April rambling #2: Infinitesimal Odds

Black mothers and babies die at more than double the rate of white mothers and babies

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: How many hours does it take to make a friend?

The amount of control that Facebook, and other social platforms, have over us, has been at crisis levels for some time

Two Trade Wars: 1807 and 2018

“Make a Deal”: My Contribution to the Trump/Mueller Musical

Already Acting Like Nixon in His Last Days

His Racism: The Definitive List

Comey’s Book

John Oliver Bought An Ad On ‘Hannity’ To Teach Him Basic Math

Can I Stop Writing About Paul Ryan Now?

Arthur wrote About Barbara Bush, so I don’t have to

Nicolas Notovitch published La vie inconnue de Jésus Christ which purported to reveal that Jesus has spent many years as both teacher and scholar at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

How Muslims, Often Misunderstood, Are Thriving in America

100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color

The first (and only) Jewish Miss America’s victory tour was cut short

Fifty Years an African-American: Is It Time for a Change?

The Pulitzer-laden researcher embedded in the Post newsroom

Infinitesimal Odds: A Scientist Finds Her Child’s Rare Illness Stems From the Gene She Studies

A suspicious fire at Cornell in 1967 killed 9 people; the case was never solved

Marriage diversity in the USA

This Video is About Marijuana

Daniel Nester: How Watching ‘Caddyshack’ Helps Me Stave Off Depression

Baby Boomers Reach the End of Their To-Do List

The 100 Pages That Shaped Comic Books

Icelandic boy’s Titanic Lego replica makes it safely across to US museum

You Probably Didn’t Watch SCTV, But It Shaped the Comedy You Love Today

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

Harry Anderson, RIP from Ken Levine, Dustbury, the NY Times, and USA Today

NPR Newscaster Carl Kasell Dies At 84, After A Lifelong Career On-Air

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Wedding Cost

How to Get the Best Sleep Every Night!

Online Safety for Seniors: How to Spot Fake News, Medicare Fraud, and Phishing Scams

How cruise ships work

Bats actually don’t fly like birds

The 15 most dangerous human foods for dogs

20 Quirks & Strange Habits. The Weird Side of Famous Writers

Satire: Sinclair TV Anchor Suddenly Begins Reading News in Russian

Reality: Court Refuses to Toss Lawsuit Between Monkey and Photographer

Now I Know: Why You Should Whistle While You Work and The Gross, Metallic Secret Behind America’s Westward Expansion and The Man of Many Thank Yous and The Fort That Would Have Never Worked

Sliced Ketchup Is Coming Whether We Like It or Not and How to make ketchup (but WHY?)

MUSIC

Nothing Compares 2 U Prince (1984 rehearsal tape)

Sweet Thames, Flow Softly – Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger

From the Middle Ages -Alexander Glazunov

Coverville 1213: Springtime in Coverville

Mozart Symphony No. 41- Jupiter

Barbershop bologna

Lift Every Voice And Sing – Beyoncé, and story

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Bargain days: the joys of senior citizenry

For the longest time, I’ve thought bargain days given to senior citizens, of which I {gleep!} am now one, would become unsustainable when the Baby Boomers started using them, they/we being a very large segment of the population. Still, I’m not complaining, and I’m SURE not giving them up.

I use the Capital District Transportation Authority half fare card, 65 cents instead of $1.30 per ride when using the new Navigator card. CDTA ridership may be declining slightly, but not with me, at least until I start riding the bike again. I will once the Daughter and I move that big branch blocking the door to the shed that came crashing down after one of those Nor’easter storms in March.

My wife and I went to the excellent production of Hairspray at Albany High School just after my last birthday. It was probably the best production we had seen there. My wife’s ticket was $15 but mine was only $5. I was about to pull out my ID when the woman at the table explained, “You claim it, you own it.”

The senior price at the Spectrum Theatre is a quarter less than the matinee price, and even on those afternoons and Tuesday nights, I take it, in part because the Daughter can now be charged full price.

I’ve secured my Senior Pass to the national parks for $10 a couple years ago, before the price skyrocketed up to $80.

Of course, the threshold for the discounts, particularly to restaurants, vary. For some, it’s 55, others 60, and several are 62. But by 65, they ALL kick in, and I’m parsimonious enough to make use of every single one.

