Top 10 Books

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Defining your own top 10 is a lifetime exercise.

Are you listing them because you enjoy them, because you learned from them, because you think you should read them again, because you’re nostalgic for them, because you admire the author, because you think they’ll impress others? All but the last are good, valid reasons for putting a list together.

My list is a combination of 85% enjoyment and 15% nostalgia. I read for enjoyment, for escape for stretching my brain on its imagination side. As a result, there are few non-fiction books or biographies because pure enjoyment is rarely there. I enjoy the learning and the discovery but both are included in more entertaining ways in my list. In the order I thought of them.

The entire DragonLance series (particularly the Time of the Twins, War of the Twins and Test of the Twins trilogy) – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Othello – William Shakespeare
Butcher’s Moon – Richard Stark
The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle
The Rainbow Goblins – Ul De Rico
Xanth series – Piers Anthony (particularly the first 6)
Smoke Signals – Sherman Alexie
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (collection of stories) – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury (this was the cover I had on the one I read when I was a pre-teen, used then)

Now having Bradbury last was just a complete oversight. He’s my favorite author. He’s very minimalistic in creating deep and complex landscapes, scenes and characters. This approach really let’s you, the reader, fill in a lot of gaps.

Butcher’s moon is a book, I believe I still have. I remember it very well, even though it was a throwaway read after I found it somewhere in a bookstore as a teenager.

The Rainbow Goblins saturates your mind (and belly?) with color, visually and I remember it when I was a kid and have now been able to read it to my kids.

The Last Unicorn is also a book from my childhood (I was a VERY early reader and read a lot) that has stayed with me. I believe my mom owned this and I picked it up one day and it was very sad. I believe my mom probably still has it. I was disappointed to know that the film version is not that great.

9: The Peacemaker

Enneagram Test

— your own interpretation goes … here —

Cider Tipples On Twitter

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted:

I grew up in England. When I was legally able to drink, I turned to cider first. In earlier teen years, I had tippled other weird liquors from my parents cabinet and tried the occasional Heineken from my dad’s alcohol stash. But cider was what I’d drink in the pubs, which I visited more for the snooker than to pull birds or a pint.

Woodpecker and Blackthorn were the ones I drank; I think primarily because my dad had those, as well.

And then I came to America and pretty much forgot about them. And I was stuck for two years not “legally” being able to drink. I did not drink much of anything; then moved mostly toward Jack and coke and cocktails at the club – always willing to try something new or recommendations.

And in the last three years or so beer and particularly craft beers and developing my tastes has come to the forefront.

But obviously the idea of a good cider never dies. I guess I need to call it hard cider, but by this time, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen it more in the stores and one day I wanted something lighter than beer but not juice. So I picked up a Strongbow. In a can it’s just not as good. I had a (smaller American) pint of Strongbow at the George and Dragon pub in Phoenix a few years ago but that wasn’t as good as I remembered either.

So the other day I Tweeted out that I had found a cider contender. Redd had less sweet, more dry. Crispin and Angry Orchard just were too sickly sweet (for my tastes, obviously).

Micah Silke tweeted back that he had found a dry cider in Oregon while on honeymoon, called Citizen. Quite fortuitously the company that makes Citizen joined in on the conversation. Carlton Cyderworks first favorited and then RTed our brief conversation and then when I asked about availability in Arizona, joined in, saying, unfortunately no at the moment. but it was available in the Seattle area. I have family there so – score, there’s a chance.

I followed @carltoncyderworks. And then something quite wonderful happened. Twitter started recommending all these other cider companies. Sweet. Or rather, hopefully, not-sweet.

So I can and will put them in a Twitter list. i noticed they were almost exclusively in the Northwest (I later found Santa Sidra cider from New Mexico (so I should be able to find that in AZ, right? No according to the site :| ). Other than the easy availability of apples, I wondered why that was the case?

