"We’re all wringing our hands over the NSA, and meanwhile we’re handing our data as fast as we can to other entities for next to nothing. If the NSA were smart, it would buy Candy Crush Saga, change the permissions, and be done with it."
— John Foreman, chief data scientist at MailChimp, writing in Gigaom.

The charity World Vision sent Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern to Sierra Leone as a celebrity ambassador. A reporter from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper accompanied her. The result is probably not what World Vision wanted.

Some highlowlights:

She says that she has never been to Africa, and does not know what to expect. As if to prove this point, when we refuel in Dakar, Senegal, she gets mixed up and says we have stopped in Darfur,”

I ask McGovern why, as a non-Christian, she chose to support World Vision rather than one of the many secular, apolitical charities, such as Unicef. Her answer is unexpected: she had no idea that it was a faith-based organisation. As it turned out, charity representatives failed to make their Christianity clear to her.

“I get the impression that in Africa people have sex far more freely than we do back home,” reflects McGovern. “You see certain cultures where there’s just endemic cruelty to women … And that clitoris thing is awful.”

In addition, World Vision has paid her band £28,000 to fund the recording of their latest album and a UK tour, in return for which they have agreed to promote the charity. Without this money, McGovern says, her band would “never survive”.

“We have to break in our new celebrities slowly,” confides Sarah Wilson, a World Vision representative who is chaperoning McGovern on the trip. “There will be lots of breaks so she doesn’t get overloaded.”

Basketball practice

Our #14 at her first basketball game.

Duck

Mathilde on Flickr.

What type of waste does the landfill accept?

Normal home-generated refuse, such as non-combustible trash, discarded furniture, old appliances, etc. yard trimmings, such as grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, limbs, or tree trunks etc. building materials, such as lumber, shingles, carpet, etc. commercial waste, such as rocks, stumps, concrete products, etc. A maximum of 10 passenger car tires from residents onlyand small dead pets.

3. 1 is an incredibly versatile number and a perennial top 10 on any serious list. Depending on context, 1 can mean someone is on top of the world, the absolute best at something, but it can also mean urine. And 1 is a great number for lazy, rhyming puns like “I won so I’m number 1.” Why isn’t 1 number 1 on list? Because despite all it has to offer, it’s still the loneliest number. Self-pity is unbecoming.

2. What’s not to love about the number 9? It’s the highest single number in the base 10 system (to get higher than 9, you have to combine a 1 and the 0). And it’s a homophone for the German word meaning no. In our increasingly interconnected world, can any other number boast that kind of cultural caché? Nein.

1. The story of 2’s return to the top spot is inspiring. Without musical giants like Marvin Gaye or Rob Base behind it, 2 has struggled in recent years. Further eroding 2’s standing is the culture’s growing acceptance of polyamory, which has caused 2 to steadily lose its iconic status as a signifier of stable, committed relationships.

So how did 2 push past 1 and 9 to grab the number 1 spot for 2013? The Internet, of course. The premium placed on brevity by participants in contemporary digital communication has given 2 a new life that has pushed it far beyond its numeric roots. Today 2 is not only a preposition, but also an adverb. It’s a development no one, with the possible exception of Prince, could have predicted.

 

 

Christmas with her new purple guitar

I took our three-year-old to see a local performance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer yesterday. I knew the song and it’s appalling lyrics (reindeer mistreat Rudolph b/c of his appearance, only to embrace him after Santa gives his blessing), but didn’t realize the plot of the play largely matched the song’s lyrics. In fact, the play is worse than the song because, in the play, Rudolph’s parents and Santa also mistreat him because of his appearance. Rudolph’s father only treats him well when he fears for Rudolph’s safety, and Santa embraces him only after determining that Rudolph alone has the necessary skills to “save” Christmas.

Because most of what is so vile about the story is rendered in dialogue I don’t think a three-year-old can follow, I think her impressionable mind made it through stain-free. Still, I like to talk to her about the meaning of the stories we read and see together. After the play, I told her I think it’s about how people can transcend their bigotry when it’s in their economic self-interest. She disagrees and insists the play’s theme is “Can I have a snow monster, Daddy?”

We’re both right.

Nick Lowe’s beautiful, new “I Was Born In Bethlehem” will be on my Christmas playlist forever.

(Source: Spotify)