Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'll finish those Fardels real quick, honey"? (Grammar Funnies)

From: A Softer World

-- Headline women will not care about.

This week, I learned about a website named "Grammarly," which will provide automated, instant grammar checking, online, for you, for free.

This is not an ad.

I heard about Grammarly because I read an article about Grammarly trying to find out which magazines have the best grammar (for men: GQ, and Popular Mechanics, neither of which I'd have guessed were big on grammar; in GQs case, I didn't think it had words.  As for Popular Mechanics, I'm pretty sure that magazine has devoted every single issue, since the 1950s, to diagramming how to make a car/boat.  Which, I mean, it's important to know that, in case you haven't seen Waterworld.)

(I saw Waterworld.)

(By myself, when I was 24.)

Here are Grammarly's findings, in infographic (TM!) form:

The article raised more questions than answers; the infographic, on the other hand, I found simply baffling.  Why take to the beach?  Why does the level of readership matter? HOW BIG IS THAT BEACH?

Seriously: that beach goes on for miles behind them, clear to the mountains.  That happy, reading, presumably grammar-obsessed couple under the too-small umbrella is not on a beach. They are stranded in a desert.

But more to the point, what was the method for this study? What magazines were included? Was The New Yorker, for example? I've submitted tons and tons of poems -- three -- to The New Yorker and they have never accepted one for publication.  Why? They accepted one for their latest issue that wasn't even very good.  But they won't accept mine?  Once, they accepted this, this, as a poem:


O Sting, where is thy death?

Which is really mean, as a poem, let alone not rhyming.  And possibly ungrammatical? I don't know. I tried to check it on Grammarly but it told me that the text was too short to check, so Grammarly doesn't know as much about poetry as The New Yorker.  Or maybe they know more, and I should submit my poems to Grammarly?

The point is... um... the point is what magazines did they search out and what grammar mistakes did they find, and do people really read magazines anymore? Sweetie does.  Sweetie loves actual paper magazines that come in the mail, usually a day too late and Sweetie can't wait to get them, so sometimes she just goes and buys them, anyway, the result being we get double the number of magazines laying around and I have an alarming amount of information about Khloe Kardashian's marriage.

25,000 page views, just like that.

The article itself was short on news.  I did check the article itself on Grammarly, and found that it alerted me to plagiarism, punctuation and style errors, and spelling errors, too -- but didn't specify which because I had to sign up to find out the real problems and when I tried to get the NSA to tell me what my passwords were to all my websites they hung up on me and then I heard a drone hovering over my house so... I gave up.

Grammarly's little check-box did tell me it was looking for unbalanced punctuation, which is not punctuation that is off its meds, as you'd think if you were going to write a conceptual short story about a semicolon that wants to be a real colon and decides to [SPOILER ALERT!] joint the Punctuation Mob only to learn that to become a Made Mark he has to kill his own brother, probably a question mark ?

That last sentence wasn't a question, I was trying to show you Semi's brother, Question Mark ?.

Unbalanced punctuation, you would know if you stopped looking at pictures of Khloe Kardashian

Am I atop the search engines yet?
for even one minute and Googled the phrase, means that you've improperly not closed a parentheses, which reminded me about the time that I deliberately enclosed my life in a parentheses and I'm still in it -- over a year ago I started a parentheses and didn't end it, yet, which is awesome because this whole part of my life has just been kind of an aside from the main portion, right? -- and also other common unbalanced punctuations are failing to use:

Commas inside closing quotation marks
Periods inside closing quotation marks
Semicolons outside closing quotation marks
Question marks inside closing quotation marks when the quotation is a question
Question marks outside closing quotation mark when the sentence is a question.

Got that last one? I was trying to figure out what you would do if the sentence was a question about a quotation that was also a question, something like:

Was it Macbeth or Hamlet that said "To be or not to be?"?

Then I got to wondering whether that quotation was actually a question.  So I looked that up.  It's not.  The actual quotation is:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Including the colon, which I didn't think had even been invented when Roger Bacon was writing all his plays under the pseudonym William Shakespeare.  Which is interesting because one of the most famous questions in the world, To be or not to be? isn't even a question -- despite the fact that the speaker (Gandhi) expressly labels it a question!

I mean, weird, right?

You don't think of punctuation as having been invented but it is, of course.  Punctuation wasn't created out of whole cloth and gerunds and quarks at the Big Bang, it had to evolve over time, from tiny one-celled periods to complex organisms like the Ampersand.

The colon came out of Latin and Greek, used to mark a limb of a sentence rather than a complete sentence itself, and first became common, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, around 1600.  The OED cites this explanation from 1616:

John Bullokar's An English expositor (1616) glosses Colon as "A marke of a sentence not fully ended which is made with two prickes." 

Which is only dirty-sounding if you think it is.  Another thing that sounds dirty but maybe isn't?  Hamlet asks, when pondering why we stay alive when life is so hard (ANSWER: leftover pizza for breakfast):

Who would Fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have, Than fly to others that we know not of. Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all, 

The potentially-dirty part of that being Fardels and who is bearing them.  You probably don't know what a Fardel is.  I certainly don't.  I didn't even realize that the point of Hamlet's speech was to point out that Hamlet thinks the only reason we go on living is because we are uncertain what happens after death.  We studied that play in high school, and I never got that.  Probably because I didn't pay attention.  When you worry about how poorly our schools are educating kids nowadays, ask yourself what you learned in school.  It probably wasn't grammar.

Or "Fardels."

"Fardels" is medieval archaic language meaning bundle or burden.  So Hamlet is just talking about burdens, and you need to get your mind out of the gutter.

