Sunday, November 29, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: Great Literature Made Easy (Borges)

Oh how well I remember my college Spanish literature class, when we were "reading" (i.e., in my case, anyway, plugging through the story with Spanish-English dictionary at hand, writing down the definitions of about half of all the words in the story) "Funes el Memorioso," by Jorge Luis Borges.

I was so embarrassed when the teacher asked me the meaning of a word which I had not bothered to look up. The word was in this sentence: " Y también, hacia el alba: Mi memoría, señor, es como vacíadero de basuras." Turns out the word was, in English, "garbage." Funes was telling the narrator, at the end of a long night of talking, toward dawn, "My memory, Sir, is like a garbage dump."

That was in the olden days, before the Internet. Just think, if I were studying Spanish literature in the newen days, I could have looked up the story in Spanish AND English, along with innumerable articles interpreting it.

So when the instructor had asked me the next question, about the meaning of this sentence (after he explained that "basura" is Spanish for "garbage" and "vaciadero" is "dumping site," I could have amazed him with a bunch of literary interpretations. Or I could have just consulted Wikipedia, which would link me to a TON of literary and not-so-literary ideas I could have used to write a crazy good paper. What if I had read only these three references from the Wikipedia page:
Oliver Sacks (2008-04-16). "Life-changing books: The Mind of a Mnemonist". New Scientist. 
The woman who can remember everything, The Telegraph, 9 May 2008

A Case of Unusual Autobiographical Remembering" Psychology Press, 2006

I could have even watched a movie made from the story:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

So, now that you've read up on general survival skills, how 'bout roughing it with zombies?

Here's the "Nanny's Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse,"  with tips you might have figured out for yourself, such as this one:
* When caring for small children during a zombie outbreak, it is preferable to barricade oneself and one's charges inside the house you're working in and await rescue rather than try to travel to a stronghold. First, set the child/children down at the highest and most secure part of the dwelling, along with food, nappies, bedding and medical supplies. Fill up as many water vessels as you can before the water supply is compromised. After you've done this, destroy the staircase and use any and all furniture to build a barrier. However, make sure there is an emergency exit in case your walls are breached.
Another news flash from this blog: " NEVER leave yourself without food, rest or medicine so that the child/children can have more. They can live without that little bit extra. They can't live without you."

This kind of stuff is news to exactly whom? Oh, well, it's cute and funny, and it's just one post on a generally useful site,  if you're a nanny. So I'm not really putting it down.

Then there are the cutesie "5 Reasons a Toddler Would Survive a Zombie Apocalypse" and "10 Reasons Why Moms Will Survive a Zombie Apocalypse." 

BEST EVER zombie apocalypse survival tips are in this post, "25 Things You Should Never Do During a Zombie Apocalypse."  To give you the flavor of this delightful article, No. 1 is "Set a zombie on fire." But what makes this work are the film clips illustrating each point. For "Get too cocky," there's this clip from "Shaun of the Dead."

25 Things You Should Never Do During A Zombie Apocalypse

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: Survival Edition

I found an article, "How Not to Die," in a 2-year-old "Popular Mechanics" magazine at the doctor's office (yes, I recirculate magazines) that was fascinating. You can read it online here, complete with explanatory diagrams.

I realized after looking through the Popular Mechanics Web site that this magazine is full of survival tips, including this one, "How to Survive Absolutely Anything." The subtitle, "Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters can turn a region upside down in a day. And for some unlucky families the crisis may last for weeks if not months," is a good preview. Obviously I recommend this (because this post is called "Some Recommended Reading," duh).

I mean, look at this section:
A basic first-aid kit may not be enough to get you through the worst of a disaster. It's a good start—you do want bandages, gauze pads, aspirin, hydrocortisone, antiseptic wipes, etc.—but unexpected emergencies demand unconventional remedies. We asked Mykel Hawke, former Green Beret medic and host of Elite Tactical Unit on the Outdoor Channel, what he would add. His list:
· DUCT TAPE—Great for wound closure, splints, and casts.
· SUPERGLUE—Excellent for small, deep wounds. Use tape to hold while drying.
· TAMPONS—An unexpected tool for stanching heavy bleeding.
· NEEDLE-NOSE PLIERS—Use for removing large splinters or nails.
And the next section, "How to read a FEMA map," tells you how to find out if that illustrious federal agency has mistakenly labeled your home as being in a flood zone. (Hint: Probably not. But why not check for yourself?) 

On the Popular Mechanics Web site I also found a link to a blog, "Self Sufficient Mountain Living," which is kind of interesting. Well, the day-to-day details aren't always interesting. What makes people who are living in cabins in the mountains think that moving to the wilderness will keep them from being sometimes bored, sometimes restless, sometimes depressed? The new great American fantasy: roughing it!

Will you have YouTube in survival mode? Probably not, so be sure to check out this video BEFORE the dam breaks, the earthquake hits, or the tsunami crushes your beach resort:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Weird Word of the Week: Lulz

I know it's an old one, but it occurred to me while watching the latest Republican debate Tues. night. Was Rand Paul just trolling the other Republicans on that stage? Was he doing it for the Lulz?

