Posts

Showing posts from 2007

Am I Really the Enemy? (Politics, Morality, Miscellany)

Okay, so it's been a while since my last post. This has had nothing to do with the unhappiness at work that had previously coincided with my absences from blogging. I'm between full-time jobs, and I've been working more hours at the book store in the meantime. I've actually been having a blast! Working in retail during the holiday season provides a bizarre sort of thrill, and I've enjoyed it immensely. The new job starts in about a week.

I believe it was the day after my last post that Mitt Romney gave the world his fantastic speech about how his religion would or would not influence him as president. From what I heard, he really gave a stirring, impassioned, convincing, honest, and reassuring speech. Really great! Congratulations, Mitt.

However, as magnificent as his speech was, he made it clear that I and my ilk are what he considers to be the enemy. Truly. I think it's really that stark. The enemy.

Why? Because I really do believe that we are better served if w…

A Rant on Romney and Religious Fundamentalism

I was listening to NPR's "All Things Considered" the other day when they aired part of an interview with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The interviewer (Robert Siegel) asked about Romney's belief in the literal truth of the Bible, and Romney very slickly evaded the question while trying to make Siegel feel somehow dirty for asking the question. What follows is the feedback I provided to NPR:

Shame on Mitt Romney for trying to make Robert Siegel feel ashamed for asking a legitimate question and, by extension, trying to make NPR listeners feel ashamed for caring about the answer.

Does it matter to me which specific book(s) of the Bible a candidate takes more literally than others? Nope. But does it matter to me whether my vote supports someone who believes in superstitious hokum, to the exclusion of reason, logic, science, sense, and critical thought? You bet!

It's terrifying to me that Romney can, in one sentence, decry the "global jihad" that's t…

I'm Back

Well, it's been a very long while since I've posted, but I'm back now. I noticed that my tendency has been to not blog any time while work had me miserable. I was miserable at work recently. Well, as of this past Wednesday, I've left that job behind. I'm optimistic that I will be considerably more in a cheery mood in the future.

Here are some things I've neglected to mention:

1) This year, Beth and I became baseball fans. Strange, that. I think it means we're getting old and our brains are slowing down. When I was younger, I just couldn't understand how anyone could be a fan of such a slow and dull game (I still refuse to consider it a sport). But now I actually find that it's somehow exciting. There are things about it I despise. (For example this business about "checked swings". As I recall, when I was a kid, I never saw the "checked swing". Is it really a new innovation, or am I imagining things? As I recall, in the past, if the…

Considerably Less Funny...

Now, this is scary....

A little later in the conversation, Brownback (a U.S. Senator) actually said, "We declared war," in relation to the invasion of Iraq.

Unbelievable!

Let's make this clear: WAR WAS NOT DECLARED!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I was a kid, there was this word I sometimes heard: "Yutz".

As in "What a yutz!"

Well, I propose we bring it back, specifically for Brownback. Yutz!

Just Thought This Was Funny

I tuned in the Republican presidential candidates' forum on PBS, in time to see Ray Suarez ask a question. Apparently, Sam Brownback thought the question came from someone named Race Juarez, as he said, "thank you, Race."

I just thought it was funny.

Orwell's 1984 -- A Book Review

A few weeks ago, we were watching Jeopardy, and one of the questions was about George Orwell's 1984. I said, "I really should read that one of these days." A few days later, we were at a tag sale and Beth spotted a paperback of the book for a buck. So she bought it for me. Now I've read it, finally, quite a lot of years after I should have done. I had read Animal Farm a long time ago, but I had just never gotten around to reading 1984. Now I'm sad that I let it wait for so long.

So I provided one of my little capsule reviews to the book store on Wednesday. But since the blog allows me to spend as many words as I want, I'm going to publish a somewhat longer review here:

Stylistically and structurally, Orwell's 1984 is a masterpiece. In addition, it is a triumph of imagination. Orwell imagined a world so thoroughly as to make it seem less a fictional setting than an alternate reality. His book, while fairly short, is as complete as could be hoped for. The nov…

Another Candidate Visit... John Edwards in Concord, 8/25

Last Saturday, I went to a White Park in Concord to listen to John Edwards as he made a campaign stop. Elizabeth was there and said her piece before the John spoke. Their kids were all there too.

