Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dear Lisa, I'm at the airport now . . .

I just sent an email to Senator Lisa Murkowski after talking to the TSA folks here at the airport.  One said I better fly while I can.  Alaskans are particularly dependent on air travel.  Driving out of state is not practical for most people.  It takes too long.

The TSA agents have rent or mortgages to pay, they have food to buy, utilities to pay for, and all the same monthly expenses everyone else has.  But they are now working for no pay.  The promise of eventually getting paid isn't very helpful if you can't pay your current bills and you fall behind on student loans or a mortgage payment.  It is unconscionable to not pay them.

Meanwhile Trump talks about a 'crisis' that he's going to solve with a wall that will take at least ten years to build.  That's not a crisis.  And blaming the Democrats, well Trump blames others for everything.  He had a Republican Congress for two years if he really needed a wall.

It's hard to tell if this is just one more tantrum from the president because he can't get his way and can't acknowledge ever being wrong, or this was suggested by his patron in Moscow to help make the US unable to serve its people and the world.

Either way it's a disgrace that Senate Republicans, who apparently complain about the president privately, but won't do anything to stop his destruction of the US publicly.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Genesis 2.0 - Mammoth Hunters Of Siberia



We just got back from a strange documentary film about Siberian native men who go searching for ancient  mammoth tusks in islands in the arctic and sell them to Chinese.  They find a whole mammoth - it bleeds when they accidentally hit the flesh with an ax -  and eventually parts of it go to the South Korean genetics lab of Woo Suk Hwang that clones dogs for $100,000 a pup for those who can't bear their dogs' death.  Woo Suk Hwang hopes to find a living cell in the ancient mammoth flesh so he can clone it.

At the end we watch  interspersed shots of the native men trudging across the tundra on ancient - and very smoky - off road vehicles  and shots of visits to super new genetics labs in Korea and China.

My gut reaction to what was going on - raking the mostly untouched tundra for ancient bones, then the Korean cloning factory - seemed at odds with the film's apparent support for the activities it was portraying, but eventually the film seemed to twist in my moral direction.  There was an early hint as traditional poems were read that warned the local people not to dig in the earth and not to be seduced by the spirits that tempt them there. There was mention of native taboos for touching the bones and flesh of the buried mammoths.  Later, after seeing the Korean cloning king showing off his prowess, even watching a Caesarean birth of cloned puppies, the film briefly mentions that Woo Suk Hwang had been shown to have committed fraud in past scientific journal articles,  Then, during the visit to BGI, a giant Chinese genome sequencing lab, a Swedish scientist in the party raises ethical questions after the guide talks about using sequencing to prevent Downs Syndrome babies (our cash cow she says).  Toward the end we once again hear the traditional warnings against digging into the earth and tempting sprites and spirits who live there.  Finally the men get their tusks back to the Siberian mainland where a Chinese buyer inspects them - not very good quality - and we're told that 20-30,000 tons of mammoth tusks are undug every year!  The film ends when the camera man is told to stop filming while the native men are selling their tusks.   It was called Genesis-2.0.  

Global warming is unearthing artifacts frozen in the perma-frost for tens of thousands of years.  This film offers us a glimpse of what that actually means. The people involved, and the stark contrast between the rough wilderness conditions where the bones are found, and the super-modern genome factories.  Lots to digest.  (Yes, one of the native men who found the ancient flesh mentioned that eating raw meat was part of his culture, as he tasted the flesh.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Welcomed Back To Alaska With A 7:45 am Aftershock

I was awake, too early after opening mail last night when we got home.  I felt it coming.  A slight something, then the jolt.



Yes, the red dot.
















5.1 is noteworthy, especially when it is close.  Especially after a recent (Nov 30) 7.0.  I guess I'm up for today.  


I couldn't even get into the Alaska Earthquake Center website.  It didn't last too long - maybe 10 seconds - but enough to get us on high alert fast.  


Leaving LA. Arriving Seattle. Then On Home To Anchorage










The rain stopped during the morning in LA and we had periods of sunshine.  We even got a rainbow while waiting on the plane to take off.











And here are all those beaches I've been posting pictures of.  This time from the air.  The line out to see at the bottom is the north side of Marina del Rey.  Then comes the Venice Pier, and beyond that is the Santa Monica Pier.  Strange light close to sunset time.



I spent most of the flight trying to catch up on my reading of Abramson's Proof of Collusion.  I'm trying to imagine the explanations we'll get when current Republican Senators write the memoirs.  Murkowski might write something like, well, I opposed when I thought it would make a difference, but I had to balance getting things for Alaska vs losing all leverage vs being attacked and cut out completely.  I waited until there were enough other Republican senators to act in ways that would make a difference."   All the pictures of her I see nowadays have this terribly pained expression.  Is that her current look, or is that what the editors think is the most likely to get readers' attention?

