Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Another Reason to Not Share Letters

In my many ruminations on logos that have readability problems, I've often mentioned ones that attempt to share a letter between two or more words (like this one). There's a set of readers I hadn't thought of before, though, who would have an even harder time with this type of logo: low-literacy readers and especially second-language readers.

While traveling in another country recently, I was that reader, and I had no idea what this sign said:

Is it Skipper Stoffer? Skipper Toffer? Skipper Toffe? Kipper Stoffe? I still don't know.

Nice-looking sign, though. Too bad I don't have any idea what it says.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Mid-Month Twitter Roundup on Kavanaugh

Here's what I've been seeing on Twitter about the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, on a day when it looks as though the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold more hearings and/or delay its vote on his nomination because he is credibly accused of attempted rape as a 17-year-old.

"He didn't do this...a long time ago...and everybody did it...and what about all the people he didn't do it to?" is certainly a tightly crafted argument.
Mark Harris

High school date rape isn’t a phase for teenage boys and shouldn’t be treated like one. Some of y’all are sick.
Imani Gandy @AngryBlackLady

As the Right tries to sell “Bad behavior of a 17-year-old has no bearing on a 53-year-old,” remember they overwhelmingly support policies that treat 17-year-olds as adults, sentence 17-year-olds to life w/o any possibility of parole, and burden 17-year-olds with criminal records limiting opportunity forever.
Scott Hechinger

How can we credibly tell American women that they are full and equal members of society if two of the people making decisions about their constitutional rights are sexual abusers?
Jessica Valenti

"If we refuse to hire men who've sexually assaulted someone, no men would be hired" is quite revealing.
"If we refuse to hire men who've sexually assaulted someone, we won't have any leaders" is VEEEEEEERY revealing.

I feel like the "he was 17!" takes should probably mention that she was 15.

The Republican party has now supported a sexual predator for the Presidency (Donald Trump), the Senate (Roy Moore) and the Supreme Court (Brett Kavanaugh). How do Republican women in America vote for a party that enables men who harm women? Where is your dignity and self-respect?

I want a venn diagram of people willing to argue "Give Kavanaugh a break, he was only 17" and "Trayvon Martin got what he deserved."
Jeet Heer

When an entire political party tells you they don’t give a damn about women, believe them.
Ian Millhiser

In 1987, Douglas Ginsburg had to withdraw from a supreme court nomination because he smoked grass a few times.
Jeet Heer

So, to summarize, a confessed serial sexual predator nominated a man who is credibly accused of attempted rape to be the key vote to strip women of reproductive freedom.
Ian Millhiser

Sometimes I amuse myself by imagining America's Old White Men enduring just a hint, just a dram, just a tiny, tiny scosche of the endless hassles, discrimination, disdain, and contempt women in America endure every f'ing day, in their personal lives and in public life. These are guys who make a national fuss when an animated show adds minority characters. When they receive the wrong holiday greeting at a store. When professional athletes kneel on their TV. Just IMAGINE if they faced what women face, for even a day. The earth would shake.
David Roberts

one of the things i simply know to be true at this point is that the vast majority of men simply do not consider women to be full human beings -- capable of the same vast range of emotions and thoughts and self-conceptions, flawed, weird, unique, whole

“A woman has said he raped her in high school.”
“This list of 65 women from his high school say he’s great.”
“Wait, why did you have that list?”
“No reason."

Men should be glad women want equality and not revenge.
Otegha K. Uwagba
As with Al Franken, the standard here is not innocent until proven guilty. Another commentator put it this way: this isn't a trial, it's a job interview. We're not talking about depriving Kavanaugh of liberty, but instead leaving him in a lifetime appointment on the D.C. Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, I keep thinking of Anita Hill.