Here's the Wiktionary definition:

lulz ---  Fun; amusement; humor; especially schadenfreude. Some quotes from this same article:
  • 2007 July 26, KKTV Fox 11 News report:
    Anonymous gets big lulz from pulling random pranks
  • 2008 June 20, Tom Whipple, “Scientology: the Anonymous protestors”, in The Times:
    Like “Hakuna matata” in The Lion King, “lulz” is not just a word, but a philosophy. [...] Anonymous has made campaigning sexy for the first time since 1968. The lulz is, after all, the ancient spirit that once made the young become Marxists, or sail off to the New World.
  • 2008 August 3, Mattathias Schwartz, “Malwebolence - The World of Web Trolling”, in The New York Times:
    Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: Tech Edition (And Bonus: Walnut Creek!)

Look familiar? 

1.  Here's one worry put to rest:  Is Windows 10 telemetry a threat to your personal privacy? If, like me, you struggle to read through an entire article about this stuff, here's the gist of it:
Microsoft insists that its telemetry system is designed to prevent any privacy issues. "We collect a limited amount of information to help us provide a secure and reliable experience," the company says, describing telemetry data without using the term. "This includes data like an anonymous device ID and device type. ... This doesn't include any of your content or files, and we take several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you, such as your name, email address or account ID."
I have watched Microsoft's behavior in regard to privacy over the years. This statement is consistent with the way the company works, in my experience, and I am unaware of any evidence from external sources that contradicts these statements.
So there's no on-off switch for this category of data collection. Instead, Windows 10 has three telemetry settings: Basic, Enhanced, and Full.

And here's the ZDNet Tech Today Web site, for lots of "fun" reading about the tech world, if you're one of those who thinks this is fun.

2.  But wait, there's more!

So you think the Windows 10 telemetry is not a problem for you, so you're not worried any more, right? So check out this article, from The Atlantic: "If You're Not Paranoid, You're Crazy." 

Opening bit:

I knew we’d bought walnuts at the store that week, and I wanted to add some to my oatmeal. I called to my wife and asked her where she’d put them. She was washing her face in the bathroom, running the faucet, and must not have heard me—she didn’t answer. I found the bag of nuts without her help and stirred a handful into my bowl. My phone was charging on the counter. Bored, I picked it up to check the app that wirelessly grabs data from the fitness band I’d started wearing a month earlier. I saw that I’d slept for almost eight hours the night before but had gotten a mere two hours of “deep sleep.” I saw that I’d reached exactly 30 percent of my day’s goal of 13,000 steps. And then I noticed a message in a small window reserved for miscellaneous health tips. “Walnuts,” it read. It told me to eat more walnuts.

It was probably a coincidence, a fluke. Still, it caused me to glance down at my wristband and then at my phone, a brand-new model with many unknown, untested capabilities. Had my phone picked up my words through its mic and somehow relayed them to my wristband, which then signaled the app?

So, you really ARE crazy if you're not paranoid about privacy with all your electronic devices!

3.  Finally, speaking of technology, and speaking of walnuts***, the city of Walnut Creek has a Web site with lots of interesting photos and information. Check it out, and watch as you go from a charming rustic scene of a shed in a field to, next photo, a couple of German Shepherd police dogs outside of police cars with the warning painted on the side, STAY BACK POLICE DOG. What's really funny are the photos of the downtown, completely different from when I was a kid. But the overall background of the site, with the foothills and lovely Mount Diablo, brings back good memories.

***When I was searching for the online version of this story, which I read originally in the print version of the magazine, I typed in "Walnut" to my search engine, and came up with the Walnut Creek link, and couldn't resist it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: "Heart of a Dog" and "Grantland"

---- Heart of a Dog:

"How a 68-year-old novice filmmaker made one of the best movies of the year" is an inspiring read for all of us who have been told that 28 is way too old to succeed in the film industry.

Oh, okay, the 68-year-old is Laurie Anderson, but she still had to go through the crap everyone else has to --- that is, everyone who wants to make something of herself, contribute to the world, make other people happy.

The movie is "Heart of a Dog," but it's about more than dogs, more than her beloved dog Lolabelle, more than the "Tibetan purgatory known as the bardo." And here's how she summed up what she did and what her philosophy is: "It’s part of my philosophy of life not to push things away," [Anderson] told Indiewire’s Dana Harris on the Influencers podcast. "Don’t sit there whining. Do something."

(BTW, I found the link to the "Heart of a Dog" story on Stage 32:

---- Grantland:

ESPN is shutting down the blog "Grantland," but apparently people will still be able to read the past stories shared there, as a CNN reporter tweeted that all Grantland content will be archived on

I glanced at --- and passed on --- most of the stories in a list of Grantland's supposedly best stories ever. But here's one I thought worth reading, "The Wet Stuff." (You don't have to be related to anyone who works at a water park to enjoy this story, either.)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Good News for the Environment (Nestle Loses Water "Rights")

I'm pasting below the entire text of an e-letter I just received from Bark, a local environmentalist group I belong to:

No, never mind, I tried that, and it was unreadable. So I'll summarize the gist of it here:

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has told the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife to withdraw the application to transfer a state-owned water right that would have enabled Nestle to build a water-bottling plant along the Columbia River.