All this savings brought to mind a song by The Carlisles from 1955 called Bargain Day, Half Off which was in the pile of 45s (singles) that my father once owned. I played it regularly. It surprised me then that he had it – it’s VERY country – but I suppose he found it humorous. Give a listen.

Willie Nelson turns 85 (April 29)

Long before I knew who Willie Nelson even was, I was listening to the music he wrote. Pretty Paper was a hit for Roy Orbison in 1963. On The Supremes Sing Country, Western & Pop (1965), they covered Funny How Time Slips Away.

Of course, the big hit was Crazy by Patsy Cline which went to #2 on the Adult Contemporary charts in 1961 and #2 on the country charts early the next year. More significantly for, it hit #9 on the pop charts in 1961, and was covered by Linda Ronstadt (#6 country in 1977).

I don’t know when I was first aware of Nelson as a performer. He was the “outlaw” country star who owed money to the IRS due to bad management and who got arrested several times for marijuana possession.

I do know the first album of his that I bought was Across the Borderline (1993), produced by Don Was, Paul Simon, and Roy Halee. It features songs by Simon, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, and Nelson. It features songs such as Getting Over You, a duet with Bonnie Raitt; and Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up, a duet with Sinead O’Connor.

I thought that his 40th album would be a commercial pop breakthrough. For a while, it was out of print, but it’s currently available as an add-on from Amazon for five bucks.

Subsequently, I got other Nelson albums, including his hit, Red Headed Stranger (1975). I know at least one work colleague who simply cannot stand his voice, but I’ve grown to enjoy it.

Listen to

Crazy – Patsy Cline
Crazy – Willie Nelson
Crazy – Linda Ronstadt

Pretty Paper – Roy Orbison, #10 adult contemporary, #15 pop, #27 on the Christmas singles chart in 1963
Pretty Paper – Willie Nelson, 1964

Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson
Funny How Time Slips Away – Supremes

She’s Not for You, #43 country in 1965

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, #1 country, 21 pop in 1975

On the Road Again, #1 country, #7 adult contemporary, #20 pop in 1980

Always on My Mind, #1 country, #2 adult contemporary, #5 in 1985

Still is Still Moving to Me, single that failed to chart in 1993

American Tune, a duet with Simon, #70 pop in 1993

Something You Get Through, 2018

Coverville 1214: The Willie Nelson Cover Story III

MOVIE REVIEW: Night in the Museum

Sometime last summer, the family went to the nearby Madison Theatre to see Night at the Museum (2006). It must have been August, because we walked, my wife’s foot having sufficiently healed from her operation.

It was an interesting experience because The Daughter had seen it before, on DVD, but her parents had never seen it at all. I guess it’s not a great movie, but I enjoyed it anyway. And I think it was partly because I got to laugh in places that just confounded the Daughter.

One involved some wordplay, near the end, which I no longer recall. But one moment is a scene with the late Anne Meara as Debbie, an employment counselor trying to get Larry (Ben Stiller) a job. Larry thought he felt some connection, but Debbie dashes that. Anne was, of course, Ben’s real-life mom.

Part of it is remembering Ken Levine’s odd antipathy towards Kim Raver, who plays Larry’s ex Erica. Or some comments Jon Stewart made about preternaturally young looking Paul Rudd as Erica’s new boyfriend Don.

Maybe it was seeing the three former guards: the late Mickey Rooney; Bill Cobbs, who I loved in I’ll Fly Away and other projects; and Dick van Dyke, who was then a pretty spry octogenarian, and is now an amazingly spry nonagenarian.

There’s a line the late Robin Williams says about him not really being Teddy Roosevelt but a wax figure – an odd self-awareness in this wacky film.

I may be one of 16 people who remember Carla Gugino (Rebecca from the museum) in some 2003 cop show called Karen Cisco, which lasted maybe 10 episodes. And I was the ONLY one in that very theater, to see a showing of Spy Kids 2, some years back.

Ricky Gervais, as the museum director, was not as annoying as he would later become.

And yes, I’ve felt like a complete loser and have been in situations of complete chaos. So, yeah, the movie likely lacked a “consistent inner logic”, but I didn’t care; I liked it for what I got out of it.

