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Monday, May 03, 2010

I've Got A New Drug Blog

I am now blogging at: That's ROGER O GREEN dot COM.

Since I'm pretty sure I NEVER quoted or even paraphrased Huey Lewis and the News in five years on this blog:
I Want A New Drug


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Five Years

Stealing the idea from Bacardi, here's Five Years by David Bowie.

Frankly, I'm surprised I made it here. Five years of blogging every day, at least once a day. I have to work REALLY hard NOT to blog MORE than once a day, but I was reasonably successful; only 367 blogposts in the last 365 days, and I'm sure one of those was a prominent death that JUST COULDN'T WAIT.

But the other reason I'm surprised I made it is that, last summer, I got REALLY discouraged. I'm not one of those people who cares about having hundreds of hits a day. When my monthly numbers dropped from 4109 in May 2009 to 3041 in June, it didn't bother me overmuch. But when it sank to 1575 in July, THAT was really bothersome. What did I do wrong? I started posting notices of my blogposts on Twitter and Facebook, which actually did help a little, but I am not great at doing that regularly.

BTW, #1: I signed up with some service on the web to automatically post my blog post links to Facebook and Twitter. Instead, it was posting annoying advertising stuff to my Twitter account. So I canceled it, as soon as I saw it on my blog sidebar. Sorry about that.

BTW, #2: two people asked me why I have two Facebook accounts within 30 minutes when I went to the comic book show in Albany last Sunday. It's easy: I started one, using my work e-mail, then I couldn't find it. so I started ANOTHER one with my home e-mail. Now I know what both of them are. If I had the time, I'd just cancel one, but since there are people on one who aren't on the other...well, it'd be work. Someday. When I retire, maybe, or take a long vacation where I actually just play on the computer. That is to say, not any time soon.

Then I noticed something: this blog, which had been on the first page of Google, disappeared from Google. It didn't just fall off the first page; it seems to have vanished altogether.

Now, *I* can be found on a Google search. My Twitter and my blog on the Times Union can be found in the top 10. One of my Facebook pages and even my seldom-used Library 2.0 account - check out the vintage of the picture - are in the top 30. Even comments, articles I've written for other blogs, and specific pieces from the TU blog show up. But not this one.

This has pretty much forced a momentous decision.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

You just can't have too many computers

I had the idea for my presentation for the Underground Railroad conference months earlier. But on long-term projects, I procrastinate. (Or, conversely, I do it right away, because I know I tend to procrastinate.)

So it's the Monday before the Saturday of the conference. I've taken the day off from work. The plan: in the morning, finally watch Hurt Locker on DVD. In the afternoon, go to the library and work on the presentation. Neither of these things happen, though; the daughter is home sick for the 10th time this school year. and as usual, she's not SO sick that she's sleeping, but rather needs regular attention from daddy.

So it's now the Thursday evening before the Saturday of the conference. I blow off Bible study and choir, stay at work until 8 pm and actually get the presentation into some sort of narrative shape. It's not finished, but it's quite far along.

So it's now the day before the conference. I dig out the thumb drive I was given which I had never used, and copy the program. My intention is to finish it up at home on the wife's laptop. Except the wife's computer doesn't seem to have a cursor anymore.

So now it's the morning of the conference. I still cannot get the laptop to work. As for my desktop computer, not only is it slow, it is so old that it actually doesn't have a compatible slot for the thumb drive. I'm thinking I may have to go to the downtown branch of the library; the local branch doesn't open until 1 pm, and that's too late.

Then I play with the daughter's new Netbook that her aunt and uncle just gave her for Valentine's Day. I can't get the Internet to work on it, but the word processing is fine, and the presentation is finished Just In Time.

Eventually - I have no idea how - I've gotten the cursor to work again on the wife's laptop. I mean I'm a Luddite, but not as bad as this guy, at least most of the time.

So here's the question: do you consider yourself technologically savvy, or do you go around screaming when technology fails? I'm not a screamer, but...well, let's put it this way: DON'T hire me for IT.


Friday, April 30, 2010

35 Years After Vietnam

Was it only six years ago when I realized that the Vietnam war, contrary to the historic record, was not over after all? I'm talking, of course, about Vietnam vet John Kerry and what he did (or didn't) do in protesting a war he once fought in, dredged up during the 2004 Presidential election between Kerry and George W. Bush, whose own military record also came into question.

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so, starting with the Beyond Vietnam speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he died. (Was that just coincidence?)

The group that most influenced me at the time was the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was one thing for civilians to oppose the war. It was quite another thing to see soldiers who had been fighting the war then come out against it.

In time, I found about some of the history of conflict in Vietnam, the fighting against the Japanese and the French, among others. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 might have signaled the end of colonial occupation, but it led to greater involvement by the Americans, first in small numbers of analysts in the 1950s to massive numbers troops in the mid-1960s, facilitated in no small part by the prevarication that was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964.

No doubt that many of the soldiers may have operated honorably, but it's also true that the My Lai massacre in 1968 was not the only atrocity in this drawn-out engagement. My buddy Steve Bissette wrote a piece about a couple films delineating military failings during Vietnam and a more recent conflict. (I actually chuckled when I discovered his post was dated February 2, for that was the date in 1972 when the draft for those born in 1953 took place; that's a LONG story.)

My general disinclination towards war is fueled by the belief that even in a "good war" (a true oxymoron), bad things, unintended things occur. Even the "good guys" get it wrong sometimes, regardless of the safeguards. Thus war should always be a last resort, not a first option.

In a bold attempt to be "fair and balanced, I point out to you The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Vietnam WarK -- "the latest installment in Regnery Publishing’s bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ (“PIG”) series -- [Phillip] Jennings gives you the surprising truth, and backs it up with facts that liberals ignore."

I should note that I haven't read the book. Among the assertions:
*The Tet offensive was a debacle for the North Vietnamese
*Communist Vietnam is now trying to emulate a more capitalist approach
I actually agree with both of those statements, but not with most of the others.

Thirty-five years after Vietnam and we're still fighting the war.

Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete turns 91 on Monday.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

I am painting

I am painting the attic. The daughter helped me with the primer coat, but still--
I am painting the attic because, after we got half of the attic insulated - in JANUARY - the Wife said we had to paint that half of the attic.
I am painting the attic, even though she didn't mention painting it BEFORE we got the attic insulated.
I am painting the attic, since she thought it was "obvious" that we would have to paint it after the insulation.
I am painting the attic, even though the only time painting is "obvious" to me is when paint is peeling or obviously faded.
I am painting the attic, even though I think it's "just the attic".
I am painting the attic because all of the items in the one half of the attic are now jammed in the other half of the attic, making everything in the attic inaccessible.
I am painting the attic because I want to play my LPs.
I am painting the attic because I want to access my summer clothes.
I am painting the attic because it's the only way to get to about half of my books.
I am painting the attic because there are things on the second floor, including the Christmas decorations, that really need to go up to the attic.
I am painting the attic despite the fact that I hate painting - the feel of paint, the smell of paint. Don't tell me that modern paint has "no smell".
I am painting the attic despite the fact that I can't see the difference between the current light gray walls, the white primer and the yellow paint, so I keep painting over the same areas. Maybe I'm just colorblind.
I am painting the attic now, even though it would have been better to paint the attic in the winter, when it's not as warm.
I am painting the attic, even though it takes time away from writing a decent blog post.
Go look at these quite spectacular pictures of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
May Day, May Day! Free Comic Book Day, the Kentucky Derby and May Day all converge on May 1.
Do pacifiers lead to drug addiction and masturbation?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TV Fandom Meme

From Mr. Frog.

