You probably know that after the Supreme Court hearing about the health care law, the Republican National Committee released a video with what sounded like an honest audio recording of part of that hearing. And you probably know it wasn’t an honest audio. The Republican National Committee had manipulated the audio to make it sound as if the government’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli, was nervous and stumbling, because he was having a hard time making the case for the government’s health care plan.
Why did the Republican National Committee lie that way? After all, only the most partisan Democrats would claim the government came off well in that hearing. Verrilli certianly did his job well, but any objective listener would have to say that the conservative justices appeared very dubious about the law and the more middle-of-the-road justices seemed pretty skeptical of it. It wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration.
George Romney’s first video attacking President Barack Obama also was a bare-faced lie. Romney’s campaign associates frankly admitted that they used Obama’s words when he was quoting one of his opponents, but they attributed the sentiments to Obama. They said they were merely making a political point. Apparently, that made it all right. (We have a post on that, but please don’t get distracted.)
Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee has said that the GOP ad about health care and the Supreme Court uses multiple audio bites and runs them together to make it sound as if the Solicitor General is having a hard time defending the law. “Our goal was to make the point of what a hard sell Obamacare is,” Spicer told the Associated Press. Oh, good, that explains the lying.
The flowers above are called scilla. They come in a variety of colors and they’re one of the early signs of spring, dotting the untended suburban lawns. And if you have a few one year, you’ll have lots more the next year, and so on year after year. If you hire a lawn service every April, or if you simply use a good broad spectrum weed killer, you’ll be rid of this invasive weed. That’s why we never hire a lawn service or use weed killer.
Book buyers like to shop Amazon.Com. You could even go so far as to say they love it. Consumers don’t know much about Amazon’s top man, Jeff Bezos, but they do know that Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore. Best of all, you can buy a book with a few clocks of your computer mouse. And if you don’t want to buy it at full price, you can see right there beside it some second hand copies for sale at a lower price. (That might be hard on the writer but, hey, we’re poor readers, not starving writers.)
Furthermore, the book will arrive at your home the very next day, or in a few days if you’re not in a rush. And if you’re in a big hurry and want something right now you can download a book to your Amazon Kindle reader. But maybe you don’t want a book. Maybe you’d like a movie. Amazon has lots of those. And lots of music, too. As Amazon says: “20 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books.” And dresses. And shoes. And crockpots and shovels and tomato sauce and banjos. Amazon is amazing!
So it’s interesting that writers and publishers loath Amazon, the world’s largest bookstore. How can that be? (OK, we’ve already given you a hint. But please keep reading anyway.) Publishers don’t sell books to directly readers, they sell them to booksellers who then sell them to readers. Now online shoppers in the United States will spend $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion this year and 62% from $202 billion in 2011, according to a projection by Forrester Research, Inc. And Amazon dominates the online book selling world.
Here’s what you do when you dominate the market, if you’re Jeff Bezos. A couple of years ago Amazon decided to sell MacMillan’s e-books, and e-book of every publisher, for $9.99 or less. (Great for customers, right?) That meant Amazon would lose money on every sale, but Jeff Bezos has money to burn and selling at a loss would knock out other e-book sellers, such as Barnes & Noble, whereupon Jeff and Amazon could monopolize the market.
But MacMillan objected to Amazon’s pricing and said that only MacMillan had the right to determine pricing for MacMillan’s books. So Amazon simply turned off the little buttons that permit you to buy MacMillan books at Amazon, thereby shutting the publisher out of the biggest online market.
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
It turns out that the word nostalgia means homesickness. I guess some of us weren’t in class the day the teacher talked about nostalgia. Some of us thought the word referred to that feeling of pleasure, tinged with gentle melancholy, that can arise when you think of something that had been familiar and meaningful to you in the past.
As it happens, we were wrong. All of us around here were wrong. The word was composed in the 17th century to describe a malady, severe homesickness, which was first noticed in Swiss mercenaries. Those Swiss mercenaries were sent all over Europe and, no surprise, they got homesick, extremely homesick. The word incorporates two Greek words, (nóstos), meaning a return home, and (álgos), meaning pain or ache. When it comes to making new words, the obscurantist medical profession gets out the Greek and Latin dictionaries.
