Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Odds and Ends

Congressman Weiner Strikes Again!
"Four Restaurant Customers Burned by Flaming Bananas"
--headline, Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach), June 13

Imagine if He Were Not "Friendship Man"

"Friendship Man Kills Himself and Injures Wife in Process"
--headline, Dyersburg (Tenn.) State Gazette, June 14

Unfortunate Headline of the Week
"Boehner Jokes About Weiner's Name in Ohio Speech"
--headline, Associated Press, June 12

BTW, aren't we all just a little bit happier that Congressman Weiner's given name is not Richard?
Speaking of Weiner
"Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person"
-- Weiner publicist Risa Heller to New York Times last Saturday.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi concluded that his behavior required medical intervention.  (also in the Times) 


There is a strange notion implicit here: heterosexual behavior can be cured!  Who knew?  But isn't there something dehumanizing about the supposition that homosexuals are helpless victims of their urges while (with ptofessional treatment and medical intervention) heterosexuals can learn to control them? 

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When is Weather Really Climate? 

Ans. When it is bad weather.  Just as global warming has been blamed for the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, so too it has been blamed for the recent spate of deadly tornadoes in tornado alley. 

It is especially telling when the headlines report: the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953; because what that means is that it was deadlier in 1953, before "global warming" is said to have begun.  (We were well into global cooling at that time, but it would be another decade or so before people began to notice and worry.) 

The NYTimes has this friendly interactive map.  In it you can notice the impact of doppler radar: As it became more common, more funnel clouds were spotted and, apparently, what were once annotated as a single tornado traveling a long distance are now noted as a string of individual tornados deployed in a line.  Most interesting is that during the period of "accelerated warming" from say 1974 to the El Nino of 1998, the number of tornado deaths was essentially low and flat; but as temperatures leveled off and began to decline tornado deaths increased again.  Perhaps La Nina has something to do with it. 

The other interesting thing about tornadoes is that nearly all of them are in Canada and the US.  This is because North America is a Lean, Mean Tornado Machine

Of course, global warming has been rebranded as "climate change," but this is like claiming that velocity is due to "location change," or that evolution is due to "species change."  Change is of course what climates do, and efforts to stop the world are destined to fail. 

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Words at Play

The Codgitator has this linguistic observation about Chinese recently discovered on his blog. 
Recently I was talking with a buddy about some confusing, in fact distressing, managerial actions at my school. He shrugged it off by saying, 'Well, you can't expect too much. It's Chinese, and therefore by definition illogical.' I replied, quite matter-of-factly, 'Funny you should say that. "Logic" is a borrow word, you know.' My buddy doesn't study Chinese; I do. And I learned almost as soon as I got to Taiwan that the Chinese word for 'logic' is but a phonetic translation: luójí. For me, having dealt with Chinese culture for only a few months then, the implications were curious at worst and humorous at best. For my buddy, however, who's been here around five years, this was a sheer epiphany. 'Ohhhhhhh! Of couuurrse! Logic is a borrow word! They had to take the word from English cuz they didn't have a word for it until like the nineteenth century! Everything makes sense now.'

(Of course, logic is a loan word in English, too.  It comes from the Greek.  But OTOH, it was inherited "genetically," as it were, given the close association of Romans with Greeks.) 

Codgitator goes on to note in the same post:
I was looking up the word 'fill in [a blank form]' (tiánbiǎo) and wanted to know how or when else to use tián ('fill'). Scanning down the options, my eyes stopped at the final, noticeably lengthy entry: tiányā. The first meaning is 'to overfeed and under-exercise ducks in order make their flesh more tender and sweet', presumably a technique used to create China's famous 'Peking duck' delights. The second meaning? 'To teach students any and all information needed to test (into a higher level or school).' In other words, to teach by 'stuffing the duck.'

Just as my buddy had his epiphany with luójí, so I had my epiphany with 'stuffing the duck'. No wonder my kids are unused to independent creative activites! No wonder my teaching is always at risk of being subjugated by students, parents and administrators to yield better grades on more tests! China's entire educational system -- as a matter of historical fact, even if my experience weren't probative enough -- is based on stuffing the duck!
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A Palin in the Neck

The Great Tsunami of Sarah Palin Emails has yielded such bombshell headlines as:
  • "Sarah Palin Emails Provide No Big Bombshells"--Politico
  • Palin's E-Mails Undercut Simplistic Views of Her, Both Positive and Negative"--New York Times
  • "Palin Emails Don't Contain Any Bombshell, 'Gotcha' Moments"--Anchorage Daily News
  • "Search Shows Few Michigan References in Palin Emails"--Detroit News
London's Daily Telegraph however reports something not mentioned in the NYTimes: viz., that Palin "received a barrage of abusive emails including death threats in the run up to the 2008 presidential race." 

Patricia Williams, a Columbia professor, wrote an editorial in London's Guardian, titled "Sarah Palin Emails: Banal, Hypocritical and Smug . . . We Already Knew That."  Inter alia, Williams was outraged to learn that Gov. Palin employed speechwriters and prayed for guidance. 

One wonders if she isn't going to come out ahead at the end because her correspondence is boring. This is playing against the backdrop of revelations that New York Congressman Andrew [sic] Weiner sent hundreds of salacious texts and photos to women who were not his wife. By contrast, Palin's correspondence seems a paragon of virtue, as she is revealed fussing about her hair, wondering about dinner, and hiding the hootch from the kids. You could almost forget she's an idiot.

Set aside the question of whether a man who sends photos of his Johnson to strange women might not be a much bigger idiot than someone who wonders about dinner.  Williams also complains that Palin is "often dead wrong about the facts." Yet (the WSJ notes) her 600-word piece contains at least three major factual errors.
  1. "Andrew" Weiner
  2. gives wrong year for the Tucson massacre (for which she implies Palin is to blame) and
  3. ascribed to Palin an incident involving Michele Bachmann
What is with the maniacal, mouth-foaming, death-threatening hatred here?  How many losing VP candidates get this level of Orwellian contumely?  It is hard to understand the media obsession.  It is even harder to understand how these same media people can complain that Palin is always in the media. 
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