Update: More Twitter comments on this topic on Tuesday, September 18.
KAVANAUGH: I clearly remember not attending this party in the 1980s
KAVANAUGH: I can't remember a single thing about serving in the Bush Administration in the 2000s.
Max Burns

"She was drunk, this rape is her fault."
"He was drunk, this rape isn't his fault.
Chloe Angyal

Imagine listening to a friend make this extensive 'sympathy for the rapist' argument at a dinner party and then trusting him in the same room as your kids ever again. Why do we still have to hear these people speak, why.
Julius Goat

When men reflexively rush to defend a sexual assault as a youthful indiscretion, I assume they’re defending their own past rather than the accused’s.
The Hoarse Whisperer

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, that means every 5-4 opinion authored by the Court's conservative majority will include two men credibly accused of sexual harassment and attempted rape. If that doesn't call into question the legitimacy of the institution and the rule of law...
corey robin

Call me crazy, but I think middle-aged men should accept that if they committed an attempted rape in high school, and it is made public now, it is reasonable and not outrageous that it has an impact on their career. If Kavanaugh drove drunk as a teen and ran someone over, and that person recovered but was always affected by the injuries, while Kavanaugh never admitted responsibility, ever, in thirty years, we would feel differently about him. No one would be saying "Think of the men!" And we have to stop allowing this weird doublethink where one day people are saying huffily, "Not all men!" but when something like the Kavanaugh affair happens, it instantly becomes, "But this is totally normal behavior for boys!"
Sandra Newman

What’s more likely: That a woman lied to her therapist in 2012 about a sexual assault so that one day she might be able to upend her life & reputation should Kavanaugh be tapped for SCOTUS? Or that he did it?
Jessica Valenti

can we amend “boys will be boys” to “predators will be predators” so we’re not ascribing violent behavior as “normal” to an entire gender expression/identity
Aparna Nancherla

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Dutch Words that Are Funny to Me

Yes, I know it's my ignorance speaking, but there are Dutch words that are funny to me as an English speaker.

Parking in front of this church is reserved for ceremonie wagens only. I assume this means hearses? Does it include the limos or other vehicles that might used by wedding couples? Not sure.

Then there are the gang signs. Gang signs everywhere!

That last one, I know, means "entrance" (ingoing, perhaps, would be a literal translation), but I am still amusing myself thinking about what doorgang and toegang might mean.

Not sure what this one means, either, but I think it might be Smack Masters, or maybe Snack Masters, given the context in the storefront.

And this sign for warm chocolate milk (which is the same thing as hot chocolate, perhaps?) contains my favorite word of all: slagroom. What do you think it means? I'll wait while you think... then scroll down for the answer.

It's whipped cream.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Amsterdam: Seen on the Street

Here are a few not quite random photos from the streets of Amsterdam, as seen on a recent visit.

A hard and soft pattern, seen inside the grounds of the MOCO museum.

A pillar at the local art college.

An unauthorized poster on the back of the "T" in the big tourist-magnet IAMSTERDAM installation, next to the Rijksmuseum. The words (on a simulated Nutella jar) translate to "I do not like monoculture."

Tiles on a wall somewhere along the street.

In the window at the Rubber Duck Shop of Amsterdam.

These recycling containers serve the people from several blocks nearby. Their deceptively small street-level receptacles conceal a much larger container underground, which is emptied by a truck that lifts the whole thing out of the earth. I didn't get a good look at how it's done, but it seemed pretty interesting.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Two Long Threads

Today there were two long threads on Twitter that had me thinking, both by writers I'm unfamiliar with.

First I saw this by Rob Wijnberg, about why the structure of the news media leads to such dysfunctional content:

Instead of worrying about fake news, I wrote an essay about why I think *real news* poses a way bigger problem for our society.

Disclaimer: with my news criticism, I *am not* jumping on the “blame the media” bandwagon. I’m just as concerned about the growing hostility towards journalists as my colleagues at news organizations the world over. When I say news, I don’t mean *all of journalism*.

On the other hand: I do think that the hostility, distrust, and cynicism towards media is a good reason for way more fundamental introspection within journalism circles: why are news media hated so much?

A common answer is: ideological bias. People hate you when they don’t agree with you. But I think the problem is more fundamental: news just doesn’t live up to its most basic promise, which is ‘telling you what’s going on in the world.’ Quite the opposite: news as we know it, tells you almost constantly what’s *not* happening in the world around you. Here’s why.

Although news is too big of a concept to accurately define, I think the definition I came to after studying the phenomenon for over 15 years comes pretty close: news is all about sensational, exceptional, negative, and current events.

