"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

- Martin Luther
Do You Drink Coffee to Avoid Naps? Try Both.

Researchers in multiple studies are finding that drinking coffee just before a short nap is better for your alertness than napping or coffee-drinking alone. The idea is that caffeine takes about 20 minutes to digest, so if you drink a cup quickly then snooze off for about 20 minutes, you will use up the sleepiness in your brain before you receive the perkiness you just consumed. For a more scientific explanation, see the article.


Astor: 'Churchill, if I were your wife...'

Perhaps you've heard this story about Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Nancy Astor, who apparently had a famous rivalry. Astor was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons (1919). Her Wikipedia page notes her quick wit and, though they are poorly documented, her trading of insults with Churchill. One rumored exchange says Churchill disliked her being in parliament, saying that having a woman there was like being intruded upon in the bathroom. Astor replied, "You're not handsome enough to have such fears."

A familiar anecdote has the viscountess in a disdainful state of her prime minister. She says, "If I were your wife, I'd poison your coffee." Churchill replies, "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."

Astor's Wikipedia scholars attribute this quote, not to Churchill, but to his marvelously funny friend, Lord Birkenhead. I can't suggest Birkenhead did not have this exchange, but I'm fascinated to learn that the insult is much older than he, Churchill, or Astor. The Quote Investigator, my new favorite website, reports the earliest recording of this joke comes from an 1899 Oswego, New York, newspaper. It was completely anonymous, being passed off as something the reporter overheard on the subway. The account was picked up by many newspapers, so by the time Birkenhead and Astor may have conversed, it would have been an old joke.

What's more amusing is many people have claimed credit for it or given it to others. When Groucho Marx told the joke in 1962, he told it of George B. Shaw insulting a woman in his audience. In 1900, a comic named Pinckney claimed to have invented the dialogue a short time before the interview and that it had already worn itself out by flying around the world.

So if Lady Astor actually told Churchill or Birkenhead that she would poison them if they were married, she had plenty of opportunity to know she was setting herself up for a great joke.

Who is my neighbor? A terrorist, apparently.

Little did I know, when I moved to Robbinsdale, Minnesota, that I was relocating to a seedbed of treason. But so it appears. Not one but two jihadist casualties overseas have been identified as former students at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. And it gets closer than that, as I’ll explain.

First, a little orientation. Robbinsdale Cooper High School is not in fact located in Robbinsdale. The historical reasons are convoluted (I don’t actually know them), but enough to say that the school district includes several inner ring suburbs. In any case, it’s close to me.

More than that, early reports (the information seems to have been redacted now; perhaps it was in error) stated that the latest casualty, Douglas McAuthor (sic) McCain, dead in Syria, lived on Oregon Avenue in New Hope.

Before I bought my house, I lived in an apartment building on Oregon Avenue in New Hope. New Hope isn’t that big. Oregon Avenue isn’t that long. We were neighbors. I very likely rubbed shoulders with him at some point.

Even so, I find it hard to generate a lot of sympathy for the young man. He was born in America, and New Hope isn’t a ghetto. He had ample opportunities to respond to the gospel. Instead he joined a death cult to murder infidels and rape women.

Still, after some consideration, I can think of a couple reasons to pity him. Read the rest of this entry . . .

'Russian Roulette' and 'Mr. Swirlee,' by Mike Faricy

I’m inclined to support my local mystery writers, as you know, so when I got a Kindle deal on one of Mike Faricy’s Dev Haskell mysteries, I thought I’d try it out. Glad I did. These are not highbrow mysteries, nor are they world-weary meditations on existential dilemmas. They’re just fun private eye stories that poke gentle fun at the form. I liked them.

Dev Haskell is a private eye in St. Paul. He has no office, but does a marginal business out of a string of scruffy bars. At the beginning of Russian Roulette he’s approached in one of those bars by a drop dead gorgeous woman with an accent (she says it’s French and he goes along with it) who asks him to look for her missing sister. Thinking more with a lower organ than with his higher functions, he follows her into a plot involving prostitution and sex trafficking.

The big joke in Russian Roulette is the way Dev overworks the traditional private eye pastime of getting injured and not letting it stop him. Not only does he suffer the liturgical beatings and a bullet wound that any literary private eye expects, but he also gets poisoned and car bombed. It stretches credibility that he’s able to function at all, let alone defend himself, by the end of the story, but that’s all part of the joke. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Haikus Superus

This site delivers haiku found in the decisions written by Supreme Court justices. I love it.

