In Afghanistan, Happiness is a Warm Poppy

Eric Weiner's book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World won't give you any definitive answers about how or where to find happiness, but it is an incisive and entertaining tour of how some cultures reach contentedness: in the Netherland the method is tolerance; in Switzerland it is democracy, cleanliness, nosiness, boredom, and stability; in Bhutan, Weiner is advised to think about death five minutes a day . . . but this is also a country where they feed marijuana to pigs because it makes the "pigs hungry and therefore fat"; in Qatar easy money does not bring happiness; and in Moldova, comparing oneself to the Swiss and other Europeans makes Moldovans sad; in Iceland, darkness, failure, generous state-subsidized health care and unemployment benefits, and binge-drinking make for good times; in Thailand, it is best to think less; in Britain, muddling along is good enough (especially if you live in Slough); in India, to be happy you need to embrace the mysticism and the chaos, the wealth and the poverty, the yin and the yang, the thing and the anti-thing; and in America, sometimes in our search for happiness we forget what actually makes us happy, friends and family, and focus too much on money and materialism, so the next time you are unhappy, don't go shopping, go out binge drinking with your friends and then muddle along through your next day of work without thinking.

Saxondale: A Show To Watch When Your Wife Goes Out

As a rule, I never watch television alone (unless it's a sporting event, because then I feel like I'm with the crowd at the event) but the exception is made for Steve Coogan shows-- generally my wife and I have similar taste, but Steve Coogan is where we agree to disagree (although we both watched Hamlet 2 in its entirety, and while I can't really recommend the movie, the final play is pretty funny, especially the big musical number "Rock Me Sexy Jesus") and I already knew this from past events: for example, I loved "Knowing You Knowing Me," the fake talk show hosted by Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) but my wife didn't find it all that funny, and now Coogan's new show, Saxondale, is beyond the pale in its alienation of the fairer sex; Tommy Saxondale (Coogan) is an ex-roadie-- he toured with all the huge rock bands in the '70's, except Led Zeppelin, which is his life's biggest regret-- but now he's an aging rocker who lives in the suburbs and runs a pest control "business" (he employs one other person) and loves his muscle car (a Mustang) as much as his chubby live-in anarchist girlfriend Magz-- though he still has anger issues about his ex-wife and the general decline of his coolness . . . and I can identify with this: these day I can't really stomach listening to Deep Purple and Jethro Tull any longer-- I've outgrown them and so has Tommy (to be honest, I've always hated Jethro Tull) but I still love jokes and references about them and all the other bands and the muscle cars and I can relate to Tommy's confrontation with his age and his inability to rock-out any more, but my wife could care less, and I can kind of see why . . .  so this will be a show to watch when she goes out with the ladies.

Best Intentions

When I first started teaching, I thought I was going to be one of those teachers who rewarded kids with candy, and so I bought a bag of Hershey's miniatures and put it in my desk, but then I ate them all during my off period (it's really hard not to eat while grading essays) before I could dole them out as rewards, and instead now I'm the kind of teacher that scrawls "Metaphor Contest Champion" on a piece of scrap paper and hands it the winner, who then says: "This isn't even a whole piece of paper . . . it's got a chunk torn out of it!"

Literary Psychoanalysis

I am more like Hamlet and my wife is more like Fortinbras . . . and this works out well.

Are You An Orchid or a Dandelion?

