Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haribo Sugarless Gummy Bears

Dear Readers,

If you need a laugh today, please check out the page for this product. 

Do not order the product for yourself. In fact, do not even bother to look at the product's description, although you may be edified by this safety warning:

"Consumption of some sugar-free candies may cause stomach discomfort and/or a laxative effect.  Individual tolerance will vary.  If this is the first time you’ve tried these candies, we recommend beginning with one-fourth of a serving size or less. Made with Lycasin, a sugar alcohol. As with other sugar alcohols, people sensitive to this substance may experience upset stomachs."

Then, warning in mind, scroll down and read the funniest reviews ever. For example:

"As I type this review, I'm on the toilet, surrounded by my dearest family and friends and a priest. I'm not exactly sure whether this is an exorcism or if I'm getting my last rites read to me. This very well could be my final crowning moment. I may never make it back to my feet. What a way to go. Will I go out by suffocating in a toxic byproduct stench? Will I croak from my body expelling all essential nutrients for life? Is this the apocalypse?..."

Perhaps you'd like to order the product for, say, your member of Congress. Or your former significant other who broke up with you by e-mail.


Madame L

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Should I Dress in Blackface This Halloween?

Dear Madame L,

Should I dress in blackface this Halloween?


Need a Costume

Dear Costumer,



Madame L

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review, October 27, 2013: The Reason I Jump

Madame L bought this book on the recommendation of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and Madame L is passing along Mr. Stewart's recommendation:

Read this book. You don't have to have a child or a friend or a friend with a child with autism to appreciate it. But if you do, as Madame L does, you'll especially appreciate it.

"The Reason I Jump" was written by a Japanese boy with autism. It explains better than any of the many other books Madame L has read on this subject what is going on in the minds of autistic people.

If you don't want to buy your own copy (Madame L got hers from for $13.54) and the waiting list at your local library is too long, please let Madame L know you're interested, and she'll send you her own copy.

Really. It's that good, and it's that essential for us to understand and empathize with these people who so desperately need our understanding and care.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bike History 101

Thanks to the Vancouver Bicycle Club for these 9 interesting facts, which they in turn took from "Bicycle: The History," by David Herlihy, and from "The World Almanac Book of Records: Firsts, Feats, Facts & Phenomena," by Mark Young.

1. In 1817, Karl von Drais, a German baron, invented a horseless carriage that would help him get around faster. The two-wheeled, pedal-less device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground. The machine became known as the "draisine," and led to the creation of the modern-day bicycle.

2. The term "bicycle" was not introduced until 1860s when it was coined in France to describe a new kind of two-wheeler with a mechanical drive. The French borrowed from the Greek word, "cyclos," which means "circle."

3. Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who built the first flying airplane, operated a small bike repair shop in Dayton, Ohio. They used their workshop to build the 1903 bike "The Wright Flyer."

4. Fred A. Birchmore, 25, circled the globe by bicycle in 1935. The entire trip, through Europe, Asia, and the United States, covered 40,000 miles. He pedaled about 25,000 miles. The rest was traveled by boat. He wore out seven sets of tires. (Only seven sets.)

5. There are over a half billion bicycles in China. Bikes were first brought to China in the late 1800s.

6. About 100 million bicycles are manufactured worldwide each year. (And not one of them made in the USA---could that be true?)

7. Over the past 30 years, bicycle delivery services have developed into an important industry, especially in cities, where the couriers have earned a reputation for their high speed and traffic-weaving skills.

8. Americans use their bicycles for less than 1% of all urban trips. Europeans bike in cities a lot more often: In Italy 5% of all trips are on bicycle, 30% in the Netherlands, and 7 out of 8 Dutch people over age 15 have a  bike.

9. Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX), an extreme style of bicycle track racing, became a sport in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Maris Strombergs, of Latvia, won the gold medal for Men's BMX, and Anne-Caroline Chausson, of France, won the gold in the women's event.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Obamacare Train Wreck?

Dear Madame L,

I'm sure you've heard about all the problems people are having signing up for Obamacare, with the government websites not even working. How can you still support this idea?


Less Government

Dear Less Government,

Madame L still supports the idea of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, as many people call it; and she is positive that it is going to be successful and helpful for millions of Americans who currently don't have affordable health care insurance.

Madame L is sorry so many people are having problems with the website and the roll-out and agrees that the feds should have planned that whole thing better. But here's the thing:

When lying politicians (strong words, but true) will say or do anything for their own partisan and re-election and donor-pleasing purposes, Madame L doesn't see any reason to believe them.

And when supposed "news" organizations report "news" that isn't news at all, Madame L thinks they should be put in the public stockade and pelted with rotten eggs. Case in point:

If you watch Fox News, you may have seen three respectable middle-aged couples complain about how Obamacare is killing their little mom-and-pop businesses and so on. But a reporter on the other side of the political fence checked up with these people and found that the truth behind their stories was the complete opposite of what they were brought on TV to say:

One couple said they had to cut back on employees because of the act, even though it applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees, and they have only 4 employees. One said insurance under the ACA would be more expensive than their current insurance, but they hadn't even tried to compare prices; when the reporter did, he found they would save more than half under Obamacare what they were currently paying.