As for how the survey was conducted? Your guess is as good as mine.  But what I did get out of the survey is that women's magazines are way more likely to have grammar errors -- 1.4 per thousand words! -- than men's magazines, but have 3 times the readership, and not all of that circulation can be attributed to Sweetie's impatience.  But maybe we shouldn't get the idea that women are more tolerant of poor grammar.  A study found that 4 out of 5 women objected to the ungrammatical phrase "I'll finish it real quick," probably because they knew their husbands were lying.

There should probably be a colon after "Feel Great Naked!"

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Why not use all the words?" as Norton Juster asked.

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of bols board games for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

A while back, I set out to learn 15,842 new words.  So far, on my quest, I have learned… probably 8 new ones? Maybe 10.  I don’t know.  Not many yet, that’s for sure, but I’m working on it.

My method for learning new words is to look in a dictionary or look up words I come across in reading, which is a fine method, but there’s a better one, especially if you like word games like Scrabble or Words With Friends or Boggle:

BoLS Board Games.

That site is a one-stop shop, as I like to say, for word-game lovers.  Whatever your word, whatever your game, there’s help for you on the BoLS site.  Scrabble lovers will find a Scrabble Word Finder, Scrabble Cheat, and other tips.  Words With Friends players can get page after page of synonyms and antonyms and anagrams of words.  Even Boggle lovers – you 80s throwbacks, you!—will find a page to help. 

Words of all sorts are splashed all over their site, in varying lengths and with definitions and words of the day, and it’s the kind of site that’s going to make you better at any word game you like.  Crosswords puzzles? I love doing those, too, and the site even helps me with that.

One neat feature I saw they have is the popular lookup searches, letting you know what other words people are looking up.  I like that because I not only feel a little better to know someone ELSE didn’t know a word, either, but it’s a  great way to find words you don’t already know and learn about them.

Check out the site, and see if it doesn’t improve your vocabulary and up your game. 


Scrabble Dictionary

Visit Sponsor's Site

Miley's Radioactive Butt. (WRONG!)

By now, you have heard so much about Miley Cyrus' twerking

at the Video Music Awards that you probably think there's nothing new to say about it!

You're right.

There is absolutely nothing new to say about Miley twerking, and there wasn't much old to say about it, either.  It was (as Matt Lauer and a few others pointed out) nothing much to freak out over -- a couple of wannabe controversial pop stars wanting to be controversial, and certainly not the end of the world.

I have a system I use to try to keep from being a horrible horrible person.  Whenever I spend money on something ridiculous, or unnecessary, I try to send an equal amount to a charity or needy person.  Take a vacation to Disneyland? Send some money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and so on.

I think the same thing could apply to fake culture war issues, like whether Miley Cyrus' butt is destroying society and should be denounced (thank you, Mika Brzezinsksi, for bringing back good old fashioned denouncin' to the public forum!)

That is, for every minute you spend talking about something like Denouncing Miley's butt, you should also spend a minute talking about something that actually matters.  

This rule would apply to people who petitioned the White House to make Ben Affleck not be Batman, everyone who spent an hour saying why the fourth Indiana Jones movie was so awful, or people who worried about Ewoks blinking.

You may ask, why should I do this? Well, if the idea of making yourself be a better person isn't enough -- if you don't want to be the kind of person who, okay, maybe you spent some time worrying about or defending Miley's butt but also you know what the 'debt ceiling' is and why it's important, if you don't want to be that kind of person, at least-- then maybe you could say "Well, I'd at least like to be the kind of person who is on a par, intellectually, with Billy Ray Cyrus."

So I'm not saying you can't watch the VMAs, and I'm not saying you can't be for or against Miley's butt, and I'm not even saying you can't discuss your pro- or anti-Mileybutt stances with friends.  All I'm saying is maybe even it out by thinking about other stuff.

Because here's what else was going on since the VMAs, and as you consider this list, think about how much time you spent thinking about these things?

1. SYRIA:  "If the US kept its bombing to a minimum, the line of thinking goes, the Syrian leader might just ride it out," suggested one article on the impact of Obama's mulling military retaliation in reaction to Syria's reported use of chemical weapons in its civil war.  Another reaction, also discussed in that article, might be that Iran would get involved and start a larger regional war.  I know, I know, it's hard to focus on the possibility of a larger conflict getting us involved in a third war when we can't even end the first two we're in now, but what if you imagined Iran twerking while 4,000 more young men die in a pointless war?

2.  311 square miles of wildfire continue to burn around Yosemite park.  Don't worry! It's not deterring tourists!  Nothing says America! like taking a 3-day weekend to go sit near a wildfire while complaining that Miley's butt is wrecking the country's morals.  Hey, what's this 3-day weekend celebrating, again?

3.  Rape just became the equivalent of a traffic ticket.  Remember how all those Republicans weren't going to get anywhere by repeatedly downplaying the seriousness of rape? While everyone else was debating not just Miley's butt but Daniel Tosh's rape jokes, the actual war on rape suffered a stunning defeat when a judge sentenced a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student to just 30 days in jail, saying the teacher had suffered enough already.  The victim, who as far as I know never even met Miley Cyrus? She's not suffering anymore. She committed suicide.

4. Do you know what a "serious incident on an international scale" means? No? What if I told you it had to do with radioactivity? Still nothing? OK then: It took a MONTH AND A HALF for Japanese officials to discover an 80,000 gallon nuclear leak at Fukushima.  But that isn't even the most serious problem going on there.  Buried in that story, about 10 paragraphs in, is the revelation that radioactive ground water is reaching the ocean.  You know: the ocean? That giant body of water that touches every continent the way Miley touched that other dancer do I have your attention now?

