Category Archives: commentary

Pregnant Pause

The thing that’s nice about a pregnant pause is it has a very short gestation period.

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Vain Imaginations, Reinterpreted

Booksreadr scrapes the web and creates a digital library from whatever PDFs and probably other ebook formats it finds. They grabbed my book and added it to their library. (I sincerely hope it was only the 20% free version, but I’m not willing to give them my credit card information to validate my address so they can give me a free account, as I’m skeptical of them and their product, based on how little contact information they give.) But they apparently didn’t like my summary. It appears they took my description written in native English, machine
translated it to some other language, and translated it back to English, making for a rather amusing though ridiculous rendering of the description. From http://booksreadr.org/ebook/vain-imaginations on 26 November 2014:

Imaginations is just an assortment of verses created within 2000 to 2014’s span. The verses variety in character from heart-wrenching to heart, from unique to governmental felt, to inventive from term play. There’s a workout on avoiding while looking through the banned windows many tales up the exterior stairwell of the mindset building on the college university, Jumper, followed closely by the light a brand new although medical undertake the topic, Vapor Space. A few of the animals highlighted are leaders and gnats, ostriches and finches and kangaroos and politicians. In these websites, springtime winter, and drop can be found; summertime are you able to discover? Demise exists: the demise of family members and also the demise of feelings. You ll discover systems and resources: fax devices and teapots, metronomes along with a smartphone; garbage and books. Should you seem cautiously, you’ll find Orwell and Theodore; serenity, and finally.

My actual description from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/481054:

Vain Imaginations is a collection of poems written over the course of 2000 to 2014. The poems range in nature from whimsical to political, from heart wrenching to heart felt, from word play to imaginative. There is Jumper, a thought exercise on escaping while staring through the barred windows several stories up the external stairwell of the psychology building on a university campus, followed by the lighter Steam Room, a fresh albeit scientific take on the subject. Some of the creatures featured are gnats and giants, ostriches and finches, foxes and kangaroos, wasps and politicians. In these pages, winter, spring, and fall are present; can you find summer? Death is present: the death of emotions and the death of loved ones. You’ll find tools and technologies: metronomes and teapots, fax machines and a smart phone; textbooks and trash. If you look carefully, you can find Teddy, Bradbury, and Orwell; and at last, peace.

There was a famous attempt at machine translation in the early days of artificial intelligence (well, famous in the field of AI). The phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was translated to Russian then back to English. The result? “The vodka is good but the meat is rotten.” So this Seattle, WA company (at least, that’s where their terms of use agreement says court cases will go; the domain is registered in Panama) is doing about as good as circa-1960’s MT. Way to go.

P.S. If anyone has a booksreadr account and can tell me how legit they are, I’d be interested to know.
P.P.S. Whether the actual phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was put through an MT system in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s is a bit apocryphal. But there were MT systems that translated from English to Russian, and from Russian to English, which made similar messes of idiomatic speech.

What of Columbus?

Of late there are many sources claiming Christopher Columbus was unworthy of a federal holiday a despicable rascal. See this “article” on the oatmeal  and this one on vox.com. I saw the oatmeal article last year. A friend who is a teacher shared it with me. The following is what I shared with her, and now with anyone open minded enough to not jump on the revisionist bandwagon without long contemplation and deep investigation.

Vicki Jo Anderson, while researching many historical figures over the course of several years, discovered that

“history written prior to 1920 was often written of great men and women who performed great deeds. After 1920, history has highlighted the miseries of men…. Dean Belnap once stated: ‘Young people of our generation have been deprived of their birthright, which is to be conscious that they are the children of a high destiny in the line of great men who performed great deeds.’ One cannot appreciate the future unless there is an understanding of the past. It is the intent of [the book she was doing the research for] to illustrate from the lives of these eminent men, that one individual can make a difference.”

Of Columbus, Anderson writes:

“Disheartened with the greed and lust that were wreaking havoc in the newly discovered land, in 1496 he wrote to the king and queen, begging that the same laws existing in Spain be applied to the islands, and that all people–including the Indians–have the same justice.
He wrote: ‘Procure for the Indians, that are coming under our rule, the same rules and protections as those we have been speaking of [here in Spain]. These rules are to apply to those in power and those not in power equally. I want them to have the same protection like I have as if they were my own flesh.’ In 1497, he pleaded again:
‘I worry immensely about the future. I do not know what will happen in years to come. But we will discover new lands and we will negotiate in some of them according to the law of Castile and if this is not ruled by a strong hand then we will lose and rip apart our future and we will lose everything. I am afraid we will be misunderstood. I tell you to do it this way because gold is not everything.’”

