Saturday, June 30, 2012

Give me a tweet

I'm trying to decide whether or not to join Twitter, and I could use some testimonials from people who use it or have tried tweeting.
    All I really know so far is what Motomynd told me:
The bright point about twitter is that if someone has nothing important to say you spend less time figuring that out.
    I'm not sure whether that's a full-fledged endorsement or not.
    Of course, I am aware that "tweets" are limited to 140 characters. The Twitter website claims that
You can discover a lot in a little space. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place.
    Well, if the 140 characters can accommodate a photo, that's an extra 1,000 whole words right there.
    I don't know how many words a video is reputed to be worth—but probably not as many as 1,000 times the number of still images comprising it...I suppose, though, that it could actually be worth more than that many words, on the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?
    Plus, videos can include voice and music....It's actually starting to sound as though a tweet might be like what Elton John said about sad songs.

What do you think about Twitter? Especially if you actually use it or have tried it.
    You may, as usual, record your tweets in a comment below.
    Or your sad songs (especially if you sing them yourself and upload them to YouTube)*.
    I appreciate it.
* You can't include images or sounds in a Blogger comment, but you can include a link to them. The code for making a word or phrase a hyperlink is as follows:
<a href="url">word or phrase</a>

Friday, June 29, 2012

What if Judeo-Christian ethics had been all-life affirming?

Photo taken a year ago by holding
a Nikon D60 by hand to the narrow
eyepiece of a Nikon ED-50 fieldscope
[It's not the moon as I thought
when I found the photo, but the
vignetting of the image, which is
the daytime sky behind a dead tree.]
Apparently scholars agree that the Israelites only meant the Sixth Commandment to restrain their members from killing other Israelites. The Old Testament is chock full of incidents of murder, rape, and enslavement of other people, most of the mayhem being portrayed as not only condoned but as explicitly commanded by their deity.
    I don't know what I'd eaten, but the other day I found myself wondering whether, if the Judeo-Christian ethic could have grown up protecting not only one's own group but all mankind—and not only just all mankind, but even all mammalian life on Earth—and not only just all mammalian life on Earth, but even all animal life on our planet—and not only all animal life, but even our living, breathing Earth...what a different world this might be.

We might not put other animals in confined, dark spaces and shoot them full of growth hormones to speed their fattening to slaughter.
    We might not slaughter animals at all, we might not eat them.
    We might not invade countries to control the oil beneath their ground.
    We might not tear down mountains to extricate coal.
    We might not use fuel-inefficient means of transportation.
    We might not waste wildernesses to build pipelines.
    We might not level rain forests to raise beef.
    We might not have overpopulated the planet.

If we stepped abruptly from the world we know into that might-have-been world, we would not recognize it.
    I stepped abruptly into wondering, and I can hardly think coherently of the things we might not do if the Judeo-Christian ethic hadn't been geared to protecting the in-group but to protecting life collectively, and its mother, Earth.
    I was just wondering.
    Maybe tomorrow I'll come back to reality.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not yet1

I'm old, or anyway old enough.
I fall asleep at eight watching TV
    And feel no loss at going on to bed
    My mind can hardly think or body move
    It's not really that early, it's time to sleep.
Dying can't be that difficult either.

What is this poem, then? Mind could think?
    Fingers could move to find the keys?
    Not quite time to sleep after all?
And what about next time, and the next,
And the final time—maybe then, too,
Enough mind to want to put death off a bit?
  1. Thanks to Ken Marks for suggesting the alternate title, which I prefer.
  2. Original version:

    I'm old, or anyway old enough.
    I fall asleep at eight watching TV
        And feel no loss at going on to bed
        My mind can hardly think or body move
        It's not really that early, it's time to sleep.
    Dying can't be that difficult either.

    What is this poem, then? Mind can't think?
        Fingers can't move to find the keys?
        It wasn't quite time to sleep this time?
    And what about next time, and the next,
    And the final time—maybe then, too,
    Enough mind to make dying not so easy?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alert: Eagle on nest at Jordan Lake!

[This is just an image; there is no
link to the webcam here.]
I just clicked on Moristotle's 10th most popular post all-time and was delighted to see that the nest is currently being sat on:
"Eagle webcam at Jordan Lake"
Many thanks to our former next-door neighbor in Chapel Hill for sending me the link to a webcam posted near an eagle 's nest at Lake Jordan...
Moristotle's 10 most popular posts of the last 30 days are listed in the sidebar (not far down).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thanks, everyone!

Hmmm, those graphs look canned, don't they?
    Going directly to "stats," I found the following graph of pageviews over the last 7 days, which seems to plot by the hour. I could find no graph going further back.

The date labeling is odd; "6/23/12" seems to correspond to that day's
first hour, and "6/24/12" to that day's last hour (for example)
[I suspect that "6/24/12" is an error and should read "6/25/12"]

Join me?

[Click to enlarge]
Sometimes I need to just stop and wait for Daylilies.
    You, too, sometimes?

