Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mark

Mark Twain was born today as Samuel Clemens in Florida, Mississippi Missouri, in 1835. Instead of a few shorter quotes as I usually do, today I'm offering you one of the great passages in American literature. It's from Huckleberry Finn (offensive word and all):
I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie — and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie — I found that out.

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter — and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking — thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell” — and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
And after you recover from the power of that "All right, then, I'll go to hell", enjoy some short Twain stories courtesy of The Atlantic

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8 Comments:

At 10:14 PM, December 01, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Florida, Missouri?

 
At 8:02 AM, December 02, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Yep. Florida, Missouri. That is (was) the name of the town.

Twain described his birthplace as a "nearly invisible village". Back in the day (1880) it reached its maximum size of 280. But the 2000 census showed only 9, and in 2010 it was 0. Nothing is left but the Mark Twain Birthplace Historic Site...

 
At 1:03 PM, December 02, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

Kathie wasn't questioning the name of the town; she was correcting the name of the state. Re-read the first sentence of your entry.

 
At 1:05 PM, December 02, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

And, by the way, there's a "Florida" in New York, too, near where I live. That leads to the (tired and tiresome) joke that one can drive to Florida from here in about half an hour.

 
At 7:47 PM, December 02, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Oh fer.... First I typed it, then I read right over it. Sheesh. And I just came back from vacation, too...

 
At 10:51 AM, December 04, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

ps - Barry, you can drive to Jamaica, too, right?

 
At 8:15 PM, December 04, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

Yes: Jamaica, Queens, is also about half an hour's drive. We also have Cairo (which they pronounce "KAY-row'), Athens, and Berlin, all near Albany.

I guess there're a limited number of place names, and they just get re-used.

 
At 8:47 AM, December 05, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Barry, not only is there also a Cairo ("KAY-row") at the southernmost tip of Illinois, where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi, but the region itself is called "Little Egypt" -- not to be confused with the old pop song from the late '50s, I think ("...wearin' nothing but a button and a bow-o-o-o-o / Singin' ying-ing-ing yang").

 

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Concerning

Okay, I don't want to fall victim to the Recency Illusion, but it certainly seems to me that use of the adjective (or present participle) "concerning" has risen pretty sharply of late.

It's a perfectly natural usage, but one that strikes me as uncommon enough to be weird, yet recently I've seen it in a lot of cop/legal things on the news, as in "It was concerning" that Hinckley "searched the Internet for photos of his female dentist" on ABC News just tonight.

My dictionary (MW Unabridged) says, by the way, that it's archaic (and the gerund is obsolete).

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At 8:17 PM, November 30, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Perhaps the revival of the archaism "concerning" is a product of media corporate lawyers who strive to cover their employers' derrières by advocating the use of less-judgmental words for what most folks are really thinking, like "troubling," "disturbing," etc.

 
At 10:48 AM, December 01, 2011 Anonymous Mark had this to say...

It sounds odd.

As an aside, my biggest problem with words like that is that they are judgemental. A reporter should not add editorial comments to a story. If it's a quote, that's fine, but I really don't care what the reporter feels about the story ("It was concerning ..." means "I was concerned ...") TV reporters/newsreaders are especially bad about it.

 
At 2:19 PM, December 01, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Well, in this case, they were quoting some DOJ official. I do agree with you, though.

 

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Happy Birthday, Lucy

Lucy Maud MontgomeryToday in 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery was born. Her most famous book, Anne of Green Gables, was written 102 years ago now. She wrote 19 others, all but one set on PEI. My favorite? Jane of Lantern Hill.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Louisa

Louisa May Alcott was born today in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832. She's best known, of course, for Little Women and similar books, but those aren't what she wanted to write. She had started out writing sensational stories about duels and suicides, opiumAlcott addiction, mind control, bigamy and murder. She called it "blood and thunder" literature, and she said, "I seem to have a natural ambition for the lurid style." She published under male pseudonyms to keep from embarrassing her family. But in 1867 - four years after her first book was published - an editor suggested that she try writing what he called "a girl's book," and, needing the money, she said she'd try. The result was Little Women, and it was a huge success. Such a success that she, with her whole family to support (her father was a Transcendentalist - a well-known one, in fact - and a social reformer, an educational reformer, and an abolitionist, and there's never money in that sort of thing!), felt obligated to keep writing books like it although she hated them.
Buy it at amazon
You know, I've read a couple of those "blood and thunder" books - they're not bad at all. It's a shame she didn't write more. But I do admit that when I was in junior high, I loved Eight Cousins... the sequel wasn't as good, though.

That editor was obviously the model for that horrible professor in Little Women ...

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Happy Birthday, Minnie

Minnie MinosoToday The Cuban Comet, Minnie Minoso (born Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta in Havana, Cuba), is 87 years old.

His major-league career spanned five decades (1940s-1980s) and he made a couple of brief appearances with the independent Northern League's St. Paul Saints in 1993 and 2003, which make him the only player to have played professionally in 7 different decades. He played for the Indians, White Sox, Cardinals, and Senators, and was the first black White Sox player. "Mr White Sox", another nickname he had, didn't play regularly until he was 28, but his career numbers are impressive: a .298 batting average, with 186 home runs, 1023 RBI, 1136 runs, 1963 hits, 336 doubles, 83 triples, 205 stolen bases, 814 walks and 192 hit by pitch. His career ended with a .389 on base percentage and a .459 slugging average, combined for a solid .848 OPS. He was a 7-time All-Star. For his excellence in left field, he received the Gold Glove Award three times. He led his league in triples and stolen bases three times each.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Aleksandr

Today is the birthday of Aleksandr Blok, or in Old Style 16 November.

A little poem from 1912

Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека,
Бессмысленный и тусклый свет.
Живи еще хоть четверть века -
Все будет так. Исхода нет.

Умрешь - начнешь опять сначала
И повторится все, как встарь:
Ночь, ледяная рябь канала,
Аптека, улица, фонарь.

Night, the street, the lamp, the drugstore,
The senseless and dreary light.
If you live on another quarter century
All will be the same. There's no escape.

You'll die - and then begin it all again
And you'll repeat it all, as of old:
The night, the icy ripples on the canal,
The drugstore, the street, the lamp.


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End Date When?

Your hold mail request has ended 11/29/2011 - The Hold Mail Service for November 21 - November 29, 2011 has ended. So we'll be resuming your regular mail delivery.
Just out of curiosity, what does "November 21 - November 29" mean to you? How about if it's a hold mail request?

To me, it means hold mail through Nov 29 and start again on Nov 30. To the Post Office, however, it seems to mean start mail on Nov 28.

I got four (so far!) identical emails from the USPS saying:
Your hold mail request has ended 11/29/2011

The Hold Mail Service for November 21 - November 29, 2011 has ended. So we'll be resuming your regular mail delivery.
Since I'm still out of town, that's a bit problematic. My tiny little USPS-provided apartment mailbox is often full after one day, let alone two.

Hopefully the phone call I placed to the carrier office will prevent my getting one of those obnoxious "box full!" notices requiring me to go someplace else to collect that mail...

But really. what part of
End Date:
11/29/2011

Additional instructions:
I WILL PICK UP THE MAIL ON WED NOV 30
means "start delivery on Nov 28"?

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At 10:25 AM, November 28, 2011 Anonymous Q. Pheevr had this to say...

Well, the message itself seems to be using the present perfect to talk about an event happening tomorrow: "Your hold mail request has ended 11/29/2011." So maybe it's either the tense or the timing of the notification that they got wrong, and not the actual end date of the hold?