Going back... I started my day with Beth turning on the DVD of Bobby. It was early, and I didn't really want to be awake yet, so I was sort of fading in and out of consciousness. I wasn't paying especially close attention to the movie, but I was able to basically follow the beginning of it, and I was able to get a bit of a sense of RFK, from the interspersed footage of him on the campaign trail. I got enough of a sense of RFK that I was thinking that he really reminded me of Kucinich. (Or is it the other way around?)

I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know a whole lot about RFK. I know he was the brother of John and Ted. I know that he was JFK's attorney general. I know he was running for president and was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. And I know that he did a "…

You Can Say Anything With Words

Of all the pithy sayings I've ever devised, the following is surely among my favorites:

You can say anything with words.

If one keeps in mind what I wrote a few days ago about original ideas, one might wonder whether I was the first to formulate this sentence. I'm quite certain the answer is no. A quick Google search shows that whether I was the first or not, I'm surely not the only, although the sentence does appear surprisingly infrequently in the Google database.

I think the statement is true, although it may sometimes be difficult to find the appropriate words, and it may (on rare occasions) be necessary to invent new words to achieve the objective.

An interesting side-effect of this ability to say anything with words is that it's possible to say things that make no sense. Even more exciting: It's extraordinarily easy to say things that nobody has ever said before. This, despite many people's claims that "there's nothing new under the sun" or that…

Hanging On For Dear Life (A New Photograph)

Image
I came home the other day and the sun was setting and there was a very bizarre light out there. I decided to wander out to the flower garden that's in our side yard. I don't go out there very often, which means that when I do go out there, I'm almost always pleasantly surprised by what I find. All summer long, something is blooming, and I never know what it will be. There were some flowers out there this time that were obviously past their prime, and I just found this shot to be irresistible:


That last petal was just holding on for dear life. It was this incredibly vivid color, contrasting with this bizarre hub which used to contain so very many petals and had become so very barren. I think it's lovely. Let me know what you think of it.

Having Original Ideas (even when other people had them first)

I'm always disturbed by people claiming that Columbus did not "discover" America, on the grounds that people were already here. (There are other grounds on which to argue with the Columbus discovery myth, like (a) where he landed and (b) that there seems no good reason to call him Columbus. (Cristóbal Colón seems more likely the guy's name.))

Discovery does not require being the first to discover something. All it requires is finding something when you weren't already certain it was there. Although, even that requirement is a little sketchy. I think you can "discover" the truth, even though you were already aware of its existence. Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent even before I've started with the topic of this post.

Today, I thought I'd mention some original thoughts I've had. They were original thoughts, because as far as I knew, nobody had previously had them. I've since discovered that I was not the first person to have them, howe…

Meet the Donkephant! New T-Shirt Design

Image
Well, after many months, I've finally put a new design on my on-line store. If you like the design, and want it on a shirt (or even if you don't especially like the design but want to show that you're a free thinker), you're invited to go there and order.


As always, comments are welcome.

Some Insect Photography

Image
Today I spent a couple of hours in my kayak on Willard Pond in Antrim, NH. This was my second visit to this particular pond. It's not very large, but there's an island towards the east end. To the east of the island, there's a field (for lack of a better term) of these aquatic purple flowers. Being no botanist, I don't know what kind of flower they are. What I do know is that the bumblebees seem to love them. So there I sat, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of bumblebees (none of which made any effort to cause me any harm--way too busy going about their pollination activities), probably a few dozen dragonflies, a pretty good number of damselflies and a few lovely butterflies. I had brought my camera with my longest lens, which I set to Macro mode and fired off a bunch of shots. I think I got a few good ones, some of which I'll share here. I hope you enjoy!






