Link Log for August 28-31

Categories: Crafts, Fashion, Food (Yuck), Food (Yum), Health, Human Rights, Movies, Music, Politics, Writing.


Artsy chair caning in Asheville.


Regular readers may remember my fantasy of a Mothers and Daughters Clothing Store. Here are some mothers and daughters who are doing it:


Should Costco ban GMO salmon?

Or should we just ban all GMOs across the board, because the pesticides we’re modifying living things to resist are more toxic to humans in the long run than those short-run trials show?

Should Tyson ban this farm, or McDonald’s ban Tyson, from selling these wretched birds as food? I’m underwhelmed by the Soros-funded smack of “the best way to help animals is to go vegan.” I’ve never met an animal that wanted to go extinct, and chickens are a prey species; nature intended for most roosters to be eaten by other animals. But if you want to know what I’m talking about, watch the “undercover video” anyway. These chickens are unfit for consumption. The guy is clubbing the culls that are about to die all by themselves. He thinks he’s being kind because, if he leaves them in that muck, they’ll be slowly eaten alive rather than killed first. It’s keeping chickens alive in that shed that’s inhumane…and the idea of those chickens winding up in your Chicken McNuggets makes you want to…well, in my case, support more local farms where you can see that your chicken was alive before it was dead.

Last week’s thoughts about where so many cattle pick up so many “super-resistant” bacteria, again, apply here. President Eisenhower, whom Grandma Bonnie Peters remembers as “her President,” was wrong about this. Bill Gates, whose genius made web sites possible, is wrong about this. Farms need to stay small or get out. (See previous post.)


Those who can eat yeast-leavened bread will have to find out whether this is as delightful to eat as it is to look at. (Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for the link.)

Fishy stuff:

Delicious food in delightful place:


+Coral Levang on keeping it real (“it” being, mostly, life with disease or disability conditions):

Human Rights 

Syrian refugees. Again. I can stop nagging about’em when they have safe hiding places. (I’ve been asked whether the Blogspot site is concerned about all Syrian refugees, or only Christian ones. Speaking merely for myself, emphasizing that other members of that site have not publicly made any offers yet, I’ll say: The Christian ones are my “brothers and sisters” in faith; therefore the Jewish and Muslim ones are presumably “cousins.” Cousins are loved, too, but brothers and sisters come first.)


Doubts about Merchants of Doubt, well expressed. (If anybody wants to watch it with me, I’ll bring popcorn.)

Rest in peace, Wes Craven.


One quoted verse makes me wish I could listen to the audio-video clip.


First some general political thoughts…I’d like to call attention to a Live Journal discussion that starts (currently) here:

Scroll down, please, to the first real answer, from Denisov; he’s made a good point. The Christian capitalist answer is that using contracts for the purpose of nasty, petty, spiteful bickering is against our religion. There’s an oldfashioned capitalist answer, invoking the idea that using contracts for the purpose of petty, nasty, spiteful bickering is so trashy, vulgar, demeaning, etc., that Our Kind of People wouldn’t stoop to consider it; youall may use this argument if it’s valid for any group of people to which you belong; for my extended family, unfortunately, it’s not. So, for people who can’t appeal either to religion or to, shall we say, old-line Southern tradition: how do you answer this argument? How do you keep property ownership from dragging you down into spiteful, petty, nasty bickering?

One step is to rule out idiotic laws against victimless crimes. When the Seinfelds’ nasty neighbor called the police their reaction should have been laughter and “Y’want us to do something about…a lemonade stand?” and “Since you’ve given us a good laugh we won’t arrest you for tying up the police phone line…this time.”

Now, some serious charges have been brought against some readers’ U.S. Representatives. (This web site offers sympathy to readers in Woodbridge and Fairfax.) Patricia Evans broke the bad news: her e-mail, containing links and first paragraphs from two articles published elsewhere, appears here:

As in the years when I was posting this kind of U.S.-specific thing on Blogspot, this web site recommends reading the other reporters’ stories where they were published to show respect. If the links don’t work for you, let me know.


Scott Adams on the writing process:


Book Review: Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm

A Fair Trade Book

Review: Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm


Author: C. David Coats




Publisher: Crossroad


ISBN: 0826404944


Illustrations: black-and-white photos and photocopies


Anyone who lives, or wants to live, on a farm should read Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm. It describes how “modern factory farming” techniques, although they may seem more immediately profitable, actually hurt the farmer, the animals, and the people who consume milk, eggs, or meat.


You may believe, as I do, that God planned for land to be owned by families, who are encouraged to breed animals selectively but forbidden to tamper with genes, who are meant to eat the flesh of the inferior male animals, and who are meant to live on their land until the time comes to hand it down to a younger relative, because this is the best way for the people, the animals, and the land. You may believe, as I do, that attempts to “nationalize” property will inevitably lead to the same kinds of abuses of humans that Coats documents factory farms inflicting on animals; that although rich countries like and can afford some “social programs,” a socialist government is inherently incompatible with peace, justice, or prosperity.


Coats, being a product of his time and background, does not clearly express these beliefs. It’s possible that, while writing this book, he honestly believed that we’d be better off worshipping a totalitarian state and practicing a vaguely Buddhist ethic, like the Chinese. By now we all know how well that outlook has served China. However, despite some murky rhetoric, Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm is a book of facts that can be useful regardless of religious, political, or philosophical differences.


Coats provides a list of non-food animal products you can boycott if you want to express disapproval of factory farming by going totally vegan. (If you live in a city apartment and can’t do anything else by way of opposition to factory farming, this idea may seem attractive as you read this book.) How sustainable a personal vegan commitment will be depends on your ability to afford alternatives, stick to a commitment, and digest grain, and in my part of the world there is a much more sustainable and helpful alternative, but to each his or her own.


