The Fall of Count Zinzendorf

It was a dark and stormy night. There was one flash of light. My opponent fell mortally wounded to the ground. I retired to the inn to partake of some liquid refreshment, <glug glug glug glug glug> when a stranger walked in.

“You look tired,” says he.

“Tired?” says I.

“Yes, tired,” says he.

“Well, I am tired,” says I, “for I have just killed a man.”

“Killed a man!” says he.

“Yes, killed a man,” says I.

“What was his name?” says he.

“His name?” says I.

“Yes, his name,” says he.

“Zinzendorf,” says I.

“Zinzendorf!” says he.

“Yes, Zinzendorf,” says I.

“Then we must duel,” says he, “for that man was my brother!”

It was a dark and stormy night…

My father used to say this. I have no clue what it’s about, or where it might be from. I’ve searched the Interned, but found nothing, except this Wikipedia article about Count Zinzendorf, which seems to have nothing to do with this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Zinzendorf

If anyone has a clue, please let me know!

I’ve Been Blackmailed!

Woohoo! First time for everything, right? I gotta hand it to this guy — he’s a LOT more articulate than the Nigerian Princes. Leaves the phony FBI in the dust! Here ’tis, for your reading pleasure:

Lets get right to point. You do not know me and you’re probably thinking why you’re getting this email? Not one person has paid me to check about you.

actually, I actually installed a malware on the 18+ streaming (sexually graphic) site and do you know what, you visited this website to experience fun (you know what I mean). While you were viewing video clips, your browser started out operating as a Remote Desktop having a keylogger which provided me with accessibility to your screen as well as web camera. Right after that, my software program obtained your entire contacts from your Messenger, Facebook, as well as emailaccount. After that I created a video. First part displays the video you were watching (you’ve got a nice taste rofl), and second part displays the view of your webcam, and its u.

You got just two solutions. We are going to study each one of these choices in aspects:

First choice is to neglect this message. Consequently, I am going to send your tape to every single one of your personal contacts and just imagine about the embarrassment you will get. And consequently if you are in a romantic relationship, how it will eventually affect?

Number two choice is to pay me $6000. Lets name it as a donation. As a result, I most certainly will quickly remove your video recording. You could carry on your life like this never happened and you will not hear back again from me.

You’ll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).

BTC Address to send to: 1F4JnuT9DgwFEcn4RKQ7LgQjDLZRzCkZ55
[case-SENSITIVE copy & paste it]

If you have been thinking about going to the authorities, very well, this mail cannot be traced back to me. I have covered my steps. I am just not looking to charge you much, I simply want to be paid for.

You now have one day in order to pay. I’ve a unique pixel in this e-mail, and now I know that you have read through this e-mail. If I do not get the BitCoins, I definitely will send your video to all of your contacts including close relatives, co-workers, and so on. Nevertheless, if I receive the payment, I will destroy the video immediately. If you really want evidence, reply Yes! & I definitely will send out your video recording to your 11 contacts. It is a non:negotiable offer and so please do not waste mine time & yours by responding to this email.

Still, it could use a little polish. Why is it that foreign-language speakers don’t take the time and trouble to get a decent translation? It’s not like grammar Nazis are hard to come by, right? For that matter, Chinese Menu writers could take the same lesson. Last visit to my favorite Chinese joint featured “Fried Duck Balls.” I’m pretty sure it didn’t conjure up the same picture in my mind as the one they intended. And all I can think about is all those poor little ducks, singing soprano…

 

Are You Worthy of Serendipity?

Serendipity is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

Recently, we observed that it isn’t sufficient merely to be present when serendipity occurs. We must be able to recognize it, and act on it.

Here’s an example: When I went out with my grandmother, a short, barrel-shaped, Russian woman whom I called Baba, always seemed to find money on the ground. Not just dropped pennies, either — she often found paper money, sometimes five- and ten-dollar bills. One day I asked her, “Baba, why do you always find money?” She replied, “Because I’m looking for it.”

It seemed obvious, in retrospect. The serendipity was there in that the money was there. But Baba was worthy of it because she looked for it, and picked it up when she found it.

Such is indicated by the etymology of the word, given as “1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

Note that accidents alone did not provide the Three Princes with serendipity, but also sagacity. Sagaciousness is defined as “having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment; shrewd. synonyms: wise, clever, intelligent, knowledgeable, sensible, sage.

