How to Host A Carnival

Posted in Just A Thought at 8:48 am

Several posts are flying around my head but the most urgent is based on a comment in this week’s Carnival of Family Life by next week’s hostess Little Mummy– she’s understandably nervous at hosting her first carnival.

Hosting is fun and easy (we all write don’t we?) but takes a lot of time. If you follow a few simple rules and stay on top of each day’s submissions you’ll have a great carnival.


The week before your carnival, put up a post so your regular readers know you’re hosting next week. Maybe your friends will discover carnivals through you.  


Kailani (or the person who maintains the carnival) forwards emails – one for each submission, usually in a batch, once per day.  Each email contains the url for the post, the originating website, remarks, usually the name of the submitter and an email in case you have questions. The emails are each labeled with a totally useless (to you) tracking number.

I strongly recommend you do the following as soon as you can after you get emails:

Open 1 (don’t open all planning to shut down as you process them.)

Read the submitted post. (duhhhh)

Problems – Every carnival there are a couple of problematic posts – they might be very thinly disguised ads, way way off topic or advocacy posts. Let the person who maintains the carnival know about your problem. Kailini generally leaves whether or not to include the post up to the host but does give a little guidance. (I dump ads and advocacy if it looks like someone was just trying to publicize a cause. If the submitter made the effort to tie their cause into the carnival format and theme I take it.)

Duplicates – every so often someone submits right after the deadline and the again later in the week. If you have a clear preference take the one you like best. If they do it early enough and you feel like investing the time, email & ask which they meant to use. At the very least forward a copy of the submission you are dropping and let them know why you’re not including it.

Disagreeing with the content of the post isn’t a problem – you can always note your reservations in comments. (Do you know that there are people who don’t hold the same political views I do? They still have wonderful things to say. Amazing.)

So the Post is Wonderful

Write a teaser for the post that includes a link to the post and to the submitting blog. Try not to reveal the punchline or just summarize – you want to give enough information to make sure no one skips over a post that they’d like but not so much that they feel they already know what it says.

For each link be sure to specify that it opens in a new window (or your readers will get lost in a journey of discovery and may not see the rest of the posts) and that you have typed in the description that appears when your mouse hovers over the link. (if you don’t have the second your page will generate errors.)

Time-Saver Caution – BlogCarnival includes code that you could cut and paste into your carnival and it would give you a listing. Not only does it not have the best format for the links (no new window; no description on hover), the format is not inviting.  If you get a couple of last-minute posts that you just don’t have time to address properly you could use the cut & paste, but I’d really try not to.

Label the email

I cannot stress this one enough. I like to change forward to Done and add the post blogger at the end of the tracking number in the subject line. Be careful to label Kailani’s email, not the attachment.

You skip this step at your peril. Some time during the week I get distracted and leave a half-finished post in my draft. Worse yet, if you have a crash and loose 10 minutes of posting its not a big deal if you can see which posts didn’t survive. Having to go through 60 emails, opening 60 attachments looking for the lost post kills enormous amounts of time.


Somewhere 2/3 of the way through the carnival (Thursday for the Carnival of Family Life) themes emerge.  I usually have ‘stories’ first – those posts that are closest to the stated intent of the carnival. Advice is a perennial favorite – the volume of good ideas out there is amazing. Set up your categories as headers.

I like to start each category with the code <h4> and end it with </h4>. (the ending is not a like – you must have it if you don’t want the rest of your post to be a header.) Be sure you’re adding the labels when you’re in code mode.

Post Order

This is very subjective. I try to put the posts that I like the most at the beginning of the category but I try to mix up serious and funny posts. For some reason the grimmest posts seem to come in early (they often are among the most worthwhile to read but they can be draining.)


I like to include mention of Kailani (of course), last week’s host and a reminder to submit entries for next week.

Housekeeping – It’s Almost Over

Don’t forget to spell check the post. I love WordPress but their spell checker is beyond feeble. I:

  • switch to code mode,
  • copy the post to my word processing program,
  • make my corrections
  • past back over the original draft.

Be careful not to lose your links! If something goes wrong Ctrl z (undo) is a wonderful thing.

Check the page for errors at the W3 validator .  Just paste the url of your draft in the box and submit. If you didn’t set up your links correctly it makes the page take longer to load. After you and all the posters have put in so much time you don’t want to lose anyone because the site is slow.