Abramson tells a bunch of different stories that all tie together to explain Trump's historic and more current ties to Russia, gives details on the key players, and a massive backup of footnotes, of sources.  He doesn't make extravagant claims.  He mentions things that are missing in the evidence.  One can't help but wonder how the Republicans piled up on Clinton, yet the evidence of Trump's collusion is overwhelming.  Yet they do nothing, letting him stay in the country's cockpit pulling the levers.  If there was a hint that a pilot had a drinking problem, he'd be suspended until it was determined if it were true.  If a teacher were accused of inappropriately touching a child, he'd be out of the classroom immediately.  Yet the Republicans allow Trump to keep tearing apart the United States' political and physical infrastructure, honor, economy, and ideals while they let Mueller gather the details.  (It's not bad that they let Mueller do his work.  I'd like them to protect Mueller from being removed, and protect his work from being buried by Trump's new Attorney General.)  But in the meantime they let him continue to do his damage.

I do recommend the book for anyone who isn't quite sure of how and why Trump will be found guilt of colluding with the Russians to get elected in exchange for wrecking Western alliances, removing sanctions, supporting Russia's annexing of Crimea, pulling out of the Paris Climate Treaty, and on and on.

And then I noticed we were flying over downtown Seattle.  You've seen enough pictures of all the buildings.  Here are a couple of more impressionistic pictures.




The wide shot.









And the closer shot.  (The green is the ferris wheel on the waterfront.)











Eventually we caught the next flight and made our way home to Anchorage where it feels a lot warmer than our outdoor thermometer's 14˚F (-10˚C) reading.  The temperature at the drug store sign up the street seemed a bit off in the other direction.  It said 42˚F.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Ocean Never Ceases To Hypnotize Me

Even in a big city like Los Angeles - a city which has, I discovered today, escalators for shopping carts - the ocean still connects you with the most ancient and basic forces of nature.  (But first, I can't resist documenting this triumph of consumerism.)



It's supposed to rain tomorrow, and we're scheduled to fly home, so I decided to get one more bike ride in just in case it really does rain.

So off to Venice Pier this time to see if those huge waves from the other day were still around. (No, they weren't).  I even took my big camera which refused to work (seems it was something with the sound card, it works now, but I had to use the little camera.)





















South of the pier
North of the pier























I can just feel that wave pulling the water into it as it forms.


And then as it crashes it pulls the water from behind. (Or does it just look that way?)

Related to that escalator for shopping carts, this Venice resident seems to be reacting to the gentrification that's finally catching up with Venice, particularly with the growing population of well-paid techies working in the neighborhood.





Thursday, January 10, 2019

Time Travel Is Real - The First Time Trump Offered To Save Everyone By Building A Wall

I used to think that imaginative fiction writers (especially science-fiction) were the ones who thought up new ideas and possibilities that less imaginative, but technically competent, engineers would eventually make real.  Things like Dick Tracy's radio watch or sliding automatic doors and other inventions.

But after seeing this excerpt from a 1958 TV show featuring a con-man named Trump who scams a whole town into believing he can save them from the end of the world by building them a wall. .

Well now I'm sure it was the other way around.  Time travelers went into the past and used their knowledge of the future to write stories like this one.  He was warning us back then.





Here's the whole episode for people looking for ways to avoid doing what they should be doing.  You'll see how skeptics were scorned and even used to increase people's gullibility.  How people lost all reason to fear.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Venice Boardwalk - High Surf, Skateboarding, T-Shirts, Scooters, And A Macaw

It was a warmer, but hazier day and the recent rains seem to have stirred up the surf.



I'm not sure how high this surf was, but the people are closer (to the camera) and higher than the base of the wave, so it was a good size wave.

And then it crashed into the rocks.  There aren't a lot of rocks along this part of the beach, but they made for some dramatic splashing.




This was near the skateboard park.



































We talked to this guy - Ryan.  He and three brothers, he said, had started their own clothing company.  He's the youngest.


You can see what they sell at Havet Clothing.





Back to the Boardwalk





Where to one side people were filming.  TV?  Movie?  Commercial?  Don't know.  It's a pretty busy shot, but if you look carefully, you can see a camera on the left.  There were also a couple of big screens for the lighting.  But they're not in the picture.  They seemed to be focused on the guy on the merry-go-round horse,




















A guy was finger-painting, so to speak, high above us.  Is that going to be an accordion?




And on we walked  by a T-shirt shop.  If you click the image you can see the shirts better.