Madame L's point is proven again and again when politicians and their TV allies lie about the ACA. Please, Less Government, gather the facts from real news sources. And when you're receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, remember that it's the federal government's social safety net that is providing those benefits, and remember that the same fol-de-rol was folled-and-rolled out when those programs were first introduced. Also, did you know that the Heritage Foundation was the group that first came up with the idea of Obamacare's individual mandate? You can find it right here.

Madame L must add one more thing: The childish tantrum thrown by the Republican Party over the ACA is shameful. Many people, not just federal employees but many others, suffered because they were furloughed, and the example which has been set of creating a crisis every few months and demanding concessions in return for normal governance is despicable.

Sincerely, angrily, and disappointedly,

Madame L

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review, October 13, 2013: Scatter, Adapt and Remember

Subtitle: "How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction"

The author, Annalee Newitz,points out that people (humans and our proto-human ancestors), as well as many other species, have survived calamities many times in Earth's history.

And this is how humans do it: Scatter, adapt, and remember.

Madame L recommends this book if you haven't read much history and anthropology, or if you have little or no background in biology or geology or astronomy.  Also, it would be a great read if you have lots of spare time for reading a lot of fluff mixed in with a few good ideas.

But here's the thing, Dear Readers:  Madame L knows you DO love to read, but also that you have a basic education so you're aware of the basic facts about biology, geology, astronomy, history, and anthropology. Madame L also knows that, as much as you love to read, you want to read new ideas and ideas that will make you think in a new way about the world. And that means you don't want to waste your time reading old news. Because old news is, of course, not news at all.

So, here, Madame L will tell you, without any more details, because she only skimmed through the book once she realized it had very little new to offer, and has already returned it to her local library, that the title says it all.

Next time, Madame L will write about a book or books that she will recommend, including novels about how people survive apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic events. (And, interestingly, the survivors are scattered, they do adapt well, and they do remember...but they also do a lot of other things.)

Until then, please send Madame L suggestions for books you would like her to review and please send your own book reviews.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: October 6, 2013: The Trouble With Poetry

Madame L found this wonderful collection of poems by Billy Collins in her local library, and if she ever finds a used copy of it in a bookstore, she's going to snap it up.

The trouble with poetry, as Mr. Collins says, is

...that is encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world...

Not that poetry's only job is comparing everything to everything else, but it certainly does that well, doesn't it. And Billy Collins' poems make Madame L laugh and cry and think and, as he says, fill Madame L with the urge to write poetry. Which is good.

Here's another poem from that collection, so you can see what Madame L means:


Yes, that's Orion over there,
the three studs of the belt
clearly lined up just off the horizon.

And if you turn around you can see
Gemini, very visible tonight,
the twins looking off into space as usual.

That cluster a little higher in the sky
is Cassiopeia sitting in her astral chair
if I'm not mistaken.

And directly overhead,
isn't that Virginia Woolf
slipping along the River Ouse

in her inflatable canoe?
See the wide-brimmed hat and there,
the outline of the paddle, raised and dripping stars?

There, now you see what Madame L means? Doesn't that make you want to laugh and then go out and look at the stars and write your own poem?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Best Advice Ever! --- James Clear

Dear Readers,

Would you like some good advice on how to stay focused when you get bored working toward your goals?

Or are you still needing some good advice just to get started on building better habits so you can begin working toward your goals?

Madame L has been reading the blog of James Clear for a few weeks now and hopes you'll begin reading it, too. He has great ideas and he's responsive to readers' comments. He writes, for instance:
We believe that you have the right to pursue freedom and choose your direction in life. Hundreds of people have written in and shared their dream to start a business, write a book, or otherwise do work they love. The common theme through all of these responses is a clear desire to choose the direction for your own life. I haven’t heard from anyone who has said, “I wish someone would just figure it all out for me.” There have been plenty of people who admit to not having all the answers (myself included), but we are certainly a group that wants to take responsibility for the life that we live and the work that we do.

Are you one of those people who has a dream and needs help getting started? Here are some more of James's articles:

---The "Chosen Ones" Choose Themselves

---Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready

---What is Actually Required for Success

And here's one more, for how to deal with haters and critics.  Here are his main points on that subject:

I’ve said this many times before, but it bears repeating: I don’t really have anything figured out. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning to deal with criticism like everyone else.
But in my limited experiences, here’s what I can summarize about dealing with haters.
  1. First and foremost, don’t be the hater. Don’t be the person who tears down someone else’s hard work. The world needs more people who contribute their gifts and share their work and ideas. Working up the courage to do that can be tough. Support the people who display that courage.
  2. If you’re dealing with criticism, then don’t let the wall keep you from seeing the road. Focus on the path ahead. Another way I heard it put recently, “Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.”
  3. If you choose to respond to the haters, then surprise them with kindness. You might just win a new fan while you’re at it.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, make the choices that are right for you. People will criticize you either way.
Madame L's best advice for any of her Dear Readers is to follow James's advice.


Madame L