Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Procrastinators Anonymous

The easiest reading to recommend is reading that makes ourselves look like better, warmer, smarter people -- or simply more sympathetic. That is precisely the reason I recommend the essay, Procrastination, by Paul Graham. Paul Graham is one of those essayist that write about subjects important to me and seem to affirm my opinion on most of them. It increases my self confidence knowing that other more famous, better spoken, highly thought of people than myself share my opinions. Or at least Paul does.

My mother will tell you I'm a procrastinator. I was even born a few weeks late. Apparently I had something better to do even then than getting slapped by a doctor and sucking-in my first breath of air. Ultimately it couldn't be put off any longer and what should have been a Halloween birthday had to wait for Thanksgiving.

My wife dispenses with euphemisms altogether and prefers the term lazy. She sees all the stuff I've ignored and is justifiably insulted at the insinuation that I'm too important to do the little stuff and leave it for her. As valuable as procrastinating may be its constant indulgence isn't always good for others.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What would we do without W?

Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Bernard Shaw have all proposed changes to our alphabet. Standing in their esteemed company requires extraordinary brilliance or extraordinary arrogance. Several months ago some of my neighbors started a grass roots campaign to rid our alphabet of the letter W. The lawn signs, appearing up and down my street are fairly simple in appearance: a big letter W inside a circle with a slash through it.

At first I thought they'd visited a City Slickers-inspired dude ranch and returned with fresh visions of Jack Palance's Curly in their saddle-shaken sun-baked noggins, inspiring the naming of their homes to The Nasty-W. But my neighbors aren't the cattle-drive type and the coincidence of so many Casa sin W's appearing at once suggested a coordinated plot.

Most of these signs are difficult to find now. Michigan's winter got an early and snowy start so the movement is mostly mute until the spring. The no-W faithful will have to rely on bumper stickers and buttons.

One of Franklin's suggestions was to represent "th" by combining the 't' and 'h' into a single glyph that looked like an h with a hash on the stem. He also eliminated the letter c replacing its hard and soft sounds with K and S respectively. My neighbors' propaganda has proposed no substitutes for the letter w or the unique sound it makes -- markedly different from any other.

But my neighbors have been delinquent to circulate petitions for the new alphabet, explain their rationale, or provide examples of how a W-less alphabet would function. In my impatience I've developed some of my own.

The new alphabet is more easily understood if you fake a French accent. For a real authentic "Inpector Jacques Clouseau" sound replace W with V, S with Z, and TH with Z.

Veaponz of maz deztruction
Share ze vealth -- higher vage vithholding taxez!
Viva le Velfare!
"I did not have zexual relationz vith that voman"

As cosmopolitan as it sounds, I prefer keeping W in the alphabet, though Franklin's suggestion of eliminating C would simplify spelling bees.

Friday, December 16, 2005

We're in Iraq because you want us there

Weapons of mass destruction, illegitimate government, oppression, slavery, genocide, civil war and border skirmishes may all be decent reasons for the US to invade another country to spread life, liberty and happiness, but those reasons alone aren't enough to get US interest. First a country must be on our radar, and to be on our radar we must have an interest, and that interest must be of sufficient economic value to justify the costs of meaningful interference.

Examples include Burma, Sierra Leone, and most of Africa, where even America's appetite for Chocolate is insufficient cause for meddling in the affairs of The Ivory Coast or becoming a media cause celebre.

Even having immediate proximity to the US has not been sufficient to move our foreign policy to more fully engage Cuba or Haiti, the latter being the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere nearly within site of hotels lining Miami Beach.

During the cold war USSR's interference in Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba attracted our attention but our military response had less to do with promoting liberty and democratic values or stopping the spread of communism than our dedication to stop the spread of Russian influence. Afghanistan was slightly more interesting due to its proximity to oil and because it ferments the kinds of idiots that might disrupt our oil supply and provide a base for terrorism.

