Monday, November 26, 2012

Select Your Gender

I nowadays have the leisure to undertake online surveys. A frequent question asks the participant "Select your Gender" No, this is not another rant about my dislike of the use of a grammatical term to avoid mentioning "sex". It is the giggle factor in the idea that one can actually select ones sexual orientation. There are just two options: M or F. No opportunity to be L,G,B,T, or Q. Since I am just a straight M, my dismay is second-hand, for those not so straightforwardly identified. That being the case, I am left wondering why the designer didn't just display two boxes, one for M and one for F. Come to think of it, that would at least give the opportunity for bisexuals to mark both boxes. Not that this would work: the participants are limited to choose one orientation if they want to respond to the survey.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bacon Cheeseburger

I normally adhere to a sensible diet when at home. Fresh fruit (or a smoothie) at breakfast precedes an egg, or some sausage, or smoked salmon. Lunch is half a sandwich, an apple, three prunes, and a bite of plain chocolate. You get the point. We enjoy train journeys, mostly limited in recent years to the California Zephyr, from Emeryville to Denver. We travel "First Class", which gives us a sleeper and meals in the diner. The menu is, properly, very much Main Street America. Nothing exotic or spicy. Frozen vegetables are microwaved and (in our opinion) inedible. Iceberg lettuce highlights the dinner salads There are choices at each meal. AMTRAK knows its customers, and there are limitations in what they can do. Dinner rolls are served at the main meals;, unappetizing "croissants" or biscuits at breakfast. One very popular lunch offering, always on the menu, is the "Angus Burger", with optional bacon and/or cheese. On our recent trip, I chose this: it comes with lettuce, sliced onion, and tomato, There are packets of mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup..I happily ate everything, and actually felt "stuffed". I enjoyed it, in a forgiving mood--but once a year is about my limit.

Monday, November 12, 2012


This was a new one to me. Each year, colleges have a certain date when they are allowed to recruit high school graduates to make a commitment to attend their choice of an institution, to "continue their education". Football players are the most highly sought after. Apart from being awarded full "scholarships" (itself a ridiculous misuse of an award made without any evidence of academic worthiness), there are often "under the counter" payments to the youth or his (or her) family, to induce him or her to "study" and play football or other sport at that institution. There is pressure on the young persons to "commit" to a certain college. In my vocabulary, a "commitment" is a promise to take a certain action. I always thought that a commitment was a binding promise, in this case to attend a certain college. Apparently not so. I don't know what constraints are place on those who "commit"--or on the selected college--but I recently read of two students "decommitting". (Presumably, some other college made a better offer.) Although I have long realized that some college sports are heavily commercialized, I am dismayed at this news--but I can't say I am exactly shocked.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Despite my longing for this drawn-out electoral season to be over, I must report my pride in a family member who is volunteering, despite having a busy full-time job. Those who register voters and make phone calls are maintaining our democratic heritage. This brings back memories of sixty years ago, when I was active in the U.K. at the time of national elections. As an undergraduate, I went to work (over time) in at least three different constituencies. We received free board and lodging, and were under the direction of local leaders. Two of my forays were in marginal constituencies in the Midlands, one being Hucknall. One was in a safe Tory seat (Salisbury), where I was put up at the beautiful home of a wealthy surgeon and his charming wife, in the Cathedral Close. Happy memories! We would speak at "town hall" meetings, make calls on homes, and engage in stump-type speeches, using a loudspeaker in various neighborhoods. Fortunately for our fellow-citizens, campaigns lasted only six weeks, after the Prime Minister had called for new elections. Constituencies in England were quite compact. It was very important to identify your supporters, and make sure that they voted. We had lists of all eligible voters by streets, and we would knock on every door for a short inquiry. We would mark up our list to identify those who favored our candidate, those opposed, and "uncertain". (Experience taught us that almost all of those in the latter category were also opposed.) We would also ask our supporters if the needed transportation to the polls, and (if so) we would make arrangements to get them ther as early as convenient. On election day, we would have workers at the polling place, who would do their best to learn who had come to vote, and we would mark them off on our lists. With about two hours until the polls closed, we would send a car to the address of the missing voter, and offer a ride to the precinct. Nowadays we vote by mail. This year, our ballots were in the mailbox more than three weeks prior to November 6