But alas! As of January 1, the Madison Theatre was closed. Then, oh joy! It was announced in mid-March that Cosmic Cinemas plans to buy the theater. “The new, four-screen cinema will have plush rocker seats positioned in front of bench-style tables. Servers will discreetly deliver food and beverages before and during movies with the press of a button.”

The Lydster: Roger as Atticus Finch

The Daughter has started calling me “Roger” about half the time in the past few months. It doesn’t particular bother me.

I think it came about when we were in a crowded school setting, and she called “Daddy, daddy.” But there were lots of other dads and I guess I didn’t hear it. Finally, she said “Roger!” and of course I heard that.

One of my sisters is all distressed about it because she feels as though my daughter is showing disrespect. well, maybe, but I think she’s just testing my limits.

Interesting that she almost never calls her mother by her first name, but “Mom”, or, very occasional, “mommy.”
She says that all the kids in school her age are going through the same conundrum of what to call their parents that isn’t too juvenile (Mommy, Daddy), too formal (Mother, Father) or otherwise uncomfortable.

Her class has been reading To Kill A Mockingbird, and I was struck by the descriptions in Chapter 10:

“Atticus was feeble; he was nearly fifty… He was much older than my school contemporaries.” Like the attorney, I AM too old to do all the things the Daughter wants to do. And just as Scout an Jem called their father by his first name, so does the Daughter, unless she wants something or needs something, or is tired or hurting; then it’s “daddy.”

Of course, like Atticus Finch, I do have my skills, even if the Daughter is currently unappreciative. It’s true that I don’t remember the names of the members of her favorite K-Pop bands such as BTS or Astro.

But who is helping her with algebra homework, a subject he hasn’t studied in a half century? Who can name not just the first four Presidents, primarily from listening to Hamilton incessantly, but all of them?

The difference in our ages is, of course, something I can’t change. I consider it an asset rather than a liability. There are days when I can remember a piece of history first-hand; that is useful.

“Lynching” museum and “Religious Instruction of the Negroes”

As the person who’s been involved with Black History Month at my church, I was asked to write an article about the evolution of BHM at the church, which I wrote in March, and will link to it at some point.

Stealing from me:

There may have been a sense in the country “in 2009, after Barack Obama was inaugurated as President, that perhaps we didn’t NEED Black History Month anymore. It was seen by some that, in a “post-racial” America, we HAD overcome.

“Of course, nine years later, after Charlottesville, the murders at a Charleston church, and Black Lives Matter, it’s clear that we have not yet reached the promised land.”

And America has a lot more history to learn. Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, wrote In the Shadows of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History. Based on hearing him talk about the book on The Daily Show and C-SPAN, he’s helping to fill a void.

Surely, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice addresses a major blind spot in our national consciousness. “The memorial captures the brutality and the scale of lynchings throughout the South, where more than 4,000 black men, women, and children, died at the hands of white mobs between 1877 and 1950. Most were in response to perceived infractions — walking behind a white woman, attempting to quit a job, reporting a crime or organizing sharecroppers.

“Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard University-trained lawyer who created the Equal Justice Initiative in 1994 to fight for justice for people on death row, found himself transfixed by the South’s history of lynching African Americans. Stevenson and a team of researchers spent years documenting those lynchings, combing through court records and local newspapers — which often notified the public that a lynching was coming — and talking to local historians and family members of victims.”

Even earlier, 1842, brought The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States: A Sermon, Delivered Before Associations of Planters in Liberty and M’intosh Counties, Georgia by Charles Colcock Jones, 1804-1863. One of the descriptions on Amazon – there are multiple editions – reads: “As a Presbyterian minister and the son of a Plantation owner, [he] is the epitome of the establishment voice for this time and place…. the ways in which he does and does not allow the humanity of the black population are in themselves fascinating. Read the praise he has for ‘colored ministers’ but brace for the descriptions of the flaws he believes he sees in the black population of the plantations he has visited.”

The more we think we know the history, the more often we are brought up short.

P is for protecting the environment

With all the bad ecological news – As Antarctic Melting Accelerates, Worst-Case Scenarios May Come True – it’s good to look for something positive.

I received a bulk email from Bill McKibben last week. McKibben is author, educator, environmentalist, and Co-founder of the non-profit organization 350.org, whose goal is to build “the global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leaders accountable to science and justice.”

