Phenology: Monarch Butterfly, Gardening, Farming

(This was written on November 13, originally scheduled for November 15; it’s been separated into two posts due to length, and will have to appear on November 16 and 17, due to drama at the Cat Sanctuary on November 14 and 15.)

Not last night, but the night before, rain washed most of the leaves off most of the trees. The predominant color of the hills is now drab, with a few lingering patches of oak, beech, pine, or cedar. Nevertheless, we’ve had only one or two brief dips below the freezing mark, and insects remain active. One of the spring kittens managed to pick up a dog tick last week.

And yesterday I saw a monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus. This is one of the best known and best loved butterflies on Earth…

(Credit: “Monarch In May” by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – )

They’re popular because they tour. The one I saw was heading south for the winter, and may come back in the early spring, when milkweed begins to sprout. The female Monarch is restless in spring, and lays only one or two eggs on each milkweed plant. On a quiet day you can hear her wings flap as she flits from plant to plant. Monarch caterpillars eat nothing but milkweed; more than one or two of them might kill their host plant. When they reach their full size, which can be a little over two inches long, the caterpillars often look for a plant other than milkweed on which to hide while they rest and turn into butterflies.

They spend ten or fifteen days pupating, during which they don’t spin cocoons and are visible but don’t look like living animals, and then emerge–as adolescents. Monarch butterflies reach full maturity only when they’re ready to reproduce. In summer this takes four or five days; for the alternate generation, who hatch in winter, it takes the whole winter season.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, monarch butterfly populations were stable. The species became threatened only recently. Efforts have been made to rebuild population levels…

However, the species has been severely threatened by humans’ abuse of chemicals. Monarch butterflies are harmless to plants humans can eat, but they’re vulnerable to poison spray.

Despite the science fiction in the novel Flight Behavior, monarchs are not seriously believed to be endangered by global warming…although, if some of the global warming scenarios scientists have projected were to come true, they would be. The butterflies are most seriously endangered by herbicides that are sprayed, or drift on the wind, onto their host plant milkweed. They are also vulnerable to insecticides, although they tend to scatter themselves widely enough that population levels were not threatened by insecticides alone.

Are the “organic pesticides” discussed below really more toxic than glyphosate or DDT or whatever? Depends on the concentration in which they’re used; water could be “more toxic than DDT” if we’re talking about a trace of DDT on the peel of a peeled apple versus enough water to drown in. Thing is, if you really get into sustainable organic farming or gardening, the “organic pesticides” are going to be like that rifle I didn’t actually buy, last summer, for the purpose of killing a nuisance animal–you don’t even think about them every year. I’ve recommended the oil-and-vinegar treatment for poison ivy, but do I myself use it? No; I dig up my own poison ivy by the roots, which is a better option I’ve recommended for long-term poison ivy control. Another good option is owning (or renting) a goat; they can become lovable pets, and they eat poison ivy.

(More about sustainable farming and gardening forthcoming…)



Book Review: Microwave Cooking for Kids

Book Review: Microwave Cooking for Kids

Author: staff of Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Date: 1984

Publisher: Meredith Corporation

ISBN: 0-696-01425-4

Length: 90 pages

Illustrations: lots of color photos

Quote: “Our recipes are easy enough to make by yourself, but have an adult close by for questions.”

Microwave Cooking for Kids offers lots of fun for middle-school readers. They’ll learn how to stick pretzels together with caramel to make butterflies, how to dip bananas in chocolate and nuts, how to stuff pizza and taco toppings into potatoes, how to wrap bacon around toast fingers, how to shape snow-capped peaks of meatloaf, and dozens of other creative ways to play with food.

There are still a few microwave-free kitchens in the United States. Problem? Not much of one. Kids can try these recipes at friends’ houses, in motels, maybe even at school. Adults who missed the chance to do goofy things with a microwave oven, at age ten, can still do them at the office, too.

