I love the comic The Oatmeal, and highlighted a speech given by Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman at BAHfest about a month ago. I was contacted about a new dark humor book called Russian Optimism, which they describe as having innocent titles and horrible endings. The book is an illustrated coffee table book with illustrations and translations, and I was given a digital copy to check out.
I loved this book and found it both dark and morbid, but also hilarious. Let’s be clear – you need a certain sense of humor to appreciate this. Most people will be like my wife, who reacted to most pages by saying ‘that’s AWFUL’! For example, one of the rhymes is called The Woods:
The Woods: “A little boy found a machine gun. Nothing lives in the woods anymore.”
The format is as shown on the image above – on one side you get a graphic, and on the other the text: title, English translation, original Russian and the transliteration. The author notes that rather than incorporate the original rhyming scheme he chose to focus on preserving the original context and meaning.
The rhymes are grouped in seven ironically titled chapters: Moral Messages, Parenting Pointers, Classic Cooking, Aquatic Adventures, Close Calls, Cheery Children and Explosive Endings.
Russian Optimism author Ben Rosenfeld notes that when he was growing up in New York as the child of Soviet immigrants, these rhymes highlighted many of the cultural differences between America and Russia. As he notes, whereas in America most movies have a happy ending, in a Russian movie if it looks like the hero will survive, you can be pretty sure he won’t.
Hey all! Happy Wednesday! I had a few things simmering that I wanted to put out there, and a New Year’s decision pushed me to put them out today. So let’s just jump around *** with it ..
1. Social Media Reset
Over the last couple of weeks I have spent time cleaning up my Twitter and Instagram feeds (no plans to mess with Facebook) as if with a machete. Some people weren’t following me back in spite of my follow and even exchanging comments, others I had no idea how/why I was following, and on Twitter I had to get rid of most of the super-chatty folks as well as people obviously marketing stuff. It has helped my accounts become more manageable, which is awesome.
But on Monday morning as I opened up my email after barely touching electronics all weekend (yay!), I read all of the pent-up blogs in my email as well as my WordPress reader. And my thought? Well THIS has to stop right now!
So I took a ‘scorched earth’ approach and simply started unsubscribing from the mailing lists of blogs and removing any that I did NOT get on email from my WordPress reader, and also killing anything I hadn’t opened in a week from my RSS feeds. Basically, if I didn’t follow your blog before I launched this one, I no longer get an email, if I didn’t get an email this past week I no longer follow you on WordPress, and only a very few blogs remained on RSS (basically those I can’t get through WordPress or email … like Blogger blogs).
So again, nothing personal … I needed to cut WAY back, and I also need to stop feeling like I have to comment on every post I read so you know I stopped by. If I ‘liked’ it, I actually DO … and if you don’t have a ‘Like’ button? Argh! As to how and when I will rebuild? Who knows.
2. Mark Twain’s Gravesite Vandalized
The image at the top is from the Mark Twain grave site, which is in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira NY, about a 10 minute drive from our house. Lisa and I did a fun graveyard tour just before Halloween this year, and the curator who did the tour took us through all of the details of many area families, especially the whole tale of the Mark Twain connection to the region.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge ‘know the backstory of the person behind the art’ person like seems to be so popular today, so I never dug into the Twain connection – just assumed it was a ‘George Washington Slept Here’ thing. But it was not. He was buried here for a reason.
But sadly at some point between Christmas and New Year someone removed the likeness from his gravestone. It is noted in the local paper, where they say:
“Somebody had to bring in a ladder,” Hare said. “There has been vandalism in the cemetery over the years, but there has never been any at the Twain site, which is a revered site. Desecration of any grave is a horrible thing for people to do.”
This is a pretty sad thing – awful for someone to have done in general, and also because as towns and cities are continuously squeezed to do more with less money, things like graveyard maintenance fall to the bottom of the priority list. And to have one of our country’s great authors grave site defaced like this is a shame.
The only good news is that there was a cast made of the original plaque which could be used to create a new one.
3. Tales of Former Fatties
Over at Buzzfeed a couple of weeks ago there was a video about ‘what it is like to be a former fat kid’.
As a former (recovering?) fat kid, I certainly can identify with many of the things the people list. But as we have discussed here before, we could change it around to say ‘what it is like to be an adult who was body shamed as a kid’ … because that crap hurts whatever reason it happened.
4. Feats of Dog Standing
So Sarah Palin posted a picture of her 6+ year old standing on their dog. It sparked some outrage, including from PETA. Palin replied … well, I just posted the whole thing below. But one thing she DID note was Ellen Degeneres posting a picture of a small child (2 or 3 years old) standing on a dog.