Join Moristotle too, while you're at it, so you can receive automatic notifications of new postings. See place to join a little ways down in the sidebar (to the right). Glad to have you following Moristotle!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stop procrastinating (now, not later)

Click to see original article*
I'm sure that no one reading this has a problem with procrastination. You're probably not among the estimated 97 percent of people who put off things they need (or even want) to do but aren't doing.
    Surely, though, you have a friend who could use what I'm about to tell you. And if your friend tries it, they'll love you for telling them. (Year, I know that "they" and "them" have always been only plural, but I've finally stopped procrastinating and joined the forces for language transformation.)
    When you—I mean your friend—decides to stop procrastinating, I recommend a short procedure (less than five minutes) to motivate themself to take action. ("Themself" is my own contribution to the language transformation movement. There'll be no stopping your friend either, once they learn to stop procrastinating.)
    I'll describe the procedure by way of an example. In 1997, before starting to work at UNC General Administration, I worked for a funeral home that specialized in cremation. I called people to try to set up an appointment for one of my colleagues to visit them to talk about prefunding their cremation arrangements. Once, after a particularly unproductive day (not many people seemed to be home), I left the office early and took my leads home to call that evening. But when I arrived home, I was tired and after dinner I felt more like doing any number of things than calling people to talk about their cremation. I started to procrastinate—and I knew it.
    It is essential that your friend know they're procrastinating—they must catch themself doing it in order to correct it.

Here's what I did, and it illustrates what your friend can do whenever they catch themself procrastinating:
    I asked myself, "Is it important to make the calls?" If not, then obviously I might as well find something else to procrastinate about. But I knew that it was important to make the calls, and continuing to procrastinate was not a good choice. However, it looked as though I would continue if I didn't take the next step.
    There's always a logic to procrastination, reasons why you—I mean your friend—is putting something off. They're either getting some reward from not doing it, or avoiding a penalty they'd incur if they did do it, or both.
    I analyzed why I wasn't making the calls. The reward I was getting out of not making the calls was a chance to rest or do something recreational, something more fun than calling prospects to discuss prepaying to have their bodies incinerated after they died.
    The penalty I was avoiding was the feeling of being a hypocrite if I did make the calls, because I myself hated to receive telemarketing calls in the evening, and there I was contemplating making telemarketing calls in the evening.
    Both the reward and the penalty got me to not make the calls. The trick would have to be to apply a stronger reward and a stronger penalty to get me to make the calls.

I identified several rewards if I did make the calls: I would get a clear desk. (I had been procrastinating about clearing off the papers piled on it.) If I made the calls, I would probably reach a few people who weren't home during the day, and if I reached them, I might make an appointment or two (for which I would receive a commission).
    On the other hand, if I didn't make the calls, the penalties would be that I probably wouldn't reach any of these people all week, and I would have no chance to set up an appointment with them. I wouldn't make any commissions on them, and more important, I would have to answer to my disappointed colleagues.
    I now had stronger rewards for calling, and stronger penalties for not calling. I made the calls.

I felt quite pleased with myself. I received a burst of energy and was no longer tired. My desk became clear. And I even set a couple of appointments. How stupid it had been to procrastinate!
    And your friend can stop procrastinating too. Here's what to tell them:
  1. Catch yourself procrastinating.
  2. Decide whether it's important for them to stop procrastinating. If so,
  3. Identify the rewards and the penalties that are keeping them from acting.
  4. Find stronger rewards and penalties to get them to act. These will motivate your friend to
  5. Do what they have been putting off.
* Afterword. I'd been procrastinating for years to mine the trove of my past writings for use on Moristotle.
    So I'm extremely grateful to have found the article shown in the photograph, which I wrote for The Chapel Hill Herald in 1997.
    See, the method still works!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shakespeare a vegetarian?

From the striking opening with its, I guess, Ninji-style attack on Duke Senior's court, set in 19th century Japan, to the witty epilogue delivered by Bryce Dallas Howard on her way back to her trailer from the set, Kenneth Branagh's production of Shakespeare's As You Like It is quite as you might like it.
    It was how my wife and I liked it, and how New York Times movie critic Virginia Heffernan liked it five years ago. She concluded her August 21, 2007 review ("Enough Already, Rosalind, Let the Kools Talk") with the statement: "This is As You Like It as we like it." Let her speak for all of us.
As You Like It (2006: Kenneth Branagh) [Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard), the daughter of Duke Senior (Brian Blessed, the banished duke), is raised at the court of Duke Frederick (Brian Blessed, who is younger brother to Duke Senior and took over his dukedom), with her cousin Celia (Romola Garai, daughter to Duke Frederick). She falls in love with a young man named Orlando (David Oyelowo), but before she can even think twice about it, she is banished by Duke Frederick, who threatens death if she comes near the court again. Celia, being Rosalind's best friend, goes with Rosalind (who is disguised as a boy, Ganymede) and Touchstone (Alfred Molina), the court's fool, to the forest of Arden. Upon their arrival in the forest, they happen upon Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando's eldest brother (Adrian Lester). What follows is an elaborate scheme devised by the cross-dressing Rosalind to find out the verity of Orlando's supposed passion for her, and to further capture his heart, through the witty and mischievous façade of Ganymede.] [E] 6-22-2012
    We were delighted to see Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of American director Ron Howard) in the role of Rosalind. She played Hilly Holbrook in The Help, of which I have made much metaphorical use in telling the story of my retirement from the University of North Carolina General Administration (see Features page "To the three white ladies, I was a colored maid").

