Monthly Wrap-up – Jan 2016 – Top posts, a new book, watching Trump on-stage.

Copyright 2016, Dennis Mitton
Den-Vouvray
Enjoying a nice vouvray – not easily found in my neck of SC.

My Selfish Gene started 2016 with a nice little pop. We had almost 1,200 pages viewed by almost 700 different people. Visitors and members hailed from 59 different countries and ‘Zika Pinheads’, a sad pejorative if there ever was one, was the top search term that brought folk to the site. I know that 700 visitors is a slow single day for a lot of blogs and websites but I am happy that this many people get some kind of joy out of what I appear driven by my molecular make-up to do.

Top post for the month was my Kreationist Korner post titled “How To Do Science Right – Neil Shubin and Tiktaalik”. I love this story. I put it under the header of Kreationist Korner because so many misguided folk argue that one cannot do experiments about evolution and if you can’t do an experiment then whatever you are doing cannot be science. Shubin turns this whole goofy idea on its head by showcasing the predictive power of the scientific method. Over the course of about ten years he and his team kept drilling down  with if this is true then this must be true and found the most exciting transitional fossil known to us at this time – the wonderful Tiktaalik. See the post here and, for the full treatment, read Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish, here on Amazon.

My Kreationists Korner posts don’t interest me as much as others but they are consistently popular with readers. Just to let you know, the next installment of Evolution in Sixty Posts (cf here) is on creationism. No, it’s not evolution but you can’t speak to American audiences about evolution without broaching the boring and brain-numbing topic of creationism. So tune in next Friday, Feb 12, for the post.

The second most popular post is another consistent winner and I am completely flummoxed by its popularity. It’s part of my Knausgaard series (cf here) titled “Duty or Privilege – Caring for your family”. In it I explore the last chapters of My Struggle where Karl Ove writes with anguished transparency about his physical revulsion at taking care of his grandmother after his Father dies. I actually found the chapters hard to read and can only commend him for his ability to tell the truth. I juxtapose this against the great privilege I felt in caring for my Father when he was dying. I don’t know where the different feelings come from and I don’ think either is necessarily right or wrong but I am happy that my experience with my Father was as wonderful as it was.

My favorite post for the month was on the Zika Virus that is coursing through South and Latin America and making it’s way to the US (cf here). It is not particularly dangerous for adults but can cause a deformity in babies known as microcephaly where the head fails to develop as a child grows. There are a host of developmental issues that evince along with the disease. Last year in Brazil over 100,000 Zika infections were reported with about 4,000 known cases of microcephaly. Compare this to 53 cases of microcephaly in 2014 and 4 in 2013 and you can see the concern. The virus is carried by a common mosquito and several countries – entire countries! – have asked women to postpone pregnancy for up to two years. I don’t know if this has ever been done before and I don’t know what changes to expect in two years. But this call pits the populations against the Roman Catholic Church who has a pervasive and pernicious presence in most South American countries. The RCC prohibits the use of contraception which the UN has advised in response to Zika. It’s unlikely in my mind that anything will change. The putative dangers of cultural pressure, the Pope, Jesus and Mary, and an eternity in hell are pretty persuasive for believers. I expect that instead, good Catholics will continue to have sex, continue to have babies, and most sadly, continue to have their prayers go unanswered for their children born with this preventable infection. I can’t add enough modifiers to say how sad this is.

Jan16-1
Only in the South! Everyone needs a beef jerky outlet. I wonder, though, if this is out of date foodstuffs or do you buy in 100 piece quantities?

On a more happy note thanks to all for a great January. I am steadily moving forward with the Evolution series and will be coming back to Knausgaard in a couple of months. I’ve started a project that I call Southern Comfort that looks at the South through my Seattleite eyes, and have sent a couple of papers out for publication. And we’ll soon be collecting bugs here in South Carolina! Sweet.

Other Cool stuff

I have a lot of readers interested in evolution. Let me introduce you to the Society for the Study of Evolution and their journal Evolution. Regular membership is fifty bucks! Fifty bucks! Back in the eighties I think I used to pay about $500 for membership in the Art Historian Society and another couple hundred to have Science delivered to my door. This membership is far and away the best value that I know of anywhere for real, live front of the line reporting on Evolution.

I continue to enjoy the Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast. I have to do something on my forty minute drive to and from work so I podcast in the morning and do vocabulary at night if it’s light enough to see.  Un jour je pourrais apprendre le Français!

