Friday, December 28, 2018

Early Results for the Best Nonfiction Poll

It has been one month since this online poll has begun.  There have been 27 responses to the poll so far with a wide variety in the books receiving votes.  Of the 112 books listed, 69 received at least one vote.  The top vote receivers so far are listed below.

Title, Author (Year)
Votes (%)
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
11 (40.7%)
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)
7 (25.9%)
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)
5 (18.5%)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
5 (18.5%)
The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) by Anne Frank (1947)
4 (14.8%)
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1976)
4 (14.8%)
Relativity by Albert Einstein (1916)
4 (14.8%)
Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)
4 (14.8%)

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is the early leader with 40.7% of the vote followed by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring with 25.9%.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking are tied for third with 18.5% of the vote.  Four books are tied for fourth with 14.8% of the vote each.  

The voting is open ended with no final voting date.  Respondents can suggest new books with the other option.  I will post the results from time to time as new responses come in.  This is a living breathing poll.

One respondent suggested a poetry book by TS Eliot.  I believe that poetry is neither fiction or nonfiction.  If you disagree, you may register it in the comment section below.  I will take it under consideration.  I also created a poll on blog Facebook page on this subject. Make your voice heard!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Do you Hear What I Hear? Sounds like Passing the Buck

We hear songs all the time without really thinking about what their saying.  I never gave the song Baby it's Cold Outside a second thought until the recent controversy.  Recently I read a good critique of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Jade Saab called Be Useful or Die that argues that Rudolph became accepted after his nose became useful to Santa.

I've loved the song Do You Hear What I Hear.since I was a kid.  I always found it soothing in tense times.  The lyrics can be seen below.  It has four verses.  In the first two verses the night wind tells the little lamb about the star and then the little lamb tells the shepherd boy about a song high above the trees.  This sounds like how rumors get started.  Verses 3 and 4 can be seen below.

Said the Shepard boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

The Shepherd boy tells the king about the boy shivering in the cold and suggest they give him silver and gold.  Would silver and gold take away the boys chills by itself?  Couldn't the shepherd boy knit the boy a sweater?  He has plenty of access to wool.  It would itch like crazy though.  In Matthew's gospel the Wise Men or Magi only give the baby Jesus Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.  The Shepherd boy wants to one up the Wise Men.

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

This king sounds a lot nicer than Herod the Great, who, according to Matthew's gospel, ordered the deaths of all firstborn baby boys under the age of three in Bethlehem after the Wise Men left.  Christian fundamentalists may see this as biblical revisionism.  I seldom hear it sung in Catholic church.  Other Churches might use it.  The song never mentions Jesus by name.  

The song was written in 1962 by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker.  According to Wikipedia, it was written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Buon Natale a` tutti.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Best Nonfiction Poll Update

It has been 3 weeks since I posted my online poll for the best non-fiction books of all time.  I have received some good responses so far.  I have received several suggestions for books that I may have missed.  I have added most of these suggestions and the number of options has increased from 100 to 110.  

I rejected the suggestion of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand as it is a novel and the suggestion of The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Fredrick Engels as I have limited the list to one author per book.  He is already listed as an author of the Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx.  This is done to help ensure diversity of the list, not for political purposes.  I added books by Latin American (such as Eduardo Galeano) and African (Nelson Mandela) authors to improve geographic diversity.  I have added two women authors, Rosa Luxembourg and Jane Goodall, as another diversity enhancement to the list.  

The line between fiction and nonfiction can be a blurry one.  The two broad categories of books can feed off each other.  Sherlock Holmes novels helped revolutionize how crime fighting is done.  Sigmund Freud's ideas on the subconscious mind have influenced everyone from Sesame Street to Woody Allen.  Religious texts such as the Bible and the Quran are excluded because they are often a matter of faith rather than fact.  In my last post I promoted fiction authors that I know.  This time I will feature nonfiction authors that I know.

