July 31, 2011

A message to America's commercial bakers

Wonder! The creepy bread.
Listen here.

You cannot take the Wonder Bread recipe, shape it into a long loaf and call it Italian bread. Do you hear me?! You cannot do this.

And you cannot call your "Italian" loaves "crispy" if we can wrap the loaf around our necks like a scarf. You cannot do this.

Have you ever tasted Italian bread? There are these places called "Italian bakeries". Here's what you do: find one, trot on over there, and buy a loaf of Italian bread.

Now, hold it in your hands. Look at it. Feel it. Smell it. And then taste it. Ahhhhhhhh!

Now you have a starting point. Get to work!

Racist principal at Bronx Catholic HS?

Apparently that's exactly what this guy is. Here's an excerpt from an article at the New York Daily News site today:
A firebrand educator with ties to a white supremacist group is running a Bronx Catholic school where most of the students are black and Latino, the Daily News has learned.
It goes on to say:
In 2004, Borzellieri wrote the book "Don't Take It Personally: Race, Immigration, Crime and Other Heresies," in which he declares "diversity is a weakness" and says the rising black and Hispanic populations in America will lead to the "New Dark Age."

He has also written frequently for the white supremacist publication American Renaissance, with which he is still "intimately involved," the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center says.
And of course, the dimwitted Roman Catholic priest angle comes into the story:
Mount Carmel pastor, the Rev. Eric Rapaglia, said he knew of Borzellieri's views, but didn't "see any cause for concern" when he hired him to run the 200-student elementary school.
Of course not. What possible problem could arise from putting a white supremacist in charge of a largely minority school body? So he appoints Borzellieri principal and the guy goes on to ban books about other races and minorities, including a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also fired an openly gay teacher and instituted a policy whereby discussion of homosexuality is banned from the classroom.

Shucks, he's just a good ol' boy. I'm sure the Nazi pope would approve. No problema. Meanwhile, this lunatic is still the principal.

PS (in case you didn't notice): This is what happens when you substitute religious "rules" for actual, you know, morality. The Roman Catholic church has no moral center. None.

July 30, 2011

Great little clip of Josephine Baker

I was trolling through YouTube looking for something odd and interesting when I ran across this clip of Josephine Baker. I don't when it was recorded but it seems ancient. It's less than two minutes and you simply must watch it. She's mesmerizing!

Which posts get hits?

Blogger tracks how many hits each post gets, and it's weird to see which ones win the competition. Some people would phrase this as "which ones are the most popular." But of course, hits are just a reflection of the tags at the end of the post. Did people search for those words or not? That's what makes a "hit". Popularity has nothing to do with it.

Looking at the results, it's easy to see that when I write about popular or newsworthy things, I get hits. Just see # 1 below. In any case, here are my top ten posts, judged by # of hits (they're linked so you can click on them to read the posts):
  1. So many people died in yesterday's tornadoes
  2. Don't forget: the world ends today
  3. Old Italian women in black veils
  4. Confirmed: Giants' Brian Wilson is straight
  5. Sundance documentary: Waste: The Nuclear Nightmare
  6. What's with the baseball umpires?
  7. A little help from some fab guys
  8. Truly scary movies
  9. Michio Kaku on Fukushima
  10. NOVA Japan earthquake show
# 7 is just a video of the Beatles singing "Help". And it's no surprise that # 4 (Brian Wilson's sexuality) got a lot of hits. People wanna know. # 3 surprises me. You wouldn't think it would generate hits. I'm glad to see #8 up there because I liked that post. At least someone, somewhere read it. And hey, someone read a baseball post (#6)!

On the other hand, I got a zillion hits and no comments except for Annie's? What's wrong with this picture? C'mon, folks: comment! Tell me what you think. All sane bloggers welcome this. And as for your end of the deal, commenting is half the fun of visiting blogs -- and it's not scary, really.

One caveat regarding the lack of comments: the Brian Wilson post did generate comments. Not a lot, but comments. One was snarky but hey, that's fine. Express your opinions, people. It's what blogs are all about. Otherwise, we'd just write our posts on a typewriter and then drop the pages on the floor. Live a little -- comment.

July 29, 2011

We live in cycles. (Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone.)

Reyes is in a wildly positive cycle.
If we look at the world around us, we see that people are not the same every day. They go through periods where they feel a certain way, and then one day they feel differently. But no one notices. I find this omission strange.

For example, take a baseball player who has 22 multiple-hit games in a row. He's on fire! But then a day comes along where he strikes out four times in one game. The cycle is over. And then what happens? He does not resume his hitting streak the day after the strike-outs. That cycle is done. Instead, he goes into a slump and the slump goes on for whatever period of time . . . until one day he hits! And then he's on a hitting streak again. C'mon, people. There's a message here. We are cyclical creatures.

The new DVR arrived. Thank dog!

The old, dreamy remote.
My baseball blackout is over. The new DVR came within two days. Not bad, Directv, not bad.

On the other hand, jeez. You've ruined everything. The last DVR and remote Directv supplied me with (the one that died) was great. That's it on the left. It fit in your hand like magic. You could literally watch TV with the thing sitting in your hand, and not be aware of it. The contours were made in heaven! (Don't get carried away; there is no heaven.)

The replacement system came with a remote shaped like a brick. Nice going, Directv. It's always great to move backward. That's just what we're looking for in life. Additionally, it's a totally different software setup and the remote has a longish lag time. It's no longer responsive. You click . . . and at some point something happens. Oy.

I could go on and on about the software's failings. The GUI seems to have been built by an idiot. Sigh. But baseball's back. I guess I'll settle for that.

Ever had a company ruin something you loved, by putting out a "new, improved" version of it? Do tell.

July 28, 2011

What skill did you learn from a book?

My doorway to science.
When I want to learn how to do something, I read a book about it. And then I read more books about it, and then more. In this way, I've learned to do a number of things.

I learned how to ride a motorcycle by reading a book. I never spoke to a single human being about motorcycles. I read a book, rented a bike on three successive weekends and tooled around the Shea Stadium parking lot, trying stuff they talked about in the book. When I could do it all, I scheduled my test and got my motorcycle license.

Then I bought a bike and read the manual. I never in my life spoke to another human being about motorcycle maintenance, but my bike was always in perfect condition because I learned how to take care of it by reading the manual. (I also have a good work ethic and did everything the manual suggested.)

There was a time in my human rights work when I became aggravated by the mistakes that always appeared in our published works. Someone on the production end muffed it every single time, often killing the very point of the publication. So I bought books on desktop publishing and the elements of good page design. I read them all, practiced each lesson they taught me, and was able to create four good-looking newsletters, tons of flyers and reports (and many funny things for my friends). I learned it all from reading. (Same with software. I'm the guy who actually read the manuals. You may have heard of me.)

Enough from my end. What skills have you learned from a book?

