Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The March for Science: my goals


I just filled out a survey about the March for Science. I said that my goals for the march were:
     1. Fostering awareness among politicians and policy people that science has strong public support.
     2. Lifelong/long-term goal: Making it as socially unacceptable in the US to say 'I hate science' as it is to say 'I hate sports.'
     3. Showing that everyone who loves truth and respects the achievements of the human mind, should be proud to march for science.
     4. Reminding ourselves that SCIENCE HAS NO PARTY.
     5. Getting people to realize that if they like their [air, water, cell phones, cars, bikes, running shoes, garden, roads, your-noun-here], they like science.

Asked how effective I thought the March would be in the long-term for reaching those goals, I said 'slightly effective' for 1, 2 and 3, and 'moderately effective' for 4 and 5. I suppose my optimism grew as I focused more on 'long-term.' And maybe I thought, with cock-eyed optimism, that item 2 might get more attention by reason of my saying it in this survey.

I had mentioned item 5 to friendsincluding one who was among the early organizers of the march. Alas, it did not get on a mass-produced t-shirt. But at least during the march I saw other people with signs with the same basic idea. Maybe in the coming months it will get more traction.
Hey! 'Getting traction' is a science-based metaphor. Name three other science-based figures of speech in the Comments section below, ones that are not already named by other commenters, and win ... recognition on this blog, if not something even better.

Another survey question was about concerns about the march. Among the answers I checked was 'lack of diversity.' And it's probably not the lack you were thinking of. What struck me was that there were very few Asians. Yet the proportion of East Asians and South Asians who are in science or have family and friends in science is far greater than it is in the US population as a whole. I am aware that when I write "Asians," I am lumping South Asians and East Asians together, ignoring their vast differences in culture, and also ignoring West and North Asians because, based on appearances alone (not interviews or other information), they are part of the great mass of White.

The survey had other interesting questions, and I had other interesting answers, perhaps, but I'll stop now and wait to hear your favorite science-based similes and metaphors. And by the way 'greased lightning' and the like don't count. Please explain so I don't have to.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Insect on San Francisco's Skyline - Salesforce Tower with Cranes (Cranes 01)

I don't post photographs as a rule because I'm not much of a photographer. But I'm posting this one, fuzzy though it is -- it was the best I got -- because I like the image of the insect-skyscraper. It's the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, a few weeks after it was topped off.

I took this picture out a car window. Don't worry, I was the passenger. I happen to love how cranes look against the sky and this sky was particularly beautiful. My lousy reflexes would have done better in a traffic jam but alas traffic was moving. I hope you can still make out the big bug's antennae. There's even a second set of feelers barely visible above the next-tallest building angled away from the viewer.

As locals may guess, I was on the ramp from 101 into the city. Or rather what folks in the Bay Area call "the city". We former New Yorkers know that in fact "the city" is 3000 miles away.

As to my love of cranes: I am now motivated to post two other crane photos, one taken during a walk on the High Line in New York City in 2015, one taken a couple of weeks ago from the roof of the Kennedy Center.

I loved cranes even before I read David Leavitt's The Lost Language of Cranes (1986). Probably that's why the book popped off the shelf at me back in the late 1980s at the Berkeley Heights, NJ library. Or was it the old Carnegie Branch on Amsterdam at about 69th? Anyway, the jacket cover told me that Leavitt meant construction cranes, not the whooping kind, so I read it. It's good so I kept reading Leavitt's books over the years, including the one I think is my all-time favorite, The Indian Clerk (2007).

I like the whooping variety of cranes too, ever since a high school classmate, an ardent supporter of saving those cranes from extinction, told me about their endangerment. I wonder if she'll be at our upcoming 50th next month. Hope so.

I also like apartment building water towers. I could see a few from my family's second apartment in Lincoln Towers. The first faced New Jersey but we didn't have a river view because the West Side Highway was in the way. Nowadays that view has been replaced by other Towers.

I suppose I just have a fascination with rooftops. Which brings to mind the wonderful and beautifully illustrated book Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, published in 1991, a year after I moved away from the [real] city.

Free association, thy name is MINE. If you mind, or don't mind, please let me know.
May 9, 2017 rev 0

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Senate Rule Invoked to Silence Elizabeth Warren

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) employed a rarely-used Senate Rule to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday and force her from the chamber.