Preferring as I do, for ethical reasons, not to eat animal flesh, I was touched by the way Kenneth Branagh handled Act II, Scene I of Shakespeare's play. The scene features the character Jacques (Kevin Kline's) aversion to killing (for eating?) the animals in the Forest of Arden. In Shakespeare (as you can see at the bottom of this post, where I've included the text of the scene in its entirety), Jacques is not present, and his words and actions are reported to Duke Senior by others.
    But in Branagh's movie, when Duke Senior says, "Come, shall we go and kill us venison?," Jacques is present and Brian Blessed beautifully plays some embarrassment at speaking in Jacques's presence. And Kevin Kline delicately acts sadness at the thought.
    I don't remember having noticed before Shakespeare's sensitive portrayal here of an aversion to eating animals. Could Shakespeare have been a vegetarian?
    According to the Natural Healing Center, he was, but it would be in their interest to say so, true or not. quotes Act I, Scene 3 of Twelfth Night:
...but I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm my wit. doubts it:
It was uncommon then to be a vegetarian. Most of the food that he will have eaten would be meat, so no, I don't think William Shakespeare was a vegetarian.
    I've emailed my college classmate Stephen Greenblatt at Harvard and asked him whether his Shakespeare studies have led him to any conclusion whether Shakespeare was a vegetarian.
Note: As You Like It is currently being performed in New York; see "Central Park, a Forest of Ardor" in the June 21 New York Times.

From the complete text of Shakespeare's As You Like It
The Forest of Arden.

Enter DUKE SENIOR, AMIENS, and two or three Lords, like forester

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.

Happy is your grace,
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.

Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
And yet it irks me the poor dappled fools,
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should in their own confines with forked heads
Have their round haunches gored.

First Lord
Indeed, my lord,
The melancholy Jaques grieves at that,
And, in that kind, swears you do more usurp
Than doth your brother that hath banish'd you.
To-day my Lord of Amiens and myself
Did steal behind him as he lay along
Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood:
To the which place a poor sequester'd stag,
That from the hunter's aim had ta'en a hurt,
Did come to languish, and indeed, my lord,
The wretched animal heaved forth such groans
That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
Almost to bursting, and the big round tears
Coursed one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase; and thus the hairy fool
Much marked of the melancholy Jaques,
Stood on the extremest verge of the swift brook,
Augmenting it with tears.

But what said Jaques?
Did he not moralize this spectacle?

First Lord
O, yes, into a thousand similes.
First, for his weeping into the needless stream;
'Poor deer,' quoth he, 'thou makest a testament
As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more
To that which had too much:' then, being there alone,
Left and abandon'd of his velvet friends,
''Tis right:' quoth he; 'thus misery doth part
The flux of company:' anon a careless herd,
Full of the pasture, jumps along by him
And never stays to greet him; 'Ay' quoth Jaques,
'Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens;
'Tis just the fashion: wherefore do you look
Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?'
Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants and what's worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.

And did you leave him in this contemplation?

Second Lord
We did, my lord, weeping and commenting
Upon the sobbing deer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

No confusion

Do you remember when you first heard of Google?
    I do. I had only been working at UNC General Administration for a few months, so it was probably early in 1998. The staff there mostly used Macintoshes in those days, which might have been why I required some IT assistance (thirty years at IBM hadn't prepared me to use a Mac).
    The IT guy came and helped me and was about to leave when he thought to show me something. "Go here," he said, and pointed. He seemed excited, and I wondered why.
    "Enter 'google.'"
    That was my first act of googling.
    I intentionally don't capitalize the verb, to emphasize that Google has as solidly established its common-wordhood as Kleenex and Xerox ever did.
    It's google this and google that, and Google all galore.

Anyway, that glad remembrance is one of the reasons for my delight yesterday to receive a Facebook friend request from the very IT guy, with whom I had had no contact since he himself left General Administration—oh, twelve years ago?
    Naturally he asked, "Are you still at GA? Tell me what you've been up to."
    And I said:
The particulars of my retirement might be the first thing to tell you about. If you don't mind, I'll refer you to a feature page on my blog: "To the three white ladies, I was a colored maid." Can we go from there?
    And he said (obviously having read the page):
It sounds like your boss and the HR person had colluded in finding a lever to oust you. Your blog did not say how long you had been operating at a 7.5 + .5 hour day [about three years], but I suspect they needed a way to get you out that was consistent with their view of a bad-case scenario: you fought their decision. It also sounded like your boss had not talked with you prior to the meeting with HR about her concerns. [emphasis mine] Bringing in the HR person so early in this dialog suggests they feared what you could do.*
    I hadn't thought much about the fact that my boss of exactly two weeks had never mentioned to me personally the 0.5 hours I worked at home each day because of my three-year commuting arrangement. In fact, my friend's comment prompted me to remember that I had replied to her email notifying me of the meeting along the lines of "And what time do you and I meet to talk before [the HR person] joins us?"
    To which I received no reply. I realize now that it wouldn't be open for discussion, I was going to be hit with a fait accompli.