 

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Week in Entertainment

Film: Puss in Boots, great fun. Antonio Banderas delivers Puss's lines with great effect ("The egg has betrayed me!", "I do not steal from churches", and "Do not joke with me about magic beans") and the look of the movie is gorgeous, (There was a bit much of the 'this'll-be-in-the-video-game' though.) The Descendants - wow. Clooney ought to get the Oscar® for this one. Another gorgeous movie, a look at disconnected people trying to connect in some hard times. And Tower Heist, with great work by Ben Stiller and Alan Alda in a very funny caper flick - with a blue-collar heist. Who could have figured that the 99% vs 1% thing would be all over the news when this one came out? "You're working stiffs. You can be replaced."

TV: Fire Over England - Lawrence Olivier didn't begin to look like a "boy", but Flora Robson really was spectacular as Elizabeth I. American Masters: Woody Allen was very interesting. I particularly was struck by his casting process (he doesn't like to meet the actors, he has nothing to say to them) and the look at the way he works. The Randy Quaid Frankenstein - interesting. The Little Rascals, a remake I'd never heard of but laughed at, a lot. Modern Family - hysterical. And a friend told me I should be watching Grimm so I found the first four episodes on On Demand. It's not bad - though, seriously, why don't people ever tell their younger relatives about the big quest/mysterious powers/danger until they're dying and can't get all the details out? And Leverage back at last! yay! And boy can Christian Kane play dangerous - Eliot sends chills through you sometimes.

Read: not a lot, really. About halfway through volume 2 of 1Q84.

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Egads

Egads. From this week's Parade Magazine:

Parade pic of Trebek listing Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Swahili as languages he can 'get by in'
Wow. I'm very surprised that he didn't list French.

And even more surprised that he did list Russian. Because, frankly, his Russian accent is dreadful. And he doesn't even know the basic G=V rule for genitives!

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At 4:28 PM, November 27, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

I'm amazed he didn't list French either, because his diction is fairly good. I'm just grateful he didn't try to claim Portuguese ;-)

(I suspect the answer was supplied to "Parade" by a publicist, although such an individual should've known to mention French).

 

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I now believe he still hasn't

The_Fellowship_of_the_Ring_Wallpaper
Viggo Mortensen had never read the books before he made The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have to assume he still hasn't. He's quoted in a story about not being in The Hobbit:
"I'm not in it unless there is some last-minute plan they have. But I thought I would have heard of it by now ... Aragorn is half elf and also lives a couple hundred years or more and he could be in a bridge, but I have to assume it isn't going to happen."
Look, there is a set of people who think Orlando Bloom was right when he asserted that Legolas was roughly the same age as Arwen. I'm not among them, but he's not alone. But nobody thinks Aragorn is "half elf". Tolkien was pretty clear on that.

I mean, in a sense it's no big deal. Mortensen did a fine job in the movies. But in another sense it's pretty disturbing that he could have such a huge misconception as to why Aragorn had such a long life.

(ps: Bad enough they're putting Galadriel in it, but you could imagine she might be visiting Thranduil's court or something... maybe. But Aragorn? Really? Glad to see they've decided not to.)

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At 10:14 PM, November 27, 2011 Blogger Brigid Daull Brockway had this to say...

They're probably putting in Galadriel for the same reason they made Arwen's role in the story so much bigger in the movie than it was in the books: to help break up the sausage fest.
I've always wondered why only a tiny handful of Tolkein's characters are women. Intentional? Does it say something about him, about his view of women's worth, or is that just the way it worked out? Know what I mean?
At any rate, I'm disappointed at Viggo's ignorance. Kind of reminds me of an interview I saw with Alecia Silverstone about Batman Forever in which she claimed to play "Albert's" niece. Instead of Alfred. That should have been a sign.

 

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Happy Birthday, Sprague

Heinlein, de Camp, Asimov Today in 1907, in New York City, L. Sprague de Camp was born. Alternate histories, time travel, ethnocentrism (attacking it, I hasten to add), linguistics ... de Camp was a giant. The Incomplete Enchanter is one of the funniest fantasy novels ever written. Lest Darkness Fall, "The Wheels of If", and "A Gun for Dinosaur", among others, set rigorous standards for time travel novels and short stories to come. Land of Unreason is brilliant. And we can't forget the "Viagens Interplanetarias" series, especially Rogue Queen. He also wrote non-fiction, including history and debunking... There were giants on the earth in those days, indeed. (pictured: l-r, Heinlein, de Camp, Asimove)

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Some birds

Some birds I got pictures of yesterday. First from the river and then up on the ridge. Muscovy ducka Muscovy duck

2 coots two of the many coots

coot and one rather heroically posing coot

2 feral geese three feral geese, varying colors from the graylag type (L) to pure white Embden type (R)

heron a great blue heron

titmouse above and below, a tufted titmouse

titmouse

carolina wren one of a pair of Carolina Wrens

downy woodpecker a tiny female Downy woodpecker

mockingbird and finally, a crazy mockingbird who's driving my father crazy by besieging his car. It walks all over and around it, pecking at the windows - doesn't seem to be attacking it, but rather trying to get in. The problem is that it's decorating the car with the purple remains of holly berries!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Check that sunrise tomorrow

The headline in the print edition was
As surely as the sun rises in the east, Kentucky loses to the Vols
Online, it's less wordy but just as certain:
Sun rises in East; Kentucky loses to Vols
In the story,
All streaks end at some point, right?

Wrong. The sun keeps rising in the East. A Georgia running backs gets suspended every fall. And Auburn and Alabama fans never wake up without thinking how much they hate each other.

So UT fans shouldn't assume the streak against Kentucky — 26 victories and counting — must end.
And this prediction:
UT 27, Kentucky 10: Despite the likelihood of medical advances, no one alive today will live long enough to see the Vols lose to Kentucky.
Well, half right. Final score: UT 7, Kentucky 10...

What goes before a fall? Oh, yeah. Pride.

All things must pass, sang George Harrison. This too...

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Presidents Cup

Somebody said something this morning which made me realize that, in all fairness, I needed to note that Tiger Woods didn't suck at the Presidents Cup. True, he only scored two points, but his play was fairly solid and he knocked in the winning birdie.

On the other hand, if I were a player I'd wonder about this quote from Freddie Couples:
"A lot of people have asked why I picked him and how he was going to play," Couples said. "Certainly I couldn't answer how he was going to play, but this week I think he showed to himself that his swing is back and he's healthy. And that's more important to me. Obviously, we want to win the cup. But it's more important for me to have people realize that he can play the game."
More important that Tiger do well than that the team win the cup? Really?

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and happy end of autumn (or spring) to the rest!


cornucopia

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At 8:20 AM, November 26, 2011 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

I'm a little late, oh my paws and whiskers I'm a little late, but belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

Most anniversary celebrations are bitter-sweet because rarely if ever was history clean and tidy. But a friend of the United States would have to be very po-faced not to wish you and your country happiness.

Happy late-Thanksgiving!

 
At 9:40 PM, November 26, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Indeed, many holidays are problematic, and this one perhaps more than some. But thanks for the good wishes!

 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I don't watch Fox

I get the Washington Times. I rarely quote from it, but I do get it, because reading only what you already believe isn't much help. But fox graphic citing non-existent article of the Constutionthe WaTimes, strident and obnoxious as I usually find it (last week they ran a series of columns about how evil the Girl Scouts are because they, unlike the Boy Scouts, are not overtly Christian and anti-gay. Seriously. That was the actual pitch.), is head and shoulders over Fox, which has long since ceased to be any kind of news organization whatsoever.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago Fox national correspondent Steve Centanni said Kagan's recusal from the health care case may be required by "Article 28 of the Constitution." And Fox's crack screen graphics department put up the actual quote from the "U.S. Constitution, Article 28, Sec. 144".