The helpful alternative is of course to have an organic, non-factory farm. It’s true that many farmers choose unsustainable, high-density, anti-ecological farming practices in order to make money faster. It is not necessary that they do. Few Americans can now sustain the American standard of living by operating “modern” farms anyway, so why not simplify your life, reduce spending, keep a part-time job, and raise a few crops and animals for the joy of it?


I think of the dairy cows we boarded when I was growing up. My brother and I used to go out and milk these cows. They weren’t confined in the barn; they were out in a field, fertilizing next summer’s hay or next winter’s apples depending on the season. They followed us into the barn because they did indeed want to be milked, and they also got a bowlful of sweetened grain to eat while being milked. They were not stanchioned. We prevented them from soiling or knocking over the bucket by petting them; one child would shoo the flies while the other milked. Yes, this method does work…even for children, if they’re willing to take the time. There is no reason why cows should spend their days shackled in stalls or penned in a filthy, muddy lot, except greed.


Chickens, likewise. Unlike many birds, hens and geese usually lay more eggs than they intend to raise. Our hens knew who robbed their nests every day. They didn’t mind. Once a year, a laying hen was likely to become “broody.” She would take over one of the nest boxes we’d provided, usually discourage other hens from using it, and complain if we tried to move those eggs. Some of our hens were better “layers” and some were better “setters,” but on average they might have tried to hatch as many as ten percent of the eggs they laid in a year.


We had one hyperestrogenemic hen who laid eight eggs a week in spring, although she was never kept indoors or exposed to artificial light. This speeded-up production took its toll on her body. She began laying defective eggs—and eating them. Factory farmers deliberately, systematically set out to do to all hens what we recognized as a disease process in our hen.


The feeling we absorbed, growing up around these animals, was that it’s stupid to feed an animal if it’s not going to be your friend and partner. Many male animals are not friendly. They are not going to enjoy collegial relationships, either with farmers, or with more lovable males in their own families. In natural conditions, farm animals do not live in wholesome monogamous families. Males fight—and females reward the males who kill or sterilize the others. When a male calf makes his first threat display against the humans who’ve brought him up, he’s telling the world “I am an aggressive male who intends to kill or be killed,” and it’s more humane to have him made into steaks and hamburgers than to let him and his relatives mutilate each other—or some human, or horse or other farm resident. Female animals usually are friendly, and worth keeping as much for companionship as for milk, eggs, pest control, fertilizer, and edible offspring.


If this is the way you’ve learned, not just from picture books but from life experience, that humans relate to domestic animals, then you certainly won’t get any pleasure out of reading about the foul things factory farmers are doing to animals to make money off them faster. As a child I knew that a cow is supposed to live, give milk, and have calves for about twenty years; a hen stops laying all those surplus eggs after two or three years, but can live five or ten years (laying only enough eggs for one brood, which she may or may not bother trying to rear). On a factory farm, Coats says, hens will be “spent” after one year, cows after two to five. Their meat will be as stringy and unappealing as if they had grown old naturally, and these days they won’t even wind up in a stew pot; they’ll be used as “by-products,” including feed for other animals, some of whom aren’t natural carnivores and may develop diseases from eating animal by-products.


Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm is not intended to be nibbled at, like chocolates. It is intended to be choked down, like pills. You don’t really want to know these facts, but you need to know them so that you can begin to choose to relate to animals in a more humane way.

Should anybody not read this book? I’d recommend caution for vegans who read it. Vegans in North America tend to be hassled by the carnivorous majority, so they are likely to feel vindicated by books like Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm and tempted to go around shoving these not-much-fun facts in their friends’ faces. That won’t help either your friends or the animals. Be gentle. This book is one great big long gross-out and emotional trigger. Use it with discretion. Don’t discuss or display it at the dinner table.

Why not? Not just to be polite. To be effective. Consider how long Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm has been out there. Then consider the latest evidence that factory farms haven’t improved much:

Why has Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm not had more impact? It’s powerful research and writing. Coats can’t be accused of pulling punches, barring holds, or giving quarter. Is it possible that people have discounted the effect his facts had on them because his writing was too powerful, without offering any alternative people cared to think about? Is it possible that the message that factory farms are horrible would have done more to help animals, and the humans who eat them, if it had been balanced by the message that family farms are not horrible? Is it possible that people who reject the idea that they need to become full-time permanent vegans would accept the idea that they don’t have to eat meat taken from sick animals?

Those horrible, half-grown, half-dead chickens in the video were meant to look like this (image courtesy of Caroleeclark at Morguefile: ).



Somebody is using the name ” +C. David Coats ” on Google +, but has managed to set up a private Google + page. Without seeing this person’s posts I can’t be sure that it’s the same C. David Coats. I think, hope, it is; therefore I believe Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm can be offered as a Fair Trade Book. Send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, for a total of $10, and I’ll try to locate Coats and send $1 per book to him or a charity of his choice. If you want four copies, send me $25 and I’ll send Coats or his charity $4.

Book Review: Dakota

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Dakota a Spiritual Geography


Author: Kathleen Norris


Date: 1993


Publisher: Ticknor & Fields / Houghtn Mifflin


ISBN: 0-395-63320-6


Length: 224 pages


Quote: “I want to be light, to cast off impediments, and push like a tulip through a muddy smear of snow.”


While writing Dakota, Norris was about to become a cancer widow, but didn’t yet know it. When her husband, David Dwyer, was being treated for “depression” and then for other physical conditions, Norris became a frequent guest at a monastery near the hospital. Here she calmed herself by writing three books of mostly short essays about coming home to her ancestors’ farmland and to their religion. Dakota, the first book, has the most to say about the land.


