Friday, November 30, 2012

BC2012: Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap Stories by Randy Bachman

Bachman is known in the U.S. as the guitarist who played with the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (aka BTO). But in his native country, this guy is revered like the Canadian Eric Clapton. Those are my words, not his; I doubt Bachman would ever say such a thing. He's pretty humble as rock stars go, and he recognizes that he's led a pretty charmed life all in all. He worked hard to earn his success, but he's been fortunate to have so many great encounters with both his idols and his peers. He shares those stories on his radio show Vinyl Tap Stories (name inspired by This is Spinal Tap!) and in this book.

I've never heard the radio show, but I love this book. Bachman talks about growing up in Winnipeg (a different rock & roll experience compared to growing up in the U.S. or U.K.) and learning from Lenny Breau how to play guitar like Chet Atkins. His "Randy's Guitar Shoppe" chapter serves as a primer on rock guitars without getting too technical. Other chapters tell the stories behind his most popular songs and his experiences with performers from B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis to Eddie Van Halen and George Michael. Since it is based on his radio show, Bachman includes a relevant list of songs at the end of each chapter with the idea that readers can go to iTunes and listen to them.

Bachman never did drugs or drank, so his memory is still pretty good. Anyone who likes to read about 1960s and 1970s rock music should enjoy Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap Stories.

BC2012: Welcome to Horneytown, North Carolina, Population: 15 by Quentin Parker

This book describes itself as "An A to Z Tour through 201 of the World's Weirdest & Wildest Places", but mostly it's about places with suggestive or weird names. I bought this shortly after it was published two years ago, but I stopped reading it because the format annoyed me. Each place gets one page, but then each page has a sidebar about where the place is, how it got its name, and what you should know about it. These questions are answered in the text, so the sidebars are mostly redundant. I know people have short attention spans these days, but is a sidebar summary of three to six paragraphs of text really necessary?

Parker includes my personal favorite, Kentucky's Big Bone Lick State Park, as well as Hell, MI, which I've visited by car and bicycle, and Cumming, GA, where my best friend used to live. Some of this book overlaps with 101 Places Not to See Before You Die: Wall Drug in Wall, SD; the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA; Fucking, Austria (whose residents voted against renaming); Dildo, Newfoundland (though Price suggests attending "Historic Dildo Days"); and Area 51/Rachel, NV.

Aside from the format complaint, this book is okay. A lot of the humor is on a Beavis & Butt-head level, but what would you expect someone to write about towns like Cunter, Switzerland; Dickshooter, ID; Middelfart, Denmark; Wanker's Corner, OR; French Lick, IN; Humptulips, WA; or Fingringhoe, England? The truth is that many of these places are tiny towns with little to mention aside from the name. I get the impression that Parker hasn't visited most of these places (if any), so he loses points for that. But if you're looking for something to snicker at, this is a fun book to read in small doses.

BC2012: 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price

We've all seen the ubiquitous-and-becoming-ridiculous genre -- authors challenging us to play 101 golf courses, watch 1001 movies, visit 501 gardens, etc. Price turns it upside down. Here is a book that lets the reader count the roads not traveled as accomplishments. Time not wasted is almost as good as time well spent.

This humorous travel book is a mixed bag, however. Some of the places designate a specific time not to visit such as "Ancient Rome on or Around the Night of July 18, 64 A.D." I love history, but those entries don't belong in this book. One could create a whole book of entries like "Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945", but what's the point? Fortunately, there aren't many like this. Other entries like "An AA Meeting When You're Drunk" are kind of lame, too.

Price includes some real shitholes both literal (Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority) and figurative (Ciudad Juarez), and I wish there were more of them. Many other places aren't really bad, just overrated (Wall Drug), not particularly interesting (the Beijing Museum of Tap Water), or mundane (the Grover Cleveland Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike). The trouble with the uninteresting and mundane, of course, is that the list could be endless -- most places aren't really worth visiting if you think about it.