Other notes:

Fathers-CoverOne day I might get around to doing some indie marketing but I have published my Fathers and Sons series on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It was great fun for me to write and I’ve had a great response to the stories.

Last night Donald J. Trump, candidate for president, graced the good folks of my town with his presence. We drug the kids along with their requisite moans about how boring it would be but I think it’s important to learn how the world works and politics – for good or for bad – is a big part of the that picture. The most striking thing to me about Trump is his sense of unswerving, unshakable, and fully centered confidence. You can see it in how he walks and it resonates from every move he makes and from every word he speaks. He has complete ownership of where he his and what he is doing.  You can see how he reviles what he perceives as weakness. It’s the antithesis to his outlook.

Dad-Madi Trump
Gang signs? I don’t know. Madi and Dad at the Trump Extravaganza.

He hit all the main points of his ‘platform’ and garnered the expected shrieks and cheers. He is going to kill ISIS. He is going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. He swore like a, well, tame sailor with almost every phrase peppered with damns and hells and the crowd cheered just the same. He is going to rebuild the military and will start making new deals to make America great again! What do we get out of protecting Germany, Europe, France, and South Korea? Why shouldn’t we get something in return from Japan for promising to protect them from invaders. I haven’t checked a single fact but he said that in good times Saudi Arabia profits a billion dollars a day from oil and relies one hundred percent on the US for military protection. The crowd booed like high-schoolers when he said that we gave Iran 150 billion dollars that they spent buying non-US goods: 150 jets from Airbus and not Boeing. Military supplies from Russia. Machinery from Germany and France.

The whole evening was more tame than I was expecting but still entertaining. I think Trump actually believes what he says. I feel the same about Bernie Sanders and John Kasich. For every other candidate I buy wholly into the truth that when their lips move they lie. I hope other candidates come through town. I would like to see Hillary and Sanders and maybe Rubio. I would probably skip on Cruze unless I buy plenty of tomato juice first – I hear that’s the only way to get that smell off you.

We did have a teaching moment with one of the girls. Madi looked around and asked why there weren’t many ‘brown’ people there. (At school they’ve decided that everyone is the same -people are just different shades from light to dark)  We talked about how some groups of people feel that some presidents or leaders understand them more than others. I don’t know if she understood what I was saying but in the parking lot she said that if Obama isn’t president anymore she would rather have a lady. We’ll see if she gets her wish.

There you have it – another month in the bag. Thanks again!


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Book Excerpt – How I Learned to Judge a Man by the Content of His Character

In the series Fathers and Sons I took about a year to publish installments about how my Father came to be who he was and how he passed life lessons on to me. Since then I’ve published the series in a book, also titled Fathers and Sons, in both Kindle and Nook platforms. In this particular story – I write about how Dad taught me to judge a man by his character and not by the color of his skin.


Mom and dad were sun worshipers. They loved to grease up and bake. When I was maybe nine or ten they decided that we needed a pool. A real pool. A little slice of sunny Palm Springs plopped down in misty Tacoma. Maybe they beat Kevin Costner to it and thought ‘ifIMG we build it then the sun will come”. These were days before credit cards or home equity loans so dad decided to start a lawn care business. We had the nicest yard in three counties so it was a good fit. Dad bought a truck – a green 1963 Chevy – a few mowers, lifted me into the truck to carry buckets, and we were off.

Business was good and we were busy. Once we had a call from a guy who was hosting a family get together on the next Saturday. Could we come over Friday and clean the place up – make it shine? We showed up Friday morning to see that he lived on one of those odd lots in Tacoma where the road is cut right through a hill. Backyards are flat and large and front yards are cliffs. Over the years – these houses were built in the ‘30’s – owners have terraced most yards to make them manageable. But not this one. The front fell right to the road with a grass carpet growing about a foot high. No one had heard of weed eaters yet so dad and the owner – who was maybe the first Black man I ever shook hands with – agreed to hit the back yard hard for the party and worry about the front another time. They shook on a price and we went to work.

It was hot and sometime around mid-afternoon the guy came out of the house with lemonade. We stood around for a minute cooling off and he dropped the bomb. “Hey. When you guys make it around to the front yard can you…” Dad busted right in. “We’re not doing the front. We can’t do the front. We talked about it.” The guy blew up. “Why in the hell would I hire a guy to do my yard and not do the front? You expect me to pay you for ripping me off?” He was yelling loud and waving his arms and even I knew we had been had. Without a word of discussion dad yelled to the sky “Den! Load up the truck. We’re outta here!”