The numerical reference is this: the organization encouraging citizens to publicize the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in order to pressure world leaders to address climate change and to reduce CO2 levels from 400 parts per million to 350 parts per million.

McKibben writes: “The world cannot afford to continue to rely on fossil fuels. Scientists now tell us that at current rates, within a decade we’ll likely have put enough carbon in the atmosphere to warm the earth past the Paris climate targets. We are running out of time.

“However, we also now know what we can do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done: We have to switch off coal, oil, and gas, and switch on 100% water, wind, and sun.

“Cities and states around America are already moving towards this goal. Countries around the world are outpacing us: transport in the Netherlands is run increasingly on wind power, Santiago’s train system will run entirely on solar power soon, China can power provinces the size of Texas for a week straight.

“The technology to implement 100% renewables already exists and we have public opinion on our side. A majority of Americans favor government action to increase the development of renewable energy.

“Corporate interests and politics stand in our way. I know we can overcome them. We must.

Learn more about this fight for 100% Renewables by reading my article.” Which you should.
***
Download Climate 101: Renewable Energy
***
Flipping the Script on Fossil Fuels
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Plastic-Eating Enzyme Eyed to Ease Pollution
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Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles
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TECH RECYCLING CENTERS in the US. Did you know that recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year according to the EPA?
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Learn about the steps to become a Smithsonian Gardens Green Ambassador
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From Tuck Sleep: What Do “Green” Certifications Really Mean? and Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Throwing A Mattress Away

For ABC Wednesday

P is for poverty: being poor is expensive

Having experienced it occasionally myself, I know that being poor is expensive. But poverty is not the result of a lack of character. Although one might think so: ‘They used to be servants.’ Minimum wage-hating restaurateur rants about his “greedy” employees.

Cash bail reform has gotten some traction because communities understand that bail is not about justice or safety, but wealth and poverty. “Right now, a person charged with a crime can either pay bail and live free until they stand trial or, if they cannot afford it, be jailed until their trial date. Folks with money pay bail while poor folks get jail. And those in jail are far more likely to take pleas deals instead watching the rest of their lives (and finances) fall apart while they wait for a trial.”

Some neighborhoods are now being targeted with new predatory loan offerings, a lawsuit argues. This is the story of that lawsuit, and of the rent-to-own universe in general.

The student loan sharks who prey on veterans and single moms have a friend in Trump’s education secretary, millionaire Betsy DeVos.

It can be a terrible spiral: Oregon woman evicted from senior housing for $328 in late rent freezes to death in parking garage.

The current Federal Communications Commission chair, Ajit Pai, has threatened to cut the Lifeline program, which helps 12.5 million low-income people access internet or phone service.

The regime is considering drug testing plan for food stamp recipients, which has always cost more to administer than the intended savings.

National Public Radio discussed Virginia Eubanks’ book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.

What if you got $1,000 a month, just for being alive? I decided to find out.

Kathy Sheehan, who was re-elected mayor of Albany in November 2017, spoke at my church on March 4 about her equality agenda, including the City of Albany Poverty Reduction Initiative (CAPRI) program. Here is the New York State anti-poverty initiative.

Who Do Tax Breaks Benefit? Go on and take a guess. The Weekly Sift guy understands: My taxes are half what I’d pay if I just made wages.

I’ve seen numerous GoFundMe campaigns after people went through extended disaster that have damaged homes, serious illness or injury not covered by insurance. A decade ago, there was a Harvard study that showed that 43,000 Americans were dying each year because they had no health insurance. And we may be heading back in that direction.

As bad as it is in the United States, it’s far worse in developing nations. On the March 21 Daily Show with Trevor Noah Matt Damon and Gary White from water.org discussed how easier access to water transformed people’s lives with the gift of time.

This a global phenomenon: If this goes on… The 1% will own two thirds of the world by 2030, based on the House of Commons Library’s published research projecting the post-2008 growth of inequality.

Earth Day: the EPA is all but dead

The fight to save the EPA – “With environmental regulations under attack and EPA budgets being slashed, can the destruction of the agency be prevented?” As a practical matter, no.

Last year, Fortune did a story about the US before EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in December 1970, months after the first Earth Day.