Even in Dakota the essays are permeated with Norris’ ecumenical religion. She was brought up Presbyterian, but she may have been baptized a Catholic, was always attracted to Catholic liturgy, and found that she could pray, sing, and study with monks and nuns without having to change her formal religious affiliation. Her education at “progressive” Bennington College gave her a fear of becoming narrow-minded about her religion, so she also writes about visiting other religious groups and reading the literature of other religions. Her church membership will remain Presbyterian; to my considerable surprise, this does not interfere with her being accepted as a “Benedictine Oblate” by her monastic friends—apparently even full-fledged Benedictine monks and nuns don’t have to be Roman Catholic.


Norris’ life and writing fascinated thousands of people in the 1990s; Dakota wasn’t a runaway bestseller, but its sequels, Amazing Grace and The Cloister Walk, were. The Virgin of Bennington, a mere memoir of Norris’ youth and courtship, sold well enough to indicate that there would still be a market for another religious book, written after Dwyer died, called Acedia & Me.


Of these books, some might ask, do I have a favorite? Not really…but the one of these books I’ve reread most often, lately, has been Dakota. The “city person chooses to live in the country” motif appeals to me, and although the Dakota landscapes have to be as foreign to me as landscapes can get, Norris’s description of small-town and farm life in her alien country is remarkably like what all of us have to deal with in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


The monasticism, too…Norris never intended to become a nun. Most people don’t. Most of us think we want sex and money. All writers are by definition overprivileged, but many people think they want higher status and more property than most writers ever have; many people also think they want children. Wanting sex, money, status, property, and/or children does not always guarantee that we’ll get them…and around age forty many of us become interested in monastic people. Not that we want to swear off ever allowing ourselves to have these things, but we want to understand how people live, and seem to live contentedly, without any of them.


Norris had the opportunity to find out, and in Dakota that’s what she shares with us. Observations of nature, wild or human, link themselves to spiritual reflections. “The flow of the land, with its odd twists and buttes, is like the flow of Gregorian chant.” In “a town that might be too small to have a motel” or “If there is a motel, it’s often on its last legs,” the “grim surroundings used to overwhelm me…I began to see those forlorn motel rooms as monks’ cells, full of the gifts of silence and solitude.” “[W]alking in a hard Dakota wind can be like staring at the ocean: humbled before its immensity, I also have a sense of being at home on this planet.”


Considering how much of this book was written as a sort of therapeutic discipline, reading and writing about something other than a loved one’s pain, this is (and Norris’ other books are) a remarkably joyful book. There’s no attempt to force cheer by “counting her blessings,” but Norris shows us why they are blessings: the Presbyterian church where “there is no indoor plumbing…but the congregation celebrates with food and drink at every opportunity,” the Native Americans who “advise a [W]hite woman to look into her own culture and find what is liberating in it,” the morning walk “too late for dawn light; the eastern sky is the color of burnished gold,” and many more. She even manages to find a “Holy Use of Gossip.” Reading that chapter, I’m not convinced that there is any excuse for gossip, but at least it’s given me something to chuckle about even when I encounter a fresh-steaming glob of the nasty stuff.


Dakota is recommended to anyone who has not already read it. You won’t feel the urge to move, but you may find yourself  appreciating where you are more for having read it—not even in the sense of “At least it’s not as cold as the winter day described on page 25 of Dakota” so much as in the sense that you become more mindful of where you live, why you do or don’t love it, how you relate to your home spiritually.

Dakota is a Fair Trade Book. To buy it online here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address at the lower left-hand corner of the screen. That’s a total of $10, so even if you order four copies and send me a total of $25 I’ll send $1 per copy, or possibly $4, to Kathleen Norris or a charity of her choice.

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Adoptable Kittens, Calculating Cat

It’s been more than a week since Imp disappeared. I’ve lost hope. Even if she was lured away from a loving home by a visiting tomcat, Imp is or was the sort of kitten nobody ever wants to report having found. All kittens have cute faces and plenty of kittens have fluffier fur, but Imp was born a pet and spent her whole life working out ways to call attention to herself as being cuter than her four (social, adorable, thoroughly spoiled) co-mothers. Which took some doing. The world is full of kittens who just sit, or sometimes bounce, around looking cute. Imp seemed to put real energy and intelligence into acting cute, as well. She was The. Cutest. Kitten. Ever. Anybody who found her would have kept her.

Imp has been missed and mourned, especially by her surviving brothers, Tickle and Elmo. (Elmo is “red”; Tickle is white with buff spots; when they were little they used to grab and tickle my feet, and since the whole litter was an April Fool joke they seemed to need silly names, and those were the names to which they answered.)

The little guys are tame, all right, but they’re not pets. They’ve always known that they weren’t residents, and they’ve not put any special effort into telling me they wanted to be residents, either. Since they’ve not bonded with me I can’t really assess their communication skills, but they do (a) know their names (they don’t come when called, but they listen when their names are called and sneer if they’re called by other names), and (b) know the survival benefits of belonging to a family.

Some cats aren’t cuddly, especially when they’re four months old. That category did not include Imp but it does include her brothers. Occasionally Elmo watches wistfully when the resident cats are being combed and petted, but one stroke is enough for him or Tickle. They’d rather bounce about and chase things. For now, anyway. Their mother was not a cuddly kitten but she’s grown up to be an affectionate cat.

Neither of them looks Siamese but that’s what their father was, and both of them have their mother’s “Hemingway” gene. Each has only the standard set of five separate toes, but the “thumb” toes are big and have double claws.

Meanwhile, Sisawat has found her niche in the resident social cat family. Social cats work as a team; each of the three older cats has a specialty. Heather is the hunter, Irene is the homebody, and Ivy is the communicator. Sisawat does the same things her mother and aunts do, not quite so well.