Those are scooters he's holding and was riding. They're ones he found that need to be recharged.  He collects them, takes them home, recharges them, and gets paid, I think he said $5 for each one.  We saw another guy riding about five scooters.  This is another piece of the scooter boom story.


And finally, before we headed home, we came across this magnificent blue macaw sitting on a railing with his caregiver.



Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Merlí - High School Philosophy Teacher, Student Issues, Barcelona Make Fascinating Netflix Series

We finished season one last night on Netflix.  It pulled together a number of loose ends in a satisfying way.

Photo of Merli (Francesc Orella) from Season 1 Episode 13
Episode 1 (I just went back to remind myself) opens with Merlí meeting his ex-wife in a bar across the street from his apartment.  As he talks to her about her new job (and boyfriend) in Rome, he watches police vehicles in front of his apartment.  He assures her he will take good care of his 17 year old son whose been with the mother.  Merlí goes across the street to talk to the police about his eviction while the wife goes to pick up the son, Bruno, at his ballet lesson.  Merlí packs his stuff and moves in with his mother a once famous actress.  Shortly after Bruno reluctantly moves in too, Merlí gets a call to fill an opening for a high school philosophy teacher.  In Bruno's school.

I'm not giving anything away.  This all happens in the first 15 minutes of Episode 1 of 13 nearly hour long episodes.  That's probably one reason this series goes so well - there is a lot packed into every minute.

Pol and Bruno (Carlos Cuevas and David Solans)
Each episode is titled after a different philosopher.  Episode one is The Peripatetics - and he takes the students for a walk to the school's kitchen.  He tells them the Peripatetics thought while walking.  A student asks him if everyone can do philosophy.  He stops.  Ponders for a long time as the students start snickering.  Then he tells them that he paused that long so he could think about the answer, and to make the point that people don't respect people who think before they speak.

As he engages the students, he antagonizes the other teachers, particularly one who starts a campaign to get rid of Merlí.  The show focuses on about ten of the students - we never find out anything about the black or the Asian student we see now and again in the class.  The students all have their own issues - absent parents, over protective parents, poverty, sex, difficulty in school, and one absent student who has been diagnosed with agoraphobia and never leaves his house.  Merlí helps them all through the application of philosophy.

Merlí is an inspiring teacher, but a difficult human being.  His pursuit of women is out of synch with #Metoo standards, yet he genuinely likes women and sex with them and they like him.  His constant violation of school rules and protocol is exasperating yet it's done in the interest of exciting his students with philosophy.  My sense is that the writers made his transgressions work out way too perfectly, but why not imagine such a world now and then.

I enjoyed it all - the acting, the dialogue, the issues, the look at teachers' lives and students' lives, all wrapped up in philosophy lessons as well.  We also get to see a bit of Barcelona, though mainly the neighborhood around the school and regular panoramic views of Barcelona.

Speaking of Barcelona,  Merlí teaches at Angel Guimera Institute.  Wikilpeida tells us:
Àngel Guimerà[a] (6 May 1845 or 6 May 1847[1] or 1849[2] – 18 July 1924), known also as Ángel Guimerá, was a Spanish Nobel-nominated writer in the Catalan language. His work is known for bringing together under romantic aspects the main elements of realism. It is considered one of the principal representatives of the so-called Renaixença,[3] at the end of the nineteenth century.
It goes on to tell us his most famous play was translated and performed internationally, including on Broadway.  That he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 23 times, but that Spain prevented a Catalan language writer from getting the prize. Clearly, the name of the school was no accident.

I'm writing this because I know that lots of people will enjoy this show.  I can find very little online about the show - basically a Reddit discussion group, but even that is brief.  One person who summarizes what he's found out on Spanish interviews of the actors who play the roles of Pol and Bruno.

What I've learned is that there are two more seasons.  That many think season 2 doesn't keep up the pace of season 1, and I'll leave it at that.

And I still haven't figured out what the owl symbolizes.

Netflix - and the other streaming channels - are transforming the movie watching experience.  We now have available outstanding movies and series from around the world.  It used to be that US culture was sent out into the world via films and music and television.  Now there's a bit of a two way exchange.

All of you with Netflix, especially those who are in education - students and teachers, - at least watch episode one.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rain, Sun, Rain, Food


Saturday threatened rain.  There were drops on the ground when I finally got round to my bike ride, but I figured I could turn back if it rained harder.  But it didn't.  Just clouds.  Some spots the pavement was wet, other spots not.  But the traffic jam along the beach bike trails was greatly reduced.  (They are bike trails.  It has pictures and the word bike stenciled on the pavement.  But scooters and joggers and strolling tourists can make it something of an obstacle course during the holidays and weekends)





It felt so good to just ride without worrying about hitting people or being hit, that I just kept going the seven miles to where the bike trail ends and then turned back.