(My personal note: Nestle was planning to make this water-bottling plant in a town that is a sweet little backwater, pun intended, a place you enjoy seeing along the river between the beautiful waterfalls on the Oregon side. They would have put publicly owned water from a natural resource and one of the great rivers of North America into plastic bottles which they would sell. The company claimed it would bring in 1,000 jobs to the town but not negatively affect the infrastructure, traffic, and so on.)

Back to the summary of the letter:  Gov. Brown said she stopped the permitting process because of a desire for a more "transparent" process. Good for her! People have been clamoring for that for years now in Oregon.

(Another personal note: Yes, I live in Washington, not Oregon, but all the people in this part of Washington, much closer to Oregon than we are to any big city in our own state, including the capital, have the same concern Oregonians have for keeping the water clean and preserving the river and its water for future generations. Not to mention for current generations:)

Back to the summary of the letter: Gov. Brown's announcement follows closely on a large Native American led rally on the Capitol steps in Salem. Native salmon fishermen have treaty rights on the Columbia River, and they, as well as Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and the Umatilla have demanded a stake in the process.

(Final personal note: How fitting that the treaty rights and fishing rights of people who have had their lands and livelihoods taken away as white settlers moved in, farmed, and built dams, are finally being acknowledged. All of us will benefit.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Some Recommended Reading: NaNoWriMo Edition

Are you doing it? How many pages per day, so far? Here's some inspiration for your writintg;

Neil Gaiman, "Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming" --- One bit from the middle of this lecture, The Reading Agency annual lecture on the future of reading and libraries with a focus on young people:
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read. And certainly couldn't read for pleasure.

It's not one to one: you can't say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.
 6 Things You Should Never Write About for NaNoWriMo --- and I'm going to list them here, but you should read the whole article to get the bits about WHY you shouldn't write about these:
---Safe things
---Boring things
---Overdone things
---Wish fulfillment things
---Predictable things
---Personal things
8 Ways to Explain NaNoWriMo to Your Non-Writer Friends --- I love them all, but I'm not going to list them all here. Read the article. You'll love it, I promise. Oh, well, here's one: "What about your job?" (Not really a way to explain it, but read the bit.)

And here's the NaNoWriMo blog. Nah, don't read it. It's a waste of time. But I had to include it, right?
Wait, I just saw a good tweet on this blog, a prompt: "Talk less. Smile more." But they didn't even attribute this quote, which is Aaron Burr talking to Alexander Hamilton in the musical "Hamilton." Duh. Always attribute your quotes, folks on Twitter.

Oh, wait, they did attribute it in the next tweet. And explained why they included it. So go ahead and read this if you want. I'm certainly not stopping you!

Finally, this post from 2011, "49 Best Blogs for NaNoWriMo Support" --- I didn't check all the links to see if they still work, but, hey, if you see a blog title that looks helpful, and particularly if you need help with your procrastination, go ahead and check 'em out.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Some Recommended Reading

Some more articles I enjoyed this week:

"All my trash for a year fit into two plastic bags. Here's how I did it." Darshan Karwat started living without trash, or recycling, as a student at the University of Michigan. He notes, "The average American produces more than four pounds of trash and recyclables per day, about 1,500 pounds per year. In my first year of living trash- and recycling-free, I produced a little more than seven and a half pounds of waste..." To do it, he had to change the way he lived. Can we do it, too? Here's his own blog, best title ever for a blog, "Minimizing Entropy," chronicling the process. 

Facebook replies to activists' protest of risky rule: If you don't like the way people can use your name and identifying info already, think about what it would be like to have stalkers and other mean people come after you. Facebook isn't really fixing it. But neither does anyone actually have to use their "real" name. Or address, or date of birth.   

"This Book Drives a Wooden Stake Into the Mythology of Bats," on the National Geographic Web site, is a review of Merlin Tuttle's "The Secret Lives of Bats"  (Follow this link to the Amazon page to buy the book.)  In an interview, the author was asked why we associate bats with vampires, why we're scared of them. He said, "We tend to fear most what we understand least. Indonesia’s fruit bats (called Flying Foxes) are gigantic. They have a three- to nearly six-foot wingspan and live out in the open where people can see them easily. They are eulogized as folk heroes there. Nobody’s afraid of bats when they see them and understand them."

"Cutting added sugar could improve health in 10 days..." Do you believe it? I do, absolutely. But if you Google all the references to this study, you'll find some criticizing its methodology. On the other hand, who needed a study to know that sugar was bad for you? Come on, folks! We've known it all along!

And, speaking of sugar, WebMD says "Too Many Seniors With Diabetes Are Overtreated." The sub-headline is "Even when blood sugar, blood pressure levels dropped too low, doctors didn't cut back on meds." Hmmm. Does anyone besides me see the source of the problem here?

Finally, "My Heart-to-Heart with God about the Sabbath" is well written and was published online just when I needed a boost.

Wait, one more thing, Shaping Sound: amazing choreography with the greatest rock song ever, Bohemian Rhapsody.