I don’t remember anything else about the guy. I don’t know if he stayed in the yard and yelled back but I started tossing hoes and prongs and buckets in the bed of the truck as fast as I could. Dad tossed in the mowers and emptied the wheelbarrow on the lawn before putting it away. “Get in the truck!”

jerk
He’s a jerk but you don’t have to be one too.

We sprayed a little gravel and sped off. It was surreal for me as a young kid. We were working, sipping lemonade, and enjoying the day and in an instant it all fell away in a fury of arms and shouts. We drove about a mile or two and – it’s weird how memory works – parked in front of the Tacoma Public Library. I probably wondered if I was in trouble too. We sat for a minute while Dad kind of gathered himself up. Finally he turned to me and said, “Den? I want to let you know something. That guy back there was an asshole. (Now we were swearing together like men!) You’re going to meet all kinds and jerks and asses. It doesn’t have anything to do with him being Black. Asses come in white, black, red, yellow. It doesn’t matter. You’ll meet lots of asses and lots of good people and none of it ever has anything to do with their color. It comes from what’s inside.

Then we drove off. It’s the last I ever remember talking about it but it was an expectation in our home that people were judged on what they did not on what they looked like.


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Duty or privilege? Caring for your famiy? Knausgaard’s My Struggle Part 5

[I am reading the six volume tome My Struggle written by Norwegian Karl Knausgaard. Many lit types laud the work as a modern classic and just as many are thankful for the expensive toilet paper. I’m posting as I read, dividing the work into roughly hundred page chunks for easy digestion. Please note that I am reading the English language version titled My Struggle, Book 1, translated by Dan Bartlett and published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.]


Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton
IMG
Dad and I. That’s a good lookin’ sport coat I’m wearing.

It’s been almost ten years since my Father died. He called on Saturday morning when I was looking at stamps on Ebay. He had gone to the emergency room the night before with the worst pain he had ever experienced. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis – an infection of invaginations in the colon – but during the exam and analysis the doctors found evidence of lymphoma. He was scheduled to see his physician on Monday and then meet an oncologist to make a plan about what and how to proceed.

He was dead in three years.

His initial bout with lymphoma was easily handled and he went smoothly and predictably into remission. He felt great but was warned that his particular kind of lymphoma can return and he will likely need maintenance chemo treatments from time to time. There was a warning, too, that this can bring with it a kind of lethal leukemia. It’s rare and is even more rare to see it before ten or fifteen years of lymphoma.

After a short few months of remission Dad felt a BB sized nodule deep in his left shoulder. He called his best friend about it – a physical therapist on teaching staff at USC in Los Angeles – who said that he probably just strained his shoulder. He was wrong and the enlarged nodules were the first sign that lymphoma had returned. Surprising the doctors,  the leukemia that was rarer than rare showed up and Dad was given a death sentence. We did everything we could. Weekly blood transfusions. Stem-cell replacement therapy. Chemo. Radiation. But the two cancers proved too strong. He flagged slowly at first – you had to stop to catch it – and then quickly until it was daily and then hourly. He spent his last day on a visibly downward slope until life just slipped out and left him empty.

I spent almost every day of his last two years with him. It never ever occurred to me that taking care of my Father was a duty. A kind of tit-for tat. I always considered it a great privilege. I hold nothing against friends or family who didn’t participate. Death and dying is a nasty business and most people avoid it and I hold no grudge against them.

Karl Ove outside his writing studio.
Karl Ove outside his writing studio.

Knausgaard is enigmatic about his father’s death. He spends a hundred pages to mull over the clean-up of his father’s alcoholism and dying with little introspection. He writes page after page of work, work, work, clean, clean, clean, shit, shit, shit. He knew little nor seemed to care much about the details. What was known was that his father spent the last few years of his life alone, distanced or separated or divorced from any relationships, living with his widowed mother. He apparently drank himself into a stupor each day and each night. To button up the estate and bury their father the Knausgaard brothers spend a week at their Grandmother’s home where they are shocked at the squalid mess. Karl Ove, with a fist defiantly raised against his Father’s selfishness, or at least to prove that the son in a better man than the father, decides to clean his Grandmother’s house from top to bottom. To make it shine. To take back what his father destroyed. They will have a funeral dinner here and invite the family. They will remark about how the elder Knausgaard ruined the place and how the youngest boy brought it back to life.

