Ads Should Accentuate the Positive

Actually these are reasonable blogging tips, but the only reason why I know it was that I was looking for a browser-friendly example of off-putting advertising…and here, in return, are some advertising tips.

Granted, I’m not rich. Also granted, even when I was fairly well off, I avoided spending money on things that “had to be ‘sold'” and did most of my shopping in charity-related stores. About the only things I normally buy “unused” are food, shoes, and underwear. And I don’t even own a television set.

Nevertheless I note that advertisers are, for no obvious reason, trying to “target” me with a selection of ads that somebody out there thinks fit my online profile. I suppose, if advertisers just can’t keep from using the Internet to generate spammy ads (“Enhance Your Manhood, Priscilla!”), they seem more credible when they pay some attention to what people read. But this idea goes only so far. The fact that I might be doing a paid research job that involves reading an article about heroin addiction does not mean I’ve ever considered using heroin, or even talked to anyone (so far as I know) who has.

A few years ago I wrote about what Hobby Lobby stores could do to get more money from me, since money I spend there is business-related and generally a profitable investment. The article generated a thousand page views in one day, some undoubtedly from Hobby Lobby marketers. It did not mention offering “downloadable coupons” in exchange for spyware.

You do not need to spy on me to find out what I’d be likely to pay for, or pay more for. I told you…craft stores in that article, and all kinds of other stores, weekly, on Yougov. You need to listen when your customers tell you things like, in the case of Hobby Lobby, restocking the wide range of name-brand items skilled professional crafters buy, which was what made your store a big chain, and phasing out the store brands and losing most of the bulky prefab junk.

But I really felt moved to write this after noticing how instinctively I scrolled up or down to keep the part of an article that displayed beside an ugly image off my screen. [That article was at a magazine site where I was doing research for a paid article, earlier this week.]

First of all, even when pictures are pretty, and I like a pretty picture as much as anyone else does–pictures do not really work all that well with computers. Computers are all about numbers. They seem to convert those numbers into letters and punctuation marks fairly efficiently. They are less efficient with pictures. Any kind of graphic on a web site eats up memory, which with some computers, or with some research I do where I open ten different windows at once, is in short supply.

Also, since I visit a web site for the words, any picture that’s not directly related to the real content–the text–is clutter.

And if the picture is ugly, I have to wonder: Are you trying to sell anything–in which case the ugly-ad campaigns are certainly not succeeding–or just trying to sabotage the web site that’s hosting your ad?

The ugly ad I have in mind was yet another of that endless series of ads that presumably try to market something related to health and fitness–note that I’ve never even wanted to find out what–by shoving pictures of underdressed obese people in prospective customers’ faces.

What could the point possibly be? Everybody has already seen obese people. I’ve never reacted to the sight of an obese person with the thought, “I want to buy something.” I react to the sight of people like the models and cartoons in these ads with “What a pity that that person has a disease; I can’t do anything else for her/him but at least I don’t have to look.”

If you’re trying to sell the idea of health and fitness, why, for logic’s sake, are you not showing images of health and fitness? Why do you want me to think “I don’t have to look” instead of “Wow, that looks like fun!” Where are the images of sleek healthy people running, swimming, dancing, throwing frisbees, doing gymnastics moves, playing sports, sailing, surfing, riding bicycles, frolicking with dogs or horses or children, or even painting their own walls? Do the soda pop commercials of my youth own all the video clips of beautiful bodies in motion?

And, although a computer screen puts enough strain on the eyes without filling the screen with the kind of huge words and tiny print that characterize medical journals, we need a happy medium on the chumminess, too. Yes, the general tone of web sites and e-mails is usually casual. “Casual,” however, should mean collegial among adults, rather than cutesy-wutesy, heavy-handed adult-to-the-dear-little-kiddies.

I read a fair amount of legal and medical material, and some technical material, that’s not edited down for the layperson. I’d be happier with some of it, and think doctors, lawyers, and engineers might also be happier with some of it, if it weren’t quite so specialized…maybe run past an intern? But I’d rather stretch my mind, if necessary, to absorb something aimed at graduates and interns in a different field, than try to squash myself down into a kindergarten-sized desk or the cognitive equivalent of one.

You are not “my best friend,” and you sound more like someone I might someday want to call a friend if you bear that in mind. Like that batch of blog tips at the top of the page. Does my content, shall we say, reek? I think some of it does. But how would you know, Sheownsit writer? Have you read any of my content? I don’t think so. You’re posting generic complaints about online writing generally; by and large those complaints describe some other sites more accurately than they do mine. So why are you picking a fight with a description of my content that automatically generates a reaction like “Hah! At least I know that to ‘hock’ something means to pawn it, and to ‘hawk’ it means (among other possible things) to market it with raptor-like aggressiveness…what do I have to learn from you?”

I’m not a Positive Thinker; I prefer to deal with things I don’t like in the real world, rather than try to live in a feel-good fantasy world. But when you’re selling things, why would you want me to perceive those things as things I’m not going to like, even before I find out exactly what they are?

Why weren’t those blog tips titled “Why We Like These Sites” or “Five Things I Wish Some Writers Would Learn”?

Why aren’t those fitness ads showing images of bodies the customers might want to look like?

Why, even if you persist in the delusion that all e-mail users are men, would you cast aspersions on our (or our mates’) “manhood”?

Do yourselves a favor, advertisers. Rent the classic Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang. This time, instead of fast-forwarding to the scenes with the pretty girl in them, pay attention to the part everybody wants to skip, where Eddie Murphy’s character bungles his job. Then watch it again and pay attention to why nobody wants to pay attention to that part. Then ask yourselves: “We say we learn things ‘visually’ and yet, as long as this movie’s been out, we’re still making the same stupid mistakes this comedy character made in 1992? What has been going on?”