I told my friend, "I think that, if there had remained any doubt, the point you make cements the conclusion that there had indeed been collusion. Hmm, conclusion and collusion are too good not to use in a limerick...."
     I wrote it this morning:
All the facts of the case seem to argue for collusion:
The white ladies met to conspire my preclusion.
    We'll hit him with an ultimatum—
    And we'll mouth our words verbatim—
drive to work, or be retirement your conclusion."
* As for what they might have feared I could do, I have no idea what that might have been.
    All I have done is tell what happened.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Good Friday in mind

[Click to enlarge]
I knew it was there, the editor had told me Wednesday it would appear today. I didn't even look at it before leaving the paper on the dining table for my wife.
    In fact, an hour before I read it, I saw on my Droid that I had an email from the editor, subject line "Possible Opinion Column?"
    Gosh, it's a good Friday, I thought—or, more accurately, felt.
    Let me savor this.
    While the water was heating for coffee and I sliced the fruit (strawberries and kiwi fruit this morning, with some of the best-tasting blueberries either of us could remember) I thought about a remark I'd made the day before about my blog's being "near the center of my universe." Curious concept that. I'm not sure what "my universe" means. If I have one, then doesn't everybody? And how could all those "universes" co-exist?
    But then I remembered that some physicists theorize that that's the very case, multiple universes....
    But none of them has a "center," right?
    And who is the "I" of "my"? I seem to have a different center, from moment to moment. Whatever pops up, grabs my attention.
    And I thought, how interesting that random thoughts of my own can suggest ruminations for a blog post, same as can an interesting book or book review or magazine article or something overheard.

While eating breakfast, I solved the first of the Sudokus, which seemed easy despite being rated "4" for the end of the week. The brain works best, I think, when it's savoring.
    My wife had her coffee and fruit, then went to work out for the first time on her stationary bicycle, moored to the Travel Trac trainer I'd set up after dinner last evening. I enjoyed her excitement, enjoyed how she was dressed as though she were out on the road. Siegfried was on the cushion alongside the bicycle to watch (and be near mama). I took some pictures.
    I put out bird seed. Distracted (I think) by the knowledge of that "Possible Opinion Column" email awaiting me from the editor, I poured all of the hulled sunflower seeds in the container into the first of the three feeders. Fine, I thought, give our birds a bonus today. The thought cheered me; I'd been feeding them half as much for several weeks, after realizing that I needed to cut back on expenses now that I'm retired. I fetched another handful of seeds for the other two feeders.
    I emptied the vegetable compost container into the outside bin.
    The weather was fine.
    My wife had told me she saw two hawks on the dead tree on the other side of the pond. It didn't matter that I didn't have time this morning to set up for digiscoping. There's still tomorrow, and will be for yet awhile....
    I was looking forward at 8:30 to taking our still new car to a body shop to have my touch-up painting buffed up. We parked in a narrow lane a few weeks ago, and a tough bush had clawed a small patch of ugly, deep scratches into a rear passenger door.

But the opinion column, the opinion column! Let's read it.
    I liked the way it had been titled, more informative than the title of the blog post it was developed from. The attribution was good, especially the mention of the blog I "maintain." A few more readers maybe.
    But best of all, the offer of a regular column....
    I opened the email and read it.
    Oh, s--t!
    I wasn't being asked whether I'd like to do a regular column at all. The subject line had been there through several exchanges, I remembered now, and referred to the specific "column" we'd been communicating about—today's.
     The editor was just replying to Wednesday's email, to tell me that it sounded good that maybe some of his readers would see my "attack ad challenge" and submit some ideas for it. (That would be good.)
    Oh well, never mind. I can still submit the odd article from time to time. The Herald-Sun will either publish it or not.
    The editor took the first one I offered. Maybe the second...?
June 23. Belated, but nevertheless heartfelt, grateful acknowledgment to Ken Marks for copyediting the article.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Corporate personhood

Someone on Facebook objected Tuesday to my assertion there (in connection with Friday's post, "Calling all voters") that "donating money for election campaigns is unnecessary; most American voters can read and have the ability to obtain reliable information about the candidates and the issues. They don't need to watch or read political advertisements."
    I was later grateful that, in objecting, Mr. Tom Lowe directed my attention to the Frank Rich article in the June 16 issue of New York Magazine ("Nuke 'Em: Why negative advertisements are powerful, essential, and sometimes (see “Daisy”) even artistic"), for I based yesterday's post about political attack ads on it.
    But the first part of Tom's comment was:
Problem with that stance is—according to the recent studies I've seen—most people get their information from TV these days. So acting on this reasonable principle means ceding the advantage to Fox News and the Koch brothers.
    To which I at the time flippantly replied:
Technically, [the post's] second suggestion ("Ignore the campaigns, don't watch advertising") covers this, seeing as how Fox News is essentially political advertising.
    Then yesterday I saw Jeremy W. Peters's article, "Enemies and Allies for ‘Friends’, in The New York Times, critical for the usual reasons of Fox News and, in particular, of its show "Fox & Friends":
"You can huff and puff about how outrageous [Fox News] is," Mr. Weiner [the former New York congressman who was one of the few members of his party regularly to accept Fox News invitations] said. "But they have millions and millions of people watching them. And you have to proceed under the assumption that at least some of those people are persuadable."
    Despite all the outrageousness there is a keen self-awareness inside the network about "Fox & Friends." "We reflect who the audience is," said Mr. Shine, offering a recent example. "We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing who won the Tony Awards."
    He added, "Our audience knows us, and we know them."
Incestuous clan that, Fox News and its audience.