This is looking south on the return trip from Will Rogers State Beach.  The buildings on the left are around downtown Santa Monica.



It rained seriously during the night, but by morning the sun was out again and we met (J walked and I biked) at the Mar Vista Sunday market.






































The quiche was at Sandra's Soups and Sweets and I agreed to let people know.  Open food like this is required to be kept behind screens.  There are zippered openings for purchases.







































I pointed out to one of the servers at Vegan Bite Bowls, that the name Buddha Sauce seemed a bit disrespectful to me.  He listened as I went on about cultural appropriation, and how I suspect that they didn't ask permission of any Buddhist temples or associations to use the name to make a profit.  Or that I suspected they didn't contribute any of their profit to any Buddhist organizations.  He listened and said he'd think about it and that no one had ever made that kind of comment before.


We woke up to rain this morning.  The sky seems clear again now, but everything is nicely watered .

Sunday, January 06, 2019

AOC Bringing Young Blood And Brains To Congress - Best Publicity Congress Has Had In Years And A Look At Other Politicians Dancing

Ed Rollins called her "the little girl' the other day.  I  guess that might go over well in white male bastions of power, but to everyone else it reflects how out-of-touch those Republican men are.

Another tried to smear here with video from her college days dancing on a Boston College roof with other students.  Again, totally out of touch as the video went viral - and how could anyone think the video would put Alexandra Ocasio Cortez in a bad light? (Here's a post on the original video and the many duplicates overlaying other music.)

Her response was a tweet with more dancing.  Infectious, joyful, skillful dancing.




Such a delightful change from all the dour, serious images we usually get of our Congress members.

And you know?  Hispanic women under 30 don't make it into Congress unless they are five times more competent than all the men around.  As long as they keep thinking of her as a 'little girl' she's going to continue to surprise them.

She's already proposed a tax change that has won the approval of Economics Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has said would work.



Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only member of congress to be caught dancing on video.

How about Republican Rep. Sean Duffy from Wisconsin?



Yes, as best as I can tell, this is real, from when he was on a reality tv show.  I have no problem with the morality of it, but if some Republicans wanted to embarrass AOC with her old video, well, then this one shows it's her, not the dancing they're attacking.


Rep Joyce Beatty (D) of Ohio:

Group of Congress members singing and dancing with Wynona Ryder (if it doesn't embed, here's the RollCall page it's on.)


Here's Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen (D) dancing





Rep. Niki Tsongas  (D) (Sen. Paul Tsongas' widow) dancing to Cambodian music.






Getting out of the US House, here's Erik Brakey is a Republican state senator in Maine.






Here's a Democratic Texas Senator Carlos Uresti dancing at his wedding.



Since then, from the Texas Tribune:
"The San Antonio Democrat was convicted Feb. 22 of 11 felonies, including money laundering and fraud, tied to his work with FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oilfield services company where Uresti worked as general counsel, owned a 1 percent stake and earned a commission for recruiting investors, according to court documents."

Going international, here's Theresa May dancing to ABBA




And here's a Nigerian Senator Ademola Adeleke  dancing while celebrating his electoral victory.He is also the uncle of Nigerian afrobeats star Davido.







And briefly looking at other musical talents, Rep. Joe Crowley is particularly relevant because the long time Democratic Congress Member who was defeated in the primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.





Rep. Beto O'Rourke singing with Willie Nelson




Senators Lamar Alexander and Orin Hatch at the piano in a PR piece for legislation protecting songwriters' royalties. (I can't get the video to embed so you'll just have to go to the link if you want to see it.)


Saturday, January 05, 2019

Visit To The Eye Doctor - Fancy Frames And Inside Closeups

I first went to Dr. E - as he reminded me yesterday - in 1975.  His office is in Beverly Hills, but the prices don't reflect that.  We came down to LA often enough to visit my mom over the years that I could get a check up every year or two.  He's a great doctor - considering how well my contacts work - we get along well, and he plays real jazz in the background.  Not only am I one of the patients he's had the longest, but he also appreciates that I come all the way from Alaska to get my eyes checked.

The waiting room had mostly ordinary glasses on display.  But there were also several very splashy ones.


















Dr. E has gotten a new toy since I was here two years ago - it's a machine that takes pictures of the inside of your eyeball.  Here's what I look like inside - at least the way the machine paints it.



The blue at the bottom is the macula.  And he pointed out where a few bits are breaking off.  He didn't seem to worried at the moment.  I couldn't make sense of this at first but he explained it was at the back of the inside of my eye.   This picture I got online might help.  