Yngve Knausgaard
Yngve Knausgaard

Both boys are happy that their father is dead but Karl Ove still cries. All the time. He cleans and cries. He views the body and cries. He goes to town to buy a lighter and smokes and he cries. But apart from Yngve he doesn’t seem to cherish any relationship. He is distant with or mostly avoids his Grandmother. Even his wife, whom he remembers to call only once, pleads with him not to shut her out of his feelings. He doesn’t seem to cry over relationships or loss and never – at least in the book – explores the reasons. In fact a common literary critique of My Struggle is that the writer spends no time explaining his raw feelings or activities. He just lays them out for the reader to like or not. Who cares?

The family’s lack of care for his Grandmother is truly disturbing. For all of Knausgaard’s crying, and brooding, and fanatical cleaning he never cares for his Grandmother’s obvious physical needs. He makes excuses to leave the room when she comes in because of the smell of old and fresh pee and the shit stains all over her clothes and furniture. She lives in a squalor that would and should embarrass most people yet Karl Ove, Yngve, and even her own son, Karl and Yngve’s Uncle, pass her over with a pinched nose but no effort. That the family was outraged over the publication of this sad story isn’t surprising. That they aren’t in jail for neglect is.

I haven’t a clue what my parents did to give me the relationship I had with my father. (I’ve written about my Father here). Somehow I grew up never wanting to disappoint him. I lived for a pat on the back. It was never hard to be around him but I looked forward to the opportunity. Still, though, I hold no deep sense of rightness that people are morally bound to care for their family. I’m not sure at all that blood and genes put an onus on me to fulfill a familial role. But we are all connected – sunflower, dragonfly, chimp, human – and it makes me think that every living thing is worthy of some modicum of honor and respect and care.

Go here to read parts 1-4 of my Knausgaard series.
Go here to see my review of Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich – All Stories About Dying are Stories About How to Live


After a brief break while I read some good old Russian lit I will begin posting about Knausgaard’s Book 2 of My Struggle called A Man In Love. To recieve notices of future posts of all types please click on the Follow This Blog By Email at the top right. Thanks!

And if you love evolution – and who doesn’t! – please follow my blog My Selfish Gene.

Weekly Recap – Nutrition Diva – Plaster Napoleon – 95 Year Old Track Star – Radiation and the EPA

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

Weekend thoughts…

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How can you not love this picture?

Had a great week on the site with a huge rush of readers coming to the site for my Tuesday Recommendation  of the Nutrition Diva. Check her out for great advice.

I’m starting to remodel the site a bit and will one day switch over to a new format allowing me to incorporate some features not available using my current set up. So you might see things looking slightly different over the next month. My first plan is to start keeping about ten posts on the main page and moving them to new tabs afterword. I think this will allow readers to both explore and ignore topics as they wish. It’s odd to me but not everyone is interested in evolution, Russian lit, and yoga all in the same day. I hope to make it easier for readers to see more of the same topic without having to search.

Here’s something damned fascinating. There is a sandstone outcrop that runs through the fossilmiddle of the Sahara Desert that is carpeted with Stone Age tools and artifacts. Per the linked article the tools were used over a couple hundred thousand of years by both human and non-human hominids. Crazy. I can’t wait to read more and see what great stuff they’re picking up.

napleanIn news that seems odd to my modern sensibiliies there is a battle brewing in Britain about the proposed sale of a famous death mask of Napoleon. Seems that the country wants to keep it in-house but the buyer is overseas. The story isn’t nearly as interesting to me as the death mask. It was made three days after Napoleon died and is one of several originals. Maybe this is no different than having a portait or photo of my dead father but is seems much more creepy. Read here. And for my British readers – if you can cough up £175,000 you can have this as a nice paper weight.


Recap…

Monday
A few months ago I noticed what I considered to be a gross error on the EPA’s RadTown site. RadTown is an educational site about radiation that the EPA hosts. I was shocked after writing them that they immediately corrected the mistake and took time to write me and tell me about it. With a response like that maybe I should run for president?

Tuesday
Sometimes my posts surprise me. I recommended a podcast that I listen to religiously – Thediva Nutrition Diva – and had a steady stream of hits from all over the world all day and all night. If you’re looking for science based nutrition advice this is an excellent resource.

Wednesday
I stuck with my nutrition theme and reposted six of my most popular posts on nutrition and exercise. All good stuff.