Here, for example,
standard supplied gasoline
and oil to Signal.

(taken from Perkins v. Standard Oil Company of California (1969))

He, however, did
not obtain a warrant to
arrest respondent.

(from United States v. Johnson (1982))

The applicant must
pass the examination
prescribed by the Board.

(from Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc (1976))

For how long a time
have you known it to be used
for these purposes?

(from Peters v. Hanson (1889)) (via Books, Inq.)

Non-Reviews of Two Books

Loren Eaton refuses to review Megan Abbott's Bury Me Deep. "Can't talk about how Abbott walks a tightrope over the chasm between the literary and genre worlds, every sentence showing her knowledge of the writer's craft while the subject matter stays committed to delighting the reader," he says, leaving us to wonder what could possibly be in this book.

Jonathan Rogers talks about the origins of one of his books. "When I sat down to write The Charlatan's Boy, the first sentence I wrote turned out to be the first sentence of the finished product: 'I don't remember one thing about the day I was born.'"

'Death's Doors': a snippet and an apologia


The Lifestyle Services case worker seemed friendly and genuinely interested in him. Tom Galloway wasn’t entirely pleased about that. The case workers he’d dealt with in the Twin Cities had all seemed overworked and time-pinched. The desks in their cubicles had been piled with file folders and official bulletins, and they themselves had exhaled an institutional miasma that seemed to say, “Don’t show me any red flags and we won’t ask too many questions.”

But Megan Siegenthaler seemed to have all the time in the world, and was cordially curious about everything having to do with Tom and his family. Her small office had been painted a cheery mint green, and a tasteful landscape print hung on one wall. No family pictures though. He supposed those might be stressful for some of the case subjects. Or just as likely she had no family.

She herself was a honey-haired woman who must have been very attractive once and was still comfortably good-looking. Her green eyes were especially remarkable. She smoked a long thin cigarette, as was her right in all places except for hospital ICUs ever since the passage of the Smokers’ Re-enfranchisement Act. She’d offered Tom a breathing device, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, but he’d turned it down. Tobacco smoke had never bothered him much.

“I suppose it’s pretty dull here in Epsom compared to life in the Cities,” she said.

“I like it dull,” said Tom.

“Does Christine like it dull too?”

Tom adjusted his mouth in something like a smile. “No. She’d like to move back.”

“What do you think about that?”

“I don’t care what she’d like. I’m trying to keep her alive.”

Megan picked up the Galloway file and flipped through it. She had very long fingernails, enameled in red. Tom had always wondered why anyone who had to work with paper or keyboards would bother with such a self-inflicted handicap. “I think we ought to talk about this,” she said. “Your last case worker made a note about your attitude. You realize that, in the long run, you can’t keep your daughter alive, don’t you?”

Tom kicked himself in a mental shin. He should have learned to keep his mouth shut by now. He didn’t want to have this discussion again.

“I know what the law says,” he grunted.

“Then you know that if Christine decides to end her life, you have no legal power to stop her. The Constitution’s on her side. If she complains to us that you’re interfering, she can be taken from you and escorted to the Happy Endings Clinic by a Lifestyle Services worker. The law is very explicit.”

That’s just a snippet from Death’s Doors, my newly released e-book (by the way, Orie says it’s non-DRM, which means you can convert it to your e-reader’s format using the Calibre utility, even if you don’t have a Kindle). I thought I’d just take a few moments to talk about this book, and what I think it means (I could, of course, be wrong). Read the rest of this entry . . .

The Joys of W. H. Auden

"One of the joys of reading late Auden is the pleasure he takes in rare words used correctly," Patrick Kurp reminds us. "Like his friend Dr. Oliver Sacks, he loved trolling the Oxford English Dictionary for good catches." Catches like dapatical, for which you'll have to read his post for context.

Alexander McCall Smith wrote a piece last year about the importance of Auden with a few personal anecdotes. "When I started to write novels set in Edinburgh, the characters in these books – unsurprisingly, perhaps – began to show an interest in Auden. In particular, Isabel Dalhousie, the central character in my Sunday Philosophy Club series, thought about Auden rather a lot – and quoted him, too. A couple of years after the first of these novels was published, I received a letter from his literary executor, Edward Mendelson, who is a professor of English at Columbia University in New York. . . . I then wrote Professor Mendelson into an Isabel Dalhousie novel, creating a scene in which he comes to Edinburgh to deliver a public lecture on the sense of neurotic guilt in Auden’s verse."