Her source for the Columbus quotes is:

Columbus, Christopher. Letters to King Ferdinand & Queen Isabel 1496 Raccolta Collection. Raccolta di Documenti e Studi Pubblicati dalla R. Commissione Colombiana, pel Quarto Centenario dalla Scoperta dell’ America, Appendix Roma 1894, p. 270.

I am not saying by this that he never did anything bad, just that he may not have been as bad as recent history writers make him out to be.

Related Links:

If I Were a High School English Teacher…

Darwin city skyline from East Point Reserve

Darwin city skyline from East Point Reserve by Bidgee

If I were a high school English teacher, I’d have my students write a compare and contrast essay on the Hoodoo Guru’s song Tojo (lyrics) and Santa Never Made It Into Darwin by Bill Cate.

First I’d have them listen to Tojo, with a printed version of the lyrics in front of them, and write their initial impressions of the meaning. Then I’d play for them Santa Never Made It, with the lyrics to reference. Then I’d ask them:

The relative sizes of the United States, Cyclone Tracy and Typhoon Tip, the smallest and largest Pacific tropical storms recorded, respectively

  1. What did you think Tojo was about when you first heard/read the lyrics? Turn your page of initial impressions in with your essay. (I was thinking it was a love song: his girl abandoned him on Christmas eve, and he was so devastated that he didn’t bother with the traditions that year.)
  2. What motivated David Faulkner to write Tojo?
  3. The meaning of Santa Never Made It is pretty clear; what is the meaning of Tojo?
  4. What is different between the two approaches?
  5. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches?
  6. What information would be important to know before listening to Tojo for the first time to interpret it correctly? How does world knowledge affect our ability to comprehend the messages we receive from art, from media, etc.?
Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo

I’d award some bonus points to students who accurately describe who Tojo is; slightly less points for making a good guess. I would also possibly award various levels of bonus points for various levels of answering the question, “What would be required for a computer to understand either song?” It’s probably a good thing I’m not a high school English teacher: my students would have too much fun. Or I’d get fired for not following Common Core.

Is Suffering Really Necessary?

Suffering
Author’s note: I wrote this last week, in two cities and over hundreds of miles in the air, before Robin Williams left our sphere of existence. While that event and the subsequent news and social media flurry may color how you read this, and while some of it may even apply, to think I am making any statement about that would be incorrect.

This post showed up in my FB feed the other day stating:

It is interesting to realize I was taught to believe that suffering was healthy. Suffering isn’t healthy, nor necessary. Ever.

Someone commented on that post saying that pain is necessary, but suffering is not. This idea is not restricted to that post or its comments. Over at society6.com, Josh Lafayette has an art print expressing this idea. And there’s a picture incorrectly attributing the idea to Buddha (the tl;dr version of the article: “Imagine someone in Asia posting ‘Jesus quotes’ (which are actually AA slogans) under a picture of Santa Claus, and you’ll get a feel for what’s [wrong with this picture]”).

The problem with reading the dictionary when you’re doing your spelling assignments in second grade is that you can’t let people misuse their native language with impunity. So let’s take a look at the root word “suffer“, as defined by the descriptive linguists at Merriam-Webster:
You won’t believe what happens next! Oh, sorry, this isn’t bait. I’ll leave that stuff on buzzfeed.

Aside

Today I celebrate the passing of the 365th day since my last auto accident. Yay! Hopefully, I can avoid what the image below intimates. Related Posts: My last auto accident

Silent Treatment: an Imagined Conversation while Heading Home from Work on a Friday Afternoon

“Nobody asked your opinion,” she said with a glare.
“Well that was awfully kind of nobody to ask my opinion, wasn’t it?” I replied.
“At least when I say good morning to nobody, nobody is kind enough to acknowledge my existence; at least nobody says good morning in return.”

Protected: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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Aside

I deactivated my Facebook account last Friday. The time I was spending reading all the articles, taking all the quizzes, watching all the cat videos (okay, so I only had a few cat videos in my news feed, but I … Continue reading

The inside of a guy’s mind

A page telling women how to flirt says:

A guy’s mind is simple. He wants the attention of all attractive women. If he knows you like him already, he’ll lose interest in wooing you or impressing you.

If it seems too obvious that you like him already, he knows that he doesn’t have to work harder to get your attention and he’ll forget all about the chase.