Sisawat, as regular readers remember, was the kitten who was born with Siamese color points. Cats who grow up with the Siamese look are born a dingy white color, so the question was whether Sisawat would keep any trace of color points when she grew up, and the answer was no. She still has the classic Siamese build, voice, and temperament, but she’s just an ordinary smoky-grey or “blue” cat. She didn’t bond with me; I kept her around, first as a playmate for Gwai, and then because nobody seemed eager to adopt a cat with a Siamese temper and an ordinary look.

Like her great-grandmother Bisquit, Sisawat suffers by comparison. She’s a perfectly nice cat, usually friendly, usually well behaved, and her performance as a loving older sister went far beyond the call of duty; she just lives with other cats who are even more adorable. I like her. I feed her. I pet her. I just haven’t found much to say about her…except that she’s Imp’s, Tickle’s, and Elmo’s full sister, about a year older, and she’s avoided pregnancy this year and given herself time to grow up by inducing lactation and feeding her siblings.

Now, however, I can report that Sisawat has found something she can do that the others don’t do. She counts! She’s one of your slow-growing Siamese-type cats and has only recently found that, when she props her paws up on the rim of the bin where I store kibble, and I bend over the bin, she can reach up and kiss me, nose tip to nose tip. So she’s started doing this. She allows me to pet her strictly as a reward for behavior she wants to encourage, and she kisses and rubs against me for each cat meal I scoop out of the bin up to number six. She doesn’t seem to mind letting the others eat first. She seems to think she’s making sure I scoop out enough for everybody.

I scoop out the same amount of food whether Sisawat goes through this performance or not. Whether she or the other cats think she’s making a real contribution to their family life, I don’t know. I know she seems pleased to have found her own special job to do, and has been doing it daily.


Book Review: Aunt Mary Tell Me a Story

Title: Aunt Mary Tell Me a Story


Author: Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey


Date: 1990


Publisher: Cherokee Communications


ISBN: 0-962863009


Length: 82 pages


Illustrations: drawings by Goingback Chiltoskey and others; some black and white photos


Quote: “When I tell a legend to you and then you re-tell it, or I tell it again to someone else, the story will always be a little different, but the truths will be the same.”


Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey did not become a member of the Cherokee Nation merely by marrying Goingback Chiltoskey. She was granted honorary citizenship only after fifty years of service to the community. She was, however, authorized to share a limited number of stories, recipes, and words through a series of small paperback books that are sold at the North Carolina reservation.


Aunt Mary Tell Me a Story contains 77 stories. Most are obviously fables made up to instruct small children; some are probably true, but told as if to small children. The historical fact that some Cherokee families adopted foreign children, who were then considered as “full blood” Cherokees, here appears as a continuation of the Goldilocks story.


Some stories show multicultural influences. A dog warns humans to build a raft in time to escape a great flood…was this an addition to the flood story in the Bible, or is it a different event? Skin colors are explained in, allowing for cultural pride, exactly the same way they are explained in an African-American story; who thought of the explanation first, or did it occur to several storytellers independently of the others? Since this book is meant to read exactly like the words of an aunt or grandmother telling stories to three-year-olds, no documentation is mentioned, and we’ll never know.


The possum’s tail tale in this book is linked to another story about the rabbit’s tail, and although it preserves the general idea that the possum’s tail was shaved by other animals to teach him not to be vain, it’s different from other versions. (That’s not a bad thing; no two versions are alike.)


The Spearfinger story in this book differs more significantly from the way this story cycle was historically used. Because the stories were part of an oral tradition, were not memorized or considered sacred, and could be substantially changed by any teller, this “safe” or comforting version is part of the tradition but does not reflect the whole tradition. Spearfinger and a water monster were described as present dangers to scare the very young into obedience. Until children were old enough to understand danger in more realistic ways, telling stories about the monsters that stalked disobedient children was considered more humanitarian than threatening them with spankings or other displays of parental anger. The parenting philosophy of Mrs. Chiltoskey’s generation opposed this strategy, so in this book Spearfinger appears just to be killed. (Earlier storytellers killed her/him/it off, too, after children were considered old enough to be prepared to confront real dangers instead of being scared by fictitious ones.) This is a book of nice, friendly stories that won’t scare children…but scaring children used to be the point.


The moral/religious aspect of some of these stories is another change. The teachings of the religion or religions Cherokee people followed before contact with English immigrants will never be known. They weren’t written down and probably evolved to meet the needs of each local religious leader and his or her audience. There is thought to have been general agreement about the idea of a Supreme Being, believed to be Good, and an Evil Principle. This worldview was recognized as basically compatible with Judaism or Christianity, but at first contact with the English, the Cherokees were neither Jews nor Christians.


Many lesser spirits of different shapes and powers were also imagined. The importance of these lesser spirits varies depending on the storyteller. The Chiltoskeys, being Christians, minimize them down to cartoon-like characters in fables. For non-Christians they could be seen as more like Greek “gods,” and a few of them may have been worshipped; more often they seem to have been merely subjects of stories. What may be peculiar to the Cherokee Nation is that, according to James Mooney et al., different religious practices were expected of different people; if myths were ever believed to embody religious truth, their truth seems to have been considered relevant only to some persons.

So, did the Cherokee Nation have the idea that the spirit world was divided approximately into thirds—bad, good, and flawed—before they had been exposed to the old English notion of angels, devils, and fairies? If they did, was that the result of early undocumented contact with English people, or was it an independent, simultaneous idea? We’ll never know. Moral conflict, and the spirits called “Little People,” appear in other collections of Cherokee stories but not all storytellers try to fit their stories into a Christian frame as hard as Mrs. Chiltoskey did.