I also got to see a couple of fish jumping out of the water. If I had to guess, I'd probably guess perch…

Another Swig from the Linguistic Trough, and Another Poll

I also happened to invite the Linguistic Mystic to have a look at my July 31 post. He did so and was kind enough to give me a nice credit as the inspiration for his latest post, an interesting discussion of the mysteries of whether "tomorrow" begins at midnight or at wakey-time. Thanks, Linguistic Mystic.

Today's the third in my little series of linguistic discussions, again inspired by newscasters:

Why would you say "an historic event"?

I believe Peter Jennings used to do this. I always considered Peter Jennings to be the perfect exemplar of accent-free American English, despite his Canadian origins (Eh?). (Of course, it's all accents, really...and what I think of as "accent-free" is just as much an accent as is Apu-speak from The Simpsons. At the very least, however, Jennings didn't drop his R's or his H's and there was no chance of confusing the white race with the white rice.)

So why Jennings (and others who don't drop their H'…

Linguistic Discussions

This morning, I invited most of the authors of the Language Log blog to take a look at my last blog entry. (Most, not all, only because there were a few whose e-mail addresses I was unable to locate.) Anyway, what has ensued is a fairly fascinating discussion that's been carried on via an e-mail thread rather than as comments to my blog. Oh well. At least they all included me in the e-mails, which have been most edifying. (They're a bunch of professional linguists, and I certainly am not.)

So here's the gist of what seems to be the consensus:

Both usages are in common parlance.This does cause confusion when people of one camp converse with people of the other camp (especially when scheduling, as the "next Wednesday" issue is just as much a problem as is the "last Wednesday" issue).The rift does not seem to be a recent development.This has been previously studied from a linguistic perspective.Such divergent dialectical usages are probably more common than …

Our Evolving Language?

Last week (a phrase that I believe pretty much always means "the week before this one"), I was listening to the radio, as I do regularly while at work. The day was Wednesday, July 25, and I was reminded of something that's been bothering me (mildly) for quite a while now.

The radio announcer mentioned the YouTube Debate that happened "last Monday". That debate had happened on Monday, July 23. That's a mere two days before the report I was listening to.

When I'm speaking, if it's a Wednesday, and I say "last Monday", what I mean is "the Monday of the previous week". That is, "9 days ago".

This is the idiomatic usage that I grew up with, and I believed that within the English speaking world, it was pretty much universal usage.

On a Wednesday, if I want to speak about something that happened two days earlier, I am happy to say "two days ago" or "on Monday". (Using a past tense verb in conjunction with this …

My First Mention in the Mainstream Press

After Richardson was finished at yesterday's event, as we were filing out of the restaurant, I was stopped by a reporter for the Eagle Times, a fairly local daily newspaper. He asked what I thought and so I gave him some opinions. When he asked for my name, I handed him one of my business cards, mentioned that I'm running for president, and encouraged him to check out my web site. He expressed some interest and asked a couple of follow up questions. Well, in today's edition of the Eagle Times, the top story is about the Richardson event in Claremont yesterday. And guess who got mentioned at the end of the article. That's right...little old me.

The following snippet is, of course, copyrighted material...and I encourage everyone to try to track down their own copy of the paper to read the full article. (Sadly, the Eagle Times' web site only includes the start of the article rather than the whole thing.) So here's the closing snippet, which amounts to my first men…

Bill Richardson in Claremont, a Campaign Event

Well, Beth was working this morning, so I was left to my own devices. After taking the recycling to the local recycling center, I popped into Shirley's Restaurant in Claremont for a Bill Richardson "Meet and Greet", which I knew from the local paper was scheduled for this morning.

The owner of the restaurant, Dan Fillo, was quoted in the paper as having said, "We've been told by the campaign not to expect a question and answer format. He's probably just going to come in and speak, giving a brief 10- or 15-minute speech about his platforms."

