Friday, March 28, 2014

"Off of"

I believe this combination of two prepositions is unique to American speech. Why is that second word needed? If a man fell off his horse, why report that he fell "off of" his horse?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ethnic Russians

It is easy to understand why Putin brought about the events which have resulted in the Crimea apparently on its way to become part of Russia once again. In the middle of the 19th century, Russia lost the Crimean War to the combined forces of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. That episode from so long ago is still an unhappy memory for many Russians. With Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border, Putin is now promising to "protect" ethnic Russians living in such countries as Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and Moldova, as well as Ukraine. This results in destabilizing most of the European countries on Russia's borders. Although I do not expect a major war to break out, it is possible that we shall see parts of eastern and southern Ukraine swallowed up by the big, bad, bullying, Bear. What we don't hear is any cries for help from the sizable Russian minorities in these countries. I think that most such inhabitants are more comfortable staying in these peaceful and relatively moderate nations. I do not expect any clamor for these minorities to be "rescued" by forming part of Russia's repressive regime.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I was an avid tree-climber as a boy. Although we had a large garden at Dovers, the family home, there weren't many suitable trees for climbing. However, there were wonderful opportunities at my prep school, Port Regis. I formed a "Tree Climbing Club", and taught many other boys the best routes. In my mid-twenties, living in the Wirral peninsula of Cheshire. I enjoyed solo climbing in the mountains of North Wales. What I was doing would be called "bouldering" by Shannon these days. I barely remember climbing with others on a rope, although I probably did this a few times. These memories surfaced recently as a result of news accounts of the damage being done by climbers insisting on conquering Everest, the world's highest mountain. The days of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who accompanied him on his historic conquest of the mountain, are long over. Hundreds of climbers from various countries have made the ascent, usually leaving a lot of debris behind them, including mounds of excrement. Some clean-up has taken place, but the mountain is still littered with debris. Recently, four corpses were removed from the mountain, victims of failed attempts to reach the summit. It is not cheap to climb Everest. I saw an estimate of the range between $30,000 and $120,000 as the cost for an American team to purchase, transport, and use the equipment needed. Part of the cost is needed to purchase a permit from the state of Nepal. Suggestions have been made to eliminate or (more likely) curtail the number of climbers, but apparently this would have a major effect on the Nepalese economy. There are many other mountains in the Himalayas which would challenge mountaineers, such as K2 and Kanchenjunga, and it would be desirable to divert most future climbers to one of these challenges. However, I don't think that any action would prevent those who are determined enough - and wealthy enough - to attempt an ascent of Everest. Perhaps we should rename that mountain "Neverest".

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The US has eliminated most racist nicknames, but one example remains: the Washington Redskins. The team owner (Dan Snyder) says he will never change the name. There will be continuing pressure for him to do so. We have "Giants" in baseball and football as well, so we could just as well use the name "Washington Capitals", despite it being the name of an ice hockey franchise. We could use "Senators", no longer used for the capital's baseball team.An alternative would be "Washington Redwings", despite another ice hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings. "Red socks" would upset the Boston Red Sox. "Red Legs" doesn't sound great, and I don't think that the "Washington Irvings" would fly. I believe that there should be a contest to come up with a new name. Maybe we could consider three options, and allow the fans to choose a favorite. I know a professor who specializes in Sports Marketing, and I think I'll seek his advice.