Long Link Log for August 20

Categories: Animals, Communication, Food, Frugal, Good News, Movie, Phenology Link, Politics, Weird.


Three Blaze animal stories, with video clips… Mark Carwardine spots a blue whale.

Spiders that glide:

Giant jellyfish:


Elizabeth Barrette seems to have struck a nerve with a lot of people. What’s leaping to my mind today, as notification of each reply to this post came in via e-mail, is the need for public phones. (Y’know, things go wrong with cell phones? So people need public phones…if only to report what’s gone wrong with their cell phones.) People could demand that public phones be required by law, or funded by taxes. Or businesses could just recognize that a public phone is an amenity that makes your business more attractive. I used to like to stop’n’shop at a charity store that had a public phone up front, so people could call friends about the fantastic bargains they’d found…and people did.

My take on Jon Street’s story is that it’s a poor communication choice. As a T-shirt slogan anything like “shoot [people]” is just plain wrong. So, what would be a better snappy slogan encouraging citizens to promote law and order by videotaping things that might become problematic? “Snap Cops”? “Show Cops”? Or, why limit the idea to cops when criminals need to be intimidated even more? “Prevent Rape with Videotape”? I’m sure youall can think of better ones.


Huckleberry soda? I’ve never seen it. (Fans may send bottles…jk.)

For celiacs, people with major lifelong genetic gluten intolerance, food–specifically, not eating any food that contains wheat–is our only “medicine.” Grandma Bonnie Peters, a fellow celiac, wanted to post a link to this web site. I’m 99% sure that 99% of readers who have celiac disease are already familiar with it, but I may be wrong:


Kelly is making “Krazy Couponing” pay off…

Good News 

Sometimes things that come in the feed and/or e-mail restore our faith in humankind.


Arthur Chappell reviews a movie I might like to watch some day:

Phenology Link 

It’s official: although my part of the world withstood an unusually cold winter, a long pleasant spring, a mild June and an only average-hot July, Iraq had a heat wave that literally burst the top mark on standard thermometers. That’s happened before, rarely–I think about fifty years ago some place in Africa logged 140 degrees Fahrenheit one afternoon–but it’s not lasted quite as long. So last July was, by some measurements, the hottest July ever recorded.


First something that actually sounds like fun…at least for those who like Florida: Freedomworks is sponsoring another convention where users of that site can mingle. Orlando. September.

I knew somebody out there would remember, and Rick Santorum popped up first in the blog feed…Yesterday, this web site commented on the racism expressed by the founders of Planned Parenthood. Allegedly Ben Carson called the organization racist. I said I think it’s currently more elitist than racist, based on things poor White young women are saying too, but if anybody wanted to pay me to do the research I’d find documentation that P.P. used to be profoundly racist. Well, I’m sure Senator Santorum has those documents, probably in one file for quick reference…


Other Presidents of the United States have published carefully edited and anonymized collections of the silly letters people–mostly children–write to the President. I think it was President Eisenhower who was asked to revise the multiplication table so a primary school boy would get a better test score. Clueless people ask the President to do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with any part of the federal government, least of all the executive branch. Usually people just chortle sympathetically at these requests. Sometimes the writers of misguided letters seem to have real complaints, and are redirected to someone who might be able to help them. Sometimes these people seem just lonely, perhaps a bit dotty, and get nice form letters stamped with a facsimile of the President’s signature. President Lincoln, famously, actually took a suggestion from one of his silly letters–a little girl told him she thought he’d look good with a beard, and he started wearing one.

Now President Obama is posting these letters on Tumblr…There’s something about Tumblr I just don’t seem to be getting. There’s something about these letters I don’t seem to be getting, either. This correspondent had cancer. That was sad. She wrote to the President about it. Also sad. She wrote to complain that insurance companies don’t find it profitable to pay for the care of patients with cancer. I mean, as if she expected the President to change this. And he’s telling us that he did? And he admits it? As if he’s not at all concerned about all the people who are being ripped off to enable insurance companies to continue pocketing money, in the style to which they’re accustomed, and also pay for cancer treatments? He doesn’t like healthy working people…or he’s lost faith that there are any of us left in these United States? Very, very weird.

(I wanted to throw this in somewhere, too, though. This week I’ve been working for one of those “how did they get so rich?” collections…Lots of U.S. citizens hate things President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have done, but those are the same things others love that they’ve done. Apart from political disagreement, there seems to be no scandal about either of them. That I like.)

Just for Google +…

Now for the picture…these are probably domestic blueberries rather than wild huckleberries, but although the (soft, unnoticed) seeds in these species are different, you can’t really tell by looking. Image from Earl53 at Morguefile:


Book Review: Kathy

Title: Kathy

Author: Barbara Miller with Charles Paul Conn

Illustrations: black and white photo insert

Publisher: Fleming H. Revell

Date: 1980

Length: 160 pages

Quote: “I was surprised to realize, as we entered the hospital, that I was not a complete wreck.”

On March 14, 1977, Barbara Miller’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Kathy, was hit by a car. “A bruised brain,” a doctor who examined Kathy explained, “doesn’t heal…I thought…she might become ambulatory, maybe learn to dress herself and feed herself, but no more.”

The middle third of Kathy’s story is a rather gruesome read, though valuable to writers who might imagine a ten-week coma as something like a ten-week nap. Real comatose patients may be as lost to the world as people sleeping deeply, but as Miller and Conn show us, they are noisy and messy, and may even kick hard enough to hurt others or themselves. From day to day, it was hard to say whether the repulsive little shell of a body was getting worse or better. We’re told enough of the details to know that the body was not pleasant to be around. Only faith and prayer kept Kathy’s parents going.

Gradually, “grunting and random vocalizations became more frequent” and it began to seem as if Kathy noticed people and things. “We put soft pieces of fruit…in her hand…Sometimes her hand didn’t find her mouth until the third or fourth try,so she always smeared more of the food onto her face than into her mouth.”

