Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Exegesis on "ed"

This is the one that pushed me over the edge.

Yesterday, I went to McDonald’s. This is something I do now and then as a reward for having done some especially hard work. I had been in the vineyard all day pruning the vines and picking off bad grapes one-by-one, getting ready for the harvest. So, on the way home, I stopped at McDonald’s to get a small burger, small fries, and a soda, a line-up that would be heavenly after a hot day in the field.

And then the trouble started.

I am particular about what is put on my hamburger. I want lettuce, tomato, and onion on it, but nothing else. Nothing else; especially not mayonnaise, mustard, or ketchup. So, on that day, I innocently ordered a burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion only, as I have done many times before. But this time, things progressed differently. The lovely young lady behind the counter asked if I wanted leaf lettuce or shred lettuce on my burger. I said that I’d have shredded lettuce, she punched it in, and it came up on the screen: shred lettuce. I saw it with my own two eyes: shred lettuce. I wasn’t just misunderstanding her; they were actually calling it “shred lettuce”.

So I now must address this issue, which has been tormenting me for years: the omission of “ed” in words that cry out for it to be there. I can no longer let it go. Which is one of my problems; I can’t let anything go. Really, I get concerned about such matters, because they are important to an inquisitive and disciplined mind. Yes, the proper use of “ed” is critical, because if we don’t pay attention to such details in matters of linguistics, before long we’ll all be talking baby talk.

By the way, I never talked baby talk to my babies. I conjugated verbs to them instead, but that’s another story.

Back to “shred lettuce”. Don’t the people running McDonald’s know that “shred lettuce” is what you do in order to get “shredded lettuce” to put on burgers? How can they not know this?

This is not the only time I’ve been haunted by a missing “ed”.

I actually saw a sign at a local produce stand that read, ”tree ripen peaches”. I am not making this up; it was right there on the sign. Don’t the fresh produce mongers know that “ripen” is the present tense of the verb “to ripen”; “ripened” is the past tense and is also used in the past perfect and future perfect tenses. “Ripen” means it’s occurring now; “ripened” means it has already happened. Voila! Peaches that have been left on the tree until they are fully ripened rather than being picked green are called “tree ripened”, because that’s what happened to them. I couldn’t sleep that night.

There are more. All of these are real life examples I have personally observed, much to my consternation.

When you drink cold tea with ice in it, you are consuming “iced tea”, not “ice tea”. Food that is put into cans is “canned food”. Staying with the food theme, potatoes that are mashed are ------ mashed potatoes! I have seen “mash potatoes” on a menu, and I had to bite my tongue in order to avoid making a scene. Don’t get me started on “bake potato”, because it won’t be pretty. How about “toss salad”, again, right there on a menu. What am I supposed to do, throw the salad around or something? No, it has already been “tossed” in the making, so it’s called “tossed salad”. How hard is this?

Thankfully, the cereal makers understand this issue and correctly label their boxes “shredded wheat” so I don’t have to start my day by foaming at the mouth on those mornings when I have this particular cereal for breakfast.

And if you do or make something the way it was done in days gone by, that item is “old fashioned”, as in: I am old fashioned about the proper use of the ed suffix.

Reliving all of these horrors has drained my psychic energy. I’m emotionally exhausted. But it has been worth it, because now I’m sure the world will understand this issue and it’s importance. Finally, everyone will diligently use, and pronounce in an exaggerated fashion, the “ed” that is so needed at the end of certain words.

Now, if I can just get people to understand that they don’t “graduate” high school or college, they “graduate FROM” a school, my work will be done.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saved From The Edison Light Bulb

While the politicians in Washington haven’t been able to do anything serious about unemployment, the economy, or the out-of-control government spending, it is reassuring to keep in mind that they can, in fact, solve big, important, pressing problems from time to time. Congress can rise to the occasion. For example, come January 1, Congress’s solution to one of the most serous problems to confront America in recent times will kick in. As of that date, a bill passed by Congress will save us from a deathly hazard that threatens “the nation’s future and collective health”, as the luminaries at the L. A. Times put it. That threat is the light bulb invented by Thomas Edison.