This is why, although the world is full of happy accidents, some benefit more than others. We must be of a disposition to not merely recognize serendipity, but to seize it. We must cultivate and exercise, like a muscle, our keenness, alertness patience, and curiosity leading to questioning, thinking, stringing along multiple threads in our mind.

In addition to curiosity, interest, caring, and playfulness, we must also exercise emotional control to avoid the desire for immediate outcome. We must be able to discern the potential significance in apparent insignificance.

Here is the real-life example that led to this discussion. Joe made a demo app for a potential customer. The app included a pull-down list of countries.

Joe showed it to Will and Nico. Nico asked if the pull-down list worked by typing the first letter of the country name. Will randomly typed a V, then idly scrolled to the bottom of the list, where he found Åland, with the peculiar Nordic diacritical mark above the Å.

After some discussion about alphabetizing and modifying the list manually, Will looked up Åland because he’d never heard of it before. Åland is a semi-autonomous island hain stretching from the coast of Finland to the coast of Sweden, including the light station on the shared island of Märket.

We searched a bit more on Google, and found a series of travel articles in Finnish. Using Goole Translate, we managed to haggle some English coherence out of the Finnish author’s rather articulate writing. He travels a lot, it seems, and there were many fine pictures of South America and Patagonia.

I wonder how many people have ever heard of Åland and Märket? That alone makes it a pretty cool place to know about. And while it doesn’t make much difference to my daily routine, it enriches the tapestry of my background knowledge of the world I live in.

Eventually, the idea of Åland and Märket will appear in a story. Perhaps it is related to Sable’s homeland, Farpoint. The possibilities are endless.

Plus, Åland and Märket made our official List of Places to Sail To, which portends further enrichment in the future.

Here are a couple of Wikipedia articles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%85land_Islands

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A4rket

Here is the cool article by the Finnish guy:

https://avaramaa.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/market/

It’s in Finnish, but Google will translate it for you, after a fashion. The rest of his site is worth perusing, if you’re feeling serendipitous.

Questions, curiosity, caring, interest, and the impetus to take that extra step, all are necessary for the Serendipitous. Exercise your serendipity. It will strengthen like a muscle and enhance your life.

Milk Melons – The Free-Verse Project

As many of you know, a close friend of mine, Penney Knightly, is a published author of hundreds of free verse compositions. Well, truth be told, I have always had a hard time understanding how free verse can actually be considered poetry. You know, no rhyme, no meter, the usual objections.

Milk Melons

Milk Melons

But a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany! That’s right, folks, a genuine, for-real, epiphany. It came to me after reading a description of a product on Amazon, Milk Melons. The description made no sense at all, as it seemed to have been translated from some foreign language; I guessed some variety of Asian, based on the syntax. I looked at it, and laughed, then Ping! The lightbulb went on! Epiphany. It was actually Free Verse, in disguise. Suddenly, free verse made complete sense.

See if you don’t agree:

Original Posting at Amazon:  

  • Use: Outdoor Plants Cultivating Difficulty Degree: Very Easy Classification: Novel Plant Full-bloom Period: None Type: Landscape Plant Flowerpot: Excluded Location: Courtyard Function: Interest Size: Medium Climate: Subtropics Style: Annual Variety: Vegetable
  • Production Detail: Vietnam imported milk melon seeds, can his stallion, suggest other wall, being seen will smile dead. Seedling stage please water three times a week, sprout after can reduce the amount of water, can appropriate some compound fertilizer and so on, the effect will be better. This melon for spring planting summer fruit, the taste is good oh. This is a kind of towel gourd vines of the “plant”. It resembles the shape of a woman’s breasts that, first planted in Goethe Cafe (Goethe Cafe). The museum is Germany’s Goethe Institute (German Goethe Institute). Said the school is located in Hanoi goey RuanHou Street (Nguyen Thai Hoc Street). Surprisingly, there appear a lot of people in the past few days. Here, all of those “towel gourd” are elongated. They pinkish landscape, just like human skin, rather than the common species of green. This kind of fruit and the vines in bamboo rack up the wall “growth”. Cafe, they create a kind of novel and feeling of nature of press close to

The Free Verse Epiphany Version

Production Detail:
Vietnam imported milk melon seeds,
can his stallion,
suggest other wall,
being seen will smile dead.

Seedling stage please water
hree times a week,
sprout after can reduce the amount of water,
can appropriate some compound fertilizer and so on,
the effect will be better.

This melon for spring planting summer fruit,
the taste is good oh.
This is a kind of towel gourd vines of the “plant”.
It resembles the shape of a woman’s breasts that,
first planted in Goethe Cafe
(Goethe Cafe).

