Tag Archives: Reading

Getting the Gift of Gab During Holiday Gobbling

For a lot of folks, this holiday season is the first one in a while where there are more gatherings, both in family homes and in offices. So to prepare for that, writer Olga Khazan over at The Atlantic consulted an effort to help us all get through the small talk — and even if you don’t want to be a raconteur, it never hurts to be a better conversationalist.

Your banter doesn’t need to be up to His Girl Friday level, but it’s best to prep.

Travel the World… via Sandwich

Thanksgiving feasts will be on the tables of millions of Americans in less than a week, but for this Friday before said feast is completely on everyone’s mind, let’s talk about sandwiches.

Social media exercises frequently make the rounds regarding where people have traveled, so I read this article by Terry Ward for CNN about some of the world’s best sandwiches, and I thought this was just as interesting a score to tally… and far more mouth-watering.

The Bánh mì, a consistent good pick for a sandwich

Note that I’m scoring just by the sandwiches alone, not the sandwiches in the actual locale. Granted, it would be wonderful to experience a region’s signature sandwich in its natural habitat –I mean, the tramezzini paired with local wine in Venice sounds wonderful– but that’s for bucket lists.

Right now, my score stands at 11 with several of the rest to be sought out in the near future. Actually right right now, I’m going to get one of my favorite sandwiches not on this list for a late lunch…

Spaaace Regulation!

In case you didn’t think I’d be interested in how the federal government may or may not be getting into regulating outer space, you might not have realized I already have a tag on this website for space law.

Of course I’m interested!

And that’s where Rebecca Heilweil’s article about the FCC getting into space regulation comes in.

The probability that Mark Watney would be all about Martian fruit & vegetable regulations is very high.

I mean, I get the FCC being interested in regulation of communications satellites and the like. But what about space flights? Isn’t that FAA? And what about the inevitable space hotels? Wouldn’t that be the FTC? And thinking of trade, what about international trade — and when does the WTO come into all this? And how do they all work with each other?

The Optimization of Boring?

For my work, I’m often focused on continuous improvement — and the silver lining of broken processes means there’s always room for improvement. On the one hand have you ever met those people for whom 99.9999% just isn’t close enough to 100%?

Can more optimization be too much of a good thing?

Derek Thompson over at The Atlantic feels that might be the case, starting, with that most American of statistics obsession: baseball. If you know about Moneyball, from either the book or movie, his premise is that the “Moneyball-ization” of baseball has optimized the National Pastime into the National “Meh” time.

But what if you are one of the many Americans who doesn’t pass their time with baseball at all? Well, he doesn’t stop there. His premise is that this mechanical optimization has penetrated all sorts of aspects of American culture, including mass media in terms of music and films. And for those of us indie creators, that’s certainly a trend to study.

In fact, if you want to get into music, I’ve been watching musician/producer Rick Beato’s YouTube channel for the past few weeks and goes into a music theory version of why music doesn’t sound as interesting (briefly touching on the risk-averse nature of music labels these days).

All in all, stuff to ponder.

Banning Books? Process Schmocess

In the video post from Monday, John Green briefly mentioned how one of the challenges to his book Looking for Alaska amounted to a person talked to a school official about a page in his book.

The problem is, this kind of scenario happens a lot for challenging books. A single person is bringing this to the attention of a single official and there’s no process in place to review requests, challenges, or concerns. And even when there is a process, many of the school districts or other governmental entities aren’t inclined to follow their own process, as was the case for the Waterloo, Iowa school district back in 2015.

There’s actually plenty of great orgs out there fighting the good fight, but I’ve always enjoyed the work of these folks.

Not only did only one person challenge the book (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), the school district pulled the book without following their own process for challenged books. And more often than not, many groups don’t want attention paid to any process (I guess it’s uncomfortable to admit you erroneously acquiesced to someone’s discomfort).

And lest you think that this was just some isolated case from seven years ago, would-be censors are still at it. And it’s not just a book being in someone’s course plan. It’s books in libraries and even books being sold in commercial book stores per this lawsuit filed in Virginia.