Just one problem.

There is no such Article in the Constitution.

This is actually a perfect example of why watching Fox News is simply bad for you. It's not an honest presentation of the conservative side of any argument. It is propaganda. It is lies.

Lies do not inform the public conversation. They derail it. They hijack it. They fill it with fear.

Fox is not news.

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4 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, November 24, 2011 Blogger fev had this to say...

Heh. Well done.

 
At 3:16 PM, November 24, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Does anyone know the reason this occurred? What had Fox INTENDED to post -- was this merely a typo that was should have cited some other part of the Constitution, or a law? Or a place-holder till the desired part of the Constitution could be located and inserted (except someone forgot to check before putting the item on-air)? Or was it arrogantly fraudulent "faux-journalism" run amok?

Or did someone misread the calendar and think it was April 1? Nah, didn't think so.

 
At 3:40 PM, November 24, 2011 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

It appears to be not from the Constitution but from the US Code.

 
At 9:13 PM, November 24, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Might it be this?

TITLE 28 > PART I > CHAPTER 5 > § 144:
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode28/usc_sec_28_00000144----000-.html

§ 144. Bias or prejudice of judge

Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.
The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be filed not less than ten days before the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in any case. It shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith.

 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Slight miss from Will Shortz

Okay, actually from Patrick Berry, but Shortz edited it. This is from the syndicated New York Times crossword today, the theme clues:
Starch: a cross between ________?
Pimple: a cross between ________?
Hisses: a cross between ________?
Beetles: a cross between ________?
The first three work very well (Starsky and Hutch, pure and simple, hugs and kisses), but the fourth one is less satisfying. The vowel in "beer (and skittles)" isn't the same one as in "beetles" even if it spelled the same.

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Zing!

A couple of nice ones from Fred Clark:
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association reassures his listeners that Elton John will never sing at his wedding. (Fischer is criticizing Rush Limbaugh for having the pop star sing at his most recent wedding. In keeping with Fischer’s notion of “traditional values,” he doesn’t complain that this was Limbaugh’s fourth wedding — only that the more successful radio demagogue hired a gay icon to sing.)

The beloved Norman Rockwell painting to the right — part of his “Four Freedoms” Rockwell Freedom of Worshipseries — is famously titled “Freedom to Worship.” According to the Liar Tony Perkins, that phrase “freedom of worship” was recently invented by the Obama administration as part of its ongoing persecution of real, true, heterosexual Christianity. We all knew that President Barack Obama loves Norman Rockwell. But until the Liar Tony Perkins told us about this, we hadn’t realized that Obama also had a time machine that enabled him to travel back to 1943 to conspire with Rockwell and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in their diabolical assault on Christian freedom.

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Whale Bones and Waitresses

Headline: Ancient Whale Bones Discovered in Desert, Parents Outraged by Hooters Waitress’s Visit to Special-Needs School
From the Yahoo! page, this puzzling set of headlines. I'm having a hard time understanding how ancient whale bones and outraged parents are the same story... And clicking through doesn't help, as the two stories are just as enjambed as their heds...

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Happy Birthday, Hrihoriy

Григорій Савич Сковорода - Hrihoriy Savych Skovoroda - was born today in Chornukhy, near Poltava, in the Hetamanate of Ukraine which at the time (1722) belonged to Russia. He spent the last thirty years of his life wandering Ukraine with a flute, teaching and philosophizing; he wasn't published till after he died. His epitaph - which he composed - reads: Світ ловив мене, але не піймав (The world tried to catch me, but did not succeed / Svit lovyv mene, ale ne pijmav).

On a linguistic note, this epitaph is interesting as it contains an aspectual pair of verbs which come from different roots, a rare but not unheard of situation. The verbs - ловити and піймати (lovyty, pijmaty) - mean "to catch" but the imperfective means "to be trying to catch" (success not implied); "ловити рибу (lovyty rybu)" is thus "to go fishing". Hence, the compact "ловив мене" becomes "tried to catch me", and "не піймав" is "did not catch".


(Find some Skovoroda in Ukrainian here.)

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Monday, November 21, 2011

On Vacation

Posting will be irregular (hah, like it's regular now)

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Happy Birthday, Voltaire

Voltaire
Born today in Paris in 1694 was a man who helped spark the Enlightenment in France: Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire. He spent most of his life in exile, and his writings built up support in Europe for what we now think of as basic human rights.
It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.

Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Week in Entertainment

Live: The Rake's Progress - a student production by the Peabody company. Very nice, very good production. Kisma Jordan, the soprano, has a great career ahead of her if this is any indication. She filled the house with a lovely, full voice, something that Peter Scott Drackley, the tenor, couldn't always manage. He's not at all bad, but he's not up to her weight. Unfortunately for him, he's also overshadowed by a very theatrical Peter Tomaszewski, who brings a nice acting talent as well as a good voice to the rewarding role of Nick Shadow (the devil always gets great applause). Lots of fun.

DVD: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Carries Off the Bride), and Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow Might Never Come), all very good (as I said earlier, I'm on a Shahrukh Khan kick...). Kal Ho... is a real tearjerker, and Kuch is a blast, though the college scenes are just a bit over the top in places. Dilwale is just about perfect.

TV: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2 - wrapping up the series neatly enough. Like part 1, it was dark, and I don't mean thematically. There were some scenes in which it was nearly impossible to see what was happening. The Middle and Modern Family - the latter quite funny (as always), particularly when Phil worried about changing careers, pointing out that he has three kids and "at least one is going to college. Worst case scenario, they all go" and when Alex told Hayley "You have your fans and I have mine. Someday yours will be working for mine." "The Song of Lunch" on Masterpiece Contemporary, with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, which should be enough right there but didn't have to be, a gorgeous script and lovely direction.

Read: Continued with 1Q84.

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At 11:56 AM, November 21, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Didn't you catch the segment on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday re "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions winner Roger Craig, who used computer analysis to help plot his winning strategy?

Summary:
http://www.npr.org/2011/11/20/142569472/how-one-man-played-moneyball-with-jeopardy

Transcript:
http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=142569472

 
At 8:48 AM, November 22, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I did. He even mentioned it during the game; Alex talked about Watson. I basically said so what. That database of every round ever played is out there and I'm surprised more people don't look at it. Plus it's always been obvious that the Double is anything but random - the good players are always hunting it.

Bottom line is, that "destroyed the game" comment was way overreacting. There have always been players who built up such a huge lead they couldn't be caught. Plus, his strategy doesn't give him answers, or protect him against a player with a faster buzzer. And he may have won the most money in a single day, but he only lasted five games.

Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter he ain't.

 

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No Deal

Paul Krugman's latest column explains why no deal is a Good Thing:
But don’t we eventually have to match spending and revenue? Yes, we do. But the decision about how to do that isn’t about accounting. It’s about fundamental values — and it’s a decision that should be made by voters, not by some committee that allegedly transcends the partisan divide.

Eventually, one side or the other of that divide will get the kind of popular mandate it needs to resolve our long-run budget issues. Until then, attempts to strike a Grand Bargain are fundamentally destructive. If the supercommittee fails, as expected, it will be time to celebrate.
And his best point? (Though the dig at "centrist" pundits is good, too.)(emphasis mine):
So the supercommittee brought together legislators who disagree completely both about how the world works and about the proper role of government. Why did anyone think this would work?