Death's Doors

Dateline: Minneapolis

My new novel, Death's Doors, is now available for download for Amazon Kindle.

In the near future, suicide is a constitutional right. Tom Galloway is an ordinary single father, just trying to keep his rebellious and depressed daughter from going to the Happy Endings Clinic.

The last thing he needs is a ninth-century Viking time traveler dropping into his life.

But Tom is about to embark on the adventure of his life. One that will change the world.

If you look closely...

...you can see Phil Wade in the background.

Have a good weekend.

Myrna Loy Serving Coffee

Due to the immediate, overwhelming response to the photo in our last post, our executives have decided to post another one. Here we see the gorgeous Myrna Loy serving Navy sailors in an canteen during WWII. This wasn't a one time stint for her. She stopped acting to support the war effort and worked closely with The Red Cross. Learn more about her in this review of her biography, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl In Hollywood.

Myrna Loy serving coffee to service men

Coffee Week Selections

1. A Colorado coffee shop, located in an housing development for the homeless, is attempting to help the people around them as well as change their community's perspective on the capabilities of homeless people.

"People don't know who's behind the counter when they stop here," Kelly Kelley said. "It could be any one of us in that low-income or homeless category. We want to make a positive experience for people."

2. 10 reason why fair-trade coffee doesn't do what it claims, and plenty of pushback in the comments. "Fairtrade is not a one time, cure-all, it provides a framework. It's a tool and if applied well, producers move up the value chain, negotiate better terms, and strengthen their communities."

I remember a coffee roaster saying he saw little value in fair trade certification, because he knew a farm received certification on only half of its crop because they couldn't afford the price. No difference in the coffee they grew. They just could not afford to pay for the fair trade label for the second half of what they produced.

3. Costa Coffee, United Kingdom's largest coffee chain, has replaced its club card for an app.

4. Starbucks has gone to Colombia, and the Colombian national chain Juan Valdez is expanding in response. "In downtown Miami, a new Juan Valdez cafe feels like a slice of Colombia: traditional floor tiling, warm wood details, woven baskets, fresh arepas, and pictures of Colombia and its coffee. A poster of a smiling coffee farmer hangs near the entrance, greeting customers with the company’s key new message: 'Carlos is one of the 500,000 coffee growers who owns this coffee shop.'" Leaning on their history has proven profitable so far.

5. A young Lauren Bacall with coffee. (I believe this photo would be rated PG-13 because it depicts smoking. Steel yourself.)Read the rest of this entry . . .

Verse about the Big World

"It’s voguish to say poems are about the making of poems, but the good ones normally engage something out there in the big bad world beyond the classroom," write Patrick Kurp.

Danielle Sacks Talks about Her Coffee Research

In the last post, we linked to Fast Company's Danielle Sacks' piece on third wave coffee producers. Food Republic asks her about her experience researching that article, whether her drinking tastes have changed, and how she believes Starbucks will respond to this bit of competition.

As I write in the story, Starbucks doesn't like anybody infringing on its turf. They want it both ways — they'll do as little as possible to gain street cred in the third wave coffee community, but they still want to appeal to the masses, which is the much bigger market. On one hand Starbucks is increasingly pushing its single origin "Reserve" line (brewed on Clover single cup precision brewers), yet its investments and acquisitions of late feel like a coffee company that's leaning more towards fast food (fizzy drinks, drive-thrus). At the end of the day, if they felt like third wave was a gnat worth swatting, they could just purchase Stumptown or Blue Bottle, both of which have investors that will want to monetize their investment at some point. It'll be interesting to see which of these players might end up part of the big green giant.

Third Wave Coffee Crashes Over America


A third wave of coffee connoisseurs is washing over America. Artisan coffee producers, such as Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture and Blue Bottle, have pored over their beans, roasts, and brews to steep the most awesomest coffee drink you will ever taste. Fast Company's Danielle Sacks describes the reaction some coffee evangelists received somewhere in New York.

