educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

How much do you write a day?

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You probably are out there writing like a maniac every day of your life. A good friend of mine, on the Website 11trees, recently posted a smart blog entry describing how much he wrote in one day, what he viewed as just an average day for a “knowledge worker.” In this one-day writing diary, he calculates that he comes in at 2,500 words, a number he uses to make this point: “We write more words every day than many college or high school students write in an entire term.[Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Jerk fan steals ball from woman

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How did the world become so filled with idiots? Why is rudeness and an oversized sense of entitlement so pervasive today? These are things that occupy my mind on a regular basis, as I encounter them every day. I am sure there are sociologists with solid theories about it, so if you know or are one, feel free to share. I have been thinking about this subject in the last few days because of a silly little incident that occurred at the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham scored a touchdown and tossed the ball up to a couple of women in Bengals shirts who had run down to the railing as the play happened. A man, Tony Williams, sitting right there in a Saints shirt, jumped up and grabbed the ball away from one of the women and kept it.

[Read more →]

animalsThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye shall bring thy pets in out of the cold

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. K-9: It has come to the Emperor’s attention that some of his more worthless subjects are leaving their pets out in the cold during the most bitter of winter nights. Previously, the Emperor thought this only happened at the homes of crack addicts and of those who were helpless and who were abandoned, themselves. But he has been informed that this happens on a larger scale than he thought; that regular, able-bodied folk are either absent-mindedly or intentionally  leaving their animal pals out in the frigid winds. It will stop, today. Ye will bring your pets in out of the cold.

The Punishment: Those who do not comply will be placed on the Imperial Space Shuttles (we have lots and lots of them and money is no object). These shuttles will be auto-piloted at the sun. At the end of the trip, the offenders will more than receive the warmth they denied their helpless, dependent little fur-friends. Normally, the Emperor doesn’t defend his actions, but he would like to point out a peripheral benefit of this: We will be relieving the world’s population of a large number of people with shriveled souls. Anyone who could be so cruel to such innocent, loving creatures is no more than a pimple on the face of the Earth. The loss of such scum will be felt, surely; it will be felt not unlike the satisfaction after defecation.

Now, go forth and obey.

(The Emperor sends a hat-tip to Sara Wuillermin, who is, henceforth, promoted to the rank of “Imperial Spy, Class A.”)

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten excuses of 26-year-old Doug Adams, who was accused of masturbating on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles

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10. He was flying on Virgin Airlines, and he was one

9. The in-flight chicken was finger-lickin’ good, and one thing led to another

8. He was flying first class, and everybody knows they’re a bunch of wankers

7. His entertainment system wasn’t working, so he had to provide his own

6. His date for the Mile High Club missed the plane

5. Different strokes for different folks

4. None of the flight attendants was providing service, so he decided to take matters into his own hands

3. He couldn’t get the song California Here I Come out of his head

2. He was afraid of flying, and just wanted to get off

1. He misunderstood the pilot’s instructions about “an upright and locked position”
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: NASCAR has really messed up this Chase

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I think most sports fans will agree that playoff time is the best part of any sport’s season. The tension and excitement are both amped up when it’s “win or go home” time. NASCAR has taken note of this in recent years, changing its late season format to what it calls the “Chase for the Sprint Cup,” a ten race segment to end the season during which points are reset and only the top drivers from the first 26 races have a chance at the championship. That has been a pretty succesful change, but the modifications made before the 2014 season have made a mess of things, in my opinion. [Read more →]

animalsBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Now that the NRA has managed to shoot down a bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives which would have made it illegal to offer “a dog or cat for the purpose of human consumption,” top ten new menu items in Pennsylvania restaurants

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10. Whippet cream

9. Collieflower

8. Puppyseed oil

7. Catwurst

6. Kennel cake

5. Springer rolls

4. Greyhound Poupon

3. Chicken poodle soup

2. Macaroni and Burmese

1. Spitz crackers
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads The Abduction by Jonathan Holt

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I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Abduction by Jonathan Holt, the second book in the Carnivia trilogy. It wasn’t long ago that I reviewed The Abomination, which I thought was a terrific mystery, so I was eager to see where the story went next.