Those five words capture exactly what’s wrong with news. It’s all about the highly visible, extremely unusual, depressingly terrible, bizarrely short term, and simply momentous. Which means: it leaves out the slow, the structural, the hopeful, the long term, and the developing.

Because of this, consuming news (and as a society, there’s almost no source of information we consume more of), fundamentally misinforms our view of the world. We see the bad weather, but have no clue about the climate.

Consider this: why do almost all systemic shocks - the financial meltdown, Brexit, Trump - end up in a debate among journalists about the question: why didn’t we see this coming? “Liberal” or “corporate” bias, is usually the answer we leave it at.

But I think it’s not so much liberal or corporate bias, it’s recency bias. If you can only talk about what’s happening *today*, and never about what happens *every day*, you end up clueless about the fundamental forces shaping our world.

There’s a reason why the lead role in The Big Short, who saw the mortgage crisis coming, ignored one source of information consistently: daily news. As the saying goes: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.’

Not only does the news misinform us, it also breeds cynicism, polarization, and distrust. It’s no coincidence that divisive figures like Trump are in the news constantly. It’s not because he’s “a master at it,” it’s just that he fits the definition of news perfectly.

I’ll even put it more boldly: if I were a populist with autocratic tendencies seeking power through polarization, I would without a doubt pick “daily news” as my go-to means of propaganda.

Because news, regardless of political leaning, is one big commercial for a worldview that says: the past is better than the future; other people can’t be trusted; the familiar is better than the foreign and civilization will fall apart without a strongman holding it together. News media push this world view 24/7, under the banner of “objectivity.” It’s an autocrat’s dream.

That’s why I think we should reconsider the definition, funding, and production of news altogether. Not by just “giving you the facts” and hoping you’ll like them. Not by “echoing your world view” and thinking that will restore trust.

No, we have to *unbreak news*. First, by getting rid of the ad model, freeing ourselves from the century-old incentive to sensationalize for attention grabbing sake, and instead focus on member funding to serve only the needs of readers.

Second, by being transparent about the moral convictions that inform our storytelling instead of hiding behind the misleading ‘view from nowhere’ also known as “objectivity.”

Third, and perhaps most importantly, by collaborating with readers to uncover problems that actually matter to them instead of those that just make them tick.

I don't think Wijnberg has thought hard enough about solutions, and I wonder what media sociologists have been thinking along and beyond these lines over the past 20 years or so that we never hear about... but still, an interesting thread.

The second thread was by Gabrielle Blair. It appeared in my feed almost a dozen times, and I can see why: it contains ideas that challenge several completely unexamined "realities" we all live with:
I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I've been listening to men grandstand about women's reproductive rights, and I'm convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion. Here's why…

If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies. No for real, they are. Perhaps you are thinking: IT TAKES TWO! And yes, it does take two for intentional pregnancies.

But ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don’t believe me? Let me walk you through it. Let’s start with this: women can only get pregnant about 2 days each month. And that’s for a limited number of years. That makes 24 days a year a women might get pregnant. But men can cause pregnancy 365 days a year. In fact, if you’re a man who ejaculates multiple times a day, you could cause multiple pregnancies daily. In theory a man could cause 1000+ unwanted pregnancies in just one year.

And though their sperm gets crappier as they age, men can cause unwanted pregnancies from puberty till death. So just starting with basic biology + the calendar it’s easy to see men are the issue here.

But what about birth control? If a woman doesn’t want to risk an unwanted pregnancy, why wouldn’t she just use birth control? If a women can manage to figure out how to get an abortion, surely she can get birth control, right? Great questions.

Modern birth control is possibly the greatest invention of the last century, and I am very grateful for it. It’s also brutal. The side effects for many women are ridiculously harmful. So ridiculous, that when an oral contraception for men was created, it wasn’t approved  because of the side effects. And the list of side effects was about 1/3 as long as the known side effects for women's oral contraception.

There’s a lot to be unpacked just in that story, but I’ll simply point out (in case you didn’t know) that as a society, we really don’t mind if women suffer, physically or mentally, as long as it makes things easier for men.