Well, maybe the idea was that the parties would compromise out of fear that there would be a political price for seeming intransigent. But this could only happen if the news media were willing to point out who is really refusing to compromise. And they aren’t. If and when the supercommittee fails, virtually all news reports will be he-said, she-said, quoting Democrats who blame Republicans and vice versa without ever explaining the truth.

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Happy Birthday, Dick

Tom and Dick SmothersBorn today in 1939 in New York, New York, Dick Smothers. He was actually the younger of them, though as a kid I always thought he was the older. Mom loved him best, and so did I... I'm old enough to remember them on television (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) - that's Tom with the guitar, and Dick with the bass... Here's a bit from a long interview with Ken Paulson on "Speaking Freely":
And Dick was doing an introduction. I came out in a bunny suit with just my face showing with these big ears and a pink bunny suit. He says, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm protesting our policies in Central America." "So, wearing a bunny suit doesn't make any sense." I said, "Neither does our policy in Central America." "Well, that looks stupid." "So does our policy!" "Well, get out of that bunny suit!" "We ought to get out of Central America!" Big laughs, very funny. And that was at dress rehearsal. The guy says, "Well, now, you've got to say at the end there, 'But it's up to our elected officials to get us out of this.'" (Laughter) So I said, "OK." Then that was even funnier, like they're gonna do that.
And here's another interview, with David Bianculli who wrote "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers".

Tommy gets most of the press - and the laughs. But it wouldn't have worked with the patient straight man. So thanks, Dick - for the songs, the jokes, and the passion.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

An amusing mistranslation

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai DVD
I'm watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens (why, yes, I am on a bit of a Shahrukh Khan kick at the moment), and his mother is lecturing her students about the importance of prayer. The subtitles read:
That's why I say God is one, but in different forms. No matter in which form he may be, our prayers are definitely reaching him. So, it's very important to maintain this bondage with God.
I expect she really said "bond", but it made me laugh.

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At 5:59 PM, November 19, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Hmmm, paging Dr. Freud... Mom's slip is clearly showing!

 

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Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Adam Green from Bold Progressives sends me a lot of email. I got this one yesterday, with the subject "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?":
We recently achieved a big victory for Wall Street accountability.

Over 100,000 of us took action with friends across the progressive community, and we killed a proposed 50-state deal that would give criminal and civil immunity to Wall Street banks.

But now, top Justice Department officials are trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They have been pushing hard to bring the Wall Street immunity deal back from the dead.
Adam has missed the meaning of the figure of speech. DoJ is not trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Quite the opposite: they're trying to turn Bold Progressives' victory into a defeat, but that's not the same thing.

"Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" is a play on the more straightforward "snatching victory from the jaws of defeat". But in both cases the one doing the snatching is the one that ends up with the thing snatched - as, if you thing about it, only makes sense. The "snatching defeat" line is generally, in my experience, used in sports, when a team with a seemingly secure lead manages to blow the game through its own bad execution of poorly chosen plays.

DoJ are trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Purple Bus .... AAAAAARRRGGHHHH

I'm certainly glad I don't have to deal with the Howard Transit Purple Line every day. It's frustrating enough once a month. It makes Connect-a-Ride look professional.

Back in the summer, when I was working for three weeks in the other office, I took the Purple Bus to the Savage MARC station every day, to and from. And more than half of those days the bus simply skipped that stop in the afternoon, southbound. I'd call, they'd say they weren't supposed to go there in the afternoons, I'd say they were .. and then call a cab. $7 extra bucks. (And by the way, I wasn't the only person left standing and swearing, either.)

I'd call the Central Maryland Regional Transit office and complain. They'd swear they were talking to the drivers. Once they sent a guy in a van to take me home. Finally we got the problem sorted: There are two MARC stations on the Purple line's route, Dorsey Road and Savage. And indeed, Dorsey Road is only serviced in the mornings.

So that finally got sorted and the bus made the afternoon stops.

But. Chronic lateness remains a problem. I had to take it twice two weeks ago, and once it was too late for the connection to the J - Purple is supposed to be at the Mall at 5:55, J leaves at 6.

But tonight absolutely took the cake. It's supposed to be at Savage at 5:32. Shows up at 5:44. First thing he says is I can't use the CAR farecard, which I've been doing since July, but fine. I paid cash and will go online and order some HT ones just for these occasions. Then he heads north.

North.

In other words, he's NOT the southbound bus 12 minutes late, he's the northbound bus that should have been there at 5:18. Almost half an hour late. And who the hell knows where the southbound bus is...

Well, I have no intention of getting off at the next stop, which is on Guilford Road the other side of the Patuxent Parkway, and walking back down Dorsey Run Road in the dark and freezing cold. So I ride him all the way to Elkridge and back, and of course he's too late to connect with the 7:00 J, though only by 15 minutes, he did make up time. So I still had to get a cab.

In comparison, the Metro Bus is flawless.

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Noun-noun modification rife with ambiguity

So I pulled up the local news site on my phone to check the weather and I see this headline
PA Governor defends PSU actions
Which ones? was my immediate reaction. The only one I can think of that's remotely defensible is firing Paterno.

Ah. He's actually defending his own actions concerning the PSU scandal.

That's the problem with noun-noun modification. There's simply no way to tell what the relationship is between them. Most of the time context sorts that out for us very nicely, but not always. "PSU actions" are clearly some sort of actions, but we only know that there is some sort of relationship with PSU.

At any rate, I expect the governor actually will have more than a few questions to answer...

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Superrich; supervillain

In a frustrating and enraging column - or, rather, a column born of frustration and rage and one which will enrage you, if you're anything like me - Robert Scheer calls Bloomberg "the villain OWS has been waiting for":
... in America is the arrogance of the superrich so perfectly concealed by the pretense of democracy that the 12th richest man in the nation can suppress dissent against corporate rapacity and expect his brutal actions to be viewed not as a means of preserving his own class privilege but as bureaucratically necessary to providing sanitary streets.

Even before he ordered the smashing of dissent by citizens peacefully assembled, Bloomberg denigrated their heartfelt message: “It’s fun and it’s cathartic,” he said of those huddled against the cold in a makeshift encampment, “... it’s entertaining to go and blame people. ... It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp.”

It is mind-boggling that Bloomberg still hypes the canard that the banks were forced to reap enormous profits from toxic securities. It is an embarrassing, dishonest position when the record of banker fraud in creating the housing bubble is so well documented in Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuits. Is Bloomberg unaware that the major banks have agreed to pay hefty fines in a meager compensation for their schemes? That he blames the victims of the securitization swindles and then orders the arrest of those who dare speak the truth is a tribute to his belief in the enduring power of the big lie.

If the Bloomberg news service, the stock market idolizer owned by the mayor, had been anything more than an enabler this past decade of Wall Street excess, nay criminality, it’s possible we would not be experiencing the current crisis. If this leading financial news outlet had performed the minimum of journalistic due diligence on unregulated credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and the other swindles marketed with an abandon informed by deep deceit and the financial industry’s pervasive corruption, the world economy may not now be in such terrible shape.

Yet the man whose personal wealth increased by $4.5 billion the first year of this meltdown when many Americans were losing their life savings now dares shift blame away from himself and others at the center of economic power to the most vulnerable among us. Instead of blaming the Wall Street lobbyists who got the laws changed so that they could securitize people’s home mortgages, no matter how unsound those mortgages were by design, he blames the folks suckered into accepting the banks’ phony offerings.
Go over to Truthdig and read the whole column. Look at the pictures, and listen to Bloomberg's lies - Paul Krugman, among others, has been documenting them - and wonder how our country got to this point...