Image from dreamstime
 The Macular Society tells us this (there's also a video there):

"The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye. It is only about 5mm across but is responsible for all of our central vision, most of our colour vision and the fine detail of what we see.
The macula has a very high concentration of photoreceptor cells that detect light and send signals to the brain, which interprets them as images. The rest of the retina processes our peripheral (side) vision."
It's pretty important.







If I understand this right, the white spot in the darkish area is the macula.  Then there are other areas and layers of the eye as you can see in the chart above.












Here's a different view.  


I need to wrap this up because Alaska's being given a bad rap again - a storm from the Gulf of Alaska is headed for (maybe already there) Northern California and we're supposed to get rain here in LA tonight.  So I want to go for my bike ride before it starts.  It's already pretty gray out.  


Friday, January 04, 2019

Another Prediction About 2019 Science Events - This Time From Science Magazine

The other day I posted an LA Times list of science events or projects that would likely be in the news in 2019.  Science Magazine has also put out such a list.  They didn't explain the order, so I took the liberty of grouping events under the same title (ie Climate Science) together.  I also took as little as I could to post here, just what I thought was enough for readers to understand what they were talking about.  Go to the original form more details.   Let's see where the two lists - LA Times and Science Magazine -  overlap.


CLIMATE SCIENCE   (LA Times talked about the many projects on Antarctica)
All eyes on polar ice
If you want to understand Earth's warming future, look to the poles. This year, scientists in two international projects will heed that call. In September, researchers will position a German icebreaker, the RV Polarstern, to freeze in Arctic sea ice for a year's stay. The ship will serve as the central hub for the €120 million Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, hosting researchers from 17 countries.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Solar dimming gets a test
A geoengineering technique to curb global warming by temporarily dimming the sun's rays could get its first, modest field experiment this year. In solar geoengineering, vast amounts of reflective aerosol particles would be sprayed into the high atmosphere, mimicking the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions.


SCIENCE POLICY 
A science whisperer for Trump
For 2 years, President Donald Trump has been making decisions involving science and innovation without input from a White House science adviser. Meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, whom Trump nominated in late July 2018 to fill that void, was awaiting final Senate approval at press time. The question is what his arrival will mean for the administration's handling of an array of technical challenges, from regulation of human embryo engineering and self-driving cars to combatting cyberterrorism and fostering a more tech-savvy workforce.

SCIENCE POLICY
Divided we stand?
You'll need a Ouija board to predict how U.S. science will fare this year under a divided government, with Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives while Republicans retain the Senate with President Donald Trump in the White House. There are the known flashpoints—Democrats challenging the Trump administration on its environment and energy policies, for example.


PARTICLE PHYSICS
Seeking new physics in the muon
By studying the magnetism of a particle called the muon, physicists hope to find results this year that could point to new particles or forces, something they have craved for decades. Scientists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, are examining whether the muon—a heavier and shorter-lived cousin of the electron—is more magnetic than theory predicts.


BIOPHYSICS
A fine-grained look inside cells
In cell biology, higher resolution means more gets revealed. Now, scientists are ready to use new combinations of tools and techniques to provide close-up looks at components inside cells in unprecedented detail, and in 3D. Already, researchers can analyze DNA, proteins, RNA, and epigenetic marks in single cells. This year, multidisciplinary teams plan to combine those methods with advances in cryoelectron tomography, labeling techniques to trace molecules, and other types of microscopy to see subcellular structures and processes.


BIOTECHNOLOGY
New GM mosquitoes take off
The first release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in Africa is set to happen in Burkina Faso this year, an initial step in a planned "gene drive" strategy against malaria. It will be the first release of GM mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, which transmits the parasite responsible for the disease. The gene drive approach, under development at the nonprofit consortium Target Malaria, would spread mutations through the wild population that knock out key fertility genes or reduce the proportion of female insects, which transmit disease.


CONSERVATION
Nations size up biodiversity
Three years in the making, a $2.4 million assessment of Earth's biodiversity and ecosystems will be published in May. By evaluating trends over 50 years in indicators such as species extinctions and extent of marine protected areas, it will chart progress toward international goals on biodiversity conservation—and, in many places, how far short the world is falling.



SPACE SCIENCE  (LA Times talks about New Horizon)
The next planetary mission
In July, NASA will chart its next major step in planetary science when it selects the next billion-dollar mission under its New Frontiers program. The agency will choose between two finalists. Dragonfly would send a semiautonomous quad-copter to fly across the surface of Titan, the saturnian moon sculpted by rivers of liquid methane. The copter would search for clues of chemical reactions that could lead to life. The Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return mission would return gases and ice from the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

RESEARCH ETHICS
A push to return museum holdings
Researchers are beginning new efforts to return bones and cultural artifacts collected for study and as museum specimens to the peoples from whom they were obtained, often without consent. Expect renewed debate on this issue, as after centuries of exploitative collecting, some researchers use new methods to collaborate with those communities, and also expand efforts to return objects of art.