The US isn't alone in this apparent hypocrisy. The United Nations and all its member states could not have been more hypocritical than during Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Apparently, the governments of the world feel more confident rushing in after God's wake than it does man's.

So now we've invaded Iraq and many American's don't understand why. In reality they know perfectly well why but prefer denial. We're there because we're dependent on foreign oil. We're dependent on it because our lifestyles require it. We live further and further from work, enjoy the luxury and autonomy of one-car-one-person, and drive increasingly larger vehicles. Our "right" to live where we want and commute how we want is not without costs beyond $2.25/gallon. As ignorant as pretending the consequences may be it is disingenuous to drive to a No Drilling in ANWR demonstration in anything less than a bus filled with like-minded protestors or display a "No War" lawn sign with the same SUV parked in the driveway you drive 20 miles to work.

As it is, many Americans, especially in the Detroit area where I live, resist public transportation. Buses are for poor people. People who can't afford cars. Do you really think buses are filled with ecologically-minded conservationists?

Yes, Virginia, we're there for the oil.

We don't want to make states of these nations. After the oil is gone what natural resource have they left? We already have sand. We don't need religious fanaticism, sectarianism, theocracies, monarchies, etc. We have enough problems with the states we already have.

Merry Christmas

The last few years our family's Christmas cards have wished friends and family Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays. Next year will be different. In fact, I hope everyone gets into the spirit of their observed holidays and sends us Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day cards. I'm especially looking forward to Kwanzaa carolers stopping by the house.

If the Politically Correct Police get their way we'll soon be unable to wish each other, "Happy New Year." The Jews' Rosh Hashanah is in the fall, Muslims celebrate Maal Hijrah, and the Chinese have their new year, like others, somewhere different every year. The politically correct insist it is long past time we purge our world of all Christian artifacts, except those that have been appropriated by Madonna for popular fasion. The Gregorian Calendar needs to go. It could be argued the whole Y2K thing could have been avoided had Pope Gregory's invention been dispensed with earlier. Apparently, no known computer glitch is known affecting the Year of the Golden Dragon.

Easter Break has already become Spring Break. This isn't bad for Easter, though, since it can now distance itself from the annual Sodom and Gomorrah spectacle that has become Daytona Beach and Ft. Lauderdale. And Easter Eggs, those hidden features coders hide in their programs for their own amusement and their users' thrill, will need renaming as well. Perhaps they should be called Vernal Equinox Eggs instead, or name them for something relating to Groundhog's Day even though groundhogs don't lay eggs.

Here's wishing you well for whatever upcoming holiday is most important to you. In our household we celebrate Christmas every December 25 of Pope Gregory's calendar.

Sometimes it's my turn

People are idiots, and I mean that affectionately. We all take turns in the idiot line. Sometimes it's my turn. Some people take cuts -- often. I suspect they believe they're in line for something else. Perhaps a buffet or merry-go-round.

I once stood in line to watch undergrads clean and number rat bones at the La Brea Tar Pits. Worse than that, I paid money to watch them from behind protective glass. Do you do something so interesting people would pay $8 to stand in line and watch you work then browse your gift shop? I could have stayed home and watched my grandfather break chicken bones and suck the marrow out for free. I'm confident the students behind the glass thought I was an idiot. I do. Whenever I visit my local party store Art and George ring up my Bud Lite from behind protective glass, but that's a combination tar-pit/gift-shop with a very short line. What's idiotic is paying $11 when I could have bought them at the grocery store for $7. The price of convenience.

It's our duty as friends and family, or simply as citizens of the same planet, to let people know when they're acting silly. And when we find ourselves at the front of the line we must raise our own hands and say, "That was me. I did it. I'm an idiot."

All of us have our own things-idiots-do list. Mine is pretty long. Yours probably is too. You might be adding "people who think so highly of themselves they post to blogs" to your list right now.

Everyone takes turns being an idiot. Sometimes it's my turn. Don't forget to stop by the gift shop and bookmark this page.