But good news, Men: Even with the horrible side effects, women are still very willing to use birth control. Unfortunately it’s harder to get than it should be. Birth control options for women require a doctor’s appointment and a prescription. It’s not free, and often not cheap. In fact there are many people trying to make it more expensive by fighting to make sure insurance companies refuse to cover it. Oral contraceptives for women can’t be acquired easily, or at the last minute. And they don't work instantly.

If we’re talking about the pill, it requires consistent daily use and doesn’t leave much room for mistakes, forgetfulness, or unexpected disruptions to daily schedules. And again, the side effects can be brutal. I’M STILL GRATEFUL FOR IT PLEASE DON’T TAKE IT AWAY. I’m just saying women's birth control isn’t simple or easy.
In contrast, let’s look at birth control for men, meaning condoms. Condoms are readily available at all hours, inexpensive, convenient, and don’t require a prescription. They’re effective, and work on demand, instantly. Men can keep them stocked up just in case, so they’re always prepared. Amazing! They are so much easier than birth control options for women. As a bonus, in general, women love when men use condoms. They keep us from getting STDs, they don’t lessen our pleasure during sex or prevent us from climaxing. And the best part? Clean up is so much easier — no waddling to the toilet as your jizz drips down our legs. So why in the world are there ever unwanted pregnancies? Why don't men just use condoms every time they have sex? Seems so simple, right?

Oh. I remember. Men don’t love condoms. In fact, men frequently pressure women to have sex without a condom. And it’s not unheard of for men to remove the condom during sex, without the women’s permission or knowledge. (Pro-tip: That's assault.)

Why would men want to have sex without a condom? Good question. Apparently it’s because for the minutes they are penetrating their partner, having no condom on gives the experience more pleasure.

So… there are men willing to risk getting a woman pregnant — which means literally risking her life, her health, her social status, her relationships, and her career, so that they can experience a few minutes of slightly more pleasure? Is that for real? Yes. Yes it is.

What are we talking about here pleasure-wise? If there’s a pleasure scale, with pain beginning at zero and going down into the negatives, a back-scratch falling at 5, and an orgasm without a condom being a 10, where would sex _with_ a condom fall? Like a 7 or 8?

So it’s not like sex with a condom is not pleasurable, it’s just not as pleasurable. An 8 instead of a 10. Let me emphasize that again: Men regularly choose to put women at massive risk by having non-condom sex, in order to experience a few minutes of slightly more pleasure.

Now keep in mind, for the truly condom-averse, men also have a non-condom, always-ready birth control built right in, called the pull out. It’s not perfect, and it's a favorite joke, but it is also 96% effective.

So surely, we can expect men who aren’t wearing a condom to at least pull out every time they have sex, right?

Nope. And why not?

Well, again, apparently it’s slightly more pleasurable to climax inside a vagina than, say, on their partner’s stomach. So men are willing to risk the life, health and well-being of women, in order to experience a tiny bit more pleasure for like 5 seconds during orgasm.

It’s mind-boggling and disturbing when you realize that’s the choice men are making. And honestly, I’m not as mad as I should be about this, because we’ve trained men from birth that their pleasure is of utmost importance in the world. (And to dis-associate sex and pregnancy.)

While we’re here, let’s talk a bit more about pleasure and biology. Did you know that a man CAN'T get a woman pregnant without having an orgasm? Which means that we can conclude getting a woman pregnant is a pleasurable act for men. But did you further know that men CAN get a woman pregnant without HER feeling any pleasure at all? In fact, it’s totally possible for a man to impregnate a woman even while causing her excruciating pain, trauma or horror.

In contrast, a woman can have non-stop orgasms with or without a partner and never once get herself pregnant. A woman’s orgasm has literally nothing to do with pregnancy or fertility — her clitoris exists not for creating new babies, but simply for pleasure. No matter how many orgasms she has, they won’t make her pregnant. Pregnancies can only happen when men have an orgasm. Unwanted pregnancies can only happen when men orgasm irresponsibly.