We looked up nostalgia in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition. (That’s a classic edition.) Yup, there it was. The total definition is one solitary word: homesickness. That edition was based on the famous Second Edition of Webster’s New Internatinal Dictionary which was copyrighted in 1934, so we turned to a more up-to-date volume, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, which was copyrighted in 1989. The number 1 definition was still homesickness.
But there was also definition number 2: “a wistful or excessively sentimental sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.” Have you got that? OK, we’ve already admitted not being in class the day our teacher discussed nostalgia, but I’m sure neither Miss Hammerstone nor Miss Bundelmom would ever speak so strangely.
I don’t know if looking at some old tie-dyed T-shirts and torn blue-jeans would give you a wistful or excessively sentimental sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. On the other hand, if you’re in Rome and visit Vatican City and you see one of the Pope’s Swiss guards looking rather sickish, you can say, Ah, nostalgia!
As we said in an earlier post, the first sign of spring is often winter aconite, not crocuses. And that’s good for winter aconite, because if it came to blossom later, it wouldn’t really be looked at or cared about, because it’s a rather meager flower, a kind of small version of a butter cup. But even before the aconite has melted away, crocuses appear, delicate chalices of color that steal the show. Here are some crocuses
The only way to have crocuses in the spring is to plant crocus bulbs in the fall. Now, planting in the grimness of fall when the garden is a bedraggled mess, when the days are short and chill, and the nights long and cold, requires faith. But in this instance, halleluiah! The saints and angels will dance and your faith will be rewarded! Unless you’ve planted the bulbs in soggy soil, so they rot, or planted them where squirrels can eat them for lunch. We know this sounds like theology but it’s really just gardening. Now relax — your test of faith doesn’t come until the fall. For now, enjoy the display. It’s transient. Like a lot of things.
If you haven’t heard of pink slime, you’re fortunate. Pink slime is gross. The meat industry calls it “lean finely textured beef,” a wonderful phrase which shows that poets and rhetoricians have an important role to play in industrial America.
Pink slime, or lean finely textured beef, is a meat filler that is routinely added to hamburger. Think of it as hamburger helper that you didn’t know was there. Most of the time when you buy a slice of meat the label tells you what part you’re getting – chuck, sirloin, tenderloin, and the like – but when you buy hamburger the label often says simply ground beef. And if you take the leftover bits of those named cuts, plus muscle, connective tissue and blood which would ordinarily be dumped, and heat all this, spin it to remove the now liquid fat, and compress the remainder you get what a federal microbiologist called “pink slime.” The name stuck, because that’s what it looks like.
Getting rid of the fat in those throwaway leftovers means that you can add this stuff to fattier ground beef and thereby reduce the percentage of fat in the total. That way you can end up with hamburger that’s, say, 80 percent lean, just like the ground beef that’s made from a cut of meat that’s naturally 80 percent lean. And since pink slime is made from beef it’s not considered an additive so there’s no regulation compelling the meat industry to label the mixed ground beef as having this stuff in it. Oh, it’s true that these leftover bits are more likely to contain pathogens, so the meat is gassed with ammonium hydroxide to kill them, a treatment considered safe and approved by the FDA.
Well, enough of this juvenile grossness! It’s estimated that 70 percent of the ground beef for sale in your local grocery store has got pink slime in it. You’ve already eaten a barrel of the stuff and you’re OK. Stop whining. Or regurgitating. If you want more on this subject, there’s a balanced piece that was on NPR a while ago. Bon appétite!
We’ve called upon our financial adviser, Chicken Little, for investment advice. Here’s why. According to the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 3.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. That’s nice, but it’s not great. Yet the Labor Department reported that the US added 227,000 jobs in February. That was the third month in a row that the country added more than 200,000 nonfarm jobs. That seems excessive when the GDP is so anemic.
Apparently, consumers are buying more things and paying for more services and that induces employers to hire more workers to make more things and to provide more services. But those nice consumers are building up their credit card debt again. After the recession hit home, people began paying off their debt instead of spending. But now, according to the Federal Reserve, revolving credit, made up mostly of credit card debt, increased during the last four months of 2011, going up nearly $3 billion to $801 billion. (It went down in the first month of this year, but January always shows a drop in credit card debt because consumers are exhausted by what they spent for Christmas.)