Pick five of your favorite shows, in no particular order, before you read the below questions, then answer them!

1. M*A*S*H
2. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
3. The Dick van Dyke Show
4. Homicide: Life on the Street
5. The Twilight Zone

01. Who's your favorite character in 2?
Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), who came across as very sweet, but who in fact was incredibly nasty.

02. Who's your least favorite character in 1?
Klinger (Jamie Farr), after he gave up the dresses. He used to be a one-trick pony, but then became a no-trick pony.

03. What's your favorite episode of 4?
Requiem for Adena. "Pembleton and Bayliss have to deal with the body of a young girl who was assaulted and killed, bring back memories of the Adena Watson case. The reflection on the old case dredges up bad memories and bad feelings which they try to put behind them." Here's a full episode guide for this great show, that was written by the guy who later wrote The Wire.

04. What's your favorite season of 5?
It was so long ago...not the first season and not the last. Probably Season Three. An episode guide.

05. Who is your favorite ship in 3?
The Alan Brady Show. (What does this question mean?)

06. Who is your anti-ship in 2?
Ted Baxter (ditto).

07. How long have you watched 1?
I watched virtually every show from the first eight seasons twice each, but the last three seasons only once each. Occasionally catch a rerun now.

08. How did you become interested in 3?
It was just there. But I admit to being fascinated by Laura Petrie's (Mary Tyler Moore) capri pants.

09. Who's your favorite actor/actress in 4?
Andre Braugher as Det. Francis Xavier "Frank" Pembleton

10. Which do you prefer: Show 1, 2 or 5?
Well, I love them all, obviously. But the hometown connection forces me to pick TZ.

11. Which show have you seen more episodes of, 1 or 3?
M*A*S*H, but only because it ran six seasons longer.

12. If you could be anyone from 4, who would you be?
Richard Belzer as Det. John Munch, who's been on about a half dozen different shows as the same character.

13. How would you kill off your favorite character in 1?
Hawkeye commits suicide trying to stop the war.

14. Give a random quote from 1.
"It's nice to be nice to the nice." Frank Burns. My wife and I STILL use this line.

15. Which character from 5 would be a good guest star on 2?
Well, since TZ is an anthology, plenty to pick from. How about the William Shatner character from Nightmare at 20,000 Feet first visiting WJM-TV, going crazy from listening to Ted. Ted could be what the Shatner character sees on the wing.

16. Would a 3/4 crossover work?
The Dick van Dyke Show and Homicide? I'm having a difficult time imagining it. Rob Sally, and Buddy go rogue, kill Alan and Mel...nah.

17. Pair 2 characters in 1 that would make an unlikely but strangely okay couple.
Staff Sgt. Luther Rizzo (G. W. Bailey) brought around by the patient Nurse Kellye (Kellye Nakahara)

18. Has 5 inspired you in any way?
Yes, to read a lot, to follow the career of Rod Serling, and to have pride in my hometown of Binghamton.

19. Overall, which show has a better cast, 2 or 4?
Probably 2, only because there were more transitions in 4. Massive regular and recurring cast on Homicide.

20. Which has better theme music, 3 or 5?
Well, van Dyke's was more melodic. TZ was more atmospheric. I guess the latter might be slightly more memorable to the current generation, but they're both great.
Oh, heck, might as well do this one, too.

1. What is your favorite Star Trek movie? (not including STXI)?
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, of course. It's the best Trek movie of the first five..

2. What is your favorite scene in STXI?
XI? Is that the new movie? Haven't seen it yet.

3. When were you first introduced to the Star Trek franchise?
My father watched it when it was on NBC 1966-69; I wasn't interested. Think I saw the CARTOON version, which I liked, then started watching the original series, by then in syndication.

4. Is there anything Star Trek around the room in which you're currently sitting?
No, actualloy. I thought I had an episode guide, but I'm not seeing it.

5. Vulcan ears are: A) cute, B) sexy, C) neither, D) both.
D. Both.

6. If you could be any other species than human in the Star Trek universe, you would be:
Vulcans. I know it's the obvious answer; there you go.

7. Which pet would you rather have: a sehlat or a tribble?
well, not the Tribbles.

8. Who might you cast in the role of reboot Nurse Chapel? Khan? Other reboot character?
Kate Beckinsale was the first person I thought of for Chapel; don't know why.
Khan I'd leave be.

9. Kirk and Spock are:
Brothers of different blood types.

10. If you could give any Star Trek character a chance to be captain of the Enterprise?

BONUS. Think fast! Give one Star Trek quote from memory.
"Please, Spock, do me a favor... and don't say it's `fascinating' -- Dr. McCoy


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

O is for Olympics

You thought that when the closing ceremonies took place in Vancouver, BC at the end of February, the high-caliber athletes had almost all left town. But there would be, in March, a parallel "Olympics", he Paralympics, coming to the Canadian city. This involves a number of athletes who compete at the highest levels despite their physical disabilities.

The Paralympics started in 1960 (summer) and 1976 (winter), and has its own governing board, separate from the IOC. Yet, since the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, the location of these games have paralleled the locations of the Summer and Winter Olympics. At least for the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Olympics and the Paralympics share a common organizing committee. I called the U.S. folks in the Paralympic movement to clarify the relationship between the two groups, but the public relations person was not available.

The summer and winter games include the following sports, governed by the IPC: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, Powerlifting, Shooting, Swimming, Wheelchair Dance Sport, plus several sports regulated by international federations, and a handful of others under the jurisdiction of International Organization of Sport for the Disabled.

The Paralympics are not to be confused with the Special Olympics, founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. "For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves."

Not incidentally, this year is the premiere of the Youth Olympic Games;you can find more here.

Of course, there are the Olympics, which ran for about 1000 years, then was canceled for over a millennium, with a few furtive attempts to restart during that time. I'm not going to talk about the modern Games, which started in 1896, except for three things:
1) if I ever get to Switzerland, I MUST go to the Olympic museum
2) a really cool feature on the site is feature that can retrieve all the Olympic results from 1896 through 2008; Vancouver is not yet represented.
3)Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC head, recently died. Got to say that he really modernized the financing of the games, though there were some issues over the Salt Lake City Games. And, except for American Avery Brundidge, he was the only IOC head I could name.

Sumi, the Paralympics mascot

ABC Wednesday

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Lydster, Part 73: The Health Report

A bunch of pictures from last fall. The reason I don't use a digital camera is the very real likelihood that I would lose it. I took these on a one-use camera, then lost it, then recently found it.

In any case, Lydia is 4'2" (50 inches) and 70 pounds. She's over the 97th percentile for her height and her weight. She's very active. Not only does she take ballet once a week, but she dances in front of the TV to the music of her favorite TV shows. Usually it's quite graceful, though the thing she was doing to one particular song from the Backyardigans looked more like thrash dancing.