The Abduction focuses again on the unlikely trio of detectives: Venetian police captain Kat Tapo, Second Lieutenant Holly Boland, and reclusive genius Daniele Barbo. Tapo has filed a sexual harassment suite against her former lover, Colonel Aldo Piola – and good for her, because the resolution of their affair was really unfair for her. There is tension between Tapo and Boland, as well as an entirely different sort of tension between Boland and Barbo. These characters are so very different and it is really interesting to see the way they interact.

The novel starts with an erotic swingers event at an upscale nightclub, which is a great way to begin a story! A young woman is abducted – a teenager who should definitely not have been at this party. Her name is Mia and she is the daughter of a US Army officer. There is no ransom demand, but there is a video – a very strange video – and eventually, the kidnappers’ plans become clear. It’s a chilling plan and since the kidnappers are online, it is going viral all over the globe.

And then, just like the storyline in The Abomination, the story veers off into entirely new territory. There are interesting tendrils – a secret society, hacked email, disturbing documents found in the Vatican archives. This is what I love the most about this series! No matter where the story starts, it take you places you had no idea were even on the map. It’s such a refreshing change from plodding procedurals and predictable detective stories and I have been recommending this one to everyone. I am really looking forward to reading the third book in the trilogy – but I am not looking forward to the end of their stories!

My copy of  The Abduction is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

abduction

 

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Marathon runner fails doping test

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A lot of Bad Sports stories amuse me. Some disgust me, while others make me shake my head in amazement, but it is the funny ones that really motivate me to write. Occasionally, though, there is a story that truly makes me sad. Not sad in the way that I’d be when someone on one of my teams does something stupid and gets suspended for it, but sad in a real way. One of those happened this week. Rita Jeptoo, the winner of the last two Chicago Marathons as well as this year’s Boston Marathon, failed a doping test back in September. The news just came out this week, just as she was about to collect the World Marathon Majors title on Sunday.

[Read more →]

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Loathing of the pre-kid self

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Maggie Simpson has the baby with one eyebrow. Humbert Humbert has Clare Quilty. Randall Patrick McMurphy has Nurse Ratched. Seinfeld has Newman. Randy “Macho Man” Savage has Hulk Hogan. Perhaps you think about, on those dark nights, who you might hate the most in the world. For me, it’s easy: My pre-kid self. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten leftover Halloween candies

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10. Good & Sunni

9. Osmond Joy

8. Middlefinger

7. SweeFarts

6. Dixie Chicks Pixy Stix

5. Boston Baked Lentil Beans

4. Bit-O-Honey Boo Boo

3. Dingleberry Crunch

2. Kandi Kale

1. Ebola Granola
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads Lost Girls: an Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

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First off, let me say that Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker was not exactly the book I was expecting. I enjoy true crime novels and I have always been fascinated by the procedural part of the story – how the authorities track down their killer. In this case, the killer was never caught and it looks like the police threw the procedures out the window. This book is truly about the victims and while it is not what I normally look for in a true crime story, it was all the more fascinating for putting the crime on the back burner.

“Over the course of three years, each of these young women vanished without a trace: Maureen in 2007, Melissa and Megan in 2009, and Amber and Shannon in 2010. All but one of their bodies were discovered on Gilgo Beach, Long Island, an unsettled, overgrown, seven-mile stretch of shoreline on the string of barrier islands along South Oyster Bay.”

These young women are the center of this story. Some of them came from pretty troubled backgrounds. They had children, family and friends. They had pretty serious addiction problems. And they were all working as prostitutes, advertising on Craigslist.