July 27, 2011

Obituaries

I think it's weird when old people die and the obituary notice in the paper shows a photo of the person when he or she was young. What's that about? That's a photo of who they used to be, not who they were when they died. Are people vain even after death? You're dead; you don't have to be afraid of your wrinkles anymore. Enjoy.

This occurred to me while reading the obits in my local paper today. I was also greatly amused to learn that you can submit your town's name to receive all the obits from that area via email -- or you can specify names! I think that's wild. You can pump in the names of everyone you know (or better yet, everyone you hate) and be notified by email when they die. What a convenience!

The World Trade Center "cross"

Government establishes Christian totem.
There's an article today at ABC news online about the "cross" memorial they're putting up at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. American Atheists filed a lawsuit saying that you can't erect a Christian symbol on government property. They're right, of course. There's no question about this.

The group states it clearly: since the government allowed this huge icon for Jesus into the museum, they must allow every other religion to put up a totem of similar size alongside the "cross" -- including a totem for atheism. They said they would drop their suit immediately if one of two things happened: the "cross" was removed, or every religion was allowed to erect a totem of similar size at the museum. Sounds fair to me.

But really, I wasn't thinking about the propriety of putting the "cross" in the museum when I saw them load this piece of crap onto a lift. What I thought was "here we go -- they're seeing jeebus in the coffee stains again."

People, this is not a "cross". It's two pieces of metal that are perpendicular to each other -- a "T-joint" -- like the metal T-joints in just about every other building in the world. That you found some perpendicular bits of metal is not a miracle. It's not a sign of gods. It's not anything. It's rubble.

I was aghast as I watched the blessing of this metal and saw people praying to it and telling "miraculous" stories about it. Sometimes I feel like I live in a world of cavemen. I can't do anything but shake my head when I watch something like that.

Yes, it needs to come down. But let's recognize that stupidity is what put it there. It's a T-joint, not a cross. This event is disheartening, as if everything about religion. It's a colossal waste of everyone's time and energy.

What do you think?

July 26, 2011

My satellite box died

Zilch.
Of all times for my satellite receiver to die -- during baseball season! Aaaargh. But what can you do? Directv tells me a replacement is on the way but it's coming snail-mail. Sigh.

So last night, my first night without TV, I looked at internet options to fill the gap. First off, I learned that MLB killed every other site that offered baseball games, even radio transmissions. Used to be, you could hear a game on your computer. MLB did away with that. Thanks, MLB!

The only way to watch games online is to buy into MLB's service. But see, there's a hitch. MLB does everything wrong. It's a shlock outfit, top to bottom. So no, I won't put MLB software on my computer so I can watch games. If I was on a PC, I might try this. After all, a PC is a piece of garbage so it doesn't matter. But I'm on a Mac that works perfectly. There's no way I would ever put their software on my computer. End of story. Thanks, MLB.

Moving right along, one thing I learned is that you can watch the CBS Evening News "with Scott Paley" (who hasn't been seen since his first week hosting the show, several weeks ago, by the way. They've had subs doing it since then). You can watch that news show here. (Scoot down to "Watch full episodes of the CBS Evening News".) You can't watch the show live but later in the evening they put the video of the show up -- without commercials! At least that aspect of it is good. But that's the only thing I found online.

This doesn't seem right. The internet should offer alternatives to TV, no? I thought I'd find all sorts of ways to watch stuff live. Nope. So I'm stuck and I've got who knows how many more days until that set-top box arrives.

Then again, my new DVR will be blank and that presents an opportunity. I plan to fill all 100 hours of it with baseball games, to tide me over when winter arrives. I figure I can keep more than ten full games on it. So they'll be repeats; who cares? It's baseball. I'll watch them over and over (because I have no other options; MLB, I'm looking right at you when I say that).

Reports cite possible evidence of Higgs boson

If you're not a science freak, the search for the Higgs boson (sometimes called the Higgs particle or the foolishly named "god particle") may seem uninteresting. But it's wildly interesting to scientists because it tells us something essential about the nature of reality. And according to a story at BBC, it seems there may finally be an indication that the Higgs boson exists.

Longish post after the jump:

July 25, 2011

Worst writing award

A Wisconsin professor named Sue Fondrie has won the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where entrants try to write the worst possible opening sentence for an imaginary novel. The NYT write-up is here. I love her winning entry:
"Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."
Is that great or what?

Funny NYT story today about the vatican

The evil popey guy.
Remember how Ireland's prime minister laid out the popey guy last week for encouraging priestly abuse with his shady rules? (I wrote about it here.) Well, there's an even funnier follow-up today. It made me roar with laughter. You really have to read it in full to appreciate it. Here are a few outtakes:

First, and I loved this, the vatican said it will issue a response to Ireland's charges of priestly abuse and vatican-controlled hiding of the abuse: "at the 'opportune time' but has not done so yet." Don't you love these guys? They don't care what anyone on the planet thinks. They've got god on their side, you know.

Today's new episode in the Colorful Adventures of the Popey Guy is that, in response to the dead-honest charges of the Irish Prime Minister, the vatican recalled its ambassador. Ooooh. Rough, huh? (And right off the bat, you have to love the fact that they have an "ambassador". What pompous twits these vatican fellows are.) The article says:
"The Vatican acknowledged that the recall of an ambassador was a measure rarely adopted by the Holy See, underlining the 'seriousness of the situation'.
Are you rolling on the floor laughing yet? They abuse little kids and then hide it, and they have absolutely no problem with that. No-o. That's fine. But being called on it makes them pull their ambassador to underline "the seriousness of the situation". The "seriousness" is entirely about the vatican's reaction to being called on the carpet, not about the raping of kids. It's all about them, isn't it? They're always in the right. It wouldn't even matter if their priests raped little boys on live TV every night. They would still be in the right. And why? Because they literally can do no wrong.

Then, to cap it all off, a vatican operative named Ciro Benedettini actually expressed "some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions." Okay, I know you're roaring with laughter now.

Since you probably won't go read the whole article, here's a hefty piece of it to remind you what this tiff is all about:
A confidential 1997 Vatican letter — originally published by The Associated Press in January — instructed Irish bishops to handle child-abuse cases strictly under terms of canon law. It warned bishops that their 1996 child-protection policy, particularly its emphasis on the need to start reporting all suspected crimes to police, violated canon law.

Kenny said Catholic canon law had "neither legitimacy nor (a) place in the affairs of this country." He pledged to press ahead with new laws making it a crime to withhold evidence of child abuse — even if the information was attained during a priest's confession. The Catholic Church insists that the contents of confessions must never be revealed.
They will never ever admit the horrible things they've done -- and are apparently still doing. That popey guy's got a violent posse over there in his secret vatican headquarters. I wonder if they use special gang hand symbols when no one else is around. Probably, huh?