5.  You might have missed that story about Fukushima because there are no scientists left to explain it to reporters.  That's because about 1 in 5 scientists say they might leave the US due to sequestration cutting funding. The US is the only country to actually reduce scientific research funding since 2011.  Yes, Obama supporters: YOUR guy is cutting back on funding.  YOUR guy.  When we all start glowing from radioactive water, assuming we're not too busy dying in the Mideast or being burned alive at campgrounds, we won't have to seek out a scientific explanation for it.

We'll just blame Miley's butt.

A new post is coming, but my computer is being commandeered by Mr Bunches, who wants to watch videos of airplanes.  Until the new post is up, enjoy this optical illusion:  guess which sphere is actually bigger?

Art! 'Nuff said!

time again for another installment of 'Artists You'll Wish You Had Heard About Before But It's OK Because Now You've Heard About Them', the world's most popular series about artists you'll wish you had heard about, etc. etc.

Today, I was looking at the Fine Art For Sale at Paragon Fine Art, and I came across a bunch of different Vladimir Kush Prints.  Kush did that picture of Ulysses in rough seas -- oil on oval canvas- and has a bunch of neat, sort of surrealist prints like "Hibiscus Dancer," a dancer whose dress is a hibiscus flower, and other great pictures.  They're the kind of pictures I'd like to have in my office, good colorful, thought-provoking scenes that are artfully crafted.

Then there's Pino Artist, in a totally different vein.  Pino, who recently passed away, painted more in a realist/impressionist kind of combination -- the pictures looking almost photorealistic but with impressionist flourishes.

Here, take a look at one:

See what I mean?

That'd be a great one to hang in a living room, for example -- and art always makes fine gifts, if you're looking to give your favorite blogger something.

Wait, I am your favorite blogger, right? What? Top 10? TOP 1000? I am? Seriously? Top 1000? WOO HOO!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Club Of People Who Are Smart About Annoying Stuff (17 Songs With Literary References In Them, Song 1)

The Song: Mary's Market, by God Help The Girl

The Literary Reference:  "books by Joyce."

The context:  The phrase appears in one of the later stanzas, as the narrator talks about what I take is a dinner date with a girl he likes.  The girl shows him a dress we're told she "nicked from Mary's Market," which the singer says, the girl thought would make her look like Mary because the girl thought the singer would like it (got all that?) and the singer says:

 I like you better I like you loads
 I like you unaffected 
Take your eighties’ records your books by Joyce 
And you can pack ‘em up for the summer 

 The (Presumed) Significance of the reference: The ownership of books by Joyce is one of a wealth of biographical details we're given about the girl with the nicked dress.  She also reads the singer's fortune, cooks him dinner he didn't eat, makes shadow shapes on the wall and builds a still life, and casually shoplifts.  The references to 80s records and books by Joyce, though, makes her not just a poor person or a weirdo, but a specific type of hipster/free spirit girl -- one who is clearly trying to be someone or something she's not, and the singer is on to it, because he tells her later in the song that she only had one true moment in their night together.  But Nicked Dress isn't a total loss -- the singer says he likes her unaffected, and is seeming to tell her she doesn't need to try so hard.

The books by Joyce is a good pick to make the point of the sort of intellectual striving that appears to be going on in Nicked Dress' life: whether she is actually trying to be smart and interesting or just wants to appear to be so, reading something by James Joyce is (as I well know) one way to get accepted into the Club Of People Who Are Smart About Annoying Stuff.  On the other hand, as I also well know, it's probably not worth it to try that entry route, and, as Nicked Dress learns, not necessary in some instances to be in the Club.


Like Fantasy Football?  I run a league called Nassau Ungranulated and blog about it here from time-to-time and it actually doesn't matter if you like it or not, the way I write about it, it's fun.  Check out the first post in that series, Aquaman Villains, Aaron Rodgers, and other things that will make you throw up.

And now, Meet a team owner!  Nassau Ungranulated is the first-ever all blogger/writer sports league, made up of 14 of the best teams ever in Fantasy Football.  And among the best of the best of the best is author P.T. Dilloway, who manages the Grumpy Bulldogs.

P.T. is the author of dozens of sci-fi, literary, and speculative fiction books of an amazing depth and variety.  From the poignant, John Irving-esque reveries of his hit book Where You Belong to the fast-paced, inventive adventures of the superhero he created, The Scarlet Knight, P.T.'s depth and range as a writer are demonstrated with every book he puts out.

Find all his books at the home page of Planet 99 publishing, and check out his blog, where he writes about everyday heroes, comic captions, movie and book reviews, and his (grumpy) thoughts on everything he comes across.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In my defense, I was about 10 and didn't know what "whores" were. (Awesome Covers Of Already Awesome Songs)

When I was younger (so much younger than today) I thought the line from The Boxer was

"Asking only workman's wages
I go looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a 'come home from the wars on Seventh Avenue,"

Which I took to mean that the singer/protagonist was being told by his family to come home because life was so brutal in New York.

It's actually, I realized some time later, "just a come on from the whores on Seventh Avenue," which is less poetic I think but more sexy.

Here's the Ten Tenors, singing that song:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What if there was a Giant Paleolithic Shark Tornado Attacking A Cronut? HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE? Updates On God)

This post will seem more exciting and symbolic if you listen to this song while you read it.  It's "Blood Of The Lamb," by Lucius. Couldn't your life use more exciting symbolism?

Updates On God originally began as a series of posts on my old, now defunct sports blog (now it's for STORIES!) that noted everytime an athlete talked about God. But why limit it just to athletes? God moves in mysterious ways, after all, and not just in athletic circles.

And nothing is more mysterious than bug poop a crying tree. Which brings us to today's Updates On God:

A group was seen last week gathered outside St. John's Cathedral in Fresno, Calif. They prayed under a Crape Myrtle tree and asked for miracles, according to NBC's WPTV. The tree has been spurting a liquid that some believe to be the tears of God. One woman even claimed that when "Glory be to God in Jesus' name" is said, more of the substance comes out.

