule creates a lot of lurkers, who may visit a page but never say anything.

2. Is what I have to say actually on topic?

Now that I DO care about. I’ve found that some commenters are like campaigning politicians who can, and will, take any issue and mold it into a point from their stump speech, regardless of relevance.

3. Does what I write actually stay on topic?… if you make a perfunctory wave at the subject and then immediately use it as a jumping-off point for your own particular set of hobby horses, then you’re also making the thread suck.

This doesn’t happen on THIS blog, but I’ve seen the phenomenon on my Times Union blog, and indeed on most newspaper or magazine-related blogs. Salon.com is particularly vulnerable to these trolls.

4. If I’m making an argument, do I actually know how to make an argument?… I will at the very least point you in the direction of this list of logical fallacies, for you to peruse and consider. I will also say that in my experience the single most common bad argument is the assumption that one’s personal experience is universal rather than intensely personal and anecdotal.

I love personal anecdotes, but only when it ISN’T used as proof. Gotten that at the TU blog too.

5. If I’m making assertions, can what I say be backed up by actual fact?

I suppose the problem here is that the world seems armed with contradictory theories masked as “facts.” If I express concern about global warming or belief in evolution, I’ll find people who will find assertions to the contrary. This is why some issues become not worth fighting over; the facts are out there if one wants to look.

6. If I’m refuting an assertion made by others, can what I say be backed up by fact?… refutation without substantiation is not refutation at all; it’s just adding to the noise.

Totally agree with that.

7. Am I approaching this subject like a thoughtful human being, or like a particularly stupid fan?… Look, everyone has their biases and inclinations and favorites, and that’s fine. This doesn’t mean you won’t come across as a brainless plumper for your side when you, in fact, plump brainlessly for them in a comment.

Don’t experience this much. Then again, I don’t write that much about sports.

8. Am I being an asshole to others? Yes, I know you think you’re being clever when you are being snide and sarcastic about that other commenter, or about the original poster. I would remind you what the failure mode of clever is. Also, being a complete prick to others in a comment thread is an easy tell to those others that you can’t make a sufficient argument on any other ground than personal abuse. Which is not a good thing for you.

If this were a ranked list – and it may be, I’m not sure – this would be #1 or at worst, #2. The lack of civility on some pages doesn’t just concern me in the moment; it makes me worry about us as a species.

9. Do I want to have a conversation or do I want to win the thread? Some people have to be right, and can’t abide when others don’t recognize their fundamental right to be right, and will thus keep making attempts to be right long after it is clear to every other person that the conversation is going nowhere and the remaining participants are simply being tiresome.

A perfectly good example of that phenomenon is a short post I wrote for the Getting There blog on the Times Union, Lunatic SUV driver harassing cyclists. I thought it was pretty self-evident that the driver was engaging in anti-social behavior. Silly me. The comment that struck me the most was this: “Sharing the road or not it’s a lose-lose if you ever get tangled up with a car. That’s the risk bikers WANT AND TAKE.” The first part IS true, but that bicyclists WANT to take that risk is absurd. I never even bothered to comment at all, as I had outraged readers willing to carry on that task.

10. Do I know when I’m done? I’m not saying you should enter each comment thread with an exit strategy, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt.

As I tend to be conflict-averse, I tend to avoid this particular problem. The worse case of me having to come back to a topic was actually on a Facebook posting in which I noted that there were government people opposed to the art display Piss Christ, and I had to go find proof of this, twice. I remember the controversy, and my need to prove it made me a tad cranky.

I like this comment to Scalzi’s piece. I’ve seen it before, and it continues to be valid.
T — Is it TRUE?
H — is it HELPFUL?
I — is it INSPIRING?
N — is it NECESSARY?
K — is it KIND?