Thursday, September 28, 2017


From the mailbox:
Photo by Sixty Grit
I finally used up most of my Waterlox - I used rocks to displace the air inside the can and it worked out pretty well, the last bit left was pretty gooey, so there was still plenty of room for air between the rocks. I have attached a picture of the Waterrox* drying in the sun - I am so cheap I will reuse them in the next can. 
Do you have an update on your house?
Yes, I do have updates on the house. We're living in it now. We're renting our old house in Oceanside to our son. Our daughter just went off to college last weekend. I will post when I get more time and daylight to capture things. Lots of unfinished indoor projects and two small yards to tame.
*This inspired me to seek out this old Kingston Trio tune:

Can you weason rye?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Yes, It Is She... the photo, I mean.*

A "new" theory is going round that Titanic was in a race to get to New York before a controlled fire got out of control. We've been there before, back here.
*That's a gorgeous old photo and I did not know it until recently. Apparently, the black smudge on the hull is what supports the new theory (see link). It's supposed to be charred paint caused by an internal fire.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

100 Years Ago On The Western Front

The winter of 1916-17 seemingly froze movement in the trenches. The French and British commanders awaited the spring thaw to resume the Somme Offensive. On the German side, elaborate plans for a calculated retreat were in motion. The German High Command, feeling attrition on two fronts, wished both to strengthen and to shorten their Western front line. Work began already in September of 1916 on new fortifications along what they called the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) -- about 25 miles east of the front line. The new defense would delay any French or English assaults in the spring of 1917. This would buy the Germans another year of trench warfare. Operation Alberich commenced on Feb 9, 1917.

Elsewhere, two ominous events would forever change the world. The first was the entry of the US into the war against Germany, triggered by Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February, 1917.* The second was the collapse of Imperial Russia in March of 1917, the subsequent rise of Lenin's power, and the consequent peace treaty with the Russians. The latter event allowed the Germans to fight a single-front war and to transfer men and materiel to the West. The arrival of American Doughboys bolstered the dwindling French morale and lessened the horrific casualties of the British. All in all it guaranteed another 23 months of fighting.
*The Germans had suspended unrestricted submarine warfare in 1915, after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Eulogy For A Mood

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. 
~ George Orwell,"Politics And The English Language" (1946)
The American Chemical Society (ACS) maintains a data base for each and every unique chemical substance. Currently, more than 102 million organic and inorganic substances and 66 million protein and DNA sequences fill the ever-growing data base. But only "real" chemical species get registry numbers.  A separate and distinct data base houses "hypothetical" chemical species. Hypothetical chemical species exist because chemists (more often patent attorneys) often claim genuses (genera) of species without naming each and every species. One reason to do this is to avoid being copycatted by some trivial variant of an invention. So there are both "real" and "unreal" chemical substances. It is a bit like the difference between real property (estate) and intellectual property. A similar dichotomy exists in language.

Verbs have "moods." One of them is for stating facts;* another is for voicing commands; yet another, called the subjunctive,** is for stating wishes and non-facts. We are losing the subjunctive. It is pedantic to bemoan the loss of a mere verb form; it's altogether another thing to dismiss the line between fact and fantasy. But that is what's happening.

"X alleges that Y did Z" becomes simply "Y did Z."

*As the fossilized metaphor "indicative" preserves, the indicative mood allows the speaker to point out facts in writing or conversation. When there is doubt or uncertainty in the mind of the speaker, i.e., when you shouldn't be pointing, use the subjunctive mood.

**The Latin modus subiunctivus probably is a translation of Greek hypotaktike enklisis -- literally, "subordinated mood" -- so-called because the Greek subjunctive mood is used almost exclusively in subordinate clauses. We do the same thing in English.