 The most powerful essay in The Best American Science Writing of 2010 is called "The Orchid Children," and the author, David Dobbs, explains a metaphor that has recently cropped up in psychology-- that of "orchid children" and "dandelion children"-- the orchid children being those that have a genetic disposition to certain negative behaviors including depression and ADHD, while the dandelion children do not-- and the research is being done particularly with regards to ADHD and a particular "risk allele," but the findings that are explaining these alleles in an evolutionary sense and turning behavioral science on its head is the fact that these "orchid children" with the shorter allele and proclivity towards ADHD, also have the potential-- when raised in a secure and fruitful environment-- to excel beyond the "normal" weedy children . . . the dandelion children are more stable, and they generally don't exhibit the negative behaviors however they are raised, but the "orchid" children are a genetic risk: they are more sensitive to their environment, positive or negative . . . when they are given positive interventions (I'm not going to describe all the experiments but Dobbs does) they have a greater increase of success; the author bravely gets his alleles sequenced and finds out what he knew-- he's an orchid-- but he doesn't want to know about his kids, it's enough for him to be aware that when he "takes his son trolling for salmon, or listens to his younger brother's labyrinthine elaborations of his dreams," that he is "flipping little switches that can help them light up," but I suspect that my kids might be dandelions, and I think I'm one too-- we all remain remarkably consistent in our habits and our behavior, and we all pay very little attention to our environment, and honestly, despite the amount of time I spend with them, my kids rarely pay attention to me . . . I try to flip some switches, but I think I may just sound like the parents in Peanuts to them.

It's Really Hard To Eradicate Weeds

The sixth season of Weeds will grow on you, unlike the previous season, where the show nearly withered and died--  it's a return to its earlier, earthier form, mainly because Mary-Louise Parker is in nearly every cramped and dirty scene, and she is the soil that holds the straggling, weedy, and dysfunctional Botwin family together as well as the dramatic, photosynthetic, flourishing center of the show (Kevin Nealon is funny but he doesn't have the roots to hold the show together and neither can any of the other actors and actresses . . . Parker is the pro)-- and their wild road trip comes to a perfect conclusion, as fitting as the end of that unweeded garden in Elsinore, where things rank and gross must finally decay and die. . . but then I learned, that like a perennial, the show has been renewed for a seventh season, and my question is: how?

People Ruin Everything

More from The Best American Science Writing of 2010: Elizabeth Kolbert, in her essay "The Sixth Extinction?" points out that whenever people come to town, all the cool creatures are wiped out; the mastodons, mammoths, giant beavers, dire wolves, short-faced bears, giant ground sloths, toxodons, and saber tooth tigers died out just after we came to the Americas . . . the giant wombats, giant tortoises (as big as a VW Beetle!) and giant ten foot tall kangaroos died out soon after we colonized to Australia; this pattern holds true for New Zealand, Hawaii, and pretty much everywhere else-- the big and cool looking stuff can't survive in the places we colonize, but this is happening with smaller creatures as well-- there is a great die off of amphibians happening right now, notably the Colombian golden frog (which is technically a toad) and bat populations are also rapidly declining-- and Kolbert explains (and demonstrates) that this is probably caused by a chytrid fungus spread by humanity called Bd (actually it's called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, but by the time you finish saying that, another species has gone extinct) but, luckily, some species are not affected, including the hardy salamanders that we discovered in the woods near the litter strewn banks of the polluted Raritan River, but it does make me worry that we might have to stop visiting our "Jersey tough" amphibians.

Did Banksy Create Rebecca Black?

Despite writing this blog, I remain fairly isolated from what's being passed around on the internet-- and I'm sad to report that I learned about this song on NPR-- but even though I was the 38, 945, 234th person to watch the YouTube video of Rebecca Black's "Friday," I think I have something valuable to say about the song (which was written and "created" by Ark Music Factory, supposedly the brainchild of Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jey) and it is this: the lyrics are so unlyrical, the theme is so banal, the music is so auto-tuned, and the video is so literal that this kind of satirical "fun fun fun" could only have been the work of the arch-prankster and super-cool street artist Banksy . . . and I have to admit that the song is very catchy, which is impressive, since it doesn't rhyme, makes no attempt to have a unique voice, coins no new catchy phrase, and contains lyrics about how the days of the week are ordered and eating breakfast cereal . . . unless that line is a veiled marijuana reference: "waking up in the morning . . . gotta have my bowl" . . . only Banksy knows for sure, but this has to be a practical joke on par with the creation of Thierry Guetta (and right now, twenty minutes after I wrote the previous sentence, I still can't get the song out of my head . . . so perhaps "Friday" is brilliant in its stupidity . . . so derivative that it parodies itself . . . Rebecca Black, you are a super-genius in the same realm as Mr. Brainwash!)