What impressed me about the book is that these young women do not become stereotypes. They are not woman battered by a pimp or empowered feminists taking control of their bodies. They are young women who need money, who don’t have any great job prospects, and who find prostitution an easy way to make a lot of money in a short period of time. These women don’t deal with pimps. They advertise for themselves. They decide where and when to work (and the amount of work they can find with a simple Craigslist ad is astonishing), and while they make some provisions for their own safety, desperation can make people careless.

What infuriated me about the story is the way that authorities treated the disappearances: they didn’t care. A hooker disappeared – big deal. In some cases their families were unable to file missing person reports and it was clear that authorities did not consider these women to be worth looking for, at least not until the bodies started piling up. There were so many bureaucratic errors in these investigations, so many oddities, so many times where the police were clearly looking out for themselves and not really pushing these investigations that you can’t help but be frustrated for these women and their families. In the end, they still have no closure; they have lots of suspicions, but no definitive answers.

It takes a skilled author to write a compelling book without an ending, and I think Kolker did an excellent job. I certainly kept turning pages, alternately absorbed and furious, and I found myself very much engaged with these women and wanting justice for them. He doesn’t whitewash their stories, so you still get angry at them for putting themselves in so much danger for a few bucks, but you still wish for a better ending for them.

My copy of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

lost girls

 

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Massive academic fraud at the University of North Carolina

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Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of smoke coming out of Chapel Hill that seemed to point to some major wrongdoing within the University of North Carolina and its sports program involving fake classes and the like. The NCAA supposedly investigated and decided to accept the school’s own sanctions against itself, which were pretty minor, and took no further action. This week, a new report came out indicating that the problems were far more widespread than had been previously indicated. [Read more →]

diatribespolitics & government

The Matter with Kansas

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American politics is an endlessly fascinating procession of national and local selfies: little snapshots that tell us a little bit from moment to moment about who we are as a country. And often those snapshots are split-screen, presenting conflicting images of a nation that is not just deeply divided ideologically but also riven by conflicts, paradoxes, and contradictions. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten little known facts about werewolves

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10. They prefer the name “lycanthropes”

9. During a half moon, they become slightly hairy

8. They actually get along great with vampires

7. Favorite singer: Warren Zevon

6. Wolfsbane doesn’t work, but silver bullets do

5. Most of them vote Republican

4. Thought Jack Nicholson was a lot cooler than Lon Chaney, Jr. or Taylor Lautner

3. Wolfman Jack was a fraud

2. It’s very dangerous to moon them

1. Prefer the Schick Quattro to the Gillette Mach 3, but what they really need is a five-blade razor
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads The Wicked by Douglas Nicholas

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I am not normally a big fantasy reader, but I enjoy a little something fanciful now and then. I enjoyed Douglas Nicholas’ previous novel, Something Red, and I was not disappointed in The Wicked. Thirteenth-century England is the perfect setting for this sort of adventure, with elements of historical fiction, mystery and magic.

Once again, exiled Irish queen Molly is traveling the countryside with her granddaughter, Nemain, her young apprentice, Hob, and her lover, Jack Brown. They have come to the castle of Sir Jehan, who they saved in Something Red, to discuss a creeping danger that is facing his long-time friend, Sir Odinell. Something is preying on the people in the surrounding lands – draining their life force, leaving wizened corpses. Knights sent out to battle this evil do not return or return in a daze, a shadow of their former selves. With good reason, Sir Odinell suspects Sir Tarquin and his wife; they have a malevolent air about them and their behavior is suspicious. But how does one battle an ancient evil?

Of course, Molly and Nemain recognize the evil and have a plan for fighting it. Their particular variety of Irish magic fits so beautifully into the Olde English setting. However, for me, the star of this series is Hob. He has grown so much – he started out as such an innocent, raised by a parish priest, and he has become a vital part of this traveling band. While he may not understand the magic that they practice, he is bright and observant, often noticing details the others have missed. He struggles with their practices – he was raised by a priest, after all, and he is traveling with pagans – but he clearly loves his new family and it is interesting to see them all through his eyes.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I enjoy the portrayal of life in that time period, the mysticism and the characters. Before writing novels, Nicholas was a poet and that shows in his writing. It’s a real pleasure to read.