But these are the ones I followed and if you have any recommendations and experience with these, I’d love to hear them. (Include whether you prefer sweet or dry, if you can):

Tieton Cider Works – @tietoncider (bonus, their Twitter image has bottlecaps, which i collect).
Red Tank cider – @redtankcider
Cider Monger – @cidermonger (not a brand but cider news.)
Cider Riot! – @CiderRiot
2 Towns Ciderhouse – @2townscider
Anthem Cider – @anthemcider
Schilling Cider – @schillingcider
Whitewood Cider – @wwcider
Portland Cider Co. – @portlandcider
Rev Nat’s Hard Cider – @revnatscider
Alpenfire Cider – @alpenfirecider
Bull Run Cider – @bullrunciderllc
Bushwhacker Cider – @bushwhckr
Snowdrift Cider Co. – @snowdriftcider
Fox-Tail Cider – @foxtailcider

I made a Ciders Twitter list – Ciders – to keep track

 

Changing WordPress Links to Alphabetical Order

Been loathe to change anything about the basic ZBench theme I downloaded a few years ago. I don’t mean I haven’t wanted to change the look of the site; it doesn’t mean I haven’t do ne just a little customization.

It means I haven’t wanted to get into the code. I have been burned pretty badly by that in the past even with backups and me copying code elsewhere before proceeding.

But I just changed the alphabetical order of my links.

Now that I think about it though, I don’t know if it was because I installed the My Link Order plug-in or simply because I changed a bit of code.

So I went to WordPress.org and searched for “alphabetical links” and found “My Link Order.” Version 3.5. Rashly, without backing up, I installed it.

Then it took me a few steps to find out how to get to the themes and to the Edit Themes part.

The page for the My Link Order plugin had a “Breaking Change Made in 3.1.4”

“If you do not use widgets to display links you must do the following: replace your call to wp_list_bookmarks() ** with mylinkorder_list_bookmarks().”

I wasn’t sure if I used widgets – yeah, it’s been that long since I messed with my code and theme – except to replace it twice in recent months.

First I went under Plug-Ins and then I went to Widgets. Yes, that means I didn’t think I was using Widgets; that and My Link Order was found under “Plugin Directory” of WordPress.org. Then I hit “Editor” under Appearance to get to the Edit Themes / code chapter of this story.

By the time I got to the code, I copied it into TextPad (its equivalent, anyway) and found the “bookmarks” part mentioned above:

<div>
<h3><?php _e(‘Links’, ‘zbench’); ?></h3>
<ul><?php wp_list_bookmarks(‘title_li=&categorize=0&orderby=id’); ?>
</ul></div>

So, yes, I had worked out that it was part of the sidebar.php file and that what was already in the parentheses ** should stay in the parentheses. So, I changed out wp_list_bookmarks … and nothing happened. Nothing happened.

Pygmies. And frak.

I went to Links where I now had My Link Order in the menu. That allowed me to physical move the links in alphabetical order (Or any order I wanted.) There should’ve been an Alphabetical Order button I could just click because that has to be the most common use for this plug-in.

Nothing happened. Frakking Pygmies.

I stepped away for a few minutes. … and went back to the WordPress page for the My Link Order plug-in. There are several tabs, I noticed and it defaults on Description. And the next was Installation. And it had something different inside the parentheses. So I left the wp_list_bookmarks code there and added the something different.

So the new code is:
<div>
<h3><?php _e(‘Links’, ‘zbench’); ?></h3><ul>
<?php wp_list_bookmarks(‘orderby=order&category_orderby=order’); ?>
</ul></div>

And that works. I’m not even sure I need the plug-in at this point, but don’t want to mess with it. On that front, anyway.

And along the way, I reduced the size of the biggest word in my Tag Word Cloud from 18 to 15.

Now I’m going to work on lessening or removing the Archives – or producing them better than a giant list of months.

UPDATE, about 5 minutes later: So, going back to the sidebar.php page of code I changed “monthly” to “yearly.” That worked. Not ideal because now when I click on the year under Archives it just lists every post, instead of offering another list of months. … Then I moved “Search by Tag” and “Archives” down below my list o’ links.

The Center Of

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There’s blackberry row, there’s Shakespeare in the park, Comedy of Errors / Alice in Wonderland, skipping stones, now sitting in the cool water with freezing kids, losing, searching and finding car keys, bouncing tennis ball on the slide, fire engine playground, free space.

Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert’s Letter to Fans After LeBron James ‘Decision’

Today Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavalier’s took down the July 8, 2010 letter he sent to Cleveland fans and, essentially, LeBron James after the latter showed up on TV to humiliate the Cavaliers on his way out of Cleveland and on to Miami. I’m a Spurs fan so none of the parties directly effect me, though I’ve never liked James after The Decision.” He never thanked the Cleveland fans, he thought mystery was more important than caring. James’ largely poor playoff performance while a Cavalier is a widely overlooked factor.

Below is the content of that letter that used to be here http://www.nba.com/cavaliers/news/gilbert_letter_100708.html (not yet in its original Comic Sans but I’ll fix that at some point, though it still won’t show up that way on most computers.)

TITLE WAS: Open Letter to Fans from Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE” 

You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….

[signature “Dan”]
Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers

The New Skylanders Trap Team

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Saw this at Target, caught me completely by surprise.

The most important thing to know about the new Skylanders Trap Team is that ALL older Skylanders will work in the new adventure and on the new portal.

It also comes out October 5, and cost about $75, so we’ll have to wait a little. It is available for regular Wii.

That’s cool. And a wildly big improvement over SWAPForce, which I would not buy – or could not justify buying as we were still getting through the Skylanders Giants game. I’ve since got through the entire game (though need to get higher 3-star scores at several levels.)

But Trap Team seems like a winner and I’m excited about it. Eddie and Jack will enjoy it too (even though Jack still needs someone to move around while he shoots).

The Skylanders website is not the best place to get all your questions, answered; that would be too easy. But the Trap Team official website is a good place to get a back story – which oddly , only helps slightly. For instance, I’m not really sure what this means – “Take control of bad guys! Trap bad guys with the power of Traptanium, release them from the crystals and use their awesome powers for good.”

There appears to be actual USB-type keys in a fancy shape that will interact somehow with the game. Taking them out of the game until they can be pulled back in? Not sure.

1 of Wiisdom offers some more Trap Team insight, including some names of characters and a little more explanation of the game. The site names Skylanders Character List, as you might expect has more names and some pictures of the new Trap Team Skylanders characters.

There about 60 new characters. So that would be about another $850 investment. Yeah, it adds up. We haven’t even bought all the Giants characters, yet.

The Tesla Model X

It’s a CVU. Arrives 2015.

Three rows of seats, $54,000. Electric. “Gull-wing” doors, but hinged so they can open in tighter spots (doesn’t sound completely safe – a weak point in a crash?)

More from PC Mag: Tesla to Deliver Model X

Facebook, We Find Out

UPDATE 7/2 13:00 – And now comes the apology from lean in lady, Sheryl Sandberg … Truly, how does this quote from the article not make you gag and continue to not believe anything anyone at Facebook, says about caring about it’s users:

And we will continue to make sure users understand that we care about their privacy. We care about their experience, and we want to do everything we can to give them the best experience we can.”

We find out you can’t truly delete everything in your Facebook account.

We find out Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy until its caught.

We find out they don’t trust their own algorithms to add “dislike” buttons.

We find out they think deliberately changing the mood of their users toward more negative posts is no big deal.

Yes, that’s the latest. In 2012, Facebook and two university psychologists conducted an experiment where they grouped negative posts together in 689,000 users’ news feeds to see if that would result in more negative posts from their 689,000 subjects. There are questions about any value at all to the study, about differences between data and manipulating people to act. The Army and the “Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education” both contributed money to the study.

Here’s some articles on the subject. For once read the comments. I’m on a few of them making points, getting increasingly outraged that people don’t want to examine what’s going on. In order (to the bes tof my knowledge) of publication:

The actual study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal June 2 (before print), titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks” (I also downloaded the PDF separately if that link disappears.

June 17 15:26 ET … c|net’s “Facebook – see a happy post, write a happy post” Published before details of how the data was gathered.

