April 20, 2017

New CMOS in the Works

University of Chicago Press has announced that a new version of The Chicago Manual of Style, the 17th, will be published in September. (You can read the announcement here, though the page will likely change or disappear after publication.) CMOS has been my preferred style guide since I was a University of Chicago undergraduate.

Dust cover of CMOS, 17th. ed.
I always anticipate a new version of CMOS with mixed emotions. On the plus side, I hope that the new volume will offer reasonable resolutions to problems that have cropped up since the current version was released. Such problems could be caused by evolving social conventions, new technologies, or changes in the language. One the negative side, I fear that recommendations I feel are “right” might be thrown overboard.

The aforementioned announcement inspires serious trepidation. Apparently, “e-mail” is to be replaced by “email.” The new form violates normal spelling conventions. Why shouldn’t “email” be pronounced “em-ail” or hyphenated as such over a line break? Will “e-book”—the current rendering advocated by CMOS—become “ebook”? I hope not. In any case, hyphens will be retained in both cases in my own writing.

Additionally, “Internet” is to lose its initial capital. But surely this is a proper name, deserving of capitalization. I wonder if “World Wide Web” is to become “world wide web.” I have already lost license for use of “Web” as a standalone noun and for “Web site,” rather than “website.” Should I give in to common usage or fight a (probably losing) rear-guard action? Frankly, this liberal tends toward conservativism in things grammatical.

I sincerely hope that the 17th edition will not go the way of The Associated Press Stylebook and advocate losing the serial (Oxford) comma. That would be too much to bear.

The other downside of having a new CMOS published, of course, is the necessity of buying one to replace my 16th edition. The new book will cost $70. It is available on-line by subscription—most would write “online”—but apparently not as an e-book (or even an ebook).

I will, of course, get out my credit card and order the new volume, hoping for the best.

April 2, 2017

Let’s Not Whitewash the Flynn Firing

On the whole, mainstream media seem to be doing a good job covering the Trump administration. (Coverage of the presidential campaign is another story, of course.) I am gratified that Trump or his surrogates are. with some frequency, accused of lying. Use of the actual words “lie“ or “lying” is becoming increasingly common. I have been disappointed on one front, however. Stories about General Michael Flynn often identify him as having been fired “for lying to the Vice President,“ or words to that effect. This is bad reporting that overlooks the uncertainty concerning Flynn’s dismissal.

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn
Defense Intelligence Agency photograph
We don’t know the real reason Flynn was fired. We do know that the administration asserted that it was because he was untruthful in his dealings with Vice President Pence, who proceeded to make false public statements based on Flynn’s representations.

Acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates warned the White House weeks before the Flynn firing that the general could be blackmailed because he had discussed sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador, but he had publicly denied categorically having done so. The real question is not why Flynn was fired but why he was not fired after the Trump team was told that he was compromised. Only after Yates’s damaging information became public was Flynn dismissed. It is possible, though uncertain, that Pence knew the truth when he defended Flynn in a television interview.

In any case, it is far from established fact that Flynn was fired for lying to Pence. Media outlets know this and should report accordingly. When Flynn is identified in news reports, I want to hear locutions like “Flynn, who allegedly was fired for lying to Pence” or “Flynn, who was ostensibly fired for lying to Pence,” or “Flynn, who reputedly was fired for lying to Pence.” Perhaps it would be even better to say “Flynn, who was fired weeks after Sally Yates told the Trump administration that he had lied about his communications with the Russian ambassador.”

The public should not be allowed to forget that Flynn was likely sacked not because he lied but because he was caught lying. It is ironic that the administration has lied about Flynn’s lying. Unfortunately, the same personnel policy that ended Flynn’s government career is not being applied to his former boss.

April 1, 2017

National Poetry Month 2017

Once again, National Poetry Month is here. This year’s poster for the celebration is below. (Click on the image for a PDF version.)

I am something of a poet, but I haven’t written much poetry since the 2016 National Poetry Month. In fact, I have written only a single set of haiku, titled “Trump Haiku.” Some of these poems aren’t too bad, but they don’t qualify me as the next Walt Whitman. Here is a sample poem:

Wall

Tremendous idea:
A wall to keep out rapists,
Avocados, too.
The poetry section of my Web site can be found here. If you have any good ideas for new poems, send me e-mail. If you want to read the poetry of others, try this site.