God did once appear as a burning bush, so why not a spurting tree? Probably because He doesn't want to get aphid excrement all over him.  An arborist who  examined the tree says that aphids, rather than an omniscient being, are causing the 'miracle'.  I'll let him explain, because as a scientist he knows how to say "poop" without saying "poop":

"The aphids will suck the sap," arborist Jon Reelhorn explained to WPTV, "the sap goes through the aphid and then it is a honey dew excrement from the aphid and it gets so heavy in the summertime that it will drip down." 

He makes it sound almost nice! Reelhorn says another tree across the street is also dripping -- probably in a desperate bid for attention, the way your little sister would say "I drew a horse, too!" when your mom put your picture up on the 'fridge.  Trees: they're just like us!

One priest managed to put a halfway decent spin on this, saying it's probably not a miracle but it's still a reminder of how great God is:

 "Incidents like these -- weeping statues, paintings, trees or other objects -- happen more frequently than some might imagine," Father James Martin, Jesuit priest and editor-at-large at America magazine, told The Huffington Post in an emailed statement Monday. "Usually the phenomena are easily explained by science. But occasionally the causes remain inexplicable. I'm a firm believer in miracles, but I also believe that God can speak to us through natural means, as a way of reminding us of God's presence. Sometimes God gives us a little nudge -- explicable or inexplicable -- as if to say, 'I'm here.'"
As proof of miracles and God's existence, I think aphids ranks rather low on the list. I mean, have you tried a "Cronut?"

No, I haven't either, but I heard people in New York are going nuts over them the way they went nuts over cupcakes a few years ago, which is great for New Yorkers, who get the thrill of constantly seeing 57 new tiny shops spring up on their block to cater to their latest whim, only to have those people's dreams crushed horribly six months later when the fad passes.  Which is fair, because whose dream is it to open a cupcakery? Not mine. I wanted to be an oceanographer. About which, I really dodged a bullet there, what with the controversy over that megalodon thing on Discovery.

Father Martin's sage words were heeded by the crowd, which promptly stopped worshipping a tree and instead went out to do good works and otherwise celebrate God through living their life in an upright, holy way.

HA, no, wouldn't that be great if they did? But they didn't. They're still there, praying to the tree.

 Rosemarie Navarro, a parishioner at a Fresno, California Catholic Church says, "I said my prayer and asked the Lord to give me a miracle cause I'm really, really sick." 
The only thing sadder than a woman believing that her best hope for a cure for her illness is praying to a tree full of bugs?

The fact that, given America's health care system, she's probably right.

UPDATE: About an hour after I posted this, I realized I missed a golden opportunity to say that New Yorkers were going cronuts over the latest treat.  Please go back and re-read this post and assume that I said that. I will feel better about life if you do.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aquaman villains, Aaron Rodgers, and other things that will make you throw up. (NASSAU UNGRANULATED: WEEK -4!)

This post is about
a free fantasy football league for
bloggers/writers/people. Interested
in joining? Email me at:

As you may or may not know, I dabble in fantasy football, and in fact I dabble in liking football, altogether.

I used to like football a whole lot more than I do now. Up until about 4 or 5, maybe, years ago, I would watch a game or two every Sunday (always pro; I rarely watch college football) and I knew the players and the teams and the coaches and the... I ran out of things that I could know about football teams, there.  Logos? Mascots? Stadiums? I don't know.

Starting about 4 or 5 years ago, though, I began to drift away from being a passionate football fan.  I'm not sure what started the drift.  Getting older, perhaps.  New interests, and increased job responsibilities, possibly.  Nearly dying by being stung by bees? Probably didn't help.

So I'm at the point now where I watch a game, maybe, each week during the football season, trying to pick out the game that I'd find most interesting if I'm going to watch one, at all, and even then I'm more than willing to give up on the game if it turns sour.  Instead of sitting through a dull football game, I'm just as likely to take a walk, or watch a movie, or read The Brothers Karamazov, a book I've been working on for a while now and which I find to be pleasantly like mowing the lawn: something that in theory I think I will not like but then once I get started on it, I find I kind of enjoy it.

This lackadaisical approach to football has allowed me to both grow as a fan -- I now feel free to dislike my favorite team (the Buffalo Bills) and admit that perhaps they are not going to the Super Bowl, without feeling like I'm somehow being disloyal or a bad person.  True, by which I mean dumb, sports fans feel like if you are critical of the team at all, it's a heresy, like admitting that maybe your kid isn't the best looking in the class.


True, by which I mean, you got it already, right? sports fans think that you have to love your team, and all the players on it, no matter what.  Fans like me, on the other hand, can look at their favorite team and say "Well, they haven't been very good in about a zillion years and they probably won't be very good this year, either," and enter the season with a dose of reality that allows us to not claim that there are no hungry children in America.

TRUE STORY: Last year, the Green Bay Packers played the Seattle Seahawks in an actual NFL game that counted in the standings.  The Seahawks won on the now-infamous "Worst Call Ever," and Packer fans, including a state legislator previously best known for leading a principled stance against pay cuts for teachers, took to Twitter to demand that the NFL reverse the game.  That state legislator, Jon Erpenbach, tweeted that he was going to start a petition drive to the NFL or something like that.

So here's the thing: I felt that the amount of energy and anger directed at a game was disproportionate, to say the least, to the actual impact of that game on anybody's real life.  I could understand the actual Green Bay Packers being upset (although really I couldn't because the Packers, while complaining about a bad call that 'cost' them the game somehow ignored the fact that they'd been completely incompetent for the entire game, including giving up, by my count, an infinite amount of sacks of their quarterback, the highest-paid jerk you'll ever see on TV) but I couldn't understand real people being so anguished.