Under this regime, however, data has been buried, altered, silenced. “Across agency websites [not just EPA’s], documents have disappeared, web pages have vanished and language has shifted in ways that appear to reflect the policies of the new administration.” I am told that staff have been directed to change the titles of some reports so nobody could find them or ask for the correct document, an underhanded ploy to render them un-FOIA-able.

The agency is poised to scrap fuel economy targets that are key to curbing global warming. “The EPA is [stupidly] expected to announce… that it will scrap mileage targets the Obama administration drafted in tandem with California that aim to boost average fuel economy for passenger cars and SUVs… undermining one of the world’s most aggressive programs to confront climate change.”

Most sinister, and somewhat complicated to explain, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is using ‘weaponized transparency’ to destroy public health and block the use of science.

“How could ‘more transparency’ actually mean less information and worse decisions? Many of the studies that the EPA and other agencies [conduct] that address the health and safety of Americans depend on [and] require access to health records. Those health records can be used only if the information is kept carefully anonymous and if some parts of the information are shielded from public scrutiny. Many of these studies include agreements that portions of the data will not be released to the public. Otherwise, these studies risk revealing private information about the health and activities of individuals.

“Under the new proposed guidelines, many of these studies would be either forced to violate privacy rules, or their data could not be used. By filtering this information out, Pruitt hopes to make EPA decisions without being confronted with information that would counter his desire to allow companies to release unlimited toxins.”

So why are Scott Pruitt and other Cabinet-level heads creating a work environment in which employees at agencies say they have seen their core missions changed or even demolished overnight? Some “described living in constant fear that… budget proposals would end in them being laid off en masse. And given the constantly mercurial state of … policies changing at the drop of a hat, leadership hired and fired on a whim, political appointees undermining existing management, and an increasing sense that their overseers are deeply partisan and ignorant of the issues—their workplace environment has reportedly grown worse than toxic.”

It’s because Scott Pruitt says he’s doing God’s work by ignoring climate change and repealing Clean Power Act. Or just maybe it’s that Pruitt has been living in an energy lobbyist’s condo since he moved to D.C. The current challenges to his tenure brings me little comfort, considering the damage already done.

In any case, the United States pulling out of the Paris Accord while the Arctic is melting down and the Antarctic food chain is breaking seems counter-intuitive. Stop blaming ‘both sides’ for America’s climate failures.

We’re going to have to rely on other countries, the states, business, non-governmental organizations, and ourselves to carry on the fight because the current EPA appears to be fighting for environmental perfidy.

Note: similar topic, more optimism in a couple days.

Music throwback: Magnet and Steel

Blasting from someone’s car radio last summer, I heard the familiar strains of Magnet and Steel by Walter Egan, a song from his Not Shy album. It reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) and #9 in Canada. “It spent 22 weeks on the American charts.” It was featured in the movies Boogie Nights (1997), Overnight Delivery (1998) and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999).

I’m a sucker for tracks that serve as the title of the album but only via the lyrics. For instance, the Nirvana album Nevermind contains the hit Smells Like Teen Spirit, which features the word Nevermind.”

Likewise, Magnet and Steel has the lyric:
With you I’m not shy, to show the way I feel
With you I might try, my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel…

As is true of a lot of Fleetwood Mac-related songs, this has a complex story. From Songfacts, Egan explains:

“In 1976 I was living in Pomona, California and I had a notion to write a song with the ‘stroll’ beat… and so began the rough outline of what was tentatively called ‘Don’t Turn Away Now.’ Now, this was also at the time of putting together my first album, Fundamental Roll, and my two new friends and producers, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and I were starting the recording process.

“On the night when Stevie did the background vocals for my song ‘Tunnel o’ Love,’ my nascent amorous feelings toward her came into a sharper focus – I was smitten by the kitten, as they say. It was on my drive home at 3 AM from Van Nuys to Pomona that I happened to be behind a metal flake blue Continental with ground effects and a diamond window in back. I was inspired by the car’s license plate: “Not Shy.”

“By the time I pulled into my driveway I had formulated the lyrics and come up with the magnet metaphor. From there the song was finished in 15 minutes.

Egan and Nicks dated briefly when Nicks and Buckingham had broken up.

“It was especially satisfying to have Stevie sing on ‘Magnet,’ since it was about her (and me).”

Listen to Magnet and Steel:

Walter Egan here or here

Matthew Sweet here with Buckingham on guitar

Third World here