And if a decision has already been made to keep the books in libraries, well you can always have a re-do and remove those icky books from school libraries as they did in Keller, Texas recently. In fact, when the regular public library decided to let it be know that this week was, in fact, Banned Books Week, the city government thought that was very improper and had that social media announcement deleted. Adults or even kids might know books that made other people uncomfortable are available to read… at will!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about the kids. I mean, really: what’s going to happen to the kids if they read these books? Will they have nightmares for weeks, requiring medication or hospitalization? Will they need therapy for years and years from reading these books? Where is the documentation about these horrible, book-inflicted maladies that strain our medical infrastructure to the breaking point?

What’s that you say? There isn’t a health crisis from reading books? There might be (gasp) questions about the world?

Then we know what to say to censors, who stridently insist they’re protecting the children. Keep the disinfecting sunlight shining.

For Banned Books Week this year: Maus

Next week is Banned Books Week, and as longtime readers may know, I always make a point of reading a banned or challenged book at this time of year. You can check out the most challenged books of 2021 or just do a bit of web searching to find historical lists and find something that might tickle your fancy in a way that scolds and censors feel your fancy should not be tickled.

The books I’ve read during the time of this blog have included The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Persepolis, Beyond Magenta, and It’s Perfectly Normal. This last one, a great follow-up to It’s Not the Stork, is a tremendously useful resource for kids and parents (often reading together to facilitate discussion).

And although I just linked to an online store (actually a coalition of independent bookstores), I found just about all of these at my local library, either in physical copy or electronically.

Having said that, this year I’m going to dive into a copy of Maus which I was inspired to order when a school board decided to ban it from their curriculum — and evidently, I was not alone. Like many of the books I listed above, Maus has been one of those works I’ve meant to read for years –I even recall reading sections of it in school way back when– but I’ve never sat down and read through the whole thing.

So why now? Because my kids have already asked me about evil in the world and how it can happen and what happens next and what one can do. Because they know the stork isn’t gonna bail them out. So I have a copy, ready and waiting for those sorts of discussions.

Because I’m thinking of the children.

May your reading selection send scores of scolds and censors to their fainting couches.

Prep for Banned Books Week 2022

Next week, September 18-24 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of, depending on who you ask, the freedom to read, sticking it to The Man, both, or perhaps all of them and so much more.

Odds are I read challenged or banned books throughout the year, but for the life of this blog, I’ve tried to make sure to do so during the coming week. In part, the most challenged books of a given year are often new ones I haven’t had to check out (though I have gone to classics I somehow missed growing up like The Catcher in the Rye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

In case you’re wondering about what to read, the Banned Books website has some top challenged books, but if you want more options the folks in Collier County, Florida labeled a list of 115 books that have “… been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

Thanks, “Some Community Members.” Kids: your reading list awaits.

Star Trek Day, 2022

I’ve had a busy week, so I’m just pointing you to the recap of all the reveals and videos and tidbits from yesterday’s Star Trek Day.

Resistance to Pumpkin Spice is Futile

Full confession: I wrote and scheduled the first version of this post in the depths of Summer, convinced that “Fall flavors” would be in stores before the end of August. I was not wrong.

“But why?” you may ask. “Why must the end of Summer be sullied with an impatient corporate lust for seasonal profits that ignore all seasonal boundaries?”

You know why.

For everyone who protests it’s not Autumn yet, remember: it’s always Autumn on some planet in the Collective

Allecia Vermillion covers the intriguing origin story of the Pumpkin Spice Latte (aka PSL) for the magazine, Seattle Met. If you’re at all interested in the devilish details about “pumpkin spice” has become an seasonal omnipresence, enjoy (perhaps with an already available PSL).

The Nutty History of Nutella

Continuing my Friday theme of food posts, I switch from savory to sweet. This week, it’s Emily Mangini’s article for Serious Eats which goes into the history of Nutella. Okay, apart from a lot of hazelnuts, it might not be that nutty, but if you like food histories like A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, you’ll find this a nice appetizer of an article.

A connection to last week and Sriracha does actually exist for me as, while I know I saw the distinctive Nutella containers growing up, I only really tried Nutella in earnest the same place I started regularly consuming Sriracha: Indonesia.

Look, after being introduced to Vegemite, I was more than happy to try some other spread on bread.