There is one small problem that’s actually built into the subject matter of this book. Kids’ after-school snacks need to include vegetables…and kids are most likely to enjoy vegetables as a snack when they’re as fresh and raw as possible. My brother and I never wanted to come home and heat up a can of peas but we were always delighted to go out to the garden and eat a few pods of raw peas, or some crunchy, juicy raw green beans (before they form tough strings), sweet and snappy raw asparagus, or one of those big squishy vine-ripened tomatoes that needs to be sliced in a bowl and eaten with a spoon. The editors of Microwave Cooking for Kids prudently recognized that few kids want to bother microwave-cooking vegetables. Parents may want to remind kids to clean and eat a few vegetables before they try another sweet or salty microwave treat.

Books written by committees aren’t Fair Trade Books, so this isn’t one, and the only reason why you should buy it here rather than elsewhere is that, if you add a copy of Microwave Cooking for Kids to a package that includes Fair Trade Books, the shipping is free. To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address in the lower left corner of the screen (U.S. postal orders to the P.O. box, Paypal to the e-mail address).

Book review cat from Morguefile:

blogjob cat

Saturday Post: Joy in Adversity?

This reaction to needs to be a separate blog post…so here it is. This is personal, so I’m scheduling it to pop up on a Saturday, when I won’t be online, and not using a graphic, since I’m not planning to “plus” it.

Between 1983 and 2005, with time out for major illness in 1986–which means since age 17–I was independent, successful, and very active with all sorts of odd jobs that informed and supported my writing. Then in 2005 I became a rich man’s penniless widow and nothing has worked for me since. I still work (at other things as well as writing) the same as I always did. People still seem to appreciate what I do…until the time comes to pay for it. Then instead of getting any reward for what I do I get responses that add up to “You don’t need to be rich (although I, the non-payer, do) and if you do need, maybe, food or heat, why don’t you just beg for handouts like other non-wealthy people do.”

It’s been profoundly discouraging.

I don’t mean “depressing”–I find it discouraging, also, that people confuse the two. Actually, with exceptions that last a few hours before some sort of physical illness (usually a gluten reaction) makes itself noticeable, I have a cheerful, fact-focussed disposition.

I’m not inclined to beg for handouts. As I’ve said, in fiction and on my Blogspot: widows have no “needs”–we’re alive because someone else needs our help. If other people are too stubborn and stupid and arrogant to admit their needs, or repay what I do for them, that’s not my problem.

I’m not inclined to give anything away without some form of repayment, though, either. I don’t think that’s good for anybody, nor is it what the Bible teaches. Every normal person wants to read to blind people, send provisions to disaster victims, and make children’s eyes light up–which is fine–but even children need to learn to think in terms of giving something back to those who give things to them.

I’ve not been eating regularly in recent years. It’s getting harder (due to genetically modified food products) to find anything I can eat. Yet another e-publisher is trying to rip me off, and once again I’m not making enough money to pay for anything I can eat if I can find it. At the Blogspot I declared a hunger strike, so of course some local lurker wanted to buy me lunch…one day. Fine. That’s the condition of the strike. I’ll eat on any day when I’ve received US$100.

It’s hard to explain…Losing a chance to get paid to write about the Bible did hurt my feelings. The prospect of literally starving (or freezing), in the beautiful home I inherited, rather than becoming another parasite on the Welfare State, does not hurt my feelings at all.

I believe in remembering people’s lives by carrying on what they did. My home became a Cat Sanctuary in memory of a cat who tamed wild animals and fostered kittens. Whatever I’ve done or written in aid of homeschooling (I don’t even have children), veterans (I’m not one), or people with major disabilities (I’m not one of them either, even if the U.S. Army counts gluten intolerance as a major inconvenience), has been in memory of other people I’ve loved. Well, what I want people to do, in support or in memory of me, whichever, is to stop worrying about the handouts to the full-time professional “needers” in these United States, and focus on making sure that people who’ve actually done something worthwhile get some substantial compensation for what they’ve done. Put “need” out of your mind. Think about the value of their contributions, and pay for those.