So I was quite pleasantly surprised when after giving his talk, Richardson did open the floor to questions. In my last blog post, I mentioned that Beth got in the last question from the floor at our session with John McCain. I didn't say anything about what she asked him, however. So here I'll mention that she asked him about Darfur. We were both bothered that it took until she got in (right under the wire) for…

This Morning's John McCain Town Hall Meeting, Claremont, NH

We went to our first presidential campaign town hall meeting today. This time was an event for John McCain at the American Legion hall in Claremont. I was surprised to get the phone invitation the other day from McCain's people. I guess he's courting the independent vote. As this will be our first presidential election cycle since moving to New Hampshire, I'm still not altogether certain of the process. From what I gather, we'll be allowed to choose which primary we want to cast our ballots in (assuming we wish to cast our ballots in either primary).

If you've read my campaign web site, you'll probably already be aware that I am, on principle, opposed to the whole two-party system. By extension, I'm also of the opinion that there ought not to be a primary election cycle. I think we'd all be much better off if we just went straight to the general election. Stop playing this game of trying to determine which of our like-minded people would best represent a…

Back for more, finally

Image
Okay. So it's been well over a month since I've posted anything here. Very sad. Here's my list of excuses:

1) I was saddened to see the drastic drop-off of traffic to the site, once Google did whatever it was that resulted in the majority of my photographs no longer bringing search engine users here. I still have no idea what happened or why. I know that several people on the web have placed links to my bleeding heart flower photograph elsewhere. But given that they've not copied the photograph to other locations, and instead just left the photo on my server and used a link to display it elsewhere, I'm baffled as to why Google would treat those sites as the home of the image, rather than treating this site as the home of the image.

I suppose I could stamp my URL across all of my photographs, but frankly I don't like that sort of thing.

-----

UPDATE (July 17, 02008): Well, it happened again a couple of days ago: a sudden drop-off in traffic to my blog as a result of…

Blog Reviews, a mixed bag

In my ongoing attempts to increase the traffic to my blog, I got it into my head a few weeks ago to seek out free blog review sites. I found a few and submitted my blog to them. So far, three such sites have published their reviews of this blog.

The first is the worst:
http://www.theweblogreview.com/review/3333/...In which the reviewer was kind enough to spell my name incorrectly twice (in different ways) and correctly zero times.

The second is considerably better:
http://blogs.qoody.net/reviews/the-repeal-of-gravity-blog/...In which I got some good advice. I'm not sure whether it will truly influence my blogging habits, but at least it's food for thought.

The third is my favorite:
http://reviewmyblogforfree.blogspot.com/ This one is very brief (which is neither criticism nor praise, rather just observation), and complimentary (which is flattering). I scored pretty well on this one, which is nice.

Unfortunately, none of these three reviews has resulted in a substantial increase in my…

Moose — some vacation photos

Image
We took a vacation last week to a different part of our lovely state. We saw several moose, a fox, a couple of tom turkeys, and I spotted our first-ever live, non-captive porcupine. I only got photos of moose.




Corbin Covered Bridge, Newport, NH — a photo

Image
Here's my "picture postcard" view of the covered bridge that's just down the road from our home.

Getting a Little Political -- Part 3

I watched some of the Republican debate the other night. There was a point at which the questioner asked for a show of hands of who does not believe in evolution. Much to my disgust, some hands went up.

I didn't catch whose hands those were, but I checked the New York Times online edition for the transcript, and they reported that the hands that went up belonged to Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo.

Assuming that the NYT transcript is correct, and assuming that the question's intent was clearly understood*, and assuming that we're not dealing with a semantic issue of what "believe in" means...these three men should automatically be deemed unelectable.

So here's where the semantic issue comes in:

Does "believe in evolution" mean "accept that evolution is a process that actually occurs"?

or...

Does "believe in evolution" mean "put your faith and trust in evolution"?

If it means the former, then Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo …

Getting a Little Political -- Part 2

Second topic: How is it possible to be willing to vote for Hillary? To use a gender-inappropriate term, Hillary was cuckolded. She was cuckolded more publicly and more embarrassingly than anyone else has ever been cuckolded in the history of the world.

That's not her fault.