Need a new desktop image?

I found this photo today on the Astronomy Pic of the Day web site. You'll find a high resolution version here. It's an image of the Milky Way viewed over a row of abandoned kilns. They often do this at APD: take photos of celestial events above a primitive landscape. I think it's pretty. If your desktop needs a new image, this might be just the thing.

Annie's chart

To help me think the pricing situation through, Annie made this chart.

Looks like it's hard to make any money at 99 cents. Unless the book is a major blockbuster, the money won't roll in.

Much as I'm not into money, it would be helpful to have some change to pay for things.

I'm leaning toward 2.99 now but I'm going to research this further. Thanks, Annie!

July 24, 2011

Amazon's payment scale for self-pub authors

The great Moolah.
It's getting close to the time when Xmas Carol will be released to the public. Since I plan to make the book available on Amazon, I went there the other day to check things out. It wasn't what I'd imagined.

If you sell your book for $2.99 or more, you get 70% of the purchase price. But if you sell it for less (I was thinking 99 cents for Xmas Carol) you only get 35% of the purchase price. In other words, Amazon is pushing authors toward the higher price range.

I think books should be as cheap as possible. Authors want people to read them, right? So I like the 99-cent price. It's easy to click "buy" when something is under a buck. The only thing that worries me is that people sometimes view lower-priced items as junk, and treasure expensive things simply because they're expensive. This prejudice is rampant.

I sometimes visit a web site run by an established author who is publishing all his new books digitally (after being published many times in the brick and mortar world). He rails against the terrible deal publishers give authors, and I must say he extinguished any idea I had of going the traditional-publisher route. His take on Amazon's pricing is that it's better to publish at 99 cents because you'll sell many more books and in the end, you'll make more money.

I'm not sure what to do. Should I let Amazon force me into the $2.99 price (and tell myself it fluffs the book up in potential buyers' eyes because they'll see it as having greater quality than the "99-cent junk")? Or should I go with the 99-cent price and the lower remuneration? I'd like reader input on this. Which way do you think I should I go?

A question for the jerks in the stands

This is addressed to the people who sit behind home plate at a baseball game and wave madly at the camera throughout the entire game, a telephone glued to their heads all the while.

Ahem.

Why do you do this? Does your family have particular difficulty recognizing your face? In these shots there are typically about six to twelve people visible behind the batter. Your family can't tell which one is you? 

A simple smile isn't enough? Do you want to look like a fool on national TV? I really don't get it. What purpose does the waving serve other than to identify you as an idiot?

One final question: do you even like baseball?

July 23, 2011

Baseball talk: hittin' and pitchin'

I know, I know. It's been a while. Sorry about that. But here it is -- a baseball-talk post for the millions who've been hungering for it. Your long wait is over! Rejoice!

I love the way baseball announcers talk about hitters and pitchers. There's a special set of words they use for these players. Here are a few of the things I've heard the announcers say:

"He's got some pop!" This simple phrase is high praise in baseball. If you're a hitter, you definitely want to have pop.

"Ramon got most of that one!" I don't even know what this means.

"Adam didn't get it all, but he doesn't have to get it all to get it out of the park!" This one made me laugh. It was "Stone Pony" talking about Adam Dunn. The name "Stone Pony" also makes me laugh.

Batter's standing in the box, covered in mud, and the announcer says, "He's playing right out of his uniform!" I don't think I get it but it's fun anyway.

After a hit right down the middle, one of the Mets announcers said: "And up the schneid is Nick Evans!" Up the schneid? (He pronounced it "shnide". Baseball-talk aficionados will also note the use of the ever-popular backwards-talk.)

But it's the pitchers who seem to attract the most mystical comments: "These pitchers are at the top of their game because of the quality of the stuff that they have." Thanks for clearing this up for me.

New phrase on the block: Lately I've heard the announcers say of a team, "They've got bullpen." Emphasis on the last word. It means they have great relievers. I heard this for the first time recently and then heard another announcer say it a week later. I'm not sure if it's new or just new to me. In any case, it's a phrase like "he's got game." Interesting.

I also like a phrase they use from time to time when someone is hit by a ball at the plate. They refer to the guy as a "hit batsman". It sounds grand, this talk of batsmen. (Note the unofficial use of backwards talk by this blogger. This may be a contagious disease!) In any case, batsmen sound like a breed above and beyond mere mortals. Oh, to be a batsman!

To close out today, I want to point out that Yogi-isms are not gone from the game. The other day I heard an announcer say, "It's a great curveball but you don't want to overuse it too often." Almost worthy of Yogi, no?

That's it for today. I'll try to pump out another one soon. Till then, this'll have to do ya.

I love Ed Brayton's blog

From a post on Dispatches from the Culture Wars:
Via Balko, there's a Facebook group called Dildos for Justice that documents how often the police seize sex toys during drug raids. Balko found it while working on a story about a marijuana raid where the police searched a house, took out all the woman's sex toys, lined them up on the bed and took pictures of them and then made fun of her for having them.

The group is organizing a campaign to send a bunch of sex toys to the Oakland County police so they can stop stealing other people's dildos. 
Isn't that great? Go read the rest of Dildos for Justice. And then read Ed every day. He's great.

Water is plentiful in the universe

From a story at physorg today:
Water really is everywhere. Two teams of astronomers, each led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. Looking from a distance of 30 billion trillion miles away into a quasar—one of the brightest and most violent objects in the cosmos—the researchers have found a mass of water vapor that's at least 140 trillion times that of all the water in the world's oceans combined, and 100,000 times more massive than the sun.
You know what this means, don't you? Life is everywhere! Read the story. This water existed when the universe was just an infant, so water has been around almost forever. Amazing news.

July 22, 2011

It could be a lot hotter right now if not for . . . ?

NOAA aerosol image.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released a study that indicates things could be much hotter right now if it wasn't for . . . some mysterious aerosol particles. And they have no idea where the particles are coming from. This is very strange news. Here's an excerpt:
The [study from the] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that tiny particles that make their way all the way up into the stratosphere may be offsetting a global rise in temperatures due to carbon emissions. And while scientists cannot yet say with any certainty where exactly the particles are coming from, they are saying that they have confidence that such particles have likely muted global temperature gains by as much as a third of what they would have been. 
"Likely muted global temperature gains by as much as one-third?!" You mean it would be even hotter during this heatwave if it weren't for some mysterious particles, the source of which is completely unknown?

That something is having such a huge effect on global temperatures -- and we don't know why -- is not reassuring. We need an answer to this mystery. Where are the aerosol particles coming from? And what exactly are they?

The pendulum effect

Everything in life is cyclical. Trends go one way and then the other, and this is true of society itself. I've seen this happen before.

