Phew!

“There are less people here today than yesterday.”

It’s fewer, people! Fewer people!*

It’s an easy rule. I think you can handle it, my friends. If you’re talking about a bunch of things (multiple objects), you use fewer, fewest. Example: “I’ll order fewer pancakes next time.” If you say “less pancakes,” sorry, but I may think less of you.

If you’re talking about a single thing that is measurable, you use less, least. Example: “There was less pancake batter than I expected.”

So, you don’t say, “The Cubs scored less runs today.” You don’t say, “Zoe has less pennies in her piggy bank,” even though she has less money because of it.

Don’t be confused by the fact that you use more in both cases for the opposite situation: more batter, more pennies. You lucked out: one word fits all. Be happy about that. But don’t start using a single word in our original situation, when you really should be making a choice between the right one and the wrong one. Maybe if we are not lazy in our word choice, there is a better chance we will not be sloppy in our thinking.

To sum up: if something is countable and you remove some items, you have fewer. If something is measurable and you take away some of it, you have less.

Now go forth and use the damn words properly. It will make Stannis Baratheon happy.

__________

*Notice the comma in the first sentence? And the lack of comma in the second? See the difference in what I’m saying? No? Well, that’s another thing that is almost universally absent nowadays: the comma of direct address. I challenge you to find three people who know what that is. You see its absence all the time: “Hi Mama!” Goodbye, sweet comma-modulated clarity and grace.

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Assessment

I gave him four months to do something right in his catastrophically miscast role as president of the United States.

It is now clear that Trump is the most ignorant, stupid, selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, needy, cruel, unhealthy, churlish, uncouth, petty, insular, vindictive, vain, greedy, creepy, tasteless, shallow, incurious, inarticulate, illiterate, sleep-deprived, overcoifed, smarmy, lugubrious, amoral, miserable, insecure, self-important, untethered, unstrung, unhinged, incompetent, unreliable, thin-skinned, thick-headed, underachieving, overbearing, mendacious, lying, self-deceiving person I have ever seen in public life.

There is undoubtedly more to him than that, but he is such an attention-grabbing, time-sucking, life-curdling jerk that one needs to stop and look away at regular intervals. And yet he remains, never far from consciousness, a decaying tooth, a dull ache in the knee, a bad meal waiting to exit violently in one direction or the other.

New Yorker cover: Trump in the kiddy car

But it is a mistake to think Trump himself is the problem. What can one say of the people who voted for him, and those who continue to support him? There are too many to know, let alone describe. One should resist characterizing people one has never seen in action.

Trump is a problem, but not the problem. Trumpism is the problem. Trumpism not only gave us Trump, it gave us Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the rest. Trumpism had infected the country long before the Trump called Donald entered the presidential race. (Did Trump invent birtherism? Far from it.)

So, what is the cure? We used to think cancer was one disease, whereas it is many. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, behaves differently from breast cancer, of which there are several varieties to boot; and treatments vary accordingly. The same is true of Trumpism. There is corporate Trumpism, media Trumpism (a form of corporate Trumpism, but disguised as populist Trumpism), bigoted Trumpism, and (strangest of all) religious Trumpism. Oh, and there is screw-you Trumpism (the adolescent nihilism of the confused and angry).

As with cancer, it seems the cure for Trumpism will be multifaceted and will take decades.

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Eulenspiegel’d

Till Supplies LastOur poor little language gets pranked again.

It’s Thursday, and if you happen to be in Arlington, Virginia, and if you like oysters, you can eat raw ones at a certain restaurant, from 4:00 p.m. “til supplies last.” (I’ll wait while you squint at the photo to see for yourself. Or until you do.)

Now, seeing an English-challenged sign did not make this the “worst Thursday that ever happened.” That distinction, if I can believe the promotional copy on the back cover, belongs to a particular day in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a copy of which I happened upon today in the kitchen at work, free for the taking—so, of course, I took it, since I (“For shame!”) have never read it.

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Bicikl

He steals a bicycle and eventually has a run-in with a cop. Beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on in this song by Leteči Potepuhi (The Flying Tramps). I have a funny feeling it’s not standard Slovene.

Read More »

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TRiUMPh

front page of Hamburger Morgenpost

Front page of the Hamburger Morgenpost, 8 November 2016.

Now that the shock has worn off (and it was only a shock because the supposed pros who do the polls did a piss-poor job of it)—now that the shock has turned to mere wonder, I am filled with almost giddy curiosity about what this guy* is going to do, and how he is going to do it. I wonder how on earth he is going to please the people who voted for him—please them enough so that, in four years, they will be showing up in droves in weird shirts shouting incendiary things** and just going nuts in the love of him. I wonder how he is going to succeed with them, how he is going to deliver on his many vague and strange promises.

