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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Internet advertisements

I may have previously complained about this. Don't remember for sure. There is a group of advertisements that find their way onto the margins of my Facebook site as well as my Twitter page and even my Yahoo search engine which I noe pretty much refuse to read. Sometimes the purported topic is of potential interest to me. Upon reading the headline I feel like I would like to learn the secret for this or that health cure. But I am prohibited from having access to the silver bullet answer because I refuse to jump through the hoops they require to be allowed to see it. The hoops invariably come in the form of having to watch a ten to twenty minute video in which the narrator agonizingly walks me through all his examples of why a problem exists, his myriad testimonials of how his solution solves the problem, and excruciatingly minute details of why his solution overcomes all the known prior problems and issues people have ever faced. It also typically includes somewhere in the spiel the insight that his solution is opposed by unnamed status quo power brokers. It is “what the drug makers don't want you to know”. In fact that “they don't want you to know” line has caused me to cease reading or listening to more commercials than probably any other meme.
My main reaction to these commercials is anger that they don't trust me. They can't tell me what the magic solution is and what the solution costs prior to pounding me into submission. Afraid I'll not hang around and ask all the questions they are dying to answer. Afraid I won't trust that they have already dealt with my objections. I can't possibly come up with a valid reason not to buy their product other than stupidity or stinginess.
I hold out little hope that this trend will wane or cease altogether. Which is why I treat almost all advertisements and unsolicited commercials on the internet like they are merely part of the wallpaper. When I want to research a healthcare breakthrough I will take the initiative. Don't call me; I'll call you.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Parkland Shooting

Three brief, narrow points on this week’s mass shooting in Florida:
1.    Since the assault weapons Congressional ban was allowed to expire in 2004, the number of mass murders using these war weapons has mushroomed. Yes, there were school shootings prior to 2004, but not as many, not as deadly, and not increasing every month infrequency and intensity. And the only one of the “top five” school shootings that occurred during the decade of the ban on assault weapons was Columbine HS in 1999. Since 2004 there have been at least four “major” school shootings, including Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Rancho Tehama prior to last week’s Florida carnage.  And even greater loss of life occurred in non-school venues such as the nightclub in Orlando and the festival in Las Vegas.  
2.    A number of defenders of “freedoms to have and use AR-15s” seem to protest too much when arguing that gun opponents are exaggerating statistics by citing the “18 already in ‘18” mantra. They seem to love to use “slippery slope” arguments in opposing all discussions of sound gun control but will brook no taking of liberties with stat citations on how badly the trend looks to some people.

3.    Since 1996 there have been no school shootings in Great Britain. Main difference? GB banned handguns in 1996. Coincidence?  Then what about France? Germany? Japan? et al other countries with restrictions on owning and using “weapons of mass and minor destruction”? Can we be the only nation whose potential killers are so equipped and able that they would inevitably outwit any and all restrictions and regulations on guns in order to carry out their nefarious intentions?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Living Biblically?

Maybe I'm misjudging the teaser trailers I've seen for the new "comedy" series coming later this month on that ole stalwart standard broadcast TV network, CBS.  Maybe they don't intend to ridicule and rip on the slim majority of Americans who claim Christianity as their religion. Maybe they won't be going to the lunatic fringes of various Christian denominations for their stereotypical cliches to seek a laugh.  Maybe.

But I, for one, have no intention of seeing for myself this latest effort by an anachronistic media form to grab the elusive brass ring and stop their decades long ratings slide.  If they are still around Season Two I'll tune in and see what clever, original humor they have to offer.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Oklahoma high school football

I jotted down these notes three years ago and may have put them on a Facebook status. Can't remember for sure. Nevertheless, I know I never transferred it to my Blog. The Metro band director mentioned, Joe, is now a bigshot in Fine Arts for Tulsa Public Schools. Otherwise, the memories are fairly accurate. Amazing that three years ago was a simpler, peaceful time.

For a change of pace, I took in a high school football game last night here in Tulsa. With no “dog in the fight” anywhere locally, I went to the home game for the school right across our back fence, Metro Christian Academy.  This was Metro's first home game of the season since last week had been cancelled due to lightning and thunderstorms.  They were playing Stillwell HS, a little town east of Tulsa almost on the Arkansas border.
Metro (MCA for short) has its own stadium and the game was played there. MCA had a decent crowd of parents, students and supporters.  It looked like several dozen Stillwellians? had   come over along with their marching band.
MCA was never seriously challenged during the game. They scored the first 17 pts, and led by that at halftime after a couple of nice long passes from the senior quarterback, Abe Anderson to senior wide receiver, Jake Koenig.  Each time the MCA band lustily played their fight song, courtesy of U. of Notre Dame. (The band director, Joe Metzer, plays in Tulsa First Baptist orchestra with me).
Halftime provided the opportunity for the parents and fans to meet and see the elementary age cheer and yell squads and the 2nd grade football team - “the future of MCA football”.
Also at halftime the Stillwell uniformed marching band performed. This was noteworthy in that they had the smallest marching band I have ever seen perform, and I've seen many. They fielded eleven band members, including one sousaphone and two drummers. They offered a rousing rendition of the theme song from Mission Impossible.  I found this hopeful, though not predictive, as the team went on to allow another 20 points in the second half without scoring themselves.
But, alas, the weather was perfect, if not still a touch warm for the end of September. The crowds were polite and appreciative. And all in all, I had a terrific time.  May go back in a few weeks and catch a game on a cooler Fall evening.