Writing is a source of pleasure for me. So is being at the Cat Sanctuary. So is the memory of the people who’ve gone on before me, and the prospect of being with them again. We’re all born into this world with an oxygen addiction, and I’ve known many people who’ve not achieved emotional detachment from the question of how long they’ll go on breathing even after age ninety. A lot of things have to go wrong for anyone to be discouraged enough to feel detached about that at fifty. Well…I’m a widow, and a lot of other things have gone wrong. Maybe at any age it’s not so much about chronological age as it is about the relative numbers of people you’ve cared about who are living, dead, or near death. (Last summer, while I’ve been writing my little heart out, two other members of the Blogspot–both of whom have lived splendidly with trivial disabilities for years–have developed real disabilities.)

The dinner I ate before writing this tasted good. If I were going to eat dinner today, I expect that would also taste good. Whether I do eat another meal in this lifetime, or not, is not a high-priority question for me. I have no “need” for food. I want no “help” to eat. I would feel encouraged if people wanted to start compensating me for what I do, but that’s their problem. For me living means giving and taking, using my talents and being rewarded for what I do. Parasitism isn’t living. I don’t think it’s part of what my Christian tradition calls God’s “perfect” will if my time for living is over, but if it’s part of God’s “conditional” will, well, then it is.

I’d call the state of mind I’ve reached detachment. It certainly has little in common with the intense emotion that C.S. Lewis taught (Highly Sensory-Perceptive) Christians to call Joy. (Non-HSP’s don’t understand this kind of Joy because they unfortunately don’t have the neurological circuits to feel it…sort of like being color-blind, I suppose…they seem to get through life all right in their way.) But I’ve been reading The Cloud of Unknowing, finally, and recognizing that this detachment together with determination does have something in common with Joy.

Maybe some readers, if anybody has the fortitude to read this far, remember “The Ballad of the Harp Weaver.” For those who don’t, it’s a dreadful, sentimental piece of verse fiction in which a poor widow miraculously receives material to weave clothes for her little child, and during one cold night she weaves all kinds of things, specifically including things that aren’t woven in real life, singing joyously. “Her voice never faltered, and her thread never broke,” and in the morning they find “her hands in the harp strings, frozen dead. And piled all around me, and toppling to the skies, were the clothes of a king’s son, just my size.” On the literal level, as fiction, it disgusts me; on a symbolic level, as a metaphor for using her talent, it delights me. Nothing else feels quite as good as doing the work you were meant to do. If you die doing what you were meant to do, where you were meant to do it, you’re better off than most people. If singing and weaving are your talents, and your voice never falters and your thread never breaks, that’s Joy.

Most of the people who warble and witter so annoyingly about “being happy in the Lord when they fall into adversity” are clueless twits who know nothing about either adversity or the Lord. That’s why they’re so annoying. They’re overfed, overprivileged, mind-bogglingly ignorant, mostly half-grown idiots whose idea of adversity is a bad hair day–a flat tire–they’ve never even had to drive a car that’s likely to have problems more serious than a flat tire. They’ve never been hungry; they’ve never worked hard; they’ve never even been seriously ill. They don’t know what their talents are, and may not have any. Christians are told that on the Judgment Day many who say “Lord, Lord!” will be told that our Lord “never knew them,” and it’s hard to imagine that most of the people who carry on about their “joy in the midst of adversity” are in that group.

It’s also been hard for me to overlook the fact that, with just one exception (a cancer survivor who tried to believe what she’d been told), the people I’ve known who really have overcome real hardships have not been Positive Thinkers. They have not wittered annoyingly about how happy they were. In fact some of them have at least earned reputations for being positively grouchy. Ask them how they were doing, they might growl, “Don’t ask me that unless you want to know!”–because the fact is that some of the physical disabilities with which some of them were living hurt like bloody blue blazes. But they lived with Joy, too, and during the time I spent with them I was aware of feeling Joy.

I’m certainly not happy about the idea of being unable to earn my living while my hair’s not even really what you’d call grey. When I started to imagine the possibility that I might live beyond age forty, which as a young undiagnosed celiac I couldn’t imagine, I wanted to have adopted children by now. Before age forty I had already made more positive contributions to this world than just staying off welfare. If that’s the only pathetic, negative contribution I can make now, the world is in a sorry state indeed…and that does not inspire me to think any “spiritual” thoughts or do any “spiritual” things, I might add. But what I feel is the kind of detachment and determination that may well be as close as some people ever get to feeling Joy.