TRUE STORY ASIDE:  I once was like that. Once, when the Buffalo Bills lost to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs on the "Music City Miracle," a loss that came on my birthday, thanks a lot, people who run the Universe, I was anguished for hours, and for about five years after that would badger anyone who listened about how the call was awful.  Then, one day, I thought "You know what? It was a game" and I never cared all that much again.  
So I sent a Tweet to Jon Erpenbach, pointing out that he was using a great deal of amassed political credibility to... affect the outcome of a football game.  (Erpenbach had tweeted about almost nothing in the weeks before taking to the Internet to demand that the result of a game be changed.) And I posted a Tweet to Packer fans reminding them that while they were spending all this energy on a game, there were other important things, like, for example, children in Wisconsin starving for lack of food.

To which a Packer fan responded, and. I. Quote: Pretty sure there aren't.

That was pretty much the end of my ever liking Packer fans again: so overwrought over a game that their team, not the refs, lost, they denied that children were suffering from hunger in America.

Although I'm pretty sure that no Packer fan ever goes hungry:

Anyway, I'm not that kind of football fan, not anymore.  I like the game, I like the stories about the players and reading about interesting new strategies and human-interest stories, but something about football keeps me from being really engaged in the sport the way I used to be.  Maybe it's stories about how NFL coaches like Sean Payton -- last seen encouraging his players to physically injure other players in order to win games, a scheme that netted him a one-year suspension -- spend their year-in-exile trying to crush the spirit of sixth graders:

During his Roger Goodell–mandated suspension from the Saints, Payton spent his time coaching his son's sixth-grade pee wee football team, the Liberty Christian Warriors, who eventually went to the league championship game.
The Warriors lost just two games all season, but both of those losses came against the same team, the Springtown Orange Porcupines.
For those familiar with Sean Payton, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he took this seriously (well, at least mostly seriously). After losing to the Porcupines 38-6 in the regular season, Payton enlisted the help of some rather noteworthy former NFL coaches to help devise a plan that could slow down Springtown Orange's offense.

Want to know who those "rather noteworthy former NFL coaches" were? They were Bill Parcells and Jon Gruden.  Charged with instilling a little moral character, football knowledge, and love of the game in some 12-year-olds, Sean Payton opted instead to teach those kids "When life hands you lemons, enlist a billion-dollar consortium of professional contacts to crush the living bejeezus out of a bunch of little kids."

At least the story had a happy ending.  In the rematch in the playoffs,

Payton's Warriors lost 58-18. 

Good. #(#%&$ you, Sean Payton, Bill Parcells, and Jon Gruden, and every adult involved who thought it appropriate to bring NFL-level money to coaching a sixth grade team.  You are what's wrong with sports.

So maybe it was stuff like that, and stuff like the Seahawks' owner Paul Allen owning a yacht that costs $384,000 per week to maintain, and stuff like how last year's playoffs and Super Bowl were largely depicted as a retirement celebration for Ray Lewis, a man who (at best, and keep that in mind, this is the BEST POSSIBLE WAY to depict his involvement) helped cover up a double murder.

That's the BEST POSSIBLE WAY you can depict his involvement. There are other implications, like Ray Lewis helped kill someone. CELEBRATE AWAY!

Maybe it was stuff like that that made me cool off my previous ardor for football, but I still like aspects of the game, which brings me back...

...FINALLY!... fantasy football, and this series of posts: NASSAU UNGRANULATED.

NASSAU UNGRANULATED is the name of my fantasy football league for bloggers.  The name was chosen from a list of random words generated by a site that will (for free!) generate a list of random words for you, in case you can't think of any random words yourself.  (Hint: You can't. They won't be random.)

I've invited several noteworthy writers and bloggers to take part in the league, and with a joyous cry of enthusiasm, over 90% of them said "Eh. No thanks." But author PT Dilloway took up the gauntlet and joined, which is why he gets a free write-up for his books here:

When a supervillain's weapon turns Earth's greatest male heroes into its greatest heroines, they enter a whole new world. Can Apex Girl, Velocity Girl, the Mermaid, and Midnight Spectre come together in time to save the world?
Get "Girl Power" from Planet 99 Publishing for just 99 cents!
If you are a blogger, and wish to be involved in this -- or if you know someone who does -- feel free to drop me a line at bfpageljr[at]

That's the pitch for the league.  Anyway, whether or not you join -- whether the league fills up or not -- I thought it would be fun (for me, anyway) to blog about my fantasy football team and how I choose players and why and see what I could make of it.

If you've ever read any of my other sports writing, or if you have correctly deduced from the foregoing that I know very little, in fact, about sports, you'll realize that this series of posts will not be very sportsy, at all.  My old sports blog used to be billed as "The sports blog for people who hate sports blogs," and you will get very little actual analysis and even less actually helpful analysis, as I'm more prone to look at sports along the lines of which superheroes are sports teams like, or what 1980s one-hit wonder song will be symbolic of a team's season than things like 'power rankings.'

So even if you DON'T like sports, odds are I think you'll find something to like in these posts, and again, if you want to join, DO.  Email me.  I'm not just saying that because PT is superknowledgeable about football and is going to destroy my team, but that's mostly why I'm saying that.  Also, I think we could be friends. Give it a chance.

Anyway, let's get to the meat of this post, which is PICKING MY TEAM'S DRAFT ORDER.  I have already set up and named my team, the name being possibly the single most important part of fantasy football for me.

I am in two leagues, counting Nassau Ungranulated, and in my office league my team is called, as it has been for years, "The Battling Extraneous Es", based on the silent-e that fills out my name and makes "Briane" look pretentious, the way the ampersand in Barnes & Noble tells you they'll be out of business by 2015.