However, although Mrs. Chiltoskey’s stories differ from some other tellers’ and collectors’ stories, they are not to be considered “less” authentic or, for that matter, necessarily more recent than the divergent versions. According to older documents Mrs. Chiltoskey’s image of Grandmother Corn as an ancestor figure may be “more” authentic, in the sense of having been told earlier and/or more often, than Marilou Awiakta’s image of Grandmother Corn as a goddess like Demeter. These stories are recognized as authentic by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

The Chiltoskeys no longer need a dollar. I mentioned on the Blogspot in 2011 that I planned to display the copy of this book I had for sale at a craft market; it sold on the first day. Still, why waste a review that’s been sitting in a computer file for all these years? It’s still possible to buy this book online; to buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower right-hand corner. Aunt Mary Tell Me a Story is not a Fair Trade Book but I will send $1 per copy to a Native American charity.

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Should I Post a Link Log?

I’ve been wondering about these Link Logs, Gentle Readers. They are great fun to do. There is some history behind them.

The first blogs, before Live Journal and Word Press and Blogger and any of the social networks, were “web logs” exchanged among the minority of people who were interested in computers. There weren’t a lot of web sites in those days; around the turn of the century you could search the Web for a whole country and get fewer than a full screen of results–I remember Googling “Zambia” and finding four hits. When a web site reached a stage at which anybody wanted to read it, that was news, and the news circulated among computer hobbyists whose “web logs” consisted mostly of links to the first few good web sites.

Even after the turn of the century, people I knew were communicating via letters, except for the very old and the very young, who were using cassette tapes. People tried setting up web sites to discuss news, business, and hobbies; the only really successful one before Live Journal, so far as I know, was the Drudge Report.

Then LJ and WP came along and took all the work out of blogging, and in 2004 blogging became a very cool hobby. A few published writers (like Ozarque and the crew of Making Light) and serious journalists (like Brad Hicks) took up blogging and made it fashionable for students and would-be writers, too. There were still lots of topics about which a blog post could be new or unique, illuminating some aspect of human experience or knowledge that hadn’t yet been discussed on the Internet. In 2006 bloggers were earning ten dollars for Top Ten Lists.

As the blogosphere became more populated, blogging naturally became less lucrative. People who wrote for the Internet were asked to document our sources as if we’d been writing for real magazines that paid real wages. Throwing in a link instead of citing a proper printed book or magazine was considered less authoritative, but on the other hand, even if a blog to which someone else linked was something like “Why I hate school & am sitting in the CptrCtr looking @ porn & pretending 2 study,” that blog automatically gained clout because someone had linked to it.

Kids were sitting in the computer center looking at porn and pretending to study. That was one factor that created a demand for automatic online content monitoring, filtering, and ranking of the estimated value of different web pages that mentioned the same word.

Search engines developed new algorithms for rating web content automatically. Each of these generated its share of obvious, logical errors.

Google and some other search engines started correcting for typographical errors. Result: although my late lamented cat Bisquit’s name was spelled that way to distinguish her from the food called biscuits or other animals called Biscuit, a web search for articles in which I mentioned Bisquit always pulls up lots of irrelevant blather about that food and those other animals.

Search engines started ranking web sites by “relevance” based on how often the search keyword appeared in a web site. Result: people started “keyword stuffing.” If you wanted your article about restaurants in Minneapolis to be read, you thought of ways to repeat the words “restaurant in Minneapolis” twenty times. Some editors recommended leaving the outline of an article right in the published copy, in the form of headings: “Dog grooming tip #1…Dog grooming tip #2…” Later search engines were reprogrammed to down-rate articles where keywords appeared too often, with the result that good, relevant articles where the keywords were used naturally, twenty times in 2000 words, were bumped just as far down as keyword-stuffed articles where the keywords appeared twenty times in 400 words.

Search engines used the number of times other people linked to a site as recommendations. This led to “link exchanges” where people generated junk content that linked to paying customers’ articles: “The momeraths outgrabe [LINK A] pleated purple [LINK B] forth blicketing [LINK C]…” etc. ad nauseam. Now search engines are programmed to down-rate articles that contain too many links.

I only wish I’d ever been paid for “link farming.” In 2011 when I set up a Weebly site, I posted a half-dozen short articles, didn’t see any reader responses, and asked e-friends what they wanted to see at the site. They hadn’t found it yet. Google prompted: “Include external links.” Fine. I started opening one window for e-mail and one for blogging; when I found something in the e-mail interesting, I created a post about it. Result: long messy lists of short posts, some of which contained nothing but links to web pages that no longer even exist, making my blog archive an unsatisfactory read. I wanted to post the actual content; I couldn’t afford that.

I have posted articles sent in by correspondents, where I tested links to make sure they worked but trusted the correspondent’s judgment that they were worth reading. (Sometimes, going back and reading those links, I didn’t want them on this site any longer…so I became more cautious about posting correspondence.) In articles not clearly credited to other people, all links have been to content I personally read, liked, and would have published in a Real Magazine if this were a Real Magazine.

I get a lot of e-mail. I read a lot of blogs. Although a slow writer, I’ve always been a fast reader. Therefore I can do a full-length Link Log on as many days as I find the time to check e-mail and blog feeds. I read about five percent of the material that comes in on any given day, and link to the most interesting five or ten percent of that. And that can still add up to ten, twenty, thirty or more links per day. Despite this high number they’re all (to the best of my knowledge and belief) links to legitimate, informative, and original web content. I can of course be wrong–but I don’t make a habit of it, and when I do catch myself in a mistake I correct it.