I took advantage of Mr. Peters's publishing immediately on the heels of my remark about Fox News's being "political advertising" to bolster my flippant reply by posting a link to his article on Facebook, commenting that,
As I said to Tom Lowe recently in a comment on Facebook, Fox News is essentially political advertising, watched by folks who don't (and apparently can't) think for themselves and want (and possibly need) to be told what to believe (so long as it suits their existing prejudices).
    Flippant indeed. Why single out Fox News?
    Joe Story, a political observer in Kansas City, Missouri, pointed out that
The same could be said about MSNBC. Fox News is not the only channel in the political advertising, brain washing business. I don't watch either show.
    And the reliably well-informed Mr. Lowe, who is a close student of history and an astute social commentator out in Berkeley, California (the city of my birth), made a more general point, one particularly pointed in the context of attack ads designed to nuke Mitt Romney:
Just as ABC was known in the Reagan era as the "Administration Broadcasting Company," CBS provided press credentials to CIA operatives in the 1950s and 60s, and NBC ran pro nuclear energy stories on their news shows when owned by General Electric. No clean hands to be found anywhere when corporate interests are involved. [emphasis mine]
Whose context?
    His who said: "Corporations are people."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mission not impossible

Images from
LBJ's "Daisy"
ad attacking
Your assignment: Describe an attack ad that the Democrats could use to "nuke" the Republicans in the coming political election.

In his current column in New York Magazine, "Nuke 'Em: Why negative advertisements are powerful, essential, and sometimes (see “Daisy”) even artistic," June 16, Frank Rich describes Chrysler's halftime ad for Super Bowl 2012 as arguably "the best political ad of 2012 so far."
...Narrated by Clint Eastwood, [it] was so arresting, and, intentionally or not, so supportive of the auto-industry bailout, that [Karl] Rove hailed it as an "extremely well-done ad" even as he said he was "offended" by its seeming Obama partisanship.
    Rich fails to point out that Eastwood's final line could be the anthem for Obama's re-election campaign: "Yeah, it's halftime, America, and our second half is about to begin."
    President Obama's first half taught him one of the lessons that America had been depending on him to learn: Trying to work with ideologically rigid Republicans in a bipartisan spirit doesn't work. In his second half, which begins with winning re-election, the President must hit the Republicans hard and drive them back to their own goal line.
    I predict that he will take effective steps to do just that, and the momentum he establishes by winning re-election will result in his achieving some more of the things in his second term that we'd hoped to see in his first.

Moristotle readers can help. You may already have thought of an idea that could be developed into a highly effective attack ad.
    If not, I suggest that you go read "Nuke 'Em." Rich provides links to about ten political ads that you can watch for stimulation, including the "Daisy" ad referred to in his column's subtitle, which the Johnson administration used devastatingly against Senator Barry Goldwater, who lost to Johnson in a landslide.
The Johnson team had a number of promising lines of attack to work with in going after Goldwater: his opposition to civil-rights legislation, his desire to make Social Security "voluntary," his fellow-traveling with John Birchers and other loons of the far right. But the campaign settled on Goldwater’s sloppy bluster about nuclear weapons because the prospect of an atomic Armageddon transcended ideological or policy differences and cut to the emotional quick of the electorate's existential fears.
    The content dictated the bold form. Goldwater’s propensity for flip rhetorical bellicosity was so well known that any replay of his actual words in the ad would be a gratuitous distraction and could be dispensed with. Better still, from the Democrats' point of view, it was Goldwater's own vanquished GOP rivals for the nomination—Nelson Rockefeller and William Scranton—who had led the way in publicizing his loose talk and portraying him as a risky warmonger. (The then-governor of Michigan, George Romney, was another helpful Goldwater basher.) The Republicans had done such a good job of advance hatchet work that voters taking in David and Bathsheba [the movie on TV during which the ad was aired] could let their own imaginations run wild while filling in the ad's blanks. As any student of horror movies knows, what isn't seen or stated is far scarier than any literal enactment onscreen. It's hard for a Hitchcock fan to look at "Daisy" and not see it as a cinematic stepchild of Psycho (1960), in which the brutal shower scene is all the more terrifying because the audience never actually sees the knife violate Janet Leigh's body.
Study Rich's paragraph that describes Mitt Romney’s résumé as "a preposterously target-rich environment for attack ads."
...his lackluster record as Massachusetts governor...his career at Bain...Potentially abortion [would] be criminalized [if Romney were elected]. Women [would] be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.
    ...There’s also the flip-flopping Mr. Etch A Sketch...countless tone-deaf attempts to feel the pain of the 99 percent...his effort to deny that his Massachusetts health-care law was the precursor of Obama’s Affordable Care Act...his truculence in foreign policy...[his] "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt"...the money stashed in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland...his endorsement of the Paul Ryan budget, which would mutilate the social safety net, including benefits for seniors...his endorsement of Arizona immigration policy as a national "model"...his call for illegal immigrants to submit to "self-deportation"...the radical party he is attempting to mask with a moderate image....
When you've finished shaping your best idea for an attack ad against Romney and the Republicans, submit it to Moristotle for publication. Moristotle's readers will vote to determine the best attack ad idea submitted, and Moristotle will send the winning idea on to the Obama re-election campaign for consideration.
    Multiple submissions are allowed. If you submit two or more winning ideas, you might have a future in political attack advertising!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not vote? You can't if you care

Say the November election is very close in your state. One million citizens vote for Mitt Romney, and 999,999 vote for Barack Obama.
    But you and your friend, disappointed and angry that President Obama's first term didn't live up to your hopes and expectations, don't vote. You stay home, you get drunk, whatever.