Is it possible to love a God who can’t provide better opportunities than this for me? I don’t know; I’m not, frankly, bothering much about that question. I know it’s possible to be true to myself and the people I’ve loved, whom I have seen, and in whom I definitely do believe.

Is it “spiritual” to prefer to die in a state of integrity, if necessary, rather than keep on sucking oxygen and give up what you believe is right? I don’t know, and don’t want to bother my head much about that either. I know the reason why historians have been unable to identify the real-life original of “John Henry” is that not one, but several, nineteenth-century working men risked their lives on bets that they could outwork new machines (and some of them lived to collect the money); none of them seems to have been especially “spiritual” about it. I know there are old Irish legends about Pagan people who won various contests of brute strength, and died, apparently more pleased with their success than regretting that they hadn’t settled for less. I know there’ve been race horses who didn’t have to be urged on to finish races on broken legs; horses like Black Gold or Barbaro wanted to lead the pack more than they wanted to avoid pain–who knows whether a horse understands that a broken leg means death for him, but these horses made the choices they made. Since unbelieving people and even other animals seem to be capable of this choice, I’m not at all sure that the author of The Cloud of Unknowing was right about detachment from the felt “need” for physical life being a great spiritual advance that God wants Christians to make.

I can tell you that this detachment is at least as different from “depression,” or despair, or grief, or sorrow, or self-pity, as it is from happiness or pleasure. If it’s different, also, from cheerfulness, contentment, or Joy, it’s closer to those things than it is to the more painful moods humans feel.

How “real” is God? How “real” is Heaven? I don’t know. I’d prefer not to find out for another thirty or forty years. I’d prefer to go on living–I mean, really living–making my own choices, using my own talents, doing good things for other people and receiving good things in exchange for what I do. I’m not willing to go on sucking-oxygen-but-not-really-living as a beggar, a thief, a prostitute, a traitor…or an able-bodied welfare cheat, which is a sort of miserable amalgam of all four of those other things, and really does not “need” to be allowed even the oxygen, much less the handouts of anything less widely available than oxygen.

If there is a God as described in the Bible, whatever that means, or a Heaven, whatever that means, then either other people will start paying me real wages for what I do within the next week or two, or else I’ll soon be spending my time in the company of those who did appreciate what I did for them and reward it in whatever ways they were able to do. I will not be cheated or exploited again. If you want to call this a spiritual gift from God, I don’t know that you’d be right, but you’d be closer to the truth than any fool who might mistake it for suicidal despair.

Jobs, Health, Miscellaneous Wailing

Grandma Bonnie Peters, my partner in Webstuff, has pneumonia. Like most healthy seniors she’s had the most difficulty realizing that she’s ill–alternately exaggerating symptoms when she admits she’s having them, and ignoring risks until the symptoms do get scary. For a singer who’s been invited to lead a section in another church’s choir because she does such an inspiring job in her own, “no singing and no church” has been a blow. GBP likes Seventh-Day Adventists, likes Presbyterians, and really misses church.

Then there’s not being able to walk a mile or two a day with her best same-age buddy, whose memory is generally pretty good, but who did forget, on Monday, why GBP had asked her not to come over to check on GBP and invite her out for a walk. I looked up from the computer, saw (with my astigmatism) a stooped little person with white hair in the door, thought “When did GBP get up?”, and then focussed clearly enough to notice…short white hair? GBP’s hair is still long enough to pin up…Of course, this friend has keys to this house and GBP has keys to hers. Go away, please, don’t let us breathe on you, I thought. The friend had come to report that yet another healthy senior neighbor had been hospitalized with MRSA. Apparently that news had shaken the idea that she should avoid GBP and me out of her mind, but at least she had remembered not to walk to the hospital and visit him.

