Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Thanksgiving List

Things for which I’m thankful at the moment, in no particular order:

  • Living in a state that, by law, forbids big box stores to open on Thanksgiving Day. 
  • Having two arms, two legs, decent eyesight and hearing: so many people around the world don’t. 
  • Having all my hair (still the same color as it was decades ago). 
  • Sunny weather on this Thanksgiving Day. 
  • Being able to eat a tasty meal today without having to cook—or clean up. 
  • The luxury of solitude.
  • Having 35+ episodes of Doctor Who downloaded on my laptop, all in Hi-Def video. 
  • The privilege of living in a deep-blue state.
  • The satisfaction of knowing my daughter is happy and doing well at university. 
  • A full tank of high-octane gas. 
  • The vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean less than 600 yards away. 
  • Sleep. 
  • Sufficient good bourbon. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Corporations Trying to Weasel out of ACA Requirements for Birth Control Coverage

The U.S. Supreme Court is now hearing several cases brought by corporations whose owners are “religious” to the point of wanting to deny paying for birth control /contraception coverage (as required under the A.C.A.) for their employees because it allegedly offends the owners' personal religious beliefs.

This is wrongheaded, of course, and a high-handed infringement on the rights of individual employees to coverage. But one of the arguments sure to be used in pleading the cause for “personhood” on the part of these companies (as a person, one’s religious beliefs must be respected) is the recent Citizens United decision recognizing corporate personhood for the purposes of political campaign donations.

However, there is an important distinction. The argument can be made that contributions to political causes and candidates can affect a for-profit corporation’s revenues and financial well being, because a candidate or political party may be relied upon to support legislation that favors such corporations—or actively oppose legislation and regulations that are seen to have the opposite effect. Corporations are required by their charters to maximize shareholder value: this is their sole purpose.

But adhering to a particular religious doctrine is not part of a corporation’s mission, no matter how devout the CEO or board of directors. Therefore the attempted connection between political-donation corporate personhood and religious-dogma corporate personhood ought to fail by any reasonable standards and common sense.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Appellation 'Entre Deux Merdes'?

(via NPR's The Salt, by Amy Guttman)  

I'm not certain what is the most depressing part of the article below: the general defense of a god-awful-sounding new flavored wine by a "French restaurant and hospitality expert", or the brazen question asking "what's the difference between [a champagne cocktail or Bellini] and red wine and Coca-Cola? Then again, I did know a French couple —each an excellent cook and bon vivant — who routinely drank red wine with poached haddock… 

Brace yourselves, Francophiles. 

First, we broke the news about fast food overtaking restaurants in France. Then we reported the shocker that more than a third of French restaurants serve frozen meals. If these revelations ruin your impression of France as a bastion of culinary tradition, you may not want to read further. 

A French vintner has just launched a bottled red wine flavored with cola. 

Bordeaux-based winemaker Haussmann Famille has already had success with grapefruit- and passionfruit-flavored ros├ęs and whites. Their newest wine, Rouge Sucette, which translates to Red Lollipop, is made from 75 percent grapes and 25 percent water, with added sugar and cola flavoring. It is meant to be served chilled.

Why the break with tradition? 

Wine consumption in France is down. In 1980, more than half of adults consumed wine almost daily, as the BBCreports, but the figure has dropped to just 17 percent today. And so according to Pauline Lacombe, company spokeswoman for Haussmann Famille, vintners need to attract younger drinkers and women. 

"[The cola flavor] is to answer to a new kind of need and a market demand," she tells The Salt. "Tastes evolve in time and we have to adapt. 

French restaurant and hospitality expert Fred Sirieix cites several factors behind the downward trend in wine drinking among the French: the financial crisis, which brought with it the death of the long lunch hour; reduced legal limits for driving under the influence of alcohol; and a general move towards healthier living. 

Cola wine may seem out of step with French ways, but Sirieix tells The Salt that's because a lot of people have the wrong idea about what those ways really are. 

"The puritanical view of French things is not realistic," he says. "We're changing with the times. We have a strong foundation of food and wine, and it gives this perception we don't mix Coca-Cola and red wine, but we do! 

In fact, the wine and cola mix has roots in the Basque region, where it's called kalimotxo, and calls for equal parts of each one. 

