Tuesday, January 31, 2017

He Said What?

This is an interesting time to be a lover of language. All the discussion of fake news and alternative facts aside, following President Trump's style of communication offers a unique linguistic challenge. It's bad enough trying to follow his tortured syntax in English, but what about the problem the rest of the world has in trying to understand what the leader of the Free World is saying?*

As someone with many friends and relatives in Europe, many of whom speak no English or have limited facility with it as a second language, I can tell you that I spend a lot of time trying to explain just what I think it is that our president is saying. While Mr Trump's basic message is directed at the gut-level to his lower- to middle-class working American base, who understands what he means as opposed to what he says, his simplistic and convoluted language is not easy for the rest of the world to follow.

I call your attention to this very interesting article by Samantha Schmidt in the Washington Post: "'Make America Big Again’? The Headache of Translating Trump into Foreign Languages."

Start with Mr Trump's simple, direct campaign slogan: Make America Great Again. You and I both understand what he means by great ... but how would you translate great into another language? As Ms Schmidt points out in her article, it's usually translated as big or large, with the idea of a quality of political or social greatness as a secondary definition**. In English, it's the other way around.

And continuing on the theme of Make America Great Again, consider what we mean by America. There are two continents - North and South America - which between them contain 35 independent nations and a handful of dependent territories. The United States of America may be the largest and wealthiest, but it's still only one of 35 nations in "America." When we make America great again, do we take all the other ones along? Accurately translated, but far more cumbersome, the slogan should be Make the United States of America Great Again.

You can read more about this fascinating topic in Ms Schmidt's article, and you should. And you should also have some sympathy for those who have to convey the meaning of his twisted language to speakers of other languages.

Have a good day, and tell us about it clearly. More thoughts tomorrow.


* I first wrote about this in my post "The Trump Thesaurus" on January 12th.

** For example, in German, the adjective gross means big or large, but it can also mean great ... as in Friedrich der Grosse - Frederick the Great.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Things People Don't Say Any More

If you're my age or older, these expressions will be familiar. If not, well, you're missing something ...

"Heavens to murgatroyd!" (I remember my parents saying this occasionally, and wondering who the hell murgatroyd was. For the record, it's not Peta Murgatroyd)

"Heavens to Betsy!" (I use this one sometimes, too)

"Great Caesar's ghost!" (I actually use this one a lot when the grandchildren's tender ears are near)

"Don't touch that dial!" ("Don't finger that remote!" doesn't have the same ring to it)

"Carbon copy." (Who needs carbon paper when you can just send more copies to the printer?)

"You sound like a broken record!" (With long-playing albums making a comeback, maybe this expression will come back, too)

"Hung out to dry." (Homeowners' associations usually hate it when you put up a clothesline in your yard)

"Living the life of Riley." (The TV show "The Life of Riley" was also the source of another of my favorite expressions: "What a revoltin' development this is!")

"Nincompoop." (This is a wonderful noun derived from the Latin non compos mentis, meaning "not of sound mind." I think we need to bring it back for use in political reporting.)

"All the tea in China." ("All the artificial islands in China" is more current, but doesn't have the same ring to it)

"Knickers." (People generally don't wear knickers any more, but it lives on in the expression, don't get your knickers in a twist)

"It's your nickel!" (How long has it been since a phone call cost just a nickel? Or since you even saw a pay phone?)

and finally,

"See ya later, alligator!" answered by, "In a while, crocodile!"

I have deliberately left out some other things people don't say as much any more ... like "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." Sigh.

Have a good day. If you're in NoVa, drive carefully in this morning's snow. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Poetry Sunday

When you're trying to figure out why some people believe the bizarre things they do, you can simplify things using the system of Ron Koertge in this week's poem ...

Geography of the Forehead 
by Ron Koertge 

Everyone thinks the brain is so complicated,
but let’s look at the facts. The frontal lobe,
for example, is located in the front! And
the temporal lobe is where the clock is.
What could be simpler?

The hippocampal fissure is where big, dumb
thoughts camp, while at the Fissure of Rolando
dark-skinned men with one gold earring lie
around the fire and play guitars.

The superior frontal convolution is where
a lot of really nice houses are set back off
a twisty road, while the inferior frontal
convolution is a kind of trailer park, regularly
leveled by brainstorms.