I feel guilty about this, because I know a lot of people may be at risk with such a neophyte at the helm, especially one who cannot seem to hold a conviction for more than a few seconds (beyond an unwavering affection for himself, of course). Many people have already suffered from the intolerance and hate he exploited in his campaign—I cannot ignore that. And the forces that might restrain him (was it Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) who said this past summer of our discontent, “Well, there’s only so much damage Trump can do, there are a lot of factors that can hold him back,” or something to that effect?)—these counterforces cannot be counted on to do the job.

But my guilt is softened by the realization that I did not vote for him, I unceasingly voiced my objections to him, and I am not him. He is responsible for whatever he does. That would leave sadness for me, not guilt, if and when it goes kablooey.

The funny thing about nowadays is that, with all the tools available to make one’s thoughts and feelings public, everyone thinks they have a real role to play in all this important stuff. They think people are listening, and not just people, but those people, the people who run the show. They think if they only tweet a little harder, or publish a wittier post on Facebook, the world will right itself and we will all be happier and more secure. The truth, unfortunately, is that most everyone is just gathering likes from the like-minded and sailing past everyone else sight unseen, word unheard.

And what if the guy actually does some good? Raises wages for working people, protects the vulnerable, makes the wealthy pull their weight, humbles violent fanatics abroad, helps transform dirty energy to clean, starts the reversal of global warming, induces a flowering of the arts and sciences to rival Periclean Athens … What if? Wouldn’t that be grand? Wouldn’t that be worth the anxious uncertainty of these few days? Wouldn’t that make up for the fact that a truly qualified person got passed over for the job?

We will know soon enough where all this is headed. God (if you are there, and care) help us.
__________
*The president-elect formerly known as the real estate developer and TV personality Donald Trump.
**It is doubtful “Lock Her Up” will make sense by then (not that it ever did).

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Warmup

A great way to experience 22,000 years of global temperature fluctuations:

From a recent article in the New York Review of Books:

The “Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” … recognizes that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.” Its objective is to put the world onto a path “consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” beginning in 2020, while also “pursuing efforts” to limit the increase to an even lower maximum limit of 1.5°C.

… For reasons of consensus more than science, a globally averaged temperature increase of 2°C has emerged as an acceptable upper limit among policymakers seeking to curb emissions growth.

… [T]he limits on change in temperatures … represent enormous shifts in the earth’s climate. A 2.5°C change is huge, equivalent to the difference between the average daily temperatures of New York City’s hottest and coldest years on record. Already, the global average temperature has risen nearly 1°C above preindustrial levels, and the change has been scientifically linked to unprecedented consequences of that warming. These include heat waves, fires, ice melt, coral reef die-offs, and animal migrations to higher latitudes and elevations. A 3.5°C change would be almost as large as the contrast in temperatures between today and the last ice age, when global temperatures were about 5°C cooler on average. Those five degrees buried much of North America and Europe in glacial ice and sank the global sea level some 330 feet lower than it is today. There were different ecosystems on land and in the oceans, and the shape of the world’s coasts was radically different than it is now.

(Laurence C. Smith, “Greenhouse Warming: Prepare for the Worst,” a review of Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis by Tim Flannery. New York Review of Books: Vol. LXIII, No. 15, 13 October 2016, p. 44.)

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Quantum

quantumcover2Quantum was a wonderful student magazine published by the National Science Teachers Association from 1990 to 2001. Born in the heady days of perestroika, it was a collaboration with the renowned Russian journal Kvant. Sadly, just at its early adopters were graduating from college and heading into science careers or becoming teachers themselves, the magazine was euthanized.

Now, finally, 15 years after its untimely demise, you can download each and every issue. Take full advantage of the opportunity. One never knows how long such things last.

Full disclosure: WorldWideWeber was involved in the Quantum enterprise, wearing several hats over the years.

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Alert

There have been reports of an old man driving around near schools trying to entice students into his car with promises of free tuition.

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Fontitis

Would you entrust your design to the people who concocted this logo?

Tenley Design Center

Not enough fonts

You just know what would happen if they needed to add another word to their name …

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Impressive

The original crotch rocket?

plumber's truck

“Riding the rocket”

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  • Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
    Gravity’s Rainbow

    ‘Is it about a bicycle?’ he asked.
    The Third Policeman