So people have begun once again to spend money they don’t have and maybe that’s what this improvement in the economic scene is built on. That’s why called on our financial adviser, Chicken Little.
As usual, Ms Little explained everything and put our minds at rest. “While the job numbers have improved, I would not call them excessively good,” she said. “GDP is only weakly linked to current employment numbers. It combines things like consumption, investment, balance of trade and stuff. It’s related like the stock market is related to the economy — only over time they track. Consumers always feel better and spend more when employment and the stock market goes up. We who follow such things are never bothered by contradictions.”
Crocuses are often the flowers that announce the sure arrival of spring to the suburban gardener. But an earlier herald is winter aconite. These brilliant, miniature butter-cup-like flowers pop up, seemingly overnight, about the same time as snowdrops. In the photo above you can see winter aconite, hunched up and shivering among the remnants of a snow shower. When the sun shines a bit longer and warms them up, the flowers will expand into loose, cup-like shapes, as in the photo below. You can plant winter aconite and then forget it; it’s a hardy flower and it spreads easily. Winter aconite is said to be deer resistant. Those must be deer that live far, far away from our flower beds and vegetable patch. The deer around here will eat anything you’ve taken care to plant and to nourish.
Rush Limbaugh has issued a second apology for his mud-slinging assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Or, actually, he’s simply said that his first apology was sincere. His first apology was an apology for a slip of the tongue. It didn’t sound sincere, because he never retracted his assessment of her as a slut and a prostitute who ought to video tape her sexual encounters and display them on the internet. He appears to be making this second apology because sponsors are continuing to withdraw their advertising dollars from his show.
This second apology took a half hour of air time on Limbaugh’s radio show; the transcript of it on his show’s web site is over 2,200 words long. The vast bulk of the statement is an attack on his “enemies,” those he characterizes as socialist liberals, including President Obama, the Democratic Party, the liberal media, and the administration’s health care program, most specifically it’s policy on insurance and birth control.
Here’s Limbaugh’s apology for calling Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute and asking that she videotape her sexual encounters and show then on the internet:
I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. I do not think she is either of those two words. I did not think last week that she is either of those two words.
Rush Limbaugh’s apologies can be found on his radio show’s website.
Recently, Rush Limbaugh threw verbal mud at a Georgetown law student who, in testimony to a group of Democrats, expressed her views in the controversy between Catholic church officials and the Obama administration’s birth control policy. Limbaugh misstated both the law student’s statements and the Obama administration’s policy, then he launched his attack, calling her a slut, a prostitute who demanded that tax payers pay her so she could enjoy sex. Limbaugh asked that she provide taxpayers with online videos of her sexual encounters in exchange for their tax dollars.
After some of his radio show sponsors withdrew their support, Rush Limbaugh issued an “apology” to the young woman. The statement contains 192 words, of which 55 are apologetic. You’ll notice that he apologizes only for choosing the wrong words in what he alone characterizes as an attempt to be humorous. It was not an attempt to be humorous.
It’s shamefully easy to sit back and let Rush Limbaugh make a jackass of himself, but his “apology” is worth reading just to get a sense of how his mind works and his extraordinary vanity — by the end of this statement he apologizes for creating a national stir! When he says I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities, he uses “social activities” to mean sexual intercourse. Mr. Limbaugh frames women’s contraception entirely and exclusively in terms of recreational sex. Furthermore, in this instance, it’s insurance companies and their policy holders, not taxpayers, who pay for birth control pills. Here’s Rush Limbaugh in his own words:
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
The photo shows John “Rick” Santorum smiling, but the man has a tendency to get into a rage. Recently he said that the famous speech given by John F. Kennedy on the separation of church and state made him “want to throw up.” Santorum later said he wished he “had that particular line back.” He spoke that particular line to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” in February of 2012. The reason the subject came up was because Santorum was asked about having said something like that back in October. Back then Rick said he “almost threw up” after reading the speech.