The area of Broca is pretty much off limits.
And if you know Broca, you know why.

Speaking of Broca, at this time of general ignorance of science, you may want to read Carl Sagan's fascinating book Broca's Brain for further information.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

We are now one full week into the presidency of Donald Trump. Scared yet?

In his first full week in office, President Trump signed 12 Executive Orders on various topics, resulting in deafening silence from a GOP that thundered righteously about "executive overreach" when former President Obama did the same thing; President Enrique Peña-Nieto of Mexico cancelled a planned meeting with President Trump after Trump moved ahead with his direction to build a border wall that he would force Mexico to pay for; the entire senior management level of the State Department resigned on Wednesday* in "the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember;" President Trump signed an executive order barring entry to the United States to citizens of seven countries - Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, with more** likely to be added later, and stopped the admission of all refugees to the US for four months; and beloved actress Mary Tyler Moore passed away at age 80.

Our new president is all about putting everything American first ... and what could be more American than cowboys, our theme for this week ...

Some people just never get the idea ...

I suppose they buy them at Cowboy Costco ...

You need to have the right apparel for your necktie party ...

Who ya' gonna call? ...

Don't worry ... the GOP will get rid of all those bothersome, job-killingTM
safety regulations ...

I can see where that would be a threat ...

Dangerous crossings ...

Ah ... a classic ruse! ...

And two take-offs on the classic Western stereotype of "High Noon" ...

Cowboy dads can have trouble fitting in their gunfights ...

And with that, this week's Cartoon Saturday rides off into the sunset of a chilly, January-like day here in NoVa.

Have a good day and a great weekend, and come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* The official word is that the four individuals did not "quit," but were asked to leave by the new administration, which is "cleaning house" at the State Department.

** Probably including California.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2017

Yes, it's time to announce the second Ass Clown Award recipient for 2017. It was hard to make selections last year, largely as a result of the presidential election season, but I think it will be more difficult in 2017, largely as a result of the presidential election fallout. The available pool of potential dishonorees is, as the military might say, a target-rich environment.

And so Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, we announce

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2017

And the award goes to

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Mr Spicer, as the White House's primary press spokesman, seems to spend more time yelling at the members of the media for doing their jobs than responding to their questions. At his first press briefing on Saturday, January 21st, Mr Spicer berated the press corps - without evidence - for deliberately understating the size of the crowd that attended the inauguration of President Trump, calling them "shameful and wrong." His attack ignored photographic evidence and official ridership statistics from the DC Metro system that showed that both Obama inaugurations, the previous George W. Bush inauguration, and the January 21st Women's March all significantly outdrew the Trump inauguration.

It should be noted that Mr Spicer is in the difficult position of being the spokesman for a president whose relationship with the truth is - to say the least - tenuous. Nevertheless, to push out bogus claims that are so easy to discredit does not serve the interests of the White House or the nation at large. Of course, those who have drunk the Kool Aid of belief in a "dishonest media" and believe everything Mr Trump and his spokesman say, no matter how foolish or easily disproven, will not be swayed. It should also be noted that Mr Spicer more-or-less backed away from some of his larger whoppers at his Monday press briefing.

One of my friends has coined a neologism* that I think will be able to get lots of use in the future: "seanspicer (noun): a really big, shameless whopper told in brazen disregard for the fact that everyone in the room, including the speaker, knows it's a lie." It's a shame that we need such a word, but I think it deserves the widest possible use.

For his blatant disregard for the truth, and his shameless abuse of a position that provides a vital service to the media and the American people, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is named our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2017.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... at least there, the laughs are intentional. More thoughts then.


* Neologism (n): a new word, usage, or expression.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Who Is This "We" of Whom You Speak?

"We, the People of the United States*."

We all recognize the first seven words of the Preamble to the Constitution ... about the only parts of the Constitution many people recognize, other than the Second Amendment. The Framers of the Constitution were creating a bold experiment in representative democracy, and wanted to stress that the government they were designing was intended to serve The People. Their goal, on behalf of The People was to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence**, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Politicians of both parties have battled down the years over how to realize the promise of those stirring words, and it seems to me that their battles begin with differing conceptions of exactly who We, the People are.

First, let's take a grammatical look at we.