Clearly, they’ve never seen the inside of my mind (nevermind why I was reading the article, that’s a story for another day, like probably never). They don’t know that all the flirting games become too apparent to me. The more these rules are adhered to, they don’t make me more interested, but less.  The tips claim to guard against it being too obvious, but if I’ve already figured it out (which doesn’t take reading the article), and you flirt with another guy to try to get my attention, it does exactly the opposite: makes it too obvious. Plus, I have a tendency to say fine, flirt with him, if that’s what you really want. Don’t be fake on my account.

Take, for example, a young woman I was pursuing a few years ago. We were sitting in church, and I was sitting at the sacrament table to bless the sacrament. This meant I had a clear view of this woman, who was sitting on the same side of the building. The meeting had not yet started. As people were coming in, my attention was drawn to another guy coming in. Of this man and his brother one of my friends said that no guy wants to invite either of them to his own wedding, for fear their fianceé will abandon them at the altar. They were significantly taller than 6’0″, muscular, handsome, secure jobs, well-paying jobs, talented, athletic.

So, in walks one of these brothers, and my attention is drawn by the color of his shirt (pink, I think). This young woman I was pursuing notices the shift in my eyes, and turns around to see what I’m looking at. When she sees him, she she looks back toward me, then tries to make it look like she’s ogling him, and trying to get him to look at her. As he passes the row she is sitting in, his eyes focused on whatever his goal was, she gives up and shrugs her shoulders. I had to stifle some laughs. No matter how highly I thought of this woman, he was still out of her league. Saying that makes me think of a line from a nursery rhyme: “The little dog laughed to see such sport.”

If I already know you like me and you try too hard to be coy, I’ll think maybe you don’t like me anymore, or at least not as much as you used to, and I’ll be singing along to Blues Traveler’s Run-around: “But you, why you wanna give me a run-around? Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up, when all it does is slow me down?” I won’t start thinking, “What can I do to continue the chase?” No, I’ll start thinking, “What did I do or say that resulted in her choosing to lose interest in me?”

On another occasion, this same young woman, again at church, was heading from the back of the chapel toward the front. The meeting was over; I was cleaning up the used sacrament cups and putting the cloths away. The ward choir had performed a few musical numbers; I was a bass in the choir. I knew, as I saw her approaching, that she was coming to compliment me on the performance. But, there was no one else around, as they were all in the gym behind the chapel socializing. This made it so that when I smiled upon seeing her coming toward me, she stopped, contorting her lips to the left side of her mouth (ladies, please know that this doesn’t look attractive, it just looks like, well, like you’re trying too hard), and turned to the left, exiting out the door on that side.

The effect this had was not to make me try harder. I spent many hours trying to figure that one out, and yes, eventually came to the conclusion she was playing by the rules at the above site. Have I mentioned I don’t like playing games? I don’t consider flirting to be a form of playing games; I do consider flirting with someone else to try to get me to chase to be playing games.

Judgement

I wrote this over the weekend (before all the news stories that say essentially the same thing came out), and didn’t intend to post it. But the post I wanted to post is taking on a life of its own, so here’s some filler instead. Not that it is trite, but a) you all have probably heard enough about this, and b) compared to this other post, I am not emotionally invested in it. So, the post:

Treyvon is dead. His killer was deemed not guilty of murder, and not guilty of manslaughter. People are upset, how could this happen? They make it about politics. They make it about race. They make it about wealth. They say there is no question about whether he was the man who did it, or that he did it. They claim the only question is, was he fully justified in every way in doing it?

But this is not what the jurors were instructed to deliberate. What were they instructed to deliberate?

The webs we weave

Photo-0067

This picture was taken on a day when, after a late afternoon appointment at the doctor’s office, I said, “Nope, I’m not going back to work today.”

In my FB activity feed, I saw a friend had commented on a “photo”, you know, the kind that is really just a bunch of text someone slapped onto a background with Paint or Photoshop or Gimp… and now they’ve shared it on FB. The text said:

Do you ever just wake up and go “NOPE” …and roll over and go back to sleep?

My friend commented “everyday”. The page/user was named “Forget love forever alone”, but using a crude and distasteful four letter word in place of “forget”. I’d like to think this friend just didn’t happen to notice the name, that if they had they wouldn’t have felt compelled to continue, but it makes me wonder…

Do you ever comment on a photo/link/status/etc., and not realize that you’ve just associated yourself with something crass?

[A note to my readers and followers: Before you decide to stop reading or unfollow me because you think I’m a prude or naïve, know that I have said my share of those crass, crude, and distasteful words, both softly and yelled with venom; I have also chosen to leave them behind.]