The guest entries are pleasant interludes, including a list from A.J. Jacobs of "The Worst Places in the Encyclopedia" (even though it falls into that historical category that I derided above). I'm not really giving a review that does this book justice. Most of it is entertaining, but I can't help thinking how it could have been better. I guess I wish Price had made it more travel-oriented.

BC2012: Smile When You're Lying by Chuck Thompson

I bought this book for the second time at Half Price Books in Highland Park last month. The first time was during the Borders bankruptcy, but I never got a chance to read that copy. On Moose's third day in our house, he tore up the blinds in the library and knocked over hundreds of unread books. Then, for the coup de grace, he lifted his leg and soaked a dozen of them, including Smile When You're Lying. So for the past four months I've been on a mission to replace them, picking them off one by one, Munich-like. I decided not to count them as part of Book Challenge 2012 since I already owned the original copies at the start of 2012. Though it was annoying to have to buy those books again, I can take some pride in spending even less on them the second time around than I did the first.

Travel writer Thompson's memoir was worth buying twice because I really enjoyed it. He rips on the lameness of most travel writing, which is indeed cloying and terribly written. For example, he hates when anything other than food is described as tasty or delicious. I wish he had included more of this criticism in the book. I also wish there had been more advice since what he offers is great (he notes that a lot of "savvy traveler" advice is bullshit, too, including such novel suggestions as looking on the Internet for lower fares).

Thompson describes how tourism took over his hometown of Juneau, AK, how schoolgirls ripped him off in Thailand (no, he was not trying to procure sex), what it was like teaching English in Japan in the late 1980s, and why he hates the Caribbean. I found the chapter about the Philippines particularly enlightening. I would recommend Smile When You're Lying to anyone who enjoys good travel stories without the advertiser-conscious sugar-coating, even an armchair traveler like me who's never been out of the U.S. Thompson also has written two books about the best World War II sites, one for Europe and the other for the Pacific. If I planned to visit those regions, I'd probably buy them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Few Housekeeping Items

It's been almost a month since I tentatively renamed this blog. I think "The Hum of Desperation" is going to stick. I like it with the new font and italics.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was selling the DJRider domain. The former eight-year home of Dave's Cycling Pages is now a UK DJ equipment rental site with much hipper colors and layout than I ever had.

A while ago I was reading another blog and noticed a couple of widgets that I thought I might try here. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, you will find a map from Map Loco showing where my visitors are located. I've loved maps since I was a kid so it seems appropriate to have one here. I wanted to put it higher on the page in the right column, but it's too wide (they only offer two sizes, and I must use the larger one). I trimmed the number of posts per page from 20 to 15 so the bottom of the page comes sooner.

I also added a Big Brother-ish widget on the right from Feedjit that shows recent blog visitors, what page they viewed, where they were located, and the sites they came from or went to. I'm alternately fascinated and creeped out by it, so it may not become a permanent fixture. It's not always accurate: my EarthLink DSL account sometimes registers as Downers Grove, IL or Minneapolis, MN(!). I have noticed at least two authors of books I reviewed this month have visited although they didn't leave comments (when someone visits from a small town in Utah and looks at a page for a book co-authored by someone who teaches at Southern Utah University, it's probably not a coincidence). I also had a visitor today from Istanbul, which gave me a reason to sing one of my favorite songs.

This year is turning out to be a sort of rebirth of this blog. It's only November and I've already posted more entries than any year since this blog's 2004-2007 heyday. Actually, I guess the trend began in 2011. If I hadn't nixed Book Challenge 2011, I would have exceeded 200 posts last year. This year with Book Challenge 2012 I'm almost certain to break that mark. Gosh, looking back it's hard to believe that sometimes I wrote as many as 47 entries in one month (September 2004, September 2007).