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At 11:11 AM, November 17, 2011 Blogger incunabular had this to say...

I liked Matt Taibbi's recap of why Bloomberg's Fanny/Freddie/Barney Frank assertion was BS. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/mike-bloombergs-marie-antoinette-moment-20111103

 
At 12:56 PM, November 17, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Yes, and his followup, with this beauty:

A lot of people had to make bad decisions for the crisis to happen. People had to buy houses they couldn't afford. Ratings agencies had to give AAA ratings to junk securities. Regulators had to be asleep at the wheel. The GSEs had to lower their standards and provide billions of dollars of government-backed financing for dicey home loans. Nobody is denying that all of those things played roles in the crisis.

But the main driving factor was the simple fact that banks were able to make trillions of dollars selling defective products. You take away that simple market-driven reality, there's no bubble and no crash, no matter what people like Michael Bloomberg say. No one is insisting that they take the whole rap -- but don't insult us by trying to say they shouldn't take any at all.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/one-last-note-on-michael-bloomberg-20111105#ixzz1dzEH2l3n

 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, José

José Saramago, (that's a Portuguese name, not Spanish, so it's [ʒuˈzɛ sɐɾɐˈmaɣu] zho-ZEH sah-rah-MAH-goo) was born today in 1922, to family of landless peasants in the village of Anzihaga, Portugal. His books have been translated into at least 25 languages, and he's a Nobel laureate. His style is idiosyncratic, his themes humanity, individuality, commonality... I find him either brilliant or incomprehensible; some of his books I love and some I can't get past the first chapters...

He spent much of his life, and died - just last year, in June -, on Lanzarote (one of the Spanish Canary Islands), because Portugal's conservative government would not allow Saramago's novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ to compete for the European Literary Prize, arguing that it offended the Catholic community.

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At 9:41 AM, November 16, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Wikipedia reports that "O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo" was published back in 1991, which makes me wonder if the Portuguese government of today might have been more tolerant of it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gospel_According_to_Jesus_Christ
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Saramago

It's true that Saramago left Portugal for Spain in a snit over his government's refusal to nominate that book for a prize. BTW, a few unreligious Socialist Portuguese friends told me that in his later years Saramago, whose second wife was Spanish, advocated the unification of Spain and Portugal (with Spain obviously predominating, due to its vaster population). Needless to say, this endeared Saramago even less to the Portuguese people (even leftist ones), who already found him to be a querulous sort.

 
At 3:08 PM, November 17, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I probably should have pointed out how long ago that was. I doubt Portugal would be so uptight today.

And I did notice a (ahem) certain amount of "We're all Iberians" in The Stone Raft... after all, its premise is the Iberian peninsula, less Gibraltar, suddenly separating from Europe and heading off into the Atlantic, with one course change to avoid crashing into the Canaries...

 

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An argument for Perry?

Paul Krugman's most recent column takes on Romney's desire to privatize the VHA (the second paragraph here is really the money quote):
So what lies behind the Republican obsession with privatization and voucherization? Ideology, of course. It’s literally a fundamental article of faith in the G.O.P. that the private sector is always better than the government, and no amount of evidence can shake that credo.

In fact, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don’t bother them much — Mr. Romney has pledged to reverse President Obama’s defense cuts, despite the fact that no such cuts have actually taken place. But successful programs like veterans’ health, Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs.

Which brings me to a final thought: maybe all this amounts to a case for Rick Perry. Any Republican would, if elected president, set out to undermine precisely those government programs that work best. But Mr. Perry might not remember which programs he was supposed to destroy.

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Startling

So, the Tournament of Champions wound up with this Final Jeopardy question, 19th Century Poets:
He wrote "He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
And so he had to die."
I was shaking my head throughout the thirty seconds, thinking this is the Final Jeopardy question for the champions? This?

And then the answers came.

Shelley.

Coleridge.

And the dominating champ says ... Shelley.

Wow.

I memorized that poem in ninth grade. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", by Oscar Wilde.

It's weird, actually. When they know something I don't, I wonder how they know all that stuff. When I know something they don't, it startles me. I guess I don't think of what I know as "all that stuff", even though I've been known to joke that my head is stuffed with useless facts...

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At 9:26 AM, November 16, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Uh-oh (again), neither of us knew this either. But at least we're in pretty good company, what with all three "Jeopardy!" TOC finalists to validate our ignorance ;-)

 
At 8:13 PM, November 16, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

OTOH, I got tonight's "Final Jeopardy" correct before I even finished reading the entire clue, which helped restore my self-esteem a tad after the previous episode's humiliation at first Alex's, then your, hands :-)

 

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"That's not something we do"

President Obama was pretty blunt yesterday in Honolulu.
"They're wrong. Waterboarding is torture," Obama said. "Anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that's not something we do -- period."
Good to know.

But what's the plan on, you know, actually punishing those who did and/ordered torture? Even just censuring or firing them? Ah, right. Not productive. Dwelling on the past. Looking back not forward.

Water, so to speak, under the bridge.

Move along, nothing to see here. Nothing new at all...

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Happy Birthday, Marianne

Today is the birthday of Marianne Moore. She was born near St. Louis, Missouri, in 1887, and won many awards for her writing, including a Pulitzer.

Baseball and Writing
Suggested by post-game broadcasts

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
    You can never tell with either
          how it will go
          or what you will do;
    generating excitement--
    a fever in the victim--
    pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
  Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
  To whom does it apply?
  Who is excited? Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel--
a catcher's, as, with cruel
    puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
          back to plate. (His spring
          de-winged a bat swing.)
    They have that killer instinct;
    yet Elston--whose catching
    arm has hurt them all with the bat--
  when questioned, says, unenviously,
    "I'm very satisfied. We won."
  Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
  robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
    the massive run need not be everything.
          "Going, going . . . " Is
          it? Roger Maris
    has it, running fast. You will
    never see a finer catch. Well . . .
    "Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why
  gild it, although deer sounds better--
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
  one-handing the souvenir-to-be
  meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
    He is no feather. "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
          Fouled back. A blur.
          It's gone. You would infer
    that the bat had eyes.
    He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
    I think I helped a little bit."
  All business, each, and modesty.
       Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
  In that galaxy of nine, say which
  won the pennant? Each. It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos--
    like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
          diagnosis
          with pick-off psychosis.
    Pitching is a large subject.
    Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
    catch your corners--even trouble
  Mickey Mantle. ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
  With some pedagogy,
  you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying
indeed! The secret implying:
    "I can stand here, bat held steady."
          One may suit him;
          none has hit him.
    Imponderables smite him.
    Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
    require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it!
  Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
  brewer's yeast (high-potency--
  concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez--
deadly in a pinch. And "Yes,
    it's work; I want you to bear down,
          but enjoy it
          while you're doing it."
    Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
    if you have a rummage sale,
    don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
  Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
  O flashing Orion,
  your stars are muscled like the lion.

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Happy Birthday, William

Frederick William Herschel, born Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel, was born today in 1738. Herschel is most famous for the discovery of Uranus in addition to two of its major moons, Titania and Oberon. He also discovered two moons of Saturn - Enceladus and Mimas, shown below (they're tiny! yet large enough to be rounded by self-gravity), Enceladus against the clouds and Mimas below the rings. Mimas, by the way, is the "Death Star moon", its huge Herschel crater prominent in the photo at the bottom.