Her point? Hypocrisy, of course … and the assumption that her frothing supporters would be so quick to be outraged and butthurt that they wouldn’t even contemplate comparative analysis regarding the size/weight ratios of the children and animals (I mean, they DO watch Fox News, so facts are obvious not a priority).
Anyway, I don’t recall the Ellen pic, but we were very clear about the safety of children and animals in our house … so, no dog standing.
ANYWAY … forget the factual discussion, read Palin’s missive and just LAVISH in the crazy as it washes over you …
Chill. At least Trig didn’t eat the dog.
Hey, by the way, remember your “Woman of the Year”, Ellen DeGeneres? Did you get all wee-wee’d up when she posted this sweet picture? http://conservatives4palin.com/… Hypocritical, much?
Did you go as crazy when your heroic Man-of-Your-Lifetime, Barack Obama, revealed he actually enjoyed eating dead dog meat?
Aren’t you the double-standard radicals always opposing Alaska’s Iditarod – the Last Great Race honoring dogs who are born to run in wide open spaces, while some of your pets “thrive” in a concrete jungle where they’re allowed outdoors to breathe and pee maybe once a day? (http://iditarod.com/http://www.irondog.org/)
Aren’t you the same herd that opposes our commercial fishing jobs, claiming I encourage slaying and consuming wild, organic healthy protein sources called “fish”? (I do.)
Aren’t you the same anti-beef screamers blogging hate from your comfy leather office chairs, wrapped in your fashionable leather belts above your kickin’ new leather pumps you bought because your celebrity idols (who sport fur and crocodile purses) grinned in a tabloid wearing the exact same Louboutins exiting sleek cowhide covered limo seats on their way to some liberal fundraiser shindig at some sushi bar that features poor dead smelly roe (that I used to strip from our Bristol Bay-caught fish, and in a Dillingham cannery I packed those castoff fish eggs for you while laughing with co-workers about the suckers paying absurdly high prices to party with the throw away parts of our wild seafood)? I believe you call those discarded funky eggs “caviar”.
Yeah, you’re real credible on this, PETA. A shame, because I’ll bet we agree on what I hope is the true meaning of your mission – respecting God’s creation and critters.
Our pets, including Trig’s best buddy Jill Hadassah, are loved, spoiled and cared for more than some people care for their fellow man whose politics may not mesh with nonsensical liberally failed ways or don’t fit your flighty standards.
Jill is a precious part of our world. So is Trig.
– Sarah Palin
5. Interesting Findings from 2014
Being a statistics dude and engineer means that I love having loads of data to gather and play with and am always looking for cool new ways to visualize that data. This week I came across a summary of a number of things from 2014 at the Pew Research site.
The image above compares median income of kids 25 – 32 (sorry, ‘adults’) who have a 4-year college degree with those with a 2-year degree or just a high school diploma – and the results show a greater disparity than ever. Recently there has been much discussion about the value of a college degree – but that is largely in the context of the staggering debt incurred by more and more college students.
As a parent sending one child off in a few months to what was ranked the #2 Most Expensive Undergraduate School, and another heading to college next year … this stuff really hits home for me.
Bonus. Warm Hands, Happy Runner
After a relatively mild pre-Christmas to post-New Year we have gone straight back to last years Polar Vortex it seems, with high winds and a display of the ‘many ways to get to sub-zero wind chills’. But of course I still go out for my runs – and the awesome news is that the Brooks 3-in-1 gloves my boys got me for Christmas are the absolute best things I have EVER (in nearly 26 years) worn on my hands. Each year I enter in fear of frost-bite, but now I can leave the house with confidence of returning with all appendages intact.
My post yesterday was a bit heavy – and the comments were AWESOME! But what I had scheduled for today was ALSO heavy … so I decided to step back and set that one up for Monday and put something a bit lighter up instead.
Do you have friends who can’t just enjoy something as entertainment? You know what I mean – because of what they study and how they look at things, they immediately dissect things in that area and can’t help saying it out loud, robbing you of your ability to just ‘think it was fun’? Maybe it is movies, or books or architecture or pizza or whatever … chances you know someone like that.
Well, despite a lifetime of trying NOT to be … that is me when it comes to music. I hear music with a dissecting ear – when a new song comes on (say, as we listened to the new Taylor Swift album, for example) I immediately hear the way that the rhythm section was construction, the way the beats and baselines were shaped according to what will sound familiar but not immediately reductive … the way that the harmonic structure borrows enough from existing Top 40 and something from the 80s to tweak that part of your brain that says “I like this, but I don’t know why”.