What this means is a women can be the sluttliest slut in the entire world who loves having orgasms all day long and all night long and she will never find herself with an unwanted pregnancy unless a man shows up and ejaculates irresponsibly. Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

Let’s talk more about responsibility. Men often don’t know, and don’t ask, and don’t think to ask, if they’ve caused a pregnancy. They may never think of it, or associate sex with making babies at all. Why? Because there are 0 consequences for men who cause unwanted pregnancies.

If the woman decides to have an abortion, the man may never know he caused an unwanted pregnancy with his irresponsible ejaculation. If the woman decides to have the baby, or put the baby up for adoption, the man may never know he caused an unwanted pregnancy with his irresponsible ejaculation, or that there’s now a child walking around with 50% of his DNA. If the woman does tell him that he caused an unwanted pregnancy and that she’s having the baby, the closest thing to a consequence for him, is that he may need to pay child support. But our current child support system is well-known to be a joke. 61% of men (or women) who are legally required to pay it, simply don’t. With little or no repercussions. Their credit isn’t even affected. So, many men keep going as is, causing unwanted pregnancies with irresponsible ejaculations and never giving it thought.

When the topic of abortion comes up, men might think: Abortion is horrible; women should not have abortions. And never once consider the man who CAUSED the unwanted pregnancy. If you’re not holding men responsible for unwanted pregnancies, then you are wasting your time.

Stop protesting at clinics. Stop shaming women. Stop trying to overturn abortion laws. If you actually care about reducing or eliminating the number of abortions in our country, simply HOLD MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

What would that look like? What if there was a real and immediate consequence for men who cause an unwanted pregnancy? What kind of consequence would make sense? Should it be as harsh, painful, nauseating, scarring, expensive, risky, and life-altering as forcing a woman to go through a 9-month unwanted pregnancy?

In my experience, men really like their testicles. If irresponsible ejaculations were putting their balls at risk, they would stop being irresponsible. Does castration seem like a cruel and unusual punishment? Definitely. But is it worse than forcing 500,000 women a year to puke daily for months, gain 40 pounds, and then rip their bodies apart in childbirth? Is a handful of castrations worse than women dying during forced pregnancy and childbirth?

Put a castration law on the books, implement the law, let the media tell the story, and in 3 months or less, ta da! abortions will have virtually disappeared. Can you picture it? No more abortions in less than 3 months, without ever trying to outlaw them. Amazing.

For those of you who consider abortion to be murder, wouldn’t you be on board with having a handful of men castrated, if it prevented 500,000 murders each year? And if not, is that because you actually care more about policing women’s bodies, morality, and sexuality, than you do about reducing or eliminating abortions? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

Hey, you can even have the men who will be castrated bank their sperm before it happens — just in case they want to responsibly have kids some day.

Can’t wrap your head around a physical punishment for men? Even though you seem to be more than fine with physical punishments for women? Okay. Then how about this prevention idea: At the onset of puberty, all males in the U.S. could be required by law to get a vasectomy.

Vasectomies are very safe, totally reversible, and about as invasive as an doctor's exam for a woman getting a birth control prescription. There is some soreness afterwards for about 24 hours, but that’s pretty much it for side effects. (So much better than The Pill, which is taken by millions of women in our country, the side effects of which are well known and can be brutal.)

If/when the male becomes a responsible adult, and perhaps finds a mate, if they want to have a baby, the vasectomy can be reversed, and then redone once the childbearing stage is over. And each male can bank their sperm before the vasectomy, just in case.

It's not that wild of an idea. 80% of males in the U.S. are circumcised, most as babies. And that's not reversible.

Don’t like my ideas? That’s fine. I’m sure there are better ones. Go ahead and suggest your own ideas. My point is that it’s nonsense to focus on women if you’re trying to get rid of abortions. Abortion is the “cure” for an unwanted pregnancy.

If you want to stop abortions, you need to prevent the “disease" - meaning, unwanted pregnancies. And the only way to do that, is by focusing on men, because: MEN CAUSE 100% OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES. Or. IRRESPONSIBLE EJACULATIONS BY MEN CAUSE 100% OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES.

If you’re a man, what would the consequence need to be for you to never again ejaculate irresponsibly? Would it be money related? Maybe a loss of rights or freedoms? Physical pain? Ask yourselves: What would it take for you to value the life of your sexual partner more than your own temporary pleasure or convenience?