"We" is the first person plural pronoun, meant to indicate a group of individuals. It is also used by kings, emperors, and high religious officials in a form called the royal we. When using the royal we, a ruler who says that we will do something means that God and I or my court and I will do it. A more democratic version of the royal we is something The Grammar Girl has called the political we ... used in democracies and representative governments, it's more folksy and democratic than the royal we, and by using it, the ruler means you and I, pardner in this thing together. When the political we gets to be the ruler's default pronoun, it represents what The Grammar Girl has termed the grandiose narrator***.

Which brings me to President Trump's inaugural speech.

In this speech - a paragon of ominous, the-sky-is-falling oration - President Trump used the political we frequently to indicate what we will do; in summary: (1) "We will make America strong again;" (2) "We will make America wealthy again;" (3) "We will make America proud again;" (4) "We will make America safe again;" and (5) "We will make America great again."

Let's look at what Mr Trump has signed We, the People up for ...

He wants to make America strong again, but by any objective measure we have fielded the most powerful military force on earth. Combine that with our abundant natural resources and resilient (if battered) economy, and we are far more powerful than any other nation.

He wants to make America wealthy again, but to which we is he really speaking? He lives in a very small world of incredibly wealthy people who have little in common with 98% of Americans and are presumably comfortable with the legal, tax, and economic advantages that accrue to their social and economic position. Many of the actions Mr Trump might take to make the country wealthy again are likely to work against the interests of those at the top of the economic chain. Will he take them (and his own business interests) on? Which we will he serve?

He wants to make America proud again. I don't know about you, but I'm extraordinarily proud of this country, which I served for 43 years, 23 of them in uniform. I can tell you what doesn't make me proud - grandstanding gasbags who have never served their country at all, but talk a good game.

He wants to make America safe again, and here I can agree with him to a point ... crime is a definitely a problem. But safety is not simply a function of walls, a strong military, hermetically-sealed borders, powerful and empowered police, and a no-nonsense, throw-away-the-key judicial system. It's a also function of economic prosperity, good education, and a culture of civility and good citizenship. I'm still waiting for Mr Trump to explain how we are going to do those things ... and how he can set an example for civility and good citizenship that he belies every time he blatantly lies or fires off another insulting tweet.

Finally, grandly, he wants to make America great again. It's a catchy slogan that looks good on bright red baseball caps, but it's a slap in the face of all those who work hard every day in the service of an America that's already great. Mr Trump paints a picture of an America that's a dystopian hellhole ... but it's a dystopian hellhole that people desperately try to come to in search of a better life. Other countries build walls to keep their citizens in; Americans debate a wall to keep the rest of the world out. Nobody wants to come to a country that isn't great. How many thousands of people clamor to emigrate - legally or illegally - to Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? Bangladesh? Venezuela? North Korea? Yemen?

We, the People, live in a country that's a lot better than we appreciate, a lot better than we often give it credit for, and in many ways a lot better than we deserve based on our rhetoric and actions. Is it perfect? Obviously not. Can it be made better? Of course. We, the People, can do it - but we need competent leadership and vision, neither of which we have elected.

Bottom line: we is an inclusive pronoun, but We, the People of America are a broad assembly of individuals from all over the world, with different conceptions of how we relate to each other, our government, and other nations. Sometimes, the political we doesn't include all of We, the People.

And all sides need to realize it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we name the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January. Be here.


* This brings up an interesting political/linguistic issue: is "the United States" singular or plural? Is it more proper to say "the United States is" or "the United States are?" This is a topic for another post, but you can read a discussion of the question and how it relates to the lessons of the Civil War in Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson.

** Spelled the British English way in the original text.

*** I believe this appellation would apply to President Trump.

† I was stationed in the divided city of Berlin back in the early 1980s, and have direct personal experience of how an oppressive government uses walls and murder to keep its people in line.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Warning the Future

Back in the early days of this blog, on September 1st, 2007, I wrote a post titled Don't Dig Here!, which looked at the crucial problem of disposing of nuclear waste from a linguistic standpoint: because much of our nuclear waste will be deadly for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years, how can we communicate an understandable warning across such a span of time? What languages will they speak? Will the symbols that have meaning for us today mean the same thing in the year 20,000 CE? What if this symbol, which symbolizes death and terror to us in 2017 ...