By June Kathy was pointing at things she wanted, “awkwardly,” but she’d lost half her body weight, was in diapers, and “was unable even to sit upright in a wheelchair.” It’s easy to see in the photo section why her own dog was afraid of her. What’s hard to understand is how anyone had been able to claim that her eyes were focussing. That does not show in the pictures. In the fall term of 1977, schoolmates asked her brother whether she was “stoned again.”

In fact she was working hard to recover her place in school—especially in sports. In November 1977, she insisted on running a ten-kilometer race. “[S]he finished running! No matter that the field had finished far ahead…” Kathy’s effort in this race was written up in a newspaper and, in 1978, recognized with an International Award for Valour in Sport. Although she apparently went from being an average student to being a slower-than-average student, at the time of writing her family expected her to be able to handle a trade school program and prepare for a job.

Conn emphasizes that neither faith nor medical science guarantees even this much of a complete recovery to every patient with a severe concussion. Kathy is a best-case scenario story…and its greatest value is probably for the friends and relatives of people with brain injury, to prepare them for the long unpleasant time even the best-case scenario involves.

Should motor vehicles be added to the list of things that are so inherently dangerous to humans that they shouldn’t be sold online, or even discussed at very family-friendly web sites? Yes, motor vehicles are useful. Yes, many of us have adapted to a “car culture” and formed habits that would need to be drastically changed if we went car-free. Nevertheless…there are more cases like Kathy’s in this world than there are cases like Jim Brady’s. Motor vehicles kill, maim, or permanently disable thousands of Americans each year. While some of this damage comes from genuine “accidents” or at least genuine incompetence, people with homicidal intentions often plan motor “accidents” in order to avoid prison time.

A question I seriously tried to answer is whether Barbara Miller is still living, in which case Kathy would be a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it online here, for $5 per book + $5 per package, that will cover the cost of writing to publishers to find out how to trace this particular Barbara Miller. An online search shows that several active writers are using the name “Barbara Miller” but does not show a clear link to this one. It’s likely that the author of this book is still alive and, like most of her generation, not active in cyberspace. So I’ll try to track her down if and when I sell a copy of her book. In real life, what I’ve offered for sale in a physical store was a deeply discounted, puppy-damaged copy that the storekeeper was encouraged to give to anyone who wants it. (Online purchasers will of course receive a clean copy.)

Now for a graphic…since I’m not entitled to use a good, true-color image of a book’s cover, and don’t want to use up prepaid phone minutes posting blurry, off-color images snapped with a cheap cell phone, here’s the official image for book and writing posts at this site. Courtesy of Matei at Morguefile,

blogjob cat

Book Review: Sister Betty! God’s Calling You, Again!

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Sister Betty God’s Calling You Again

Author: Pat G’orge-Walker

Author’s web site:

Publisher: Kensington

Date: 2003

Length: 209 pages

Quote: “After many years of dysfunction and abuse that should have wrapped me in a blanket of mental instability, God, in His infinite wisdom and love, instead placed into my unworthy hands a Ministry of Laughter.”

That’s Pat Walker’s apologia for the comic character Sister Betty, both as Walker has enacted her in comedy skits, and as a character in this series of short stories about a small, not too wealthy, American Protestant church and its quirky members. In addition to Sister Betty, a fragile little old lady who may be senile but can also be wise, there’s Ma Cile, a big tough old lady who is definitely not senile and may be dangerous, and others including Pastor Knott Enuff Money, Deacon Laid Handz, Sister Carrie Onn, Sister Connie Fuse, Sister Aggi Tate, and Minister Breedin Love. These peculiar believers make up the Ain’t Nobody Right But Us Church.

The adventures of this cracked-up crowd form a searching, but apparently sincere, Christian look at the besetting sins of the church. There’s the night some church members (who are at least genuinely single) risk mortal embarrassment and the censure of the church by furtively sneaking into town to meet people they’ve been chatting with on a dating web site, but all they see are each other. There’s the bus trip on which the Greyhound driver thinks he’ll enjoy the conversation of the “beautiful and exotic” church lady who edges an old man with a cane out of the front seat…but little does he know he’s about to be used as the strop on which Sister Ima whets her combat-ready tongue. There is an appeal for “new behinds” for Ma Cile’s grandchildren. After each piece of wacky exaggeration, there are Bible texts that address the serious problem that has just been parodied.

Not everyone will appreciate the comedy approach to the serious problems of the Christian life, and some who laugh at lines like “she looked like a jar of spilled jellybeans with her hat of many colors discarded on the church floor” will object to other lines like “Sister Carrie Onn’s sundress got torn, and she accidentally mooned the man who held on to her.” (The overall tone of the comedy in this book is definitely PG-13; when looking for an example of potentially objectionable jokes to quote, I rejected three that would have violated this web site’s contract.) If, however, you like most of the comedy movies and TV shows being made these days, you’ll probably enjoy Sister Betty. I laughed. A lot. But I was glad The Nephews weren’t there to ask me to share the jokes.

Sister Betty God’s Calling You Again is a Fair Trade Book–a book by a living author that is more often purchased secondhand than new, which this web site sells at a price from which we can send 10% to the author. That means that when you send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the lower left-hand corner of this screen, we send $1 to Pat G’Orge-Walker or a charity of her choice. (If you want two copies, you send us $15 and we send Walker or her charity $2.)