She loves to run. In a 50-yard race, she will beat me because she has great acceleration; eventually, I can catch her, but it is by using maximum effort. She'll race me up the stairs and always beat me, but to be fair to me, she usually has the inside track.

She has various and sundry allergies, some seasonal, others year-round. She takes Zyrtec practically daily, plus her fluoride and vitamin, and other medicines seasonally, as needed. She was tested again, and she's still allergic to peanuts; she's never been allergic to tree nuts, but we have to avoid them too, since they tend to be processed in the same location.

She lost her eighth (or is it her ninth?) baby tooth this week, and has one adult tooth (top center). I must say that the Tooth Fairy is WAY more generous with her than she was with me.

As I've noted she's doing well in school. Initially she fretted that she wasn't ready - the source of the glum look (above) is that this was the first day of school back in September - but now she loves it.

I generally help her with her homework. Recently, he had to add coins, two quarters, and she guessed 51 cents. I explained that if 5 plus 5 equal a number ending in zero, than any two numbers each with the last digit of 5 added together would end with zero. She hugged me and said, "Thank you for showing me that, Daddy!" She REALLY loves to learn. The curse of being the child of a teacher and a librarian, I suppose.

EDIT: Found picture.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

April Ramblin'

Fun Interpretation of the Google Books Settlement

What I love about my Bible study: we talk a LOT about current affairs. Part of the conversation recently, in reading the 23rd Psalm, was "What IS evil?' One of the examples I thought of was the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to incite.

We also were distressed about the new Arizona immigration law Two thoughts on that. Remember the Sun City (video) album from the 1980s? Sun City was the resort town in South Africa, which, during apartheid came to symbolize the difference in conditions for blacks and whites. On that album was the song, Let Me See Your ID (video).

The other thing is that famous quote by theologian Martin Niemöller
"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Having been profiled one or twice (yeah, right), this really disturbs me.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: FOX News, GOP further 'the un-mooring of politics from fact' (video)
Gunn High School Sings Away Kansas Hate Group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (video).
The vengeance of Bernie Goldberg on the Daily Show (Link to video). I don't recall Goldberg being quite so wack when he was on CBS.
Plaque in honor of activist William Moore unveiled. He was a civil rights activist from around my hometown of Binghamton, NY, who was murdered in Alabama in 1963. The local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, with which my father worked, was named after him. It even rhymed: The William L. Moore chapter of CORE.
Very soon, you can listen to the sounds of the cosmos yourself. All of the data from the SETI program will soon be available at to download or play.
New national park quarters unveiled: U.S. Mint debuts designs for the first five coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will honor 56 national parks. The rest will be released through 2021. I probably WON'T collect them; still haven't found most of the 2009 quarters.
MAD Artist Jack Davis’ Illustrations of NBC’s 1965-66 Season for TV Guide is really cool, especially if you remember the shows, which I do.
Angelina Jolie is in the summer movie I can't wait to see, Salt, which was filmed in part in Albany, NY. The filming caused massive traffic delays for days.
Siren's Crush Receives Rave Reviews from NAMM (short video). This is my niece's group; Rebecca is the brunette female.
My friend Deborah, who I met in 1977 in Manhattan, and who's been living in France for the past quarter century, recently bought a beautiful old stone house in Brittany with a plan of partly financing the loan by renting it out as a holiday home.

The Kan ar Vouac'h website and its listing on VRBO are finally done, and she's hoping to be putting the final touches on buying the final necessaries over the month of May.

I'm told it's a lovely and reasonable place to stay in Brittany.
Retiree Bathtub Test

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, "How do you determine whether or not a retiree should be put in an old age home?"

"Well," he said, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the retiree and ask him or her to empty the bathtub"

"Oh, I understand," I said. "A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup."

"No" he said. "A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Public Figure Punishment and Race

As you may have heard, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who helped his team win the Super Bowl a couple times, will be suspended the first six games of the 16-game season for "violating the NFL's personal conduct policy." The punishment, handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, involved "a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March." The district attorney declined to prosecute, fearing he could not make his case, but he spoke in rather damning terms at a press conference HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. I didn't to the whole thing, maybe 10 of the 40 minutes, but it was enough. This is not the first time allegations about Ben's sexual improprieties have surfaced.

What surprised me, but should not have, is this barrage of comments suggesting that he fared better or fared worse because he is white. Just Google Roethlisberger race. Some people complained that Michael Vick, dog killer, got only a two-game suspension; however, he also went to jail.

1. Is the punishment adequate, too much or too little?
2. What does race have to do with it, if anything?
3. Should Ben get traded to another team? CAN he get traded?
4. Does the NFL Commissioner have too much authority as "judge, jury and executioner", as one pundit called it? In other sports, there is an appeals process, but the only appeal to the NFL Commissioner is to the NFL Commissioner.

My thoughts: it's a judgment call, it got the QB's attention, but I wish action had been taken on some of these earlier incidents; much ado about not much, but race still gets infused in EVERYTHING; another team would be crazy to take him; yes.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Copyright Law Is A Ass

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, the Copyright and Patent Clause (or Patent and Copyright Clause), the Intellectual Property Clause and the Progress Clause, empowers the United States Congress:
“ To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Note the word "limited".

The current law says that copyright is for the "life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier. Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978, was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date."

I'd like to say that the continuing extensions of the copyright law is unconstitutional. I'd LIKE to say that, but I can't, because the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in 2003.

To be fair, this law is more or less consistent with the Berne convention, signed by the United States in 1988

But in a more fundamental way, there seems to be a gross lack of understanding about copyright generally. Copyright protection is not an absolute. People can use other people's copyrighted materials all the time through fair use, use in reviews, parody.

An interesting take on copyright comes from Paul Rapp, intellectual property lawyer from around these parts. He is also F. Lee Harvey Blotto, drummer of the almost legendary band Blotto.

Web portals like YouTube are protected by the "safe harbor" provisions of a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says that YouTube generally doesn’t have to actively monitor what’s being posted on its site. Once the portal is informed that there’s infringing stuff posted, it has a duty to investigate and take down offending material. This merely reaffirms that it’s the copyright owners’ duty to police its copyright, not someone else’s. In other words, it’s Viacom’s job, not YouTube’s.

This makes perfect sense. Because often the copyright owner is fine that their stuff has been posted without permission. A few years ago I noticed that folks had posted Blotto’s old videos on YouTube. My reaction was "great, now I don’t have to do it." I’d been meaning to do it myself but was too lazy to figure out how. We wanted the videos up, for whatever promotional value they might bring. Somebody even posted "Lifeguard" under the heading "Worst 80’s Video Ever." It’s closing in on a quarter-million hits, and the comments are amazing. And I ain’t touchin’ it.

And I’m certainly not alone here. Lots of copyright owners turn a blind eye to "unauthorized" posts...

Several times a day someone sends me a YouTube link, usually of some old music video that’s brilliant, funny, or revealing, often all three at once. Does somebody own the copyrights to these things? Undoubtedly. Did they put them up themselves? Maybe, maybe not. And are they mad that their stuff’s on the internet? Probably not. They’re probably delighted.

