Monday, June 25, 2012

Hot and Cold

Water temperature is part of our idiomatic language. When we're in trouble, we say we're in "hot water". When some folk are critical of our plans, they may "pour cold water on them". if we are dubious about something, our reaction may be "lukewarm' or "tepid". Our ancestors in temperate zones didn't have to face a water shortage. We have become quite prodigal with our water supply, and have been proud of our ability to turn a desert into lush pasture by intensive irrigation. "Fracking", to release natural gas from rocky subsurface land, requires millions of gallons of water, which may become so contaminated that it is unsuitable for recycling. Barbara & I have faced droughts at our homes in both California and Colorado. We have played our part in conserving water, taking shorter or "Navy" showers, asking for water in a restaurant only if we needed it to drink, and limiting our use for landscaping. We have also installed low-flow toilets. I hate waste of any sort, particularly of food and water. I instituted a practice, no longer insisted upon, of not flushing after every urination, and enjoyed the aphorism "Yellow is mellow, but brown goes down". We use solar power as our primary method of heating water, but I remain concerned about the wastage of domestic water when it has to travel many feet from the basement to the upstairs bathroom. Years ago. in a drought year, I learned to wash my hands in cold water. I feel the same way now, and I turn on the cold tap to wash my hands to this day. I don't ask or expect Barbara to follow my example, so she runs the hot water in the bathroom we share. If she has recently washed her hands, and I need a mug of water to drink, the cold tap will run lukewarm for a few seconds. Yes, I'm not fond of drinking tepid liquid, but as a man of principle--or stubborn ass, your call--I drink it, happily self-righteous at my noble efforts to save water.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paper Problems

Until his death in 1940, my father would find his copy of The Times on the table when he came down to breakfast. Woe betide anyone who opened it up before he did. If it were not in its pristine shape when he sat down, he would complain that it must have been "woman handled". (I can only remember that happening once: i and my sisters wouldn't have dared to disturb the newspaper, and my mother would have been content with her copy of the Daily Express. ) I'm sure the butler (when we had one) and parlourmaid were innocent: perhaps it was an aunt visiting us. I also like a paper whose pages can be kept neat. The number of pages in the "old days" could always be divided by four. I dislike it when the paper includes two sides of a single sheet, which tends to fall out. Worse still is when a half-sheet is included. But recently I have noticed a new gimmick: an extra wide page, usually with an advertising message on the part that sticks out. One simply can't fold that neatly. I'm writing this in Colorado, where our newspaper is the Boulder Daily Camera. The wider pages haven't started appearing here yet. I suppose I should be grateful that we can still buy a print edition, but the paper disappoints me in several ways, apart from the paucity of international news. Today, one headline mis-spelled the location of Nik Wallenda's tightrope walking as "Niagra". Another headline referred to a "lein", instead of a"lien". I'm not an ardent sports fan, but I do follow our Northern California baseball and football teams. I can understand it when in a different time zone the paper goes to press before the details of a night game can be printed, but better papers publish the box scores the following day. When Matt Cain pitched his historic "perfect game", San Francisco's first ever, the news of it was printed in the next day's paper, but the box score wasn't, then or on the following day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


This euphemism was a favorite of a stepdaughter when she was a teenager, when I might have used "Rubbish!". I thought of it on Friday when the news that the favorite for the Belmont Stakes had been scratched. First, a little background about horse racing. I was born a few miles from Epsom Downs, where Britain's most famous flat race takes place, the Derby. It is for three-year old horses--mainly colts, but fillies are eligible. It is the second of the three biggest races of the season. The first takes place at Newmarket, the racehorse capital of the nation: the 2,000 Guineas. This is for colts: in the U.K.'s sexist society the fillies race in the 1,000 Guineas. The third race is the St. Leger, run at Doncaster, if I recall correctly. It is rare for the same horse to win all three races. Likewise, in the US, the three races are the Preakness, run at Aqueduct in Baltimore; the Kentucky Derby, at Churchill Downs in Kentucky; and the Belmont Stakes, at Pimlico, near New York City. It is rare for a horse to win the "Triple Crown", by coming in fist at all three races. In fact, the last time this happened was in 1978, when the appropriately-named Affirmed triumphed. This year, the first two races were won by another well-named colt, I'll Have Another. There was great excitement, and that horse became a 4-5 favorite for the Belmont by Thursday. I'm not a betting man, but I know that means that to win $400 and get your stake back, you have to put down $500. Then, on Friday morning came the disappointing news: the favorite had been scratched. After the early morning workout, it had been noticed that the horse had incipient tendinitis in the left foreleg. We were told that the horse could have run, but might have been handicapped, and the condition made more severe. So, once again, no Triple Crown this year. The horse will be "retired to stud". When the mating season begins next year, stud fees will be quite substantial. I'll Have Another will never race again. Trainer and Owners have received much sympathy and praise for this sad decision. They tell us convincingly that they really love that horse, and always will, and that they had to act "in the best interests" of the horse. I don't doubt that, but left unsaid is the strong economic reason to support the decision. Which would be more valuable, a horse which had won two big races, but failed at the next attempt; or a horse which had won two races, was an odds-on favorite for the next race, but didn't run? We're talking about huge amounts of stud fees at risk here. So scratching the horse was not just a sentimental choice by animal lovers, it was a sound financial decision by two business-like members of the notorious "1%". A harsher cynic than your faithful correspondent might say they are "crying all the way to the bank".

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having trouble reading this?

I often receive email that starts with this seemingly inane question. Probably you see this, too. I am tempted to reply: "Buster, if I'm really having trouble reading your email, I probably wouldn't be able to read your stupid question"... If I know the sender, and am glad to receive her/his emails, of course I'd never do that. Unsolicited commercial messages, however, do tempt me, but it's better to hit the "Delete" button--or even report it as spam. It reminds me of the classic photo of a sign that says: $50 fine for damage to this sign. And no other message. Aargh! Duh!