The Influence of Digital Media on My Caloric Intake

On the rare occasion that we eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant-- Tortuga's Mexican Village in Princeton-- I usually order a tamale and a chorizo burrito, but Saturday night I got a tamale and a chorizo taco-- and the taco was tasty, but not as large as the burrito . . . and I did this for the taco count, of course, but maybe the taco count, which in one sense is an exercise in gluttony, will actually make me eat fewer calories in 2011, because, as I mentioned earlier, tacos are smaller than burritos.

Sometimes, You've Got To Do What You've Got To Do (Despite the Stupid Name)

I put it off for a week, because it's absurd and embarrassing and it has a stupid name and nothing feels more foolish, but in the end, it had to be done, and as usual it cleared up the problem . . . if you're congested, nothing works better than the Neti Pot.

The Bright Side

If you believe Hugh Everett's "many worlds interpretation" of quantum physics, then you believe there are an infinite number of parallel universes and that in this multiverse, every alternative history and future exists, so-- though the odds are 1 in 18.5 quintillion . . . or perhaps a bit less, depending on your strategy and how you calculate-- somewhere in one of these universes, you have filled out a perfect bracket . . . so don't despair, look on the bright side (but seriously, Syracuse, Texas, and Pitt? . . . for a brief and shining moment I was in such good shape . . . second place in a 100 plus person pool).

Test Your Child For The ACTN3 Gene and Muscle Type!

Steven Pinker, in his essay "My Genome, My Self," explains that many of the "dystopian fears" raised by personal genome sequencing (think of the movie Gattaca) are absurd because of the complexity and "probabilistic nature" of genes-- especially in light of the various studies explaining how the influence of a particular gene is contingent on the environment, thousands of other genes in your genome-- both known and unknown-- and how we can never account for the myriad combination and influence of genes, random mutations, environment, and "other" that make an individual; Pinker ends the essay with this example: when parents and coaches learned about the ACTN3 gene and muscle type, they started swabbing kids' cheeks for saliva so they could genetically screen them for a proclivity for fast-twitch musculature, and then steer these kids towards football and sprinting . . . but Carl Foster, one of the scientists who uncovered the ACTN3 association, had a more elegant way to "discover" kids with more fast twitch muscles: "Just line them up with their classmates for a race and see which ones are the fastest" . . . the swab will find some of the kids who may have a predilection for fast twitch musculature, but the race will find all of them.

Does This Guy Look 80% Bald?

I'm wading through The Best American Science Writing of 2010 and overarching theme of the collection is this: things are complicated . . . and in Steven Pinker's essay "My Genome, My Self," this slowly becomes apparent, as he analyzes the "genetic report card" he received from the personal genetic sequencing company 23andMe-- some of his genes validate reality: he has the gene for blue eyes and he actually has blue eyes . . . some don't: he has genes that make it highly likely that he will be bald, but he sports a billowing Jew-fro . . . some point at his heritage (Askenazi Jew) and some point towards percentages: the reports says he has a 12 percent chance of getting prostrate cancer . . . but most of what he had sequenced, like the genes for height, which is highly heritable, will barely have any effect (the dozen genes for height only account for 2% of the variation of height among humans-- the rest of the difference is caused by unknown factors) and may mean nothing in his life or everything, depending on all the other genes that weren't sequences, any unusual genes he has that are extremely rare, factors in the environment, and random mutation and affect-- and when Pinker philosophizes on why there is so much variety in humanity because of all these factors, when evolution doesn't require this much uniqueness for survival, he brings up the fact that if there's too much of any one type of personality, then there is a benefit to being different-- if everyone is nice, then it pays to be mean, but once there are enough mean people, they counter-act each other and it is the band of communal folks that will survive-- and he uses a proverb to remind us of the value of variety in a species: "The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