So copyright, both in law and as a practical matter, is not as "obvious" or "simple" as it may appear.
And speaking of intellectual property gone awry, I think it's reprehensible that one company can "own" a patent on human genes and I was thrilled when the company Myriad lost a ruling over breast cancer-gene patents, a suit brought by the ACLU, plus the March of Dimes and a number of medical organizations.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

It's been forty years since the first Earth Day. 40 years since I was on my knees Picking up over 1300 cigarette butts from the lawn of my high school, which has forever made me irritable about smokers using the ground as their ashtray. Hey, people, those filters don't break down very easily.

Since then, there have been very definite successes. Consumers increasingly have sought out products or services that promise to improve the environment. Well, sometimes. The Hummer, for instance, was initially unfathomably popular, then, done in by higher gas prices, became the poster child for wretched excess.

The Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1970, under a Republican President, Richard Nixon, with William Ruckelshaus as its first head. In a recent wall Street Journal piece, Rucklehaus discusses what should happen next here.

(Nixon wasn't that bad a President, except for, you know, the war and Watergate. Ruckelshaus, BTW, was fired as Deputy Attorney General a result of the Watergate "Saturday Night Massacre"; here is his recent account of that event.)

But there continues to be a debate green or growth, as though one could not have both, that \environmentalism is somehow anathema to capitalism. As a business librarian, I just don't believe that is the case.

Much has been made of all the "green" jobs the Obama administration has promised that have not yet come to fruition. Thinking back to the Industrial Revolution, in some ways, it was more evolutionary in that the old ways didn't disappear overnight. Patience is required.

Meanwhile, we need to respect those canaries in the coal mine, those polar bears drifting on ice floes, those penguins that have to travel 25% further for food, the potential loss of species, not from natural selection, but rather from human activity.

Yet there are people who not only think that the earth's temperature rise is a naturally occurring phenomenon - I don't believe that, but people are allowed to disagree - but that the earth isn't warming at all. They take examples such as the especially snowy winter in parts of the United States as "proof". MY proof is this chart from NASA:

No, not every year is warmer than the last. But the trend line is clear. We ignore it, literally at our peril.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No, I'm NOT Doing Kill Your TV Week

The annual tradition of encouraging people to forgo their television viewing is upon us again. Frankly, I had forgotten this until my wife sent an e-mail.

Have you thought about how much TV you have watched this year? I think you will be surprised to see the statistics on this web site. For example the number of hours the average youth spends watching TV in a year is 1500 hours! YIKES!

National Turn off the TV week begins today. See if you can challenge yourself and your children to "turn off" to TV and "turn on" to reading!

This is all well and good. The problem is this: I LIKE TV. I don't get to watch it all that often, sharing it with The Wife and the Daughter. Not that the Daughter watches it all that much either. She watches maybe 15 minutes in the morning, when she's getting her hair done, then less than a half hour at night when she takes her medicines, including using her nebulizer. The average youth may watch over 1500 hours a year, but our youth sees less than 300. And all of it, on PBS Kids and Nick, Jr. with some legitimate educational content; I'm actually all right with that. In fact, in honor of Earth Day, Nick, Jr. is going to have a series of new shows on the topic which I had recorded for her.

So when the Wife came home Monday night and said to the Daughter, "Hey, how would you like it if I read you a story while you nebulize instead of watching TV," and the Daughter frowned and said, "I don't want to do that," I was a bit sympathetic to the Daughter. I told the Wife that she had to sell the concept. So, a half hour later, AFTER I HAD WATCHED THE NEWS, BTW, the Wife repeated what she said before. The Daughter said, "Daddy doesn't want to stop watching his news, does he?" Well, no, actually he does not.

By "selling it", I mean to find the key to MOTIVATE the Daughter not to want to watch TV. There was this article a book review, really, in TIME magazine a couple months ago. Regarding Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the piece begins: "Whether you're a manager, a parent or a civic leader, getting people to change can be tricky business. In Switch, brothers Chip and Dan Heath--authors of the best-selling Made to Stick--survey efforts to shape human behavior in search of what works.

"Lesson No. 1: tell people what you want them to do in a way that will make intuitive sense to them." Not watching TV, rather out of the blue, made no sense to her. She was going to get a story anyway before bed. Perhaps discussing how others were also doing this across the country, aligned with some reward, might have worked.

Besides, since I watch very little in real time with the DVR - even the news is taped - I don't really want to give it up myself. Does no TV mean that we just fill up the DVR and watch more NEXT week? The DVR's hovering around 50% full already.

In parenting, we really try to do the united front thing. But in this case, my heart simply wasn't in it.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

N is for New Zealand

I have not traveled extensively. I've been to about 30 US states. Outside of the country, I've only been to Canada, Mexico and Barbados, only the former more than once. So I get to "travel" through a number of blogs.

One of the blogs I visit is Nik Durga's Spatula Forum. Nik is "an American journalist who now lives in New Zealand with my kiwi wife and son." Somehow, this led me to Arthur is another American expat living in New Zealand, of longer tenure, who writes: "I moved to New Zealand from Chicago in 1995 to be with my partner. I've worked in the printing and publishing industries for about twenty years." It's possible I found Arthur through Nik's appearance on Arthur's podcast, but I don't recall.

Regardless, Arthur celebrated the third anniversary of his podcast last month, March 28, to be precise. In honor of that, he posed 20 questions, for which he kindly also presented the answers, which people were supposed to send him in order to win a "Kiwi prize pack"; alas, I did not win. Being a tad librarianish, I decided to send along links with the answers, which was not required. It later occurred to me that those links could be the basis of THIS VERY blogpost.

The information will not be in the order that Arthur gave it, since his was intentionally all over the place chronologically.

The Waitangi Treaty was signed February 6, 1840. This "extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection, and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British subjects."

The First_Taranaki War, fueled by a land dispute between the Maori and the Europeans,
began on March 17, 1860 and ended on March 18, 1861.

The New Zealand Cross was created on March 10, 1869, important "because New Zealand's local military were not eligible for the [British] Victoria Cross."

"New Zealand became the first self-governing nation in the world where women had won the right to vote" on September 19, 1893.

The Brunner mine disaster took place on March 26, 1896.

New Zealand achieved dominion status on September 26, 1907.

There are 453 New Zealand World War I memorials.

An agreement of Australian-New Zealand cooperation was signed in Canberra on January 21, 1944.

The Wahine Shipwreck disaster occurred on April 10, 1968.

The Homosexual Law Reform Act was signed on July 11, and went into effect August 8, 1986.

The first Kiwi to win an Academy Award took place in March 1994, the 21st in Los Angeles, when Anna Paquin was named Best Supporting Actress for "The Piano". Anna was born in Canada, but raised in New Zealand.

The Prostitution Reform Act was passed in 2003.

Nationwide elections in New Zealand are held every three years, "or earlier, should it be necessary." At this writing, the ruling party is New Zealand National Party and the leading opposition party is the New Zealand Labour Party.

There are about 13200 km from Chicago, IL US to Auckland, NZ.