From time to time I have to remind myself and others that I’m not twenty-five any more…actually, the feeling of energy being drained, by the virus and by concern about GBP, is similar to the way I normally felt when I was twenty-five and was draining my own energy by eating wheat products. Plus, at twenty-five, I planned on being too anemic to do physical work or be around sick people for approximately forty days out of the year, as so many young women do. So I felt this bad most of the time, and often felt worse, when I was twenty-five.

For active, healthy women, midlife is very liberating. Within limits. I see GBP and her friend positively seething with frustration that they, or anyone they know who’s not an invalid, need to think seriously about a mere staph infection.

Last week I never came down with any obvious symptoms, but a summary of what people are saying about baby strollers took as much time and effort as I’d planned to spend recopying and polishing fifty pieces of Bad Poetry, or might have spent, some other week, cranking out six similar product reviews, plus book reviews, an editorial rant, a phenology post, and Link Logs. Everything felt like “Eight Mile Road.” This is the way I usually experience life when virus infections are going around.

Can anything be learned from this wail? Yes, of course. I’m not always a fast worker–in fact, when I have to think about a task, I’m slow–but I am an energetic, focussed, borderline workaholic, and here I am, looking exactly like a lazy person. The difference is not always easy to see. Even when it’s possible to see a consistent difference, over time, between lazy and industrious people, laziness may originate in some kind of minor illness or disability. Even if the person has learned lazy habits or failed to develop efficient ones, or even lost the ability to do a job, those things are likely to be complications from a physical illness or disability. So we should be charitable about people we perceive as lazy, if not necessarily tolerant of lazy habits on a job.

Image released into the public domain by WackoJacko at Wikipedia:

Five Things I Wouldn’t Want to Do Without

Topic credit: @rusty2rusty at .

In order to make this challenge interesting we have to leave out the basic survival needs of food, water, air, shelter, and companionship, and write about five other things we, individually, wouldn’t want to try living without. (“Hot water” is not the same as “water.”) That way everyone who takes this challenge has a different list. Here’s mine, for today–another day I might think of different things.

1. The resident cats at the Cat Sanctuary. They’re my friends, not on the same level that human friends are, but on a level that’s more necessary to my day-to-day life. Writers don’t really need people to talk to–what we instinctively want to do is write, not talk–and, although the cats and I can and do “converse” about some things, we belong to different species and don’t really have much in common. In human-to-cat communication you’ve had a tremendous success, which some (of both species) don’t even want to believe is possible, if you can reliably “say” and “hear” messages like “I think what you’re doing is dangerous.” But the resident cats are more valuable friends than other humans who merely talk about what they and I think and feel with our convoluted human brains. The cats don’t talk or think or feel that way at all, but they do keep mice from nibbling our home down to the ground.

2. The mountains around the Cat Sanctuary. I did too much travelling at too early an age. The effect of being told that too many different places “would be my new home” was not to teach me that all places are beautiful. It was to teach me that all other places are Not-Home, and although Not-Home can be interesting it’s never quite as nice as Home.

(Home is a place, not a person. Thank God. People don’t live as long as the earth and the mountains. My home is a place that recalls memories of people I’ve loved, but it’s fortunate for me that my home is primarily a place where I do things I love doing, because so many of those people I’ve loved are no longer alive.)

3. Writing. Writers don’t really stop putting words together, at least not when we’re awake. We think in words. We dream in words. We’re likely to feel that pictures, gestures, touches and other physical demonstrations are clumsy efforts to say things that Real Human Beings Like Us would say in words. We have to push ourselves to remember that our words need to mean things.

4. Cash. Writers are squeamish about mentioning this one. We like to imagine that, because the things we most enjoy aren’t usually products with specific price tags, we don’t need money to enjoy Finer Things like music, flowers, and good conversation. That’s all very well, and certainly people who dedicate their whole lives to piling up vast hoards of money, and neglect the Finer Things, are boring or insane or both. Nevertheless, if we don’t have any money, there won’t be much music, many flowers, or much good conversation in our lives either. If you want to debate about this, that suits me just fine. Send me all your money, live on roots and berries for six months, and then tell me what you think.