BC2012: Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont

Oh my God, I loved this book! My wife got a kick out of it, too. The authors go through dozens of "The Lost Toys, Tastes & Trends of the '70s & '80s" ranging from "After School Specials" to ZOOM. Weebles, "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, Fisher Price little people, The Love Boat (as well as Fantasy Island, of course), Slime, Jolt Cola, Encyclopedia Brown books, View-Master, Malibu Barbie, and Schoolhouse Rock are all included.

One trend I had completely forgotten was "pen pals," where kids would exchange letters with someone living far away, often in another country. The idea seems so quaint today when someone in India can read my blog entries mere seconds after those thoughts have left my brain.

Cooper and Bellmont have done their research not just regarding the past, but also "where they are now." Surprisingly, a lot of the things we thought disappeared forever years ago have either been resurrected or never went away. You can still buy candy cigarettes, Moon Boots, Sea-Monkeys, and Shrinky-Dinks. Walmart reintroduced Garanimals in 2008.

I learned a lot, too. I had no idea Stretch Armstrong was filled with corn syrup!

It was especially fun to share this book with my wife and compare childhood memories. The authors also drop in references to things that didn't merit their own entries. There is even a detailed index, a particularly rare feature in an "A to Z" formatted book. I only wish the publishers had given the authors another 50 pages to fill (they apologize in advance for omissions*). I truly didn't want this book to end. Smiles, everyone, smiles!

* Like Merlin. Simon is included, but what about Merlin?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night*

My marriage isn't like normal marriages. No, we don't have an "open" marriage, no matter how many times I've suggested it to my wife. I mean my marriage isn't normal because my wife works nights. The traditional dinner ritual doesn't exist in our house. I am accustomed to eating dinner alone either at home or in a restaurant (I've never understood that "I can't eat alone in a restaurant" hang-up), but figuring out what to do on popular date nights still gives me a little trouble. It seems like time passes slowly alone on a Saturday night.

For one thing, I don't like going out for dinner when places are crowded. I could get something delivered, but that always feels a little decadent when I'm by myself. Ditto for preparing a meal -- why do all that work for one person to eat? -- so I usually just throw something in the microwave. Unfortunately, that doesn't take much time at all.

Being cable-less and dish-less, I'm stuck with network television. But because so many people go out, the networks have practically given up on Saturday nights. Heck, CBS shows reruns. So people like me who aren't out on dates are left with nothing worth watching.

I could read a book, but I read best with endless refills of Coca-Cola in front of me in a restaurant. When I read at home at night, I tend to fall asleep. That does pass the time, but then I won't be tired when my wife comes home and wants to go to sleep.

I could work on one of the many projects around the house, but even though I haven't worked full-time in a while I still feel like I should be "off" on the weekend. It just seems wrong to caulk windows or wash clothes on a Saturday night.

I could walk the dogs... but I never really want to walk the dogs, especially when it's cold outside.

I could exercise since I know I should exercise, but of course I don't.

It's easy to pass the time online, of course. During the fall I might read up on the latest Chicago Bears news before Sunday's game. I could be productive and pare down my backlog of e-mail messages or update my websites, but I'm more likely to play games at Yeah, that'll work. My wife will be home in just a few hours...

* The title demands the obvious question, What would Tom Waits do on a Saturday night? Whatever it is, I'm sure his life is more interesting than mine.

BC2012: Autobiography of a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro

I enjoyed Notaro's debut The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, and this book, her second, may be even better. The first thirteen chapters about various boyfriends and her wedding are especially hilarious. Although there are a few duds among the forty-odd other chapters, overall this is another funny collection of great stories. Also I am endlessly jealous of Notaro's ability to mine her family for material and get away with it.

BC2012: Mindblowers by Jim Rhine

Mindblowers promises to be "A Look Back at History That Will Change the Way You Look at the World Today". I'm not sure it's quite that mind-blowing, but I did learn a few things.