On the Blogspot…considering both Google’s general tendency to down-rate all individual blogs, and the influence of the Illiberal Left, I’ve given up hope of ever generating online revenue anyway. Local sponsors have paid for some things posted there. Nobody’s ever going to pay for those links, except for the friends who pay for the site’s Yearbooks. The Blogspot is strictly for publicity and socializing, and can contain Link Logs if readers want it to.

And readers do like the Link Logs. One or two readers have even braved Blogspot’s anti-comment bias to say they like the Link Logs.

But now I’m worried about the best practices for Blogjob…is it possible that Link Logs can affect Blogjob’s revenues? I’d like to find out more about that before posting more Link Logs.


Link Log for August 25

To notify the author of today’s book review I had to find him on Twitter, which makes this another Twitterday. Already! Categories: Animals, Books, Flowers, Food (unappetizing), Health Care, Human Rights, Obituaries, Pictures, Politics (generally), Politics of Race, Product Reviews, Science, Television, Thank a Soldier.


What do you think, Gentle Readers? If my cats had a fancy bed like this, would they start blogging too? (Regular readers may remember that Mackerel and Bisquit each tried typing on my home computer. I didn’t save their compositions…couldn’t make head or tail of either, but I’ve often suspected that Mac’s message might have been “More baked salmon please” and Bisquit’s, which was long and enthusiastic, might have been a celebrity gossip post. Bisquit had much in common with Ann Coulter, only Bisquit was usually more polite.)

These British herons are considered a different species from our Great Blue Herons and the tropical Cocoi Herons. The differences are small (unlike the birds, har har).


I’d like to read this one:


Pretty flower:


Gross and annoying…The annoying part is, I live in a farm community. Lots of land is more suitable for raising cattle than for raising other food crops. Lots of people raise cattle. Healthy, sustainable, well treated cattle; cows who browse in fields and chew their cud in the shade and live five or six times as long as big-dairy-farm cows. Males become hamburgers, females produce milk. And then they take those cows to the livestock market in Kingsport and sell them, and then the cattle are shipped to commercial “feed lots” where they’re packed together in pens full of filth, and then they have to be pumped full of antibiotics so they can survive aggressive hormone bloating treatments before they’re slaughtered. More pounds of tender meat. Full of MRSA and worse. Back in the hills of Virginia and Tennessee those cows did not have MRSA. They’d be grass-raised, organic beef, and they might be cheaper, if they weren’t trucked off up North and tortured before they died.

Health Care 

The shape of things to come?

Human Rights 

Glenn Beck has raised money (and awareness) to provide asylum to Syrian Christians threatened with un-Islamic murder and torture by ISIS. (This web site received the story when there were only a few of these refugees. Seems their numbers are increasing.) In the inevitable Blaze flamewar below the main story, someone asked, “Are you going to let these people come and live with you?” Fair enough. The Cat Sanctuary could house a family of seven, maybe eight, drug-free cat-friendly Christians. I couldn’t promise them food but I’m sure Mercury One could pay for food.


Justin Wilson, racer:

Merl Reagle, cruciverbalist:


Where’s Mordor? (This Washington Post page is full of pictures and may overburden your browser.)

Politics (Generally) 

Robert Hurt tweeted this press cutting displayed against a gorgeous background…rushing the season.

Rand Paul’s article…works better for me at the link below than it does on the Breitbart link at the end. (The footer says “click here to read more,” but they mean more content from Breitbart. Including a Republican presidential poll that needs a few more votes against Bogus-As-His-Hair. And lots of other graphics and junk that may foul up your browser.)

A Twitter link opened a poll about which un-comic celebrities seem closer to having a sense of humor. Someone asked, “If the 2016 election is decided by sense of humor alone, which of the Republican nominees has a chance?” Well, obviously…Ben Carson.

Though of course it shouldn’t be decided by sense of humor alone. Here’s a thought. It’s August. Most of our people in Washington have adhered to the ancient tradition of “Spend July and August anywhere except Washington.” Some have taken luxury vacations. Some have used the time to mingle with their constituents. Some would-be presidential candidates have started schmoozing in Iowa. Which candidate has gone to a place that’s hotter, more humid, and more disease-infested than Washington? Haiti, of all places. Well, that’s a loaded question, because Haiti needs doctors but has no great need for hot air. Rand Paul is a doctor and has spent August vacation time in Haiti. Nice.

All Vice-Presidents of the United States are always bashable unless, and until, they become presidential nominees. This is axiomatic. Joe Biden, unlike most Members of Congress, became known outside his own state early in his career; if you don’t free-associate from “Biden” to Bidens, the burr-weed genus, you probably free-associate to “plagiarism.” So he’s especially bashable. But here, our V.P. gets bashed from the Left for being “conservative.” (Note, however, that his kind of “conservative” was not the kind this web site likes.)


This web site has received correspondence from #BlackLivesMatter . (Of course they do.) This web site has received more correspondence from people, some of whom are Black, complaining that the Soros-funded protest movement is doing more harm than good. This web site has stayed out of it. However, on this as on the quibble about how offensive the word “anchor babies” is, I think Ben Carson is right. (Apologies for the Usatoday link–nasty web site, some computers won’t open it at all–but that’s where the full text is.)

Product Reviews 

How much drama might have been spared, when I was in college, if this “Bed Tent” had been invented.


Primary school chemistry experiment:


Interesting to read of a cartoon show with a running theme drawn from “Maryland culture.”

Thanks to Avram Grumer:

Thank a Soldier 

Many correspondents have already seen this video:

Here’s a more controversial page:

About the Graphic 

Great blue heron image thanks to Huggie at Morguefile:


Link Log for August 24

It’s been a long hard day in the content mill. A first: this Link Log contains some links discovered in the course of hack writing. Categories: Animals, Books, Business, Health News, Poems, Politics, Pretty Things, Writing.