What made Rick Santorum want to throw up or almost throw up was that – according to Santorum – Kennedy was saying that “people of faith have no role in the public square.” Of course, neither Kennedy nor anyone else has said that. Everyone knows that Kennedy made that speech in 1960 to set at rest the anxieties felt by certain voters about Kennedy’s Catholicism. The only other Catholic of a major party to campaign for the presidency was Al Smith in 1928, and he was defeated in part by the fearful bigotry of certain Lutherans and Southern Baptists who believed that if Smith were elected he’d be taking orders from the Pope. Now that Catholics can participate in politics at the highest level, Rick Santorum, a Catholic, almost vomits when he reads that speech about the separation of church and state.
Until Rick Santorum got so angry he nearly vomited, even Republican voters believed that ” separation of church and state” meant that the institution of state is separate from the institution of any church. Or, as that iconic Republican Ronald Regan said in 1984, “Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.”
But Rick Santorum gets into a rage about a lot of things. President Obama, in his speech to Congress in 2009, asked “every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.”
And Santorum flew into a rage. “What a snob!” he cried. Why is it snobbery to ask your fellow Americans to commit themselves to a year of higher education or vocational training or an apprenticeship? Rick Santorum, has an undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University, an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, and a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law. That’s about as much higher education as you can get!
Sometimes it seem that Santorum distorts the words and policies of his political opponents simply in order to get into a rage about them. Or maybe it’s the other way around: he distorts and misquotes his opponents in order to justify his habitual rage.
Rick Santorum is a man of faith, despite — as he would say — despite having gone to college. Because, according to him, “62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it,” Wow! That’s terrible! And hard to believe. He made those observations to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” He said he got that figure from a study that may be out of date and, he added, “I suspect it may even be worse.” That might explain his sizzling anger about asking people to get at least one year of training in anything from a college to a trade school. According to Santorum, those educational institutions are places where liberals indoctrinate students. Golly.
A lot of studies have been made about the effect of educational level on religious beliefs and, by and large, they don’t support Santorum’s views. Quite the contrary, the study that Santorum was referring to points out that “76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.” Apparently, not going to college damages faith more than going to college.
Purposely distorting another person’s words is called bearing false witness. And making assertions that you know are not true is called lying. Rick Santorum’s behavior gives faith a bad name. Or maybe he’s just looking for ways to justify his inner rage.
Now is the time to tap your sugarbush. Obviously, this isn’t a post for big producers with miles of plastic tubing and a forest of sugar maples. This is for anyone who has a couple or even a solitary sugar maple, and would like to have some true maple syrup.
Most innocents who drive to the supermarket for maple syrup return with a bottle of “maple flavored syrup” or “pancake syrup” containing, at best, a mixture of maple syrup and something else — most likely high fructose corn syrup. Whatever it is, the syrup is dark, has a maple flavor and pours nicely on waffles and pancakes. But if you tap your own tree and boil down the sap, you’ll discover the taste of true maple syrup. You’ll produce a range of colors and you may decide — it’s a matter of taste, of course — that a light golden syrup has a taste even finer than an amber or topaz color.
As you can see in the photo above, the bark of the sugar maple, though rough and irregular, has distinctive flat plates. If the tree is at least 10 or 12 inches in diameter, you can make one tap hole, and you can make another tap for every additional 8 inches in diameter. If you’re not so good at estimating diameters, run a tape measure around the tree and if it’s more than 32 inches around, you can take sap from it.
Drill a hole at a convenient height and go in about 2 or 3 inches, using a 7/16 inch bit. Next you put in your spout, called a spile, and hang a bucket to catch the sap that drips out. You could use any old piece of pipe, but you’ll probably be happier if you buy a few spiles from a sugaring supplier. And while your at it, you can buy a sap bucket with a cover to keep out falling rain or snow.
Now it does take a lot of sap to make maple syrup. In fact, as you boil down the sap you’ll discover that it takes about forty measures of sap to make one measure of syrup. But it’s worth it. If you’d like to try, you’ll find a number of websites with more information than we have room for. You’ll also discover that there’s a difference of opinion as to where, exactly, to place those taps and how to boil down the sap.