Are you sure you didn't vote? Romney got one more vote than Obama. You and your friend gave him that margin.
    If you care about the outcome of an election, you can't, logically, not vote.
    Caring includes taking care of your vote.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Punish him...or reward them?

One reader of "Calling all voters" told me that she agrees completely about not donating any money for election campaigns. "It is absolutely unnecessary." Most American voters can read and have the ability to obtain reliable information about the candidates and the issues. They don't need to watch or read political advertisements.
    But my friend doesn't agree about what to do on Election Day. (I had written, "Follow Nike's advice and just go out and vote.")
    After losing the elections of 2000 and 2004 (my friend voted for Gore and Kerry), she was made hopeful in 2008 by "Obama's great plans and ideas."
    But midway through 2012 she is bitterly disappointed. "Obama has not delivered anything he promised." She says that she is "not going to waste my time to vote this year."
    Bitter disappointment is a poignant, personal reason not to vote, and my friend is not the only one who could use that excuse for shunning the poles in November.

But not voting for that reason is equivalent to punishing President Obama without taking the Republican party's deliberate roadblocking into consideration.
    The Republicans' oft-expressed Number One Goal has been (and continues to be) to put Obama down and make sure he can't be re-elected. If my friend doesn't vote, she will be rewarding Congressional Republicans more than she will be punishing President Obama.
    But I have faith in my friend. I'm sure that she'll see the illogic of her intention not to vote and will show up at the polls on Tuesday, November 6, hoping to give the President another chance (and the Republicans fewer members of congress). And helping to give the nation another chance.
    I hope that everyone else suffering disappointment over our government's frustrating stalemate (and I'm one of them) will not reward the obstructionist party in November by refusing to vote for anybody at all.
    To do that would not be the first step in taking our country back.

The how-many-miles? hour

A report on Facebook recently, of a 41-minute, 49-second 4.0 mile run by my cousin Sara in Arkansas, inspired me to see how far I could walk in a mile. I guessed I might still be able to do 4.5 miles and wanted to test it. I'd walked 2.4 miles or so (I didn't record it) in 40 minutes yesterday on an elliptical machine at the local fitness center, knowing that I could do significantly more than that on "the open road."
    But how much more?
    On my wife's recommendation, I'd recently installed RunKeeper on my Droid. So, of course, I'd let it keep track of the time and the distance.
    So, at 7:26 a.m. today I set out. I hadn't turned on RunKeeper's audio commentary, so, as I approached home, after walking for what seemed almost an hour, I took out my Droid, turned it on, and entered the pin number, trying not to slow down. Fifty-two minutes and something.
     I continued past my house a couple of blocks and circled back. It was 58 minutes the next time I checked, and I held the Droid to be able to stop RunKeeper at precisely 1:00:01 hour.
    Four-point-16 miles. One-third mile less than the 4.5-mile target.
    Not too bad for an old guy.
    And I might be able to improve that some with practice.
    I could gain a couple of hundredths of a mile by turning on RunKeeper's audio....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Little cousin

[Click to see the beauty better]
I almost put my hand on the tiny frog posing next to the garbage bin handle this morning, a tiny frog whose glorious beauty shines through even a quick cell-phone photo. Could any more frog beauty be revealed through editing (or from a photo taken in RAW with a DSLR, or from one taken with my Zeiss Ikon Contaflex on silver halide film)?
    Yes, no doubt.
    But this morning—now—the beauty already evident (it's in our minds, after all, isn't it, the mind's eye of our beholding?) is enough, and more.
    We share this planet, little guy (or gal).
    We're even related, unimaginably way back in time—about three hundred and forty million years back in time (340,000 millennia!), if I understand Richard Dawkins right from reading his 2004 book, The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution (see the chapter "Amphibians," beginning on p. 293).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hawk calls

The hawk was about 250 feet away
[Click to enlarge]
I had some excitement yesterday clicking the shutter continually as fast as my Coolpix would allow (approximately every two seconds). At any moment I knew the hawk (it might have been a Cooper's Hawk, or Chicken Hawk) might spot prey and swoop off the limb...and the camera might record it!
    Unfortunately, about a half-second after the sixtieth click or so, the hawk flew off—and so was a good way toward its prey by the time I could have clicked again. Actually, I did click again...but the camera recorded an empty limb. My disappointment was heightened by the treasured mental image of the hawk's coming toward me in the first split second after take-off.
    All that was left for it (besides trying the experiment again another day...and again, if necessary) was to just use one of my best images for today. I chose the one that best reveals the hawk's open beak (amid call?)
    And, today, I mean by "use" more than just cropping and resizing the original and perhaps adjusting the tone (a preset adjustment in Photoshop). I mean more than those things now because of the recent commentary on "Dahlia delights" between photographers Ken Marks and Motomynd (a professional of many years' high standing). Their comments together made me realize finally (it was about time) that digital editing is as fully part of the artistic process that is photography as putting on more oil paint or adjusting the color is a part of the painter's art.