Take heart, my beleaguered friends. Your 401k may have tanked, you may not have a job or any prospects for one, the U.S. Government may have less cash on hand than Apple Computer, you may have to pay an amount for your little cherubim’s college education that would have gotten a building named after you in the old days, the comrads in Washington may want to raise your taxes to cover their profligate spending because you don’t pay what they consider to be your “fair share”, Iran may be about to nuke up, the country may lurch from economic and budgetary crisis to crisis, but at least you no longer have to worry about incandescent light bulbs. Those are the ones that have that horrid little filament in them. You know, the type of light bulbs we’ve been using for the last 130 years or so.

I’m sure you have been worried about them, unless you are a dim bulb indeed. As you no doubt know, incandescent light bulbs are energy hogs of the worst sort. They suck up energy like Fat Albert chowing down on the vittles over at the all-you-can-eat catfish and hush puppy shack. You have noticed that incandescent light bulbs do that, haven’t you? Pay no attention to your air conditioner or heat pump; it’s those evil light bulbs that are wreaking destruction on you and the world.

But you have been saved. You no longer have to live in fear of incandescent light bulbs. You can now rest easy; CFL’s (compact fluorescent lamps) have arrived just in the nick of time.

Umm, well, those CFL’s do have some very minor problems, but you needn’t worry your pretty little self about any of that.

What are those problems, you say? My, my, my, aren’t you the curious one. It’s nothing, really, nothing.

Oh, OK, since you insist.

First of all, CFL’s contain mercury, an extremely dangerous substance. It’s a small amount, to be sure, but it’s mercury none the less.

If, God forbid, one of those Earth-saving CFL’s happens to break in your house, people and pets must immediately evacuate (avoiding the “breakage area” on the way out), windows and/or doors should be opened to air the place out, central heating or air conditioning is to be turned off, and then you are to follow the seven step Hazmat clean-up procedure published by the EPA. If you use a vacuum cleaner in the clean-up process, the vacuum cleaner bag must be sealed in a plastic bag and immediately removed from the house.

Because of this problem with broken CFL’s, the EPA also recommends that a drop cloth be used when replacing a CFL, in case it is dropped and broken.

Since the CFL’s contain mercury, disposal is also a problem. Again, one CFL contains only a very small amount of mercury, but with the millions upon millions of them that will be used over the years, the total amount of mercury involved is significant. If the used bulbs are thrown into the trash, you’d better make sure you don’t use a trash compactor that will crush them. Even if the used CFL’s make it out to curbside unbroken, they will get deposited in a landfill to be pushed around by a bulldozer that will no doubt break them, and all of that mercury will eventually seep into the ground water. Or you could take your used CFL’s to a recycling center (being sure to tell them what you have), and let them worry about it.

Other than all of that mercury stuff, the CFL’s are just great.

Well, there is one other very trivial problem. Some CFL’s have been known to smoke or catch on fire. The August 2011 issue of Consumer Reports had an article under the title “Bulbs pose fire hazard” discussing this and identifying the CFL’s that have been recalled.

Did I mention that CFL’s typically cost several times as much as an incandescent bulb? No matter, you’ll recoup that extra cost by means of reduced electricity usage and longer bulb life.


The Department of Energy has said that mandatory use of CFL’s will save 15 quadrillion BTU’s over the next thirty years, or about 0.013 percent of U.S. energy usage. You will personally save pennies upon pennies in your monthly electric bill.

But your saving could well be eaten up by the greater cost of the CFL’s, since it turns out that they are not lasting nearly as long as expected. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California has reported that CFL’s are lasting an average of 6.3 years verses the 9.4 that they initially estimated, or thirty-three percent less. An article in the Weekly Standard reported that a quarter of CFL’s only achieved about 40% of their projected life span. It seems that the life span tests were done under ideal conditions; e.g., turning the lamp on and leaving it on continuously. Surprise, surprise; in the real world, lights aren’t used that way. They are turned on and off, sometimes frequently, and that kind of usage reduces their life span. This is something that the incandescent people at GE and Sylvania have known for at least a hundred years, but it somehow escaped the notice of the CFL people until after they had convinced Congress to pass a law on the matter.

The last light bulb factory in the U.S. has closed, and it is most likely that CFL’s will ultimately be made only in China. The additional transportation costs should be factored into the CFL cost saving calculation, but it is difficult to do as accurately. The additional cost is there, though. And so much for “buying local”.