The book is a collection of one- or two-page historical vignettes grouped into thirteen sections. Oddly, the first seven parts are time periods in chronological order, while the last six are subjects such as word origins and sports. It was unclear whether this inconsistent organizational approach was intended to blow my mind.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this one to my wife. It's always entertaining to review such debacles as the Crusades, the Donner Party, the Maginot Line, and the medical ineptitude that doomed President James Garfield.

Friday, November 23, 2012

BC2012: Why Is The Penis Shaped Like That? by Jesse Bering

This book, subtitled "...And Other Reflections on Being Human", is a mildly titillating collection of articles discussing evolutionary psychology and biology. It begins with the racy bits as promised, contemplating the evolutionary explanations for things like pubic hair, masturbation, female orgasm, and even cannibalism. Some chapters left me thinking, Wow, scientists really have investigated everything! Later topics include religion (Bering explains why he trusts religious people more despite being an atheist himself), suicide, and free will.

Although it doesn't fit into the book all that well, the chapter about being buried sans preservatives under a tree to fertilize it as one's legacy has inspired me. I'll have to look into this especially "green" burial practice. Fun fact: Did you know that over 90,000 tons of steel are buried annually in the U.S. in the form of caskets?

Why Is The Penis Shaped Like That? is a very interesting, thought-provoking read for the layperson. Generally, Bering reviews the existing body of research for each topic, providing endnotes for further investigation. He also brings his own experiences and wit into the narrative, making some of the drier clinical stuff more lively.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our New Weight-Loss Plan: The Moose Diet

No, this isn't Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzly Diet" of real Alaskan moose.

We just buy whatever sweet and/or fattening foods we desire, put them someplace high but not quite high enough, and then let our dog Moose knock them to the floor and devour them. So far the Moose Diet has spared us the calories of
  • one whole raspberry kringle
  • one whole Dutch apple pie
  • two partial loaves of bread
  • one asiago cheese bread demi loaf from Panera
I also caught him in the act with a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread (would you like some jelly with that, Moose?), but he only slobbered on those.

UPDATE 11/23/2012 -- Add another apple pie to the list above, this time homemade. Yes, at this point we are willing to acknowledge that we are idiots being outwitted regularly by a young, goofy dog.

Friday, November 09, 2012

James Bond: He's No Bruce Wayne

Back in July, my wife went to the nearby Davis Theater to see the special midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. That event, and perhaps the movie itself, will be remembered for the mass shooting in Aurora, CO that night more than anything else. Fortunately, everything was fine at the sold-out show my wife attended. When it was over, she called me and I drove over to pick her up (it's only three blocks away, but why take chances in the city at 3 AM?). On the way, I had to wait for hordes of Batfans in the crosswalks on Lincoln Avenue near the theater. Some people, mostly kids, were even in costume as the caped crusader, and it was a festive atmosphere in the middle of a summer night.

Earlier this week my wife bought a ticket for the 12:07 AM premiere Friday of the new James Bond film, Skyfall (12:07 AM = 0:07, get it?). Actually, she didn't buy a ticket; they gave her a free one because she was in her police uniform. I couldn't help wondering whether this freebie was a policy change in light of the Aurora shooting (she didn't ask).

As luck would have it, my wife forgot her ticket at work last night so she had to buy a new one. I dropped her off at the theater around 11:45 PM, and she signaled to me from the box office that she was able to purchase a replacement ticket.

She called around 2:45 AM after the movie and I got in the car to go pick her up. As I drove down Lincoln Avenue, I saw two people walking across the empty parking lot at the Western Avenue L station. When I pulled up in front of the theater, my wife stood there alone.

I asked her how the movie was. "There were only, like, three people in the whole theater!" she exclaimed.

Even allowing for the cooler fall weather and possibly some paranoia following the Aurora shooting, it's clear that when it comes to box office appeal, James Bond is no match for Batman.

I told her I had suspected as much because the streets were so empty. "I guess the theater really needed the revenue from that second ticket you bought, huh?"

