Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cecily Strong at White House Correspondents' Dinner

"You may know me from Saturday Night Live, or as the ethnically ambiguous from every college brochure."

Best part: Having all the media people present raise their right hand and repeat after her, "I solemnly swear not to talk about Hillary's appearance, because that is not journalism."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pres. Obama at White House Correspondents' Dinner

He obviously had some comedy writers help with the speech.

The best part is when Luther, his Anger Translator, appears, just before 14 minutes in. I promise you'll get a big kick out of that part. Here's a screen-grab, showing  Keegan-Michael Key playing the part of the Anger Translator.

(from the Washington Post)

Meanwhile, for those who would rather read than watch, here are some of the Prez's funniest lines:

— “Welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency…The fact is I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages — they’re like magic. You should try one....Oh, you have."

— “One big story was the brutal winter — the polar vortex caused so many record lows they renamed it MSNBC.”

— “I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?’ I said, ‘Well, I have something rhymes with bucket list.’ Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New climate regulations? Bucket.

— “My new policy is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy: the Castro brothers are here tonight. Amigos! Que pasa? What? It’s the Castros from Texas? Oh. Hi, Joaquin. Hi, Julian.”

— “A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime. Which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime. Quite a coincidence.”

— “Six years into my presidency, people still say I’m arrogant. Aloof. Condescending. People are so dumb. No wonder I don’t meet with them.”

— “Being president is never easy. I still have to fix the broken immigration system. Issue veto threats. Negotiate with Iran. All while finding time to pray five times a day.”
— “At this point, my legacy is finally able to take shape. Economy is getting better. Nine in 10 Americans now have health coverage. Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, Senate Democrats.”

— “Just this week, Michele Bachmann predicted I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now that’s a legacy. That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.”

— “I have one friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year — and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.”

— “Turns out Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic back in 2009…It’s an innocent mistake, it reminds me of when I identified myself as American back in 1961.”

— “Donald Trump is here. Still.”

— “I look so old John Boehner’s already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral. Meanwhile, Michelle hasn’t aged a day. I ask her what her secret is, she says ‘fresh fruits and vegetables.’ It’s aggravating.”

— “I can’t wait to see who the Koch brothers pick.  It’s exciting. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, who will finally get that red rose?”

— On the Koch brothers’ sponsoring of campaigns: “A billion dollars. From just two guys. Is it me, or does that feel excessive? I know I’ve raised a lot of money too, but my middle name is Hussein. What’s their excuse?”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Stand By Me

(Tracy Chapman on the Letterman show earlier this week)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hummingbirds Vs. Scrabble and Everything Else

I've posted on this blog a live video of a mother hummingbird (or maybe it's a dad, or maybe a mom and dad taking turns) feeding her/his/their babies. Whoever set up the camera, kudos to you! It's amazing to watch the parent(s) feed these chicks and to watch them grow larger and show more movement and more feathers every day.

Here's the video on this post, too:

Here's a Scrabble board, so you'll know I'm really going to get around to the Scrabble part of this post:

And here's one of the hummingbird videos from earlier in the year:

Thanks to Jason for telling me about this! I love having this open on my desktop.

Problem is, I keep checking it when I'm doing something else and I hear the sound of dogs barking in the background and especially whenever I hear that whirring as the parent approaches with food.

I love watching how the parents, as they feed the children, are teaching them how to eat, how to interact, make noises when the parent first arrives with food but then take turns. I love watching these little ones breathe, seeing how their whole body moves with each heartbeat, how they take little naps in between feedings, letting their body take in nutrients and grow

And all this when I "should" be doing everything else I've set for myself for the day. But sometimes a break is good, and sometimes you get fresh ideas. I'm thinking about nature vs. nurture, I'm thinking about practice makes perfect, I'm thinking about "The 10,000 Hour Rule."

Remember that "rule" from Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers"? Of course the book doesn't claim that you HAVE to have those 10,000 hours of practice in order to succeed at something. In fact, in an excerpt from the second chapter of the book, Gladwell points out some success comes because you're in the right place at the right time, as in the example of the 75 richest people in history.