June 28 05:00 ET (I think, it says 12:0 PM BST) … Telegraph’s “Facebook conducted secret psychology experiment on users’ emotions” (a lot of comments)

June 28 12:58 ET … Business Insider’s “Facebook Ran A Huge Psychological Experiment on Users And Manipulated The Emotions of more than 600,000 People” (assuming ET)

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-study-emotional-states-transfer-2014-6#ixzz363tjBzbe”

June 28 14:00 ET … Forbes’ “Facebook Manipulated 689,0003 Users’ Emotions for Science

June 28 14:51 ET … The Atlantic’s “Everything we Know about Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment” (a lot of comments)

June 28 15:45 … The Atlantic (via Business Insider) “Even the Editor of Facebook’s Mood Study Thought it Was Creepy

June 28 17:50 ET … Slate’s “Facebook’s Unethical Experiment” This is the first one I read. (A lot of comments)

June 28 18:11 ET … The Wire’s “The Many Reason’s to Dislike Facebook’s Mood Manipulation Experiment

June 28 18:28 ET … Venture Beat “Facebook secret experimented with the moods of 700,000 of its users” (Great Clockwork Orange image, there.

June 29 13:35 ET … PC Mag’s “Facebook Emotional Experiment Annoys Users

June 29 13:43 ET … c|net’s “How Facebook conducts experiments on your emotions

And people are calling me out online for raising questions. Seriously, if someone wants to just bleet “it’s free, shut up” go right ahead. Others want to think a little deeper. (Some just say it’s free, without the “shut up” part).

People excuse EVERYTHING Facebook does on the grounds that it’s free so you can’t complain. Or that you signed the terms of service agreement where it says they will do X or Y or Z so you already knew what you were signing up for. Except, with Facebook in particular, they rarely let people know of changes until after the fact; seemingly only when they are made to do so.

Bad Idea
This idea of “you signed up for and it’s free so quite complaining” comes up in several venues but it just does not make sense. Follow this.

If you start with a company in 2005, let’s say you signed off on something then. At one point do you expect that the company will ask certain outrageous things of you; in this case, that you will be a subject in a psychological experiment. Or that everything you wrote for a site, is suddenly transferred to 100% copyright ownership by that site and its owners. You wrote for free. Previously, the site owners had said they would never go this route, yet didn’t tell you of this change. But you clicked on that “OK” button when asked if you accepted new agreement of services because you were in a hurry to read something else.

Facebook has told us it keeps track of the status updates we never actually post. Like any other site, it will eventually be deeply hacked.

In 2011 after issuing an in-depth complaint against (PDF) the company, the FTC censured Facebook for a whole slew of deceptions:

The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public. The proposed settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.

There are questions. Ask them

Mom and Dad: No Parenting Schism

What bugs me about all the articles saying being a mom is the hardest job in the world is that they invariably don’t even try to mention, hey, being a dad is often just as hard. It’s happening already but if there’s going to be progress on dads doing their part at home, then there needs to be some acknowledgment that this work is being done. Not so much for the acknowledgement but because not to do so gives the strong impression that the dad’s role is being ignored, and to me at least, it seems like moms (in general) ARE always in need of this acknowledgement, which isn’t the case, either.

So, off this post at Jezebel about a job description for a mom/ mum comes the best comment I’ve read in a while along the same lines, especially point A). From Megan Cook:

I am a mom and it is definitely a lot of work. Different work than my 8-5 corporate gig, but certainly work. But this bugs me for a few reasons.

A.) My husband does all of the same parenting things that I do. 50 / 50. We have different work schedules so we both have the kids by ourselves on our two days a week that we have off. Some days he may do more. Some days I may do more. But it is overall about as close to straight down the middle as I think you can get. So really I am not doing anything more spectacular just because I have a vagina thus making me the mom person.

B.) I most definitely do not have a degree in medicine or culinary arts. Me being able to put a bandaid on a scrapped knee or dose out the right amount of children’s Tylenol does not equate to a medical degree which takes years and years and in the end you can save lives. That is why we have a pediatrician that we trust. Because half the time I don’t know if it is measles or a heat rash I am looking at. Me being able to cook a healthy meal for my kids also does not make me a chef. I know a lot of chefs. They work crazy hours, give up holidays, and in many cases are true artists. My Mac n cheese surprise with broccoli bits is not art. The same way that other moms knowing how to use coupons or keep a household budget is not the same as my financial degree that I worked my ass off for and continue to work my ass off for in my demanding as fuck job and continued education.