BC2012: Stumbling on Wins by David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt

The authors are economists who apply statistical analysis to professional sports. If you've seen or read Moneyball, which the authors mention, you understand the revolutionary potential of such an approach. My biggest problem with Stumbling on Wins is too much basketball.* I soldiered through the main text, but I will confess to skimming the footnotes and the appendix where the NBA was concerned. I notice now that there are separate Kindle editions for basketball and football. The authors also discuss hockey, particularly the impact of goalies, and a few baseball issues.

Though this is a book for the geekiest of sports fans, it includes some interesting analysis that anyone can follow. I have heard some of these arguments before, such as how NFL teams should "go for it" on fourth down more than they do. But there are some unusual perspectives as well. For example, the authors argue that kickers provide more value to their teams by kicking off well (deep, hard to return, giving the other team poor field position) than by making field goals.

Overall, Stumbling on Wins is interesting but not great. It was worth reading but not worth recommending/passing on to others. I suppose I might consider their earlier volume, The Wages of Wins, but only if there's less NBA content.

* Short, fat kids like me hated basketball because we sucked at it. Later I lived in Chicago during the Michael Jordan years, and if that couldn't make me like basketball, nothing ever will.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

BC2012: I Hate Everything by Matthew DiBenedetti

I had an idea for a book like this, but it didn't work out. That's okay; DiBenedetti did a much better job with the concept than I would have. This book could easily be an unbearable litany of whiny complaints, but the author is more clever than that. Here is one example:
I hate that I'm going bald.
I hate that I still make fun of bald people.
I hate karma.
I Hate Everything is at least worth leafing through in the bookstore. Odds are good that the reader will chuckle enough while flipping pages to go ahead and buy the book. It might depend on one's mood at the time, too. I read this to my wife over the course of a week. At one point she said she couldn't take all that negativity and asked me to read only ten pages per day. The next day I plowed through the remainder of the book (more than 50 pages) and she didn't complain.

BC2012: The Great Taos Bank Robbery by Tony Hillerman

I've never read any of the mystery novels Hillerman is known for, but I've seen several on my dad's shelves. This is a collection of true essays he wrote about the Southwest for his Masters thesis. These informative and entertaining tales from the 1950s and 1960s offer a glimpse of what New Mexico was like decades before Santa Fe became super trendy. Hillerman writes about anthropological digs, bubonic plague, radical and corrupt politicians, native Americans, and more. The title story and a few others are hilariously told, and all of them are well-written. Anyone who likes Hillerman or New Mexico should love The Great Taos Bank Robbery.

Note: The second book cover below is the one I read, but as far as I know both editions have the same content.


Oh Jeez, Not Another One!

Yep, we're back up to three dogs. Just like last time, the third is an older yellow lab female. Her name is Rexy, she's eleven, and she used to be a bomb-sniffing police dog.

We've had her for a few weeks, but I held off posting because I was kind of hoping someone else would want her. She's not much trouble by herself, but any dog is a burden when it's the third. She is afraid to go down our back stairs, which is pretty annoying because we have to take her out in front all the time. On the bright side, she doesn't waste much time out there, just squats and does whatever she has to do. And sniffs. She loves to sniff, which is how she got her old job in the first place.

Oh, and she likes to sleep, although she gets around pretty well for her age. And thank your lucky stars this blog isn't Smell-O-Vision because she's got a butt trumpet that plays nonstop (and I mean that in the audible sense -- she's like the Dizzy Gillespie of gas).

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Democracy Hangover

That's what people are feeling today after staying up late to watch the election results and speeches and/or celebrate Obama's victory or drown their sorrows over Romney.

My wife talked her (work) partner into voting last night and drove halfway across the city to do so. Then her partner voted for Romney "because I don't like [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel and he's Obama's buddy." That has got to be one of the stupidest reasons I've ever heard. What is this, high school? Plus she's a lesbian. Why would a lesbian vote Republican?* Heck, I can't even see why a woman would vote Republican regardless of orientation. But then I did say yesterday that I couldn't see any good reason to vote for Romney so I guess hers will do.