5. Freedom. Self-determination. Whenever I’ve said this, other U.S. baby-boomers who know me personally have thought it was an odd thing to say, because what I personally do with my freedom is not usually what was marketed to our generation as “liberation.” I harbor no grandiose dreams about doing anything for Humanity, although I enjoy helping my neighbor (the “near-be-er,” the person nearest to me at a given time) as much as anybody else does. I’m definitely not interested in drugs, polygamy, promiscuity, heavy metal music, or even flared-leg jeans. And I can take road trips or leave them alone, but preferably the latter. What I want the freedom to do is, in fact, to live a quiet, “conservative,” auntly life with a minimum of drama and upheavals. I find people who seek out “excitement” for its own sake deadly boring. But if other people crave more “excitement” than I want, good luck to them and let them have it–somewhere well out of my sight and hearing. The important thing is that people respect each other enough to leave each other alone.

Morguefile cat…Here, kitty, kitty…


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 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:


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


Good evening. It’s 7 p.m., end of a long busy day’s hack writing, and I’m just testing this site. If it works, I’ll be moving the book reviews and other fun stuff from over here. (If it works, I’ll be getting paid for all these words I’ve been writing for all these years, and youall know I could use the money.) If it works, readers will not only be able to log in and post comments, but be able to earn money for doing so. If it works, this site will be absolutely fandangous. If it works.

If it works, I’ll think of a better introduction post later.

For now, I’m still trying to figure out how (and whether) this site works. I have a minor injury that makes walking home from this job site (ten miles) unnecessarily complicated; I have an eighty-year-old partner in Webstuff who’s willing to drive me home, who really doesn’t need to be driving either in the late afternoon sun that hits right in her face or after dark, which makes timing tricky; I have a weird Web connection that may or may not drop dead tomorrow afternoon. And I didn’t expect +Sandy KS (is there a way to tag e-friends on this web site?) to report that anything like this site existed…much less to be here and need to think of something Professional Writerly to say here, at the end of the day.

Actually, I was expecting to be able to open +Nancy Hardin’s latest post from Jaquo, and that totally didn’t work today. Again. (For a few months Jaquo didn’t work on any computer to which I had access. Last week, for reasons unclear to me, it suddenly did. Now, again, it doesn’t.)

Anyway: Persona Peeps, LJ Friends, Googlers from the Circle of Following, Twitterers, Tsu’ers, Bubblers, Blazers, Freedom Connectors, and anybody whose blog appears in my blogfeed or Link Logs–you’re all welcome. Pull up chairs, pass cups for coffee or iced tea or soda pop or mountain spring water, take out your fancy work of choice, and get acquainted with one another.

There are a few Site Rules:

1. Since some people who are welcome here will be voting for Clinton and I don’t yet know how many people who can find their way over here live outside the United States, let’s save the long, detailed political rants for whichever political and news sites we’ve been posting those to.

2. Anything classified as “adult content” (meaning content that appeals to teenagers–sex, violence, rude words, any mention of specific body parts) should be saved for LJ, where it can be tagged as adult and thus officially kept where it won’t upset children.

3. Content that appeals to actual adults–about work, money, family, responsibility, faith, health, cleaning, and other things that are only ever interesting to adults–is fine, so far as I can tell.

4. Except for the topics of firearms and fireworks. Some potential sponsors are apparently pyrophobic.

5. If you’re easily offended by people’s opinions on issues, here’s the guide: Anything that advocates violence toward anybody is forbidden at this site. (At worst, when talking about convicted felons, we can recommend life imprisonment at hard labor, saying nothing about water.) The sort of silly playground-type taunts about which I just vented at the Blogspot, earlier today, are unwelcome at this site. Harsh judgments of groups of people defined by circumstances beyond their control (e.g. “those Kentucky drivers”) are unwelcome at this site. Harsh judgments of opinions, policies, and behavior (e.g. “that stupid argument” or “their tacky manners”) are acceptable at this site; whining is not acceptable. Logical arguments and counter-arguments are fine. In short, freedom of speech rules, but let’s keep it parliamentary–a lot of the comments that are typical at The Blaze, the Huffington Post, etc., would not be tolerated here.