#METOO  (I'm grouping this with other ethics related ones)
New rights for alleged harassers
This year, the U.S. Department of Education may finalize controversial proposed rules that would reduce universities' liability for policing sexual harassment and sexual assault and give more rights to the accused. The regulations, proposed in November 2018, would change how institutions investigate such allegations under the landmark 1972 law known as Title IX. They wouldn't be responsible for investigating most off-campus incidents of harassment or assault, and the standard of evidence for confirming allegations of on-campus misconduct could rise.

BIOETHICS
China eyes bioethics overhaul  (LA Times does cover this one)
China is likely to tighten its rules for genetic engineering of humans, including the creation of heritable traits, in the wake of an uproar over such work in 2018. A Chinese scientist named He Jiankui announced in November 2018 that he modified a gene in embryos that led to twin baby girls.


LIVESTOCK AGRICULTURE
Disease crisis looms for swine
Pig farmers—and perhaps some bacon lovers—will anxiously scan the headlines this year for news of African swine fever (ASF). Harmless to humans, the viral disease is highly infectious and lethal among pigs, causing serious economic damage through culls and trade bans.

Seems this one is more geared to scientists and the LA Times list toward a lay audience, which makes perfect sense.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

INTERN DIES 8 TIMES - Why Everyone Should Be Familiar With Strunk & White's Elements Of Style

Here's the story headline in the Anchorage Daily News* (ADN) this morning  that got my attention here:



For my blind readers whose equipment can't read words in images, the headline is:

"DEPUTIES SHOT LION THAT KILLED INTERN AT WILDLIFE CENTER 8 TIMES"

"Lion that killed intern at wildlife center 8 times" - That's one tough intern.


Elements Of Style is one of the most used books on English writing style.  It may be a bit outdated here and there, but its succinct list of rules of grammar and style make it a great way to keep your prose concise and understandable.  It's available free as a PDF on line.  From page 36:

"20. Keep related words together.
The position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their relationship. Confusion and ambiguity result when words are badly placed. The writer must, therefore, bring together the words and groups of words that are related in thought and keep apart those that are not so related."
They then give lots of examples, but this one is as good as any of them why this is important.


So how do we make it clear that the deputies shot the lion eight times, not that the lion killed the intern eight times?   Here's what other headline writers wrote:

Deputies shot lion eight times after it killed intern

Deputies fired 8 gunshots to subdue lion after fatal attack at NC wildlife center


Other papers, like the Miami Herald and the Chicago Tribune used the misleading headline the ADN used.


*I often can't find links to stories like this one that the ADN has rounded up from other sources, that's why I put in the screenshot.

I'd also note that in the 1979 Introduction is this advice on BREAKING rules:
"It is an old observation," he wrote, "that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules."


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Famous People Born In 1919 - J.D. Salinger, Jackie Robinson, Liberace, Nat King Cole, Kalashnikov, And Others

There seem to be fewer notable people born in 1919.  World War I had ended in November1918.  There had been a big influenza epidemic in 1918 as well.  Births dropped significantly in 1919.

Excerpted from a cdc chart
Someone born in 1919 would be ten when the stock market crashed, spend their adolescence during the depression, and start their twenties as WW II broke out.  Maybe that explains why there are fewer notables compared to other years.

I've only picked out a few folks born in 1919.  What has struck me since I first started doing "famous people born" posts, is thinking about a group of people who would have been in the same school year had they all lived in the same neighborhood.  So try to imagine these people being classmates together at some school.  Did any of these people know each other?  Ever meet?

I've put them in order of when they were born in 1919 from the oldest (at least at birth) to the youngest.  It's also sobering to see how some lived much shorter lives than others.


J. D. Salinger  January 1, 1919 - January 27, 2010 (91)
"American writer known for his widely read novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Following his early success publishing short stories and The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his final original work in 1965 and gave his last interview in 1980."
The first paragraph of Catcher In The Rye.
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quitee touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all - I’m not saying that - but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goodam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He’s got a lot of dough, now. He didn’t use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was «‘The Secret Goldfish.’ It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me."

Jackie Robinson - January 31, 1919 -  October 24, 1972 (53)

"The first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.[2] Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, they heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s.[3] Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.[4]"





Eva Gabor  February 11, 1919 - July 4, 1995 (76)

"Born in Budapest, Eva aspired to acting from the age of 4. She began studying at 15, but her parents thought acting was too vulgar a profession and forced her to withdraw. Two years later, the 5-foot-2-inch beauty met a Swedish-born Hollywood physician at a party. They married in 1939 and moved to California. , ,
Described as the most down-to-earth of the Gabor sisters, Eva nevertheless had a lot in common with her many-times-married siblings, Zsa Zsa and Magda. Eva, who married and divorced at least four times, was said to have coined the phrase, "Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once or twice."
They were all entertainers. And they all possessed the unmistakably breezy Gabor style. When introduced to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Eva Gabor greeted him in her trademark Hungarian accent: 'Hello, Mr. President, darling.'"

