Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Wordage geographical edition

Today's wordage wonders where we are.  Certain words seem to be paired with certain locations, like a duck is associated with Peking or certain window blinds are associated with Venice; each sentence evokes a place this way, at least four times.  The place could be a country, state or city; also the name could not be the same for all the words, but the place is the same (like what we call German, the Russians call Nemetskii, the Italians call Tedeschi, and the Germans call Deutsch).  The key words are in italics. So, here we go.  Answers will appear later in comments.

1.   I went on campus and found a system; the key to the formula was in a poetic ode on an urn, which was full of yogurt.
2.  My host served me salad with dressing and for dessert, some charlotte.  Afterwords we amused ourselves by playing with dolls and roulette.
3.  I took my leave, and decided to go out for some fries.  Unfortunately, I managed to get my cuffs in the dip.
4.  I wanted to see a classic movie, since I was on holiday.  My tastes are pretty catholic, but I have to hold my nose to see anything by Polansky.
5.  "Oh miss, to cut my chard and cheese I need an army knife!"
6.  I can't dance a two-step while eating tea and toast; I need someone to hold 'em.
7.  What a delight! Steaming in a bath while drinking coffee and listening to a rondo!
8.  Enough of this inquisition!  It's worse than the flu!  I must fly--perhaps to Harlem...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Words Words words...

Well, that was the worst possible election night.  I couldn't eat for nausea, and am still feeling rough.  That was just from the national results.  I am now finding out about the local elections, and I feel worse.

Rural Oregon is an odd place.  There is practically no sense of public good, and no sense that we should have to pay for anything public, least of all if it benefits someone else [viz. the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff].   Natives may call it rugged independence, but the attitude is frankly immature, the result of a long dependence.

Going back to the late 1800's, there was a government effort to foster settlement in the area, which featured public domain land sold for cheap.  There was a plan to establish a railway, the Oregon & California, and the land-sale and railway begat fraud on a massive scale.  After literally decades of litigation and legislation on how to clean up after the fraud, a Federal fund was set up to compensate these counties.  So, for the better part of a century, the "O&C" counties have received a generous stipend from the Feds (wikipedia summary).

Worse, the main industry here is timber, an extractive industry just like coal or oil.  And just like any other extractive industry, it is not good for environment or responsible governance.  For decades, if more money has been needed, local governments could just encourage more logging and collect more royalties.

The combined result has been that these rugged independent counties lived large on Federal stipends and royalties from something that can only be harvested once.  And now, that's done.  The time-frame for the Federal payments to the O&C counties has expired, been extended once at a reduced rate, and is going to end soon.  A combination of competition from Canada, changing patterns of consumption, and ecological awareness means that counties can no longer print money by just harvesting more trees.  But, the residents of these counties are unused to paying taxes, and quite used to government services.  

So here we are.  The Wednesday Words--that's plural--is all the words, because we are talking about libraries and schools.  The funding mechanism for our county's libraries is at an end.  Finito.  Kaput.  Done.  There is no more money for libraries in Douglas County.  Our schools are not in great shape either.  So, some responsible people who believe in the public good proposed a very modest property tax district so we can have a library.  As they pointed out, there is no "Plan B."  Either tax, or no library as we know it.  The idea was put on the ballot for the spoiled children of Douglas County.

Were it not a serious issue, I would have been amused by the letters to the editor in the local newspaper.  Many simply said that libraries are unnecessary, since everyone has the internet.  Libraries, they said, benefit only a few, and they are not the ones that pay taxes.  One gem of a letter said, in essence, "I don't use the library, so nobody should."

Now, not everybody in Douglas County is a spoiled child, and the letters to the editor did reflect that; but, get ten of us together, and only four of us want public libraries.  The situation is much the same in the other O&C counties.  Opponents of the library measure argued strenuously that there was, in fact, a "Plan B," without specifying what it was.  Now that they'd won, plan B is apparently hope:
“I’m hoping that we can keep our libraries open. I’m hoping we can do that without taxing property. There needs to be another way out of this,” Gindlesperger said.
“My hope would be that we could get back into the woods and start getting receipts from our timber. I don’t know that that’s going to happen anytime soon, but that would be my preference,” he said.
And Daddy will buy me a pony.