Just before a major shift, the old regime becomes a cartoon of itself, and literally pushes itself over a cliff. We see that happening now as the GOP threatens to bring down the world economy because of petulance. This exaggerated version of the GOP is a pre-shock. Their whole movement is about to collapse. I think this sad chapter of American life, where god-obsessed know-nothings have run the country into ruin, is about to end. The level of their craziness tells me so. They're overripe; they stink. But rejoice, because this means the end is nigh.

When society gets so out of whack that you think it will surely blow up from logical contradictions, it means a change is coming. In this case, I think the crazy will literally bring on the normal. It's time for an opposite reaction.

Look at the 1950s. You want to talk boring? You know nothing about boredom if you weren't alive back then. It was stultifying throughout the United States. It was repressed and authoritarian and a million other deadly adjectives, but mostly it was boring. So what happened? The Sixties, that's what! Yay! Sex and fun!

The insanity that has our country by the throat is on the way out. I can tell by the smell. There will be a swing toward sanity, and probably quite soon. When these swings occur, they can be huge. Let's hope it's big enough to sweep out the stupid so sane ideas can return to the political arena.

Everything is a pendulum. Hang on. A clear-eyed view of reality may be one, short swing away.

Glitter attack!

Funny story simmering at Pam's House Blend right now. Here's an excerpt:
Gay barbarians stormed the Christian counseling clinic Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann owns with her husband Marcus Bachmann. 

Chanting, "You can't pray away the gay - baby, I was born this way!" the group glittered the waiting room, in a attempt to draw attention to discredited "Pray The Gay Away" practices that have gone on there.
They've got video! Go on over.

July 21, 2011

Scorched!

The sun. (Image: NatGeo)
Here in New York it's at least a thousand degrees outside -- and they say it feels hotter because of the humidity! Phew. Is this is the new normal? I don't think I like it much.

First there was the never-ending snow, then the floods when the snow melted, then came the tornadoes, and now we've got fires, a crop-killing drought and a most oppressive summer. And just think -- the brunt of the hurricane season lies ahead. It seems we can't expect the weather to be normal anymore. It's sad, like saying goodbye to someone you used to enjoy.

How are you handling the heat? Staying inside with the A/C? I confess that's my M.O. Heat and I are old adversaries and I never win. Give me cool air, Autumn and Winter. (But for dog's sake, would someone hurry up and invent winter baseball? I'd be happy to watch Dominican baseball, minor-league baseball, last season's baseball -- any kind of baseball! I'm beggin' ya!)

A ton of snow sounds refreshing right now. Maybe I'll go put on some Xmas carols.

Great NYT article on Irish Catholic child abuse

Prime Minister Enda Kenny
This is a terrific article with no pulled punches. Ireland is socking it to the popey guy, bigtime. Here are two excerpts:
For the first time, an Irish fact-finding inquiry found the Vatican culpable in promoting the culture of cover-up. 
and:
The Irish are broadly lauding this week's thunderbolt from Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who denounced the Vatican's role in the past 17 years of abuse scandals. He accused the Holy See of downplaying "the rape and torture of children" and hiding behind its status as a sovereign state with its own secrecy-obsessed canon laws.
See? Good stuff. Go read it.

US government totally controls MSNBC

A truthful man.
It's official. MSNBC tossed Cenk Uygur's show because he spoke truth to power.
Uygur said that, in April, MSNBC president Phil Griffin called him in for a talk. Griffin allegedly told him that "people in Washington" were concerned with his tone on the show.
Cenk also reported that MSNBC told him to have more GOP guests on the show. This, of course, would be impossible since Uygur doesn't just sit there while GOP blowhards burp up their breakfast and call it wisdom. And clearly, if you want to bring the truth to people there's no sense in having anyone from the GOP on your show. It's just a time-out from rational conversation. (And this is why I don't watch Bill Maher, who sucks up to these idiots.)

In any case, he's out and will be a guest on Keith Olbermann's Current TV show tonight (Thursday). Tune in. Should be fun!

July 20, 2011

Wingnut pledges = mental intransigence

Wingnuts: they're everywhere!
AP:
Republican presidential contenders may be feeling nostalgic for the days when a candidate could focus on just one pledge: the oath of office.
And so they take this oath and that oath -- all crazy, of course. But that's not the point of this post. The reason why rightwingers and religious loons are so authoritarian is that their brains can't update. They cannot take in new information. This is the crucial difference between liberals and rightwingers: our minds can update.

If science reveals something, liberals incorporate the new information into their worldview and act accordingly. Liberals pay attention to the world around them. Authoritarians, on the other hand, rely only on preconceived notions. That's why they like things like the ten commandments and bibles and old hairstyles. They love rules. And they get absolutely crazed when anyone suggests new information that might affect these rules. Heresy!

So it makes perfect sense that people of this stripe think it a good idea to take ideological pledges. They don't need to see the actual situations that these pledges will apply to -- because there's no reality in their equations, only rules. So they take a pledge and, come hell or high water (or, you know, facts), they will not change their stance.

This happens because their brains aren't working properly. Being rational requires that we take the real world into account. They don't. They take pledges.

Gadhafi: it's all about me.

From AP:
A Russian newspaper is quoting the Kremlin's special envoy to Libya as saying Moammar Gadhafi has threatened to blow up Tripoli if it falls into rebel hands.
This is the same mindset that causes a certain, idiotic breed of men to kill their families because they lost a job. What self-important idiots these men are. Similarly, if Gadhafi must go, he feels a need to destroy Tripoli. It's a case of X chromosomes gone mad.

But then, there are so many self-important people these days, and of both genders. It's all about them. We should give them their own holiday. They'd like that. How about "Self-Important Twit Day"?

Ever think about spent nuclear fuel?

Spent fuel pool/COTO Report
No, I didn't think so. But it's something we all have to learn about -- or we're going to be in big trouble.

On her blog, Artichoke Annie has been doing a series of killer posts about the dangers of nuclear power facilities. And she's not just posting -- she's going to official meetings with the nuclear regulatory crowd to try to talk some sense into them about safety issues. Annie's a one-woman band on this topic.

Folks, we need to focus on this issue yesterday. So check out Annie's post for starters. And if you have a blog, link to Annie's blog to drive some traffic there. We have to get the word out about the pressing need for changes in our nuclear regulatory policies. As her post today makes clear, we could easily experience an event far worse than Chernobyl -- and we're doing nothing to reduce the odds of this happening. In fact, we're increasing those odds every day.

PS: I got the above photo from COTO Report, which seems to be an interesting site. Here's a link to their article about spent nuclear fuel.

July 19, 2011

Just how shady is that popey guy?

The evil archbishop Charles Chaput
Pretty damn shady! Today there is news that the popey guy is removing Philadelphia's archbishop Justin Rigali because of, well, you know:
A Philadelphia monsignor is fighting child-endangerment charges for allegedly transferring problem priests, while three priest co-defendants are charged with rape.
So who does the popey guy slip into this slot? None other than archbishop Charles Chaput, whom the Times describes as an "outspoken conservative" who "fought efforts in Colorado to extend the time sex-abuse victims have to file suit."