In any event, please join me in giving thanks that we live in a country where we have a government wise and caring enough to save us from incandescent light bulbs. That is of great comfort to me as I consider all of the other problems we face in this country.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Obama's Bus Tour

President Obama has embarked on a bus tour of the Midwest. Who is the only other national political figure to go on a bus tour in the recent times? Sarah Palin, of course. And the media ridiculed her. But now, Obama is following Sarah Palin's lead.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal: Nothing Is Being Cut

Here is some real eye-opening news.

During the last few weeks, there has been a non-stop soap opera in Washington about the federal government’s “debt ceiling”. Much of the debate has been about whether the government should cut spending or raise taxes or do some combination of both in order to get the deficit under control. We’ve heard about this plan that will cut X trillion in spending, and that plan that will cut Y trillion, and the compromise plan that will cut Z trillion.

You know all of that; it’s not news.

Here’s the news that has barely been mentioned because the big-spending, big government, career politicians don’t want you to be aware of it: Nothing is being cut, in any of these plans. Nothing.

Then why do we hear from supposedly legitimate news media that federal spending is being cut, with the only debate about how much, you ask. Dear reader, let me explain.

The federal budget is on autopilot that results in across-the-board increases occurring every year, automatically. It’s called “base line budgeting”, and here’s how it works.

Every year, the proposed federal budget increases from the previous year by eight percent. This increased budget proposal becomes the “baseline” for budget negotiations. If it is suggested that the budget should not increase by the proposed amount but by some lesser amount instead, which is still an increase over the previous year, that suggestion is scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as a “cut”.

Stay with me on this, because it’s vitally important.

Let’s put some hypothetical numbers on it as an example. We’ll say that last year’s federal budget was $100 (you can put as many zeros on that as you want). The budget proposal for this year will come out initially as $108. If this proposed budget were reduced to, say, $105, it would be billed as a cut.

Hypothetical Example – Federal Budget Process
Last year’s federal budget: $100
Initial budget proposal for this year (the baseline): $108
Final budget for this year: $105
Scored as a $3 cut.

That’s right, even though the federal budget went up from one year to the next in this example, it’s called a “cut” in politician-ese. That’s how baseline budgeting works; it’s designed to mislead the public so that politicians can claim they’re cutting the budget when in actuality the budget is going up.

Now for the coup-de-grace. Under all the plans being debated recently in Congress concerning the federal debt ceiling, government spending will rise across the board, in some estimates by seven to nine trillion dollars over the next ten years. Nothing is being cut! Yet we hear about how these various plans will cut spending by so many trillion. That’s the intended effect of baseline budgeting, letting politicians call an increase a cut.

Let’s move on to two other fundamental dishonesties that are rampant in the debt ceiling debate.

There has been a lot of talk about the U.S. Government’s credit rating possibly being lowered from AAA to AA+. What is this all about?

When a lender loans money to a borrower, the lender wants to know ahead of time the likelihood of the borrower being able to pay back the loan and the interest. That need led to credit ratings.

If a borrower is unable to pay the interest or principle on the loan, they are said to have defaulted on the loan.

Everyone probably knows about their credit score and how a good score makes it easier for an individual to borrow money and to get a lower interest rate. That’s because the higher a person’s credit score is, the less likely they will default on a loan.

Government entities (and companies) are rated in a similar manner by the major credit agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poors (S&P). Triple A is the highest rating. The U.S. Government has always had a AAA rating because there is almost no chance that it won’t be able to pay the interest on borrowed money or the principle amount when the time comes.

Throughout this federal debt ceiling saga, one of the major reasons given as to why we must raise the debt ceiling is to prevent the federal government from defaulting on it’s loans (bonds), and to keep its credit rating from being downgraded.

The truth is that even if the debt ceiling is not raised, the government will not default on it’s bonds. There will still be tax money coming in, and there will be enough to pay the interest on the bonds, even though other areas of spending would have to go without in that scenario. But a default would not occur.

Next truth factoid: No matter which plan concerning the debt ceiling is finally adopted, the U.S. Government’s credit rating will go down. S&P has already said that neither of the final two proposed plans reduces federal spending enough such that Uncle Sam’s AAA rating can be maintained.

Here are the salient points we can distill out of all of this blathering and disingenuineness about the debt ceiling:
1. Nothing is being cut.
2. The federal government will not default on its loans (bonds).
3. The federal government’s credit rating will be downgraded no matter which debt ceiling plan Congress adopts since none of them are serious about balancing the federal budget.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Obama Voted Against Raising the Debt Ceiling As A Senator

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. America deserves better."

Barack Obama, circa 2006