Finally, I like to send a copy of the draft over to Kailani before I publish (optional). It’s great to have someone else count the entries & match against the number of submissions. I also have the almost completely baseless fear that my site will go down the week I am host. I figure sending Kailani a copy will work like carrying an umbrella – if she could put it up, she’ll never need to.

Carnivals are fun – just stay relaxed and enjoy.


Ethanol in Gas

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Just A Thought at 2:52 pm

My environmental posts come from a lot of research into scientific papers. This doesn’t. (I’ll research it later, but if anyone has a clue, I’d love to know about it.)

 I’ve been driving in NYC lately. This doesn’t usually give me blinding headaches.  NYC has had ethanol in it’s gas for a long time but now the surrounding areas (that have much cheaper gas) are high in ethanol too.  Is it significantly raising emissions?


Physics and the School Play

Posted in Just A Thought at 8:23 am

Taking Pictures at School

I attended a school play a few days ago to take pictures for a friend. Conditions were perfect. I’d gotten there early enough to get a slightly off-center shot of the stage, far enough back to get everything in my wide screen shots and close enough to zoom. The stage was well-lit, I wasn’t behind the school videographer, the air-conditioning was on (not ecologically perfect but it was 90 degrees outside).

The play started. So did the audience. A couple of families had turned out in their extend glory to see their student starring in the show. Several members from each family started moving around the theater to get the best shots of their darlings. Worse, (argueably) they were using their flash.

Physics Lesson

Light from a flash dissipates very quickly. If you’re not between 5-20 ft of your subject the flash has virtually no impact on your picture. It does annoy everyone else and shows up on the school video. Pictures taken with no flash (rest your arm on something to hold the camera steady) will be fine. Even if the lighting on the stage is low, digital pictures taken with a high resolution and adjusted will be fine (discovering equalize in Photoshop (TM) was a wonderful thing but many programs have a ‘digital flash’ feature now).

Sharing is Caring

If you have invited members of your family that might not be familiar with school play etiquette, have a planning meeting ahead of time. If everyone wants to take pictures (mistake – you enjoy the show more if someone else takes the pictures but . . .) station guests around the audience. Make a mutual sharing pack to pool the pictures for everyone. Don’t move during the show.


Telemarketers, Scammers or Political Operatives?

Posted in Just A Thought at 12:09 pm

Since March hordes of people have been getting calls recorded in Spanish on their cell phones. Those that played along were either told that they reached a wrong number or that they’d won a contest. One caller reportedly was able to keep an operator on the line for 20 minutes feeding her phony credit card numbers and expiration dates.

STOP THE CALLS – Several victims suggested storing the harassing numbers with a  no buzz no ring setting. Reporting the calls to the FCC if you’re on the do not call list may help build a case but is largely ineffectual since the number on the caller ID is not the number that the calls originate from and the FCC is only set up to go after people if you completely identify them.

Most people are hanging up in annoyance and blaming telemarketers or scammers. Could these be politically-inspired calls? They started recently, they’re creating at least some anti-Hispanic tension and the immigration bills are being hotly discussed. Coincidence?

Just A Thought.


Mad Cow Disease Safeguards

Posted in Just A Thought at 8:55 pm

I can not tell you how pleased I am that in 2003 the FDA was able to find the one cow in the US with Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)). (Actually they found all three, but who’s counting?) I am only a tad nervous that our friends to the north have recently found another mad cow – but with our expertise at keeping out illegal aliens, pills and infected cattle I’m sure we’re in no danger.

Of course, if there were any danger, the Prionics Check Test or other similar test would find it and keep our meat supply safe.  But the US is not some little country like Ireland that gets blanket coverage by testing twice as many cows in one day as the US tests all year.  It would really be expensive for us to test all the cows in the US so there’s no real point in testing very many of them – after all, damage from panic would be far worse than having  a small number of our citizens suffering dementia and premature death.

Besides, the FDAis quite certain that we have taken all steps necessary to keep both our food supply and that of cats (the other animal prone to prion infection) safe.

However,  just to play devil’s advocate, why aren’t we periodically running the Prionics Check test on all the cats that die in a given period?  If BSE is found we could then test all livestock and have much greater assurance that prions are not getting into the food supply.

 Just A Thought.