And did I mention the new guy is virulently, hatefully, insanely opposed to gay marriage?

Nice going, popey guy. Each day your church looks more like the scum on city sidewalks. Let's see: your priests rape children, you hide their acts, and fight the child victims when they seek justice. 

Atop this infernal heap, engineering everything, is the evil popey guy. (Cue scary music.) Great job, popey guy. You'll go down in history, all right -- just not the way you planned.

By the way, the headline for the story at the NY Times is, "Pope assigns Denver archbishop to troubled Philly". It should say "Pope assigns troubled Denver archbishop to troubled Philly". Just saying.

Exciting Xmas Carol news (maybe)

There's a possibility that the talented Casey of casey/artandcolour will do the cover for Xmas Carol. I would be thrilled if he did. He's got such great artistic sense. For now, he's agreed to read the book and see "what comes into [his] head". That's not exactly a promise to produce a cover but I'm hopeful.

The prospect of having an official cover makes the book seem real, which is a heady thing for a first-time author. Here's hoping Xmas Carol charms the hell out of Casey. Because let's face it -- the cover is what attracts us to a book. I hope some of the magic I tried to pour into Xmas Carol inspires him, as I hope it inspires every reader. Guess I'll find out soon.

As I say, exciting news (maybe)!

Funny sci comment

In the comments on a science news site, someone mentioned:
the famous Terry Pratchett quote: 'In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
Is that a great quote, or what?

July 18, 2011

Writers need readers before a book is published

Mind you, writers need readers after publication too, but as a book is being written a good reader is crucial to the process. I can't imagine writing without feedback. It's how writing works: we write; they read. This vital connection is necessary throughout the writing of a book, from first draft to last.

I've mentioned that Annie is reading Xmas Carol (update: Annie's done and she really liked it!). As she read the book, our intrepid full-time commenter sent me messages about what didn't work for her (along with effusive messages about what did work). This is so helpful.

As a writer, you never know how readers are going to respond to your words. You have some notion about how they might react but until an actual reader gets his or her hands on your book, you're working in the dark. Don't get me wrong: it's fun in the dark! But sometimes we need to look out, and readers provide a window.

My sister Maria has been my main reader through the writing of three books. She notices inconsistencies and contradictions, which is very important. It's a gift to me when a reader notices something is wrong. Now I can fix it!

I completely altered the trajectory of my second sci-fi book (more about this in the coming months) to allay Maria's concerns. It's a different book now directly because of her input. With a well-aimed critique, I'm able to rework a story in a way that makes it better -- sometimes much better. Annie did this for me as well with Xmas Carol. Her comments were spot-on and I'm going to rework some things as a result.

The only way a writer can get reader's insights is by having readers. I'm lucky to have helpful souls like Maria, cousin Carmine, Annie and five or six other readers in my life. Constructive input makes a big difference to one's writing.

A PS to budding writers: Let someone in. I know you're afraid to show your work to others but give it a shot. And then put your ego aside and listen to what your reader tells you. Just listen. Hear every word your reader says and consider the possibility that the reader's perspective may be accurate. Doing this may shake you up -- but a good shaking-up can be helpful. Don't be afraid. Hand your work to someone you trust and then cross your fingers. Heck, maybe you'll get an excellent reaction. You never know.

Waiting for the reviews is part of being a writer. So get yourself some reviews. If you pay attention to what your readers tell you, I promise you'll become a better writer.

God didn't make man; man made gods

That's the title of a good, though brief, opinion piece in the LA Times today. It's nice to see an anti-religion piece in a major paper, even if it's only on the op-ed page. Check it out if you enjoy this sort of thing. I do.

Neanderthals interbred with modern humans

A few years back, science consistently reported that modern humans never interbred with Neanderthals. I found that news depressing so I was very happy to read a story this morning confirming that non-Africans show evidence of interbreeding with Neanderthals. There is clear evidence of this in our X chromosomes.

It seems this extinct species did not die out completely (i.e., uselessly). They remain a part of us today. I wonder what contributions they made to our genome. Perhaps they passed on attributes that helped us to survive to the present day. I'd like to think so.

If only they were still alive. It would be insanely interesting to learn how we differ from them, not only physically but in terms of mental abilities. We'll never have that opportunity, alas. But they live on in us, and we will take them with us far into the future (if we don't go extinct). Very cool.

And let's not fail to notice a delightful fact that arises unbidden from this bit of scientific news -- only Africans are "pure" homo sapiens. The rest of us are interspecies mongrels. Take that, Fox viewers!

July 17, 2011

It's not just gay marriage that they oppose

The Roman Catholic church doesn't want gays to marry. No news there, right? Everyone knows this. But do you also know that they don't want us to be able to live anywhere?
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2011)——The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has urged the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) not to adopt a proposed regulation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories for which discrimination in HUD programs is prohibited.
Put another way, they requested that discrimination against gays be allowed. Isn't that sweet? And let us recall that the USCCB is presently headed by none other than Timothy Dolan, the permanently smiling, always hateful NY priest who honchos the church's anti-gay efforts all over the United States.

Dolan was the public face for church opposition to passing a law to allow gay marriage in New York. This pathetic man actually referred to his trillion dollar church as a "David" facing the "Goliath" of gay people's efforts . . . to be treated like everyone else. He actually said that: David against Goliath. The man is grinning evil, dressed up as a witch doctor.

The Roman Catholic church, of its own volition, has chosen to be the mortal enemy of GLBT people. As Pat Condell said in the video I posted yesterday, we didn't begin this war, they did. The church goes wildly out of its way to taint the lives of gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people everywhere. It goes around with a permanent bullhorn, stating that members of these groups do not deserve marriage or housing. This is the church's "moral" position.

And the Roman Catholic church is happy to tell you that its god is the "god of love". It's like they're blind to their own nature. How vicious must a church be to direct such animosity at a group that seeks only fairness and equality? And how insane must they be to think that by engaging in destructive, anti-gay actions, they hold the moral high ground? Up is down. Evil is good. Welcome to the Roman Catholic church.

Typos in headlines are great fun

I caught one a day ago. Now, the final headline for an AP story was "Oldest Son of Austria's Last Emperor Buried." Fine, right?

But earlier in the day that headline read "Oldest Son of Austria's Last Buried". I really liked that version. Talk about being famous for less than 15 minutes -- that title probably moves to a new person every 15 seconds.

I love this stuff.

July 16, 2011

Insult religion loudly and often

Have you ever heard Pat Condell? He's great: so rational and clear. Here's his take on why it's necessary to insult religion. Hat tip to Joe Jervis, who posted the video earlier this week. It's a great Sunday sermon. Enjoy.