The museum is Germany’s Goethe Institute
(German Goethe Institute).
Said the school is located in Hanoi goey RuanHou Street (Nguyen Thai Hoc Street).

Surprisingly,
there appear a lot of people in the past few days.
Here, all of those “towel gourd” are elongated.
They pinkish landscape, just like human skin,
rather than the common species of green.

This kind of fruit and the vines in bamboo
rack up the wall “growth”.
Cafe, they create a kind of novel and feeling of nature
of press close to.

Use:
Outdoor Plants Cultivating
Difficulty Degree: Very Easy
Classification: Novel Plant
Full-bloom Period: None
Type: Landscape
Plant Flowerpot: Excluded Location
Courtyard Function: Interest
Size: Medium
Climate: Subtropics Style:
Annual Variety: Vegetable

And there you have it! Free Verse in all its glory! I will be on the lookout for additional examples.

Milk Melons

Choose Your Leaders

Octavia Butler by Nikolas Coukouma

Choose your leaders
with wisdom and forethought.

To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.

To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.

To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be told lies.

To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
into slavery.

Written c. 1998 by author Octavia E. Butler in her book Parable of the Talents. I highly recommend it.

Whining Jewish Poseurs Offended by Cooling Misters

Today my attention was directed to an article with the headline “‘Showers’ placed at Auschwitz Entrance” (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4696040,00.html).

It’s the latest installment in the never-ending drama of “I’m So Offended.” Seems that Jewish tourists at Auschwitz are claiming ‘shock’ and ‘offense’ at the sight of mist sprinklers place near the entrance to Auschwitz, because it reminded them of the gas chamber showers used during the holocaust. There’s a picture of the offending plumbing in the article. They look nothing like the showerheads in the gas chambers.

What’s the problem with this latest bid to get on the “Poor Me” train?

First, the article mentioned ‘older visitors.’ How old would you have to be to remember Auschwitz? Well, say you were five years old in 1944, which would be around the youngest possible age to remember such a thing. You’d be be 70 years old now. That’s possible, I suppose, but how many of those complaining were actually interned at a concentration camp? And of those old timers, how many would find an innocent cooling device reminiscent of tragedy?

Second, carried to this kind of extreme, such claims are downright idiotic. Shall we all stop taking showers now, because there were showers used as gas chambers? Are we really to believe that all Jews and even sensitive Gentiles have been limiting themselves to tub baths for the last seven decades? Well, what about cars? Nazis drove cars, so best we walk, yes? Clothes? Nazis wore clothes. Jewish victims wore clothes, too. Must we all become nudists, lest we be reminded of past horrors?

Third, the really offensive thing is that that kind of bullsh*t trivializes the real history. As though the self-righteousness of the poseurs is in some way connected with the cataclysmic tragedy of the people who lived through it. Hard, cold fact: the people who saw the inside of the gas chambers aren’t around to be reminded of anything, since they were -inside- the gas chambers. And anything else is mere pretense.

 

What the Hell Happened to eBay?

I used to sell all kinds of stuff on eBay, about a decade ago. It was fun, easy, and I made some dough.

So, when my friend Liam Kincaid released his latest book, Operation Break Iron, I suggested that he list it on eBay. Why not, right? It’s fast, free, easy, and even if he doesn’t sell anything, at the very least it’s a bit of additional exposure, right? I mean, right?

It started well. He got his publisher, Joe from LBME Publishing, to create a new eBay account, which took five minutes. Then he was asked to place an ad. Great! He filled out the forms, uploaded a JPG of the book’s cover, put in the description, and so on. Previewed and revised a couple of times, and approved the auction. Total time? 20 minutes, tops.

But then it all went to hell. He got a message to the effect that “to keep eBay a safe environment, we’ve put your account on hold, and cancelled your auction.” What!?! Worse, he was to follow the instructions he received in an e-mail within 48 hours to avoid Dire Consequences. (To the best of my knowledge, that e-mail never arrived.)

So he jumped onto the live chat, explained the situation, was put on hold for over a half hour. Finally, a barely-audible agent with either a speech impediment or an unidentifiable foreign accent came on the line. Thanks for holding, just have to ask you a few questions. He asked all the questions that Liam had already entered when he started the account, then some really strange ones:

“Is this a business account or a personal account?”

“I don’t know; no mention of that was made when I started the account. Business, I guess.”

“What type of business is it?”