... means nothing to our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-etc grandchildren? Or, worse, what if it then has a positive meaning?

How do we send a warning to people living thousands of years after you and I are dust?

Lots of people smarter than I have worried about this problem, too. Containment, a short film by Peter Gallison and Robb Moss, is utterly fascinating, not too long (about an hour and ten minutes), and well worth your time to watch and ponder. It can be streamed online at the link above until February 9th, and I encourage you to watch it before it goes away.

We have a new President and a new Secretary of Energy who are focused on present day business and economic concerns. Somebody needs to worry about warning the future ... communicating our deadly legacy to people we will never know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Spam Roundup

I've written several posts over the years about the sort of spam that fills up my in-box, and how it's changed over the years ... last time was in June of last year. Here are a few of the latest e-mails that have appeared in one or more of my accounts, with all capitalization and punctuation as in the original ...

"Free samples! You too can have sex longer than 5 minutes!" This one was from "Purple Rhino Trial"

"Genius Pill banned in 49 states!" I'm not sure it would have helped in the election, anyhow.

"BOOST your testosterone before you lose her!" Hell, if Agnes hasn't left me by now, "Vydox" won't be much of a game-changer.

"Effortlessly Clean Your Bathroom Without Chemicals." I'd rather just have someone else effortlessly clean my bathroom.

"Life Saving Flashlight." - I suppose the wonderful "X700 Tactical Flashlight" would come in handy when the Russians stop hacking our elections and take down the electrical grid.

"The World's Most Comfortable Anti-Snoring Product." The neighbors must be complaining again.

"Huge Savings for Toilet Paper with Free Coupons." Yes, I could use these, because Sean Spicer's White House press briefings are keeping me very regular.

"Exotic Russian Women are waiting for you Now." I guess they're setting their sights lower now that Mr Trump is being more cautious.

"I think ur fb pic is cute :)." This message was from "Kandy," who has online communications skills similar to those of our president.


"Get up to $15,000 Overnight!" This one came from "Zippy Loans." Can you spell "loan shark?"

Spam. What's really scary is that there are people out there who will respond to these. Oy.

Have a good day. Don't click on the links from those Russian women. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, January 23, 2017

National Handwriting Day

Today, January 23rd, is National Handwriting Day. It was established by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in 1977 to promote the consumption of pens, pencils and writing paper. January 23rd was chosen as the date for National Handwriting Day because it's also the birthday of the man with the most recognizable signature in America - John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence ...

Nowadays, handwriting is a dying art. Children are taught keyboarding skills rather than good penmanship, and it's a rare event to receive a handwritten letter. Those of you to whom I've handwritten personal letters will probably remember the pleasure of receiving an epistle that someone actually wrote by hand (if not necessarily the content thereof). A letter written by hand in ink on paper provides a degree of personal connection that a word-processed, laser-printed letter doesn't give, even if the content is the same. 

You've probably also received a lot of junk mail that looks like it's been addressed by hand, but was actually done with a handwriting font. The easy way to sort out those things (if the font initially fools you) is to check the postage - you can be about 99% sure that it was sent at the bulk postage rate.

If you want to make people think you've handwritten something, you can download many hundreds of fonts that mimic cursive handwriting* ... here's one site that offers them

And if you just want the practice, go ahead and celebrate National Handwriting Day by writing a letter to ol' Bilbo. Yes - you, too, Mike.

Have a good day. Write a letter to someone. If you want a personal, handwritten letter of your own, send me your snail mail address by e-mail and I'll send you one ... as long as you promise to write back.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* You can download the "Tiny Hands" font in honor of Donald Trump here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Musical Sunday

I featured this song in this space before (on July 18th of last year), but as we march cautiously into the Trump Era, it's worth bringing back ...

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to the first full day of the Trump administration. Be sure to uncross your fingers before they cramp.

A deadly avalanche triggered by a series of earthquakes buried a hotel in Italy, killing an unknown number of guests; a multi-story commercial building in Tehran collapsed following a fire, killing an unknown number of people and injuring more than 40; Irish pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt has been fined $100,000,000 after it raised the price of a life-saving medication used to treat infants from $40 to more than $34,000 a vial – an 85,000% increase - and prevented other firms from creating a competitive drug; President Obama ran into a storm of criticism after commuting the prison sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned after giving tens of thousands of highly-classified documents to Wikileaks; and both former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara have been hospitalized in Texas for acute respiratory problems.