I tuned in to NBC's coverage because I like Brian Williams, but I fell in love with Savannah Guthrie. I'm not sure she's a great political analyst but I am sure I don't care. I'm almost smitten enough to start watching the Today show.

In the end, I think I was right (don't I always?). The media made this thing out to be much closer than it really was. Sure it was closer than last time, but it wasn't as close as 2004, much less 2000. At one point NBC showed six "battleground" states and then admitted that Obama needed to win only one or two while Romney would have to win all of them. Obama is over 300 electoral votes so far, and he'll probably take Florida once those sun-baked clowns finish counting, too.

I think it's interesting that Mitt couldn't win the state he governed nor the state his dad governed. But he won Utah, by golly. Let's all drink a cup of coffee to that.

Then Romney made us wait 100 minutes for his concession speech apparently because his campaign people were certain that a few Republicans in Ohio's Hamilton County were going to outweigh 200,000 uncounted, mostly Democratic Cuyahoga County residents. By the time he went onstage in Boston, enough results had come in from other states to make Ohio moot anyway.

Romney's speech was mercifully short. Obama spoke with more passion and intensity than I expected, almost like a preacher at times. I hope he can pull Congress together and get something done in the next four years. Whatever happens, the best news about his victory is that Obamacare will stand. It's not perfect, but it's a solid step toward the kind of health security other industrialized nations enjoy.

* Dan Savage can answer that one (and he used to be a Republican). A reader wondered, "Gay Republicans, Dan. Why? How?" He replied, "Self-loathing, that's why. Homophobia, that's how."

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

How is this thing even close?

 From a Chicago Tribune e-mail alert* an hour ago:
Voting began this morning in a neck-and-neck presidential election with polls showing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney effectively tied in a race that likely will be decided in a handful of states.
There's a reason I haven't been blogging about this presidential campaign.** How can anyone take a ridiculously wealthy corporate rapist*** devoid of personality and good ideas like Romney seriously? Even the Republicans I know can't understand how anyone can feel inspired to vote for him. He's a total loser of a candidate, and yet this election is "neck-and-neck"? What the Hell are people thinking?

Everyone gets their pants in a bunch when someone cries "racism", but Romney's only notable trait aside from being rich and smug is his Wonder Bread whiteness. At least racism is a more honest reason for voting for him rather than "I think Romney is really looking out for middle-class Americans and he has great ideas." (I think the real elephant in the room is Mormonism. It's hard to imagine evangelical Christians who have dismissed Mormonism as a cult for so long are willing to put a Mormon in the Oval Office, but maybe they really do hate Obama that much. Besides, evangelicals are nothing if not hypocritical.)

I'm fairly convinced -- and I'm not alone -- that the alleged closeness of this contest is a media conspiracy designed to keep us from having turned off our televisions months ago. I hope I'm right because Romney's America scares me even more than Dubya's America.

* BTW I find these "alerts" about nothing to be rather annoying. We have known when Election Day is for a long time, so how is this "news"? The occurrence of a scheduled event is not news, and yet the Tribune sends me crap like this all the time.

** In retrospect, I should have been linking to the awesome stories in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi and others.

*** If, after enduring the Wall Street-engineered financial crisis and economic collapse, we elect a guy who made his fortune sucking the value out of companies and screwing people on Wall Street, then maybe we deserve what we get. We may as well elect Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

BC2012: Freak Nation by Kate Stevens

This book is "A Field Guide to 101 of the MOST Odd, Extreme, and Outrageous American Subcultures." Well, it isn't really. I mean, many of these subcultures sound pretty bland to me. Jugglers? Hot Rodders? Junior Leaguers? Not exactly odd, extreme, or outrageous. I would have preferred some really unusual people like Looners (balloon fetishists). The author also has omitted hate groups; I'd consider the Ku Klux Klan or the Michigan Militia to be much more odd, extreme, and outrageous than Model Railroaders or Libertarians.

Aside from the ordinariness of a few subcultures, Freak Nation is an interesting and funny book. Stevens runs through the same list of topics for each group, including who they are, where to find them, how to recognize them, biggest controversy, biggest misconception about, et al. She also briefly describes how to tell a fan, a geek, and a superfreak in each subculture. To use Libertarians as a humorous example:
  • Sign of fan: Wraps self in flag.
  • Sign of geek: Wraps self in flag, then burns flag just because it should be within citizen's right to do so.
  • Sign of superfreak: Wraps self in flag, burns flag, objects to taxes on purchase of new flag.
I've read similar books about groups that are more "out there", but Freak Nation succeeds in covering a broad range of unusual people in an informative and amusing way. It's a sort of Cliffs Notes for subcultures.

The subtitle of this book is apt because this is the 101st book I have completed in 2012, tying my total from 2009. I honestly didn't plan it that way!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

"Start a blog that matter!"

The title is the subject line of a painfully written e-mail I received today. Here's the first paragraph:
Billions blogs are in online today. More than thousands of blogs are started in every day. But very few people can start blogs that matter. The question is “what makes them successful in blogging?” To learn behind this success Corbett Barr invents 90 days action plan training. By using this lots of people are getting their success to start their blogs.
I am to wish able write blog with such correct languages!

Sorry, I guess bad writing is contagious. I think I'm over it now. Sometimes unsolicited e-mail is funnier than any joke-a-day subscription.

BC2012: Economics Without Illusions by Joseph Heath

I can't believe I finished my 100th book of 2012 on November 2!

Heath is a Canadian philosophy teacher, and those traits combine to make this one of the best economics books I've read. Being Canadian offers the advantage of being outside the U.S. and able to look at our country's economics and politics without a personal stake (he also doesn't have that peculiarly American disdain for all things European). Being well versed  in philosophy gives him a different perspective on economics than traditional economists (he has pursued economics as more of a hobby rather than as a career path, much as I have (though I did ace micro and macro in college)). And being a teacher means he knows how to communicate and educate, skills that some economics authors frankly lack.

The book is subtitled "Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism", and Heath approaches this by addressing a dozen economic fallacies, half right-wing and half left-wing. Each fallacy serves as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion of pertinent issues. It may surprise some readers that while I am wholeheartedly liberal in most cases, economically my viewpoint is closer to the middle. Thus I enjoyed Heath's debunking at both ends of the spectrum (okay, maybe I enjoyed the right-wing debunking a little bit more). I also appreciate his acknowledgment that economic problems can be very complicated and not easily resolved by knee-jerk ideological strategies.

Some of Heath's perspectives were truly eye-opening for me. For example, he asserts that taxes are essentially club fees. When you join a health club (country club, condo association, etc.), you pay a fee that is used to maintain all the facilities whether you use them or not. Taxes are like a country's membership dues. Heath goes on to say that right wingers treat taxes as something inherently evil that acts as a drain on the economy, but that would only be the case if the government collected the money and buried it. What taxes actually do is shift spending from the individual to the government, just as health club dues shift the purchase of exercise equipment from the individual to the club. It has the same economic impact regardless of who is spending the money.* Whether Nautilus sells 100 machines to individuals or 100 machines to health clubs, it's still selling 100 machines.

Writing about the government requiring forced saving or mandatory insurance (Obamacare comes to mind), Heath makes the point that "instead of trying to fiddle with these programs to make them seem less paternalistic, a more promising strategy would be to challenge the old assumptions that fail to distinguish between institutions that tell people how to live their lives and those that help people carry through on the commitments needed to live their lives more successfully."

Economics Without Illusions is a fascinating yet somewhat disheartening book. One cannot help but wonder how much better our lives could be if we could move beyond these economic fallacies, but too many people are committed to them for one reason or another so that will never happen.