“Well, you see the user name, LBME Publishing?”

“Yes, I do, sir. What type of business is that?”

<I’ll give you three guesses.> ”It’s a book publishing business.”

“I see. What is it you’re selling?”

 <You’re kidding, right?> ”Um. Books?”

“Can you authenticate that you have the right to sell the item?”

“Sorry, I don’t understand. ”

“Well, do you have the book there with you.”

“Yes, I have a whole box of them right here on the floor next to me. They just came from the printer.”

“Can you authenticate that they’re yours to sell?”

“Um… Well, I wrote it… then had them printed…”

“Can you prove that?”

“I have a copyright certificate from the US Copyright Office and a receipt from the printer. Shall I send them in?”

No, that won’t be necessary.

<Then what was the point of the question?> “Okay…”

The conversation went on in that vein for another 20 minutes, then:

“Okay, you’re account is ready to be reviewed.”

“I’ll hold,” Liam said, afraid that if he hung up, he’d never get a return call.

Frenetic classical music began blasting out of the receiver, and continued unabated for the next half hour, interrupted only by a recording explaining how import Liam’s call was to them. Finally, the agent came back online and informed Liam that the account and the ad were approved, and the ad was reinstated. Just one problem:

“I see that you’re using a stock image of the book.”

“Well, not really. That’s original artwork of the book’s cover that we commissioned.”

“Yes, but it’s a stock photo.”

“Okay.”

“We require actual photos of the item being sold.”

“Since when?”

“We require actual photos. You can’t use a stock image.”

“Lemme get this straight.” Liam’s voice was tight and cracking, and his face was livid. I could feel the heat radiating from his body from across the room. “You want me to get my camera, hold the book up, and take photos of it?”

“Yes.”

“Uh huh.”

This was followed by a set of incomprehensible instructions for turning the ad back on. Liam had to ask over and over again until he could understand.

So there you have it, folks — It’s the new millennium. The new “customer is always right” has been replaced by “let’s make war on our customers.” This isn’t the only such case, either. It’s pandemic.

When he’d gotten the ad running again, a full 90 minutes from when it was cancelled, Liam turned to me and Joe. “Remind me again why I quit drinking?”

“I dunno,” I said.

Joe just shook his head.

A Superior Education – The Smiles and Excitement Method

Years ago, when my children were small, I heard a saying that went something like this: “If we taught our kids to eat ice cream the way we teach them to read, they wouldn’t like ice cream, either.” In the last few weeks I’ve had opportunity to see that in action.

We recently had a visit from some friends of ours down in Sacramento, a nice young couple with a lovely and brilliant seven-year-old daughter. It was the first real visit we’d had with them in nearly five years. As we chatted, the subject of schooling came up. They had decided on homeschooling for little ‘Georgia,’ which Lon and Penney and I thought was wonderful. We had homeschooled all four of our boys, decades ago, before it had become popular. And we had a blast doing it.

However, it turned out that Georgia was unhappy. Her entire kindergarten and first grade years were a constant battle to get her to do her schoolwork. Mom and daughter were both exhausted and discouraged. Now they were beginning their second grade year using a different program, and things were a bit better, but the upshot of it was that Georgia hated the new curriculum a bit less than the old one.

The effect of this rigid curriculum m on Georgia was horrifying. During their visit we went to Trees of Mystery to visit Paul Bunyan, took a trip up to Oregon Caves National Monument, and spent a lovely day flying kites at the beach, complete with a campfire, sandy hot dogs, and s’mores. Georgia was able to explain to me in adult terms how visiting the redwoods ‘satisfied the weekly requirement for science class,’ and continued with similar descriptions of how our other activities would satisfy the requirements for reading, writing, math, etc. There was no mention of fun. In fact, while we were at Oregon Caves, Georgia rejected the opportunity to become a Junior Ranger because of the handwriting involved. Penney volunteered to help with the writing part, and before the day was over, Georgia had her Junior Ranger certificate and badge, and a big smile. We celebrated the achievement with ice cream treats, and her dad bought her a chipmunk puppet that Georgia promptly named Chitnut.

So there you have it: In two short years, even a fairly liberal public school curriculum had soured the kid on reading, writing, math, typing, photography and even the public library, where they met with their teacher each quarter. Ack! It’s no wonder that caliteracy.org reports that recent studies “estimated that 40 to 50% of adults are functionally illiterate.” Where have we gone wrong?