There’s probably a science to tapping sugar maples, but when you’re doing this as an amateur you enter a world of lore and legend, and when you meet another amateur, you immediately begin to discuss what kind of sugaring season this has been, how sweet or not the sap was, what color was showing when you decided to stop boiling down, and so forth. What we’ve described is simply the way we do it. Some hobbyists insist on boiling down the sap in big flat pans on a wood-fed fire out of doors. We just empty our sap buckets into our biggest pot and boil down on the kitchen stove.
We like this spring ritual and have a lot of fun doing it. We’re not in the recommendation business, so just go to your favorite search program and plug in the words, maple sap + maple syrup, or maple supplies. Good luck.
Marilyn Robertson lives in California where, in addition to writing poems, she also composes songs, plays the piano (ragtime) and the guitar, and sings. Maybe she also teaches in a grammar school. Here are two of her poems about the imagination.
After Reading Rilke to the Class
It’ is still possible, I tell my students as I collect their essays,
for you to find the place that Rilke talks about:
the repository of unlived lives.
Don’t let these desks limit your imagination.
For example, I say, and I bang my pointer
against the wall map for dramatic effect,
you could be here — in Spain — tossing dogs in blankets
as the wool gatherers do in Cordoba at Shrovetide.
They look blank. But just before the bell,
a cocker spaniel sails up out of a blue bedspread.
gyrating slowly in the stuffy air, barely missing
the light fixture on its chain in the middle of the ceiling.
A different drummer was seen in Portland this week.
He was marching by an elementary school when
a boy, sitting at the kindergarten art table,
happened to look up as he passed.
After that, the boy could no longer follow
the teacher’s instructions: to make
a collage of colored squares on white paper.
Instead, he made a long chain of squares,
adding red to green to blue to yellow —
and gluing that chain to the very edge of his paper.
Imagine the joy of it.
The sound of the drum growing louder.
The way the man in the bright coat
swung his arms high in the air with each beat.
And the quick smile he gave the boy at the window,
as if he knew him from another time…
long before kindergarten.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At least that’s what it says when you click on About Google at the bottom of the Google page. As a corporation, Google is singular in having as it’s motto “Don’t be evil” — that’s actually what they said in the prospectus for their 2004 IPO, the Initial Public Offering of stock to the public.
And in Google’s 10-point philosophy, under the heading Our philosophy, point number 6 says: You can make money without doing evil. Google is a business. The revenue we generate is derived from offering search technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on our site and on other sites across the web. (And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can look up what Google has to say, but if we repeat it, you’ll get bored and move on, and we’re trying to make a point of our own, so please keep reading.)
Who could object to that, right? And if you read the entire policy, which Google put there so you could read it, you’ll learn more details. From Google’s business point of view, the policy is certainly good because Google will have all the information about you in one place. But for people who use Google, it’s not so good. Because when you gather small bits of information about a person from a lot of different sources, and put them into one big heap of information in one place all about that person, you know a lot more about that person than when the information is scattered. Yes, bringing all the scattered bits together does make a difference. It’s a lot easier to put a jigsaw puzzle together if you have all the pieces in one place.
- If you have a comment to make, we'd like to hear from you, so long as it doesn't reduce us to tears. Or, better yet, if you've written a couple of paragraphs on an engaging topic, send them along. Our email address is on the Contact page, and you can get there by clicking the word Contact just above the calender.
What have we got here…"Ode to Autumn" Art Arts Banks Books Chicken Little Christmas Classic novels Culture Death Economics Flower Flowers Food French Cinema Great literature History Lies Literature Marijuana Media Movies Nasturtiums Nature Nudity Obama Occupy Wall Street Painting Poem Poems Poetry Politics Privacy Reading Religion Republicans Romney Science Sex Society Starving writers Supreme Court Taxes theology Valentine's Day
You may be aware that Eugene Mirabelli writes most of the posts here. The gold medal he won for literary fiction shouldn’t obscure the fact that he also writes science fiction and fantasy - a shameful pleasure.
The critically acclaimed Lightspeed is one of the leading science fiction and fantasy magazines in the United States. Gene's "Love in Another Language" appears in the February issue pictured above. And, no, the cigar smoking woman on the cover, admirable and maybe loveable in her way, is not a figure from his story.