My copy of The Wicked was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

the wicked

 

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Joseph Randle shoplifts, gets caught, and benefits from it

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Perhaps it’s just me, but I preferred the version of the world where people who did something bad did not immediately profit from it. In that world, Kim Kardashian would still be famous, but only in a negative way, and she would not have made untold sums of money and become a household name by appearing in a sex tape while displaying no other notable skill other than self-promotion. Paris Hilton would have been seen as a family embarrassment rather than a worldwide celebrity. We have had a good number of athletes become famous for bad things too, and the pace at which the bad turns to profit seems to have accelerated quite rapidly. The current case in point is Joseph Randle, running back for the Dallas Cowboys and shoplifter. [Read more →]

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that the phrase “you guys” is banned

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. YG100: Hey, you guys! Listen, guys… You guys have to stop opening your guys’s sentences with “you guys” and saying “you guys” every other word. You guys are, like driving the Emperor crazy, you guys. Don’t make the Emperor slap you guys in chains. Okay guys? I mean, like, some of you guys aren’t even guys, so “you guys” just doesn’t make sense, guys.

The Punishment: You guys who use “you guys” will have your guys’s butts thrown into the Imperial Dungeons where you guys will meet some other guys who will make your guys’s lives miserable.

Okay guys? See you guys later.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

A year (and counting) without cable

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So we got rid of cable about a year ago. The kids are not alright. Of course, they’re bitter about it, and maybe rightfully so, because I’m not convinced any of us are better off. You know, you get rid of cable to live a more intellectual life, to get more in touch with yourself, with your family. But is any of that happening? [Read more →]

art & entertainmentBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten one-liners

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10. I’m not a big fan of shopping centers because, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the mall.

9. I thought I’d found a mass grave for snowmen, but it turned out it was just a field of carrots.

8. I was so drunk last night that, when I walked across the dance floor to get to the bar, I won the dance contest.

7. Prison walls are never built to scale.

6. My memory is so good, I can’t remember the last time I forgot something.

5. My physics teacher told me I had a lot of potential, just before he pushed me off the roof.

4. After several karate lessons, I can now break a five-inch board with my cast.

3. I stayed up all last night, trying to remember if I had amnesia or insomnia.

2. Ebola has people so afraid of Liberians, they’ve completely stopped checking out books.

1. I’d have to say, looking over the past decade, this year would definitely be in my top ten.
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Lisa reads Season of Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

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Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech was a great end-of-summer read. It leans more toward chick-lit than my usual choices. There are some interesting plot twists and a good build-up, but the big finish fell flat for me.

This is the story of the Lenore women – ever since their matriarch made a bold decision and ran off an amazing adventure, they have nurtured a secret business, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They cultivate a unique flower, a gardenia brought back from the Amazonian jungle, and turn it into the most expensive perfume on Earth. It is sold only to a carefully selected female clientele and it brings them wealth and power and success. Actresses, politicians, artists, CEOs – they have made their mark on the world with the help of the Lenore women and their secret elixir.

But now, their empire is in jeopardy. Youngest daughter Lucia is home from New York, mourning her failed marriage and failing career. Elder daughter Mya, groomed to take over the business, is plotting behind her mother’s back and making rash decisions. Their mother, Willow, can feel it all slipping away from her, and the news gets worse: the flowers are dying.

For me, the most interesting part of the story was the interaction with the two young actresses receiving the perfume. There’s real trouble brewing and the women are making some bad choices. The romances seem a little too convenient and the big climax a little contrived. While these women have managed their business for decades, suddenly things will grind to a halt without men in their lives – I really find that hard to swallow. I’m all in favor of romance, but this isn’t really what I was looking for.

My copy of Season of the Dragonflies was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

season of dragonflies