Beastly weirdness in 1995…between 1995 and 1996 I seem to recall Montgomery County also being terrorized by geese.

Weird online scam:


Elizabeth Barrette passed along this link to a Washington Post article that opened in an annoying “new” format; I had to move the barely visible slider bar down the pinstripe in the middle of the page to get to a link to the “Read this article in classic format” page. Attention web sites: if your audience are illiterate TV addicts, just post videos, and don’t advertise to people who read; if your audience are literate people and not afraid of words, how many graphics can you replace with words? (Answer: the more the better. Never replace a button usefully labelled with a word, like “scroll down” or “next page” or “photo link,” with a graphic.) Anyway, the book sounds interesting:

Peggy Frezon has written a new collection of pet stories:


Megan Marrs’ article about landing pages is a good example of one, and a good read. I expect it’s as full of cookies as it is of (unnecessary, but appealing) graphics…but online businesses that learn to build good “landing pages” won’t need cookies. Good “landing pages” make cookies, spam, and spyware obsolete.

Health News 

Some people approach anything in an idiotic way. Because some people are idiots? Possibly; another reason is that some people desperately want something to work, even though it won’t. Parents, teachers, and doctors used to ignore textbook cases of food intolerance because only people of African descent were ever lactose-intolerant and only people of undiluted Irish descent were ever gluten-intolerant…so people were tested and treated for all sorts of weird conditions they didn’t have, while they continued to suffer from the dirt-common conditions they did have. Now it’s the other way round; fad eaters imagine they’re gluten-intolerant (and obese) when in fact they’re skinny, flabby, and if anything a bit dyspeptic due to lack of exercise…Thanks to Junk Science’s John1282, who wrote another annoying twelve-or-maybe-eight-or-even-two-year-old-type rant and linked to this report:

John1282 also linked to a wail printed in the Washington Post, accusing lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes of using up too much resources for their nutrient value because they’re juicy and full of water. Bah. The writer didn’t even distinguish between iceberg lettuce (which is low in nutrients) and the darker green, leafy kinds of lettuce (which are high in water but contain respectable amounts of fibre, vitamins, and minerals when they’re fresh). As for cucumbers…I suppose the writer discourages Assateague Island mosquitoes with tobacco? Not to mention that, on a hot day, cool juicy vegetables are a lifesaver. This web site will entertain no efforts to guilt-trip people who appreciate fresh healthy salad veg.


A traditional verse-form poem for the video game generation:

Verse form engages a part of the brain that free verse just doesn’t. Alice Walker’s latest poem (about a Palestinian refugee, but for some strange reason I keep thinking it ought to be about those Syrian Christian refugees) makes a good point…in what feels like well written prose.


Would a national Balanced Budget Amendment, which some fiscal conservatives support, be a Trojan Horse to sneak a value-added tax into these United States? Publius Huldah sees that risk. (I think she’s right. One can never be too paranoid about proposed legislation. If a national Balanced Budget Amendment is to be viable, it has to be written in such a way as to rule out tax increases and mandate spending cuts.)

(Three more political posts, from two U.S. Representatives about two issues, at the Blogspot.)

Pretty Things 

Shell necklace and the flowers that inspired it:



Strange rules of Word Press:

The Graphic: 

More forget-me-nots, from Gracey at Morguefile:


Link Log for August 23

Categories: Animals, Books, Crafts, Faith, Green, Politics, Pretty Things, Writing.


Do outdoor cats need collars? In the past, I was able to convince some residents of the Cat Sanctuary that they did. (Mere visitors don’t get collars.) The first generation of the current resident cat family figured out how to destroy a breakaway collar in minutes. I tried again, showed them a friendship ring I was wearing, and persuaded two of them to wear friendship collars…for a few weeks. Nobody’s cared to buy collars for other members of the family. But some people have persuaded cats to wear breakaway collars with identifying information on a decorative buckle, and that just might save a cat’s life some day.


Reading list for science fiction fans:

For those who prefer classics:


Natalie Ford uses a simple, unusual stitch and multicolored yarn to knit interesting socks:

And applies more apparently original thought to a washcloth…you could use this concept to knit a bedspread depicting your whole neighborhood.


Syrian Christians are being persecuted by ISIS, which purports to be Islamic and is actually more like one of those deeply sick Pagan cults Islam, Judaism, and Christianity had reasons to attack. Here we have a Mormon and a Jew reaching out to help. We can’t classify this story as “Christian” any more; it’s going interfaith. I want to see Buddhists and Humanists and legitimate, nonviolent Pagans in this story as well. And shame on any millionnaire who’s not added his or her name to the list by Monday afternoon.

Here’s the book about…why I like calling those thugs ISIS (rather than IS or ISIL). Isis is the usual English spelling of the name of the chief deity in one of those sick Pagan cults Islam rightly denounced, back in the Days of Ignorance, jahiliya. Muslims who attack Christians are ignorant and un-Islamic. Also, although ISIS hate women (don’t all violent sociopaths?) and gender-confusion, Isis was usually portrayed as a woman, though sometimes bisexual, bi-gender, or gender-neutral. Apologies may be due to some Wiccans who invoke Isis, but my point is, ISIS are not serving One God in the way preached by Muhammad. They’re not serving Isis in the way described by Lucius Apuleius either. They are serving Isis in the way Muhammad understood the Isis cult of his day, and all foreign cults other than the Arabian polytheistic “error,” Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–as a delusion inspired by the Evil Principle. End of rant about terminology. Read the book.


Delightful Green discussion here, though it may be members-only. (What’s delightful about it? Young, hip people going car-free!)