Saturn with Mimas and Enceladus

Mimas and Herschel crater

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Actual Facts? Please

Bill O'Reilly's new book on the Lincoln Assassination has too many errors for the National Park Service to sell it in the museum at Ford's Theater. (You can buy it in the gift shop, of course; NPS gift shops aren't all that rigorous, as the creationist books at the Grand Canyon prove.) But this cracks me up:
For all his criticisms, [historian Edward Steers Jr] praises the narrative as a “pleasant read.” He seems more disappointed than indignant over its failings. “Had the authors done their homework and made use of the available sources of primary documents, they would have written a book much closer to actual facts. They missed a golden opportunity.”
What makes him think O'Reilly is interested in "actual facts"?

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At 7:27 PM, November 14, 2011 Blogger Brigid Daull Brockway had this to say...

Bill O'Reilly is insane... what terrifies me are all the people who actually listen to a word he says.

 

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Happy Birthday, Claude

parliament sun breaking through fog parliament in fog

Today in 1840 Claude Monet was born. One of the first Impressionists, Monet painted many series of paintings - the same subject from the same place under all different light and weather, exploring the idea that you can never really see the same thing twice. Here for instance are two from the Houses of Parliament series (above) and two from the Poplars on the Epte series (below).

poplars poplars in autumn
(Monet at WebMuseum)

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Week in Entertainment

DVD: Veer-Zaara, a wonderful Indian film starring Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, and Preity Zinta, about some seriously star-crossed lovers and a young lawyer who fights for them. Highly, highly recommended. (I am always amazed by the number of times they speak English in Indian films...) Also from Bollywood, the highly entertaining Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness), another Shakrukh Khan movie, this one with Amitabh Bachchan (who had a small part in Veer-Zaara), Jaya Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Kajol (and when I say "highly entertaining" I'm not just referring to the large number of shots of Shahrukh in wet and/or see-through shirts, either :-) - he looks just as good in the black-and-silver kameez or that white sweater... he's quite funny in the London parts)

TV: Psych - another winning episode. Harry's Law - one ridiculous premise and one all too heartbreaking.

Read: Finished Reckless, which was very entertaining. Funke can spin a yarn, and her translator is gifted. Began Murakami's 1Q84, which is ... odd and enthralling, both of which are to expected from him.

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At 11:55 PM, November 13, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Guess you didn't watch last week's epi of "Big Bang Theory," in which Sheldon befriends(?) an apparently lost tamed blue jay. There were a number of errors in the avian plot line that even a non-ornithologist like me could question.

 
At 2:01 PM, November 14, 2011 Anonymous Mark had this to say...

A great deal of upper-level education in India takes place in English. English also allows Indians from one region to speak to Indians from a region in which there is a different native language. I suspect, however, that English is largely confined to the upper economic levels.

 
At 4:31 PM, November 14, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I'm intellectually aware of that. It just always surprises me when an English phrase or sentence is dropped into the middle of a conversation in Urdu or Bengali or whatever ...

 
At 4:43 PM, November 14, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Kathie, I did not, but I guess you could start with it being a black-throated magpie-jay, which used to only live (wild) in Mexico, on the Pacific Slope... but has been breeding in Nevada and southern California for a few years now.

 
At 5:21 PM, November 14, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

A native Californian would surely have known it wasn't a California jay, because the tail-feathers were waaaay too long. Plus they referred to the bird as "she," despite its being far bluer than any female jay I've ever seen :-)

 
At 6:18 PM, November 14, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Well, corvids have no sexual dimorphism (save a bit of size difference) so generally speaking you can't tell the he's from the she's. And if it had been a blue jay, they are even bluer than magpie-jays ... or at least no less blue, unlike your scrub or Steller's jays. So no quibbling there. But they don't look anything alike.

 

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Scalar adjectives

Here's a little fill-in-the-blank for you. In the film Veer-Zaara, Chaudhary Sumer Singh's wife is scolding him for playing hockey with the village children. She says:
If you want to die, then lie down on a bed and die. Don't play with kids (____) enough to be your grandchildren and get your bones broken.
I'm quite certain that in this context any American would say "young enough".

She says "old enough".

And it's very strange-sounding.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Privatize the VA

an addendum to my Veterans Day post:

Mitt Romney wants to privatize the VA. Specifically, he wants to hand out vouchers and let vets navigate the expensive world of medical care on their own.

This is exactly what I was talking about. The VA has made huge strides in the past ten or so years, and is now capable of delivering world-class care, efficiently and more cheaply even than Medicare does. But although Romney talks big about caring about veterans, he's using them as a chip in his political game, advancing the 'private-sector-is-always-better' agenda at the cost of leaving vets to fend for themselves, with vouchers that would, if experience is any guide, never be enough and lose value rapidly.

And he suggested this on Veterans Day.

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At 2:02 PM, November 14, 2011 Anonymous Mark had this to say...

I have a friend who is a Vietnam vet. The kind of care he has received at the VA would be a dream come true for most Americans.

 

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History repeats itself

As Krugman notes, History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as tragedy.

Harry Dexter White in 1935:

There were, in meeting the crisis of the 1930s, two positions.

(a) Let the Government spend the minimum necessary to keep men alive and to prevent social disturbance; or
(b) Let the Government spend on such a large scale as to provide a positive powerful stimulus to recovery.

This second alternative is often formally embraced by those who in practice support the first position. That is, the actual scale of expenditures that they propose, while sufficient to bring about a serious derangement of the budget, is not sufficient to exert an adequate stimulus to recovery. In consequence, depression conditions tend to be frozen over a considerable period.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

poppiesFive years I wrote a post which began:
It's called "Veterans Day" here in the States - we renamed it, I guess, when it became clear that the War to End War hadn't and wouldn't. So it's Veterans Day, now - not Memorial Day, for the dead, that's in May... now we remember the living.

At least, we say we do. Well, I'm a veteran. I don't want just another day off work with no commitment behind it to actually give a damn about the veterans, especially those who come home from these modern wars all torn up, because medicine can save their bodies, only to find that no one in the government intends to take care of them. Veterans Day is nothing more than automobile sales, and servicemen get a 5% discount!, and wear your uniform, eat free! It's not go to a hospital and see what the price really is; it's not lobby the congress to restore the benefits cut in 1995; it's not give them their meds and counseling on time and affordably; it's not tell the VA to actively take care of vets instead of waiting for them to find out on their own what they're eligible for. And it's most certainly not the government actually giving a damn....
Since then, of course we had the stark proof of that, in the Walter Reed scandal (you do remember that?); we've had "Warriors in Transition" (the catchy new name for wounded soldiers on their way to discharge via the VA and therapy); acres of missing paperwork, "personality disorders" being diagnosed by the dozens so soldiers (and no, I won't capitalize it, we aren't Germans, we don't capitalize ordinary nouns, and this is just another ultimately empty fetishization of the military, like calling them "Wounded Warriors" in ordinary prose) can be kicked out of the army without benefits; National Guardsmen brought back from Iraq after 729 days of active duty - so they don't qualify for the educational benefits that kick in at 730... Need I go on?

We've also had some steps taken in the right direction, of course. As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Edward Shinseki is trying hard to take care of those who need it most. He's tackling homelessness, and joblessness, among vets. But those problems, and the rest of them, still exist. And we still tell ourselves that we're honoring veterans by what are, in the end, gestures only.