As at Tuesday, 20 April 2010 at 02:58:46 am (local time), the estimated resident population of New Zealand was 4,364,669.

Most of the questions Arthur got from New Zealand History online, which celebrated its 11th anniversary last month.

ABC Wednesday


Monday, April 19, 2010

35 Questions Meme, Part Two

Sunday Stealing, redux.

36. If you suddenly became single or are single, do you think you could last in a relationship for 12 months or more?

I'd like to think so. Probably.

37. Do you forgive or forget?

Forgive, usually; forget, seldom.

38. Do you trust people?

Probably less than I used to. That said, probably more than more people. I had the laptop in the hotel, and one of my sisters suggested that I lock it up somewhere; it would not have occurred to me.

39. What are you not looking forward to?

Painting the attic. It's HOT up there by fairly early in the day.

40. Do you get mad easily?

I don't think so. But when I do, it can be furious, so don't push it.

41. Tell us about the last time you were told you that you have pretty eyes.

I don't recall. There was this woman about 25 years ago.

42. Do you have strange dreams?

Oh, goodness YES. Sidebar: I gave up caffeinated soda on March 16 because I wasn't sleeping. More correctly, I was going to sleep, but I wasn't STAYING asleep. Then I prettyy much NEEDED the caffeine so that I didn't fall asleep at my desk.

So now, I still wake up in the middle of the night, but I roll over and go back to sleep. And all these latter-part-of-the-night dreams innvolve distorted versions of my childhood, and all sorts of mayhem that are so vivid, yet so ALMOST plausible that I have to recollect it and realize that it COULDN'T have happened.

43. Ever licked someone's cheek or forehead?

Undoubtedly, as some sort of torture.

44. Tell us about the last time you fell asleep in someone's arms.

As opposed to just cuddling, I suppose. It was probably the Wife, and I was probably ill.

45. When did you last play a game?

Uno, Saturday with the Daughter.

46. What do you have on you at all times?

My wedding ring.

47. Do you go out in public without getting all dressed up?

I'd do it more often, if i could get away with it.

48. Do you like fruity or minty gum?

Mint - spearmint.

49. Favourite musician or group?


50. Do you like anyone?

Define "like". I like quite a few people. Even love a few.

51. Favourite computer game?

Backgammon, except that when I play with someone, they often bail too early. Hearts with no real opponents I can at least finish.

52. First album you ever went and bought with your own money?

Beatles VI.

53. Think back five months ago, were you single?

No, and not 5 months before that either.

54. Do you believe in celebrating anniversaries?

Goodness, yes. Of all kinds.

55. Do you think someone is thinking about you right now?

How could they not?

56. Last thing you bought?

Lunch on Friday.

57. Are you a jealous person?

I tend not to be, though there have been moments in the past.

58. Does it take a lot to make you cry?

Not really. A beautiful piece of music can make me cry.

59. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex you can talk to?

Yes. Actually, for the longest time, about 90% of my best friends were female; now, it about 60%.

60. Have you ever had your heart-broken?

I mean, if you haven't, you are really lucky, I think.

61. Have you ever done something while drunk that you still cannot believe you did?

Back when I would drink in college, I was very flirtatious, but no, I don't believe

62. Is there anyone you secretly wish you could be spending your time with right now?

No secret. Myself. Don't get enough Roger time.

63. Do you text?

Generally not.

64. Do you wish someone would call or text you right now?

Sure, why not? And if they call me and I DON'T want to speak with him or her, well, that's what Caller ID is all about.

65. Is your life anything like it was a year ago?

Pretty much.

66. Go back one year on your blog. Leave us a link to your favorite post.

M is for Money.

67. You can only drink ONE liquid for the rest of your life, what is it?

Ginger ale.

68. Tell us about someone that you have lost contact with someone you wish you didn't.

There are so many people I manage to regain contact of, some of whom I had lost contact with. But there was this woman named Diane in college; actually mostly after college when I was still hanging out in New Paltz. We used to just talk, play board games and generally hang out. Totally platonic. Lost track of her. She isn't in the alumni directory that came out in 2006, can't find her in Google, and I wonder how she is, WHERE she is.

69. What is the last thing you said out loud?

Good night, sleep tight.

70. Will this year be better than last?

Difficult to say. Last year was pretty good.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Health Report

Had my physical this week. Other than too much weight (no surprise) and too high "bad " cholesterol, I'm OK. My last "annual" checkup was in November 2008. I took Lipitor for a couple months at the time, then forgot to get a blood test, which I needed to get befoe getting a refill, but forgot and let it slide. I'll do better this time.

Even before this, though, I made a major change. I had become, if not addicted, then habituated to caffeinated soda, usually diet. It had the annoying habit of allowing me to go to sleep, but then had me wake up in the middle of the night, brain on overload, unable to sleep. Then I "needed" a soda while I was at work lest I fall asleep at my desk. Vicious cycle. But when I last gave blood, on March 16, and my blood pressure upper number was 138 - it's always been between 110 and 125 - I becan to worry, and I quit the soda cold turkey. After about three days of utter exhaustion, I'm actually sleeping better.

I wonder if it was the soda, or merely SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that made me feel crazy in February. Someone said something that annoyed me greatly - and I had a right to be annoyed - but it seemed to have captured me for about a month, with me withdrawing from things, feeling melancholy and alone. It's passed, even before quitting the soda, but it was very peculiar.

Thus endeth "true confessions".

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Privacy, identity

My daughter went to the pedetrician she's seen since she was born last week for her annual physical. The ofice required proof of her insuance - it has not changed, but OK - and proof of identity for her or her parents.

This week, I went to see my primary care physician for MY annual physical doctor. I've had this doctor for over 15 years. The front staff know who I am. In fact, when he asked me for MY ID, the staffer said, almost giggling: "We KNOW who you are." I also prsented my insurance card, though it hadn't changed.

Now I understood it when I went to St. Peter's to get X-rays; I'm not exactly a regular.
A bit off topic, but it did get me to think about issue privacy and personal information. The type of info I hate giving up is the type I believe will harm me. For instance, one of my providers STILL uses my Social Security number as my patient identification. This makes me VERY nervous. And isn't that in violation of the HIPAA law?

Meanwhile, there are members of Congress complaining about the "invasive" Census. Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed that, with all the money being spent on it, they didn't ask for more.

Newspapers, when I write a letter to the editor, require my name, address, and phone number. But if I write to their blogs, I can hide under a pseudonym and say pretty much what I want. The blogger can block it, but still the conversation is far more incidiary than the print letters. I'm not sure that folks online shouldn't be subjected to the same rules of contact as their pen-and-paper cohorts.

The question: what issues of privacy do YOU worry about? Census, online transactions, the restaurant worker with your credit card ?

Friday, April 16, 2010

MLKing National Memorial

As I've noted recently, this month marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember the particulars of 4/4/1968 as much as I do 11/22/1963, for instance. I have recently elucidated about the importance of Dr. King in my social development.

I've only recently discovered a group that is "commemorating his life and work by creating a memorial in our nation's capital. The Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial will honor his life and contributions to the world through non violent social change."

There is a website,, that includes videos, photos, banners, and an opportunity to donate money to the creation of the memorial.