Black Cat Appreciation Day Post

At my Blogspot, this vintage post seems to be attracting a lot of visitors. I’d add one minor update. Since 2011, the kittens born to Cat Sanctuary cats (Heather, Ivy, and unfortunately Irene) have grown up indoors. Just about all kittens spend the first six weeks of their lives indoors, usually in a small dark cave or a small dark corner behind a large stored object. Heather and Irene have chosen to allow me to see their babies from birth on; Ivy, more traditionalist, has chosen to hide them behind the dead refrigerator for the first six weeks, and then there was a non-resident litter Heather and Ivy helped to rear and socialize, in the woodshed, in autumn. (Ivy induced lactation for them, too.) And Irene prefers to hang out indoors. But it’s still the cats’ choice that they’re porch and mud room cats more than real barn cats. They’re not confined.

Belated note in observation of Black Cat Appreciation Day, which was Monday but can be celebrated belatedly if you’re going to adopt a cat: Jean Craighead George, the naturalist and friend to feral cats, observed (wow, I have the collectors’ edition!) that some cats have what may function as illusive “eyes in the back of their head”–patches of thinner and/or lighter-colored fur on the backs of their ears, which may work like insects’ “eye spots” to confuse predators.

I hadn’t really noticed that effect, in all these years, until our little Imp (the black kitten in the April Fools’ Joke combined litter) came along. She never was really solid black–had a few random individual white hairs, a pale grey undercoat, and pink-white skin from birth. As a half-grown kitten, she has more scattered white hairs in her fluffy outer coat, and the pale undercoat is growing thicker and more noticeable. Having the black fur gene from Heather and the Siamese-type partial albinism gene from her father, Imp might be described as the darkest blue-grey cat you ever saw rather than a true black cat…but she still basically looks black from a distance. Except for her ears, which have a few long, silky black hairs sticking out from the furry part of the insides, and patches where the white hairs are thick enough to form grey “eye spots” on the backs of the ears. She has my vote as the World’s Cutest Kitten. And does she ever know it.

No, she’s not available for adoption. I’m strictly bragging…and urging those who are able to support a real cat sanctuary (hurrah!) or an ethically tolerable shelter (meh…if that’s what you have) to consider looking for a black cat, or dark-toned tortoise-shell or calico cat. They tend to fade into the shadows of a row of cages, but once they become pets they may have the very nicest purrsonalities–likely to be less wild than gray tabbies, calmer than orange tabbies, hardier than the albino types, quieter than Siamese, and more modest than calicos. Oh, well…regardless of color, any cat who loves you will be a great pet. But I started learning to appreciate cats with a black one.

If you can find a black female mixed-breed cat with amber eyes and teach her to answer to the name of “Priscilla,” in honor of any of my online avatars, I’ll appreciate the honor:

Now the graphic, from Miphoto at :



Where Do I Find the Links for the Link Logs?

(Short answer: if you read other people’s stuff on the Internet you, too, will soon be sorting through hundreds of links to pick the top ten or top fifty for re-sharing. Thanks to +Sandy KS for asking a good question!)

Where do I find the links for my Link Logs? Each web site I’ve used has generated a blog feed of its own as I’ve connected with people there. I’m online at an obscenely early hour this morning, and I’m starting a new blog that I hope will actually generate some revenue as well as publicity, so while waiting for the caffeine to kick in I think I’ll reminisce about my blog and e-mail feeds…

1. Live Journal: Before the Internet, I wrote an appreciative letter to Suzette Haden Elgin. Enough readers had done that that she was publishing Newsletters, which were really mini-magazines, sometimes accompanied by handwritten notes to individual correspondents, but much more about what everybody had been reading–from medical journals to comic strips–than about anybody’s personal affairs. The Newsletters were the sort of thing that naturally worked better in cyberspace. Around the turn of the century Elgin transferred them there, first to short-lived web sites and then to the Ozarque blog at Live Journal. That blog still exists as a memorial. It attracted hundreds of readers, most of whom started LJ blogs of their own. Many of those blogs are still active. Ysabetwordsmith (Elizabeth Barrette), Harvey Rrit (Matthew Joseph Harrington), and Language Log (University of Pennsylvania teachers and friends) are reliable daily sources of thought-provoking fun stuff. I’m sorry to admit that, because LJ is based overseas, designed to work best with foreign browsers, therefore full of quirks and glitches when it interacts with U.S. browsers, I’ve neglected that site and probably discouraged a few e-friends there.

2. Associated Content: I was a paid writer for this “content farm” site during the years when it prospered. AC encouraged writers to interact in helpful ways. Groups of e-friends formed. +Lyn Lomasi , +Theresa Wiza , and +Coral Levang were three AC writers who’ve stayed active in cyberspace and maintained e-contact with me.

3. Tea Parties: AC was politically neutral before it sold out to left-leaning Yahoo. Petitions that circulated via AC, many of them sponsored by Republican-husband-and-Democrat-wife Newsmax, brought me into contact with a lot of political bloggers, writers, activists, and news sites from a wide range of positions. I’m on dozens of e-mail lists and file a few hundred political news e-mails in the Bacon Folder daily. The feeling that U.S. citizens are “Taxed Enough Already,” the belief that governments should respect private property rights (as discussed in the Bible), and the belief that Obamacare is neither ethically acceptable nor economically sustainable, are not limited to the Extreme Right, although I know some nice people on the Extreme Right. These views are actually bipartisan. I get e-mail from Tea Parties affiliated with the Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians as well as the Republicans. I’ve tried to move that whole department to Freedom Connector because I think that site needs more activity (and funding, if any of us can spare any) and, being U.S.-only, is a better site for discussions of our political issues than the more general, more global sites.

Personally, I’ll accept the label “conservative” about domestic fiscal policy, as long as people respect my right to be “liberal” about people: I think race is a lingering myth, cultural diversity is fun, women are generally superior to men but should concede equality as a useful fiction, abortion is so horrible that nobody should judge women who’ve survived it, and who cares what people get up to in their own bedrooms as long as they don’t gross everyone else out by publicizing it. Which is the kind of liberal thinking that can be considered “libertarian,” and although I think some of the kind of “victimless crimes” the Libertarians defend are not in fact victimless, I do think public funds shouldn’t be wasted on victimless crimes. And I’m also “Green” in the sense of believing that people can and should live in harmony with the other living creatures in their part of the world.

