Wednesday
Nov052014

Eggcorn or Just Malapropism?

My partner, a retired nurse-midwife and professor, reminisced the other day about some of her clinical experiences.

A woman came into the clinic complaining of abdominal pains. “I think I must have fireballs of the Eucharist,” she explained.*

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*Translation:  fibroids of the uterus.

Sunday
Nov022014

Our Digital Masters

Last night, just before turning in, I changed the clocks. I've been doing this twice a years for a great many years, and I've never encountered resistance. But last night, in a new place, I had a fight on my hands.

The clock on the stove was the usual straightforward push-"clock"-push-number-buttons-push-"clock"-again procedure. We all know how to do this. A couple of other assorted timepieces also behaved as expected. Then I came up against the Microwave from Heck.

I pushed "clock" and then the appropriate numbers and was about to finish up when a message streamed across the readout window. "CHOOSE AM/PM" it said, or letters to that effect. Surprised, I hesitated, and that was fatal. The ready-for-input period times out.

Begin again. At the command I pushed an "AM/PM" button I had not previously noticed. I could concede the sense in this: You'd want to be clear when setting up a delayed start, if ever that should arise in your life (it wouldn't in mine). Done now? Not so fast.

A new message began to scroll: "ENTER MONTH/DAY/YEAR AS MM/DD/YY."

Excuse me? You need to know the date and the year? While I recoiled from this directive, the whole thing timed out again.

Third attempt. Got through all the data entry and paused to see if I would have to enter a password. No, but I had hesitated long enough for it to time out again.

I'm happy to report that it took me only four tries to change the time on my microwave oven. Not bad for an old guy who for some reason is increasingly technology-averse.

Don't ask me about my new phone.

Friday
Oct312014

Another Election

An AP-GfK poll taken yesterday finds that, as the report put it, “[s]ocial issues are eclipsed by concerns about the economy, health care, the Islamic State group and Ebola.”

In a poll a week earlier, the pollsters found that “[n]early half of Americans are very or extremely concerned that Ebola will spread widely in the U.S.” They think this way because, well, they just do.

Number of Americans killed by gunfire on an average day: around 30; suicides per day: a little over a hundred; deaths due to alcohol: about 70 a day. Total U.S. death to date due to the Ebola virus: 1.

As for the Islamic State, “Sixty-five percent of Americans now say the threat from the Islamic State group is very or even extremely important.” Total deaths in the U.S. owing to the IS:  zero. Total anti-U.S. exploits attributable to the IS:  zero. And -- just one man’s opinion here -- total likelihood that military action by the U.S. against the IS will accomplish anything useful:  zero.

The economy? Lookin’ good. Unemployment is back down to 2007 levels, inflation is barely above zero, the stock market is happy. Not all is peaches, lord knows, but we’re a long, long way from 2008, a year so many have conveniently forgotten. And health care? Our wounds are entirely self-inflicted, often at the braying behest of just those who are most “concerned” about it.

In fact, Americans regularly report being “deeply concerned” about whatever the cheapjack yammerers of cable news and tabloid papers have most recently decided are the issues that will keep their audiences in thrall. Those of a certain age can recall when Americans were said to be deeply worried about comic books and juvenile delinquents because and only because a few congressentities saw that harrumphing about phantoms worked wonders with the voters.

Alexander Hamilton is said to have lost patience with an orator who droned on about the pristine virtues of “the people” and burst out “Your people, Sir -- your people is a great beast!” He shouldst be living in this day, when it is more apt to declare “Your people, sir, is a great baby!”

Friday
Oct242014

Toward a More Secure America

From an article in the Wall Street Journal we learn this depressing little fact:  “Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.” I have a notion about how some of them got there.

My partner and I recently made a trip to New England from California. Both going and returning, my checked bag was searched by the crime busters of the TSA. They were kind enough to leave inside a little note that reads, in part:

As part of this process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected....

If the TSA security officer was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the officer may have been forced to break the locks on your bag....TSA is not liable for damage to your locks....


Notice that there is no requirement of probable cause.

Meanwhile, my actual person has been permitted to retain its belt and shoes through the Archway of Anxiety, where random bits of this or that forgotten in a pocket can set off an alarm that portends DefCon 4.

While in Maine we drove to the little bridge that connects the island of Campobello with the mainland. The problem is that the mainland is the US of A, while the island is Canada. The very polite Canadian chap was happy to welcome us to his country. The uniformed teenager who stopped us on the way back -- not so much. To my surprise, a US citizen now needs a passport in order to return home across what was once the world’s longest unguarded border.

Our attempt to do so earned us a stern lecture from the little lady, along with a note headed

               NONCOMPLIANT

which I gather we were meant to take home to mother, who would deal with us appropriately.

It was never the terrorists who were going to win; it was always the petty-ists.

 

Thursday
Oct022014

At The American

Another in my seemingly endless series of essays on the curse of certainty:

For relief, you may wish to take this, with a couple of jiggers of good booze.