"After many years of fund raising, the memorial is only $14 million away from its $120 million goal."
Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class (NYT, 4/14)

The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are
disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Why is this absolutely unsurprising?

Interestingly, Dr. King's last efforts were not based on just racial equality, but on economic justice. But economic justice is like water on dry ground; it lifts ALL boats up.
Democracy Now! spoke to the mayor of my hometown yesterday, Binghamton's (NY) Matt Ryan. "He’s taken an unusual step to remind the city’s residents about the expanding costs of the wars. Early next week, the city of Binghamton plans to install a large digital 'cost of war' counter on the facade of City Hall. The counter will show that the residents of the city have already spent $138 million on the wars since 2001." More here.

This reminds me that MLK's opposition to the Vietnam war in 1967 was not exactly a popular move, either with the LBJ administration or with most civil rights leaders.
I got an message from an old high school chum. (Why is it that certain people you remember instantly, and others are...who is that again?)
He wrote: "I can remember a speech you gave one day in an assembly. The idea being that racial equality had to do with even more than having a black person star in a deodorant commercial (which at the time was progress!) It made an impact that never know what will, do you?"

Boy, I wish I could remember the context of that speech...


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taxing day

One of the things that my wife and I did a few years ago that has almost certainly saved our marriage was to get someone else to process our taxes. In the the first few years, we calculated them ourselves and it took FOR-EV-ER. Well at least in my mind. It made me cranky, and my crankiness made HER cranky.

In the years prior to us filing jointly, I had always filed a 1040-A or even a 1040-EZ. No muss, no fuss. There was also no calculating of itemized deduction. Compare this with calculating not only all of our charitable contributions but also using Schedule C to keep track of all of the expenses of the rental units in the two-family dwelling we lived in, and did NOT live in the next few years. My wife figured out most of this latter info, but still, it was torturous.

Worse, almost every year, we made some math error on our state and/or federal taxes and have to do an amended return, generally not in our favor.

Now, you might observe, "Hey, you could have gotten a tax reduction all those years you didn't itemize from all your contribution to your church and other organizations." This is no doubt true. Yet, it wasn't the reason I MADE the donations, so I did not care as much; still don't, actually. There's a friend of a friend who does some very good work for the poor and disenfranchised, and his organization deliberately is NOT eligible for a tax deduction. His philosophy is, and I tend to agree with it, that if you want to contribute, you should be doing it from the heart, not just for the write-off.

In the last few years, we have had an accountant do our taxes. We still have to gather the information, but it's a lot less onerous. Even since we sold the rental property, interestingly corresponding to the arrival of The Daughter, it's still worthwhile.

So, it was a bit of a shock to the system to get a letter from the IRS last month saying we owe $749 for the 2008 tax year. Seems that the IRS saw the line on The Wife's W-2 and thought there was $5000 being contributed by her employer for child care. In fact, the $5000 was HER contribution to child care on a flex spending account. However, the accountant did make ANOTHER mistake, so we DO owe some money. But the accountants are paying the penalty and interest. At the end of the day, we'll have our 2009 return pay for what we owe in 2008.

Still, all of this was MUCH less stressful for me than the DYI model.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Confederacy? WTF

OK, I was on the road and I somehow missed this: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proclaims Confederate History Month, for which he later (sort of) apologizes. The President of the United States (psst! he's BLACK, so OBVIOUSLY, he has a racist agenda) upbraids the governor for leaving slavery out of the equation. Certain right-wing pundits kvetch: "My God, they're talking about slavery AGAIN? Why can't they let it go?", oblivious to the inability of others to let go of a cause that one could reasonably consider sedition. There is an article in Salon which addresses this. I was particularly fond of this comment: "History has a peculiar habit of becoming revisionist drivel when it comes to culture & politics. Romanticized to the point of nausea, even dark days are brightened with an artificial hue."

The best discussion of this phenomenon appeared even before the McDonnell proclamation. Once more, I must point you to Bill Moyers while I still can; he's going off the air soon. Specifically, the show broadcast on the anniversary weekend of Martin Luther King's death, which reflected on his legacy.

"Two talented lawyers who've dedicated their careers to fighting inequality, Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, join Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to examine justice and injustice in America 42 years after King's death."

Specifically to this point about race in America:

BRYAN STEVENSON: Other countries that have confronted historic problems of racism and gross ethnic conflict have recognized that to overcome that, there has to be a period of truth and reconciliation. In South Africa, they had to go through truth and reconciliation. In Rwanda, there had to be truth and reconciliation. In this country, we've never had truth and we've never had reconciliation. And so, the day to day reality for the clients where I work, the people I work with is one that's still hurt, angry, broken.

I keep hoping for that "conversation about race" we've been promised, so we CAN "get over it." This seemed obviously to be great opportunity. Yet I've seen from more than one quarter that the idea about bringing up the slavery issue is merely liberals being (eye roll) "politically correct". Not to be confused with "historically correct", or "factually correct."

The lawyers make some other interesting points. Much of the conversation after Obama's election was that "we HAVE overcome", that the struggle with racism was over, something I always thought was a lot of bunk.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER:...I think individual black achievement today masks a disturbing, underlying racial reality. You know, to a significant extent...affirmative action, seeing African Americans...go to Harvard and Yale, become CEOs and corporate lawyers...causes us all to marvel what a long way we have come.

But...much of the data indicates that African Americans today, as a group, are not much better off than they were back in 1968. When Martin Luther King delivered his..."The Other America" speech.

And interesting observation about terrorism - and some, though by no means all of these groups who idealize the antebellum South, seem to be attracted to a violent fringe element in this country.

BRYAN STEVENSON:...older people come up to me, and they say, "Mr. Stevenson, I'm tired of hearing how we're talking about-- we're dealing with terrorism for the first time in our nation's history." They were antagonized by the rhetoric around 9/11. They would come up to me and they'd say, "Mr. Stevenson, I grew up with terrorism. We had to worry about being bombed. We had to worry about being lynched. We had to live in communities close to each other, because the threat of violence was constant...

Ms. Alexander has written a book about The New Jim Crow, not that dissimilar to the old Jim Crow.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: ...just a couple decades after the collapse of the old Jim Crow system, a new system of racial control emerged in the United States. Today, people of color are targeted by law enforcement for relatively minor, nonviolent, often drug-related offenses. The types of crimes that occur all the time on college campuses, where drug use is open and notorious. That occur in middle class suburban communities without much notice, right?

Targeted, often at very young ages, for these relatively minor offenses. Arrested, branded felons, and then ushered into a parallel social universe, in which they can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in many of the ways in which African Americans were discriminated against during the Jim Crow era...

The Reagan Administration actually hired staff whose job it was to publicize crack babies, crack dealers in inner city communities, in the hope that these images would build public support for the drug war and persuade Congress to devote millions of more dollars to the war.

So that it was possible to convert the war from a rhetorical one into a literal one. It was part of a larger political strategy. And once the media became saturated and our public consciousness began to associate drug use and drug crime with African Americans, it's no surprise that law enforcement efforts became concentrated in communities defined by race as well.