Are you someone who learns better with analogies? Let’s try this one: Think of another great pleasure in life, let’s say food. Think of your favorite meal, dessert, or drink. What if you found out that every time you indulge in that favorite food you risked causing great physical and mental pain for someone you know intimately. You might not cause any pain, but it’s a real risk. Well, you’d probably be sad, but never indulge in that food again, right? Not worth the risk!

And then, what if you further found out, there was a simple thing you could do before you ate that favorite food, and it would eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone else. Which is great news! BUT the simple thing you need to do makes the experience of eating the food slightly less pleasurable. To be clear, it would still be VERY pleasurable, but slightly less so. Like maybe you have to eat the food with a fork or spoon that you don’t particularly like. Would you be willing to do that simple thing, and eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone you know intimately, every single time you ate your favorite food?


Condoms (or even pulling out) is that simple thing. Don’t put women at risk. Don’t choose to maximize your own pleasure if it risks causing women pain.

Men mostly run our government. Men mostly make the laws. And men could eliminate abortions in 3 months or less without ever touching an abortion law or evening mentioning women.


The end.
That turned so many things on their heads I had to check which hemisphere I'm in. I think my favorite part was: "Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion." And the idea about the reversible vasectomies ("about as invasive as an doctor's exam for a woman getting a birth control prescription").

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Spaulding Bakeries

To accompany my earlier posts about bread nostalgia (here and here), I have to mention another bread maker from the mid-20th century: Spaulding Bakeries. I recently found a copy of the company's 50th anniversary booklet from 1946:

This was their coverage area at the time:

I always thought of Spaulding's as an upstate New York thing, but clearly it extended into much of Pennsylvania and a bit of several other states.

The booklet contains drawings of its bakery plants in New York and Pennsylvania, like these two in Elmira and Oneonta:

And it also tells the company's origin story, which, as with some of the other bakeries, involved a woman:

Fifty years ago, Spaulding’s bread was launched from a one-oven home-made plant with a neighborhood sale of six loaves… today, with 850 workers in seven plants, Spaulding’s is recognized as a pioneer and leader in many branches of bread-making….

The Spaulding success story had its beginning when the grocer boy, stopping at the Spaulding home in Binghamton’s South Side, was prompted by the aroma of Mrs. Spaulding’s freshly baked bread to exclaim: “If I could get bread like that I could sure sell it!”
A nearby grocer soon took Mrs. Spaulding’s entire daily output of six loaves and from then on she worked with her husband to bake more bread. They got an oven that baked 24 loaves at once. They made pies and cookies. They got an oven that turned out 108 loaves at once. And 50 years later, their work was marked by this anniversary booklet.

For all that, Mrs. Spaulding got a picture in the booklet but no first name.

Aside from their bread, my favorite Spaulding item was their krullers, which came in a bright orange box, striped with white (but shown here in brown ink from the booklet):

Plain or coated with powdered sugar, I could never decide which kind I liked best.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Facts from Bill Bryson, 1994

I'm currently about halfway through Bill Bryson's Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. Here are a few facts I didn't know:

  • The Mayflower was not mentioned by name in the near-contemporaneous accounts of the Pilgrims' arrival, and "it ended up being made into a barn that still stands...about twenty miles from London..." (page 3). Oh, and they weren't called Pilgrims until the early 18th century when they were mythologized when the U.S. was a young nation.
  • Buccaneers are so-called because they subsisted on the dried meat of wild hogs, which was smoked on a wooden frame called a boucan. The word is not related to the word buckaroo, which derives from the Spanish vaquero or cow-handler.
  • American rabbits are actually hares. (I may have heard that some time in the past, but it just doesn't stick.)
  • The known native languages of California alone had/have "greater linguistic variety than all the known languages of the continent of Europe" (page 22).
  • Patrick Henry didn't say any of the famous quotes attributed to him. They were made up by a biographer (who never met him) 17 years after Henry died.
  • Nine of 12 Virginia delegates to the Second Continental Congress were related by blood or marriage. Egad.
  • The term "truck farm" has nothing to do with trucks. "The goods used in barter were known as truck (from the Old French troquer, meaning to peddle or trade), a sense preserved in the expression to have no truck with" (page 68). The vehicular meaning of truck instead comes from the Latin for wheel, trochus.
  • The Patent Office was established in 1790, but the patent board was made up of two-thirds of the president's Cabinet (the secretary of state and secretary of war plus the attorney general, who was not then considered part of the Cabinet). Clearly, they didn't have enough to do in their day jobs.
  • Samuel Morse ran for mayor of New York City twice "on a virulently anti-Catholic ticket and believed, among other things, that slavery was not just a good thing but was divinely inspired" (page 90).
  • Alexander Graham Bell worked for Western Union when he invented the telephone. He offered it to his employers, but they turned it down because it didn't have any "commercial possibilities" (page 92).
  • Prices are often set with amounts like $.49 and $.99 at the end not because it fools people into thinking the price is lower than it is (though it has that side "benefit"). It's because it required cashiers to open the drawer to make change, which meant they couldn't surreptitiously pocket the paper bills.
  • Which came first, escalator or escalate? (Would I be asking that question if the answer was anything other than escalator?)
  • The whole story I/we think we know about the American West is basically wrong. For instance, cowboys were outnumbered by farmers 1,000 to 1 and "even at their peak there were fewer than ten thousand" of them, "at least a quarter of them black or Mexican" (page 128). Frederic Remington basically made up the concept we have in our heads, and he never even went to the West during that time. Terms like bounty hunter and gunslinger were made up by Hollywood.
  • The term strike (as in organized labor) comes from sailors striking the sails on ships to protest their working conditions.
  • "Until well into the 19th century, it was as cheap to send a ton of goods across the Atlantic as it was to move it 30 miles overland" in the United States (page 158).
One final quote stood out to me from the chapter on the American "melting pot." Remember, this book was published in 1994:
If one attitude can be said to characterize America's regard for immigration over the past two hundred years, it is the belief that while immigration was unquestionably a wise and prescient thing in the case of one's own parents or grandparents, it really ought to stop now" (pages 145-146).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Recent History

From the Twitter account of MimZWay:

This is a thread about how institutional racism works.

In the 1950s, SUNY schools and community colleges offered FREE tuition to local students. My mother-in-law, who is white, took advantage of this program and received her degree from SUNY Buffalo in Speech Therapy.

When my father graduated from high school, he was not told of the opportunity for free tuition because black students were routinely not informed of the opportunity for a free college education.

My father always had a talent for repairing electrical appliances. Radios, televisions, refrigerators — anything that was powered by electricity, he could fix it. He also had a head for math. He heard the military might be a good place to earn a degree and gain job experience.

At the recruitment center, he was told the Navy had an Electrical Engineering program and he would be recommended for it! Since he couldn’t afford college, he thought this was the answer to his prayers. Little did he know that negroes were not allowed in the program.

He signed up. When he got on board the ship, he was given three job options: cook, janitor or barnacle scraper. Imagine his disappointment when he learned he wouldn’t be allowed into the Electrical Engineering program.

On board the ship, my father earned a reputation for being able to fix anything. Whenever a radio was broken, they brought it to my dad to repair it.

Then one day the radar to the ship went down. It was down for three days. No one could figure out what was wrong with it. Finally someone said, “There’s a negro on board who can fix anything. Maybe we should call him.”

Someone went to get my dad.

My dad figured a fuse must have blown. The area where the fuses were located was a tiny space. Only one man could fit into it. My dad said God guided his hand. He found the fuse that was blown and replaced it.

The radar was back on.

When my dad came out of the space, there was no doubt who had fixed the radar. The head of the Electrical Engineering program asked my dad how come he wasn’t in the program. “I was told Negros weren’t allowed in the program, sir.”

That unofficial policy changed right then.

My dad came out of the Navy an electrical engineer — but institutional racism wasn’t finished with him.

After my mom and dad got married, they had me, and then tried to buy a house. Even though my dad was a veteran, he was told by bank after bank he couldn’t use the VA loan program, since most deeds specified negroes couldn’t own property. He needed 100% cash to buy a home.