He writes, "Of the 75 names, an astonishing 14 are Americans born within nine years of each other in the mid 19th century. Think about that for a moment. Historians start with Cleopatra and the Pharaohs and comb through every year in human history ever since, looking in every corner of the world for evidence of extraordinary wealth, and almost 20 percent of the names they end up with come from a single generation in a single country." Then he lists those rich 14 Americans.

After the book was published, of course, people came out of the woodwork to point out many exceptions to the "rule." No one needed to be reminded, though, that practice does NOT make perfect, though it makes someone with talent exceptional; or, as these people put it,  "practice makes improvement."

Here's Business Insider's take on the issue, with the eye-catching headline claiming that "new research destroys" the 10,000 hour rule. Quoting from that article:

In a meta-analysis of 88 studies on deliberate practice, the researchers found that practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance in various domains. 
What's really surprising is how much it depends on the domain: 
• In games, practice made for a 26% difference
• In music, it was a 21% difference
• In sports, an 18% difference
• In education, a 4% difference
• In professions, just a 1% difference

(Here's the link to the study cited in the article.) 

And here's the link to the Wikipedia article about gene-environment correlations, which I'll write more about soon.

Finally, saving the best for last, here's my favorite headline of the day: "Scrabble debunks Malcolm  Gladwell!"

And here's the even more enlightening Scientific American article about the guy who won the Scrabble game, "Winning Scrabble and the Nature of Expertise." 

So, here's what I want to say about this for now: Go ahead and start playing the violin even though you didn't have the advantage of practicing 8 hours a day from the age of 5 onward. You're not going to be prodigy, but you're going to get good at it, and you're going to love it!

And go ahead and play Scrabble, and win the championship from some guy who has won for the last four years in a row!

And go ahead and do anything, start anything, at any age, that you want to do and are willing to put the time in to do. 

And if you're the New Zealand prime minister and you keep pulling on the ponytail of a waitress in a deli where you think you can get away with anything, open your eyes and pay attention to what people are telling you! (Yeah, I know this goes in a different post. I just can't resist right now ranting about men, not just prime ministers, who don't believe it when a woman tells them to stop doing something, even something the men think must be okay. Because they're the prime minister, or they're the man, or whatever their stupid excuse is.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus

One of my favorite versions of this beautiful song:

Monday, April 20, 2015

'Twas Brillo

Thanks to Ellen, I heard this variation on Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." It's called "Jabber-Whacky."



On Dreaming, After Falling Asleep Watching TV

Isabelle Di Caprio

'Twas Brillo, and the G.E. Stoves,
Did Procter-Gamble in the Glade;
All Pillsbury were the Taystee loaves
And in a Minute Maid.

"Beware the Station-Break, my son,
The voice that lulls, the ads that vex!
Beware the Doctors Claim, and shun
That horror called Brand-X!"

He took his Q-Tip'd swab in hand;
Long time the Tension Headache fought--
So Dristan he by a Mercury,
And Bayer-break'd in thought.

And as in Bufferin Gulf he stood
The Station-Break, with Rise of Tame,
Came Wisking through the Pride-hazed wood,
And Creme-Rinsed as it came!

Buy one! Buy two! We're almost through!
The Q-Tip'd Dash went Spic and Span!
He Tide Air-Wick, and with Bisquick
Went Aero-Waxing Ban.

"And hast thou Dreft the Station-Break?
Ajax the Breck, Excedrin boy!
Oh, Fab wash day, Cashmere Bouquet!"
He Handi-Wrapped in Joy.

'Twas Brillo, and the G.E. Stoves
Did Procter-Gamble in the Glade;
All Pillsbury were the Taystee loaves,
And in a Minute Maid.

Published in the MAD Magazine paperback Good and MAD.
© Copyright 1963, 1969 by E.C. Publications, Inc.
(The parody refers to a lot of products and brands advertised heavily at the time. Some of them aren't around anymore.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Joseph Smith, the Prophet

Thanks to my cousin Cris for sending the link.

From the Web page: "Joseph Smith the Prophet is a sacred musical work for choir, orchestra, soloists and narrators written and composed by Rob Gardner. The work portrays the life and mission of Joseph Smith and includes original music as well as new arrangements by Rob Gardner of well-known hymns from Joseph’s day."

