Monday, October 31, 2016

Why wouldn't you vote?

Once again, I'm not telling you how to vote, I'm just asking, why wouldn't you? It perturbs me. And trust me--you don't want to do that.

Maybe for some reason you can't see the difference between the presidential candidates this year. I don't understand that, but never mind. What I'm asking is, why wouldn't you exercise a right that others have earned for you? Forget the presidency. Well, don't, but if you must, why do you think that's all there is to voting? There are senators and representatives, both state and local, that might arguably affect your life even more. Maybe there are local officials on your ballot. Maybe there are people who will have an impact on your children's lives at school. In California, there are a ton of propositions that your vote will count on.

I was in London just about ten years ago now. I went on a tour with a great local guide, and she took us in the course of the walk to a statue dedicated to English suffragettes. They suffered forced feedings and other torments to get English women the right to vote. Our tour guide impressed upon us that we owed them.

Okay, maybe you're not British, a woman. Maybe you're a white guy who takes his rights for granted. Trust me--unless you're a descendent of the people aboard the Mayflower, you shouldn't. And even then, you should wonder.


What can it hurt?


Monday, October 24, 2016


Not a word much in use these days, am I right? Normally, perhaps yes. But I happened to see it in an important judicial ruling just now and it made me wonder where it came from.

An article by Mark Joseph Stern in Slate discusses a recent decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. I had heard about the case before, but I don't think I had learned the outcome. Governor Rick Scott of Florida had refused to extend the registration deadline for voters as Hurricane Matthew bore down on the state, even though he had been the one urging them to flee the storm in the first place. Oh, pish tosh, Governor Scott said (not an exact quote), everyone's had plenty of time to register.

LBJ, MLK and Rosa Parks, singing of Voting Rights Act, 1965

Apparently, Governor Scott has never heard of a little thing known as procrastination. In any case, Judge Walker overruled him. Stern reports that a ton of people took advantage of the extension. Actually quite a bit more than a ton--108,000 people.

Judge Walker:  “This case pits the fundamental right to vote against administrative convenience.” He came down on the side of rights, which can almost seem like a novel position these days. but here's the quote that is behind this blog post.

It has been suggested that the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics. Poppycock. This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted. Nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy.

I have just assumed that poppycock was a minced oath of some sort, like saying "Jiminy Cricket!" or  "Gosh darn it!". But thinking about it, I don't know exactly what it would replace. When I think of an image for "poppycock", I tend to have some vague image of popcorn and maybe some kind of peanut brittle.

However, I would be pretty much totally wrong in that. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the best guess is that the word came into American English from Dutch dialect. Pappe means soft food, like our pap, and kak means dung like our, well, you get the idea.

World Wide Words, however, says the Oxford English Dictionary dismisses this idea, but only on a small technicality, not in the broad meaning:

The OED is firm in dismissing one often-heard view of its origin, from the Dutch word pappekak for soft faeces. It says firmly “no such word appears to be attested in Dutch” but points to the very similar word poppekak, which appears only in the old set phrase zo fijn als gemalen poppekak, meaning to show excessive religious zeal, but which literally means “as fine as powdered doll shit”. The word was presumably taken to the USA by Dutch settlers; the scatological associations were lost when the word moved into the English-language community.

Whichever view we take, it's hard to ignore the excremental factor. This apparently hasn't deterred Orville Redenbacher from adopting the word for one of its brands, though. Here's their description since I can't find an available picture to post:

"A scrumptious blend of Orville Redenbacher’s® light, fluffy popcorn and premium whole nuts tossed in a sweet and crunchy glaze made with real butter and brown sugar."

I think I might know where I got my original impression of the meaning.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Please make sure you're registered to vote

If you're an American, you need to vote this year. I'm not telling you how to vote, but I am telling you that you can't let weather or other considerations put you off task. Here are a few links to check whether you are actually eligible. I don't know which one will be easiest to get info from but one of them should clarify the situation.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm on Twitter

Yeah, about a week or so ago, I crossed the great divide and signed up on Twitter. Of all the social media I haven't joined yet, this was always the one that seemed the least of a time suck, but the pros never completely outweighed the cons to me. In the end, it wasn't temptation that put me over the edge but the instruction to sign up for it in a class I'm taking. It wasn't mandatory, but it seemed practical. So I did.

                                                                       by Surian Soosay

I'm still ambivalent. It's less distracting than I thought it would be, so that's a plus. And seeing friends that I already know through other social media there is also nice. It's also cool to be able to follow some people that you don't know and never would in non-virtual life. To me, Twitter seems a bit like a flowing river which brings all kind of flotsam and jetsam floating past. There's quite a bit of self-promotion there, which I don't really object to, but there's a delicate balance between what's interesting and what's overkill. There are only so many times I want to see the same book jacket popping up, for instance. Don't worry, I'm not talking about you. I am deliberately posting this here and not retweeting it so that the offenders won't see it. I'm not after hurting their feelings.

Perhaps it's just the season but I've already gotten in a, well, political tangle. I don't think I'll be talking about political stuff too much after this season, but I haven't minded retweeting a few things about the presidential election that I agreed with. So one of the guys in the class sent me a private message saying, "I've seen some of your tweets and I think we are pretty much diametrically opposed in our views, so I really don't think you want to follow me."

I responded by telling him that I was following him for the purposes of the class, not to get into political arguments with him and he should feel free not to follow me. But I found myself disturbed by the logic of it. We should avoid reading each other's comments because we have opposite views? As someone who came from a marriage between a Republican and a Democrat, that just doesn't make much sense. Nobody's right about everything, not even me.

There's already been quite a few interesting and entertaining links to things I never would have known of otherwise, so all in all, it's probably to the good. We'll see.