Staffers begin wandering over to taste coffees with names like Brazil Samambaia and Three Africans. A few are coffee snobs, and for them it is a moment of vindication. A thirtysomething in a chambray shirt expresses delight at the prospect that his company might ditch the pods in the office kitchen in favor of Stumptown, which he brews at home. For others, the experience is more like an awakening, when they taste the refined brew for the first time. "I'm a coffee guy," declares a silver-haired exec in khakis. "I drink Dunkin', Starbucks, Tim Hortons--not the deli stuff," he says, echoing the sentiments of many of America's 100 million coffee drinkers. The woman from Joyride hands him something he never orders: a cup of black coffee. "It's pretty smooth," he says, surprised by how good a naked cup of coffee can taste when it's made with artisanal care. "This is really good," he confesses, taking another swig, "even without milk."
I believe I almost had a great cup of coffee like this once, but I didn't want to spend the money on it. This article says these wonderful coffee lovers want us to spend $7/drink. It may be awesome, but they aren't going to knock out K-cups at that price. (They probably wouldn't approve of my home brewing anyway.)

DIY French Press for the Inventive Coffee Lover

What if you're stuck at a hotel around Minneapolis, and the only thing around you are Caribou Coffee joints (and you hate Caribou Coffee), and there's no way you could trudge through the driving snow to some salt-of-the-earth independent cafe for thermal mug of heavenly darkness? All you have is the hotel's nasty Mr. Drips Coffeemaker from 1978. The grounds look vintage too.

Well, Ole, you could try to this French Press concept from Josh Campbell. All you need it a coffee filter (I hear nylons will work), a wire clothes hanger (if your hotel has only plastic hangers, you could try ripping the wire liner out of your suitcase), and a glass or mug.

Of course, you still have to use the vintage coffee grounds from your cheap hotel, but if the magic of this DIY project hits you, maybe you will forget about the grounds part (until you take your first sip).

Why Does My Coffee Taste Like Dirt?

Dark, dark coffee with filler?I believe I tasted espresso for the first time shortly after college. I bought it at Barnie's Coffee and Tea in Hamilton Place Mall, and I remember two things. First, I didn't know what a real espresso was before then. I was surprised at my drink's smallness and lack of milk-like substances. Second, it tasted as if someone had drowned a cigarette in my cup.

I loved it.

You may find a similar earthy flavor in your regular joe, if you buy one of several major brands of ground coffee, not because you oversteeped it or got espresso mixed into your light roast breakfast blend, but because it actually has dirt in it. If not the stuff of earth, then perhaps some coffee byproducts like husks, stems, or leaves.

Researchers at State University of Londrina in Brazil has developed a test for filler material in coffee grounds. "With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 percent accuracy if coffee is pure or has been tampered with, either with corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup," states Dr. Suzana Lucy Nixdorf. She and her team are concerned that Brazilian coffee shortages could inspire impure coffee grounds. She doesn't say whether someone with an allergy to one of these fillers would reject to the substances in their cup, but if Maxwell House ever looks into stretching their coffee, I hope they investigate that angle thoroughly.

I hope we aren't also at risk for finding sheep dung in our coffee, now that sensible laws, such as the U.K.'s Adulteration Of Coffee Act 1718, have been repealed. We shouldn't assume old folk remedies are wise because they are old and folk, so no dung coffee or tea for me, thank you. (via Dave Lull)

Death's Doors, Snippet 1

(As best I can figure out, we're close to releasing my next novel, Death's Doors. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet. lw)


We have no use for barns anymore, but are ashamed to tear them down. So the lofted sheds stand here and there across the land on derelict farmsteads, redundant, their backs swayed like old horses’.

The woman tossed her cigarette away. It arced like comet spit in the dark. She went into the ruined barn through a dutch door, pulling open first the upper panel, then the lower. The granulated hinges screamed and the bottom scraped an arc in the earth. She was afraid the noise would wake the baby she cradled in her left arm, but it did not. Such a good baby.

The law said she could be rid of a baby up to the age of eight weeks. She would never have let this one go except for something like this – something terribly, cosmically important.

Her flashlight showed her a low-ceilinged side-shed with animal stalls along its inside wall, its dividers and wooden posts scaly with brown flakes of ancient, petrified manure.

The old woman she’d come to see sat so still that she overshot her with the flashlight beam and had to back it up. Once fixed by the beam, the old woman smiled – a smile of radiant beauty that brought to mind a Renaissance Madonna gone wrinkled and white-haired.

“You – you’re the one I was to meet?” the younger woman asked. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Mrs. Olson, abortonist

Scandinavians are so culturally identified with coffee that one of America's foremost brands actually made a Scandinavian (of unspecified nationality) their spokeswoman for more than twenty years, a period of time popularly known as "our long national caffeine-induced nightmare."