But I couldn't use that name in Nassau Ungranulated, because that would be lame and also when it comes to naming things, I usually have many more names than I can apply to something, resulting in my naming something, like a kid or pet or a car, and then immediately thinking "Boy, I wish I'd picked another name, instead," which is what happened the time I named my pet gerbils "Orville & Wilbur" (after the Wright Brothers) and instantly thought of about a zillion other names I could have applied.

(That happened, too, with the youngest boys, whose names are perfectly adequate, but who I sometimes wish had had other names that we liked, too. I get around that by applying nicknames to them, frequently, because they are twins, drawing on pop culture pairings. This week, for example, I have been calling them "Hardcastle & McCormick.")


So for my Nassau Ungranulated team name, I picked the single toughest team moniker I could think of.

Did you know that "moniker" came into English usage in 1851? It came from "Shelta," an Irish dialect or creole language? To say "It's good to see you" in Shelta, you would say "Yoordjeele's soonee-in munya."

So the name I picked for my Nassau Ungranulated team is:

Seal Team i,

Which is the roughest, toughest, fightingest, dyingest team of space marines to ever face off against a universal cataclysm brought on by the collapse of all possible multiverses into one.  (As shown in the nonfiction account of that event, "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?")

Having chosen a name, I now have to choose which players might be drafted onto my team.  Nassau Ungranulated uses an autodraft, so if you're not good at drafting players and/or thinking on your feet, you can have the computer select from a list of players you pre-rank.  I wholeheartedly endorse using this system rather than trying to draft your own players.  The first year we did an office league, I tried to live-draft my players.  The computer gives you 90 second to pick your player, which sounds like a lot of time but which in reality goes superfast, especially if you are, like me, sort of unsure who the players are, so you end up just drafting Peyton Manning over and over again, which is what I tried to do that day, and as a result my team that year had Peyton Manning and a bunch of random players autofilled in by the computer.

So now I pre-rank the players, telling the computer who I like, and, more importantly, who I don't like.

Because fantasy football is all about the fantasy, right? And also all about wanting the players on my team to do well, which is where it gets kind of tough because sometimes the so-called "best" players are horrible people

July 18, 2007: "NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury
Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation
so grisly the losers
either died in the pit or sometimes
were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot."--

Or they are people who simply annoy me:

I mean, why would you dump Jessica Simpson, for one thing?

Or they are awful people:

Once walked right by a fan without acknowledging her.
That fan had just come from a chemotherapysession just for a chance to get an autograph.
He will be paid $8 per minute, this year, every minute of every day.
Even while he's sleeping.

So half the fun of fantasy football is, for me, getting to root against people.  So here, then, are the top 3 players on my draft board, as well as the top 3 players I opted to tell the computer not to draft under any circumstances, and my reasoning for each.

#1 overall:  Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks.  This is a tough choice for me, mostly because I think Paul Allen should skip the dying part and just be bodily transmitted into Hell, preferably the part where they do the really ironic tortures.  Again: $384,000 per week to maintain his yacht:
His yacht costs more to maintain per week than my house cost to buy. But, then, my house doesn't float.
It also doesn't have a working garage door right now. The door exploded, and I had to use my savings
to order a new one.  I went with the "Value" brand because I figured the extra $60 for "Best Value" brand was
a bit too luxurious.  

But Russell Wilson isn't directly responsible for Paul Allen being a horrible human being who should get spit on if he shows his face in public. (Although Allen gave away $372,000,000 in the most recent year I have records for, he is worth $15,000,000,000.  So he gave away 2% of his money.  TWO PERCENT.)

Russell Wilson was my fantasy quarterback last year.  I picked him after he improbably made the team and then became the starter, an undersized late-round draft pick beating out a high-priced free agent (Matt Flynn) and was therefore quite surprised that he ended up (A) handing me the sweetest victory last year when he got the first-ever game winning interception, and (B) making the playoffs.  This year, Russell has negotiated a deal whereby for every touchdown he scores in 2013 (regular and postseason) $2,000 will be donated by Russell Investments to Wilson's charity, "The Power Of Mind Foundation."

FIRST DO-NOT-PICK:  Aaron Rodgers.  I can't root for the Packers while he's on the team.  Seriously, I can't.  He is the worst.

#2 Overall: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo:  The thing about having a favorite team, like the Bills and me, is that in fantasy football you almost have to pick at least a few of the players from your favorite team, don't you? I feel like I have to have at least one representative Bill on my team.

The thing about liking the Bills, though, and having one of them on your team is that the Bills are really, really, a bad team.  They're not enjoyably bad, like the 0-16 Detroit Lions who at least set a record for awfulness and futility, they're just mediocrely bad, managing to eke out 6 or 7 or 8 or even sometimes 9! wins in a season -- but with a good percentage of those wins coming when they no longer matter because the Bills are out of the playoffs/

This year, one of the Bills' players tweeted "Everyone in this locker room thinks we can make the Super Bowl," and I thought: I'm not so sure about that.  I mean, I am sure that the Bills won't make the Super Bowl, or even the playoffs, but I'm not sure that everyone on the team thinks the opposite.  I think the veterans, for one, are saying "Well, you know, I've been around this team for 7, 8 years, and we're really bad."

But I'm picking Spiller because (A) The Bills have a rookie quarterback, EJ somebody or other, who was, I believe, picked as the worst quarterback in the draft by many experts, and (B) EJ won the job over "Kevin Kolb," an Arizona Cardinals reject who lost his starting position by tripping over a floor mat, and (C) the Bills' brain trust recently said that the Bills' offensive plan is:

"...real simple: We're going to give [Spiller] the ball until he throws up."