How SkyNet takes over

Scary story today at physorg. It's called "Machines to Compare Notes Online". Here's an excerpt:
Looking forward, Veres sees the intelligent system discuss its potential upgrades with its users, lifting this burden from users and manufacturers. Long after their sale, machines will read technical documents from the Internet to improve their performance. These documents can be published not only by their original manufacturer but by user communities.
They actually say the "intelligent system" will suggest its own upgrades -- based on its leisure-time reading, apparently. Hmmm. So the very smart machines will suggest upgrades . . . and the dimwitted humans will say, "Uh . . . okay, I guess" and push a button. And that's it: instant upgrade. If they do this with more and more capable AIs, we will soon find ourselves in the same position as the humans in the Terminator movies.

I love advances and am fond of the concept of real AI. But I say, "Danger, Will Robinson!" and good luck to all of us. We're going to need it because a setup like this could easily spiral out of control. And then comes SkyNet.

Cute baseball and kids story in the Times today

Here's the link. If you like baseball, and especially if you have a kid that likes baseball, you'll love it.

July 15, 2011

Active military personnel to march in pride parade

Well, it's about effing time. The first gay pride march ever to host active military personnel will take place this Saturday in San Diego. This is big, folks.

They can't march in uniform but will wear T-shirts that state their branch of service. And, nicely I think, straight service members who support them will march alongside them.

There's an article about this in the NY Times today. Here's a small excerpt:
Some will accompany a half-ton military vehicle as audio equipment belts out "Taps" and military fight songs to the expected crowd of thousands. They also will hold a 30-foot American flag and a banner with the military crest on it.
That sounds so great. Go read it. Good stuff.

Editing pitfalls

So Annie is reading Xmas Carol. I'll leave it to her to tell you what she thinks of the book. But while reading it, Annie brought something interesting to my attention.

In Xmas Carol, it's the year 2030 and there are some new tech toys on the scene. I called one of the inventions "Lasers" at the beginning of the book -- but Annie noticed the name morphed into "Visors" in later chapters. Okay, that's not so weird, right? I'm human, I made a mistake.

But the strange thing is that I've edited this book at least ten times and never noticed this. How could that be? It's not like I'm a sloppy editor; I'm damn good. But it got past me -- again and again. I wondered why and came up with a notion, a strange notion.

My mind couldn't see the mistake because of the trail my brain left on those early chapters when I wrote them. When I returned to the early chapters to edit them, my brain automatically slipped into its former mindset. The reason I couldn't see the error was because when I wrote those lines, that was the proper name for the tech toy. So my mind was effectively blind to the error. Is that weird or what? It's the only explanation I can come up with.

I did this once before in a book, with a character's name. It was one name -- and it magically changed to another, again without me noticing. In both cases, by the way, I kept the morphed (latter) version. In Xmas Carol we have Visors, not Lasers. Anyway, this is one reason why writers need readers. Thanks, Annie!

This ends today's installment of "Brains: Totally Weird".

July 14, 2011

Funny church terminology

O'Malley's magic decoder ring.
There's an article in the NY Times today about Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley selling six churches. It made me laugh because of the church's terminology. Here's an excerpt:
"The decision announced Thursday after several weeks of 'consultation, reflection and prayer' means the churches are no longer holy places, but secular buildings. 

"The church term for the move — 'relegation for profane use' — means the churches can be sold and used for other purposes in line with Roman Catholic values . . . "
Don't you love it? To sell the churches is to relegate them for "profane use" -- but only profane use that is "in line with Roman Catholic values". These guys are such self-important twits. When something is removed from their purview, it becomes "profane" by definition. Says so much about the culture. Gah.

One last excerpt from the story:
Some Catholics feared the archdiocese was closing churches to help pay for settlements in the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Profane indeed.

Confirmed: Giants' Brian Wilson is straight

Really.
Brian Wilson is the insanely attention-hungry closer for the Giants baseball team -- you know, the one with the dyed black beard that looks so incredibly stupid. That's him on the left.

Dimwits often say he looks like a gay man. Well, I never believed that for one second. No gay man would wear a beard that looks like it was dipped in black shoe polish. (Not to mention the mohawk.) But today comes the ultimate confirmation that he is indeed straight. We know this from the outfit he wore to the ESPY awards. According to Celebrity Cafe:
The eccentric pitcher took to the red carpet in Los Angeles wearing a one-piece, spandex tuxedo and an orange bow tie. His accessories included white gloves, a cane, red socks and black sneakers.
Only a straight guy would combine orange and red in an outfit -- or in the colors for a playground or a shopping mall or a sports arena. If you see red with orange, you know that a straight person was in charge. It's utterly impossible for a gay man to commit this atrocious color crime. Therefore Brian Wilson is straight. End of story. Phew. I didn't like thinking he might be one of us -- not that I ever did, of course.

What do you think? Am I way off base and he's really just the most tasteless gay man who ever lived? I guess there's an outside chance . . . Nah!

July 13, 2011

Lizards are smart. At least, anoles are.

Green anole: smart!
It seems every other month there's a story about scientists discovering that "dumb" animals aren't dumb at all. We've seen it with apes and birds (and dogs and more) and now it seems lizards can figure out problems, too.

A story on physorg (have you noticed this is my favorite web site?) reports new findings about the anole, a Puerto Rican lizard. They gave it a cognitive test that birds can pass -- and it did better than the birds. Very cool.

So can we start respecting animals now? How many times does this have to happen before we understand that the differences between us and other creatures are a matter of degree. All animals feel and think and deserve our respect.

Bigot tosses job so she can hate on full-time basis

In the NY Times today is a story about the poor, beleaguered marriage clerks who can't be hateful to gay people anymore, at least at work. The poor dears!
Ms. Fotusky, a Republican, said she had submitted her resignation on Monday because she otherwise would have no choice but to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
“Because protections were not provided for us to be able to practice our freedom of religion in our jobs,” she said in a telephone interview, “then I had to choose between my God and my job.” 
No dear. You chose between being a hateful pinhead and your job. Congratulations on your choice. Now go home, go into your bathroom and don't come out. Nice knowin' ya, bigot lady.

Priests continue to pose risks to Catholic children

The New York Times has a story today about child abuse by Irish priests. Here's an excerpt:
DUBLIN (AP) — A new investigation into the Catholic Church's chronic cover-up of child abuse found Wednesday that a rural diocese and its bishop ignored Irish church rules requiring all suspected molestation cases to be reported to police — and the Vatican encouraged this concealment. 

The government, which ordered the probe into 1996-2009 cover-ups in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne, warned its findings suggest that parishes across Ireland could pose a continuing danger to children's welfare today.
I didn't say it; they did. Go here to read the full story.

The rationality of assisted suicide

Ed Brayton has a terrific post about assisted suicide today. Just go read it.