From 1965 to 1986, Virginia Christine, an actress of Swedish extraction, played "Mrs. Olson" in one of the longest-lived commercial campaigns in history. Throughout those years this diabolical old harridan, obviously unhappily married herself, insinuated herself into other people's domestic problems, like this.

According to her Wikipedia page, Ms. Christine spent her declining years as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, which explains a lot, it seems to me. Clearly she was slipping contraceptive drugs into these people's coffee. Which obviously accounts for the dropping birth rates that characterized the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Coffee. A clear and present danger to the republic.

Brewing Coffee for Watercolor-style Painting

Angel Sarkela-Saur and Andrew Saur have been painting with coffee for years. This video introduces them and their artwork. They mention sending their work to the U.S. Embassy to Malawi in the video. Now they are sending three pieces "Drained,” Dabble,” and “Voyage to Valhalla” to our ambassador to Columbia for a three year stay.

Is the Coffee World Getting Better?

With all the coffee choices we have now, are coffee farmers making more money or expanding their markets like they could not 20 years ago? It doesn't appear so. Oscar Abello writes about the pitfalls of Fair Trade certification and the clash between what professes to do and reality.

If Fair Trade certified coffee is intended to be sold at a fair price to give workers a fair wage, then why are farms larger than 10 acres allowed to be certified, when they can afford to pay their workers better than small farms.

When Aida Batlle she took over her family’s 38-acre farm in El Salvador in 2002, it was too large for fair-trade certification, even though Batlle claims to pay her workers three times what everyone else is paying, plus transportation and food. After winning El Salvador’s inaugural Cup of Excellence competition in 2003, Aida became something of a celebrity in the “Third Wave” movement of coffee, even getting her own profile in the New Yorker.

One of Batlle’s longest-running buyers is Counter Culture Coffee, founded in 1995 in Durham, N.C. Ten years ago, Counter Culture was still mostly a smaller regional roasting company, trying to get a market foothold by handing out samples in grocery stores. Customers would ask why one coffee from Nicaragua was certified fair-trade and this other one from El Salvador (the coffee from Batlle’s farm) wasn't. In reality, Batlle's workers were among the highest paid of all of Counter Culture’s suppliers.

"The idea that this was somehow unfair because there’s no certification on it, no seal, was just maddening,” says Counter Culture Kim Elena Ionescu.
Maybe certification is merely another way to pay bureaucrats for the privilege to say what they want us to say.

In other news, Dunkin Donuts now offers a coffee-flavored doughnut, which makes me ask why they didn't have this before. Particularly since DD is known for their coffee, I assumed they already had a coffee-flavored doughnut, just as I would assume they zip up their pants. When you notice you point it out like a mistake, not a new idea.

Coffee delenda est

Coffee week, huh? That's what I get for being gracious, in a moment of weakness.

Getting into the spirit of the thing, I want to recommend to you Mark Helprin's masterful novel, Memoir From Antproof Case. It's a moving story about a man who goes into violent rages whenever he smells coffee, or sees anyone drinking it. Needless to say, he's a sympathetic character.

I wanted to re-post my review, but it seems to be on the old blog, where I can't search.

Also, on another note, I want to thank Loren Eaton for giving me a mention in his latest review. I have trouble commenting over there, so I'll say it here.

Now get some sleep. Helpful hint: It helps if you lay off the caffeine.

Craft Coffee's DNA of Your Taste Buds

It's coffee week here on Brandywine Books. Come back everyday for wonderful posts and links to coffee-related information bound to bless your taste buds and have you leaping like Arabian goats.

Are you looking for new roasts to try? Startup company Craft Coffee already has a large database in pursuit of their goal to become the Pandora of coffee flavors. Fill out their survey, try their service, and they will apply their algorithms to your tastes to help you find a cup of coffee you love to death.

10 Fictional Coffee Scenes

Benjamin Obler has collected ten scenes or lines which include coffee, like this one from Muriel Spark's The Comforters.

"Tell me about the voices," he said. "I heard nothing myself. From what direction did they come?"

"Over there, beside the fireplace," she answered.

"Would you like some tea? I think there is tea."

"Oh, coffee. Could I have some coffee? I don't think I'm likely to sleep."