Lacombe says market research indicates fast-growing demand for such "wine-based aromatized drinks." Of the different aromas that Haussmann Famille tested, "cola was the best mix," she says. "That intrigued many people, and they were curious to taste it. 

The thirst for sweeter drinks isn't limited to France. Led by Moscato, sweet wine consumptionis up in the U.S., too. 

"Think about it: You have wine spritzers, you have Kir Royale, Bellinis, shandy, the Italian spritzers with Aperol and prosecco," says Sirieix. "You have all sorts of champagne cocktails. So what's the difference between [those and] red wine and Coca-Cola? It's about marketing and perception. It's about what we perceive to be acceptable and the sort of snootiness we have about Coca-Cola. 

Lacombe insists Rouge Sucette isn't just wine doused with cola, anyway: It contains only the essence of cola, making it perhaps a bit more refined, though with a very similar flavor. 

So how does a Frenchman like Sirieix rate it? 

"It's refreshing and kind of fun," he says. "I don't think I would buy it, but if I was going to drink it, I would make it myself, because I would feel a bit better about it. 


For Armistice Day

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wildred Owen (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Proofreading Test and Bar Bet

Back in the day when we all would walk a mile for a Camel, this little test was usually good for winning $10 at a bar (presuming you had your pack of Camels with you). 

The Test: 

Count the number of times the letter “e” appears in the paragraph on the back of the pack of Camel cigarettes shown (not case sensitive): what number do you come up with? 

Post your answer in the “Comments”. And don’t take too long counting! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

North Carolina School Board bans "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, citing "no literary value"

The Chairman of the Randolph County Board of Education, Tommy McDonald, said he found it a "hard read". Gary, another school board member, declared the book, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, to have "no literary value". 

After the announcement, Tommy and Gary left to compare their comic book collections.

Story below via The Raw Story

North Carolina school board bans Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’

By Arturo Garcia
A North Carolina school board has banned Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man from its reading list on Monday, citing a lack of “literary value.”
The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reported that the Randolph County Board of Education voted 5-2 to remove the book following a complaint by a parent, Kimiyutta Parson.
“This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers,” Parson wrote in a 12-page statement to the board. “You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.”
In his acceptance speech after winning the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, Ellison described the book as his attempt to bring back “the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy” common in 19th-century fiction.
“When I examined the rather rigid concepts of reality which informed a number of the works which impressed me and to which I owed a great deal, I was forced to conclude that for me and for so many hundreds of thousands of Americans, reality was simply far more mysterious and uncertain, and at the same time more exciting, and still, despite its raw violence and capriciousness, more promising,” Ellison said at the time.
However, board chair Tommy McDonald said on Monday that he considered Ellison’s work — one of three books recommended for summer reading for juniors at a local high school, alongside “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin and “Passing” by Nella Larsen — “a hard read.”
A motion to keep Invisible Man on the approved reading list was defeated 5-2 before the board voted to remove it.
“I didn’t find any literary value,” board member Gary Mason said at the meeting. “I’m for not allowing it to be available.”
In 2010, Time magazine named the book one of the top 100 English-language novels of all time, calling it “the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.” 
Reposted with permission. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lights On at Night—Please

Attention, Gloucester drivers (OK, and some of you in Essex, Rockport and Manchester, too), here's a simple fact: dusk is the hardest time to see things. There's a gray quality to the light, and the contrast between light and dark is the weakest. Sure, you can see: but that doesn't mean you can BE seen.

It's astonishing how many drivers are clueless about this simple fact; the evidence of this lies in the number of cars driving around Gloucester with no lights on at dusk, and even during the dark of night. With no lights, YOU CANNOT EASILY BE SEEN.

The photo below should clearly illustrate this.

So wake up, wise up and turn on your headlights — or at least your driving / fog lights — at sunset (it's the law, actually…). And one more thing: this may be a seafaring town, but unlike boats, cars don't have "running lights". Those little amber and red lights at the front and back of your car are called "parking" lights (for a reason).  They're no substitute for your headlights.

Girls Don't Poop (who knew?)

All right:  this a bizarre choice for my first post to my new blog. Then, perhaps not.