Thursday
Book review of What Makes Olga Run? Normal, next door Grandma Olga decided to start running at age 77. She hired herself a coach and went on a spree for the next twenty years to win hundreds of track and field titles. What is extraordinary about Olga? Nothing. No weird metabolism. Normal and healthy diet. But if she is normal then why do most people simple fade out by sixty or seventy?

IMGFriday
I’m coming to a close on my Fathers and Sons series and listed all eight parts. If you haven’t read them I hope you will. I’ve had a great response and people seem to enjoy them. Brings back lots of wonderful memories.


Weekly Recap – The Joy of Socks – Nutrition Science – NOT Dying in California – Religious beans and animal sacrifice

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

Weekend thoughts…

cunkI don’ t get it. My wife watches the silliest television (so-called award winning shows)  but when it comes to the greatest moments of TV history – British comedy – she would rather disinfect the wash machine with acid. What gives?

Maybe it’s an aquired taste for Yanks but I love this stuff. C’mon. Have you seen The Good Neighbours? It’s nothing less than the greatest bit of film of all time. And Are You Being served? Ab Fab? Even Benny Hill is better than any SNL skit. So I’ve been thrilled to discover Philomena Cunk and her Moments of Wonder. There’s a bit of Stephen Colbert here, though she is much more British and much better looking.  Moments of Wonder is a series of shorts where Ms. Cunk, deeply interested in all things, asks experts the hard questions we all want to know. Is time circular because clocks are round? How do computers know what money is? Why does past life regression always reveal that we were Ladies in Waiting or  gladiators and not moneys?

Start here with her bit on evolultion. A simple search will turn up lots of hilarity. Unless you prefer silly crap like American  TV.

Great site – tons of British Comedy at TV Tropes.
The Guardian on Philomena Cunk.


Recap…

hondoMonday
Konmari and the Magic of Tidying Up. From a piece in the Wall Street Journal about Marie Kondo and her worldwide domination in the art of keeping the house clean and tidy. Much more interesting than it sounds and more cute than Martha Stewart.

Tuesday
Recommendation of Dr. David Katz and nutritional wisdom in general. With all the flotsam, misinformation, and lies it’s good to have a couple aces in your pocket were you can get solid, science backed information about health and nutrition. Dr. Katz is one of the best.

Wednesday
Most any old hack can tell you if you’re sick or not. But can your doctor rate your health on exercisea scale? We’re getting closer. The brainiacs at Johns Hopkins have developed a treadmill test that attempts to rate your relative health with hope that if you see where you are you will want to improve. Will you live another ten years? Find out.

Thursday
I put on my Schopenhauer hat and get a little grumpy. Did you know that there is a whole empire built around Christian nutritional advice? If you’re wondering what that is, well, so am I. And the authors of The Daniel Plan don’t know either. But they sure make money. At least I found a good Santeria book on animal sacrifice to offset the goofiness.

Friday
Fathers and Sons Part Eight. Two Forks. Dying and an open door. The story of Dad not driving to California to die and the best two years of my life.


What I’m reading…

Still reading Black Girl/White Girl, Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve yet to read all of the world’s books but so far no one creates an urge in me to turn the page like JCO.  (I picked this up from B&N for $1.99 on BookBub. They send a daily email for one or two books with special pricing for a day or so. Worth a look.)

Weekly Recap – The 100% Club and Oliver Sacks – Grumpy Men at the Happy Church – Putin book review.

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

Weekend thoughts…

The 100% club

sacksOliver Sacks, famed neurologist and author, has learned that he will die. Diagnosed nine years ago with an ocular tumor, the cancer has metastasized in a rare way that will leave him dead in some few months. At eighty-one he feels full of life and left with much undone. He writes about this in a recent NYT essay.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.

Of course Sacks’ news changes no statistic. Death sits firmly at one hundred percent. And even if people someday figure out how to wrench another five or ten or fifty years out of the human frame the odds will remain the same. Sacks notes an understandable and growing detachment:

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved…But

I admire his admission of fear. At this point in my life I have no fear but sense a great chasm between having and not. My comfort is ignorance. Death would be my family’s burden and not mine. Certainly still horrible to consider. The world is so huge and wonderful that it seems so unfair that we have such a short time to explore it.

People say there will be plenty of goodness and love and wonder for us after we die. My guess is that they are wrong. My hope is that they are right.

Read Sacks’ essay here.


