Long Lion Dance at Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Houston

This was a Lion Dance over 20 minutes long that I captured at the Vietnamese Buddhist Centre in Houston, on January 22nd, 2012, just before midnight to usher in Chinese New Year.

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Lion Dance and Firecrackers at the Hong Kong Market in Houston for Chinese New Year

I was recently in Houston, Texas, to enjoy the Chinese New Year full on given the large Southeast Asian community there. This was a lion dance video I captured with my GoPro Cam while I was there on January 28th. While it was going on, they also lit a whole whack of “mouse” firecrackers, which were supposedly “quiet” relative to the real big stuff they use in Asia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t simulate it for you because even if you turned your stereo up full blast, it would not be as loud as these “mouse” firecrackers!

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Professional Baseball Fans Facebook Friends Tagging Challenge

I created these tagging challenges for major league baseball fans in North America, Japan and South Korea, or people who know lots of those fans. The tagging challenges can be done on Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal or other platforms where you can tag people on pictures.

The idea is to see how diverse is the group of baseball fans you know, and how does that compare to your fellow baseball loving friends. It’s no fun if everybody supported the team you supported, you know!

  • Pick a Facebook tagging meme of your choice based on the leagues below: American, National, combined Major Leagues, Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPBL) and Korean Baseball Organization (KBO).
  • Tag one person you know whose favourite team is represented by the team logo. It has to be that person’s favourite team as you can’t tag a person twice on the same photo.
  • How many teams can you tag? And how does this compare to your friends who might have done this same challenge?

Here’s how to get these graphics for your tagging fun:

  • Click on a picture below to get it at full size.
  • Right click on that picture and save to your computer.
  • Upload it to your profile.
  • Tag your friends!

Fancy yourself quite the social sports fan, or this isn’t your sport? Try the same Facebook tagging challenges for:

Please click here for a complete list of over 100 Facebook picture tagging memes on this site with which you can use for fun with your friends.



Why is it Cool to be Brown Only For a While at a Time?


This post deals with two topics. The first is regulating usage of tanning beds by minors due to some science-based suspicion of melanoma or skin cancer resulting from it, a real problem going on today. It sets up the second topic which is a philosophical question regarding racism against coloured people and the hypocrisy to look a little more like them to be elitist in a trendy sense.

Woman in Tanning Bed

Woman in Tanning Bed

According to Wikipedia, sun tanning started becoming a modern fad in the 1940s as women’s magazines encouraged sun bathing and the bikini was introduced in 1946. Since then, it has gathered steam and possibly peaked this year, at least in media and government attention. A total of 17 states, including “sunshine states” Florida and Hawaii, are currently considering laws controlling tanning bed usage by minors [Toronto Star, Mar 26 2009]. Furthermore,

Florida already requires parental approval before minors can use tanning salons. If the new law passes, it would be among the strictest in the nation. Only one state, Wisconsin, bans teens 16 and under from using tanning beds, though a handful of others – California, New York and New Jersey among them – ban the under-14 crowd. At least 29 states have some regulations governing tanning by minors.

Teens are flocking to these tanning beds, apparently. At least 25% of American teens 15-18 years old have used indoor tanning, and many of them might go anywhere from 1-3 times a week!

But, of course, there are stupid politicians, or should I say Republicans, who don’t know anything about regulations who oppose it using Republican “logic”. Florida Republican Senator Mike Bennett said “I gotta tell you, you cannot regulate everything in this world, I suppose we could say the same thing and outlaw tanning on the beach.”

Well, it’s not quite like that Mike. You see, on the beach, it’s not only natural sunlight, but Mother Nature has placed controls on how many suitable sunshiny days you get to sun tan. She regulates how many days in a row and our lifestyle would only permit us so much time during sunshine hours to tan. This is a man made problem, tanning salons, and it needs a man made solution. You don’t need to regulate beach tanning because Mother Nature has already done that for you. If you’re not going to do anything, at least say let evolution take care of itself and weed out the dumbsters who can’t even take advantage of sunshine in places like Florida and Hawaii but have to resort to tanning beds.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I forgot you Bible hugging, creationist dogma chugging Republicans don’t believe in evolution. But find a smarter reason than what you said so you don’t sound so stupid, eh?

But Mike, at least, wasn’t as stupid as Republican Texas State Representative Burt Solomons,  who said it made no sense to ban minors from tanning just like they’re prohibited from buying cigarettes because both are known carcinogens.

Sunshine as a carcinogen! There’s a good one for the anals of science if I’ve ever heard one! It’s a wonder Burt’s not a vampire… at least a literal one. It’s so sad that a wonderful ideal as democracy can be warped so much as to get idiots like these in political offices when evolution should be wiping them out!

So all that being that, I say ban the under-14 crowd and require Parental permission for the under-16 crowd. Make the under-14 get sunshine the natural way with Mother Nature’s regulations, and let the rest be subject to natural evolution that if they were stupid enough to over do their tanning, they can remove themselves from the gene pool for it.