Nat King Cole   March 17, 1919- February 15, 1965 (45)

" For a mild-mannered man whose music was always easy on the ear, Nat King Cole managed to be a figure of considerable controversy during his 30 years as a professional musician. From the late '40s to the mid-'60s, he was a massively successful pop singer who ranked with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He shared with those peers a career that encompassed hit records, international touring, radio and television shows, and appearances in films. But unlike them, he had not emerged from a background as a band singer in the swing era. Instead, he had spent a decade as a celebrated jazz pianist, leading his own small group."






Madalyn Murray O'Hair  April 13, 1919 – September 29, 1995 (76)
"Madalyn Murray O'Hair (née Mays; )[1] was an American activist supporting atheism and separation of church and state. In 1963 she founded American Atheists and served as its president to 1986, after which her son Jon Garth Murray succeeded her. She created the first issues of American Atheist Magazine.
O'Hair is best known for the Murray v. Curlett lawsuit, which challenged the policy of mandatory prayers and Bible reading in Baltimore public schools, in which she named her first son William J. Murray as plaintiff. Consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), it was heard by the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that official Bible-reading in American public schools was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court had prohibited officially sponsored prayer in schools in Engel v. Vitale (1962) on similar grounds. Through American Atheists, O'Hair filed numerous other suits on issues of separation of church and state."



Pete Seeger   May 3, 1919 - January 27, 2014 (94)
 In 1938, he settled in New York City and eventually met Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly, and others. The quality of music coming from this group immediately captured his attention. He assisted Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Song and was exposed to a wonderful array of traditional American music. Many in this group of musicians eventually formed the Almanac Singers in 1940. In addition to Pete, the group included Lee Hays, Woody Guthrie, Bess Lomax, Sis Cunningham, Mill Lampell, Arthur Stern, and others. They lived in a communal home, “The Almanac House,” in New York. The group performed for gatherings, picket lines, and any place where they could lend their voices in support of the social causes they believed in. Later, after World War II, many of the same people became involved in the musical organizations People’s Songs and People’s Artists.

His best-known songs include "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (with Joe Hickerson), "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" (with Lee Hays of the Weavers), and "Turn! Turn! Turn!"








Liberace  May 16, 1919 - February 4, 1987 ( 67)
American pianist, singer and actor.[2] A child prodigy and the son of Polish and Italian immigrants, Liberace enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements. At the height of his fame, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world,[3] with established concert residencies in Las Vegas, and an international touring schedule. Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage, acquiring the nickname "Mr. Showmanship".





Margot Fonteyn  May 18, 1919 - February 21, 1991 (71)
Dame Margot Fonteyn, DBE (18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991), stage name of Margaret Evelyn de Arias, was an English ballerina. She spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet (formerly the Sadler's Wells Theater Company), eventually being appointed prima ballerina assoluta of the company by Queen Elizabeth II. Beginning ballet lessons at the age of four, she studied in England and China, where her father was transferred for his work. Her training in Shanghai was with George Goncharov, contributing to her continuing interest in Russian ballet. Returning to London at the age of 14, she was invited to join the Vic-Wells Ballet School by Ninette de Valois. She succeeded Alicia Markova as prima ballerina of the company in 1935. The Vic-Wells choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton, wrote numerous parts for Fonteyn and her partner, Robert Helpmann, with whom she danced from the 1930s to the 1940s.






Sir Edmund Hillary   July 20 1919 -  Jan 11, 2008  (88)

Best-known internationally as the first man to climb Mt. Everest in May 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, for the last 50 years he has devoted himself to environmental and humanitarian efforts that have made a profound difference to communities in Nepal where his famous summiting was achieved.


George Wallace  August 25, 1919 – September 13, 1998
American politician and the 45th Governor of Alabama, a position he occupied for four terms, during which he promoted "low-grade industrial development, low taxes, and trade schools".[1] He sought the United States presidency as a Democrat three times, and once as an American Independent Party candidate, unsuccessfully each time. He is best remembered for his staunch segregationist and populist views.[2][3][4] Wallace famously opposed desegregation and supported the policies of "Jim Crow" during the Civil Rights Movement, declaring in his 1963 Inaugural Address that he stood for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever".[5]



I'm offering this video, because I was at this talk. (The actual date is January 10,1964)  I came early to be sure to get a seat. The first several rows were already filled with black students. Wallace was known as the racist governor of Alabama who opposed integration. UCLA was a relatively liberal California college. It was going to be tense. But Wallace used charm and humor to win over the audience quickly - even the front few rows. We didn't agree with him, but laughter created a human connection. It was an important lesson for me about preconceptions, my notions about evil people, and how people who violently disagree on fundamental issues, nevertheless can communicate. It also helped me understand why Alabamans voted for him.  I absolutely do not endorse most of the comments under this video on Youtube.