My Vegetable Love Should Grow Vaster Than Empires

The prices at the vegetable market on Route 1 are better than the prices at Stop and Shop, but you have to be more discerning with your selections because the produce is not as consistent as the produce at the grocery store . . . and I find myself following the same inane pattern when assessing what I will purchase: for instance, say that I am browsing strawberries . . . I look at a carton and check the bottom for mold, and then I compare the ripeness to another carton and then I compare that carton to another one and then I compare the best carton so far to yet another random carton, but by this time I have completely forgotten what the first and second cartons looked like, nor do I remember where I put them down, so I usually just select the last carton I picked up, put it in the basket, and move along . . . only to repeat the same idiotic process with the next item on the list (and don't even get me started with avocados . . . I give each a perfunctory squeeze, but I don't even know what my criteria are for selecting one avocado instead of another-- I just take some time before I choose because I don't want to appear naive to the other shoppers).

All Searches Lead to the Sentence of Dave

Here are some of the Google search entries that led people to this humble little corner of the internet: emo, giant wasps, japanese emo, testicular elephantitis, gay roller blade hockey, elephantitis face, child safety, punch a colleague, large swine pig, DAVE IN BACKYARD MONSTER, a pig dick, bubble, awkward dave, marla olmstead now, alan moore banksy, eddie izzard, orfanato, fish and fin sentence, emo light bulb, and bubbles making . . . and being the "go to" sight for these obscure topics makes me very proud, but not as proud as cornering the market on the phrase "residual glee."

Instant Fish

There are certain things you shouldn't buy used-- condoms, fuzzy toilet seat covers, handkerchiefs, and enema kits-- but as for everything else, it might be worth it to take the risk and check Craigslist . . . my son Alex asked for a fish tank for his birthday and when you add up the price of the tank and all the gadgets you need, the set-up is pretty expensive, so I took a ride to Avenel and bought a tank from a very nice dude named Sooraj-- and for eighty dollars he gave me everything: 29 gallon tank, hood, filter, heater, pump, gravel, live plants, net, siphon, plastic plants, thermometer, a castle, food, chemicals, and even his fish . . . he dismantled it all in front of me, very methodically, and placed everything into bags and buckets, and then I brought it home, set it up in an hour, and so far the fish survived the trip and water change . . . so my advice is this: at some point in their life, just about everyone has a fish tank, and at some point, just about everyone decides that the last thing they want in their life is a fish tank, so if you want a fish-tank, get a used one.

A Question Most Americans Are Afraid To Ask

How many plastic cups does a family of four actually need?-- and I am guessing the answer is NOT twenty-nine, which is how many we have . . . and I am thinking that this number is not particularly unusual . . . so what is your count?

Seven For Seven

Although it might be a bit early to invite comparison to the greatest streak in professional sport's history-- Joe DiMaggio's magnificent run of 56 straight games with a base hit-- I would still like to make it known that the last seven times I have gone searching for salamanders with my sons in our secret salamander spot, we have been successful in finding this elusive amphibian, and our streak stretches back to last spring, when we found the spot: last Thursday we found three of them-- not that it matters how many we found . . . all it takes is one salamander to keep the streak alive-- and Friday afternoon we found a nest of them under a large chunk of concrete, and Saturday we found a few more, and Sunday we only found one . . . and I can already feel the pressure mounting for our next search.