Now that the new administration has taken control in Washington, we really need the cartoons. This week, a collection that relies on awful puns ...

I hope they have good dental insurance with tusks like those ...

You had to see this one coming ...

Why, yes ... yes, I am ...

Everybody's a critic ...

Every business has its own take on the restroom door signs ...

Sometimes a hitchhiker gets really lucky ...

I'm sure he'll look ... natural ...

I've had this one for a while, and finally have a chance to use it ...

It is only by the merest chance that this cartoon follows the previous one* ...

Good to the last relic ...

And that's it for the first Cartoon Saturday of the presidency of Donald John Trump. I'm looking ahead to the future with hope, but with a great deal of trepidation, which Mr Trump's inaugural speech did not help to ease. I hope he succeeds and I wish him well ... but I am gravely afraid for the next four years and what they show both of our new president and of We, The People.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Musical Sunday, when we'll revisit an old favorite that's still appropriate. More thoughts then.


* Extra points if you even know what a #2 pencil is.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Today is January 20th, and here in the United States it's Inauguration Day - the day on which we ceremonially transfer power and authority from the outgoing president to the incoming one. This year, the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration is likely to be overshadowed by raucous demonstrations both for and against Donald Trump's assumption of the office once held by the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. It's going to be a heck of a day.

Today is also the alternate Friday we dedicate to Great Moments in Editing and Signage, and I thought it might be appropriate to honor the incoming administration with a collection of editorial and signage wonders on a common theme ...

Yes, we're preparing for a magical invasion, as the GOP prepares to show us how they'll build a wall, fix the infrastructure, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, remove restrictions on silencers, and ensure religious freedom for those who practice the right religion ...

I'm not sure it would be considered an actual highlight, but ...

I missed out on this when I had my colonoscopy a few weeks ago ...

I think this counts as too much sharing ...

I'm curious to know how this would work ... but not curious enough to try it ...

You'd have thought they could have found a better picture ...

In whose opinion?

Nice to know ...

I think that if I tried to use this as a Valentine's gift, it could be ugly ...

Must have been a very close game ...

And there you have it - your Inauguration Day special edition of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. Don't thank me ... I think we all needed a gut check today, as we step gingerly into the new era of Trump.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts then.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

How On Earth Did I Miss This One?

Actually, I didn't miss it ... it just fell in a stretch of days for which I'd already had posts planned. But lest we fail to give it its proper due, last Sunday, January 15th, was National Hat Day.

Hats are one of our oldest forms of dress, and serve many uses: they provide protection against the sun in summer, keep the head warm in winter, cover bald spots*, designate a person's rank or social position, and serve ceremonial uses, such as the miter or biretta** worn by a clergyman.

Few men nowadays wear hats unless they're baseball caps with sports team logos or silly slogans on them***. Nevertheless, I predict that hats are about to make a major comeback with the coming of the new administration; here's a look at some of the stylish headgear you'll be seeing as the Trumpsters take charge ...

Get yours now. "Make America Great Again" engraving is optional.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for Great Moments in Editing and Signage. More thoughts then.


* Not that I would know anything about that.

** No, Second Amendment enthusiasts, not Beretta. A biretta is a hat worn by a Roman Catholic clergyman, whereas a Beretta is a handgun.

*** And who decided it was okay to wear them backwards, or crooked?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Putting Suppressors on the Wrong Noisemakers

As Congressional Republicans scramble to remake the country in their image, they are laser-focused on tackling some of the most critical issues facing the nation - like removing restrictions on the purchase of "silencers" (more accurately described as "suppressors") for firearms. Somehow, the uninfringed right to own suppressors was omitted from the Second Amendment during its writing, and the GOP is anxious to redress this awful historical blunder.

What the well-equipped shooter will be carrying in the future, should the act pass.

Fox News (among others) has reported that South Carolina Representative Jeff Duncan and Texas Representative John Carter, both Republicans, have introduced the "Hearing Protection Act." According to Duncan and Carter, this piece of vitally important legislation would help save the hearing of "millions" of Americans who dislike wearing hearing protection while shooting. The effort should fly through Congress, since the new Republican majority has extensive experience with the enabling of suppression. Of course, suppressing voting rights is a little different, but it's practical experience nonetheless.

Snark aside, I'm very glad that the GOP is so interested in public health. Perhaps this means they are also ready to make serious attempts to remedy the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act, bring down the price of prescription drugs, attack the Zika virus, deal with the problem of lead contamination in public water supplies, and come up with a viable plan for storing millions of tons of deadly nuclear waste.

And in any case, "Hearing Protection Act" does have a much better ring to it than, say, the "Enable Criminals to Fire Weapons without Attracting Police Attention Act."

Maybe it's just me, but I think we're putting the suppressors on the wrong noisemakers.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Hate Crimes"

One of the things I've always found interesting is that the Bible contains ten commandments (or "Ten Commandments," to put in the capitalization) which lay out the essential rules for righteous behavior. Since there are only ten of them, they can be printed on less than half of one side of a standard 8x10-inch page.

In contrast, Title 18 of the US Code of Laws ("Crimes and Criminal Procedure"), Part 1 ("Crimes") has 123 chapters which contain 2725 sections. And that's just the Federal level ... multiply that my many hundreds to account for state and local criminal laws.

So, if The Almighty only needed ten commandments, why do we need tens of thousands of laws? At what point did we decide that "Thou shalt not kill" needed to be nuanced into "Homicide," "Murder in the First/Second Degree," "Felony Murder," and "Voluntary/Involuntary Manslaughter?" Murder is the taking of a human life ... how much more do you need to parse it?

And to get to today's point, why do we need a new subset (or overlay) of laws that specify some already-defined crimes as "hate crimes?"

The FBI defines a hate crime this way on its website:

"A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Hate itself is not a crime."

It seems to me that any vicious crime - particularly murder and rape - is by definition a crime based on hatred, and that describing it as a hate crime doesn't necessarily make it any worse or more despicable. All it does is provide an avenue by which to generate statistics.

Let's tell it like it is. It's murder or rape or assault or arson or whatever. There's no need to call it a hate crime to prosecute it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, January 16, 2017


I recently learned an interesting new (well, new to me, anyway) word - gaslighting.

The word derives from a 1944 noir film called Gaslight, in which a husband tries to drive his young wife insane by manipulating her perception of reality. The title comes from one of his ploys, which involves raising or dimming the gas lights in their home while telling his wife that there's no change in the level of the light, causing her to question her senses.

Gaslighting has thus become a term used to describe attempts by unscrupulous individuals to sow confusion by making people question their objective reality - to doubt known facts or question their beliefs on the basis of information which is false or willfully distorted. It uses such tactics as fake news, selective quotes taken out of context, denial of evidence contrary to one's beliefs, and the credulous belief without proof in anything that agrees with one's preconceived notions.

Freida Ghitis summed it up in this thoughtful article: Donald Trump is "Gaslighting" All of Us.

Don't let yourself be gaslit for the next four years. Watch. Read. Think.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poetry Sunday

I turned 65 last year, and think often about where I've been and where I'm going. William Butler Yeats thought about it, too ...

When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Have a good day. Remember the good times, and plan to make the times to come good as well. Voting would be a good start.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Agnes and I are on the road, cheering our granddaughter Leya on as she competes in the divisional rock-climbing championships in New Jersey. Thus, the usual news summary won't appear this week ... but I'm sure you can find enough bad news on your own.

This week, for our last Cartoon Saturday before the inauguration of president-elect Trump*, I thought a selection of cartoons about fortune tellers might be appropriate as we cringe and wait for what's to come ...

Those annoying online ads are everywhere ...

Financial advisors and fortune tellers, the same caveats apply ...

True enough ...

That's probably how it really works ...

Fortunetellers can be annoying, no matter how famous they are ...

Well, events developed as foreseen ... 

Be sure to read the sign correctly ...

Yes, that would put a damper on her business ...

Must be embarrassing ...

Sometimes, the fortune isn't as good as it first appears ...

And there you have it - just in time to help you steady yourself for the inauguration. A few shots of good stuff from the bar won't hurt, either.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* I can't bring myself to say it out loud.