I started thinking about my early childhood, trying to account for my love for learning and reading. Then I thought about my boys when they were small, because they all love to learn and read, too. What’s more, we all learned to think, to figure things out, which is a very different kind of learning from the ‘read, remember, report, forget immediately’ method of public school. My dad started talking to me about things when I was very small. I have memories of lying on the rug in front of our fireplace with him when I was three. (He taught me how to make great fires. My job was crumpling up the newspaper.) We’d lie there, basking in the glory of our beautiful fires, and out of the blue he’d ask me questions. Could I say the days of the week yet? How about the months of the year? What about Roman Numerals? How many quarts in a gallon? Why are they called quarts? He asked all kinds of questions about everyday things, just for fun. And I had fun, in large part because there were no wrong answers, and because when I remembered things he seemed enormously pleased with me.

When my boys were little, they went everywhere with me and did everything with me, and we talked all the time. Not just ‘parent’ talk, like giving instructions or correcting behaviors. We really talked, about anything and everything. We still do, actually. It’s amazing what goes on in little kids’ minds, but I’m sure that listening to them improves my mind.

When it came time for school, we started with public school. That didn’t last six weeks, because I didn’t like the changes I saw in my oldest. So we started homeschooling, and that was okay. Like our friends, we, too, started with a rather regimented program, and our boys didn’t like it, either. Then, one day, I was talking to the leader of our budding homeschooling association. She asked me, “What’s the point of having homeschool if you’re just going to imitate public school? I thought you wanted a superior education for your children.” So, gradually we figured out how children play to learn, and how they learn to play, and adjusted our methods until finally we just stocked the ‘fun room’ with every interesting and scientific thing we could find, lots of books and magazines and toys, and mostly just left them alone. They had a blast, and so did we.

So, if you’re thinking about homeschooling, or if you’re already homeschooling but are finding it a grind, start thinking about how you can change the shape and color of your child’s future by educating outside the box. This is the best time in history for homeschooling, mostly because of the Internet. Wikipedia has everything! In addition to mere information, you can find any number of websites and social media dedicated to homeschooling, including a number of websites that support freestyle learning, where you can share ideas to enhance your own program.

What about little Georgia? Well, as of this writing, it’s been about three weeks since they were here. After they got home, we got Georgia her own Skype account and her own blog. Instead of grinding, she’s been writing a story about magical ponies. Her mom says they’ve been to Fairy Tale Town as a family, tie-dyed some t-shirts, sewed up some mermaid tales for the ponies, and bought Minecraft. And as of this morning, they’re starting a worm farm. How is Georgia adapting to all these changes? Her mother reports that she’s all Smiles and Excitement. I think that’s what I’ll call the freestyle method from now on: The S&E method!

 

Games as Educational Tools

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Having a Blast Homeschooling! It’s all about engaging children’s natural sense of play, curiosity, and wonder, instead of the grind of more formal ‘teaching.’ This is from the chapter on Games, which is about how common board games and card games can contribute to basic education. I welcome your comments and feedback on how you make homeschool fun for your children and yourself, and what you like most and least about homeschooling. Thanks! — Cormac


Games

Board games, or ‘parlor games’ (as they used to be called) are a great way of getting children to learn lots of important things without realizing that they’re being taught. Games teach sportsmanship, winning and losing, operating within a structured framework of artificial rules. Plus, they’re fun! In the informal setting of playing a game, your child will often open up and talk to you in ways that they won’t in a more formal school setting. We like to have drinks and treats while we play. Don’t worry if the popcorn butter gets all over the cards—cards are cheap!

Be careful not to turn the games into a ‘lesson’ of some kind. Kids educate themselves when they play. Just help them to learn to play, and the educational aspects will take care of themselves organically. Remember what my cousin Phil from Philadelphia always says: “If you get too serious, you’ll spoil all the fun.” Continue reading

Curmudgeonry, My New Religion

This is an excerpt from the book The Portable Curmudgeon, by Jon Winokur. I’m making it my new religion.

curmudgeon
1. archaic: a crusty, ill-tempered, churlish old man
2. modern: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

The Portable Curmudgeon

The Portable Curmudgeon

“A curmudgeon’s reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They’re neither warped nor evil at heart. They don’t hate mankind, just mankind’s excesses. They’re just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor. They snarl at pretense and bite at hypocrisy out of a healthy sense of outrage. They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment. They hurl polemical thunderbolts at middle-class values and pop culture in order to preserve their sanity. Nature, having failed to equip them with a serviceable denial mechanism, has endowed them with Continue reading