More Alan Moore

Although I couldn't make it through Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I loved The Saga of the Swamp Thing . . . the art is fantastic and the content is surprisingly philosophical: though it uses some possibly specious science about memory transfer from cannibalistic planarians . . . the results of the real experiment, which haven't been reproduced consistently, claim that if you train flatworms to run through a maze for food, and then have other flatworms who have never run the maze eat the flatworms that have run the maze, then the cannibalistic flatworms will gain the ability to run the maze without having to experience the maze-- but who cares if the science works-- Moore uses this conceit to explain that his Swamp Thing is not "Alec Holland somehow transformed into a plant" it is "a plant that thought it was Alec Holland"-- he uses the swamp thing to investigate one of the great philosophical conundrums-- if your exact (or even inexact) consciousness was reproduced-- digitally or botanically or with giant gears or whatever-- and this new thing believes it is you and thinks as you do, despite being a facsimile of you, then is it you?-- and who is the real you?-- what if you are given a drug that allows brain cells to regenerate and your brain is split in half and each side regrows in a different host-- then which is really you? or if you were to replace your brain bit by bit with identical circuits, then is the final robot still you, or when did you switch from being you to being an android? or if you teleport and your molecules are disassembled and then reassembled with identical but different molecules in another location, did you die?-- and is the thing that is reassembled just another facsimile of you with a very short break in consciousness . . . and this is the sort of existential question that The Saga of the Swamp Thing investigates . . . it is about a botanical consciousness coming to grips with what it really is (though the philosophy is interrupted by one odd page of the Justice League deciding that they can't do anything about Wood-rue, the Floronic Man, who is enlisting the world's plants to destroy all animals, including man . . . but he is quickly defeated by the simple logic that plants need animals to produce carbon dioxide-- the respiration cycle, and then it's back to the existential crisis) and in the end The Swamp Thing comes to terms with what he is, and the fact that he is not Alec Holland . . . that he is a plant with consciousness and as Fall approaches he has strange fears and anxieties because he is linked to the cycle of the seasons just as many plants are, and at the very end, there's a great frame of him walking into the swamp, holding hands with an autistic kid, explaining how he's afraid of fire and the kid replies, "That's good , it makes me feel better, I mean, if even monsters get scared sometimes, then it isn't so bad, is it?"

Brevity is a Warm Gun

 If you like your assassins hot and your hookers hotter, then The American is the film for you.

Highland Park's Charter School Controversy Goes National

Wednesday, The New York Times printed an article called "The Promise and Costs of Charters," which focuses on the Hebrew language charter school debate happening in my town, and the article is very similar to the editorial I wrote on the same subject, both in tone and logic, so I am assuming that this Peter Applebome character got all his ideas from me, but I'm not going to force him to confess, because I got all my ideas from Banksy (actually, I got a lot of my ideas from Diane Ravitch, but it sounds cooler to say I got all my ideas from Banksy).

American Dreaming

  American Dreaming by The Density

I have often expressed my disdain for dreams and their significance, but when I opened my mind to their artistic and lyrical potential . . . and when I let some of my colleagues open their minds, I ended up with this song-- I promise you that there's something in here for everyone (and I 'd like to thank Shakespeare, Biggie Smalls, Rage Against the Machine, Martin Luther King, Steve Carrell, Bob Dylan, Tracy Morgan, and-- of course-- any of my colleagues who willingly lent their voice to this half-baked project).

The Town is Riddled With Holes

You may have looked at the title of this post and thought to yourself, That's a mixed metaphor and doesn't make much sense, and if you did think this, then do NOT watch the new Ben Affleck film The Town, because this movie is far stupider than my title . . . the film is about a crack team of bank robbers in Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston, which the film claims is the bank robbery capitol of the universe, but apparently this is not true and there are lots of ominous helicopter shots of "the town," but it's not an ominous looking place-- lovely brick buildings and the picturesque Bunker Hill Monument-- and the movie does a piss-poor job characterizing the setting (despite the Boston accents) so I'm not sure what the purpose of those shots were for, except to spend money, and anyway, this crack team of bank robbers, who wear really cool and inventive masks-- even cooler masks than the gang in Point Break-- they decide to keep robbing banks despite the fact that the FBI is on to them and despite the fact that the "crazy one,"doesn't want to go back to jail, and then Ben Affleck decides he will also fall in love with the bank manager girl they abducted in the last robbery and that she won't recognize any of their voices and despite the fact that the FBI is watching both him and the bank manager girl, he thinks that they should run away together and this won't look suspicious at all, and for some reason we're supposed to sympathize with Ben Affleck and dislike Jon Hamm, though Jon Hamm is just doing his job, which is to catch armed robbers-- and Jon Hamm, who I love as Don Draper, should stick to that show, he's much better at keeping his mouth shut and being cryptic than actually playing an active role-- and these FBI people just can't seem to find any evidence to put away these guys that they know are the crack team of bank robbers and when they get to the bank manager girl and find out about the relationship, then they make her call Ben Affleck while they are listening in, but they all stand in the window with her while she makes the call, so Ben Affleck can see what's going on-- and I'm sure this is some breach of protocol (why does she have to make the call from her apartment anyway?) and in the big shoot out, where the guys impersonate cops but don't shave off their cool stubble and facial hair, people are spraying sub-machine gun fire everywhere, at close range, but oddly, only the fat minor character get shot and killed . . . and at this point I was still watching just to see how stupid it would get . . . and it gets even stupider, so after these guys finish robbing Fenway Park and the other minor character essentially sacrifices his life so the plot can move forward and then things work out pretty well and the bank manager girl is able to make an anonymous donation in the name of someone she didn't know without the inept FBI finding out and Ben Affleck grows more facial hair in the very end and this movie is monumentally cheesy and bad and I'm not sure how it got this good review or even a decent review because it was just awful.