July 12, 2011

The doldrum days of the All-Star break

Boy, this absence of regular baseball games during the All-Star break is hard to take. Three days without a baseball game! It's fascinating though, because it provides a peek at the desolate landscape that every baseball fan will have to face when the season ends. Without baseball, the days seem empty!

I recorded games to tide me over during the break. I'm watching one tonight. So I will survive. But whatever will I do when the season actually ends? Every year I pose this question to myself. It's scary thinking of all those months, unleavened by the joy of a baseball game. Oh, the humanity!

So here's the plan. I'm going to record four games that I'll replay throughout the winter whenever I feel too sad to go on with life. I'm going to save one great game involving each of the following teams: the Red Sox, the Mets, the Cubs and the White Sox. I've already saved the Cubs game; all I have to do is snag the other three.

It's not enough, of course. But it's something and I know I'm going to be better off once I possess these games. Still, this brings up a major peeve. Why the hell doesn't MLB show games all year round? I don't get it. They have the games but they don't show them to us! What kind of idiotic thinking is behind this? I'd watch every game that was played during the official season, if they offered them on demand during the winter. Every one! So why don't they do this?

MLB? Are you listening? Are you even there? Oh, I forgot. You're watching the All-Star Game. Guess what? We're not.

One step closer to artificial intelligence

One of the most evocative robots.
I love the concept of machine learning. It's how IBM's Watson learned to play Jeopardy. It simply looked at all the questions ever asked on Jeopardy, and read all the wrong and right answers, and from this information, figured out the pattern of "correct answers". I think that's mind-boggling.

There's another story out today about machine learning. The article at physorg explains how a computer system learned to play the computer game "Civilization" -- by reading the manual! It's an amazing story. Check it out. This field is really moving now. It's not quite time to welcome our overlords but machine learning is growing by leaps and bounds.

Like the Chinese, it comes. Zillions!

July 11, 2011

Another lesson from the geese

The fine and excellent Milo.
I've written here before about how geese handle their aggression in sensible ways. They provide lessons for humans who, as a species, do not handle aggression well at all. I saw one of these lessons unfold the other day.

There was Milo, the male leader of the flock, chasing a goose and biting its tail feathers (and the rear end itself). I've seen them do this countless times but this time seemed different, more intense. By the time I caught wind of it, Milo was already on the tail end (no pun intended) of his rampage. What I saw was a goose's rear end, sticking out of the bushes on the edge of the property. Milo was biting that rear end and honking at him/her fiercely.

All the while, the goose lay perfectly still. I thought maybe Milo had killed it and I was horrified, but then I noticed that the geese weren't bothered at all. It was a very different response than the one I saw when one of their babies was killed. The flock was totally cool with this event so I returned to what I was doing, which was sitting on the steps and hanging out with them. I like these guys.

Later on, I checked the goose in the bushes. Its body and tail end had not moved, but now its neck was giving its head a tour of the nearby leaves, eating this and that green delicacy. The goose remained like this for a very long time.

It was obvious that it was playing dead to resolve a difference between it and Milo. What a sensible routine! Milo got his aggressive rocks off by chasing and biting tail feathers. And the "victim" paid homage to Milo by making believe s/he was dead for a time. Then, all debts paid and emotional balance restored, the goose came out of the bushes and normal flock activities resumed.

Why can't humans deal with their aggressions in similarly sensible ways? These geese -- and other animals -- are teaching us important lessons but we're not paying attention. I urge everyone to read Konrad Lorentz's wise book, "On Aggression". It should be required reading in our insanely violent world. There are countless ways to deal with aggression -- and war doesn't have to be on the menu.

We are doomed

No one in any leadership role in our country has his or her head screwed on straight. This today from AFP:

BAGHDAD - Newly appointed US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told American troops in Baghdad on Monday that 9/11 was the reason they were in Iraq, before he was quickly corrected by his spokesman.
No one has a clue about anything. And these are the people who are "leading" us.

July 10, 2011

Don't you love news from the Vatican?

Evil popey guy
AP today:
BEIJING - The Vatican has excommunicated a newly ordained Chinese bishop, a move that is likely to exacerbate already frayed relations between the Holy See and China’s governing Communist Party.

The decision to formally announce the excommunication of the bishop, the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin of Sichuan Province, came a week after China’s state-run Catholic church ignored the Vatican’s objections and went ahead with the ordination ceremony, which was attended by seven other bishops.

The Vatican said the bishops who took part in the ordination had “exposed themselves to serious canonical sanctions’’ and could face excommunication, according to the statement.
So, let's see. Ignore one of the silly church rules and you're tossed out of the church (and out of heaven). But rape a slew of young boys and that goes under the radar.

It's quite a "church" they've got there, isn't it? They act just like gangsters with their own rules and priorities, and the world be damned.

Those other YouTube videos

I like to browse covers of songs on YouTube and see what people come up with. Today I was looking for a cover of "Going to California" when I found this. It's not the most perfect video but the poster is playing all three of the instruments himself: acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin. The musician's name is Fredrik Hedberg. I really like his rendition and I love that YouTube begets this sort of thing. It's a plus for society in every way.

July 9, 2011

When it's hot I turn to Frost

This isn't Robert Frost reading his poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". But a YouTube poster did a great job on Frost's behalf with snow, trees, evening light, his own voice and a shaky camera. I like the images and I like his voice. Give it a listen. It's short -- just over a minute.

Baseball's All-Star Game

Meh. I don't even watch the All-Star Game, but I do notice it. To me, its arrival is a sort of death knell for the season. The All-Star Game is the half-time gong, and it gongs loudly. When the All-Star Game is played, you realize the season is middle-aged. It makes me sigh and feel hopeless.

I'll take Spring Training over the All-Star Game anytime because it's like being at work late on a Friday afternoon. The fun is all ahead of you. That's what makes Fridays and Spring Training so marvelous: the promise.

And then when the baseball season actually begins, you think, "Woot! I've got the entire season ahead of me!" But that statement isn't even true after the first game ends. You've used one up already -- and the season is about to shoot past you at lightning speed.

So before you know it, and way before you're ready for it, they throw the damn All-Star game at you. It's kind of like the doctor calling to say, "There's something on your X-ray. We don't know what it is but we think we should look into it." Your life is immediately ruined because someone dangled death in front of you.

That's the way it is with the All-Star Game. The minute the game is over there's a whiff of something rotten in the air. It's the knowledge that the dream is heading toward collapse -- at which point you'll be left all alone again, a baseball-less person sobbing on that uncomfortable bed in the rear guest room.

But the horrible truth is that there's no way to slow a baseball season down or force it to keep going forever. The current baseball season will come to an end just like every season that came before it. I'm not going to cry yet. After all, the All-Star Game hasn't even been played. But soon, very soon, darkness will begin to descend and a cold, ill wind will strike my brow and whisper to me of endings.