I reserve the right to disagree with anybody, including the shadows of real-life friends and sponsors who form the “we” at the Blogspot. When I post things with which I disagree I feel obligated to explain where and why I disagree. Readers are entitled to their own judgment. And disagreement in no way means I don’t like people, or even support those things that they do with which I don’t disagree. “Don’t you know that Barbara Ehrenreich is a Socialist, that +Stephen Marsh is a Mormon, that Dave Barry makes anti-cat jokes,” etc. Well, yes, those writers mention those things rather often, and no, I don’t think those things invalidate everything else they say.

4. Elected officials: Almost all e-mail from my U.S. Senators, my U.S. Representative, or the U.S. Representative for Danville goes on the Blogspot for its historical value. (Why Danville? Because for a while the Blogspot was functioning as the publisher for the Danville Tea Party.) I get daily e-mail from the White House social media staff, too, far too much to use, and occasionally link to it. (All through the twenty-first century, every U.S. computer user has had the option of joining the White House e-mail list; the Obama administration have worked social media more than the Bush administration did.) Once in a while we get content that qualifies as information rather than campaign material from other elected officials.

5. Writers whose Fair Trade Books I’ve reviewed: A majority of writers who’ve published books don’t do blogs. Many use sites like Facebook or Tumblr that don’t work for me. When I’ve found that a writer maintains a blog that does interface well with mine, I’ve added it to my blog feed. Scott Adams, Neil Gaiman, Liz Curtis Higgs, Dave Barry, and of course Glenn Beck as founder of The Blaze, come to mind as sources of many good links. (Before the Internet it was rare for very successful writers to make the time to become pen friends of all their fans–Ozarque was, so far as I know, unique. Now, for those who maintain blogs and web sites, it’s common. Musicians are doing it too.)

6. Google +: My Blogspot predates Google +. If you go far enough back into the archive you’ll find some of the history…Blogspot used to encourage users to discover one another with a “Next Blog” button, which generated random leaps and few sustainable connections. Then there was Blog-Zug, a German effort that I and some other non-German-speaking bloggers interpreted as “Travel Blog” and failed to understand or use. (It was meant to be a “Blog Train” on which bloggers could meet…if they could read German.) So then Google launched its own networking page with automatic membership for all users of Blogspot and Blogger. Despite some glitches, the worst of which may still be presenting every pretty picture from every site you’ve ever plussed as if it were a picture you had taken and you had offered for everybody in the world to use free of charge, I’ve found some nice things at Google +. +Ruth Cox , +Jasmine Ann Marie , +Susan Zutautas , and +Jeff Sullivan come to mind.

7. Bubblews: The site that promised to pay users, but didn’t, was where I e-met +Marsha Cooper , Callie WVU2 , Arthur Chappell and several other sources of material to which I’ve linked. (Interestingly, although nobody I actually recognize is still using that site, there’s a sucker born every minute and when I checked for activity among old e-friends I found new Bubblers following my long-inactive account. I’ll reactivate that account when I receive the $100 Bubblews promised to pay me and didn’t.)

8. Chatabout: Most of the people I e-met at Chatabout were old e-friends; for a social site it was surprisingly unconducive to e-bonding, but I did discover +Protecto Shell there.

9. Yougov: Yougov doesn’t seem to have been conducive to e-friendship either, and currently seems to have given up even trying, but sometimes their survey results have been worth linking to.

9. Persona Paper: Like The Blaze, Persona Paper offers sponsors flashy ads that, in practice, actually cost these sites readers because they use up memory and may slow down or crash browsers. Even new, expensive browsers. Web hosts who want actual readers should just ban Shockwave Flash and anything similar from their sites. Modest and simple ads are the way to go. The more an ad looks like the sort of cheap, simple, one-time ad taken out by a student trying to resell a bicycle, the more likely I for one am to read it. The more an ad tries to grab my attention, the more resolute I feel about not buying the product. And the kind of “negative ads” that are so common on the Internet, that try to market allegedly health-related products with images of human bodies in disease conditions, can just put me off using a site at all. However, a lot of e-friends post interesting content at Persona Paper…when it works for them.

10. Tsu: It was a nice concept, and I’ve tried using it and linking to it, but Tsu is just too many pictures.

11. Twitter: I avoided Twitter until a local lurker convinced me that “Twitter Mobile” is the only way a lot of people in our part of the world connect to the Internet, so using Twitter would boost local traffic. So now I use Twitter. It’s a memory hog that crashes some browsers but, since all the major news media tweet features and stories, Twitter is a great source of the news stories your local newspaper may have overlooked.

12. Blogjob: Back when I was conscientiously not surfing the Internet and using it only to write paid articles, Blogging for Dummies reported that some blog sites paid bloggers per post. +Sandy KS told me that Blogjob is trying to revive this concept. I’m checking it out. There’s a minimum word count for paid posts and a cap of two blog posts a day, plus pennies for supporting other people’s Blogjob sites, so for the duration of the experiment I’m moving the daily book review post and the next longest post–typically the Link Log–from Blogspot to Blogjob. Although I’ve pre-scheduled a few more book reviews for Blogspot, they’ll be migrating to Blogjob, at least for a while. I will be exploring other Blogjob blogs.

13. And let’s not forget Amazon, even though that site has apparently forgotten us…the contextual ad has been replaced with a lame graphic that doesn’t actually link to anything. Has the “crawler” that’s supposed to find Amazon book links on a page that’s been consistently displaying half a dozen Amazon book links, perhaps, broken down? Has Amazon decided not to bother because nobody’s ever clicked through the contextual ad? Has Amazon decided to stop linking to books and just push the sort of department-store products I don’t promote? Yourall’s guesses are probably as good as mine, Gentle Readers. Anyway, my purpose when I started blogging was to help promote writers and help writers get paid, so the great online book exchange site is a natural source of links.

