Tuesday, March 27, 2012


"Bounty" is an ambiguous term. "Nature's Bounty" makes me think of delicious fruits and vegetables. In Patrick O'Brian's novels about the Royal Navy of the late 18th Century, we learn that there was an elaborate system for a ship's crew to share in a bounty awarded for the capture of an enemy ship. Fair enough!

"Bounty Hunters" aren't exactly lovable characters, but we understand why society may well decide to reward those who bring about the arrest of persons on a Wanted list.

Now we learn of suspensions and fines assessed on those involved in a bounty scheme for professional football players and coaches. For example, a cornerback whose aggressive play knocks an opponent out of a game would be rewarded by a "bonus" of (say) $1,000.

I find the crocodile tears of the NFL officials somewhat unconvincing. They are presiding over a "contact sport" which results in frequent injury. It is a big moneymaker for owners and players alike. So the hypocritical fiction is maintained that no serious injury results from "good clean football". We are just learning about the effects of repeated concussions, caused by blows to the head. Running backs, in particular, inevitably take a lot of physical punishment. Their average career duration is just five years, I read somewhere.

In my lifetime I have seen foxhunting and staghunting banned in most of the U.K. The League Against Cruel Sports has been quite successful, and on the day I wrote this I read of the prosecution in Colorado of two college students for beating a pigeon to death. The actions against the perpetrators of the bounty scheme is good, but it is really window-dressing. Professional football will continue to reward those who are "tough tacklers", but not so blatantly.

The reality is that many people--mainly, but by no means exclusively--men will pay high prices to watch "contact sport", in which performers do their best to injure their opponents. That will always limit the efforts of those who try to reform such "sport".

What about professional boxing? Two persons (usually, but not always, male) earn huge "purses", trying to injure each other. Shouldn't that be banned?

I'm not holding my breath...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eating at the counter

I have very seldom eaten at a restaurant counter. When I was working in an office, I either brown-bagged it, or occasionally was taken out to lunch by a company representative, or possibly a vendor. Once or twice Barbara and I would go to a restaurant for dinner, and be given the choice of waiting for a free table, or sitting at the counter. I can only remember one occasion on which we chose the latter course.

However, there is one counter at which I more frequently eat: our kitchen counter. I do this when I am alone within the house, and prepare my own lunch. It seems too much of a drag to take a plate of food into the dining room, pull out a place-mat, and sit down there, all alone. I'm really happier standing up in the kitchen, where I can reach the food that I choose to eat, and pour myself half a glass of orange juice.

When I do stand up to eat at our kitchen counter, I tend not to try to read something, or even listen to NPR. I don't bolt down my food, but I do tend to eat somewhat more rapidly than usual. I guess this is because of a lingering sense of guilt, a way to limit my chance of being "caught"--as by Barbara--who has been disapproving on the couple of occasions when she has observed me eating this way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


This word is difficult to pronounce, but a useful concept. A mnemonic is a learning device to aid memory. For example, many of us use a simple mnemonic to help us remember the names of the five Great Lakes: HOMES, for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

60 years ago, I was studying at Oxford for my final exams, leading to my BA degree . I still have the workbook that I used to assist my final preparation, which succeeded in bringing me what I believe I actually deserved: a safe entry into the upper half of a Second class honors degree. Almost all students took courses to lead (if successful!) to an Honors degree.There were a few Firsts, many Seconds (informally divided into upper and lower levels), a similar number of Thirds--and for a few folk, some Fourths. This might be the reward for brilliant answers that didn't respond to the actual questions...

(Apart from total failure, there was the possibility of "Sections". This meant that a little more study, etc., could bring you a Pass degree. You could still add "B.A.(Oxon)" after your name--but not "B.A.(Hons.) (Oxon)".

My "major" was English Language and Literature. For most students, this involved just two university-wide exams: "Prelims" and Finals .As an ex-serviceman, I was exempt from Prelims. So, in the summer of 1952, I needed to pass about a dozen separate exams over less than a week--or have no degree.

My system was to choose words to start my mnemonics, including an initial letter, which I memorized. Usually, the initial letters of the key phrases would form a word. I found that "off color" phrases were easier to remember, but one mnemonic was more seemly: "THE BIBLE AMEN". On other occasions I would try to remember a whole sentence.

Of course, we were not given the questions in advance of sitting down to take the exam. I managed to commit to memory some generic facts likely to feature in the exam questions.

When I began my studies, I was astonished to learn that the course involved nothing written after 1820--except there was a voluntary exam on "modern" literature of the 19th Century. (Few took this extra exam, as one was not excused one of the other papers.) So, no Dickens, Wordsworth, or Thackeray. Even the "modern" paper omitted T.S.Eliot and Rupert Brooke. I could, however, enjoy Jane Austen and consider that "work".

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Most of us think of anticipation in favorable terms.We look forward to something pleasurable or even exciting in the future. This could be anything from a family outing to a lovers' tryst. In time, our pleasures change: we look forward to a year-end bonus at work, a vacation cruise, or watching an important sporting event, such as the Super Bowl--although the latter may be more like a "stupor bowl" for some...

There comes a time when many look forward to retirement. Other anticipate the first drink of the day--and perhaps to "tying one on". As we age, we may look forward to going to bed--unaccompanied! I know that I am blessed with a healthy appetite, and look forward to almost all my meals, usually accompanied at dinner by a couple of modest glasses of wine...

Negative anticipation can have many forms. A British schoolboy may suffer between "sentencing" and punishment--especially if the punishment to be inflicted is still (in some places) a caning--as it was in my day, but never my fate. Driver and passengers in a car, skidding to an inevitable crash, may anticipate at least the expense and inconvenience, and often the expectation of bodily injury. I remember the V ! "flying bombs" from the end of WW!!, and the fear when the "buzzing" stopped, meaning that the bomb was falling to close for comfort..

There's also what I would call "neutral" anticipation. This occurs when one is aware that something is going to happen at some future date, known or unknown, but is indifferent to it. For example, England's (soccer) FA Cup Final will produce a winner, but I really don't care about the result--since the team I used to follow (West Bromwich Albion) won't make it this year, and maybe never in my remaining years.

I "anticipate" my death occurring, and this is also in that neutral category. It's inevitable; I'm in no hurry, nor do i want to try struggle and stay. past my "sell by date".