I feel it coming. It's just over the hill. Yuck, the All-Star Game!

July 8, 2011

Images painted with words

Today I found this article at the Fiction Writers Review web site. It's about an artist named John Sokol who creates writers' images from their words. I won't copy the images since he sells them. But check out the link to see one of the images, and then come back and read the next pararaph.

Kinda cool, huh? Obviously the guy can do this with any images or words. I was thinking it might be fun to have an image of yourself done in words that are a message from you to your descendants. You could leave the image to them in your will. And if you dislike them you could have your portrait made out of super-nasty stuff. You could really let go, knowing there is absolutely no possibility of a snappy retort. It could be wonderfully vicious. And the words could form an image of you snarling at them! Just think of the possibilities.

See? Smoking is good for you.

There's an article out today that reports a surprising medical finding. It seems that smokers -- and especially heavy smokers -- have a significantly lower risk of severe osteoarthritis.

Take that, restrictive smoking laws! Those smokers are just trying to stay healthy.

Defensive indifference, round two

I read an article on physorg.com today about longevity. In it, a scientist predicted that within 25 years, humans would be born who would live for 1,000 years. Never mind whether he's right or not. Let's just think about how this would change things.

For the sake of argument, let's take the idea a step further. What if we could undergo a treatment today that made us live for 1,000 years? You know what would happen almost immediately? Suddenly everyone would care about global warming! Because it would affect them.

You know I'm right. People are so goddamn selfish that they're willing to let the world die as long as it happens at a later date, to someone else. But make us all live for 1,000 years and suddenly people would care about the future, because it would be their future.

This thought is disheartening because it's obviously true. Defensive indifference: people don't care about anything unless it affects them personally. And so today I send out a big "ugh!" to the human race. Perhaps we don't deserve to prosper as a species. Maybe it would be best if we simply went extinct. I just don't know anymore.

PS: If you click on the link above to read the article at physorg, you may notice that the title of the article, "Is living forever in the future?", is literally senseless. The headline should read, "Is living forever in our future?" 

July 7, 2011

Are these the "good old days" for this blog?

I must say, I enjoy writing posts for the blog. And frankly, the lack of commenters doesn't bother me. Annie's quite enough -- and there's always the occasional comment from Carmine, who reads the blog daily (and better yet, supplies me with images. Go, Carmine). Plus the blog sees about 50 hits a day. I have no clue who these visitors are since they never leave breadcrumbs.

But now that I've finished Xmas Carol (see short post below) I'm inevitably closer to the day when the public gets its hands on my novel. In the e-book I'm going to include a link to this blog. I guess this means that at some point we'll hear from satisfied readers, unsatisfied readers, and all sorts of irate wingnuts. Whatever the result, it won't be the same blog.

So I'm thinking maybe these are the good old days. The nature of the blog will change when/if readers visit. I'd love it if a lively, good-spirited group of commenters arrived. As for the wingnuts, what can you do? There are wingnuts in the world, and that's a fact. Hopefully, a group of commenters will have fun razzing them. It might even get a bit PZ-ish around here. One can hope.

One final note: after the book is out, I'm not at all sure how I should handle comments that contain spoilers. This is a biggie for me. Each of my books has surprises for readers. If commenters talk about those elements of the book(s) here -- it will screw up the experience for potential readers.

Well, I'll figure it out when I get there -- if I get there. Maybe no one will buy my book(s). In which case, Annie and Carmine and I will just have to carry on without the throng. Oh, the humanity! On the other hand, what the hell. We're up to the task.

What do you think? Savannah? Anyone?

Xmas Carol is finished

Yesterday I finished my final edit of Xmas Carol. Today I'm printing the book (okay, my sister is printing it) and tomorrow I'll send a copy to our own Artichoke Annie, who has agreed to read it. No one else has read the final version. Annie will be the first. Well, okay: I also gave an ePub version to Carmine, who wants to reread the book -- always a good sign.

I can't believe I'm done!

July 6, 2011

Racist terminology on MSNBC

A headline at MSNBC today reads "The jig is up -- men like to cuddle more". I'm amazed at their insensitivity.

No one should use the term "the jig is up". It means "the black guy is hanging in the tree" and does not belong in civilized discourse.

In the culture-free zone that is our media, I'm sure the dimwit writer who produced this headline wasn't aware of the phrase's meaning. At least, I hope s/he wasn't. But there's no excuse for ignorance.

On the other hand, when I googled the phrase today I only found one reference to this historical meaning. It was a question on a page labeled "Phrase Finder Derivation Discussion". The writer asked:
I once took a course in Black History, and we were told that the saying "The jig is up" referred to the lynching of a black... "is up" meant that the black had been hung/lynched... the rope around his neck lifted him up... now dead. In the past week, I have heard officials/speakers at two different graduation ceremonies use the phrase, and when I looked it up, I was NOT able to verify my interpretation learned in the Black History course. One of the graduation speaker was the actor Tom Hanks, and I would assume he would have pretty good knowledge of what he spoke... Anybody help me?
And the derivation fools wrote in response, "Nothing to do with lynching." I beg to differ. This was a phrase used in the South to indicate a "successful" lynching. That America has decided to forget this is pitiful and disturbing.

This fact may have fallen down the white memory hole but I guarantee you there are many African-Americans out there who are greatly offended when this phrase is used. And that's why MSNBC needs to apologize. 

Any people of color want to chime in on this? Do you find it offensive? (Okay, white people can comment too.)

July 5, 2011

Leigh Bowery was a genius

Leigh Bowery, according to Wikipedia, was an "Australian performance artist, club promoter, actor, pop star, model and fashion designer." I saw a documentary about him once and fell in love with him. He did things like no one else.

This man was a monumental creative genius. Each night he'd go out to a club, dressed in a new outfit of his own design. He did this every day! And the designs, as you can see from these photos, were startling. He carved out new territory in his final years in a mad, years-long design-a-thon, never stopping, always producing, day after day. He paved the way for many artists and fashion designers who followed, among them Boy George (who copied many of his looks) and Alexander McQueen, who certainly fed off Bowery's attitude.

I think Leigh Bowery was one of the all-time, mainline sources of creativity. Something wild was working its way through this man, and he shared it all with the world, showing them things they'd never seen or imagined. I'm just floored by the images he created. I wish he was still alive today. Dog knows what he'd be doing by now. Alas, he died in 1994, reportedly from AIDS-related causes. An oddly private man when not performing, Bowery reportedly didn't want people to be told of his death. He said, "tell them I've gone pig farming in Bolivia".

He was something. I mean, just look at the large-leg thing. It's brilliant. He wasn't limited by the structure of the human body. He made his own shapes, and they were something to behold. I adore this guy.

One last image. Ain't he great?