Gut Reaction (Another Awkward Moment of Dave)

In no way do I mean to belittle this awful, tragic story, but when a colleague (young and female) pulled this headline  up on the computer in the English office and asked me if had heard about it, I took a moment to read it, took another moment to comprehend it, and then my jaw literally dropped . . . the headline evoked such pathos in me, and-- perhaps because my emotions were so sincere and passionate . . . or perhaps because I imbibed a goodly amount of beer the night before-- I inadvertently let out a loud burp . . . and the timing of the burp seemed to indicate that this was my commentary on the story, and so my young, female colleague said, "That's your reaction to this? You burp in my face?" which was complete hyperbole because the burp was not "in her face," as I was a good five feet away from her face, but still, my reaction probably seemed gauche, but it was actually heartfelt (heartburnfelt?) and happened because the story was so moving, but next time I read about something awful, I will keep my mouth shut (although, as usual, the awkwardness was worth the sentence).

41 Candles

It's become de rigeur in my family to forget to wish me "Happy Birthday" on the morning of . . . as my son's birthday is the day before, so we usually combine celebrations . . . one year my wife called me at school, nearly crying because she forgot . . . one year we both forgot . . . and the year Alex was born there was obviously no remembering . . . but this year I tried to gently remind my wife . . . I asked her if she read my blog and she said yes, but obviously this wasn't enough to make her remember and then I asked her if I need to pick up fish for this, but that didn't do it either, but, finally, she remembered . . . it was so early in the morning that I don't remember exactly how, and so I didn't have to receive a tearful call at school, and then, oddly, when I got to school, ALL my students remembered my birthday, which I may have mentioned once when I was teaching them the "Birthday Problem," . . . someone made me cupcakes and everyone wished me "Happy Birthday," including a random student in the class next door . . . I poked my head through the hole in the folding wall to ask Kevin something and a girl said, "Happy Birthday," and I said, "Do I know you?" and when she was pressed on how she knew it was my birthday, she said, "I just heard"and I think the kids were so zealous in their wishes because they know I hate holidays, parties, and any break in the educational routine, but they also knew that I would be unable to refuse home-made cupcakes on my birthday and I would have to distribute them to the class, or I would look like a total grouch.

I'd Like To Have My Face Digitally Scrubbed

There is an obvious irony to The Social Network: the guy who created the modern template for friendship doesn't really have any friends, but if you want a film about the ramifications of on-line life, this movie comes up short; on the plus side,  Jesse Eisenberg does a great job portraying a geeky nerd and Justin Timberlake does a great job portraying a cool nerd and Armie Hammer does a great job portraying the Winklevoss twins-- another actor had his face "digitally scrubbed" so that Hammer could be in two places at once-- and he steals the show . . . the twins are villains in the '80's style . . . reminiscent of Drago and The Shoot, with a dose of Yuppie blood, and the digital effect is so well-done that my wife and I had no idea they were played by the same actor while we were watching the film.