Her husband is (or am I to believe that he's reformed and should I change that "is" to a "was"?) a lecher. That's no secret. It never was. I think we pretty much all knew it going in.

I remember having a conversation with a friend who was volunteering for his campaign in 1992. I asked her whether she thought he was merely the best of the available choices or whether she honestly believed in him and trusted him. (Her answer surprised me greatly. To me, even then--before he was elected, before all of the scandals broke--it seemed quite obvious that he should not be considered a fine, upstanding, decent member of the community, worthy of admiration and respect. To put a word on it, he was …

Getting a Little Political -- Part 1

I happen to feel like breaking from my usual routine on the blog today and stepping from apolitical posts to political. I'll probably get it all out of my system in a few rapid-fire posts and then be done with it for a few more months. At least I hope so, as I really don't want this to become a political blog. My apologies for this break from my usual programming.

First topic: Abstinence only sex education programs and "pro-life" rhetoric. Frankly, I don't want to hear it. And I don't want to hear about how RU-486 and abortions are wrong. I don't want to hear about how adoption is a wonderful option.

Right now, in America, if your daughter (or your sister, or your niece, or any young woman who is dear to you) goes to college, her odds of being raped are very close to your odds of rolling a six on a single die roll. I don't want to hear the anti-abortion rhetoric until those odds are a lot closer to your odds of winning the lottery.

And I also don't w…

Winter Thorns — a new photograph

Image
I'm going back to wintertime for this photograph. It's not quite as good as I would like, but I think it's interesting enough.

Elevating the Pun to an Art Form

According to Samuel Johnson, the pun is "the lowest form of humour". I've always been inclined to agree.

To me, the pun has always seemed like a character type.

A Lyle Lovett lyric goes like this:

You are a lonely, weak, pathetic man.*
My favorite lyric from any Smiths song goes like this:

So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry and you want to die.**
If puns were people, these are the kind of passages that would seem entirely appropriate for describing them.

I have no real pity for the pun, no matter how much disrespect is thrown at it. The pun seems desperate, but not especially pitiable. I'm not saying that there aren't clever puns out there. Surely, there must be. But on the whole, as a class, puns are insipid. Is there a better word to describe them? I doubt it.

However, there is one area of human endeavor where I truly believe the pun has been raised to an art form: The mystery novel title.

There seems to be an entire …

Crocuses — a new photograph

Image
Here's one of those shots from a couple of days ago. Beth has identified the flower variety as crocus. We have white ones and purple ones in bloom at the moment. I really like that they're on such short stems. Staying so close to the ground, I think they seem a perfect flower to "peek" out from all of the winter deadness, early in the spring season (relatively speaking). It's a nice contrast, I think.

Self-Healing Technology

I love self-healing technology! It's kind of like skin. Cut it and it bleeds. But if you wait a while, it repairs itself. The mechanism is a mystery to most of us. But the results are the same: effortless repair, often just about as good as new.

Three examples:

1) My Sirius satellite radio receiver: A few months ago, I left it plugged into my car's lighter outlet overnight, and I forgot to turn it off. Three unfortunate things happened:
It drew down all of the power from my car's battery, thus requiring me to get a jump from Beth's MINI.It blew one of my car's fuses, thus requiring me to replace an automotive fuse for the first time ever.The display died. So I spent a few months driving around with no visual indicator telling me which station I was tuned to, who was singing or talking, what song was playing, what the current score of the hockey game was, etc.,...
Since then, I have made a real effort to remember to turn off and unplug the receiver after each trip (less…

Spring Thaw — a new photograph

Image
The daffodils in the back yard started opening a couple of days ago, and today I noticed some other flowers (species unknown to me, of course) on the front lawn. I've taken some shots of them, but before I start posting the flowery bits, I figured I might as well post a shot from a few weeks ago: melting ice on a calm stretch of a local waterway. I've actually done more color experimentation on this one than I normally like to do. I happen to like this version best:


I killed the color and then enriched the black with a little hint of blue. If you'd like to see an alternate version, with the color actually punched up pretty significantly from how it was shot, click here.