14. Finally, the easiest way to get your blog added to my blog feed or e-mail lists is to interact with me through anything I’ve posted at any of these sites or at new ones. If you don’t post often, no worries, I just won’t find or link to a lot of your posts. If you post often but mostly in order to advertise something, I’ll be unlikely to read your content. If you’re either a left-winger or a right-winger who just predictably follows your party line, I’ll skim or ignore your posts; if you’re a “winger” or even a Real Wingnut (e.g. Barbara Ehrenreich) but you deliver fresh new information that’s reliable and informative and fun to read, I’ll read and probably endorse your posts. If you write things (or photograph things when I’m using a computer that can handle images, but I usually ignore audio and video content) that are funny or moving or insightful or fresh or informative, I’ll look forward to reading your content whenever I’m online.

Now for a graphic…Google + tends to misplace links to posts that don’t contain graphics. I have a Blogspot graphic, but Google + isn’t picking it up. For those who didn’t know, Morguefile and Pixabay are sites where photographers and graphic artists promote their work by sharing free samples with the world. So let’s see…courtesy of Mensatic, here’s . (This is not Grandma Bonnie Peters’ front yard, but it’s the same species of flowers, blooming in similar profusion.)


Book Review: Busted

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Busted! (Left Behind: The Kids: 7)

Author: Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

Publisher: Tyndale

Date: 2000

ISBN: 0-8423-4327-X

Length: 111 pages

Quote: “The Young Tribulation Force wanted everyone in school to know the truth: Jesus Christ had taken true Christians away in the Rapture.”

That’s what’s wrong with this incredibly nasty fictional dystopia. There aren’t many decent human beings in the fictional world of Left Behind, and the few who survive are about to be hunted down and actively persecuted by the majority, who have fallen under the spell of the Antichrist.

Real fans undoubtedly remember how, about halfway through the publication of the adult Left Behind series, the series’ popularity with young readers generated a spin-off about teenagers who become Christians during these years of “Tribulation.” Students who wouldn’t have become friends, if their lives had gone on in the way to which they were accustomed, are drawn together as the Young Tribulation Force, dedicating the short time their world has left to the cause of converting as many more Christians as possible.

Naturally, a school that’s been rechristened in honor of the charming dictator Nicolae Carpathia, “Nicolae High,” is not a hospitable place for Christian evangelism. When school staff find out that Vicki has been sharing the Christian message with her new friend Shelly, Vicki faces a term in reform school, where among other things inmates are bombarded with encouragement to join Nicolae’s new religion of “unity.”

Persecuting Vicki draws the authorities’ attention away from the boys in what would, in our world, have been a teen Sunday School class. Adult characters from the main series make cameo appearances as their teachers. Both the basic Gospel message and the school of Bible prophecy study on which Left Behind is based are presented, and the boys continue to distribute underground newsletters explaining that people’s Christian relatives have disappeared in “The Rapture.”

However, the plot doesn’t resolve at the end of this book. Nor will it. Both adult and teen Left Behind series have a happy ending—the final volume—and, before that, nothing gets much better. Characters who survive in one book won’t necessarily survive in another. The best thing that’s going to happen to any character is conversion to Christianity (or Messianic Judaism) and/or reconciliation with relatives. It’s cliff-hangers all the way, in the classic Perils of Pauline manner.

Some people think it was presumptuous of Jenkins and LaHaye to write fiction about one possible way the Bible prophecies might come to pass. Masses of people just wanted to read what they’d write. If you were one of the curious but didn’t read the Young Trib Force books when they were new, you might want to add this series to your collection now. If so, here’s volume seven.

Both Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye are alive and well, active in cyberspace, and occasional correspondents at the Blogspot, so Busted is a Fair Trade Book. Send $5 per book + $5 per package to either of the addresses in the lower left-hand corner (Paypal or U.S. postal money orders), and Jerry Jenkins or a charity of his choice will receive $1 per book. If you want twelve volumes of the Young Trib Force series, send $65 and Jenkins or his charity will receive $12. If you want to complete your collection of grown-up Tribulation Force or Babylon Rising books, send $5 per book, $5 per package, and LaHaye or his charity will receive $1 per book.

Link Log for August 17

Categories: Books, Communication, Health, Phenology links, Sports.


If you can afford to buy a few books (and get a few in return), you might want to meet an e-friend here:


I disagree with Dan Lewis that the Internet has made real job ads in real newspapers obsolete…or should be allowed to try. Advertising jobs on the Internet only is elitist/ableist discrimination. (That’s a serious human rights issue, and should take precedence over all the nonsense about who’s snubbing whose silly mock weddings.)

However, my mother recently wanted to apply for a job at Wal-Mart. She hadn’t been interested in Wal-Mart before, but became interested when a Wal-Mart started being built in the shopping plaza three blocks from her home. So she recruited me to help her fill out an online application.

It was sooo ludicrous. Well, Wal-Mart has traditionally offered light, part-time jobs to retirees, so I suppose they’re used to seeing applications from seniors who are outrageously overqualified for any job they’re considering. The thing about Wal-Mart’s online application system is that it “translates” jobs seniors have actually done into jobs people might do at Wal-Mart. In-home health care is a service job, so it “translated” as working at the customer service desk. Owning small successful businesses is a management job, so it “translated” as managing a store.

Oh, well…I think people would like being greeted by Mother, or even shown where to find groceries in a store by Mother, anyway.