Today is Veterans Day. It's not Memorial Day. It's a day to honestly assess the price of the war - any war - to those who fight it and come home, and to promise ourselves to do the right thing by them. Because it is the right thing. Because we owe it to them. Because we sent them into harm's way, and they were harmed (one way or another, they were harmed, war harms everyone it touches). As I said before,
We don't need people paying lip service to vets while ignoring them in the VA hospitals or on the street corners. We don't need to mythologize veterans, turn them into some great symbol of our nation's righteous aggression while we forget their humanity. We don't need a holiday that glorifies war by glorifying soldiers.
Let's stop capitalizing Solider and Wounded Warrior and Troop - and stop capitalizing on them, too. Let's stop the relentless glorification of the figure of the soldier, and start actually caring about them. Let's stop Supporting the Troops with magnets and signs, and start some actual damned support - with money, first of all, money and beds and hospitals and benefits that actually are.

Let's save the worship for Memorial Day. Today's for the ones who are still alive, and most of all for the ones who still need us.

I've offered a number of poems for today: 1916 seen from 1921 by Edmund Blunden; Siegfried Sassoon's Aftermath (written a year after WWI); Li Po's Nefarious War, translated from the Chinese by Shigeyoshi Obata (with its key line: The long, long war goes on ten thousand miles from home. That's the kind of war we can pretend is going well, because we can't see it or its fighters.); The Next War by Robert Graves; and a pair of short poems by Carl Sandburg, written during WWI: Iron and Grass.

This year I offer you Wilfred Owens' great WWI poem Dulce et Decorum Est:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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At 11:24 AM, November 12, 2011 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

In Britain the 11th is Armistice Day and the nearest Sunday (which is tomorrow) is Remembrance Sunday. Both involve the two minutes' silence and ceremonies at war memorials. Tomorrow is when the Royal Family and political and military leaders pay their tributes at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Neither day is for veterans - although veterans, of course, play a major part in the ceremonies, and money collected from the sale of poppies goes to the veterans' organisation, the Royal British Legion.

The couple of weeks leading up to these ceremonies are called Remembrancetide, which is of course particularly appropriate for Christians when it includes All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

 

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Watching the car crash...

Krugman and two commenters on the coming euro-disaster:
Every even halfway plausible route to euro salvation now depends on a radical change in policy by the European Central Bank. Yet as John Quiggin says in today’s Times, the ECB has instead been part of the problem.

I believe that the ECB rate hike earlier this year will go down in history as a classic example of policy idiocy. We would probably still be in this mess even if the ECB hadn’t raised rates, but the sheer stupidity of obsessing over inflation when the euro was obviously at risk boggles the mind.

I still find it hard to believe that the euro will fail; but it seems equally hard to believe that Europe will do what’s needed to avoid that failure. Irresistible force, meet immovable object — and watch the explosion.
commenter 1:
Watching the Eurozone come apart at the seams is akin to watching a car accident about to happen when everything suddenly moves in slow motion. Apparently, the ECB - spurred on and cheered by Germany and Angela Merkel - is content with the proposition that having Europe collapse - and the global economy with it - is better than allowing inflation to creep up from an effectively negative rate to, oh, say 1.5% or 2%. Better a zillion people out of work than for the ECB to buy soverign debt and stop all the coming catastrophe.

commenter 2:
When you try to make economics a morality play, tears ensue. Reality is unmoved.

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Happy Birthday, Kurt

Kurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut died just four years ago, but he was born, fittingly, today in 1922. Fittingly, I say, because he was a veteran, and it was his experience in WWII - specifically and famously surviving the fire-bombing of Dresden and living through the horrific aftermath - that shaped his writing.

New collections of his early and unpublished or uncollected works are now available. Get them.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yeah, I am

Over at head's up FEV asks:
Do you wonder if anybody at Fox even asks whether there's a difference between "15 cents" and "15 percent"? Or are you more concerned that nobody's interested in a difference between "think-tank blogs" and "gospel truth"?
I'm concerned about both, but the latter is more worrying.

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Life isn't fair, sometimes

Amy is Asked today:
My youngest sister is a junior in college and is pregnant. Although she is on friendly terms with the baby’s father, she is not in a relationship with him nor does she wish to have one in the future. My sister and the baby’s father decided to give their child up for adoption and quickly found a couple who was interested. I am having trouble accepting my sister’s decision. I understand that being 21 and finding yourself pregnant is probably not ideal, but our parents are well-off. None of us has the burden of student loans, and in a year my sister will graduate from college.

I think she is being a bit entitled. After all, she got herself into this mess. It doesn’t seem fair that she just gets to put the child up for adoption and resume her life.

How can I impress to her that she can -- and should -- take more responsibility for her actions?
Amy says, among other things
I assume you have already considered adopting the child yourself. This might be a positive solution.
Wahahahahahahhaaaaa....

Sheesh. Of course not. All she's interested in is making sure her sister doesn't get away with it.

Sure, she dresses it up with "as a mother myself" but it comes down to "she is being a bit entitled," "it doesn't seem fair," and "she should take responsibility".

Honey, it takes more than a lack of debt (parents might not be so pleased, btw) to make a good home for a child.

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Happy Birthday, Neil

Gaiman and CabalBorn today in 1960, in the English town of Portsmouth, Neil Gaiman.

Mirrormask, Sandman, Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys...

Thank you, Neil. Happy Birthday, many happy returns of the day, and keep writing...

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carl

Sagan on the Cosmos set
Carl Sagan was born today in 1934, in Brooklyn.

I'm sure I don't have to say anything about him, but if I did, besides Cosmos and The Demon-Haunted World and The Dragons of Eden, I'd mention his insistence on putting cameras on space probes. Imagine Cassini without cameras...

He was a national treasure, no, a global - no, a specific treasure and he's missed.

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At 10:45 AM, November 09, 2011 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

Definitely global, anyway. He electrified us here in Britain as one of those rare souls who can combine an extraordinary degree of expert knowledge with an understanding of how to impart it to us dimwits. He is very much missed.

 

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

what and mir???

I can't believe my ears. Alex just gratuitously tossed in the Russian name of War and Peace. Except he said Ivana i mir. I replayed it twice, thinking he'd maybe said Vana i mir, which would have been a bad mispronunciation of Vojna i mir (that's /vɐjˈna/, the vowel-dipthong is sort of uh-eee, sounds a lot like vie-NAH).

Worst thing is, he had no need to say it!

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Boom - for whom

From Krugman's blog, this chart offering one reason Very Serious People have kept insisting that less regulation is better than more:

chart showing that in 1979-2007 income grew four times more for the 1%, compared to half as much in 1949-1973

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At 6:00 AM, November 09, 2011 Blogger Alfajri had this to say...

hi,...
i put your site to my blog fazryx blog
pls add me to

 

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Happy Birthday, Kazuo

Kazuo IshiguraToday in 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan, Kazuo Ishiguro was born. His family moved to Great Britain when he was six, and he has become one of the great writers in the English language, winning the Whitbread Prize in 1986 for his second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, and the Booker Prize in 1989 for his third, The Remains of the Day, and being shortlisted for the Booker for When We Were Orphans and his most recent novel Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro explores memory in his books, and the clash of memory with reality - The Unconsoled is a tour-de-force of shifting memory - and his work is fascinating. Nocturnes is his latest, five short stories about "music and memory" and easily among his better work. Not one of these guys who turns out a book every year (every five or six years, more likely), he's well worth the wait for the next one.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Say what?

Although an "adventuress" is "a female adventurer" it's in the "a person of uncertain qualifications seeking to attain unmerited wealth or position by sharp practice and dubious methods especially by playing on the credulity or prejudices of others" sense, so that the definition of "adventuress" is "a female adventurer especially : a woman who seeks position or livelihood by questionable means".