Protect Your Child From A Shooting – Read

Posted in Just A Thought at 5:25 am

This week started with a trio of tragedies: floods, the massacre in Virginia, and the death of a local senior on a charity trip to Ghana. The following are my thoughts on how to protect your child.

There are some things in life you cannot protect your child against – airplane parts falling on your home, a crazy person entering a building and shooting the students. You would not reinforce your home to withstand debris from space, you shouldn’t be running drills to handle violent attacks – the cost of teaching your child that their world is unsafe when in reality it isn’t. is too high.

There are things you can do however, to significantly protect your child from a shooting. Conventional wisdom says ask the parents of the children your child has playdates with if they have guns in the house. You then remind them to either store their guns safely with ammo in a separate location or check them for the next 8 or so years at the local precinct or rifle club. Of course, this path gets short-circuited the moment the questioned family lies about the gun, looking to avoid a confrontation.

A much better solution is to read Guns: What you Should Know by Rachel Schulson to your children and their friends when they are young – starting around 3 and through 1st grade. Not only will you insure that a significant number of small children in your community know to leave the room if someone has a gun, it is in a form no gun-owning parent will object to.

If, in the process of reading the book, a child volunteers that their parents have a gun, it is probably not productive to ‘confront’ that parent. File this under the same category as the time they tell you about their parent’s fight. (If you have kids, you are not going to have a moment of privacy for the next several years – it may be your fights or other embarrassing actions that are being broadcast to the neighborhood by your 4-year-old). Hopefully everyone involved is ignoring children’s stories unless safety issues are involved. Instead, read the book every few months to the children (all of them) and consider scheduling more playdates at your house.

Most kids grow up and have families of their own with no problems. Being shot by a demented person at school is about as likely as having an airplane fall on your house – much less likely than winning the lottery. Gun accidents are unfortunately more common and, for the most part, preventable. Do your part.


Poisonous Plant Picture Gallery

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Just A Thought at 9:40 am

Spring is in the air (sort-of – it’s still very cold here) and I’m looking for new disasters to discuss. In my travels I found this lovely Rutgers site  showing the poisonous/harmful plants in New Jersey. Thank goodness it is Mother’s Day and and not Sister’s Day coming up or I could see every cub scout in the state giving his sister a lovely bouquet.


The Sweets of Spring

Posted in Just A Thought at 9:33 am

Spring is a time for growth and reflection on our hopes for the future. There are many signs of this. More4Kids gives a list of things to teach our kids in preparation for Earth Day. Scribbit is sponsoring a growth carnival.

I attended a Seder, the Jewish meal that commemorates God’s role in freeing the Israelites from bondage. We spoke of the symbolism involved – the search for leavened bread symbolizes the need to search and reflect on your relationships to escape, with God’s help, the bondage of repeating mistakes in your relationships with others.

What would I hope I and my friends would reflect on improve our vision for the future?


Fear is a double-pronged menace. If you think a disaster is likely to strike you can be paralyzed in inaction. Worse, you can hope to avert it by denying the possibility of the disaster.
Most people aren’t paralyzed with fear or are in emotional debates at the thought aliens are going to invade the earth. It’s not a real fear so very few get hot & bothered over it. Whether it is global warming or child predator safeguards that are getting you to a state where you ‘can’t think straight you’re so angry’ perhaps reflection on the root of the fear will help.


Every group on Earth has part of their culture that they are the chosen of God. As a parent I can easily relate to the truth of this – I would have chosen each of my three children. This doesn’t mean that I have chosen any of them to receive all my wealth. (We do have clauses in all my family’s wills to leave the bulk of any money to a family member that is completely incapacitated, but fortunately that has never occurred.)

Quite often I hear people say that they are not giving up their x until everyone else does. Usually this is in relationship to China although sometimes it is about the size of their car compared to their neighbor’s. Reflecting on why things are important to you may help.

I personally need to keep asking myself why I think sweets are necessary to a happy childhood and if more sweets equate to more happiness. I am very partial to lack of sleep and more efficient stomach bacteria as a real cause of obesity but what if I’m wrong? What if I’m right? Just because I make my kids go to sleep 2 hours earlier every night than their friends and I hope an antibiotic-type-thing before holidays will allow copious sweets, should I? What about the effect on other parents trying to cut their kids back? Isn’t this important in raising my kids? But I really like sweets and I need to get to the bottom of this.

Maybe this season will help.