But this recent experience made DL’s fun fact for today seem especially funny:

Is this one more about politics? No, actually I think it’s about communication too:


One more blogger likes this:

…because so much published health, fitness, and diet advice that is aimed at students and young working parents seems to presuppose that everyone in those categories is so, well, middle-class. Anybody can eat well on US$50 a week. If you want to get paid for writing about how to eat better on less, tell us how to eat well on US$10. (My secret? Inherit an orchard.)

Phenology Links

Dave’s Garden, a gardening web site, offers this visual tour of the Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa.

And here’s an article about what goes on at the Cat Sanctuary in between berry season and apple, pawpaw, and nut season–in other words, what’s likely to be going on if I miss a day online…


Tim Tebow returns to the game:

Book Review: Congregation

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Congregation

Author: Gary Dorsey

Publisher: Penguin

Date: 1995

Length: 388 pages

Quote: “I decided I could go to church…as a journalist…to understand the mysteries of church life.”

Gary Dorsey warned people that he wanted to write a book about “the mysteries of church life,” about the kind of people who attend church meetings and what they do there. By and large, he assures us, his stories are true.

Dorsey describes “First Church” as part of an old Congregationalist tradition, now identified with a larger “Church of Christ.” I don’t know whether there’s any official affiliation between this “Church of Christ” group and the one in my town. There is little sociocultural resemblance.

Of course, an important part of all church life, whether highlighted or downplayed, is the collection of money. Dorsey’s First Church is affluent; the Stewardship Committee talk frankly about who ought to pledge eighty thousand and who ought to be good for forty thousand this year. There’s actually some controversy about the church’s donating even a small share of these hundreds of thousands to any charitable effort; what these funds were given to the church for was the upkeep of a suitably “inspiring” building.

Wasn’t this what everybody hated about “organized religion” in the 1960s? The ultimate hypocrisy of “giving” money to, well, vanity funds rather than helping poor people? I still see the hypocrisy clearly, and by now I also see the hypocrisy involved in the manipulation of full-time, professional, one might even say career homeless people to promote grandiose, unrealistic political schemes.

Different readers, of course, have different levels of tolerance for different squick factors. While choking down my own squeamishness about churches that collect money for unspecified, perhaps (in my view) unjustified, purposes right in the middle of services, I remember inviting people to church and getting, “Well I’m not going to pray out loud, or hug other men.” Emotional intimacy is what some people—stereotypically, as Dorsey discusses, older women—want to find in church. Emotional intimacy at church can also be overwhelming to newcomers, and off-putting to those who don’t find it easy to “share” the emotions that have been bared.

Emotional intimacy at church often becomes a real barricade for introverts, who may have had, and may long for, the experience of being really intimate with real friends. Church fellowship groups dominated by extroverts use the same words we use for what we’d like to share, but extroverts are physically incapable of sharing that. Extroverts tend to assume that an introvert is really just a depressed extrovert; that just being the center of attention for a few minutes while confessing why we’ve been so depressed will cheer us up and turn us into chattering bores just like them.

Too many churches have hired ministers who don’t even know what they’re as unable to understand as dogs are. First Church’s pastor “Van” can’t handle analysis of what his church is doing and why, thinks ministers who “get so hung up with being solitary and individual [are] in the wrong business! In fact, I think they’re probably sick!”, and warns readers that his church doesn’t have “anything profound” to offer. For introverts, religious activity is either “profound” or a blasphemous fraud, so we now have all the information we need to understand why reasonable Christians might avoid First Church. Or, if convinced that just being seen at church once a week is our duty, might feel that going to church is the worst chore of the week.

Dorsey, however, is there to write about the group who cry on each other’s shoulders and utter sympathetic cliches. He is in fact having emotional feelings about a personal problem. Some part of him resonates with the women who talk about dreams and bereavements and “having to” put their parents in nursing homes. It comes out, at first, as anger. Then social withdrawal: “the group became chattier and I grew more solemn…I imagined headlines that would tell the story: SOJOURNER JOURNALIST GAGGED BY GHOULS.” Then he starts talking about his own spiritual journey with a sensitive Christian counsellor, and with us, telling readers how he “got saved” but was then turned off by the fire-and-brimstone evangelical style of the early twentieth century. For him “real religion” came to mean “rebellion.” Though, within the year, the church will help him solve his problem.

And, of course, per the demographic cliché of our generation, “rebellion” came to mean left-wing politics…and First Church happens to be one of many churches that collect money for international charitable organizations where “the root causes of poverty” are still, religiously, interpreted to mean “the lack of a socialist dictatorship.” Dorsey is cool with that. Because I’ve observed that the root causes of poverty often include even the mildest vestiges of socialism (the U.S. welfare system being a case in point), I’m not too cool with it. I have to remind myself that this book is about Dorsey’s spiritual experience, not mine, not yours.

Then there’s the flap about gender-inclusive language, in which a teacher leans into the faces of bewildered small children: “Did it ever occur to you boys and girls that God might be a…woman?” Afterward a church lady expostulates, “Some of us actually like the image of God as an old man with a beard.” Some of us, also, think the idea of God being a woman is a step backward from the idea of God as a man. Of course the Bible does plainly say that God possesses the qualities metaphorically associated with female body parts; that’s not the issue. The issue is that, by reacting against the cartoonish image of God as a man, we grant that image an authority the Bible never gives it. God is more than a woman, a man, a dove, or a pillar of fire.

Despite this schism, however, First Church rakes in enough money for church members to travel…to England, in search of their “roots.” They compare notes on fundraising with a typical English church, dependent on “these little fairs to sell cakes and cookies to raise money,” where they’re asked to pray for Britain.