I don't know if that's good or bad football but it's awesome quoting.

Second Do-Not-Pick: Tom Brady.  Once a cheater, always a cheater.  Signing Touchdown Jesus

to your roster doesn't absolve you of past sins.  But who'd have thought that cheating his way to Super Bowls wouldn't turn out to be all that serious of a crime, when put into context? By which I mean that the Patriots* didn't stop at Videogate but instead seemed to be harboring a serial killer:  Aaron Hernandez, former Patriot*, stands accused of something like three murders, all of which were  committed during his NFL career.

Can you say "Hard Knocks/Dexter crossover?" Because I already did, so if you use that idea you owe me royalties.

Courtesy: Wondermark.

#3 OVERALL PICK: Montee Ball, RB, Denver.  Montee is from Madison, and despite having some legal troubles over his last year as a Badger-- people kept jumping him and causing fights but it totally was not retaliation for Montee starting fights earlier, guys -- I'm picking him because The Boy, our third youngest (or third-oldest) ran into Montee on The Boy's 21st birthday, and The Boy likes Montee, and The Boy didn't go up to talk to Montee, being too shy, maybe, so I'm the kind of parent who wants to have his running back do well so I can keep saying to The Boy "Hey, you could've met that guy, you know."

That's how kids learn.

THIRD DO-NOT-PICK:  Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons.  I wanted to put Joe Flacco's Eyebrows in at this slot, but after going through the top 100 players on the NFL draft board, I couldn't find Flacco to mark him as someone I didn't want on my team, so apparently doesn't think that Flacco is a top-100 fantasy quarterback.

So instead I put Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan, who not only quarterbacks the single-most-boring team in the entire NFL -- seriously, Atlanta is the Ambien of football teams -- but also has a seriously stupid nickname.  "Matty"? What is that? I hate when they call grown men by kid names like that.  Except for the time Sweetie, who was then a Peyton Manning fan, called him "My Peytie," which I kind of liked.

There you go: four weeks to go before the season, and my team's all set.  Stay tuned for further updates.  And just to finish off the post, let's have:

The Football-Related Song Of The Week:

"Aaron Rodgers Tribute: I Could Be Your Jordy," by Sleeping Berries Three, a Wisconsin indie band.  Even if you don't like football, this song is both awesome and inspirational:

Supervillain of the Week Who I Will Awkwardly Shoehorn Into A Football Metaphor:

"Human Flying Fish":

From Wikipedia: "One of Aquaman's major enemies, the Human Flying Fish was Vic Bragg, a human physically altered to breath underwater and survive the depths of the ocean while employing a suit which additionally provided flight through the air. His protege was Sardine."

Human Flying Fish was the brainchild of "Dr. Krill," who studied Aquaman's crime-fighting techniques and concluded that the only way to get away with crimes on water would be if you could fly away afterwards.

(NOTE: I would have guessed the opportunities to commit 'crimes on the water' would be more limited than 'crimes on the land,' but maybe Dr. Krill was just filling a niche.) says that Aquaman was, in fact, briefly stymied by this unique getaway, but came up with "clever methods" to thwart it. They don't specify those methods, but let's guess:

Anyway, "Human Flying Fish" is a metaphor for the "read-option offense," the offense that Sean Payton had to call in every single Super Bowl winning coach ever just to cope with at the 6th grade level.  The 'read option' is what made Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and RGIII so successful last year, and is the hot new offense the way the "Spread" offense was once, and the West Coast offense was once and the Run-and-Shoot was once, and Air Coryell was once and so on and my guess is not only will most NFL teams not run the "Read Option" this year but you won't ever hear the phrase again after 2013, unless it's in the sentence "Hey, what was that 'read option' thing again?"

But you WILL hear it this year.  Sports people are going to keep saying Read Option until you throw up.

Master Of The (Art) Universe

Before today, I had never heard of Michael Godard, who has recently started a master series of paintings.

Godard is a pop artist -- that's his picture, "Caddy Shack" heading up this post -- and his work evokes both a humorous yet somewhat darker side of pop culture, giving his subjects a subtle twist that removes them from the simple, 'hipster-referencing' category of pop commentary.

I heard about Godard because he's one of the artists presenting Fine Art For Sale through Amour d'Art, an online art seller that has something to appeal to everyone, and who is showcasing Godard's master series, as I said. Take "Butterfly Wine,"

Which showcases both Godard's skill in representation -- that wine glass is photorealistic -- while also creating a scene reminiscent of "Building a Rainbow," for adults -- or perhaps "Despicable Me" for the Napa Valley crowd.

If you'd like to get your hands on some Godard Art, click any of the links and check out all of his works, on sale now.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The only way it could have been Greatest-ER is if they'd managed to fit in a reference to Newton in the song (Greatest Thing In The World, EVER!)

Listen up you bohemians it's time you stopped mispronouncing mathematicians' names!  Like Kurt Friedrich Gödel  How do you say that? Well, you're probably wrong. Listen:

Player 1:

THAT is how you say Kurt Friedrich Gödel And don't forget it!

THAT, also, is from the most awesome thing I found last week, the blog "Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names," which is found here and which if anything undersells itself, in that "Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names delivers more than it promises. It ALSO tells you how to pronounce math things, like, in Godel's case, it will tell you how to pronounce Gödel's incompleteness theorems, which are his theories that within any system there are theories which can neither be proven nor disproven within the parameters of that system, which is to say that Godel subscribed (before he knew it) to my longstanding argument "I can't prove it but I can't not prove it, so it must be true."

I found "Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names" last week when telling the people in my office about the Stolen Newton Apple I had on my desk, and I told them it was from "Isaac Newton's apple tree," and Some Guy At Work said:

"Why are you pronouncing it 'I-ZACK?"