 You can start at this page and go through the entire musical. For now, here's the first segment:

Also, here's another movie about the prophet and the restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Bella Hummingbird Mom and Chicks, Live

The Earth Rings Like a Bell

I'm going to ask Jason about some of the statements about geology and rocks in this video. I'm also a little leery of people who say, for instance, that sound created the universe, that you can boil water with sound, and so on. And the guy does not convince me that Stonehenge is more than a million years old

Still, I've only watched the first 30 minutes so far (and in fact skipping forward a lot). The guy speaking is Michael Tellinger, and he seems absolutely convinced that he's on to something. The question is, what is he on to? (Or what is he on?)

It looks so far like he's trying to link the Sumerian god Enki and that whole creation story with everything else in the whole world. And he mentions Melchizedek and a lot of other even more obscure names from the Old Testament and Sumerian texts.

The pictures of the ancient stone structures, traces of a very old culture in Africa, are fascinating. How old? Hundreds of thousands of years old. What's weird is that he seems to be moving toward connecting all this with ... guess what: UFOs, secret files, governments covering up discoveries, and so on.

Hmm, I'm now at about 45 minutes, and the more I watch, the more I think it's fascinating and also full of unverifiable claims and connections.

Now, at about 50 minutes, Mr. Tellinger gets to how he has dated the stones called Adam's Calendar: by a list of methods including "Psychic Revelations" and "Dowsing." Ahhh.

A little later, we hear that one of those structures in South Africa was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis.

LOL. How strange to have my feelings of being cornswaggled by this guy confirmed. Still, I'm going to watch the rest. Another day.

Meanwhile, here's a link to Michael Tellinger's Web page about the place he calls Adam's Calendar.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Anyone Can Write...Right? Wrong!

Usually Madame L takes care of these gripes and groans, but today I'm doing it because I just can't wait for next Fiction Friday to roll around.

Here's the thing: We've all been in these classes where the teacher, usually a bright-faced young woman, exclaims, "You can ALL write! You're all writers! If you can speak, you can write! So just get out your paper and pencil and write!"

The teacher frowns when she notices that most of the people haven't brought notebooks but eagerly open their iPads or Notebooks or whatever gadget they've spent upwards of $500 on because they think it will help them write better. But, oh well, what's she gonna do, right?

She gives the students a prompt, and they start writing. And, guess what, most of what they write is what I would politely call dreck.

I don't mind that. I've been there, done that, on both sides of the classroom. And I know that some of that dreck you "free-write" in such classes can be fixed up and made into something worth reading.

But what I do mind is when people write dreck like that and never fix it up, and it gets published, by Scholastic, and someone recommends it as a good Young Adult novel, so I buy it ... and I spend the whole time I'm reading it circling errors. I don't just mean copy-editing errors, which Scholastic should have caught, and not just grammatical infelicities, either, though they bug me to death.

I'm thinking of "Tunnels," by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. According to its cover, this book was even "The New York Times Bestseller!" --- hard to believe, because, how to say this, the whole book is dreck. The plot is ridiculous. The characters are not just two-dimensional, ink-high on the page, but so lightweight that I'm wondering why the ink didn't go ahead and disappear off the page.

What really irks me is the writing style. Messrs. Gordon and Williams, an investment banker and an installation artist, must have taken one of those evening writing classes and decided they could write a book. They also took seriously all that advice about details and show, don't tell, and all that.

But they should also have taken out of the class a few other bits of advice:

---Throw out all those adverbs.

---"Show, don't tell" does NOT mean "Write every detail of every scene over and over and over again."

---Brevity is enticing. Bloated plots are tiresome.

---Revise, edit, revise, and edit again.  Then get some friends to read for you and tell them to be merciless. Tell them to ask, "Why did that character just do that stupid thing that is totally out of character?" And "Can you try to further the plot in a way that actually makes sense instead of looking like you took each plot twist from a '20 Plots and 120 Plot Twists' book?"

And the Scholastic editors should have asked themselves, "Do we really want our young people to read this misogynistic drivel with no redeeming value? Do we really want to market a 21st-Century Hardy Boys mystery as a YA novel? How about giving them some well-written, well-plotted stories about characters they can care about and emulate?"

And I should have looked through this book more carefully before buying it. Shame on me.