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I Figli della Madre Terra (The Children of Mother Earth)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

I Figli della Madre Terra (The Children of Mother Earth)

Buon Natale a tutti.  My cousin from Italy, Lorenzo Serpente (pictured below in the Clayfox  and Spider man shirt) has written a book called I Figli della Madre Terra or The Children of Mother Earth.  It is a science fiction/fantasy/coming of age story of a boy growing up in a prehistoric tribe.  In January there will be an English version of the story available on Amazon.  I have met several authors who have published books.  A few are listed below with links to their amazon pages.

Lorenzo ora (Lorenzo Now)
Merry Christmas to all.  Il Mio cugino d'Italia, Lorenzo Serpente (nella camicia "Clayfox" sotto) ha scritto un Libro I Figli della Madre Terra) una storia di un ragazzo alla prima della storia in un tribu`.  Si puo` comprare il Libro al Amazon.  Conosco molti auroti chi fanno libri.  Tre di quelle altri autori sono sotto in questo posto con un link al Amazon.

Lorenzo quando ho incontrato lui

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Greater Johnstown School District is Highest in PA in Poverty for Ages 5-17

Map of the Greater Johnstown School District (in Blue) with 42.3% Poverty Age 5-17
The new SAIPE (Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates)  are out for the year 2017.  It covers all states, counties, and school districts (for children age 5-17) in the US.  For the US the rate for children 5-17 was an estimated 17.1%.  For the state of Pennsylvania it was 15.7% for this age group. There were 500 school districts in Pennsylvania in 2017.   This post will focus on southern Cambria County (the whole county had 21% poverty for age 5-17).  

The Greater Johnstown School District (GJSD) had the highest poverty rate in the state (highlighted in blue in the map above) with 42.3% poverty for ages 5-17.  By contrast the neighboring districts of Westmont (which covered the municipalities of Upper Yoder, Westmont, Southmont, and Elim in the map) had a rate of 10.1%, Ferndale (in 4 green fragments in the southeast corner of the GJSD) had a rate of 23.8%, Richland (covering Richland and Geistown) had a rate of 11.2%) and Conemaugh Valley (covering East Conemaugh) had a rate of 21.3% which is almost exactly at the county rate.  The top ten school districts with the highest poverty percentages are presented in the table below.

Looking at past estimates for GJSD that I have written about in this blog, the poverty rates for ages 5-17 was 40.7% in 2013, 41.1% in 2014, 36.9% in 2015, 42.5% in 2016, and it was 42.32% in 2017.  There is some statistical uncertainty in these estimates, especially for districts with small populations such as Salisbury-Elk Lick SD with 473 children.  GJSD however is still a relatively large district population in this group so we can be reasonably confident in these numbers.  The population of GJSD is larger than the population for Johnstown city (19,643) because it includes surrounding municipalities.  

                  2017 Poverty Estimates for School districts                                                                        
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Program (SAIPE)                                                                                                            Release date:   December 2018
Estimated Total Population
Estimated Population 5-17
Estimated number of relevant children 5 to 17 years old in poverty who are related to the householder
% of Children 5-17 in Poverty
Greater Johnstown School District
Salisbury-Elk Lick School District
Clairton City School District
Aliquippa School District
Farrell Area School District
Harrisburg City School District
Sto-Rox School District
Duquesne City School District
Brownsville Area School District
Shenandoah Valley School District

I was going to write about how the Greater Johnstown, PA was the poorest in the state thinking that I would be the first but apparently I have been scooped.  Samuel Stebbins and Michael B. Sauter at have produced a list of the poorest towns in each state and Johnstown was it for Pennsylvania.  They state that the median annual income here is $24,075 below the state income of $54,895.  A search of the census bureau's statistical profile for Johnstown shows that the median income is $23,636 for 2017 for Johnstown and $ 56,951 for the state.  The authors did not state the source of their numbers but I assume that they used numbers from the census from some other recent year.  The 2017 numbers suggest an even larger income gap between Johnstown and the rest of the state now than the year Stebbins and Sauter used.
The GJSD has been going through upheaval over nepotism going on in the school board.  This does not mean that the upheaval is what is causing the problems in poverty in the district but it does mean that the focus must be on providing services the the poor students there.   
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