S.A.D., TV, and Me

I’m not someone who deals well with change.  You’d know this by what’s in my dining room — a large glass tank containing a wooden hutch, a water bottle, and rodent bedding but no rodent. Our gerbil, Carmella, died a month ago and I can’t bring myself to take her cage down (or remove her from the freezer, where she rests in cold, stiff sleep next to Nibbles the guinea pig, now several years gone.

My S.A.D. kicked in two months ago, and on most days now you can find me walking around in a melancholic, nostalgic fog.  Here’s how bad it can get: I miss the old Cymbalta people.  You know, the various depressed-then-happy people on the commercial for the antidepressant Cymbalta: the African-American woman absently chopping vegetables as she gazes out the kitchen window; the older man whose wife has had enough of his silence at the dinner table and takes her plate elsewhere; the kind-of-cute guy whose neglected dog just wants to be walked; the near-comatose woman sprawled in her covers, unable to get her body out of bed (what;s abnormal about that?). All of them being depressed, then getting better, to a wistful piano song….

I miss them because Cymbalta has recently put on a new commercial, with a new group of people being depressed in various ways. The new dog is just as adorable, and it’s the same plaintive piano song, but something’s not right.  I don’t know these low-energy people neglecting their lives and hating themselves and making their families miserable.  I want the old ones back….

I am buoying myself with the fact that I’ve made it through other traumatic television changes — the exit of Ken Jennings from Jeopardy, for example. And I think I’ve finally made the transition from David Blaine to Criss Angel as my favorite cool magician.  Still, it’s nice to know I’m not alone, that there are others still recovering from the Dick-York- to- Dick-Sargeant switch (or is it the other way around?).

An Object Lesson for the Credulous

I admit it. When I was a younger boy, uh, man, I used to believe all sorts of things that I don’t particularly believe now. Let’s not get into details. (Monday I talked about one example.)

Now, I pride myself on my skepticism. Still, some things are just difficult to explain or maybe just weird. Stonehenge is a classic case. Those images that appear on the occasional tortilla are another.

How did those Druids move those giant stones hundreds of miles? How did they pick them up and set them upright? Could they levitate? Did aliens help? No, as it turns out it probably was just some clever people. I hate it when that happens.

Does that mean Ezekiel did not see a UFO?

This video is cool, but if you really want to do some thinkin’ and figurin’ go to Richard Dawkins’s site and watch the video on the creation of his “Foundation for Reason and Science.” “The enlightenment is under threat,” writes Dawkins. “So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America.”

Norway is Number One!


Here’s some sobering news on the “we’re number one” front. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that ever since I was a child I heard or thought or was told that the United States was the richest country in the world. As you get older, of course, things get more complicated.

I earn my living by piecing together on line teaching jobs, none of which provide either a pension or health care. Those are things every other industrial or post industrial country provides its citizens as a matter of course.

In Europe, the work week has been getting shorter and most people have four week vacations. Here we all work an increasingly longer week and if you are a professional, and feel secure, you might take two weeks off.

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Cloud Your Text and Your Class Will Follow!

A tag cloud (or weighted list in visual design) can be used as a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.

From Wikipedia

Tag generating software is slightly different than tags as traditionally defined. As Wikipedia notes, the original Tag Cloud on the photo sharing site Flikr cleverly represented community interests. Each of the tags is a link to a page of relevant images. The larger the font, the more people there are who share the tag and, presumably, the interests.

Tag generating software, on the other hand, is a way of representing the key terms in a particular text. The larger the word the more often it occurs. Tag Clouds become a quick way to begin the analysis of a text by visually representing its most common terms. Like my example above, it need not have links at all.

The Cloud Tag was generated from my health plan’s page on “Member Rights and Responsibilities.” I think the rhetorical strategies of the text become remarkably obvious. This could be useful for writing as well as analysis.

Here‘s an interesting two-part article on Tag Clouds, by Joe Lamantia. Among other things, Lamantia argues that Clouds are not this year’s “Mullet” but a useful navigation aid likely to become more common. Who else misses the mullet?

I generated my Tag Cloud at Tag Crowd. Tag Crowd’s page also offers the .htm code. And you can try out a Cloud of your own by pasting any text into the box below and pushing the button. Your Cloud will appear below.

This version creates links that look up words in OneLook Dictionary Search. The Graph It button creates a frequency list and a bar graph. Thanks to Karen Schwalm and friends at Glendale Community College for the code.