Now, as for this tanning fad, I’ve never been able to understand it ever since I came to Canada as an 8 year old. As a child, things were simple and clear, or just sometimes come through that way, and my observations on the paradox of racism and tanning has never changed since. I saw racism towards coloured people, though was fortunate to experience very little of it. Yet, I kept seeing Caucasian people flaunt their tans that made them temporarily browner, genuinely by sunshine or artificially in a salon, as a status symbol! It confused me, and still befuddles me to this day. The only difference is that I now see that paradox as hypocrisy, regarding

Why is it cool to be brown only for a few weeks at a time?

Now, I live in Canada, where the hypocrisy is only generally seen from Caucasian demographics. In Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and many other countries, though, the coloured people even buy into it so much as to try and be whiter to push the hypocrisy from the coloured demographics. There is skin bleaching going on with creams and other means, to the extent it’s called a phenomenon [Jamaica.com, 2002]. There is also black women trying to marry white men in successive generations to improve the white stock of their skin, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his personal lineage story as part of his book, Outliers. They do these things despite the Caucasian people around them tanning in their glorious sunshine environment! Yes, so I ask again

Why is it cool to be brown only for a few weeks at a time?

Tell me if you can…

And tell me why white body builders feel like they need to all be brown as well.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 10.2

What is Your Blogging Grade Reading Level?

With each entry, I check its Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level to determine the grade level of education someone needs to get a good understanding of it from my writing style. If it’s above grade 12, I work it down to make it easier to read and improve my writing skills.

Before I get into the value of grade reading level, let me just say grade reading level is how easy something is to read, not necessarily understand. I could explain quantum mechanics to you using Dr Seuss’ language style, for example, and it would be easy to read since single syllabic words and short sentences with few subordinate clauses are used. However, trying to understand quantum mechanics taught to you that way? Good luck. Similar things can be said about a lot of poetry.


So why do I test my writing with Flesch-Kincaid?

It’s not because I think my readers are stupid. However, no matter at what level you read, if I can make it easier for you, I can make it more efficient and likely enjoyable for you. As well, I’m doing it to help myself by developing better communication skills.

My free thoughts are often unnecessarily big and convoluted, typical of a strong Myers-Briggs iNtuitive personality type that I am. I can focus to organize and truncate them, but it is not natural to me. Knowing from the start of each entry that my writing will be put through a readability test before posting has really helped me focus. In less than a month, I’ve gone from grade 16 first drafts (university degree level) to grade 10 so I don’t have to edit most drafts for readability. I haven’t chosen easier topics. I’m simply writing better! I’ve kept my words and sentences shorter, as well as employed some other plain language and effective writing techniques I will discuss in future posts. Writing at high school grades 10-12 level has almost become natural to me now!


But isn’t grade 10-12 reading level a little insulting to the readers?

Not if you knew the average adult in America reads at a grade 8-9 level!
(Check Q9 of Pfizer Quiz)
“Adult Literacy in America (NALS)” National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (NCES 1993-275), April 2002.

Or that one in seven adult Americans (32 million) have such low literacy skills they cannot adequately read and understand a newspaper story, anything more difficult than a children’s picture book or a medication’s side effects listed on a pill bottle.
(USA Today, Jan 9 2008; US Federal study)

Even at the level I am allowing myself to blog at, grades 10-12, the average American can’t functionally read what I’m saying! Is that any way to try to draw an audience?

Some may say blog readers are smarter than the average person, or at least have better reading skills. They may be forgiven for that. After all, blog readers are reading to start with so they not only need reading skills, they are improving them. Still, that’s disrespectful to push your readers’ limits when you can push yours the other way to be a little mindful and write simpler. Content is ultimately key to a blog’s success, but while I have seen lots of tips and articles on subject matter and organization and such, I’ve hardly found anything on grade reading level. In fact, I didn’t. I came up with the idea to check my writing’s grade reading level since I am not the greatest of writers. I only did the search after this post and added these references in having been surprised.

Now, I’m sure all my readers are brilliant, smile, but that’s no excuse for me to test them each time out. I want my readers to enjoy the experience of reading my writing and to understand it with as little effort and time as possible. The easiest way to do this, though not the most impacting way like subject matter and narrative style, is to reduce the grade reading level required to understand your blog entries. The simplest way to check may just be to use a Flesch-Kincaid grade reading level script.


Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Reading Level Tester

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Reading Level Tester

How do I get an entry’s Flesch-Kincaid grade reading level?

I use the University of Texas’ TxReadability website. I just copy all my post text and paste into a box at the link above, checking off the Text Only choice before clicking Analyze. Just for my blogging purposes alone, I’m going to use that site so much they should at least give me a link!

The TxReadability site also has a different option. It uses the Forcast Readability Formula to gauge the readability of an entire web page, accounting for words that do not belong in a sentence. Just provide the test with a website’s URL. Fun to test out with some of your favourite sites, that’s for sure! Here are some I either use a lot or have chosen to compare, from content present on the evening of Jan 6 2009.

Endless fun from scrutiny, no doubt! How’s about the NFL site being more challenging to read than CNN? Are American football fans that smart? 🙂


What grade level do you blog at?


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.0 (Cha-CHING!!!)