BRYAN STEVENSON: The reality is, is that in poor communities, the police do raids all the time. I've worked in communities where the SWAT team comes and they put up a screen fence around the public housing project. They do searches. They stop people coming in and out. There are these presumptions of criminality that follow young men of color.

And whenever they're someplace they don't belong, they're stopped and they're targeted. And so-- and because you don't have the resources actually to create privacy and security, you're much more vulnerable to prosecution... we could do the same thing, but middle class communities, elite schools in this country would not tolerate drug raids from federal law enforcement officers and police. Even if there's drug use.

And so, there is this way in which resources and economic status actually makes you more vulnerable to criminal arrest and prosecution. And it becomes a self-fulfilling story. So that when I walk down the street in the wrong kinds of clothes, if I'm in the "wrong place," there's a presumption that I'm up to something criminal.

It goes on, but the point is that the "good old days" of the 1950s, or the 1850s, weren't that good for some. Certainly the antebellum South holds no warmth in my heart. The lawyers on Moyers also describe how poor and middle-class whites are manipulated to see blacks as, if not the enemy, then at least people to be suspicious of, a deliberate manipulation going back to Richard Nixon's "southern strategy", then perfected by Ronald Reagan. They argue that the huge growthin the prison population makes us less safe, not more.

I mention all of these other issues because I believe these aren't just individual events, bloopers of a thoughtless politician or pundit, but rather a pattern of racial insensitivity that needs to be continually looked at in the broader context.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

M is for McFerrin

"There is something almost superhuman about the range and technique of Bobby McFerrin," says Newsweek. "He sounds, by turns, like a blackbird, a Martian, an operatic soprano, a small child, and a bebop trumpet."

Back in the early 1980s, I had heard of this a capella singer who performed in the jazz mode, making near orchestral sounds with his voice and body, named Bobby McFerrin. I was familiar with him mostly because every album had a some pop music covers. [Here is a live cover version of the Beatles' Blackbird.]

Almost every season of the popular sitcom called Cosby Show had a different version of the theme to open the show. For Season 4 (1987-1988), the opening was performed by McFerrin.

In the summer of 1988, I was in San Diego, riding in the car of my sister's friend Donald, when I heard a song called "Don't Worry, Be Happy" for the first time. I thought, "That could be a big hit in southern California, but I don't know if anyone else will buy it." Of course, it hit the national charts on July 30, and went to #1 for two weeks, starting on September 30. (Here's one video, and this the video featuring McFerrin and Robin Williams.

Skip to in 1989, when he he formed a ten-person 'Voicestra' which he featured on his 1990 album Medicine Music. I happened to catch McFerrin and Voicestra one morning on NBC-TV's Today show. After a couple songs, I recall that Bryant Gumbel, then the co-host of the show, noted that McFerrin had said in an interview that he would no longer perform "Don't Worry, Be Happy", his only #1 hit, and that now he (Gumbel) understood why.
Sweet in the Morning from Medicine Music, featuring Voicestra.
Discipline, Featuring Robert McFerrin & Voicestra

I bought about a half dozen copies of that album to give as Christmas presents in 1990.

I was watching that episode with our brand-new new church choir director, Eric, who was crashing at our apartment until he found a place of his own. A couple years later, he arranged the McFerrin version of the 23rd Psalm for three guys in the choir to sing, Bob, Tim, and with me singing the highest part, all falsetto. On the recording, McFerrin sings all three vocal tracks, overdubbed, himself, which you can hear HERE.

McFerrin has also worked in collaboration with instrumental performers including pianists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul, drummer Tony Williams, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma; this is Ma and McFerrin's version of Ave Maria.

My wife and I had the great good fortune to see bobby McFerrin live at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 6, 1999. Here's the review, from which I want to highlight the following:

Whether conducting the classics, improvising on an original tune plucked from thin air or cavorting within the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the affable McFerrin charms all in his wake.

Finding descriptive labels for the multitalented McFerrin seems futile. His talent is so broad and diverse that there seems to be nothing he can't do well, including stand-up comedy. There's a serious side, too, as the wunderkind leads the likes of the Philly through compositions by major composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Felix

McFerrin's uncanny ability to do "voices" put the audience on the floor with
all the characters from "Oz," the most memorable of which was Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch line -- "Come here, my little pretty!"

[This was HYSTERICAL.]

McFerrin invited singers in the audience who knew the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria" to sing along. McFerrin sang every note of Bach's rippling arpeggios for accompaniment, while several audience soloists sang Gounod's wonderful melody over the top.
[This was absolutely extraordinary. One of the soloists was only a few rows in front of us.]

The Philly sang (yes, sang) the "William Tell Overture," for encore.
{A hoot.]

Listen to CircleSong Six from the CircleSong album.

As an Amazon review says:
"Despite the undeniable uniqueness of his gift, Bobby's music is always accessible and inviting. When he invites his fans to sing along, as he almost always does, few can resist. Inclusiveness, play, and the universality of voices raised together in song are at the heart of Bobby's art. Bobby McFerrin was exposed to a multitude of musical genres during his youth--classical, R&B, jazz, pop and world musics. 'When you grow up with that hodgepodge of music, it just comes out. It was like growing up in a multilingual house,' he says. Bobby McFerrin continues to explore the musical universe, known and unknown."

A Bobby McFerrin discography.

Bobby McFerrin turned 60 on March 11, 2010.


ABC Wednesday

Monday, April 12, 2010

35 Questions Meme

Before that, though, deaths to note. The crash that killed the Polish leader and more than seven dozen other leaders was tremendously sad for that country; I found it deeply affecting. The guy who was dean of my library school when I attended died of cancer. Dixie Carter also succumbed to cancer; yes, I DID watch Designing Women, initially because it was between Newhart and Cagney & Lacey, but eventually on its own merits. Finally, I think the only thing that will create real mine safety is if someone from the WV mining company gets indicted and convicted of 29 counts of manslaughter, and that mine owners continue to be be held criminally liable; obviously, even heavy fines are treated as just the cost of doing business.
Sunday Stealing, again.

1. How far away is the last person you kissed?

About a foot away.

2. Has someone ever told you they would be with you forever?

More than once; didn't always work out. To be fair, that was a mutual pledge.

3. Last person you were in a car with?

The Wife and Daughter.

4. Any plans for tomorrow?

Play racquetball, go to work, come home; same as today.

5. How long does it take for you to take a shower?

10 minutes. Less when I'm in a hurry.

6. Best friend or close friends?

Close friends.

7. Is tomorrow going to be a good day?

Sure, why not?

8. Did you kiss anyone Friday?

I'm sure I did.

9. Ever thrown up in public?

Well, yes, actually, twice. The first time I remember quite vividly. I was at a party in my college town of New Paltz, NY and everyone, including me, was drinking. I was consuming a large amount of this Polish vodka, and I was really quite lucid. In fact, I had become the de facto host of the party because the host had passed out. The Polish vodka ran out, so I started drinking some Johnny Walker. In five minutes I went from sober to smashed - a late-arriving guest confirmed that he thought I was clear-headed only minutes earlier - to sick, fortunately in the bathroom. Lesson learned: don't mix drinks.