Why hadn't I gotten it before? Well, I think I had been at best ambivalent in thinking that digital touch-up was even "acceptable." When I indulged in an artistic filter, it had always been with some sense of trespass. Isn't "indulgence" one of the original sins?
    But Motomynd's comments on film photography helped me realize that doing digital touch-up is no more cheating than using physical filters on a film camera, or holding up a white card to a close subject to reflect sunlight onto a shadow. Different scenes, different light conditions—all require adjustments for the results sought.
    After returning from his latest trip, Ken spends considerable time editing his photos to achieve the pure, uncluttered image he values. His flowers and seascapes and mountains and valleys and buildings and cats are stunningly wonderful. Moristotle enjoys the honor of the privilege of displaying a link to "Ken's Photo Treasures" in the sidebar.
    Motomynd's galleries reveal a wide range of still and action and special-effects photography to satisfy a wide range of paying clients.
    That said, I didn't do that much with my hawk photo. I tried a number of things, but most of them didn't seem to help. And I'm pretty sure that my severe limitations in using Photoshop effectively held me back. So...
    ...another result of the conversation between Ken and Motomynd is to drive me back to my volume of Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium All-in-One for Dummies.
    I'm hoping to be less dumb soon. Good retirement project.
So you can see how much I cropped the original photo, here it is:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling all voters

A comment about voter apathy on yesterday's post made me realize that my apathy toward making a donation to the political party I'm registered with might be interpreted as indicating that I'm also apathetic toward voting. I am not. I vote regularly and am proud of it, however frustrating it is to "lose." (I haven't kept a tally, but I suppose that I lose roughly half the time, which would be consistent with the typical motion of the pendulum back and forth between progressive and conservative, Democratic and Republican, in the United States.)
    The comment on yesterday's post cited low voter turnout. Almost as many eligible voters don't vote as do, sometimes more (especially in mid-term elections).
    Why doesn't everyone vote?
    Who knows for sure.
    Rather than focus on the reasons why not, I'd like to provide a reason why everyone should vote. My hope is that at least a few eligible voters who otherwise probably wouldn't vote in the next election will vote as a result of considering what I have to say:

First, money. Don't waste yours. Refuse to donate to political campaigns. Neither you nor I can buy anything politically. (I assume that no millionaires or billionaires are reading this.) We little people all have better uses for our money.
    If we take all of our money out of the campaign wars, the only money that will remain will be that of the rich people who almost own the country already anyway. Let them waste their money. We can at least get a chuckle out of that, and some satisfaction that we're shepherding our money better than they're shepherding theirs.

Second, the campaigns. Ignore them. Don't watch the advertising the aforementioned rich are paying for. That will add significantly to your sense of satisfaction. The joke will be on them. Bigger chuckle for you.

Third, the ballot. Using as good sources of information as you can (not the advertising) and consulting your own values, make a list of the candidates and the measures that you would like to see elected or passed. Some of the choices may be close; if so, study a little harder.

Fourth, election day. Follow Nike's advice and just go out and vote. Take your list with you. Ignore the "vote for" signs that are posted at least fifty feet away from the polls. Ignore the leaflets being thrust toward you as you approach the entrance.
    Vote early, get it over with. Take something to read, a Sudoku, a crossword puzzle, something to pass the time if you have to stand in line a while.  Don't think of the time as wasted (see number five).
    Then go about your life as usual.

Fifth, next day. Look at the election results. Enjoy knowing that because you and every other voter in America (who wasn't unavoidably detained) went to the polls yesterday and cast your informed votes (without being at all influenced by political advertising) the people have finally taken their country back.
    The joke on those who bought the advertising will be the biggest possible. Don't split your sides laughing. Don't let your satisfaction slip into smugness.
     Just be justifiably proud.

Wow! Doesn't that feel great!
    It's the revolution.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Getting to know the devil

I completed one of those political questionnaires yesterday that, besides seeking numbers to rank election issues, seeks to gauge how likely it is that you might donate money to the party. To a direct question whether I'll donate, I checked the "no" box and found myself explaining, "I don't have money to waste on stupid political money wars."
    And I was thinking, The one percent who are in a position to outspend me (and everyone else I know combined) already own most of the country anyway. Political campaigns anymore seem designed to make the poor poorer and the rich richer. I just don't care to participate in it.

Apropos that thought, a friend told me recently that he and his wife are moving to Costa Rica:
Costa Rica is like it was here in the 50s, only we still have all the goodies. The temp is 72 to 83 during the day and in the lower 60s at night. Spring year round. We can live there, for $1.500 a month. That includes everything.
    If the Dems lose big this year, you can kiss Medicare as we know it good-bye. Unlike the US, Costa Rica has in their Constitution that healthcare is a human right. Can you see the wonderful people of the good old USA agreeing with that?
    We may get down there and after a year hate it; but what the hell, we're not going to live forever and everybody needs one last great adventure.
    I told him that I would never do anything like that myself. But the only reason I could give him was, Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
    And I'm not even sure what that means.