Critiques, as always, are welcome. Let me know which version you prefer...and whether you think either is any good or whether they're both just awful.

Capsule Review: The Ice Storm

Here's another of those little "Staff Recommendation" reviews that I write for the book store:

The Ice Storm, directed by Ang Lee.
Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Joan Allen, Katie Holmes. If you're a movie fan, these names should mean something to you. This low-key gem may actually be the best piece of work any of them has ever been associated with. We named our first dog after the Katie Holmes character. "Libbets? What kind of a name is Libbets?!?" The movie is centered around a couple of families during a strange and tragic Thanksgiving weekend in the 1970s. It probably won't make you cry, it may not make you laugh, but it might just leave you in awe.

Another Photo I'm Proud Of

Image
I'm also pretty proud of this photo:


This is the New Hampshire state amphibian, the spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).

Maybe My Favorite Photo

Image
Of all the photographs I've ever taken, this one very well might be my favorite:


For some reason, it just strikes me as being particulary gorgeous, albeit pretty limited in its color range. I hope you like it. As always, comments are welcome--pro or con.

Another Keiko Photo available

In case anyone wants to see a fifth photo of Keiko, one has been featured on today's installment of the Bird A Day Blog. Thanks, Bird A Day!

New Blogging Strategy, Newton Baby Picture, Two Reviews

Image
I know that I haven't been the most regular blogger. I would like to do something about that. I doubt that I'll get to the point where I'm posting something new on a daily basis. But I would like to post something new at least a few times a week. So, I've devised a new strategy.

While I certainly don't want to turn this into a photo blog, I have come to realise that my photography is what's getting me more hits than anything else. (Why doesn't my dictionary project seem to capture anyone's attention? I don't know. I've found it absolutely fascinating!)

So what I'm going to start doing is posting photographs more regularly, particularly when I don't have anything else to contribute for a few days. Some of these will be old photos that I haven't previously posted, but that I happen to like a lot. Some will be new photos. For today, an old picture of Newton, from when he was still a little baby, 4 1/3 years ago.


Strategy shift number 2:

For…

Pictures of Keiko

Image
My sister requested that I post some pictures of our bird, Keiko. So here he is:





He's a blue headed pionus. Actually quite pretty. He's camera shy, though. I took over 70 shots and ended up with only about 20 that I thought were any good. From those, I chose to post these four.

The Dictionary Project, Status Update

Image
It occurred to me recently that some of the dictionaries in my testing are out of print. For example, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition is no longer available. So I checked the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, which I believe is just a slightly updated version of the same dictionary, with a name change stemming from a merger. The results of that test: the same. So #15 is basically just #2, renamed. I've gone back and color coded the titles in previous blog entries to indicate which are currently in print and which are not. Blue indicates in print. Dark red indicates out of print.

I've also checked a few more dictionaries in the last couple of weeks. A couple are "on the record", meaning that I had my list with me and was therefore able to take an official count. Others are "off the record", meaning I worked from memory and don't have official tallies. In all cases, I have been satisfied that the dicti…

We Have a Winner! And We Have a Winner!

Image
It's been an extraordinarily long time since I last posted. Let's just say work has been hell and has sapped me of what energy I would have invested in blogging. I hope things will be improving soon.

Good news: I made a pledge to New Hampshire Public Radio, which earned me entry into a drawing to win some fabulous prizes. Lucky me! I was the grand prize winner. The prize: A vacation to Moab, Utah (airfare and fancy lodging included). We were just in Utah last year. From what we saw, it's a stunningly beautiful place. We didn't go to Moab, though, so this will be a different experience. We're looking forward to it. We'll probably go a bit later in the year, so it's not quite so warm during the days.

On the Dictionary Project front, we have a clear winner now. The New Oxford American Dictionary (which I had previously reported having high hopes for) managed to include all 26 of the non-bonus words. From what I've seen, it's a spectacular piece of work-…