(Rant alert! At this point in typing the review, I notice a bit of Christian indignation bubbling up. I personally don’t go to church often. I’m an introvert, my digestion won’t tolerate either bread or wine, and if I observe a weekly day of rest it’s Saturday not Sunday. But when I was a member of a church, although I was a student working for student-labor wages, I practiced the discipline of tithing. And I think that if church members do that, then the church has neither a right nor a need to bore them with further appeals for money. Any further displays of Christian generosity should be provoked by human needs—about which the church should be doing its bit, too.

There’s probably some explanation why the tithing system is not working smoothly for either First Church or their ancestors’ church back in England, but the idea that it’s not working smoothly, when members of both churches seem well-to-do, irritates me. Biblical language comes to mind: It is a disgrace for petty pecuniary concerns, especially those that have nothing to do with anyone’s survival needs, to be spoken about in the church. I don’t mind an emergency appeal to a church when a house has burned down or an organ transplant seems necessary, but show me in the Bible where Jesus asked anyone for money to finance a vacation tour.

End of rant.)

Back home after the trip, Dorsey is invited to document the perhaps surprising “mysticism” confessed by a competent, responsible, gainfully employed, apparently even rich church lady. He’s taken through an historic churchyard. He attends Bible studies. He meets Pastor Van’s more intelligent assistant, Bill, and suspects Bill of being the one Dorsey can “credit” for Van’s left-wing position. (I don’t; extroverts can always blunder across things that are really trendy, all by themselves.) He attends meetings of “the Men’s Club” at the local nursing home. He tries to get some personal testimony from Van, but becomes “more perplexed and annoyed” by the fact that Van’s only capable of inane, mundane, repetitious chatter.

The fad for AIDS ministries hits First Church. Meetings where people with AIDS can pray for healing are offered. Tasteless men act out their Christian-phobia by smooching during these meetings. Dorsey predictably confuses churchgoers’ reluctance to sponsor “trysting spots for homosexuals” with a “phobia” of the homosexuals themselves. (The church I used to attend didn’t ask members to be vegetarians at home, but did ask those who wanted to bring food to church dinners to bring vegetarian food. By Dorsey’s logic, does that equate to “carnivore-phobia”?)

After a final spasm of pious revulsion at his fellow believers’ “homophobia” is relieved by emotional confession scenes and the bullying of these believers into attending more AIDS “healing” meetings, Dorsey realizes he’s been converted to the idea of being a churchgoer. “To go from observer to subject to enthusiast” was something he had originally wanted not to do, but he just likes the idea of “belonging” to First Church.

Who needs to read this book? Anybody who appreciates well-written nonfiction stories will probably enjoy it; Dorsey usually writes short articles about science, but he’s done a good job with a long book about faith.

Does Congregation describe what you’re likely to find if, after years of church-avoiding, you start attending a church? I think Dorsey has a keen eye for significant details, even when he doesn’t seem to recognize their significance. First Church has an extrovert pastor, but has enough introverts in positions of influence to compensate and allow people like Dorsey to “belong.” This may make the difference between churches where ex-members are content to remain ex-members, and churches where “belonging” may be possible.

How well would Congregation prepare readers from different religious or ethnic backgrounds to attend a Protestant church in the United States? That’s not really the purpose of the book, but I’d like to know the answer to this question, myself. I’m posting this on a Sunday. Have you readers gone to church this morning? Will you go this evening? Please comment on your churchgoing experience, or lack thereof, in the space below…

Anyway, standard Fair Trade Book paragraph here: Fair Trade Books are books by living writers that are widely available secondhand, which this web site resells online at prices that allow us to send 10% to the author or a charity of his or her choice. The minimum price is $5 per book + $5 per package, for a total of $10, out of which Dorsey or his charity gets $1. Payments may be sent to either address at the lower left corner of the screen.

Link Log for August 16

Categories: Animals, Books, Food, Human Rights (Update), Politics, Race, Sports, Travel


First the good news for eagles:

Now, at this petition (which is still seeking support for a cause that may require funding; if you sign you’ll be asked, once, politely, to send money before the Twitter and similar buttons come up)…qualified good news for wild horses:

Black Cat Appreciation Day has been declared–tomorrow. Very nice. This information was shared in the name of what I’d call a calico cat, although the blogger known as Melissa says “tortie.” I see two white spots! Our Queen Heather has that type of coloring, though her face is different; she looks brown from a distance, her coat’s actually a mix of black and orange, and she has cream-colored patches on her underside and the tip of her tail.

Congratulations to the Welches and their very friendly store cats, too…

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for this link to a strange animal:

And here’s a strange bird (video worth watching if your computer will play it, and this one did):


Terresa Monroe-Hamilton reviews another book for my Wish List:


Gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and optionally salt-free:

Human Rights Update 

Has everybody out there signed Steve Mack’s petition? Has anybody tried writing to anyone in an influential position at Wells Fargo? Yes, from the way that bank behaved toward me as a cancer widow, I believe this is exactly the way Wells Fargo would behave toward an actual patient dying of cancer.


Think this web site is conservative? About fiscal policy this web site is conservative, but here, for the sake of contrast, is the official list of Real Conservative web sites.

From a Real Conservative to our various Republican correspondents:

My own latest political rant:

Morgan Griffith’s:


Trigger alerts? Hah. If you’re a White American this analysis is embarrassing, disgusting, stomach-turning…because it may well be true. So let’s share the livin’ daylights out of it. Just to make sure it does not become true again. Sometimes I do understand why, in primary school, my brother and a few mixed-breed friends called themselves a “Hate Your (White) Self Club.” Well, no, this web site does not encourage hate, not even self-hate. But we need to pay attention to the different ways people talk, and be less intimidated by the ways other people’s habitual speech patterns may differ from ours.


Tim Tebow celebrates his twenty-eighth birthday with a fundraiser video for his charity:


I had to scroll down through a whole fashion shoot of photos to find this post. The Sickly Snail would never have been able to open it. If your computer can handle lots of images, however, here’s a nice collection of tips for commuting to work and school.