Isn't it terribly English of the Baron to offer tea to Caroline, who's just fled a religious centre (not a nunnery, not a retreat), has separated from her husband, and is now suffering delusions - hearing the clacks of typewriter keys and a voice narrating her very thoughts! Take comfort in tea. It is in character of the Baron to think so: he's a man of affected intellectualism, calling the sections of his bookshop "Histor-ay, Biograph-ay, Theolog-ay," and addressing everyone as "my dear". But only coffee is up for the job. This is coffee as antidote to madness. What else to clear her head in this fix? They've already had Curaçao - that didn't help. Coffee as realignment. Coffee to reconnect with your own synapses, to reset the senses and solidify reality in the forefront.

Of Norwegians and coffee

Coffee has been a subject of some uneasiness on this blog from the time I climbed on. There used to be a mission statement around here somewhere that said (I quote from memory), “Book reviews, creative culture, and coffee.” It’s no secret to any fair-minded reader that Phil has discriminated against me constantly because I don’t consume the vile stuff.

My isolation is increased by the importance of coffee in Norwegian-American culture. If I had a nickel for every time somebody has said to me, “What kind of Norwegian are you? You don’t drink coffee!” I’d be able to afford… a cup of coffee, I guess, because they cost a lot of nickels these days. But how did coffee get to be so important to Norwegians? I now know the answer, thanks to a book I’m reading.

I was recently given, as a birthday present, an interesting work by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land. It’s mostly about the superstitious – but sometimes scientifically valid – remedies Norwegians have used through history, and the sometimes celebrated, sometimes persecuted, but always feared people who practiced them.

One of the subjects covered is the use of brennevin (distilled spirits), which held an important place in folk medicine. That touches on the subject of the general use of alcoholic beverages in Norwegian history. The Norwegians, like all Europeans, were drinkers from the earliest times. But they mostly drank beer, and often quite weak beer. Later brennevin appeared, but its use was generally restricted to medicine and celebrations. But in 1817 a law was passed giving every Norwegian farmer the right to distill as much liquor as he liked whenever he wanted.

The result was disastrous. Celebrations became drunken brawls, ending in injury and death. Accidents increased. Productivity decreased. More and more individuals became hopeless slaves to drink.

By the mid-19th Century, people were forming temperance and abstention organizations, and the distillery law was repealed. One of the substitutes suggested to people who wanted to kick the brennevin habit was coffee: Read the rest of this entry . . .

Lauren Bacall on Writing Memoirs

Lauren Bacall wrote three memoirs over the years. The last one was released in 2005. She said of loving Bogart, "I'd suddenly had this fairy-tale life, at such a young age, who would have thought something like that could happen?"

"Writing a book is the most complete experience I've ever had," she said.

Whit Stillman's 'The Cosmopolitans'

Whit Stillman's next work will be on Amazon.com. A TV pilot episode for a potential series, "The Comopolitans," will be available through Amazon Studios on August 28. See a cute preview here.

“This has elements of all three of the first films,” he tells Vanity Fair, referring to his 1990 debut, 1994’s Barcelona and 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. “It’s very much like the fourth film, of those three.” He says one has to earn a living, and TV is where one can do it.

He also says he doesn't watch TV with violence and sex, "so it knocks out almost everything." Others say he only watches TV on airplanes.

On the Job

Job's Tormenters, by William Blake, 1793.

Thought thunk today: The Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, one of the oldest books in the world.

What does it say about humanity that in the 8,000 years since, we haven't managed to surpass it in terms of wisdom?

Update: Ori, tedious pedant that he is, pointed out that my numbers are off by slight margin of maybe 5,000 years.

I wish I were surprised. I'm always doing that with numbers. A counselor once told me that the problem wasn't in my brain, but in my emotions. Somewhere along the line I developed a fear of numbers that blossomed into functional innumeracy.

But with education, support, and billions of tax dollars you can make a difference. Give today through the United Fund.

Or just buy one of my books. Or double that and buy three.

These Books Were Most Influential on Tolstoy

"This summer on my way to work," writes The Public Humanist at The Valley Advocate, "I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk in downtown Northampton . . . a yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping, from April 2, 1978: a list of the books that Tolstoy was most impressed by, organized by the age at which he read them."

The list was written in 1891 and includes selections such as Puskin’s poems: Napoleon, Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect, Rousseau's Confessions, all of Trollope's novels, and all of the Gospels in Greek. (via Open Culture)

Fact-check Your Pastor and Politician

Bob Smietana suggests we may want to fact-check our pastor's sermons, but don't do it during the service.

(Did you know that the father of the inventor of penicillin did not save young Winston Churchill from drowning? The things you learn!

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