So pretty much – this is crap.

I have always thought that everyone should be an equal and tried to accomplish that. (Really, it more inbuilt, it’s not like I’m thinking every day, “try to do better”) tried to be an equal. Not just as a parent but as a partner. That doesn’t mean every day will be 50/50, it doesn’t mean I always succeed but it does mean that overall, there is and both people feel they are contributing to the relationship, to parenting.

That Easter Chill

Holidays bring happy times and cold quick rashes of fear. These are almost always brought on by surprises coming at your knees. Or at least knee level in the form of – and this is what makes it piercingly painful and progressively poignant – words said in the most sweetest, excited happy way possible.

Words like “Happy Easter, Daddy” shouted behind you. OK to be honest they weren’t said any louder than any other time but the bunny ears I had on at the time magnified the sound.

Rebel Without Ability to Read

Do you need an explanation for cuteness? alright, today was Crazy Hair Day today at the pre-school. My idea of just cutting random bits of hair off was vetoed (but really if I saw that, that person crazy). I gelled it up with two different brands – something and Bed Head for the jeans and a white t-shirt, mod / Bowery boy / 50s style look. IMG_3042

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I Saw You

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Eddie sets himself up for working on his Pinewood Derby car. It was satisfying to get as far as we did in one night – the car is literally taking shape.

Jack Sings – You Are So Beautiful To Me

Last night at dinner Jack broke into song, looking a little at me but mostly at Carrie:
Imagine the sweetest little boy voice ever, slowly singing, accompanied with a shy smile, ending with self-applause (and applause from parents a beat later).

“You are so beautiful I see.
You’re everything I see.
You are everything to see.
You are so wonderful I see.

I had no idea who sang it originally, or how he got that song in his head. I was a little too stunned to remember to ask. I found out it was Joe Cocker and the actual words are below. I have now bought the song to put on my iPhone.

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
To me

You are so wonderful
To me
You are so wonderful
To me
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so wonderful
To me

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
To me

Jasper Stark – 11 months old today

Almost a year old. Yep, that time flies fast.

These photos are Jasper this morning. He sits up. He kneels and stands up all over the place now. He does not walk, yet, though when he pulls himself up on a chair, on an ottoman, he will stand for 30 mins or so.

He waves now if you wave to him; he claps his hands, he claps his feet. He has a sly smile. He laughs a lot. He sleeps less. A lot less, so much so yesterday the daycare remarked on. “He seems to .. not sleep.” He has big eyes, big feet. Lightning quick grabbing glasses. Likes his crawling freedom. Over the weekend we took a picture of him looking an awful lot like his great grand dad J.R. Anderson.

Jasper J.C. Stark, 11 months old today. :D We’re celebrating with a BBQ in your honor in February.

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This is me in a Poker Tournament

I could never play competitively for one reason; I would strangle the motherfuckers sitting there playing with their chips nonstop. Are you a fucking bored 5 year old that can’t sit still for 10 seconds or is this actually a strategy to annoy people? If it is, then I should be able to use my strategy of breaking your fucking fingers to shut you the fuck up.

Or, of course, I could ride that wave of white noise to victory.

Learn Music With Two Sites. Then Rock. Or Strum. Or Whatever.

You can learn music using these two websites together, just sitting at our keyboard. Right?

This one tells you the basic of musical notes and reading music.

This one is a Google Doodle that can let you hit the keyboard letters for the right notes A B C D E F G

It’s Hard to Find Good Metal

Gun Shy assassin is the podcast / site I just found. I’m going to plug in the podcast in a few minutes (picked at random #13) but the site is so full of enthusiasm I recommend it to find some jewels. No one can like it all, but there will be some guitar crunches, symphonic vocals or actual meaningful lyrics that you won’t forgot. – Gun Shy Assassin