Odds and Ends
In the five years of this column, I’ve always had a central theme, but not this time. This week is a compendium of factoids and questions I ask myself. It’s a mishmash, a grab bag, a, miscellany, or potpourri. Crossword fans, you know the four-letter word for that, don’t you? That’s right — olio. Or like Arsenio Hall used to say, things that make you go “Hmmm.”
As a lifetime science guy, I’d always assumed Einstein won his Nobel Prize in Physics for either his Special (1905) or General (1916) theories of relativity. I’m a little embarrassed to learn his won the prize in 1922, for discovering the Law of Photoelectric Effect.
When I was a little kid, looking up at the prairie stars, I never dreamed I would live to see all the planets explored by spacecraft in my lifetime. Even Pluto, now demoted to second class status as a “minor planet,” with its cobalt blue skies! I just think that is awesome.
Still in science, CERN, in Switzerland, owns the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator. It’s seventeen miles in circumference and cost $7 billion to construct. Yet last April it was brought to a halt for over a week after a weasel gnawed through a power cord. It might have been its larger cousin, the beech marten, but due to the advanced crispitude of the critter it was impossible to tell. I believe the phrase was “charred remains.” It’s a lesson in scale, and the vulnerability of even advanced technology.
Do you remember the Freddy Gray story? Last year in Baltimore Gray, a young black man, was arrested for running from police, and ended up dead with a nearly severed spinal cord. He was a victim of a “Baltimore rough ride,” having been thrown cuffed and shackled into the back of a police van without being belted in. All six officers were exonerated. In court the department said police have discretion whether to buckle up a prisoner in the van. Oh, but on TV and radio it’s all “Click it or Ticket.” You better buckle up or I’ll cut you, bitch! This kind of gross hypocrisy doesn’t improve people’s attitudes about current police culture.
This just blew my mind, because it’s maybe the only grammatical usage that we all know, but were never taught. Adjectives in English will almost always be in the following order: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose-noun. We almost always get them in the proper order because it just looks or sounds better. You wouldn’t say the old little sweet lady, would you? No, she’s a sweet little old lady. And we somehow all know this.
The U.S. is a member of the OECD, the Organization for Cooperation and Development, the 34 “developed nations.” But sadly, we are 31st in voter turnout. The 2012 election saw 57.5% turnout. The recent election in Belgium was 88%, and the UK vote for the Brexit was 72%, if memory serves. So please, please get out there and vote on Nov 8 (or earlier).
Maybe you believe in UFOs, or maybe not. They may own Earth, and we’re their cattle. Do you know how many people go missing every year, worldwide? But the most ignorant question ever, and I keep hearing it all the time, is: If UFOs are real, then why don’t they just land on the White House Lawn? It presumes other intelligent life-forms would think and behave exactly as we do. If we landed on a planet with seemingly advanced life, we’d find their center of power and land there. They’d come up and say welcome to planet Globski, and we’d say thank you, welcome to New Earth, or something like that. Maybe they want to remain in the shadows. If they do exist, they could be so much further advanced than us, that even if they were able to communicate their purpose here, we would be incapable of comprehending it.
I think Elvis Presley is the most over-hyped, overrated entertainer in history.
I’ve never understood why when a crazy person kills a bunch of people, they’re found not guilty by reason of insanity. Shouldn’t it be guilty by reason of insanity? I know an insane person isn’t supposed to be able to distinguish right from wrong, but I stand by my opinion.
You know that fridge is the slang term for refrigerator, but there’s no ‘d’ in refrigerator. What’s up with that?
Why isn’t the word phonetic spelled phonetically?
Here’s a great irony. We have the border patrol guarding our Northern and Southern borders, the emphasis being on the border with Mexico (at least until Trump builds the wall). Do you know where their uniforms are made? Mexico. Si se puede! (Yes we can!)
If you’re old enough, you certainly remember “Gilligan’s Island.” Its creator, Sherwood Schwartz, wrote a book about it several years later, in which he said he had modeled the characters after the Seven Deadly Sins. No, really. The Professor was Pride, Ginger was lust (naturally), Maryann was envy, Thurston Howell III was Greed, his wife was Gluttony, the Skipper was Anger (or Wrath), and of course Gilligan himself was Sloth. Fascinating. Then there’s the alternate theory that the Skipper was both Anger and Sloth, and Gilligan was the Devil himself. Think about it, he was always the one who somehow messed up each escape attempt, and he wore red in every episode.
We hear a lot these days about driverless cars. Google has one, Tesla and others are in the development process. But if you walk out the front door and look at all the cars up and down the street, they’re all driverless, aren’t they? In fact, I’d venture to say that every car is driverless until someone gets behind the wheel and starts the thing up.
You just can’t make this stuff up. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin officially proclaimed October 13th as Oilfield Prayer Day, to raise awareness of the state’s declining fossil fuel industry, which directly or indirectly employs a quarter of the state’s workers. The Rev. Tom Beddow, coordinator of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Oil Patch Chaplains ministry, says Oklahomans should “pray . . . not only for the oil field but the state.” The “Praying for the Patch” initiative is organizing breakfasts throughout the state, in partnership with the Oilfield Christian Fellowship. I had no idea there was so much religion associated with oil. Screw those children with cancer; this is worth praying for! I assume the “Patch” includes the thousands of fracking wells causing an unprecedented number of earthquakes. I wonder if they anoint themselves with fracking fluid. Maybe they should pray for a nicorette-like patch to wean themselves from an obsolete industry that is destroying the only world we have. And who’s going to pray for the earthquakes?
Have you heard if Godwin’s Law? It says that whenever you compare someone to Hitler, you automatically lose the argument. I wouldn’t want to violate that law, so I’ll just mention the new two-volume biography of Hitler, by Volker Ullrich. Vol. I is titled Ascent: 1889-1939, and the New York Times review is intriguing, to say the least. He’s portrayed as “an egomaniac who only loved himself . . . a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and a characteristic fondness for superlatives,” who “used dramatization and oratory to appeal to the inherent nativism of his supporters,” and whose “manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control.” He was “so thoroughly untruthful he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth.” He promised “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness” while being “typically vague about his actual plans.” The article talks about how early revulsion of his style and appearance led his critics to underestimate his popularity, and that he was dismissed as a celebrity. Does this remind you of anyone? Anyone at all? Just asking.