Friday, October 20, 2017

National Public Radio

They've just not given this sufficient thought. Sometimes a communications shortcut that is arguably reasonable in one medium becomes much less so in others. Abbreviations and acronyms make sense in written communications, especially when the acronyms are clearly identified early in a news story or editorial. One shouldn't have to write out National Collegiate Athletic Association multiple times in an article when it can be identified as such initially and then referred to as NCAA following times. But what's true in print does not necessarily hold for use on the radio or TV.
But rather than lay additional groundwork, let me go straight to the specific example that prompted my screed. Today I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR). The reporter on the program commented on an email to the program complaining about this very issue. The listener declared she was annoyed when “they used acronyms and abbreviations without ever clarifying and identifying what some of the letters represented.” . The specific abbreviation that piqued her was BBC-OS. In this case she was not objecting to the BBC. Everybody hearing the program and everybody on NPR knows that BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation or Company. The caller was pretty sure, though, that the “OS” was seldom or never explained. This gave the NPR person the opening to answer the question at some length. Seems “OS” is short for “Outside Sources”. As painfully explained, this meant virtually all sources since BBC doesn't internally create much news. But other than providing this definition, the NPR person never adequately responded to the complainer's complaint. Why couldn't they refer to this little news niche program as “Outside Sources” every time instead of the “OS” abbreviation? When speaking it, two syllables are required to say “O” and “S”. Only four syllables are expended in mouthing “Outside Sources”. The time savings orally fails to match the economy of abbreviating in writing.
It was mentioned in the excuses offered up by NPR that the habit of using abbreviations internally within all organizations, be they broadcasting corporations or government bureaucracies, at times represented merely “insider lingo”. They do allow those in the know to freeze out the unwashed.
I could wrap this up admitting that some acronyms can provide the same useful time savings orally that they do on the paper. This is especially true where the acronym does not dictate each letter being voiced if the acronym is also a recognizable word. It made sense for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties of the 70s and 80s to be referred to both in writing and on television as START treaties. But, having said that, I stand with the e-mailer that “inside baseball” abbreviations are often lazily used at the expense of clarity.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Rather than write another blog on a current political topic or the latest media outrage I think I'll go to modern society and language.

Recall, if you will, the time when one difference between the person on the street  and the one trained in public speaking was that the average person would often be caught beginning a sentence or thought or response to a question with some innocuous utterance such as “Uh” or “you know”. They might also continue to pepper their conversation with additional “uhs” and “you know”s, apparently believing that any sound was preferable to silence.
Though not totally eradicated, superfluous words are significantly reduced in most TV and radio interviews and conversations in recent years. The occasional athlete may still include a number of “you know”s and “uhs” in answers to painfully inane questions about how he felt sinking the winning shot or putt. But for the most part, one can listen to interviews without wincing as much.
There is a new trend, however, in public utterances. And this tends to hold both for politicians, scientists, and scholarly trained persons being interviewed concerning topics of their area of expertise.  The new trend is that after being asked a nice open-ended question designed to allow the respondent to wax eloquent the first word spoken in the answer well be, “So”. 
“How does the new MOAB bomb change the way we deal with ISIS”?
“So, it was designed and is intended to not only do effective damage such as reaching tunnel or underground targets but it also serves as a psychological weapon.”  [Hypothetical example]
What purpose does the introductory “So” serve in the answer?  It acknowledges the legitimacy of the question in the first place.  It seems to declare that what follows is indeed responsive to the question. 
“So” can exist in language as an adjective, adverb or conjunction. (Some dictionaries even include pronoun and noun uses.) The “so” I am addressing is the conjuction designed to introduce subsequent thought or information.

Listen to NPR or one of the TV news interview shows over the course of several programs and days and you’ll discover that “So” is so common an introduction to an answer that it is used more than half the time.  It has not yet become such a cliched use that it is distracting. Typically a responder will use it only at the beginning of an answer, not repeatedly throughout the explanation. This keeps it from becoming as annoying as “uh” and “you know” were for a number of years.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Supreme Court games

The actions by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate securing Justice Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, while disappointing, was entirely predictable and one could even justify as within the realms of “politics as usual”.  The Democrats would have taken pretty much the same course given a chance. In fact, the Democrats had performed a precursor of this with their moves several years earlier cutting back the “super majority” requirements on judicial nominations below the Supreme Court level.
What’s exceedingly more egregious and should have resulted in a different reaction was the prior year’s abdication of Senate responsibility to consider and vote on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for that same seat immediately upon the death of Antonin Scalia.  President Obama and the Democrats should have challenged the Republican blocking action.  The Constitution offers no such exception to the requirement in Article 2, Section 2 that the Senate provide its “advice and consent” to the president’s selections for potential replacement members to the Supreme Court.  Article 2, Sec. 2 does not say that the Senate can ignore such a nomination. True it offers no established deadline or timetable for this Senatorial duty to be accomplished.  But the clear implication is that the appointment is indeed an Executive Branch power, and agreement with or objection to the appointment by the Senate is a secondary ratification. That is why it is provided for in Article 2 rather than in Article 1 (Legislative) describing the powers of the Congress.
This being the case, President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate in 2016 should have challenged the Republican Senate.  After an appropriate length of time and following several published demands that the Senate perform its constitutional duty, the president should have declared that the Senate’s inaction amounted to acquiescence and that that lack of any negative declaration amounted to “consent”.  He then could have sworn Garland in and instructed to take his seat on the court.  Had the Republicans appealed this to the Supreme Court, and even if Garland recused himself, the Court would have split 4 to 4, leaving the accomplished action as the status quo.

This would have settled once and for all the fact that like it or not, the Congress must do what the Constitution says it must do.