Fox on Steriods

Posted in Just A Thought at 11:29 am

Fox Viewers Agree – Just Like Anyone Brainwashed

Recently I’ve read a number of articles on the consistent alignment of Fox viewers in polls.

Basically the polls say that Fox viewers are more likely to support a conservative agenda than any other demographic group. This is backed up by at least one study shows that Fox is very effective at getting 3-8% of voters to switch to Republican candidates and at getting out the vote for previously non-voting conservatives. (Entry of a liberal news organization into a community has depressed voter turn-out at least once. I always thought the liberal agenda was confusing – & who can vote if you’re confused?.)

Several reasons are given :

    Fox’s goal to balance liberal coverage with a conservative slant and
    the lack of self-flagellation or acknowledgement when Fox pushes a story proven to be false

CNN had no trouble visiting Obama Barack’s elementary school and determining that it wasn’t a Muslim madrassah as claimed by Fox. Fox did not indulge in an orgy of self-investigation.

Fox Viewers Oblivious? I Don’t Think So.

I have a hard time buying that Fox viewers are so oblivious to their car radios, discussions at water coolers, school playgrounds and family gatherings, books and news magazines that they wouldn’t have a rational clue that that not everything that came out of a broadcaster’s mouth is 100% true.

I remember my first encounter with the difficulties of journalists getting things right. The write-up of my Jr. High School dance in the local paper bore no relation to the reality that I attended & there weren’t so many people that there that I wouildn’t have known if something was going on.

A teacher, the source for the story, felt her spin put the school in a better light. At the time I thought her spin had careened totally out of control and the journalist must have been smoking to accept her version.

If the story was so screwed up on an insignificant local item, how could people report completely accurately when high passions were involved?

My daughter is researching subliminal ads – ads that embed sexual images to increase the power of the ads. (While I haven’t read this particular book on the subject, it gives some online examples of what I am talking about.)

Fox Uses Subliminals?

Could Fox be embedding subliminals around their newscasters to give their message more oomph? Would another network be willing to try this to see if their stories become more convincing? (& then reveal the results?)

The original research in 1957 did not involve sex as the seller and was fairly rapidly discredited as either a real experiment or an effective result. There are lots of claims that it doesn’t work, but I can’t find a published study where someone tried to design the most effective use of subliminal advertising and then measures the effectiveness of them. (Of course, if these studies were done as part of a commercial effort to develop trade secrets they wouldn’t be published.)

Advertising is not supposed to contain subliminals in America or it could generate the loss of a broadcast license. Does this prohibition extend to news broadcasts?

Just A Thought.


NetFlicks Prize Contest – One Million Dollars Just Waiting

Posted in Just A Thought, Uncategorized at 11:48 am

My husband gets in moods where he would like to see me engaged in more gainful employment. Chauffeuring kids, answering client’s questions, chauffeuring kids, managing the house, chauffeuring kids, writing a blog do not count when he thinks about how fast we could pay off the mortgage if I would just take a consulting gig. This morning he came up with a plan.

I should win the one million dollar Netflix contest to develop a better way for Netflix to recommend movies. No problem. I look at the leader board & see that Netflix grossly underestimated the time it will take to get a solution 10% better than theirs. (Don’t they know that watching movies rots their brain?) Most of the leading contestants with websites are grad students looking for jobs, companies that already had a solution for their problem and decided for $1,000,000 they’d adapt it to Netflick’s problem, academics, and one altruist pushing Amnesty International. Double no problem. (I love my husband’s opinion of my abilities.)

I register, start downloading the large database and whip up an algorithm. (How hard is it to model talking with your friends over coffee, finding out who likes the same movies you do & what they think of movies you haven’t seen?) So my husband reviews my algorithm and immediately starts telling me I need to include a weighting factor for those viewers who don’t have the same ratings I do. Does he think I listen to my friends who liked Borat?

First issue. The database doesn’t have data to pick out who my friends are. OK. I’ll take a broader view of who my friends are. (Actually my friends are pretty diverse so I’d already done that, but seems awfully presumptuous of Netflicks to assume that I’d think the same as everyone else.)

Moving on, it’s not even in the form I want to check out if I like my friend’s taste. OK, I can fix that. Since I’m just a girl, my husband elbows me aside and starts loading the data I need into a database with the format I need. A quick speed check indicates it will take just under 2 weeks. I wonder if I still have the numbers of those nice boys with access to Crays that I dated after college?