Recap…

Monday
Sublime or Selfish? Essay about meeting Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, one of the all time best selling Christian books. I met him briefly one Sunday afternoon and recount the meeting here. His book influenced me heavily when I was younger. Now it seems a little creepy. Includes book review.

Tuesday
Recommendation of the site Understanding Evolution from UC Berkeley. Excellent resource with basic information regarding evolution. Lots of teaching materials.

Wednesday
Repost of one of my popular posts – Why You Still Aren’t Losing Weight. Based on a long term study showing that exercise alone rarely sheds the pounds promised.

Thursday
Book review – The Putin Mystique by Anna Arutunyan. Any Rand said that a people haveputin the government they deserve. Maybe she was right? Includes review of Sorokin’s art novel The Queue.

Friday
Fathers and Sons Part Six. Ten year old Bobby slays fire breathing dragons at church. The grumpy bastard deserved it. See me smoking a sweet Marlboro at two years old!


Books I’m reading…

Foster’s How To Read Literature Like A Professor. Highly entertaining and recommended.


Other stuff…

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I’ve noticed a lot of my posts and reviews showing up in internet newspapers.I admit to some gratification that my posts are being picked up. Please feel free to contact me for blog posts, essays, or book reviews.

Weekend Recap – Don’t be a lazy bastard – Fathers and Sons Five – Choose your top ten books

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

Weekend thoughts…

clickbaitOf course today we turn our thoughts to l♥ve and to those we love which is why I am thinking of my blog posts. You might have noticed that I have started inserting a copyright notice at the top of my posts. This comes in response to a recent question about where I get all this great stuff about so many different topics. Though a shy and retiring man, I am wildly flattered that someone put the words great stuff and your blog in the same sentence. I’m much more used to parings like your hair and looks stupid. So mostly I use this little tool to announce that I am the writer here. When I use others’ work I am happy and careful to give them due credit. I love great words and ideas where ever I can find them.

Many blogs do use others’ content. In fact, a very lucrative web business is selling blog posts for you to post as you own. These models – which I find somewhat repulsive – are usually click-bait sites where a blogger is paid for advertising and for clicks they generate on other sites. When you go to that site to see 47 Of The Worlds Homeliest Naked Former Celebs! and then you have to load one picture at a time this is exactly what you are doing.

So unless otherwise referenced the posts here are my own and I really enjoy writing them. I have swallowed hook, line, and sinker the adage to do what you love and I write a blog that I would enjoy reading. I don’t worry about designing for search engine optimization or Google hits thought it’s nice when I get more hits than usual. Membership – measured by the number of people who don’t just read the blog but sign up for email updates – grows steadily so I’ve found at least a few others who like some of the same things that I do. Now if I can figure out a way to incorporate the best Cassoulet recipe and my search for the perfect Penny Black I’ll be on my way.

Somewhat along these lines I invite you to see my write up of Tim Ferriss’ interview of Maria Popova who authors Brain Pickings. Unlike most of Ferriss’ interviews where he hashes out the best way to lift a hundred pound kettle ball over your head while memorizing arcane chess moves in Japanese, this is a geek fest of ideas about note taking, cataloging, and living mindfully. Truly good stuff.

Tim Ferriss Interviews Maria Popova – Worth All Of Ninty Minutes


Recap…

Monday
An introduction to a project I call The Short Shelf. You have room for ten books. What are they and why? First on my list is Anna Karenina. You?

Tuesday
Recommendation of Heather Hastie’s site Heather’s Homilies. Heather hails from New Zealand but parses world events and ideas with reason and acuity. I like that she recognizes the complexity of issues and is happy to skewer all sides.

Wednesday
An article I originally published at LinkIn on how most people can ignore the gilt-edgedschopp advice offered every day at sites like LinkedIn or Monster. Most people just need to be told to work harder and goof off less. I put on my Schopenhauer hat (which gives me permission to be a grumpy ass) and let them know. Gently, of course.

Thursday
My book review of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus where he – very convincingly, I think – shows that the New Testament as we enjoy it includes editorial and intentional revisions, additions, and deletions to mold it into a very particular story. Did Jesus have any idea that he would one day become god?

Friday
Fathers and Sons – Part Five – Leave No Room For Questions. Wherein I explain how Dad learned to be outstanding. Good advice along the theme of hard work.


Books I’m reading…

Back to paging through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. If you are interested in evolution his is the best modern intro. If you know nothing about evolution and want something simpler to get a grasp of the basics I recommend Bill Nye’s recently released Undeniable (my review here).

Have just started Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh. More to come.