He was trying to prevent her from reading into the Congressional Record two letters, one by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and one by Coretta Scott King, concerning the nomination of Jeff Sessions (R-AL on Tuesday) to a federal judgeship in 1986. Warren referenced the letters in connection with Trump's nomination of Sessions to be Attorney General. Sessions was confirmed by the Republican members of the Senate the next day, after four Democratic male senators were able to read from those letters. (I refrain from discussing who has balls, what takes balls, and what shows ball-lessness.)

On Wednesday the Washington Post explained the origin of Senate Rule 19, the provision in question, explaining that it goes back to 1902 fistfight on the Senate floor. The full text of the Rule is here.

Rule 19, paragraph 2, was invoked to tell Warren (in the lingo of McConnell's boss, tweetybird the absurd) to "Shut Up." Paragraph 4 provided the authority for then telling her to leave the room.

I found Paragraph 2 the more noteworthy. It says
2. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.
Really? Never? I thought about that and looked up the right of Senators to do something about fellow members who acted unethically or even criminally. And then wrote a comment to the Washington Post article:
The text of Rule 19 (2) by its terms would make it impossible for the Senate to excercise its Constitutional right to expel a member (Art. I, Sec. 5) or its traditional right to censure. That's because the rule says that "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly ... impute to another Senator ... conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." But the Senate has held explusion and censure proceedings in the 20th century. If nobody can impute unworthy conduct to a Senator, then how can the reasons for expulsion or censure be debated? Time to repeal this Rule. It is unconstitutional.
"Impute," which means "ascribe," can sometimes have the connotation of "falsely or unfairly." If deterring unfair imputation is the purpose of the rule, then we must ask: Was Warren being unfair? Whether or not Sessions was as bad as Kennedy and King wrote in their letters, the letters were written. And became part of the public record although they were kept out of the Congressional Record back in 1986. The letters tell us what "people were saying," and not just saying but writing, quite formally, to the Senate, and not just any people but a member of the Senate and the widow of the most famous civil rights leader of our time, a man who died from an assassin's bullet. The result of what these people were writing was that Sessions was not confirmed by the Senate. He was rejected. It was neither false nor unfair to discuss that rejection nor to cite information that was before the Senate in 1986.
Perhaps Rule 19 can be saved by adding "with reckless disregard for the truth," the standard for defamation of a public figure. That would make it impossible to stop things like Warren's reading of those two letters. She did not show any disregard for the truth. On the contrary. McConnell's action, however, showed a disrespect for the truth. That's a disease that seems to be going among politicians of the less popular party. We need a cure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post-Election Haiku

Some people think in 140 characters. These days I find I think in 17 syllables.

1. Pessimism
Two days after the election I was talking to a friend. She said "Oh, you're always such a pessimist." That inspired this haiku:

      We pessimists have
      the advantage that when we're
      wrong we can rejoice.

Over the next few days, as I shared my haiku with friends, I found myself writing 17 more syllables:

      Lately I haven't
      been wrong, so no rejoicing.
      But I can still hope.

And I still do hope, but it's getting harder.

2. Indiagate
Today I woke up thinking about Indiagate (time to start calling it that, isn't it?), see, e.g., the Chicago Tribune report), and wrote 3 more haiku. (To be added.)

12/16/2016: Indiagate has disappeared from public view. Hello? The lessons of The Big Lie and contemporary incarnations like Birtherism - repeat it repeat it repeat it - also apply to truth. REPEAT IT.

Indiagate was among the first instances of the loser-elect using the Presidency for the Brand. It was tame compared to what has happened since then, but it deserves to stay on the list.

Here are the haiku inspired by Indiagate, TaxReturnGate, etc.

      Some folks try to be
      Above reproach, others choose
      To be below it.

      Using high office
      To feather one's nest? That's not
      The Patriot's Way.

      No blind trust _for_ you?
      Then no blind trust _in_ you. You're
      all for you, not us.

Or shall we say, the motto is "All for one, one for one."

Nov. 23, 2016, added comment 20161216

Sunday, November 13, 2016

4NT: The majority voted for NO TRUMP

The majority of the country, including in many so-called RED states, voted for NO TRUMP. The popular vote was 53 to 47. If the electoral votes are assigned to Trump or NO TRUMP, Trump loses, 198 to 340. That's using numbers available on 11/11. It may be even higher for NO TRUMP when all the votes are counted.

That may not change the outcome, but it should be kept in mind when discussing the vote and what it means. Here's the map, with the NO TRUMP majority states shown in tan. (Click anywhere on the map to open a less fuzzy image.)