Interestingly, when my wife and I were in Bulgaria last year, I found myself remarking, What if we retired here? (As you know, I often just find myself doing things, and more and more often, after reading Sam Harris's book Free Will, wonder why. In this case, I think I was just being whimsical.)
    However, out of curiosity, my wife checked into whether we could even collect our United States social security checks if we lived in Bulgaria. She found out we couldn't.
    I'm pretty sure my friend will be able to receive his social security checks in Costa Rica. I tried to confirm this by googling "in what countries can americans collect social security." The second link listed took me to a Social Security website that provided the following general information:
If you are a United States citizen, you may receive your Social Security benefits outside the United States as long as you are eligible for them. Regardless of your citizenship, there are certain countries that we are not allowed to send payments. For more information, please see the section titled Countries To Which We Cannot Send Payments in Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States (Publication No. 05-10137).
    If you are planning to be outside the United States for six consecutive calendar months or more, you can find out if you can receive your Social Security payment by using the Payments Abroad Screening Tool.
Costa Rica seems to be okay.
    Hmm, healthcare in its Constitution, eh? And what season was that year round?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dahlia delights

[Click to enlarge]
I took the photograph of my wife's Dahlia on June 7 with a Nikon D60. The original JPEG is shown to the right.
    After darkening the midtones in Photoshop's levels adjustments (an option I'm grateful to Ken Marks for suggesting in order to emphasize the flower over its surroundings), I tried some "artistic" filter effects and selected the ones that appealed to me.
    I cropped the original to retain the purples to the right of the flower; they harmonize well with some of the petal tip ends (particularly those to the left).
Cropped and midtones darkened in
Photoshop's levels adjustments
Fresco filter
Poster-edges filter
Water-color filter
Cutout filter
Colored-pencil filter

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good rebounding

We returned to Karma on Third this morning for a second try at an orange lavender scone.
    "Not a scone," the barista told us.
    That explained its unusual shape.
    "It's a shortbread cookie, with orange and lavender. There's one left."
    We enjoyed it with his excellent coffee, and my wife joked that it was no wonder Siegfried had helped himself yesterday. A joke because Siegfried's game for anything he considers food. (He'd eaten the wax paper the "scone" was wrapped in as well.)
    May doing good indeed rebound for Karma on Third—its proprietor didn't charge us for the cookie. Thank you, Lorna.

'Sgone, 'sgone, 'sgone

The local newspaper yesterday morning announced the opening of a new restaurant in Mebane (Karma on Third), including the information that it opened at 7 a.m. every day except Monday, when it opened at 5:45.
    My wife and I went there for lunch later. The proprietor and a couple of her friends welcomed us. They were the only ones there.
    "Oh," the proprietor said, "I'm so sorry. We're closed."
    We told her about the newspaper article, and she admitted that we were not the first who'd come by that day thinking they opened extra early, rather than at 5:45 p.m.
    I told her that at least I had learned the answer to my question why they open earlier on Monday—I'd misread the newspaper, which, in fairness, had given Monday's time as "5:45 to 8 p.m. Monday."
     She apologized again and, for our trouble, she gave us an unusual scone. It was shaped like a cut, triangular piece of tart. Orange and lavender she said it was. Sounded interesting.
     We went down the street to another restaurant for lunch and on the way home, we agreed that I'd make coffee when we got home and we'd drink it with the orange and lavender scone.
     I put the water on to heat and set the scone and two dessert forks on the dining table, before going to the bedroom for something.
     I was in the bathroom when my wife called from somewhere in the house, "Where did you set the scone?"
     "It's on the table in the dining room," I yelled.
     "No," she said, "I'm afraid not."
     I don't suppose that Siegfried felt sad about depriving us of a taste of the scone. But he may have felt a bit of an upset stomach?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The wind behind you

The image of Willard Bond's oil painting, "Running Home," featured in his New York Times obituary yesterday ("Willard Bond, Vivid Artist of Yachting, Dies at 85"), is so striking, my first thought was, Why had I never heard of this painter?—especially given that my daughter and her husband are boating enthusiasts, even competing together in the 2010 Pacific Cup sailboat race from San Francisco to Kaneohe, Hawaii.
    The obituary says that J. Russell Jinishian wrote in his 2003 book, Bound for Blue Water:
Crews scramble, sails drop and raise in a flurry of activity. The tension is high, adrenaline pumps, orders are yelled, spray flies, seas and heads pound, your whole world spins as you are unconscious of everything else around you. If you want to know what it is like to be in the heat of a yacht race, just look at a painting by Willard Bond.
From the examples provided in the obiturary, I can believe the concluding sentence.
    I must add two caveats, however: Only two examples are given in the obituary1, and author Jinishian has a financial interest in Bond's work—seeing as how he is an art dealer and profits from selling Bond's paintings.
  1. You will see dozens more images at Google's finding for "Images for Willard Bond."

More day colors of Lily

These photos were taken last Thursday. I don't know how I managed not to take any photos of my wife's yellow Day Lilies (one word on Wikipedia, which see for more photos).
    If retirement offers me nothing else of interest to do today (ha!), then I'll stalk the yellows. (But note that the four below all have significant yellow in their pallette.)


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The color purple

My wife might have said, "See the purple feast,
Look how the colors intertwine—
The Calla Lily's white goblet sheath,
Purpled from serving communion wine,
The Astilbe, the bouquet that the priest
Dropped in the vat entering the shrine."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oh, all right, I'll ruffle mine too

I dearly love the gentle Carolina Pigeons (Mourning Doves) who visit our yard. Yesterday, shortly after noon, this pair sat together on the top edge of a fence plank for about ten minutes, while I pressed and pressed and pressed the shutter cable release.

I even made a movie (although I need to practice the wobble out of my technique).