Tuesday, April 29, 2008

David's Definitions for June 2008

Sanction, Cleave

(Will appear in the June 2008 issue of Community News)

These are interesting words that are famous because each has two diametrically opposite meanings.

Cleave, from an old Germanic word meaning to stick, can mean to stick to. The Bible refers to a man "cleaving to his wife." But another old Germanic word gives us the meaning of cutting apart - for example, a cloven hoof, meaning a hoof that is split in two.

Sanction, from the Latin sancire, to make holy, can refer to approval or disapproval. The world can sanction Iran's nuclear program by saying that it's peaceful and can go forward, or the world can disapprove of it and impose sanctions.

It's a good thing we English speakers are so logical, orderly, and rational. Otherwise, words like these would get us all confused - which comes from a Latin word meaning to mix together, which certainly describes these two words.

I'm collecting all of these at: http://www.dvorkin.com/davidsdefs.html

Friday, April 18, 2008

Heinz von Jaegermann, War Hero, Political Candidate

One of the sons of an old Juncker family, he joined the Luftwaffe in the 1930s both to carry on the family's martial traditions and beause he thought that would be simultaneously a way to serve the Fatherland and a good foundation for a later political career.

Unfortunately, he turned out to be a crappy pilot. Fortunately, Germany was so hungry for men eager to drop bombs on England that they put him in a cockpit and aimed him westwards.

What fun he had! London, that enormous city, was nothing but targets. He could drop his bombs anywhere and be sure to hit something. He loved the way his exploding bombs lit up the city streets below him, defying the blackout. Of course, most of what he hit was residential areas, and most of the people he killed were civilians cowering in fear. Don't quibble. Heinz hates quibblers.

Sometimes, continuing west from London, before turning south to return to the airfield on the Continent, Heinz's bomber would thunder over the small city of Reading at the edge of the defensive ring of searchlights and anti-aircraft guns surrounding London. Heinz never had any bombs left by then, or he would have dropped them there, just for amusement.

And a good thing, too, for the pregnant mother cowering in the basement of her house with her two sleepy little daughters beside her.* Her husband had put on his helmet and air-raid warden's armband when the sirens went off and had left to patrol the streets, looking for cracks of light showing through blackout curtains or people wandering the streets who shouldn't be.

As we all know, the war itself didn't turn out well for Germany. But Heinz did quite well. Decades later, old and doddering and arthritic and prone to the occasional senior moment, Heinz has risen to the leadership of PESP, the Posturing and Empty Symbolism Party. There's a good chance that, after the upcoming election, he'll be Germany's chancellor.

Some Germans are outraged. How, they ask, can we choose as our face to the world a man who dropped bombs on innocent civilians during an evil war of aggression? But others, wearing little flag pins on their lapels, respond with fury that any man who wore the uniform of his country in time of war is to be honored as a hero, no matter what. All military service, they insist loudly, is honorable. No matter what.

Fortunately, Heinz does not exist. He's purely fictional, and if he did exist, such a man could never have any chance of attaining the highest elected office in an advanced, civilized country.

* And a good thing, too, for the baby she was carrying, who grew up to write this blog post.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

40th Wedding Anniversary

Today. I'm taking the day off from work so that I can ... stay home and work on taxes. Leonore's at the campus for a standard day of tutoring.

We'll go out for an early dinner this evening - early, because we don't do the late-night thing, these days, or not intentionally.

We had big plans for this anniversary, involving a long vacation in New Zealand, but we've had to lower our sights and so, instead of NZ, we'll be going to Ted's Montana Grill.

In the past, for major anniversaries, we've put on fancyish duds and gone to expensive places and paid absurd amounts for mediocre food and pretentious service. We thought we'd try something more middle of the road and reliable, this time.

Forty years! It does seem strange and not quite real. Forty years ago, we were just a coupla crazy kids, and it seems like we're still just a coupla crazy kids with achy knees.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Name This Book - a contest

My wife's book about her experience with breast cancer will be reissued by a different publisher next year, and she needs a new title for it. She's been wrestling with title possibilities, including many suggested by friends and relatives, and has yet to find one that really clicks. So she decided to ask billions of total strangers for help.

For many more details, please go here. Her e-mail address is at the top and bottom of that page.