Which is to say: Nellie Bly was not an "adventuress".

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At 10:02 AM, November 08, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Well, journalism has always been held in ill-repute by some folks ;-)

 

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Attn Trivial Pursuit Mobile:

"Which actor was Al Gore's roommate at Harvard?" is not a geography question. Just putting a location in the question isn't enough!

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Week in Entertainment

Live: Busy weekend - first, La Cage at the Hippodrome with George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber, which was so much fun, so much fun. And then today, La Traviata at the Lyric, with a completely stunning Elizabeth Futral as Violetta - what a tour de force in Act I (the sequence of E Strano, Ah Forse Lui and Sempre Libera) and then that great death scene. She was brilliant - such coloratura. Wow.

TV: Last week I forgot to say that I had watched Boss and Once Upon A Time, and enjoyed them both, if very differently. Watched them again and enjoyed them again. Kelsey Grammar is massive and menacing and oddly sincere; he has a lot of range and presence. Once was also good - complex and fun. Though I do wonder if Emma owns a shirt that isn't see-through; even the sweater she wears over the see-through tank-top is see-through. The Middle - Frankie yelling at Axl "You are pleasant, aren't you???" Modern Family: "I'm breaking out the nail gun." "I'm outta here. I've seen you with a glue gun and I think nails will be harder to get out of my hair." Snort. But the new next-door neighbor? He really points out what a white show this is. Not even a Black Best Friend... The Mentalist. Oh. My. God. Watching Jane on that tv show I was thinking, c'mon, he'll never blurt out something incriminating. And then Jane got him talking about Red John, and I actually laughed in shocked delight. Jane used Red John to kill that serial killer. Wow. (Now for the repercussions...) Psych - just when I thought they'd ditched the 90s lead-ins, they had one. Plus they played with the credits - I love when they do that!

Read: A Killing Tide - not terribly good: the repeated emphasis on how sexy they found each other (yes, I suppose I should have expected it, since it was billed as "a romantic thriller") got old, the hero was too damn pushy for my taste, and the mystery wasn't really (also, funnily: I've been to Astoria and hadn't thought of it as "a small town" - so I was surprised to look it up and see it has fewer than 10,000 residents. It seemed bigger when we drove through, possibly because it's narrow and therefore long?) Some more Rusch shorts. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley, a lovely entry in the Flavia de Luce books. And started Cornelia Funke's Reckless, quite good so far.

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At 4:53 PM, November 08, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Did you record "Page 8" (on PBS "Masterpiece") to watch later? If so, did you notice the hymn near the end? The melody sure sounded familiar -- used in a 20th century classical work, I think (maybe Holst's "The Planets"?).

If you or anyone else recognized the tune, please post the answer here. Thanks!

 
At 8:50 PM, November 08, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I didn't record it, sorry. Maybe it's on On Demand? I'll look tomorrow and see if I know the hymn.

 

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Apologies are due...

Krugman (prompted by Brad deLong) writes:
I think that a delegation of major US economists and policymakers should make a pilgrimage to Tokyo, and apologize to the emperor. We — even me — thought that we would not suffer the kinds of problems Japan faced. And we were right: we’re doing worse than they ever did.

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As if?

Angry Birds screen shot"Unknown Baby Girl" - two insulation installers have found a infant's skeleton in the wall. While they wait for the cops to show up
"It bothers you, doesn't it?" Linda said from her chair. She clutched her cell phone in her gloved hand, staring at the the little window as if it were providing her with entertainment.
What? This is a 2011 story. "As if" the cell phone were providing entertainment?

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Happy Birthday, Suleiman

Suleyman
Suleiman the Magnificent was born today in 1494. Known also as Suleiman the Lawgiver, he ruled over the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire, doubling it during his reign.

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Happy Birthday to the Big Train

Walter Johnson was born today in 1887, in Humboldt, Kansas.

Ty Cobb talked about facing Johnson the first time:
The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him... every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.
They called it a pneumonia ball - the wind it raised was so strong it would chill you to the bone (where most fastballs are "heat", the Big Train's were cold...)

When it comes to the perennial debate, there were no speed guns. Johnson said, "Can I throw harder than Joe Wood? Listen, Mister, no man alive can throw any harder than Smokey Joe Wood." But Wood said, "Oh, I don't think there was ever anybody faster than Walter." We'll never know. But we do know this: In an era when the strikeout was not king, Johnson racked up 3,509 of them, a record that stood for 55 years (he's now 9th on the list). Batters feared facing him, and in return he feared killing them - Cobb exploited that fear by crowding the plate; he couldn't hit Johnson but he could draw walks.

He won 417 games, second to Cy Young's impossible 511, and the two of them remain the only pitchers with 400+ wins.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Krugman on the 1% (or fewer)

Paul Krugman's column earlier this week addressed the obfuscators:
Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur.
He writes, in part:
The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.

If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.
And he finishes up by pointing out that
extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Happy Birthday, Will


Today in 1879, near Claremore, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was born.

An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.

We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

ummmm

A sentence or two from an article about the child actors on Modern Family:
Gould, who has an older brother, gets a vicarious kick out of playing Luke. "I get to do really crazy stuff, like take a pogo stick on a trampoline, eat bubbles and run into doors, things I would never do on my own."
I'm not sure they get "vicarious" - if he's really doing the crazy stuff, then it's not "experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another", is it?

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Happy Birthday, Walker

sharecropper kitchen corner

Let us now praise Walker Evans, portrait-maker of America, who was born today in 1903. Of his work, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art says
Evans' elegant crystal-clear photographs and articulate publications inspired artists of several generations, from Helen Levitt to William Eggleston. The progenitor of the documentary tradition in American photography, Evans had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past and to translate that knowledge and historically inflected vision into an enduring art. His principal subject was the vernacular -- the indigenous expressions of people found in roadside stands, cheap cafés, advertisements, simple bedrooms, and small-town streets. For fifty years, from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, Evans recorded the American scene with the nuance of a poet and the precision of a surgeon, creating an encyclopedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making.
Probably his greatest work came in 1941 when he co-published, along with James Agee, the ground-breaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The book chronicled the pair's journey through the rural South during the Great Depression - words by Agee, photos by Evans, presenting a stark yet deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. The pairing of the anguished dissonance of Agee's prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans' photographs of sharecroppers makes this book a powerful, wrenching experience.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Rich Get Whatever They Want

The juxtaposition of the "Rich Pretty People" strips has been hilarious this week. First up, Rex Morgan MD tells Niki that girls are like fish: attracted by flashy things like wealth and status, and over at Judge Parker, Sam Driver's adopted daughter Sophie is shelling out $1600 to steal another girl's boyfriend...

Rex tells Niki girls are attracted by flashy things
Derek tells Sam Sophie is buying him a 1600-dollar guitarIn case you're wondering, Rex didn't answer Niki with a "hook" analogy. He said "You have to make them laugh." That's pretty evolved.

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Happy Birthday, Grantland

Grantland RiceToday in 1880, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Grantland Rice was born.

He coined the term "the Four Horsemen" for Notre Dame's 1924 backfield:
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.
One of the great sportswriters of all times, he dabbled in verse, too. A defender of the right of athletes to earn a living, he also decried the influence of money in sports:
"Money to the left of them and money to the right
Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night
Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea
Part of it's percentage, and the rest is guarantee"
And if you think you don't know him, you almost certainly know this:
"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."

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