As for the ballot measures designed to help public schools, I will give you the headline from the (Roseburg, OR) News-Review article.  Note that this is not an op-ed, this is a bit of reportage and so is literal and descriptive:  "EDUCATION NOT A PRIORITY IN DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS."

So, welcome to Trumpland, everybody!  Proud to be dumb, and trying to get dumber!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Worst Possible Outcome & Credo

America had a very simple moral test.  We failed.  Shame on all of us.

All three branches of govt will be in the hands of the lunatics.  Health care will be screwed.  Tax and budget policy will be screwed.  Social services will be screwed.  The judiciary will be perverted.    Kiss environmental protection and action on climate change goodbye, so maybe the planet is screwed.

I believe that there is such a thing as verifiable truth for many things.  I believe that research and science can actually produce useful answers to real-world questions.  I believe that there is such a thing as society and that something that does not directly benefit me can benefit me indirectly through societal good.  I believe that compassion for the "other" is a positive value.

It appears that too many of my countrymen do not believe those things.  This makes me sad.  I will continue to value truth, science, and society, and compassion, and I will hope that we can make it through these next for years and for G d's sake LEARN.

Tuesday Tool Second Tuesday in November Edition

The tool is the ballot.  Like any tool, use it responsibly, and think before using.

An ancillary to this tool is the yard sign or bumper sticker--a simple statement that can be affixed to property, branding it with the name of a politician whom it is hoped will be elected.  Since it only consists of a name and maybe a slogan, it's far more vague than a haiku.  "Make America Great Again"--there's a lot packed into that, and it can easily be interpreted in many ways that smell of rotted corpses.

(As a question of semiotics, perhaps this is more of an issue for the Wednesday Word; but, it is Election Day, so here it is.)

I am deeply perplexed by what to make of people who deface their property--their car, land, or body--with the name of Donald Trump.  The statement is vague.  Are they like the shop in town that has a big sign saying "WE ARE VOTING FOR THE SUPREME COURT NOT THE PRESIDENCY"?  Do they really think they are just voting for a set of so-called "conservative" values?  If that's the case, they are exactly like guys who said that they subscribed to Playboy ONLY for the articles.  Either they are more naive than a ten-minute-old lamb; or, they lie, and are pleasuring themselves with thoughts of discriminating against women, non-Christians, immigrants, homosexuals, and every other non-white non-male group.  

If it's the former, well, they will probably be educated soon enough in the school of hard knocks by a professor selling colloidal silver and chemtrail repellent.  If it's the latter, what do I do?

If I hire a contractor with a Trump/Pence sticker on his truck--do I assume that he would be OK with me stiffing him?  The guy with a "Make America Great Again" hat and a Vietnam Service Ribbon and POW bumper sticker on his car--do I assume that he wants me to mock him as a loser and a coward?  My neighbors with the big "TRUMP" sign by their driveway--do I assume that he would be A-OK with me assaulting his wife, and that she would be just fine with me saying disgusting things about her daughter and making sport of their disabled son?  Are they all good with me just lying to them constantly about every thing great and small? I know a lot of these people, and I'm pretty sure that these things would not go over well, but...that sign, that is like being invited into a friend's house and stumbling over something shameful that you wish they had hidden away.  Was the business model of Playboy ever not explicitly based on exploiting women?  Did anyone ever buy a copy of Playboy just for the articles?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

National nausea

I have been feeling worse and worse, lately.  I have been seeing more and more people willing to deface their cars and their property, and debase themselves, by identifying with a man who embodies fascism, ignorance, contempt for half of the people on the planet, and hatred for most of the people on the planet.  I know that a lot of these people are, at their core, decent, and probably don't think of themselves as endorsing mocking disabled people, being a deadbeat, and unthinking sexism and cruelty.  A lot of them consider themselves Christian, and who knows, maybe they feel the faintest of qualms about endorsing a guy who seems to make it a goal to violate every tenet of their religion's Savior.  But there they are, endorsing him, and to me, they are saying, "I approve of these actions."  In every election up to now, I've viewed voting for certain candidates as an expression of political sensibility; in this election, I find I'm viewing it as a statement of morals.

There's a feeling that you get right before you throw up.  You've been getting sicker, and sicker, and you surprise and disappoint yourself by getting even sicker.  Your head feels as if it's filled with a balloon of sulfide gas that has squeezed your brains out your ears.  You can't really hear anything but static and a distant screeching of fingernails on chalkboard, and your vision starts to narrow down and pale.  Your mouth is dryer than you can imagine, but you still taste something like dirty metal, and your skin gets clammy and cold.  But then, comes the realization that you will throw up.  Your body is making the decisions now, and it has decided that it has got to purge you of whatever you've ingested that is trying to kill you.  If you have any clarity of mind remaining, you are grateful because this is what needs to be done, and, as you run for the toilet, you realize that you'll probably feel better afterwords.  Not good; but better.

I feel as though that's where we are right now, as a country, a week out from this goddamned election.  It's time to start hurrying our steps towards the voting booth instead of the toilet and rid ourselves of the toxins poisoning our body politic.  The only thing that has me worried is the number of folks who are thinking that they would rather head back to the drinks table and have another hit of the Trump brand Vodka.

I do not look forward to the hangover.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Um, Wednesday words, take two

A couple of words that jumped out at me while listening to the radio's discussion of our current national insanity:

"Activist"--a noun that has been adjectived, always used to describe a judge whose opinions run contrary to your personal interpretation of the law on your pet issue.

"Special Interest"--any cause or party or category that is not yours.

Note that your favorite impartial jurist is someone else's activist, and that your personal favorite recipient of justified governmental beneficence is a special interest.

UPDATE 13 November...

"Objective reporting"--reporting that agrees with my editorial slant.

I was just reading my college alumni magazine.  The magazine reliably brings at least two articles worth deeply reading, which generally have some social significance; the following issues of the magazine just as reliably have at least a half-dozen letters about each article, and they will reliably represent a range of views from the farthest left to the hardest right.  The last issue had an article about the ethics of objectivity in election reporting.  The author boldly (and dubiously) argued that objectivity in political reporting should not be a goal.  This provoked strong responses from left and right, but the one that prompts this update is as follows, a representative gem from the angry right alumni of the 60's who provide much of the fill of the letters pages:

[...]it seems that responsible reporting must be editorialized.  That's probably because most of us Americans are too dumb to handle or interpret facts.
A decade or more ago I dumped Time, U.S. News and World Report and the New York Times after years of subscribing.  Now I just read the Economist.  Those silly folks report a lot of facts, and when they editorialize, they tell you.  Imagine how careless, lazy, and naive!

I snorted when I read this; I dropped my subscription to the Economist a few years ago because, while I appreciated their coverage of the world, the reportage--not the editorial writing--was shot through with a very conservative slant.  You could see this in the choice of language, choice of attention, and a general sense of tut-tutting whenever those uncivilized savages in India or Colombia did anything with the faintest odor of socialism.


Wednesday Wordage Peerless Edition

[Oooops...I repeated myself]

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesday Tool Bioassay Edition

This Tuesday's tool is the voltage tester.  It's a little doohickey with a probe that you stick in the ground, connected by a wire to a little box with a metal hook that you hang onto an electric fence.  If the fence is "hot", then the box lights up.  The stronger the voltage, the more lights.  You use this to see if your electric fence is working like it's supposed to.

You can also use a ram for the same purpose.  If he's scratching his head, flossing the gap between his horns with what is supposed to be the hot wire, then you can be pretty sure that your fence isn't working properly.