V For Paranoia

When I read Alan Moore's Watchmen, I thought to myself: I should write the script for a graphic novel, it would be awesome if someone turned my words into really cool pictures . . . but then I got a look at the actual script for Watchmen and thought better of this idea (here is the link to the script and though you have to download a PDF to see it, it is worth it to see the nearly insane attention to detail Moore takes for each frame of the graphic novel . . . you'd think someone with this kind of visual acuity would want to see the film version) and if you want more of Moore's insanity, read V for Vendetta, which isn't as dense as Watchmen, but has a clearer story-line, and if you want to get a feel for the tone of the book, read the introductions: the first is by David Lloyd, the illustrator, and he recounts an anecdote in a pub . . . he is sitting, drinking his pint, and the TV is blaring one insipid "cheeky and cheery" sit-com after another, and then a sports quiz program, but when the news comes on, the bartender shuts the TV off, and Lloyd finishes ominously: "V for Vendetta is for people who don't switch off the news," and then comes Moore's introduction, in which he predicts that Margaret Thatcher will create concentration camps for AIDS victims (it is 1988) and he describes vans with cameras on top, and police and their horses wearing black visors, and he says that England has turned "cold and mean-spirited," and he's getting his seven year old daughter out of there (although according to the internet, he's still living in Northern England, twenty three years later) and while I think the two of them are paranoid nut-bags, I also think you need people like this, predicting the worst, to remind us of what Arthur Koestler called the darkness at noon, so while I prefer to live blithely and unaware, someday Moore will be able to say: I told you so.

Treading Water in the Shallows

Nicholas Carr's new book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brain is well argued and frightening, and the opposition from some corners is simply because there's not much we can do about the ubiquity of the internet-- and near the start of the book he uses the Wallace Stevens poem "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm" to remind us of the value of deep reading, but if you read the poem here, then I feel like his point is proven . . . that reading on the internet is nothing like reading a book (look at the size and color of the font of the poem vs. everything else on that page) and Carr uses plenty of established research to prove his thesis that reading an actual book is an excellent way to take ideas and information from short term memory and enter them into long-term memory . . . that the only way to do this is laborious and information enters our brain "thimbleful by thimbleful," and if things happen too fast, because of hyper-links, F shaped skimming, Twitter and e-mail interruptions, etc. then there will be "cognitive overload" and we can't translate new knowledge into memories or schemas . . . and he also refutes the idea that storing knowledge on the internet means we can free out brains for other uses; in fact, paradoxically, the opposite is true, the more you have in your brain, the easier it is to remember other things and the easier it is to read and think (our brains are not computers and the ROM analogy does not work) . . . but the internet is difficult to escape, so all I can recommend is that you shut it down once in a while, kick your kids out of the house-- armed with knives and matches so they don't return for a long while, and then crack open a book (made of paper-- as the Kindle is aiming towards the same interruption-laden style of reading, with hyper-links, discussions on passages, Facebook style commenting, etc.)

Tacos Trump Enchiladas

My wife suggested enchiladas for my birthday meal and I agreed heartily, but then she asked, "Do enchiladas count as tacos?" and I told her that if I was going to do things honestly, then they did not, so instead she made fish tacos (which I also love) and I ate five, which really ups my 2011 Taco Count, but now I'm in a weird world where I am eating more tacos just because I am counting how many tacos I am eating . . . and I know this applies to something statistical in the real world, but I'm too full to make the connection.

34 Years To Go! (For An Average American Male)

Today is my birthday,
me and the Seuss--
I'm now forty-one,
and still feeling loose,
but if life is a train,
I'm near the caboose.

Who Is The Biggest Loser?

At work, a number of my colleagues are participating in a Biggest Loser Diet Contest-- they all put money into a pot and the person that loses the most weight (determined by a percentage of the original starting weight) wins all the money-- and I'm not sure how I feel about this because some of my co-workers are starting to look really good . . . which is nice-- it's nice to be surrounded by slender, sexy, and attractive co-workers-- but there's part of me that hopes everyone comes out of this contest so ravenous that they eat until they are grossly overweight, because it's also nice to be surrounded by people fatter than you are . . . it's good for your self-esteem (in fact, women don't need to be anorexically skinny to be happy with their body, they just have to have a lower BMI than their mate) so I guess whichever way the scale tips, I'm a winner . . . or a loser, depending on how you look at it.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.