"Because that's how it's pronounced," I said.

He disagreed, saying that it was pronounced "I-zick," and so -- having NOT YET discovered the wonder (I'm being totally serious, I've bookmarked it) that is "Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names" yet, we took a highly, extremely superscientific survey, accomplished by going to three other people in the office and saying to them:

Q: "Do you know the guy who discovered gravity by having an apple fall on his head?"

In an effort to get them to name Isaac Newton, only to get responses varying from "I think so?" to "I'm pretty sure I do" to "He didn't invent gravity," which was when I rephrased the question.  People are such sticklers.  WE HAVE NO PROOF GRAVITY EXISTED BEFORE ISAAC NEWTON.  Just because he didn't patent it or turn it into a reality TV show doesn't mean he didn't invent it.

Anyway, we finally turned to the Internet, which is perfect for this kind of question if you ignore the fact that we're using one of the greatest technological achievements in human history to waste time on a Friday afternoon, and that's when I learned that Isaac Newton's name is pronounced

Player 1:

the wrong way, as far as I'm concerned.  Why have all those a's in there unless you're going to use them?  Stupid Isaac Newton, mispronouncing his own name.

Anyway, I wholeheartedly endorse you spending your entire day on that blog, learning how to pronounce things like "Archimedes of Syracuse,"

Player 1:

who, I'm sure, they have to say of that he's "of Syracuse," because otherwise you'd get him confused with all the other Archimedeseses throughout history.  Although, like much of Archimedes' life, the "of Syracuse" is a lie: he left there when he was 10, to go to Alexandria, so "Archimedes of Alexandria" is more accurate.  (I learned that when I googled "Famous Archimedes," which I think we can all agree would be an awesome title for something.)

The Pronunciation of Mathematicians' Names would be the sole Greatest Thing In The World, EVER, except that before I could post about it I ran across this:

Saturday morning, the last peaceful day I had before going to film a movie, having Sweetie get sick and having my garage door explode, long story, I heard this song on the radio entirely by accident, the 'accident' being that I was taking Mr F and Mr Bunches to work on a Saturday morning so we could get some stuff done in the office, and I had forgotten my audiobook about fonts and my iPod is useless right now because I bought a new computer -- long-er story -- so I had the radio on and this song, which I hadn't previously heard, came on, and so I listened to it and thought "Well, that was a pleasant song."

Fast forward to six hours later, when the day has been exhausting and I was home and began picking up after dinner, Sweetie not feeling well and the boys having created their usual five-alarm disaster in the house.  I was trying to convince Mr Bunches that while I would help him pick up his airport, help meant that technically he had to do some of it and Mr F, meanwhile, was trying to eat cheese puffs while swinging and everything was chaos (fun chaos, but fun chaos is still chaotic, you know) and so I thought of that pleasant song from the morning and I went and found it on Youtube and I watched it -- that video, that one, above-- and it hypnotized me or something. I was enthralled by the video (which I had only just seen for the first time).

Since then, I have kept that video bookmarked on my computer at home, at work, and on my phone.  Whenever I get annoyed or tired or frustrated (which is A LOT this week because, remember: no computer yet, wife sick, garage door exploded) I've put it on and watched a bit of it, and felt better.

So there is your prescription to having a great Thursday: Put on that video, watch it a few times, and pronounce a mathematicians' name right, first time out the gate.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

"Within my blood runs a thing..." (Books)

Hey, are you a fan of books that people like to read? I thought so.  I knew so.  I know my blog's readers, all both of them, and that's why I am pleased (as Punch!)(the character from the old Punch and Judy shows, not the drink they serve at parties in the 1950s)(the drink is very rarely in a good mood, whereas the puppet almost always is, I'm told, by people who know them both.) 

Where was I? Oh, yeah: pleased as things that are pleased to bring you news of a great new book:

Her fall has just begun. Only his touch can save her from the shift that could destroy it all.

"Within my blood runs a thing our kind calls the Shadowing Disease. It shadows over, and bends everything to its will. 
When the first blood- shift came, it tore through flesh and blood, threatening to bend me, break bone, shatter my mind and entrap my heart with its honeyed, seductive poison. It came with vicious intent, moving my thoughts and altering me forever. 
The shift has caused a rift within me. No one was safe when it entrapped me in its claws of foul lust. But I have the only antidote against the evil that becomes me – his touch alone has the power to release the spurs of sweet darkness that clung on for dear life. I knew what I had to do; the desperation pulled my mind with the deep determination of a hungry predator. 
But by the time the revelation raised me from the dark dungeon of my bounds – it might have been too late."

Introducing EVANESCENT, by Carlyle Labuschagne -- coming out in November, 2013, from Sensational Publications, this YA/Dystopian novel has just been given a cover and is sure to attract fans of the paranormal and futuristic writing.

And you can get in on the excitement, through a Rafflecopter giveaway, or by marking the book to read on Goodreads, and by checking out the books' events page for giveaways.

Carlyle Labuschagne is a South African debut author working her way into the hearts of international readers with her first young adult dystopian novel "The Broken Destiny". She is not only an author, but works as a sales rep and marketing manager by day. She holds a diploma in creative writing through the writing school at College SA.

Carlyle loves to swim, fights for the trees, and is a food lover who is driven by her passion for life. Carlyle also writes for IU e-magazine India, an inspirational non-profit magazine that aims at inspiring the world through words. The drive behind her author career is healing through words. Carlyle is also the founder of the first annual book drive – Help Build A Library inAfrica Project.

“My goal as an author is to touch people’s lives, and help others love their differences and one another.”

Follow Carlyle on Twitter, check out her website and Goodreads page and Facebook.

Want to pre-order the book? Do so on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble.