Books Read in June

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien (read via Overdrive’s free lending program). Vietnam essays for a former vet. War stories. Graphic, but not gratuitous. Horrible. Beautiful. Sickening. Poignant. Dark. Glittering prose.

The Ship Who Sang– ironically found at a secondhand bookstore in Davao City Philippines. Ironic, because I read this book in my high school Spanish class in Yuma, Arizona 40 years ago. We had a regular little reading club in that class, illicit, underground, behind the teacher’s back. We sat in the back of the room, four or five of us, and passed around a paperback book we read together. Sometimes it was just a good story one of us was enjoying and wanted to share with the others- like this one. It haunted me, and I wanted to read it again later, but couldn’t find it for ages, and I had never paid attention to the author. I read all the Dragons of Pern books (In Japan, 25 years ago when I had two kids and we were stationed there), but it was another five years later before I discovered the internet and the search possibilities and learned that The Ship Who Sang was written by the same author, Anne McCaffrey. I’m glad to have satisfied the itch. It was mostly as I remembered it, although not so new, shiny, ground-breaking, and amazing. Still, fun.

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the short story that was made into the Christmas movie about the boy who wants a b.b. gun for Christmas more than anything else but everybody just tells him he’ll shoot his eye out. It’s a collection of those short stories, reminiscences about living in an Indiana steel mill town during the Cold War. I didn’t care for the little gimmick used to connect the stories- he’s at home visiting an old friend who is a bartender and they spend a few minutes ‘remembering when,’ and then he picks one of those stories to tell in the next chapter. It felt forced. But the stories- well, they feel real. The language is, at times, er, highly colourful. Americana, pretty funny stuff, with a bit of a bite to it. The fictional town of Hohman is Hammond as it was. Hammond as it is today is a town you should avoid at all costs as an outsider. It’s dangerous. Knowing that, the book is rather sad.


Once Upon a Crime, by Michael Buckley (juvenile, part of a series called The Sisters Grim)

Death in High Heels by Christiana Brand

Null ABC by John Joseph McGuire

Dead Men’s Hearts, (a Gideon Oliver book), by Aaron Elkins

Heads You Lose, by Christiana Brand

Green for Danger by Christiana Brand


The Secret Zoo

Mr Monk in Outer Space (these last two I quit reading before I had finished 3 pages. Awful writing. The Mr. Monk reads like journeman level fan fiction, but I am sure it is gratifying to those who read it.


1493 for Young People by Charles Mann

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson


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Decorate a Notebook

You could get very fancy and make the notebook itself. I used a small composition book (they were four for a dollar or something), and for this one, I cut apart a small picture book that had mostly already been destroyed by a stream of toddlers who colored in it, tore a page or two, and just loved it entirely to death. I made it a few years ago for a very dear friend who loves giraffes.

You can laminate it when you are done, and this would be better. You can also carefully paint all over it with a small paintbrush dipped in regular glue, using even strokes, and let it dry and it will have a hard, shiny finish.




I taped those words from the picture book because my friend was a La Leche League Leader for years and though she is a grandmother now she is still a wise and knowledgeable source of information about all kinds of things, including breastfeeding, pregnancy, childbirth, and loving your children.  She is a gem. If you are jealous, I am sorry, but you are right, she is the kind of friend you should have in your life.


I’ve posted pictures of another notebook that one of my daughters made for one of my other daughters- she pays more attention to detail and is more artistic than I am.   That one has pictures of old books and Shakespeare stuff collected from advertisements from some educational catalog I received.  You can use pretty much anything that matches the interests of your recipient (or you).

You can also make it really personal and use your best writing (or calligraphy) to write a line on a few pages- a Bible verse, a line of poetry about friendship (or giraffes), a quote that is meaningful to your friendship, that honors the person your friend is.

It’s a very inexpensive gift in terms of monetary outlay- you need a cheap composition notebook, some glue, some source for pictures, and probably scissors, although you could give it a fun look by carefully tearing around the edges.  You can also get fancier and make a hole in the center of both covers and attach a ribbon or band to use to keep the book closed when not in use.

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Links and Thinks

“White left” in China is an internet insult. White left means about what you think it means. This article about it is on the scholarly side, but it’s pretty interesting. It’s not really about drawing any final conclusions, but does offer several things to think about.

Toxoplasmosis is not just a worry for pregnant women after all. Cat lover friends, read these links and take precautions. Kind of reminds me of the Mad Hatter and it’s sad that mad hatters and crazy cat ladies may have something in common.

Still in doubt about media bias? During the Comey hearings, NBC’s Neeley thought it was highly important to tell America that Comey claimed AG Sessions instructed him not to report on Russia investigations as ‘investigation,’ but to refer to them merely as the Russia matter. Well, yes, that would be highly disturbing. But Neeley got it almost completely upside down- Comey’s testimony there wasn’t about AG Sessions, but about OBAMA’s AG Loretta Lynch, and it was not about Russia, but about the investigation into Hilary’s email ‘situation.’ Corrected, Neely just took down the tweet. Because suddenly it didn’t matter, wasn’t news, was not worth reporting now that it didn’t make Trump look bad, but only reflected incredibly poorly on the Obama administration.


Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations– Denver officials are concerned that too many illegal immigrants in their fair city run a higher risk of deportation because certain low-risk, non-violent crimes carried a penalty of a year in prison, and that year sentence on their records would draw unfavourable attention to their status and and cause them to be deported.  I don’t really care about that one way or the other- a year sentence does seem extreme to me, and as the article also points out, these crimes basically penalize being homeless, although a couple of the reductions in sentences also penalize property owners by treating squatting as a hand slappable offense.

However, the politicians here specifically connect these crimes to the local immigrant community.   They are very straightforward about it, claiming that in order to protect the illegal immigrants in their city from this deportation risk, they must reduce the penalties for this specific set of crimes, which, apparently, Denver officials have reason to believe illegal aliens are more likely to commit.  Here they are:

  • Sitting or lying in the public right-of-way
  • Unauthorized camping on public or private property prohibited
  • Urinating or defecating in public
  • Panhandling
  • Curfews and closures
  • Storage and loading
  • Prohibitions
  • Solicitation on or near street or highway

What do you suppose would happen if normal people suggested that illegal aliens were more likely to poop in public, participate in prostitution, and help themselves to camping out on your personal property?


Babies are born recognizing words, and also enough language patterns that they recognize foreign languages as new to them.


Why you should read the hard stuff.

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Test: How Susceptible To Shellshock Would You Have Been in WW1

Woodworth Psychoneurotic Inventory: Often cited as the first personality test, the WPI was developed by the United States military during World War I to screen for recruits at high risk of developing shell shock. Finished too late to be put to such use, the WPI instead found its place as the dominant self-report personality measure in academic psychological research during the 1920s and 30s, but has mostly been forgotten since then.


A couple aspects of this amuse me:

Your score on the Woodworth Psychoneurotic Inventory was 41 out of 116. Higher scores indicate more neuroticism. A graph of how other people who have taken the WPI on this website have scored is below.

Just based on the graph, the normal range seems to be 20 to 55, with scores of 10 or less being very low and scores of 65 or more being very high. But this is very different from what the original interpretation guidelines say. Franz (1919) reported that the average White individual scored only 10 and recommended that people who scored higher than twenty should be suspected of instability. By this metric, 81.86% of our modern sample is psychologically unstable, which seems unlikely! Other sources from that era also report much lower scores, Papurt (1930) reports average scores by gender, here are his numbers compared to ours:

1930 Today
Males 19.34 (n=50) 32.8 (n=3116)
Females 19.92 (n=50) 39.2 (n=4753)

The great magnitude of the difference seems inexplicable. It is, of course, quite possible that average levels of mental instability have increased over time, and other datasets do show this trend. Twenge (2010) analyzed administrations of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory from 1938 to 2007 and found increases on all clinical scales, such that five times as many people now meet the original cutoffs for psychopathology. That change on the MMPI is not outside the realm of plausibility, but that magnitude of the change here is just too staggering to believe: it is hard to see how almost everyone today could have lower mental health than almost everyone a century ago.

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Obama wore same tux and shoes all 8 years, Nobody Cared

Michelle Obama is kind of irked about that.  I agree with her so much, but at the same time, I read the article and looked over the pictures of her scrumptious dresses to see which one I liked the best.  I didn’t exactly notice Obama wore the same shoes and tux.  I did notice he always looked the same.  But I didn’t care. I wasn’t curious about his clothes. I was curious about Michelle’s, and I am curious about what Ivanka and Melania wear, too.  I don’t imagine tto myself that it matters at all, but I do like to look.  So I am part of the problem and I really do not know we fix it. I like looking at those dresses just as much as the next person, and I think of myself as somebody who doesn’t care about clothes. I would get tired of the first lady wearing the same dress to every formal function.
I wouldn’t criticize, I don’t think, but I would be kind of… disappointed. Bored. I have criticized dresses on the basis of whether I liked them or not (I didn’t really care for Michelle’s dress at the first inauguration, but it was just personal taste), and sometimes on cost (Melania’s 3D coat, oh, my gosh, I loved it, it was gorgeous, but yeah, I cringed over the price). But I don’t think I would say something about how often somebody wore the same one. But a lot of people would, and maybe I am wrong about myself, too.
You, too.  If you didn’t already know about Melania’s coat, now you’re curious, right?  Here it is.
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