Video clips? I won’t be following this series. However, I appreciate the concept, and some people might want to follow:

“Anchor babies”? Can babies reasonably be considered “anchors” for would-be immigrants? It may have worked for some, but once the concept is challenged…

Woman-hating is on the rise:

The National Republican Campaign Committee is circulating a mudslinging poll that asks whether you think Hillary Rodham Clinton “knowingly lied” about her e-mail…This web site has no opinion there, just as this web site has no foreign policy. I find much to like and admire about the former Secretary of State–apart from little things like her politics and her cluelessness about the non-wealthy. I’ll say this. She’s reported fevers and concussions affecting her competence on her jobs; she’s subjected herself to incredible levels of stress; she’s reached an age where the brain becomes less resilient. She has earned the Democratic Party nomination, will probably get it if she wants it, and may even be elected President (that’s what Bogus-As-His-Hair’s campaign’s all about). And it would be inhumane to let that happen. Our first woman President should be fit and healthy. Mrs. Clinton is already getting “old.” President Reagan got away with being “old” in his second term; I don’t think even he could have got away with it in his first term. I wish Mrs. Clinton a pleasant retirement. Starting now.

Pretty Things 

+Jasmine Ann Marie shares a virtual walk through a garden…


I don’t enjoy revising drafts with the stupid and/or hostile reader in mind, either. (Not to mention automatic translation software…I know some things I normally say, and write, are going to be automatically translated in ways that don’t make sense. Since the normal grammar of some languages into which this web site is likely to be translated doesn’t make sense to me at best, I have no way of knowing which things those are.) But he’s right. Of course the next question is where bloggers, e-mailers, and online commenters are going to squeeze in the time to edit…even for the people who don’t understand inside jokes.

Elizabeth Barrette shared this list of ways to describe the ways people actually look. A lot of them seem suitable only to romance novels, but at least they help remind us to notice the range of differences in skin tones and other features.

Now the Graphic… 

From Kakisky at Morguefile:


Book Review: Living in God’s Love

A Fair Trade Book (hurrah!)

Title: Living in God’s Love

Author: Billy Graham

Illustrations: black and white photos

Publisher: Putnam / Penguin

Date: 2005

Length: 125 pages

Quote: “You have been born into a human family, but when you are born again, you are born into God’s family. I’m asking you tonight to come and be born into God’s family.”

This is a souvenir book, containing the text of sermons preached during the Billy Graham Crusade in New York City, June 2005. Graham had been evangelizing New York City since 1957 and had been persuaded to admit that the 2005 Crusade would probably be his last one. I’m not really surprised, but delighted, to see that as of this morning Billy Graham is still alive (and Twittering @BillyGraham ), at age 96.

Apart from that…Living in God’s Love contains the basic evangelical Christian message. God is perfect. Sinful humanity is separated from God by our moral imperfection. God so loved the world that God became incarnate as Jesus, the only sinless man who ever lived, and died as a sacrifice for our sins. If we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, our sins can be forgiven.

This is not all that Billy Graham has said to the world for fifty years, nor is Graham the only one who’s said it, but it is the message for which Graham has been best known.

The 2005 Crusade was indeed a memorable event. Not only did Billy Graham preach “probably the last” of forty-eight years of sermons; George Beverly Shea sang “probably the last” of forty-eight years of gospel songs (at least in New York City). Anyone who was impressed by the sheer longevity of these gentlemen would have wanted to be there—if only “by way of radio, television, or the Internet,” as a local minister said while introducing Graham’s Friday night sermon. For those who weren’t there, this book would be an excellent gift.

Is there anyone to whom I would not recommend this book, aside of course from the people who already own copies? Yes. Please don’t use this book to needle Christian-phobics. It’s too good a book to be used that way. I recommend a different strategy to Christians who are concerned about the souls of Christian-phobics. Christian-phobics tend to be people who have known more hypocrites than real Christians. Give them the experience of knowing a real Christian. It just might “blow their minds,” and then as their minds slowly reassembled themselves they just might lose their phobias and ask for copies of memorable Christian books.

Now, because of past confusion, a little note about Fair Trade Books. (I don’t plan to repeat this for each one.) A Fair Trade Book means that we have acquired (by buying it at the price the seller asked, or receiving it as a gift from someone else who did) a book that is widely available secondhand, while the author is still alive. Some Amazon Associates trade books online for pennies and make their money with high shipping fees. The Fair Trade Books are my modest attempt to start giving writers, generally, better deals.

Each review was written while I had an actual physical copy of the book in hand. I have reviewed new books–new purchases, new library acquisitions, review copies or advance copies of “galleys”–as well as older books, but usually, except in one case where I intended to diss the writer of an annoying but useful book, I recommend buying new books from the author, publisher, or big-chain bookstore to show respect. (Libraries are tossing so many good, recent books these days that it makes no sense to exclude copies formerly owned by libraries from Amazon or from Fair Trade Books; there are ways to make sure a book has been properly discarded by a library.) The physical copy is available to local readers at a lower price, sometimes free of charge; that’s their reward for shopping locally.

The way Fair Trade Books work is that, as an Amazon Associate, I find more copies of the book, usually in better condition, on Amazon and redistribute them at a price that makes it worthwhile to send 10% to the authors or the charities of their choice. $5 per package for shipping is a necessary Fair Trade because it takes more than $5 worth of my time to walk to the post office and pack and ship books. $5 per book brings the total minimum price to $10, of which the authors get $1 per book. So, if you want this one, you send $10 for one book or $35 for six books, via Paypal to salolianigodagewi or U.S. postal money order to P.O. Box 322, and we send $1 for one book or $6 for six books to Billy Graham or his charity.

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