* As in most economics discussions , one has to make some assumptions for simplicity's sake. For example, this statement does not take into account that sales to health clubs might have a marketing value that individual sales do not (potential customers are more likely to see and use the equipment in health clubs than in individual homes).

Friday, November 02, 2012

Death of a DJ

Someone recently contacted me about purchasing my DJRider domain for his DJ persona. Since I was getting tired of my initials anyway, I figured this would be the time to reorganize my online world. In a nutshell, everything will move to or disappear except for Biking Illinois:
  • The location of this blog will not change.
  • The location of Biking Illinois will not change.
  • Dave's Bicycling Pages are now here. I will no longer use DJRider.*
  • My business site, DJWriter, is gone, but the domain points to
  • Some sites link to Dave's Bicycling Pages through the DJWriter domain. Those links should still work.
  • My ever-popular anti-Vegas blog entry is still in the same place for those who have linked to it, even though my blog moved two years ago, my company site is gone, and the blog's name has changed. I would prefer that people visit this page in the blog's new location instead, but I don't want to break those links.
  • I'll probably hang on to the DJWriter domain indefinitely unless someone wants to buy it.
  • America in Pictures and my 2007 PNW travelogue remain at as always.
The homepage for is still as butt-ugly as before, but I hope to redo it someday soon (but you all know how that goes...). Maybe I should put in one of those "under construction" animated GIFs with blinking lights and pretend it's 1996!

I just thought of something... This reorganization could be considered part of my decluttering project. I have simplified my online presence, getting rid of a domain I didn't really need. Now everything is together in one place.

Next up: I really need to migrate off this old laptop from 2005 (yes, the very laptop that Biking Illinois was written on!) and back onto my faster desktop that was fixed three months ago. I know part of it is that I like the Windows XP interface so much better than Windows 7. Another looming issue is organizing my back-up external hard drives (I have at least seven). I also need to learn a new web development product (leaning toward WebPlus X6). I've been using KompoZer on the laptop, but it hasn't been updated in several years.

* I started using DJRider because all of my cycling stuff was at DJWriter and I was worried that when I told people the URL, they might think I said rider instead of writer (my web hosting package includes five domains anyway, so why not?). Now that I'm not using DJWriter anymore, there isn't any reason to have DJRider either, especially since I'm not adding much content to it anymore. DJRider never caught on with the search engines anyway.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

October - BC2012 and Other Goals

October wasn't the best month for BC2012, but I made progress in other areas.

1. Book Challenge 2012: I only read six books this month, which without checking I'll assume is the worst total all year. I did a lot of shopping, though, mostly because I was happy and enjoying myself. October totals: 6 books finished, 13 acquired. Overall totals: 99 books finished, 98 books acquired.

2. Cut down on e-mail: Maybe November will be the month when I finally cut back on the daily deal e-mails.

3. Drive less: I think this was good in October. I've been taking the L downtown instead of driving to the inner suburbs.

4. Physical activity: I went for one bike ride at Busse Woods. It wasn't long but it was my best ride of the year. I felt good and had a great time. I think not having Biking Illinois hanging over my head made all the difference. I need much more exercise, though.

5. Drink more: I've been enjoying UV cake vodka a few gulps at a time.

6. Dine and shop locally: I returned to Costello's and Rockwell's, and I had good meals at both. I skipped the Book Cellar this month, which is just as well considering how many books I bought elsewhere.

7. Clean and declutter: I bought two shelving units for the kitchen and made real progress there. I also went through my wife's stuff and organized it into piles --- now I just need to get her to go through those piles. I'm about halfway through getting all of my printed photographs together. Also I can see the floor in the middle of my office for the first time since we moved in. Oh, and I finally got rid of my books after picking out number 500 to donate. I'd like to take a carload of stuff to Goodwill in November.

8. Enhance and expand my web presence: Oddly enough, my web presence is contracting, but I'll write more about that another time.

9. Figure out my professional future: This one is officially resolved.

10. Floss regularly: After seven months without missing a day, I think it's safe to say this goal is attained as well.