Through the years it might seem to an observer that I have gotten better about this, that I am not the music snob that I was in high school and college. That would be untrue, but two things HAVE happened:
– I have learned to let those voices have their chats inside my head since almost no one really wants to hear about it.
– Most music is really meant to just be entertainment, and so I have become much better at discussing highlighting little elements of familiarity (something like “hear how that line kinda sounds like that Police song?”), which is a much more fun discussion.
ANYWAY … I found this little comic amusing!
Happy Friday – and thanks again so much for the incredible insights and comments on yesterday’s post!
At this time of the year there seems to be as much discord – over shopping, rampant commercialism, the ‘war on Christmas’, whatever else – as there is ‘peace and love’ that the holidays celebrated would suggest.
So instead … how about something howlingly funny?
I am an unabashed fan of ‘The Oatmeal’, and recently he was doing a keynote talk at BAHFest (FESTIVAL of BAD AD HOC HYPOTHESES) which has been released on Youtube and gotten a ton of views. It is about his view of the universe, and his deity that he calls Jibbers Crabst … for the rest, just watch and listen (oh, and watch the sign language interpreter as well!)
Note: everything about this is disrespectful and irreverent towards organized religion, but is meant purely as humor. If you cannot find humor in such things, I suggest you skip the video. Also, rampant profanity.
OK, since I jumped back in, I figured I would just continue as long as it lasts … and as I mentioned I had a bunch of drafts going anyway. This is really like a ‘wandering mind’ or ‘thinking out loud’ post, but let’s just roll with it!
Sexual Violence – Must Read Stuff
I have put myself out there pretty strongly in favor of just treating everyone fairly and equally … which apparently makes me a ‘social justice advocate’ and ‘feminist’ and a lot of other terms that I whole-heartedly agree with … but which shouldn’t be needed. I mean, isn’t it all just basic human rights and decency?
Anyway, I am also a big support of Laura and her Run Across America 2015, which is seeking to promote “sexual violence awareness and prevention”. This week she wrote a post called “Sexual Violence”, which was pretty cool but honestly what I thought of as common sense stuff. She said:
As I start to talk more and more about next summer’s Run Across America, I’m realizing that there is some confusion that revolves around exactly what sexual violence is, let alone why it is important to raise awareness. Understanding what sexual violence is, what it looks like, and how it affects the victims is an important first step in this awareness campaign. As I talk about sexual violence over the next 10 months (and hopefully longer), I’d like to make sure we are all on the same page. This is the first step towards a national and global understanding of what it is and why it is so important that we all work together to raise awareness and work towards prevention.
Yesterday, after I posted an informative post on what sexual violence is, I watched as my number of blog followers dropped.
And THAT is what surprised me! First off because the basic post is pretty simple and obvious stuff … but also because the whole issue of sexual violence is at the core of why Laura is running across the country and doing her PhD. I mean, how could you even read her blog and not know this? Anyway, check out her posts, they are good stuff.
Fall Safety – Remember YOU Are Responsible
Last month we got the news of a woman in a Central Park crosswalk struck and killed by a racing cyclist. It is a tragic accident but only the latest reminder of how fleeting life can be – and that we must take responsibility for our own safety.
The image above is from one morning a week or so ago when it was super-foggy, like National Weather Service fog alert level foggy. I ran (of course), but with headlamp and reflective gear and was super safe … and had no issues. But the next morning it was clear … and I was nearly swiped by someone who wasn’t looking while backing out of the driveway – and to be clear, I was on the opposite side of the street, and ended up well on the grass as his rear wheels nearly went off the road!
But I was alert and present throughout – and could see the potential for danger, and took action in advance and throughout. I never assumed he would see me or behave safely. I assumed I had to stay clear, and as a result all that happened was I uttered a few remarks and he drove off looking at his phone and listening to music and oblivious to the person he nearly seriously injured.
So as the days get shorter and people adjust to their commute being in the dark, take extra time and responsibility to keep yourself safe. Because all I want to read about for all of you is how great your running and health and life is going …
Words for Runners to Remember From the T-Rex Runner
Sometimes it hurts having your own words turned around on you, and other times it is the absolute best possible thing. This week Danielle wrote a post called ‘Negative Nancy, Be Gone!’ where she whines discusses how her pessimism has gotten out of hand lately and is worried it might impact her going into her marathon this weekend.