The other time, I had some flu or food poisoning. I had had a drink or two, but hardly enough to get sick. I always felt badly, though, because my friends Jean and Rich probably thought I was just drinking too much.

10. What's on your mind RIGHT NOW?

Baseball. Or sex. Or sleep. Or money. Wait, music.

11. Who was the last person you talked to?

The Wife.

12. What is the WORST subject they teach at school?

I don't know that there's a "worst" subject. There are things that I am more or less interested in.

13. Have you seen anyone lately that you don't get along with?

Not in person.

14. What is your favourite colour top to wear?

Blue. I have more blue shirts than any other.

15. Have you ever been in a car accident?

At least two that involved medical attention, one which put me in the hospital for a day and a half. Plus the bike avoiding the car thing. And a handful of lesser events.

16. What's the closest thing to you that's green?

When your name is green, your mother's, sisters', wife's, daughter's niece's names are all Green, so it is difficult to say. Oh, lower-case green: An ancient book called Play the Game: The Book of Sport that I used to read as a kid.

17. Where would you like to be right now?

On vacation. I just WAS on vacation.

18. Write down some lyrics to the song you're listening to?

Love is just like a baseball game
Three strikes you’re out

Up to bat
I thought I hit a love run
But to my surprise
I found I didn’t hit none

Threw her love so fast
She put me in a daze
Never knew that love
Could come so many ways

(Here's a recording.)

19. How many dogs do you have?

Zero. Haven't had one in decades.

20. Is anything bugging you right now?

Yes. Fred Phelps' "church", among other things.

21. Is life going right for you now?

It's more than tolerable. But I have a physical tomorrow, so we'll see.

22. Is there someone you care about more than yourself?


23. What made you laugh today?

The Daughter: something she said.

24. What was the last movie you watched?

Crazy Heart.

25. Whats the last conversation you had about?


26. What were you doing at 7:00 this morning?

Will be getting ready for work.

27. Do you like your hair long or short?

What hair?

28. Do you want to see somebody right now?

If I had the power of teleporting, I'd use it a lot.

29. Do you like the rain?

In moderation.

30. Did you have a valentine this year?

Why, yes.

31. The last person you kissed needs you at 3 am, would you go?

Why not?

32. Would you honestly say you'd risk your life for someone else?


33. Honestly, if you could go back 1 month and change something would you?

Not so much. Well, actually, if you said TWO months ago, then the answer would be yes.

34. How do you feel about boys smoking?

I hate smoking, no matter who is doing it.

35. Could you see yourself with someone forever?

I have my hopes.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Family History and the Census

One of the great things I've been doing, particularly this week, has been working on our family history with my sisters. We discovered some anomalies in the information we have looked at.

My grandmother, Gertrude Yates, was born in 1897. Her father, Edward Yates, died in 1911. Her maternal grandfather, James Archer, died in 1912. In the 1920 Census, we discovered that Gert's widowed grandmother, Harriet, had living with her formerly widowed daughter, Lillian, Lillian's four children by Edward Yates, and her new husband, a gentleman named Maurice Holland. It's this guy who caught my eye.

Now in the 1910 Census, Maurice Holland came from Texas, but in 1920 he came from Mexico, and his first name was Mauricio. This suggests but one thing: he lied in one of these Censuses, probably 1910.

Up until the last half dozen Censuses, the Census taker would record all the information, rather than having individual householders do so. Sometimes, the Census taker did it incorrectly. Listed in 1920:
Harriet Archer (head)
Maurcio Holland (son-in-law)
Lillian Holland (wife)
Gertrude Yates (daughter)
Edward Yates (son)
Earnest Yates (son)
Adina Yates (daughter)

It should have had Lillian as daughter of Harriet, and the children as grandchildren of Harriet. As is stands, it appears that Lillian was Harriet's wife. I'm fairly sure same-sex marriage was not counted in 1920. Also Earnest should have been Ernest and Adina, Adenia.

From looking at the family Bible, it appears that my mother may have had a sibling, who died in 1929. With no date of birth given, one has to assume that the child died in infancy, maybe at birth. My mother knew nothing of this.

In the 1910 Census, my grandmother Gertrude Yates was listed as Gertrude Archie, a variation on the family surname. What was THAT all about?

Relatives I checked for the 1870 and 1880 Census had the children (Lillian and her siblings) whose births changed 10 years over the decade, as they should, but the adults, James and Harriet Archer, aging only about six years over the period.

My great-great-great-great grandmother's name was Phylisia Wargner. Or Phyllis Waggoner. Or other variations such as Wagner. She was born on April 3, 1807 and died on July 8, 1865. She married William Edward Bell on March 2, 1832. These are the oldest ancestors I could find so far. From Census records, I can tell that Harriet was born in Virginia, and her parents were as well, but that they didn't know where their parents were born, which suggests slave trade.

I have been watching this show called Who Do They Think They Are?, a genealogy show on NBC. They do a search for the personal histories of celebrities. So far Emmitt Smith found his slave roots; Matthew Broderick discovered ancestors who served in the Civil War at Gettysburg, dying the following year in Georgia, and as a medic in a bloody World War I battle; and co-executive producer Lisa Kudrow found the place where her grandmother died during the Holocaust, but found alive a cousin who had initially brought the news. I'm finding it interesting but irritating. There's too much "Coming up next" before the commercials, as though it weren't interesting enough to stick around for, and too much recapitulation after the ads, as though we all have ADHD. I've seen similar shows, on PBS and elsewhere, but this particular program seems to have has rekindled this search for my roots.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


As some of you know, the men's college basketball tournament, known as March Madness, ended on Monday, with traditional powerhouse Duke barely beating Butler. I was pulling for the team from Indianapolis, and not just because it was the underdog. A small piece was the bulldog mascot; my high school teams were the Bulldogs. A greater factor, though, is that there's a woman in my choir. Every year, during prayer concerns, she talks about her alma mater's progress in the tournament. Given the fact that she lost one son, her husband (also a Butler alum) and her other son to various illnesses in the past two years, I was pulling for the team for her sake; alas, it was not to be.

Whereas I'm not fond of Duke. Though they'd not dominated the tournament recently as they did, I developed a dislike for the team not unlike how some baseball fans HATE the New York Yankees.

Now there are teams I dislike for a period. College football was dominated by teams from Florida for a time, and often there was a certain thuggery in the teams, but they're not as dominant now, so not an issue.

I used to hate the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s because they beat the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, a team my father LOVED because the Brooklyn Dodgers played Jackie Robinson. But my Dodger disdain has passed.

In fact, the only franchise I really can't stand are the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. Started off with the Cowboys beating the NY Giants in the 1960s, but it's more about the "America's team" moniker, something *I* never voted on.

Since it's a new baseball season, I thought I'd ask - what teams do you really dislike, and why? What players can you just not stand?
Singer/songwriter Tom Lehrer measures his birthdays in Celsius.
John Forsythe died while I was away. I remember him best for two sitcoms. One was called Bachelor Father (1957-1962), where a wealthy attorney took care of his niece, whose parents were killed in a car accident. Niece tries to fix up uncle, who'd rather play the field. The other was The Powers That Be, where he played a clueless US Senator; great cast, short-lived (1992-1993), and deserved a better fate.