March 29, 2017

A Curve-stitch Design in Nails and Thread

A large section of my Web site is devoted to curve-stitch designs. These designs are created with straight lines that often seem to create curves. In my youth, I drew such designs with pen and ink on paper. Historically, the earliest such designs used string threaded through holes in cardstock, a technique that seemed cumbersome to me and kept me from devising new designs until I figured out how to use the computer for the purpose.

I recently received a request for permission to reproduce one of my designs using nails and thread. This didn’t seem like a very practical idea to me, but I was curious to see what was possible. The design Artur Błaszczyk wanted to use as a model is shown here:


Model for Artur’s construction

As it happens, Artur was quite successful. You can see his construction and read about it on my Web site here.

February 25, 2017

Beginning My Postcard Campaign

Indiana, Pennsylvania, appears to be something of a backwater as far as resistance to the Trump administration is concerned. I have had no opportunity to march in anti-Trump rallies or to demonstrate at the local congressional office. I don’t, however, want to be left out of the effort to rescue the country from the fascist moron who presently resides in the White House.

I write essays here, of course, and I post on Facebook, but my audience is largely a sympathetic one that I have no real need to convert. What I can do is try to influence my representatives in Congress, the people who can disrupt the ill-conceived projects of the president and, at some future time, participate in removing him from office.

From time to time, I have written my senators and representative about one thing or another. But ever since the anthrax scare, delivery of letters is delayed by some mysterious process intended to assure the safety of their recipients. Using the telephone is quicker, but congressional telephones have been tied up lately with angry citizens trying to get through to their legislators. Congressional staffers have been too busy to listen to phone mail messages. No doubt, e-mail messages are sometimes ignored for the same reason.

Having taken in a good deal of advice about how to get the attention of Washington legislators, I have decided that my mechanism of choice will be the postcard. A postcard clearly poses no physical danger, tends to stand out in the usual pile of mail, and is easy to digest, since its message is necessarily brief. Sending a postcard to a regional office, rather than to a Washington one, increases the chance that the message will actually be read by someone in a timely fashion and communicated, if only as a statistic, to its intended recipient.

The other day, I bought 10 postcards at the post office. I was happy to see that postcards now carry “forever” postage. I still have a few postcards from days gone by carrying various amounts of postage. I never seem to have the proper stamps to add so that I can actually use them.

My next step was to gather the address of nearby regional offices of my senators and representative. Using Google, these were easy to find, and I assume this information is readily available for all members of Congress.

Postcard
I created a Microsoft Word template for printing my postcards. Printing addresses and messages on my printer is easier than writing cards by hand. The text is easily edited and easy to read. If necessary, by adjusting the font size, I can cram a good deal of text on a 5½" x 3½" card. There is reason to be concise, however, and not try to say too much. There can be other postcards to communicate additional thoughts. Of course, I sign my missives by hand.

My first batch of postcards advised that no money be appropriated for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and no money be appropriated for additional personnel to monitor the border or to round up people not in the country legally. The billions the president intends to spend for these purposes could be better employed on other tasks, such as repairing and improving infrastructure.

I may never know how effective my postcard campaign is, but it seems worth pursuing. Others may wish to join me in this pursuit.

February 8, 2017

Collect for a Troubled Nation

I recently wrote a collect “For a Troubled Nation.” It represents an admittedly liberal Episcopalian’s liturgical response to the advent of the Trump administration. After receiving feedback concerning my first draft from Episcopalian friends on Facebook, I revised the prayer. The current text is:
For a Troubled Nation

God of justice and mercy, who delivered your people from the oppression of Pharaoh, protect us from greed, ignorance, and malevolence in our political leaders, and help us make our nation one of peace, liberty, and justice, in harmony with your creation and exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I have written about this collect on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, where I have argued that such a prayer is needed, even though the Book of Common Prayer contains prayers for government. You can read “Collect for a Troubled Nation” here, and I suggest you do so before offering any criticism. This post is really intended primarily as a pointer to the essay on my Web site.

I consider this prayer a work in progress, so comments are welcome. If you use this prayer in any context, I would appreciate knowing.

February 7, 2017

Trump Haiku

I was on jury duty yesterday. If you have ever been on jury duty, you know that there is lots of down time while waiting to learn if you will be assigned to a jury. During one of these slack periods, I began writing haiku related to Donald Trump and his administration. I wrote more haiku today and added a “Trump Haiku” page on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago.

If you want to read my haiku, please follow the link above. Here, I will give you a sample:
                                                        Wall
                                             Tremendous idea:
                                             A wall to keep out rapists,
                                             Avocados, too.
There are eight other poems on my Web site.