One comment threw her own words back into her face … and they are absolutely perfect:
I’ve never regretted a race I’ve entered – even the one marathon that I did not finish. Every race is a learning experience, whether it feels good or feels bad while you’re out there. Remember, running is a pretty incredible gift that we’ve been given, and it can be taken away at any second, as this week’s events have proven. Celebrate the luxury of running while you have it, and don’t get too bogged down in worrying about the outcome of the race. All you can do it get out there and do the best you can do that day. If your best is a lot of walking, but a finish, then it is what it is. You can do it!
These are things to remember regardless – doesn’t matter if it is for a race, running for fun, or whatever … our ability to go out for a run is a gift, and one we should cherish. It is something I talk about a lot, because I see it around me. For me, approaching 50 years old with the ability to just ‘go for a run’ is a very precious gift, and I take it seriously.
The Luckiest Cyclist EVER?!?
After hearing about the Central Park accident I also came across a video at Buzzfeed that shows a cyclist who should have died two or three times during a terrible course of events … yet ended up helping others instead. Just check out the video:
An Interesting Look at Two Types of Marriage Equality
I love the web comic xkcd, as it often talks about either very technical or very important issues in ways I find both hilarious and engaging. Last week he had one that looked at marriage equality, and used inter-racial marriage as a contrast. I have mentioned that growing up I knew that so-called ‘mixed marriages’ were still rare and somewhat taboo, and this comic puts that in perspective:
Once again xkcd nails the essence of a critical point.
To me this tells a pretty great story. And while I am (obviously) strongly in favor of marriage equality, I have to applaud those who are opposed on moral grounds, because UNLIKE when I was growing up, it is rare to hear about violence committed against gay married couples unlike the violence against mixed-race couples. So I guess that is progress?
Don’t Say No To Panda
And to finish up … there was a great video Jonah Berger (also on Twitter) shared with us at the JMP Discovery conference as part os his talk … and then the subject of Pandas came up with my boys and I searched it out to show them … now it is your turn:
More Tech Fun
There is always something new to talk about, isn’t there? Here is some new stuff I am playing with these last couple of weeks.
This is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, a great Android tablet – and the Zagg Universal Bluetooth keyboard, which is just awesome and very portable. I always like having Android as well as iOS, and the Tab Pro has excellent performance and plenty of features … though I have hit the ‘phone vs. tablet’ wall a number of times already, which is frustrating after so many years.
These two will have reviews coming soon – the Garmin vivoSmart and the Wellograph. Each is a fitness band that tracks steps and calories and distance, and reports to your phone via Bluetooth.
The Wellograph is amazingly stylish and has a sapphire crystal screen, and also has a multi-LED system for tracking your pulse in real-time. It allows for activities and a wide number of options. It stores up to four months of data, and the battery is supposed to last a week. And it costs ~$350.
The Garmin vivosmart is the next generation from the vivofit – not only does it track your steps and sync to your phone, it also acts as a smart-watch by reporting notifications (with vibration) from your phone by maintaining a low-power Bluetooth connection. It connects to an ANT+ heart-rate monitor for activity tracking (and real-time display). It costs $169 or $199 with a heart-rate monitor.
Each has pros and cons, and I will get into more detail in the coming weeks.
What great new stuff did YOU read or hear or do this week?
Just a quickie today (for real) – I LOVE the web comic ‘The Oatmeal’ and the extent to which he ‘gets’ runners (and especially ‘former fatty’ runners) is a blast to read. Two things – a cool new comic and an upcoming book!
This is not just a book about running. It’s a book about cupcakes. It’s a book about suffering.
It’s a book about gluttony, vanity, bliss, electrical storms, ranch dressing, and Godzilla. It’s a book about all the terrible and wonderful reasons we wake up each day and propel our bodies through rain, shine, heaven, and hell.
Over at Business Insider there is a post that looks at a more honest set of slogans for companies. The one about Pepsi above made me laugh, because it is almost exactly what our waitress said to me at Applebee’s this weekend. We were driving back from Syracuse and the boy’s marching band state competition, and wanted someplace quiet and easy to eat (the kids were on buses and over-ran the A&W in Cortland) … so we hit Applebee’s. When I asked for a Diet Coke, the very nice waitress looked at me apologetically and said ‘is Pepsi OK?’. I am not picky, so it was. But it occurred to me that I have never heard someone apologetically say ‘we only have Coke, is that ok?’.
The other slogans are also hilarious, such as Ticketmaster ‘Yeah … we’re going to charge you whatever we want’. So I thought it would be fun to try to do others, similar to what they’ve done at HonestSlogans.
So here is mine:
Microsoft “We liked it better when everyone just bought whatever we put out.”