Pierre Trudeau  October 18, 1919 - Sept. 28, 2000 (80)

He slid down banisters, dated movie stars and wore a red rose in his lapel. Pierre Elliott Trudeau is arguably the most charismatic prime minister in Canada's history. But he was more than just charisma - Trudeau helped shape Canada with his vision of a unified, bilingual, multicultural "just society." Throughout his 16 years as prime minister, he faced some heavy criticism. But when Trudeau died on Sept. 28, 2000, the nation mourned the man who, in the words of one biographer, "haunts us still."
He was also the father of Canada's current prime minister.


Doris Lessing   (October 22, 1919, Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran) - 17 November 2013,

Nobel Prize in Literature.
Doris Lessing's body of work comprises around 50 books and spans several genres. Her writing is characterized by penetrating studies of living conditions in the 20th century, behavioral patterns, and historical developments. Her most experimental novel, 'The Golden Notebook', from 1962, is a study of a woman's psyche and life situation, the lot of writers, sexuality, political ideas, and everyday life. Some of Doris Lessing's books reach into the future. Among other things, she portrays our civilization's final hour from the perspective of an extraterrestrial observer.
Here's the first page of The Golden Notebook.
"Anna meets her friend Molly in the summer of 1957 after a separation
THE two women were alone in the London flat. 'The point is,' said Anna, as her friend came back from the telephone on the landing, 'the point is, that as far as I can see, everything's cracking up.'
Molly was a woman much on the telephone. When it rang she had just enquired: 'Well, what's the gossip?' Now she said, 'That's Richard, and he's coming over. It seems today's his only free moment for the next month. Or so he insists.'
'Well I'm not leaving,' said Anna.
'No, you stay just where you are.'
Molly considered her own appearance-she was wearing trousers and a sweater, both the worse for wear. 'He'll have to take me as I come,' she concluded, and sat down by the window. 'He wouldn't say what it's about-another crisis with Marion, I suppose.'
'Didn't he write to you?' asked Anna, cautious.
'Both he and Marion wrote-ever such bonhomous letters. Odd, isn't it?'
This odd, isn't it? was the characteristic note of the intimate conversations they designated gossip. But having struck the note, Molly swerved off with: 'It's no use talking now, because he's coming right over, he says.'
'He'll probably go when he sees me here,' said Anna, cheerfully, but slightly aggressive. Molly glanced at her, keenly, and said: 'Oh, but why?'
It had always been understood that Anna and Richard disliked each other; and before Anna had always left when Richard was expected. Now Molly said: 'Actually I think he rather likes you, in his heart of hearts. The point is, he's committed to liking me, on principle-he's such a fool he's always got to either like or dislike someone, so all the dislike he won't admit he has for me gets pushed off on to you.'"


Mohammad Reza Shah  October 26, 1919 -  July 27, 1980 (60)
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-80), king of Iran (1941-1979), was born in Tehran on October 26, 1919, the eldest son of Reza Shah. He completed his primary school in Switzerland. He returned to Iran in 1935, and enrolled in a Tehran military school, from which he graduated in 1938..  . .
He replaced his father, Reza Shah, on the throne on September 16, 1941, shortly before his 22nd birthday. He continued the reform policies of his father, but a contest for control of the government soon erupted between the shah and an older professional politician, the nationalistic Mohammad Mosaddeq.  .  .
By the mid-1970s the Shah reigned amidst widespread discontent caused by the continuing repressiveness of his regime, socioeconomic changes that benefited some classes at the expense of others, and the increasing gap between the ruling elite and the disaffected populace. Islamic leaders, particularly the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, were able to focus this discontent with a populist ideology tied to Islamic principles and calls for the overthrow of the shah. The Shah's government collapsed following widespread uprisings in 1978 -1979 and consequently an Islamic Republic succeeded his regime.


Mikhail Kalashnikov  November 10, 1919 - December 23, 2013 (94)
Russian soldier, best known as AK-47 inventor. a Russian general, inventor, military engineer and small arms designer. He is most famous for developing the AK-47 assault rifle and its improvements, the AKM and AK-74, as well as the PK machine gun and RPK light machine gun.