Acknowledgments: map is from 270towin.com, using the option to recolor states with tan instead of red or blue. Popular vote numbers are from uselectionresults.org, last viewed 11/11/16.


UPDATE: Today, 11/23/16, uselectionresults.org has the popular vote 1 point higher for No Trump
      4NT:   54%
      Trump: 46%
(rounding by the usual rules, or 53.58 and 46.42 to 2 decimals).
Hillary Clinton has the plurality of the popular vote by 2 million votes (1,963,091 to be exact).

UPDATE #2: Today, 12/16/16, CNN gives the popular vote numbers and percentages for Trump and Clinton "updated 11:20 pm ET, Dec. 14." Clinton's lead stands at 2.1%, more than 2.8 million votes. CNN does not provide the total vote nor the numbers for other candidates so I have estimated how many votes equal the 5.5% that didn't go to plurality winner Hillary nor to the loser-elect, and how many total votes were cast.

The map legend should now say:
Popular Vote: 4NT won 54 to 46

                   __%__      __Votes___
Trump       46.2 %      62,955,363
Clinton      48.3 %      65,788,583
Other            5.5 %        7,493,034(est.)
TOTAL     100.0 %   136,236,980(est.)

Conclusion: Less than 63 million voters voted yes Trump and more than 73 million voters voted for NO TRUMP.
-RJM

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ne-ner-nis - Rejected (Part 4) - LANGUAGE 04

In three previous posts I have proposed NE-NER-NIS as neuter pronouns. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that several hundred lexicographers met to decide on the best neuter subject pronoun and they chose THEY. Needless to say, I think they are wrong, and THEY is wrong. Before ne-ner-nis disappears from the lexicon, I would like to eulogize it. Or rather as Marc Antony said, "I come to bury [them], not to praise [them]" but we know he meant the opposite.

Singular or plural?

They - the lexicographers, not the pronoun - decided that it was OK that THEY (the pronoun) takes a plural verb on the grounds that YOU is also both singular and plural and takes a plural verb either way. Hmmm. There IS a difference. When you use YOU, the person(s) to whom you (the person not the pronoun) speak knows whether he, she or they (the YOU to whom you speak) is one or more than one. When you use THEY, the person(s) to whom you speak is different from the person(s) about whom you speak. He, she or they (the hearers) may not know whether he, she or they (the subject/object of your utterance) are one or more than one.

2. Because "he" was rejected for unknown or unspecified genders, and "she" was too new to some ears, many writers and speakers had schooled themselves to replace singular nouns with plural ones in order to use "they" thereafter. But that often led to ambiguity if there was another plural noun in the sentence. I discussed this in Ne-ner-nis (Part 2) (scroll down to "Natural Superiority"). Using "they" as a singular, makes the ambiguity a permanent feature of the language.

The Extinction Problem

As with natural species, these days we are losing words faster than we are gaining them. That is because when we use a word that has a specific meaning in place of another perfectly fine word with a different meaning, we lose the unique meaning of the first word and have to resort to multiple words to achieve what we had before done with a single one. (See The Reticent/Reluctant Hesitation.

The Veterinarian Problem

We need a neuter pronoun not only for transgender humans but also for animals. We also need one when (1) we speak of a human whose gender is unspecified, unknown or irrelevant and (2) it is logical to speak of that human in the singular. As to animals, the other inventor of ne-ner-nis, whose invention is independent of mine and preceded it by several years, was in fact a veterinarian named Dr. Al Lippart. If it's embarrassing and offensive to call Spot "he" when Spot is a "she" or vice versa, will it be better to call Spot "they"? I invite Dr. Al to weigh in on this question.

January 31, 2016, rev (minor) 7/13/16

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Obesity Epidemic

The obesity epidemic was the topic today on KQED's Forum. I emailed the show but my message didn't get chosen for on-air reading. I included a poem several of whose couplets I wrote almost 50 years ago. It has only become more true. For millennia the fat people were rich and the skinny people were poor. No more, not in this country.

SKINNY - AND WELL-NOURISHED

It's upper class
to have no ass

You'll fit in at the Ritz
If you have small tits

Be thin as a rail
And you just can't fail

No gut, much glory
Is a well-known story

Among the fast-paced
You'll find no waist*
     * pun intended

A FAT chance is tiny,
a big empty blank,
A SLIM chance is one you
can take to the bank

So if you'd like a mansion
or to look like you can buy it
then, my friend,
you'd best go on a diet.
                rev (add br's) 12/8/2015 rjm