Although he was a skilled electrical engineer, the only job he could find at the time was as a custodian. How could he ever come up with enough cash to purchase a home on a janitor’s salary?

It was the Cold War at this time, and there were opportunities for naval officers to work in Alaska monitoring Russian communications. It was lonely work. The government paid a premium for men to sign up — and room and board was covered. My dad left my mom and I and went to Alaska.

My mom and I moved in with my grandmother — so all the money my dad earned could be saved for the house. My mom and I shared a room there.

After a year, my dad returned with the cash. He found a builder in Liverpool, New York, who was building a new development, Oot Meadows. The builder agreed to build my mom and dad a home for the cash.

This is just one example of how institutional racism has worked to keep black families from having the same educational and financial opportunities white families took for granted.

My next thread will cover how it was difficult to get a job using his engineering skills. How when my dad finally did get that job, the police would try to stop him each morning on his way to work to make him late, as well as other daily injustices to overcome.

I hope this was educational. I have found a lot of people don’t realize VA loans were really only available to white men. When we understand what happened, and what continues to happen — we are better able to prevent this from happening to our brothers and sisters.
When did you learn that VA loans and other benefits (not to mention FHA loans) were only for white people? I think I learned it at a Science Museum exhibit back in about 2004, just 14 years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Back of a Leaf

A long time ago, I wrote here about the Victoria Water Platter, a very cool plant. It looks like this:

The largest leaf is close to three feet wide. It's all one plant (and it's about to bloom: check out that bud in the center).

Recently, I got to see what the underside of the leaves looks like:

When I first approached the pond, I thought for a split-second there was a dead animal lying in that spot (maybe a deflated armadillo?) but quickly realized it was an overturned leaf.

Nature is definitely weird.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

It's in the Cheese

From Cory Doctorow, writing on Twitter:

Spent the morning reviewing Lennox, et al's fascinating work on the linked genetic mutations that allowed early hominids to synthesize Vitamin D in the weak sunlight of northern latitudes.

It turns out that these mutations are linked to the critical shifts that allowed us to break down proteins in cow's milk.

The most remarkable finding was that these genes moved laterally from microorganisms found in cultured dairy!

It's really true, then. Swede genes ARE made of cheese!
He doesn't provide a link to the research, however, and my quick search didn't find it. So I'm trusting his reporting enough to repeat it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Few More from the 2018 Fair

Just a few things beyond the crop art I already shared:

I don't think I've ever mentioned Fairchild, the Minnesota State Fair mascot. Yes, he's a gopher. This old sign is displayed on the second floor of the Grandstand.

I don't spend a lot of time watching for clever or annoying T-shirts, but I did like this sign, which was attached to the back of a mobility scooter. Its owner didn't want to be in the photo.

Probably the coolest thing I saw the whole day was this display outside the Eco Experience building. Each of those planted areas in front of the signs is a different kind of soil use: perennial grasses on the far left, then an annual crop with a buffer strip, a paved surface, an annual crop done without tilling, and a fully mulched area. Below each are two jars. The one in the back is the water that infiltrated through the soil and the one in the front is the amount of water that ran off from the soil. It's hard to see in the photo, but there was a lot more liquid in the infiltration jars for the perennial grasses and no-till crops and almost no run off, while the paved surface was all runoff. The buffer strip made  a big difference in decreasing runoff, too.

I took photos of just a few things from the art show. The first one is by Nathan Stromberg (one of the featured artists, rather than part of the juried show):

At first glance it looks like a painting simulating a classic postcard. But when you look closer, you realize...

...that it's a collage and every bit of it created from small bits of color and texture from printed magazines.

This large neon piece by Monica Sheets was chosen by the Weisman Art Museum for its permanent collection, and I can see why.

The last piece I wanted to share is by Jean Hawton, titled Into the Evening with Her Little Black Dress:

It's a reused vintage black wool dress, which Hawton modified in a spectacular way...

...including creating a snake for a belt. Now that's what I call upcycling!

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Reminder that Climate Change Does Not Affect Everyone Equally

From the Twitter account of Colin J. Carlson:

The caption reads: Deaths attributable to anthropogenic climate change, 1970-2000, density-equalling cartogram.

Source: The Lancet.